Listening is not the same as hearing. There’s a huge difference. We can hear a broad range of sounds, noises, voices, languages, etc. To listen is an entirely different issue. This would be my third week in America. One might think that the process of speaking your second language will turn on automatically. Well, it is not that simple. Our brain holds the ability to identify a foreign language and classify it as known or unknown.
Generally speaking, it doesn’t take me too long to switch from Spanish to English. My ears and my eyes recognize the langue immediately. The problem is my mouth. For some reason, it takes me longer to actually speak it fluently. I’m thinking that I’m going to make a mistake, that I have a terrible accent, and that my pronunciation is horrendous.
These two past weeks have turned out to be opportunities to daily be intentional in listening what people around me are saying. Being intentional allow me to know and discover incredibly amazing people!!! Each one of my new friends has blessed me in a special way. One blesses me with his spontaneity, another with his theological conversations, another with her happiness, and yet another one with her maturity and positive perspective of life.
I was doing some reading on the book of James when I was confronted with the reality that listening to God is actual a huge aspect in my personal walk with him. Easy to say, hard to do, I know. There are a lot of books out there on the subject of listening to the voice of God. People like the idea of engaging in a spiritual journey, people like the idea of entering into a new level of spirituality where they can actually get to experience God in a more tangible way. The spiritual realm is something that actually captivates our understating. Personally, I believe that there is a mystical aspect attached to listening to the voice of God. The word mystical does not necessarily involve a negative connotation, in a strict sense it alludes to something that includes a hidden truth. Merriam-Webster defines it as the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).
Within Christianity, a theology that called people to seek a personal transcendence experience with God developed. Experiencing God is not an idea but a reality. Each one of us can get to experience first hand God’s presence and intimacy. All you need to do is to open your Bible and spend some time reading it, meditating on it, praying over what you have just read.
Listening to the voice of God enables us to pay attention and react to the needs of those around us. That the essence of James 1:19-26
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Jas 1:22–25.
Having a spiritual experience becomes useless unless you are transformed by the Word behind it. We may be able to say that we had an encounter with the presence of God. We can speak and write about how beautiful God’s presence is, about the reality of the present work of the Holy Spirit, but unless there is a change in our lives, in the way we speak, in how we treat each other, then the whole experience becomes useless and pointless. The world will not be able to see, firsthand, and experience the redeeming and transforming power of God’s love if we are not his hands and feet. Our obedience and allegiance to the Word of God are what will produce a change inside of us, which in result be manifested in the way we conduct ourselves. Our obedience is the one thing that will bring a change in society. Not an experience per se. I love experiencing the tangibly manifested presence of God. But unless I am changed and act in accordance people around me will not be able to contemplate God’s power.
A couple of final thoughts. What does it mean te be eager to listen to the voice of God? I think of what happened with the prophet Samuel when he was a little boy. He didn’t know the voice of God (1 Sm. 3:7), yet Eli knew what was going on, he identifies that it was God the one who was calling little Samuel. He instructed Samuel by saying: “Go lie down, and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant, is listening.’ ”
Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening means that you are paying extremely attention to what is being said. When we turn towards God and open our ears to what he is saying, when we give particular attention to that sweet and still small voice, then we will be able to do what we heard the Holy Spirit whispering into our souls. The outcome: a transformation that changes everything.
Being listeners not doers of the Word will lead us to plain religion. Listening but not doing equals filling information. Knowledge without obedience results fruitless and useless. The Bible tells us that: Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies (1 Co.8:1). That is the reason why James further in his letter writes: Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself (Jas. 2:17).