Tips to help you hear the message in His word and apply it to your life.
Everyone loves a good story. This is why we read books and go to movies and listen to each other tell their personal experiences. “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,” Psalm 107:2 proclaims. Our lives are wrapped up in God’s story—and while that’s wonderful, it’s also a bit scary. Our words and actions tell others not only about ourselves, but about our Maker and Master.
Long ago I heard a missionary talk about working in Africa, where he asked how the local people went about evangelization. “Oh, that’s easy,” the leader of the village explained. “We ask one of our Christian families to move to the next village. When everyone sees how they live their lives, they want to be like that, too. So then they want to know about Jesus Christ.”
That’s the kind of plot I want for my life—one in which I’m living my faith so fully that, even if I don’t say a word about what I believe, people will long to “taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8).
Each thing we do or say has meaning and significance. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken,” warns Jesus in Matthew 12:36, and “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing” (John 14:12). Becoming a believer means taking on an active role as a Christian.
One characteristic of a good story is that it bears repeating. Most of us need to hear things many times to absorb them; like the stiff-necked Israelites wandering in the wilderness, we don’t always grasp God’s majesty the first time we learn of it. Perhaps this is why the story of the exodus from Egypt is mentioned in 24 books of the Bible. And perhaps it explains why the feeding of the five thousand is present in all four Gospels, the curing of the boy with fits in three and the healing of the blind man in two.
When Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear,” (Mark 4:9) he knew that becoming a good listener is a prerequisite to becoming a good storyteller. We have to know the story by heart — and know it deep in our hearts — to be able to tell it well.
Paul tells us, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
How can we become better listeners?
1. Pray for a true attentiveness to the Word of God.
"Lord, open my ears!” is a humble plea worthy of the deaf and mute man whose story is found in Mark, chapter 7. “Be opened!” Jesus commanded (verse 34). And that will be His answer to us, too, when we pray for ears open to God’s voice.
2. Don’t interrupt.
Listening isn’t the same as having a conversation. Absorb first; respond later.
3. Fend off negative thoughts.
Don’t let yourself get dragged down in ‘But...’ and ‘I can’t....’ If God is behind what you’re hearing, He will show you how you can live His will.
Our life stories have to wordlessly echo the story of redemption—and make it easier for others to live that same tale. Thank goodness God is always ready to help us improve our story-telling techniques (and to rewrite those places where we fail)!