You have probably asked someone this next question, or maybe it has been asked of you. “Are you listening?” Many of us are good “hearers,” but we are not really that good at “listening” The person being talked to looks attentive, but their (or your) thoughts are far away. The dictionary defines hearing as being aware of sounds coming to the ear (implying that those sounds are not being paid attention to) whereas listening is paying attention to the sounds coming to the ear (by making a conscious effort to hear). For example, in a room full of people holding a conversation, we often hear the sound coming from the television but hopefully we are listening to each other as we talk. (Think sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving with the parade or football game blaring from the TV.) Hearing can be done without thinking, thus it is an inactive word, but listening is active, you must think about what you are doing.
Our Father wants us to walk with Him. But in order to walk with Him we must first be able to not only hear His voice, but also make an effort to listen to it. While it is true that God very rarely “talks” to us as someone else talks to us, in an audible voice, God does speak to us. Without getting into too much detail, and bogging down in the mud, God speaks to us today in a number of ways, some of which are through His Word (Bible), through His Son Jesus, through nature, through other people, through music, through life circumstances, through the Holy Spirit, and through prayer. God does audibly speak also, but our experience is that actually hearing the audible voice of God is rare. It is usually through the other ways just mentioned that we can hear, and listen to, God. In order to digest what it is God is trying to say to us, we need to actively listen. In order to know God’s will, we need to learn to listen to His voice.
Just as in the example above of inactively hearing the television versus actively listening to people while at the dinner table, we can also either be purposeful listeners of God’s words and put into practice that which we hear or we can simply be passive hearers and let those words “go in one ear and out the other.” In order to walk with God and live out His plan for your life, you need to be a purposeful listener. In other words, listening and doing go hand in hand.
You might be asking, “How do I listen to God?” You can begin by reading the Bible, praying, being watchful of life’s circumstances (God might be speaking to you through those circumstances), asking God to speak to you, and being expectant of Him talking to you. Now you are wondering, “How then do I walk with God?” It starts with putting your trust in Jesus, and from there begin pursuing a continual relationship with Him and seeking to live in His presence every day, obeying God and walking in His truth, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your path, and repenting when you sin.
Now “listen” to what God’s Word says about listening to God and walking with God. In James 1:22-25 we read this – 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 in the 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 – they will be blessed in what they do.
So, do you consider yourself a listener or simply a hearer? God is speaking to you, are you listening?