At Bearwood Chapel we’ve been thinking a lot about our worship together and discovering and using our gifts recently. This has been the big theme from 1 Corinthians 11-14. We’ve seen that three things should be happening.
We should be glorifying God
We should be encouraging and building each other up
We should be hearing God speak to us
I want to pick up on that third point here. How do we hear God speak and what can stop us from hearing Him? In earlier articles on faith-roots, we’ve seen that everything God does reveals something of his character. So God speaks through creation, through his acts in history, through personal testimony. We see something of this type of revelation in what are sometimes referred to as words of knowledge and prophetic insights. These things are part of God’s General Revelation.
However, our primary concern as Christians is to hear God speak through Scripture (or special revelation). We find that Scripture is authoritative and sufficient for us to grow into maturity in Christ.
So, first of all, we need to say explicitly that we will not hear God speak if we are not taking time to read and engage with Scripture. We can do this by crowding out our gatherings with songs, notices etc. so that there is little time for Bible teaching. We do this if we are not taking time to read our Bibles during the week.
However, there are other ways that we can be distracted from what God’s Word is saying to us. Here are some suggestions of obstacles.
1. Personalities and styles can get in the way. I may find that a particular person grates on me. Churches can help with this by providing a plurality of preachers/teachers but we also have a responsibility to pray and ask God to help us grow in patience and love and learn to hear him. If God can speak through a donkey then he can speak to me through someone whose style isn’t my cup of tea.
2. Relationships can get in the way. Sometimes this is because we build someone up and idolise them. We hang on their every word; we listen to them without discernment. Also when there’s a breakdown in relationship with someone then we can find it hard to hear God speaking through them. If I feel that they’ve wronged me then I can resent them and switch off. If I think they have something against me, I can feel guilty and assume that they are “getting at me.” This is why it’s so important to keep short accounts. It’s a good reason for applying Jesus’s command to leave your sacrifice at the altar and get things sorted. If there’s a breach in relationship, get it sorted. Go speak with them, say sorry, forgive.
3. Getting detached from the body will stop me from hearing properly. If I’m sat at home reading the Bible by myself I will risk distorting it with my own hobby horses. If I treat church as something I turn up to from time to time then I will miss out on the consistency of teaching. At Bearwood Chapel, we preach systematically through books of the Bible. Last week’s talk links to this week, things I say this week will be developed next week. Something I say that sounds quite sharp today may be nuanced in three weeks’ time. Don’t neglect meeting together with God’s people.
Nb Sometimes it’s a previous relationship that hinders a current one. I may have a romanticised view of a previous pastor, the church I grew up in, a conference speaker I heard. If so I may end up judging the person speaking to me against them. They never match up. Also if I’ve had a negative experience of someone else, I can transfer that onto whoever God is speaking through now
4. Health can affect my hearing. If I’m tired, low, emotionally struggling then this may affect what I hear and how I hear. Sometimes what we need is something as practical as rest, a good meal or a visit to the doctors.
5. Sometimes I can be so busy getting my point across in a discussion that I don’t hear the points of others. We can do that when it comes to God too. Have I become too busy like Martha that I don’t have time to sit at his feet? Am I so focused on using my gifts that I’m not hearing. Maybe I need to take a step back from some things from time to time so that I can re-engage (we’ll pick up on this on Sunday 30th October at our 9:30 and 11:15 services).
Let’s pray that we will hear God speak to us this week and that we will be both hearers and doers of the word.