If I was truly going to understand what God wanted for me and my life, I needed to learn how to listen better. Since God created the earth, listening has always been the foundation for growth and transformation. Paul tells us in Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). James writes, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak...” (James 1:19). I wanted to find an internal quiet and stillness that only the Holy Spirit could provide. His guidance would open me to be changed by God. I was asking God for direction, but not making the necessary time to be still and listen. I felt so confused by the crowd of voices that had gathered in my mind. The negativity, the shouting, the opinions, the fluff, this sunshine and rainbow theology, and so much more was overwhelming. Can you relate?
When Jesus called His disciples in Mark 1:16-19, we see this:
"Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”
Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” Look at what happened. Simon and Andrew did not start talking or asking what the plan was, how they will live, or about the job description. No, they immediately left their nets and followed him. Immediately is the key word here. Jesus spoke; they listened and went. James and John did the same.
Immediately is the key word here. Jesus spoke; they listened and went.
I was not responding like Simon, Andrew, James, and John. I was personally asking and talking too much in an attempt to discover what I was to do with my life and just in general day to day activities. Jesus was calling, but I was not moving and, at times, not hearing what he was saying because my mouth was moving or mind was racing at 100 miles an hour. The beginning of discipleship is listening. The beginning of understanding our purpose and gifts is listening.
The beginning of discipleship is listening. The beginning of understanding our purpose and gifts is listening.
Jesus begins his parable, in Mark 4:3, with the word, “Listen!”
“Again, he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching, he said to them: ‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”
What happens when the seed is planted in good soil and hears the word? “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20
God gave us all a mission in life: To go and make disciples; in other words, bear fruit. Mark 4:20 says listening is the key. Listening was fundamental for me to become who God had called me to be and to serve those around me better. God sets the example of listening. All throughout scripture we see how the Father listens to His people. Anytime you want to talk to God, He is there waiting to hear your voice.
The question was, how do I listen better in a noisy world?
The question was, how do I listen better in a noisy world? What a challenging question. There are multiple things I have done to answer this question, but I wanted to share the three most valuable steps with you.
5 to 8 Rule. This is a rule I created to set boundaries and increase my productivity. 5AM to 8AM and 5PM to 8PM are times I do not use my cell phone. I get up at 5:00AM every day, which is why this time window was chosen. 5PM to 8PM is family time. At 8:00pm, I check my phone for texts or email that I might need to respond to or add to my calendar. Then, my phone is put away for the evening. Consistently following my 5 to 8 Rule has helped bring peace to my life, especially at bedtime. It has also helped set the tone for my day and allowed me to wake up and start my day strong. I’ve eliminated so much noise that my mind, soul, and body are free to listen better.
I start my day in prayer and ask God to speak into my life. This prayer is all about asking God to show me His will for the day. Then I just listen. I sit in silence and fully give myself to Him. It has taken me some time to do this discipline well, but, with consistent practice, I have found myself enjoying my moments of silence at my Father’s feet. The amount of time I spend in silence varies each day. You cannot rush listening.
Intentional listening. I found three individuals who I admire and respect and asked if I could meet with each one once a month. These meetings are designed for me to listen. They do not know that is what I am doing but all three add a lot of value to my life. I go into each meeting ready to receive. I ask questions for personal growth, ask them how they’re doing, and/or how I can pray for them. And then, I listen. I bring a notebook. I take notes. I share when they ask me questions. It is a normal time together; I just go into it in a listening role rather than speaking. This listening practice has helped me with so many of my relationships and even with new people I encounter. I listen fully to what the person is sharing and try to understand instead of trying to be understood.
All three of these practices have been life-giving to me and assisted me on my journey to listen well.
. . . try to understand instead of trying to be understood.
I love this verse in Revelation 3:20. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Questions to ask yourself:
How would your earthly relationships change if you approached them with
a listening first approach?
How would your relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit change if you listened more?
How can taking time to be still and quiet change your life?
Will you embrace the gift of listening?
Who needs you to listen to them?
I invite you back next week to see the final step the Lord guided me to take. That was to walk more with Jesus and invite Him in the room. Until then, God Bless and my prayers are with you.
Let's grow, thrive, and serve TOGETHER!
Your friend, Caleb Elrod