A monthly column by Michael Cassidy, evangelist, author, Christian leader and founder of African Enterprise whose ministry in Africa and the world has spanned more than 50 years.
Have you ever bellowed at your child: “Didn’t you hear me?” erupting “Why don’t you listen? I told you not to go outside without a jersey, but you didn’t listen, and now you have a streaming cold.”
Of course it is possible your little brat heard and then deliberately disobeyed. But it is equally likely that he just didn’t listen to your old fog-horn and therefore couldn’t obey because he hadn’t heard. The parental voice was simply screened out. Faulty action followed faulty listening.
Nor is this failing confined to children. We adults do the same sort of thing. For example, we often do all the talking with our friends and none of the listening. Or think of the phone caller who won’t let you get a word in edgeways in half an hour. No wonder a bore is defined as someone who talks about himself all the time when you want to talk about yourself!
Of course this kind of experience, when confined to casual social exchange, is more tiresome than anything else, but in say a military affair it becomes positively hazardous. If there is no listening from the army when the general says “OK chaps, flee for your lives”, then they advance into catastrophic defeat. How serious then is that failure of listening!
So too in our spiritual experience. It is positively hazardous to fail to listen to God. He has spoken in His Word, and by His Holy Spirit He still speaks, usually by a still small voice, a quiet conviction as it were, which registers in the hearing apparatus of the soul. But if we plunge through life without ever listening for His voice or His guidance, how truly foolish we become.
I have been reading the book of Jeremiah recently and have been struck by God’s awesome judgement on Israel as a nation simply because: “When I spoke to you persistently,” said the Lord, “you did not listen” (Jeremiah 7:13). Their fate, in the divine words, was sealed because they did not obey or incline their ear but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts … they did not listen to me or incline their ear but stiffened their neck (7:24, 26).
Nations and individuals
And what of us as a nation? Are we listening to God, or are we “walking in our own counsels”?
Likewise in our individual experience. Do we say: “Listen, Lord, your servant speaks” — or “speak, Lord, your servant listens.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen has written: “God has things to tell us which will enlighten us. We must wait for Him to speak. No one would rush into a physician’s office, rattle off all his symptoms, and then dash away again without waiting for a diagnosis: no one would tune into a radio and immediately leave the room. It is every bit as stupid to ring God’s doorbell and then run away.”
If we do listen, how does God speak and how do we hear? We hear through the Bible, through the counsel of Christian friends, through a deepening conviction related to something we have prayed over, through the still small voice and occasionally through some very direct form of spiritual illumination.
It all sounds a bit airy-fairy, I know. But it isn’t. Just really try listening to God. You may be surprised by what you hear.