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Are You Listening?

Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (Jn 10:27).

Yesterday evening, I drove through Starbucks and ordered a "London Fog" tea. When I reached the window, a friendly young man greeted me with a smile. As he was waiting on my tea to brew, I asked him how he was doing. He hung his head and said, "I'm getting by."

I said, "You and me both!" Then I told him I would be sitting on their patio if he had a break and wanted to talk.

After a while, he stepped outside and I introduced myself and my little 15-week-old German Shepherd puppy, Grace. I invited him to sit down and join us. Like all of us, he has his share of burdens and just needed someone with whom he could talk.

My job? Listen.

I had work to do. But it did not matter. My work could wait. Encouraging this young man was my priority.

How well do you listen?

Have you ever tried to tell someone about a personal burden you were experiencing, a dream you have, or a decision you have to make only to realize they weren't listening? Remember how it made you feel?

You may not be able to give someone your full attention, but rather than pretend to listen, it is better to apologize for being distracted or limited by time and ask them when you can talk with them again.

We could all improve our communication skills and active listening is vital for effective communication. Active listening means putting aside distractions, being present in the moment, looking people in the eyes, and confirming what you think you heard is what they meant to say. If I am talking with children, I try to get on a knee, smile and look them right in the eyes. I want them to know they are important to me. In so doing, I can help them understand how important they are to God.

Unfortunately, it seems many people are simply too busy or too self-absorbed to care enough to listen.

Unfortunately, it seems many people are simply too busy or too self-absorbed to care enough to listen.

Even with our best intentions, it is not always easy to be a thoughtful listener. Just consider the amount of "noise" around us clamoring for our attention. We are inundated with information and must wisely tune out anything that distracts us from the truth and our God-given priorities.

Listening well takes time, energy, focus, and compassion.

Listening well takes time, energy, focus, and compassion. Ask your pastor how he manages to listen to people. Because he cares and he is a source of strength, many want to talk to him. Pastors have a lot on their plate and may easily become mentally or emotionally overloaded. None want to say they are too busy or too tired to listen and try to make an appointment for another time, but this is what they may need to do.

While talking to the young man at Starbucks, I called him by name. This ensured him I was listening and also helped me to remember it. I also asked questions or commented on what he was saying for the same reasons.

Even though we just met, the young Starbucks "partner" told me about his family, dogs, jobs, vision for the future, and personal challenges. I was honored he entrusted personal thoughts with me, but he would not have done it had he thought I wasn't listening or didn't care.

Due to the loud traffic and children wanting to pet Grace, it wasn't easy to listen, but it was important because people are important. He needed to know someone cared. Just three weeks earlier, one of his dearest friends died from a brain tumor.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."1

God gives us opportunities to serve Him every day. When we cross paths with someone who has a genuine need we can meet, it is very likely God arranged the encounter. God has given us every good thing we have and He expects us to use what we have for His glory.

If we are going to be used by God we need to be listening to God.

How well do you listen to God?

I have read, heard, and taught the importance of talking to God in prayer. I have rarely heard anyone speak on listening to God.

My Dad often told me, "You don't learn anything when you're talking!"

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps 46:10).

Seek to listen to the Lord through prayer and the Bible. You are coming before the King. Be humble, patient, and persistent (Jer. 29:13).

I was simply amazed the first time God spoke directly to me from the Bible. I was a college freshman and my life had turned upside-down. Through tears I cried out, "Why, God?" and in my desperation, I opened the Bible. I'll save the details of this story for another time, but wow; God spoke to me!

And don't be surprised that God may speak to you in unexpected ways (1 Kings 19:11-12). He is not likely to write His message on the sky when He has already spoken through the Scriptures. His Spirit speaks to us from the Bible.

Someone asked Adrian Rogers if God spoke to him audibly. He replied, "No, louder than that!"

I know He spoke to me in many different subtle ways before this, but I had not grasped it was the Lord. I had never opened the Bible with such humility and hunger to hear from Him before.

God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church.2

If God is speaking to us, then why don't we hear Him?

  1. We may be distracted by other things

  2. We may not sincerely want to hear from God

  3. We may not have done what He has already told us

  4. We may not be willing to do what He tells us

  5. He may be growing our faith and teaching us to trust Him

  6. We may not belong to God 3

That last reason may come as a surprise. It surprised me the first time I heard it. Who could dare make such a statement?

The Lord Jesus Christ.

"He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God" (Jn. 8:47).

The essence of the Christian life is a real and personal relationship with God. Without communication, can there be a relationship?

If you have questions about how to recognize when God is speaking to you, just let us know. We'd love to help.


  1. This quote may have originated with Scottish minister, John Watson. His pen name was, "Ian MacLaren."

  2. Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King, Experiencing God (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2007), 45.

  3. Scripture records times when God chose to be silent (c.f. Ps. 28:1; Mk. 4:9-12; Lk. 23:9; Jn. 19:9; 1 Cor. 2:14)

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