Series Introduction: Recently our new Associate Pastor, Nigel Shailer, challenged us to be “Community Listeners” as we hear God’s Word taught each week. Focus, the ministry to Seniors at FBC, has been working through this topic following Ken Ramey’s excellent book Expository Listening. This series of six articles comes from that study.
The third chapter of Expository Listening deals with being prepared to hear God’s Word. The author again uses the picture of farming to demonstrate how we listen to God’s Word. Just like the field that is too hard for the seeds to penetrate, the heart that constantly ignores the message or just listens without taking action becomes hard and will not be fruitful. Here are some Biblical insights we can use to get our hearts ready to hear God’s Word.
Understand the purpose of coming to church. When we meet together, whether it is in an RMG, small group, or a Sunday service, it is not for our benefit. Hebrews 10:24 gives a primary goal for the time we spend together with other believers. Literally, it says, “Let us think carefully about one another towards the stimulating to love and good works.” Verse 25 goes on to say that we are deserting them (“forsaking”) when we fail to come. People need us to be there! The opposite of desertion according to this verse is encouragement, which means you come alongside them to offer them help. Think about physical presence when you think of being an encourager. These verses teach that we are obligated to take our eyes off of self and focus on how we can help others.
Meditate on God’s Word daily. Meditation is more than just reading the Bible. It is spending time with the Bible, probably just a few verses. It is a time when you think about the lessons God is teaching you on how you ought to live. It is about finding a way to change your life. Psalm 1:2 says that the “blessed man” is doing it “day and night.” The result of such practice is fruitfulness. I loved reading the story of English politician William Wilberforce who memorized Psalm 119 and then recited it as he walked to his office, where he fought against the slave trade in England. Bible memorization is one of the best ways to practice meditation, since you can do it anywhere, even when you don’t have a Bible with you. Spending extended time with the passage of scripture that will be taught in the Sunday message will be especially helpful to prepare you to listen to the message from the pulpit.
Get rid of sin that will prevent you from being hungry for God’s Word. Listening to God’s Word requires a heart that is prepared, and that means it is clean. 1 Peter 2:2 commands us to have a longing for God’s Word, just like a baby has a longing for milk. But that longing is preceded by getting rid of sins that have been a part of your life. You’re not hungry for the good food if you’re filled up with junk. Make sure that you go to God in confession before ever going to His Word for instruction.
Pray daily for God’s Word being taught. The apostle Paul asked for churches to pray for him as he continued his ministry of the Word (Colossians 4:2-4 and Ephesians 6:19-20). Pray for the one who is teaching, that he will be “clear” (Colossians 4:4) and that the Holy Spirit will speak truth into the lives of the people (John 16:13).
Paul was in constant prayer for the people of the different churches where he had preached. It was often a prayer of thanks to God for how He had been at work in them, but it was also a prayer for God’s continued work in their lives. Consider the value of praying for others that you know with the words of Colossians 1:9-12. Pray that you and others who will be hearing the message will have these results in their lives as they hear God’s Word.