On several occasions Jesus finished his teaching telling those who heard him that if they had the ears to hear they needed to listen (Mark 4:9, 13 & 8:18). Jesus taught in such a creative way that he not only kept your attention…he left you with more questions than you had answers. In doing so, I believe, that for those who were seeking God and His kingdom…it left you wanting to hear more.
When Jesus taught it left two groups of people – those who wanted to hear more and those who wanted to shut him down (John 7:12). It was the same with the apostles (like the Athenian’s reaction to Paul in Acts 17:32-34). You either wanted to hear more and understand more or you didn’t.
It is imperative as believers to both develop a desire for the word of the Lord and in doing so to develop a sensitivity to the sound of the voice of the Lord (John 10:1-6). Followers of Jesus should be in tune with the voice of the one they follow, that is the Good Shepherd. Followers of Jesus need to develop ears to be able to tell the difference between Jesus and everyone else. This takes practice and repetition. This take study and digging into the Bible in order to be so familiar with the voice of Jesus that you know it when you hear it and you are able to discern other voices from His.
In a world full of audiological clutter, how does one develop ears to hear like that? It would be nice if there were five easy steps to do this or a “Discernment for Dummies” book but there isn’t. What makes this even more difficult is a world determined to get your attention that will not relent in its pursuit of the billboard space that is your ears…the world will not back off or dial back its game just because you express an interest in hearing Jesus more clearly. In fact, they will turn up the volume even more and it will take even more discipline to tune your ears in to His voice.e
Here are a few things we can do to tune our ears.
1 – Unclog your ears
Psalm 40:6 tells us that God is the one who can dig out all that clogs up our ears when the psalmist writes, “you dug ears for me.” The NIV says that God pierces our ear but that doesn’t leave a mental image consistent with the Hebrew word charah, which means to dig like digging a hole. Notice also, this is the work of God on our ears and also notice that the problem is an internal problem (a problem in me not a problem out there). Once we acknowledge our ears are too clogged to hear well and we submit to God’s ear excavation project, our ears will be open and ready to receive what He wants to tell us. It might be sin that keeps our ears clogged…it is hard to discern God’s will for your life if you are already ignoring what he has blatantly told you.
2 – Limit the competition
C.S. Lewis wrote, “The moment you wake up each morning your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job of each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, letting that other, stronger, larger, quieter life come flowing in.”
If the voice of the Lord is hard to discern from other voices we need practice. We need to proactively push back all the other noises…voices…agendas until they become less and less and the voice of Jesus becomes more and more. Like the demon possessed man who gets the demon cast out…you can’t push back all competition for your ears and not allow more of Jesus in, in its place.
3 – We begin to intently and intensely listen
What is Jesus trying to tell you? What does the Scripture say that God is trying to get your hears to really, really hear? It takes determination to be a good listener. All its takes is 5 minutes of Facebook to figure that one out. No one likes the feeling of another person not listening to them…but how hard do we try to be a good listener? Read the word and where you lack wisdom and understanding begin praying for God to help you understand. God will not always give you specific answers to all of your questions but he will increase your wisdom by graciously and generously expanding your perception and ability to discern the voice of the Lord (James 1:5). In doing so we will be people who have ears who can actually hear.
If we stopped to listen…what might God being trying to tell you? How desperate are you for his voice? Those who want the Word of the Lord will receive it in abundance but those who are ambivalent toward it, even what they have will be taken away (in line with Matthew 25:29). Let me conclude with Amos 8:11-12,
““The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.“