Most of you have read the passage where a woman interrupted Jesus as he taught. She raised her voice and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed” (Luke 11:27). I’ve had many interruptions during my messages, but nothing like what this woman did. From what I can observe in the text, Jesus responded rather quickly. He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28). To be “blessed” literally means to be in the right position or alignment with God to receive His favor. Blessing and favor comes to those, Jesus said, when they “hear the word.” Think about this for a moment, what would be the opposite of that statement? If blessing comes by hearing, obviously there are some serious consequences for not hearing. I can’t begin to describe the mess that I’ve caused when I acted on good assumptions rather than waiting to hear His Word on the matter. Blessings come when we hear the Word, and then, when we “observe” it, Jesus said. To observe means to keep, defend, or even to produce what we hear. So, we’re not merely hearers of the Word, but we are doers too (see James 1:22). But I want to underscore hearing in this blog because I believe what we do or say should be contingent upon what we hear. Who or what are you listening to these days?
One of the most essential things that we are to do as Spirit-filled people is listen. Jesus was asked what commandment was foremost of all. His answer may surprise you because most of us respond with loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that's true, we should love Him with all of our being, and even neighbors as we love ourselves. But Jesus' answer to the question actually began with something else. He said, "The foremost commandment is Hear, O Israel" (Mark 12:29). I have skipped over that for years—maybe because I wasn't listening. But if you think about it, the ability to love God and people is generated in our willingness to listen to God. How we listen to Him is reflected in how we listen and treat people. Usually we reflect the characteristics of the one we give most of our attention to. I want to be an imitator of God (see Eph. 5:1). That means I must give my attention to Him so that I can replicate His character.
Let’s look at another passage. James wrote, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word” (James 1:18). The phrase “brought forth” means to give birth to something. So, every person was birthed into being because the Word of God was declared. In fact, all of creation was brought forth because God spoke! There is extraordinary power in the declaration of the Word. We carry life or death in the words that we speak (see Proverbs 18:21). What you say can raise people up or it can destroy them. What are you listening to because that’s probably what you’re repeating? If you stuff your ears with the wrong content you may be declaring deadly words over those that you speak to. Give your ears to the Lord. Listen to Him more than you listen to anyone else. So when James continued with, “everyone must be quick to hear,” he was referring to our readiness to hear the Word of God.
Paul encouraged us all to desire the manifestation of prophecy (see 1 Cor. 14:1). The simplest definition of prophecy is to speak what we hear the Lord saying to us. In other words, He speaks, we hear, and then we release what He has spoken. Truly, every believer can prophesy because every believer can hear the Lord speak (see John 10:27). What if, however, we are not hearing the Lord’s words but we are hearing everyone else’s words? When you fill your head with CNN or the latest string of gossip, you might be repeating those same words when you speak. In a sense, you are prophesying but it’s negative, harmful, and lacks redemptive grace (see Col. 4:6). Perhaps a doctor just gave you a report from your latest exam. Before you “give ear” to those words, get alone with Jesus and listen to His words on the matter. Otherwise, you may be speaking things over your life that people say and not what God says. As believers we aren’t to be an echo of our culture but a voice for the Kingdom. The flesh profits nothing, Jesus said; we are to speak as He did with words filled with spirit and life (John 6:63).
Hearing and listening are so essential in our relationship with Christ. Jesus only spoke what He heard His Father say (John 12:50). Perhaps that is the reason His words caused blind eyes to open, deaf ears to unstop, mute tongues to talk, crippled limbs to straighten, and dead bodies to raise to life. Jesus was an anointed leader because He was a dedicated listener; He heard what the Father wanted, and He did and said accordingly. Our spiritual lives should be molded in our willingness to hear. Practice listening to His voice throughout the day and speak, and do, only as He prompts. If you’re a pastor or leader of a church, take time in your services to really hear Him. Perhaps He wants to move in a way that was unplanned. Surrender your service plan to His voice and watch what God can do.
The writer of Hebrews said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 4:7). The operative word in that statement is “if” you hear His voice. I don’t think it’s a matter of Him speaking to us; rather, it’s a matter of us actually taking the initiative to hear Him.
Listen to His voice today. What’s He saying?