Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. -- Joshua 1: 8 (NLT)
Have you ever wondered what statement Jesus said the most during His ministry? Fourteen times, seven alone in the account of Revelation, Jesus says -- "he who has ears to hear should listen and understand (or some variation thereof). When God goes out of His way to repeat Himself 14 times I think we might want to take notice and see what He is trying to convey to us. The obvious thing is that God is showing us that there is a clear difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is a physical function. He who has ears to hear shows that hearing is biological process. Jesus however takes it a step further and says if you have the physical capacity to hear then you ought to also listen and understand.
The sad truth is that listening is a dying art in our society. Listening implies more than hearing. It implies a consideration that does not exist in mere hearing. In most discussions we are formulating our next response while the other person is talking, making it impossible to truly listen. One of the forerunners of modern Psychology, Carl Rogers, incorporated "reflective listening" into his therapy strategies. This is where the therapist truly listens and "reflects back" to the patient what they said. Not only validating what the patient has to say but essentially assuring them they are being listened to! And this was in the 1950's! Things have devolved much further since then. Today's generations are brought up on computers, texting, and Facebook. This further erodes a social skill set that wasn't that good to begin with. We have the physical capacity to hear but listening is but a dying art form.
The interesting thing in the New Living Translation is the addition of "and understand." Hearing someone does not mean you are going to understand what it is that they are trying to convey. It is only through an active listening process that we can truly consider and then understand. The sad thing is that listening is not much better in the church. Sure we attend church regularly but how often are we distracted? How often are we thinking about what we have to do later that day? How often do we engage in ministry and therefore cannot even hear the Word let alone try to listen and understand? We get so enamored with the busyness and business of church that we do not even listen anymore for what God might want to say. I say all the time that I simply do not understand how someone goes to church without a profound sense of expectancy to hear from God.
The reality is that there is too much "playing church" going on today. Dressing in our Sunday best, appearing as spiritual as possible. Saying amen and hallelujah at all the right times but denying the true power of God in our own lives because we fail to understand what it is God is trying to say to us. We have ears, and hear just fine -- but are we listening? In most cases the answer is probably no. Not only at church but also at home. Maybe we have an active prayer life but is it a one way conversation? Do we allow God to speak into our lives? Do we listen for what God wants to say? Are we reading His Word in the manner that understands that the Bible is God talking to us?
Our key verse comes from the point in
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to
What did the Bereans do? First the listened eagerly! We treat church sometimes as if it is a chore and the Bible as if it is a nuisance. Secondly they searched the Scriptures to make sure what they were being taught was correct! Oh beloved, that we would treat what we are taught as the Bereans did! One of the most recurring themes throughout the New Testament is false teaching. We are warned repeatedly that in the end times in which we now live we would see many false teachers who would lead many away from the true faith. Yet so often we simply accept whatever we hear from the pulpit or in the classroom as if it is the Gospel itself. I have seen many in the faith today lost and astray without even realizing it because they follow poor teaching. There are many who sit in pews weekly that simply do not know any better and believe they have obtained salvation when they have not. There is a real danger in blind acceptance of what man says. It is only Scripture that is infallible.