Most people say they would like to hear God talking.
Who wouldn’t right. Some of you are old enough to remember that TV commercial by EF Hutton the stock brokerage house. Two ladies are in a noisy restaurant and one person says to the other person, “My broker is EF Hutton and he says…” Suddenly, then the entire room gets quiet and everyone is straining to hear what the lady is going to say next. Remember that commercial? Their slogan was – “When EF Hutton talks, People listen.”
What if you were in a noisy place talking to a friend and you said, “I was just talking to God and he said…” Would the whole room suddenly get so quiet you could hear a pin drop? Everyone leaning over and straining to hear what God had to say? I don’t think so. Sadly, many people don’t seem to care nor believe what God might have to say.
1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us why. 14 “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness…”
Paul told us that, we as Christians, have the Spirit and that’s our hotline to God. If you want to hear God – simply listen to the Spirit inside you. That’s all there is to it.
Jesus even said it himself, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever 17 the Spirit of truth… he lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17
Isn’t that reassuring. Christ says that through the Holy Spirit he is right inside each of us.
But what else is that scripture revealing to us? I think it means that if we don’t hear God, then either we aren’t listening or it’s so noisy we can’t hear the Holy Spirit talking.
Many people have that problem? They try real hard to hear God. They pick up that hotline but all they hear is static? Or maybe the line sounds dead. Their thinking, God’s not home, or that he’s not talking to them? Or, maybe you that there’s no such thing as hearing God? Maybe they consider it foolishness.
Today I’d like talk about how to hear God. I didn’t say talk to God – I suspect most of you have that down pretty good. My question is, do you know how to listen – to God? Do you give God his turn in the conversation? Are you stuck in monologue, instead of a dialogue?
Let’s get one big question out of the way, Does God really talk to us? After all, what’s the point in listening for him if there’s nothing to hear. Well I’m happy to report that, besides my own personal experience, there is overwhelming evidence that God does indeed talk to us and it’s well documented. Here’s some of the evidence:
Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” God will teach and counsel us. To do that he must talk to us.
Proverbs 3:6 “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Pay attention when he’s talking, and he will keep you safe.” There’s an Old Testament tip for you – Pay attention.
And Jesus tells us – “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27.
Jesus is talking about us. We are his sheep. We listen to his voice and follow him.
Don’t we? Sadly, many Christians never hear God.
Maybe in the past they heard the Lord, but now it seems he’s no longer speaking to them. They might be working really hard on their relationship with God, but all they hear is silence That silence can be disheartening, frightening, confusing and even agonizing. I know first-hand what it’s like to be waiting on God for answers, and hear nothing? I did it for decades! At one point, I even decided that maybe there really isn’t a God. Eventually, through some hard work I learned how to have conversations with God. And it turned out to be rather simple – for me anyway.
What is it we are taught to do if you catch on fire? What’s that little saying we use to remind us of what to do? Who knows it? “Stop, Drop and Roll. Right!”
Well here is what I learned to do if I want hear God. Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen!
Here is step-one to hearing God. You need to STOP Talking. If you’re worried God’s not listening, STOP – because he is. STOP chasing God. He’s right beside you.
When I was as little kid and out shopping with my mom I used to play a game that aggravated her. When she was looking at dresses and shirts and such on the large racks I would hide down inside the clothing racks. I could see her feet, but she couldn’t see me. I would scramble from rack to rack right behind her. When she realized she’d lost sight of me she’d start calling my name. Sometimes, I could tell she was getting a bit frantic and called my name with an urgency. I would giggle and scamper under the clothing racks to follow her feet. Eventually, my mother would stop calling out and would instead listen. When she got quiet she could hear me giggling deep inside the clothing rack. I never left her side – but she was so busy looking for me and calling out for me that she couldn’t hear me. I think too often that is what we do when we pray. We are trying to have a conversation with God, but we do all the talking! We keep waiting for answers but are not really listening.
When I first started to pray as an adult I never shut up. I prayed for this and prayed for that. I got good at asking and asking and asking. And when I didn’t see results I’d ask it differently. “Ok God, here’s the deal… if you’ll just grant me this I will ….” Anyone here do that? Try bargaining with God? It doesn’t work to well does it?
