HOW WELL DO YOU LISTEN?

Mike Johnson

How well do you listen? Some of the most famous statements ever made would not be remembered if someone had not listened carefully to what was said. Listening, and listening properly, is very important to learning. One person put it like this: “Talk and you say what you already know, but listen and you learn something new.” It is very important for a speaker to prepare his speech well and then to present it clearly. However, a good speaker must have a good audience to be effective.

Jesus often challenged people by saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” On one occasion, he said to a multitude that He had called together, ” . . . Hear, and understand” (Matt. 15:10). In the Parable of the Sower, the seed which fell on the good soil is described by one who hears the word and receives it and brings forth much fruit (Mk. 4:20).

The importance of an audience being willing to listen, and listen objectively, can be illustrated with the two audiences of Acts 2 and Acts 7. In Acts 2 (on the day of Pentecost) Peter was the speaker, while in Acts 7 (before the Jewish council) Stephen was the one who spoke. A close study of these two sermons will reveal that their basic message was the same. With both messages, the speaker tried to convince the people that they had rejected and crucified God’s son, and they needed to repent and become Christians. The reaction to Peter’s sermon is seen in verse 37 which says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were told that they needed to repent and be baptized (v. 38), and verse 41 shows their response as it says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Stephen, on the other hand, got a very negative reaction to his preaching. Instead of repenting, verse 57 says, “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, they gnashed on him with their teeth.” The verses which follow points out that the people then stoned Stephen to death. What was the difference? Both Peter and Stephen preached basically the same message. The difference was the audience as one group was willing to objectively listen with a receptive heart, while the other audience simply closed its ears.

Jesus often had very unreceptive audiences. He described the people of his day when he said of them, ” . . . By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed . . . .(Mt. 13:14-15)” Both Isaiah and Paul applied this description to the people of their day. (Is. 6:9-10, Acts 28:26-27). Surely, this same concept applies to many in our time also.

What are the lessons for us? First, we must make sure that we are always receptive to God’s Word. We need to have a willingness to listen and to obey. It is surprising how many Christians are even closed-minded on many Bible subjects. We need to be like those of Berea who were described as more noble than those of Thessalonica as they received the word with readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul taught was true. Secondly, we must realize that all who we teach will not obey. We should always try to improve our knowledge of the Bible and work on our presentation of God’s Word. However, we must keep in mind that although some will obey others will not. Some will be like those compared to the good ground in the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13:8,23). They will receive the word and bear fruit, while others will be like those compared to the wayside (Mt. 13:4,19) as they will be unreceptive. Therefore, we must not get discouraged when our efforts to teach others are unsuccessful. We will probably have some success in our effort to teach God’s Word, but we will most likely have a lot of rejection. We must keep in mind that there are different kinds of soils and not get discouraged.

In conclusion, how do you listen to God’s Word? James 1:21 tells us how we are supposed to as the writer said, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”