Many of us have a tendency to listen, but be less than attentive to what we are hearing - something which quite honestly results in a little less than "perfect obedience" when it comes to us listening to God. It should not surprise us God puts these concepts of "listening" with "obedience" and "learning" with "living". What we hear, we are to respond to in a prompt manner. What we come to know, we are to live out. It is repeated over and over in scripture. In fact, James warns against being a "hearer" and not a "doer" of the Word - Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. (James 1:22-23 MSG) This "in one ear, out the other" thing runs deeper than most of us would like to admit. If we were all to stop long enough to really consider this, we might just realize we are "filtering out" a whole lot of stuff we should have been holding onto or paying attention to a little closer. We do it unconsciously most of the time - not with purposeful intent. We don't "shut off" our listening, we just drift into not paying close attention.
Attention, Israel. Listen obediently to the rules and regulations I am delivering to your listening ears today. Learn them. Live them. (Exodus 5:1 MSG)
Let's look at these concepts of LISTENING and OBEDIENCE - LEARNING and LIVING:
- Listening is the first step in learning anything new. To stay on the "cutting edge", companies everywhere hold "focus groups" aimed at discovering what their potential customers have to think about their current product, or perhaps some new line they would like to introduce. Their sole intent is to "hear" from the customer - to get their impressions so they can learn from them. Wisdom tells us we actually begin to move from merely "hearing" to "listening" when we begin to "incorporate" what we are hearing into our practice. The company holding a focus group would take the ideas shared and either determine to "scrap" their idea or put it forward as planned. They use what they hear to determine future action. In a practical sense, this is what God asks of us - hear what he is saying by "incorporating" it into our actions. In this way, we move from just "hearing" his Word, and we begin to be "doers" of his Word.
- Obedience is an outcome of listening - we take action by "incorporating" the things asked or taught. Going back to our illustration of the focus group, if the company simply paid all this money to hold the focus group, then never really did anything with what they learned, of what value was the information? None, right? If we are going to take the time to hold the focus group, then we need to take the interest in using the information they provide to assist us with the direction our company should take in the future. God doesn't hold focus groups to get common consensus of how we are feeling about things, but you get my point. He invests an awful lot in our lives - not because he has to, but because he wants to. In turn, he asks us to take a little time to focus our attention on him, his teachings, and then to incorporate them into our present and future actions.
Living is a process of putting into practice or use that which you have at your disposal. Yesterday, my Kindle froze - oh my! As I told this story to my dear friend, she laughed hilariously at my humor in this moment, so I thought I'd share it with you. I love to play word games on it and read as I have time, but as I was counting on about a half hour of word challenges, my screen froze - no sign of life could be seen. No response to hard reboots - just plain screen. After about twenty attempts to revive it, I placed it aside on the charger and prayed I'd have some revelation of what to do in the morning. In the morning, I brought it to the computer, thinking maybe it just needed a software upgrade and I could "hard-wire" it to the computer. I logged into the website and began to "diagnose" my "patient". After all, my Kindle had "flat-lined" and maybe if I could "jump-start" its heart again, it would return to life! I followed the instructions with tender-loving care, hoping for any sign of life. Even a little flutter would have bolstered my faith, but alas, nothing.
I sat the thing down, ready to pronounce it "dead" - no signs of life. I turned away for just a second, believing I would need to go online to purchase the next generation of reader, then turned back to see a little glimmer of hope! The Kindle screen was beginning to flash to life - and the little grey bar which showed it was "rebooting" told me it was trying to breathe again! I sat there cheering it on with words like, "Breathe, you can do it!" As I began to see the signs of life, my heart began to soar again! My Kindle was coming back to life! Woohoo! Now, lest you think there is nothing to learn from this little incident, let me tell you, even a dead Kindle can give this writer lessons for life! You see, God gets each of us in a place of "no signs of life" - there just isn't much happening which gives much hope we will ever "breathe again". In "reconnecting" with us, we begin to "flutter" to life once again. He connects to us through his Word - breathing life into a once pretty lifeless existence. If we refuse his "breath", we refuse that which will restore us to "full capacity". I can hear God sometimes just saying, "Breathe, come on, breathe!" He has given me his Word, helped me to hear it with my ears, then he stands tenderly by, waiting for signs of life!
When God brings his truth, we have the ability to allow the "connection" - opening the door for us to incorporate what that connection will provide - signs of new life! We learn and live only to the degree we listen and obey - just sayin!