Here’s how I finally learned the second part of this lesson. I literally took a college class on the how to pray. I’m strange like that – I like formal training. I figured I must have been praying “wrong.” In that class, we learned eight maybe ten different ways to pray. And they were all great. I would practice these different styles in 30 to 45-minute sessions. But guess what – regardless of the style, I did not hear God talking. Finally, I think the Holy Spirit either got fed up with me, or felt sorry for me, because during this one prayer session, as I was going through my “technique,” I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Maybe you should just stop talking!” And I did. You should see my journal entry for that day! God started talking and I was writing down everything as fast as he was telling me. I didn’t think he was ever going to finish. That when I realized that having a conversation with God has many parts.
Stop Talking was step one. “Be Quiet” was step two. But I don’t mean just closing your mouth – being quiet. Being quiet is much more difficult that not talking. Being quiet means, you have to shut out all the clutter in your head.
In the Old Testament, we hear the story of Elijah looking for God in the Wind and could not find him. Then in the Earthquake, and then in the fire. He looked for God and could not find him even though he knew he was close by. Finally, after the fire stopped – and everything got real quiet, and Elijah was no longer looking for the lord, there came a gentle whisper. (1 King 19:13) When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
How many times has God tried to answer you and you didn’t hear it because he speaks in a whisper and your making too much noise. Perhaps, your mind’s to distracted or there’s too much noise and confusion going on in your life. And, I’m not just talking just about loud external noises. I’m talking about the noises in your head.
Here are a few examples of the noise I mean? How about when your pride steps in and says I can do this on my own – I don’t need God’s help – and your head fills with confusion.
Or maybe you have bitterness inside and your holding onto a grudge or resentment towards someone. That can be a loud clanging in your head, and heart.
Or maybe, you’re physically hurting and it’s making you close your mind to everything except the anger getting louder and louder.
These are the sounds I’m talking about. We have to turn off, not only your own voice, but also all that clutter in your head. It’s not easy. But it only takes hearing God once and you’re changed forever.
The first step? Stop Talking. The second step? Be Quiet. Remember not talking is not the same thing as being quiet.
Lastly, is step-three, we need to listen for his voice. Now, I hope you all don’t think this is a crazy segue but, I’m going to talk about goats for a minute. Several years we bought three goats. We named them Nanny, Billy, and Randy. When we got them home we would try and call them, but they would never come. The dogs would come, the donkeys would come, even our chickens. But, the goats wouldn’t. Eventually we learned a trick – that if we shook a box of corn flakes – they would come running. They knew what that sound represented – something that they loved. Corn Flakes were a voice of love to them. And soon after, we could call out and they would come running to see if we had corn flakes.
It’s the same way with God. When he calls to us we may not know it’s God speaking because we don’t know the sound of his voice. And if we don’t know his voice, we don’t know to go towards it. That he’s waiting there with love – and Corn Flakes.
God is always trying to get our attention – sadly many people don’t recognize his voice. We need to learn to listen for God when he’s talking. His reply to us may be audible, or visual, or emotional. It may be in a kindness we observe, or an unexpected presence that gladdens our heart. It could be the cry of a baby. God speaks to us with a voice that we each learn to recognize. But first we have to Stop Talking, Be Quiet, and listen.
From the book of Samuel, we read how Samuel heard God calling his name, “Samuel, Samuel.” He was confused, he thought it was Eli calling him. Samuel didn’t know God’s voice. We’re the same. We too need to learn to listen for God, to recognize his voice when he is speaking to us. I bet almost everyone here can answer their home phone and know in an instant who is calling by the sound of that person’s voice. Hearing God is no different. Just like that person on the phone, you need to build a relationship with him, you need to get used to hearing his voice. In Psalm 46:10 – He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen.
Let me conclude this morning with one last ingredient. There is one more thing to do if you want to build that relationship with God. And this for me was the hardest. We must obey God when he speaks to us.
God speaks to those that he knows are going to listen and do what he tells them to do. Psalm 119:33 “Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey.”
We’ve been told from the very beginning that God wants us to pray to him with our needs and desires. He wants us to make big plans! He is standing ready to answer all of them. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3). It’s when you obey, that God knows, that you know, you are listening!
God talks to willing minds. How do you make your mind willing and learn to listen to God? Stop. Be quiet. Listen. And obey!