Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Listening, Dec 9
There is something about the Advent and Christmas Season that gives us an expectation of hearing from God. Maybe it comes from the some of the songs we sing like “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Perhaps, it is something even deeper that is stirred this time of year.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” There are seasons to life (described in the previous verses) … all of which are beautiful, purposeful, and meaningful as we listen to God. The idea of “eternity in the heart” is we intuitively have a sense that life is much bigger than us. However, the phrase “he cannot find out” speaks to the reality that we are finite creatures and need God’s voice to speak into the circumstances of our lives.
The words from Hebrews 3 that encourage, “If you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart,” are part of a quote from Psalm 95. In the verses prior this encouragement to listen, we are find this challenge:
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2)
The idea is simple. We are in His presence all the time. In fact, because God is infinite and omnipresent, we are always in His presence. However, there is the truth of His presence and there is the experience of His presence. The psalmist is declaring that we come into, or experience, His presence when we are thankful. Gratefulness gives us ears to hear God. Psalm 100:4 declares the same idea with slightly different words: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
A thankful heart enables us to hear what God is saying through all the events and circumstances of our lives. The verse in Ecclesiastes about everything being beautiful in its time refers to the familiar poem:
“For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
How are we able to be thankful in all of these things? It is rooted in the trust that He is present with us in all things. He is speaking. In his book, Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr said: “Everything belongs and everything can be received. We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore. What is, is okay. What is, is the great teacher. I have always seen this as the deep significance of Jesus’ refusal of the drugged wine on the cross.”
When we approach everything in life as an opportunity for God to speak to us and teach us and lead us, we are in a place to hear from Him. When we are thankful, we move into a place to listen. When we are not thankful, we might be able to conceptually understand that God is at work in all things but we will likely not be open to what He has to say. We will likely not be able to receive each circumstance as Him speaking to us.
The opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude, but entitlement. In each situation of life, we either approach it with gratitude (God is graciously in it and I want to listen) or entitlement (I either do or don’t deserve this). If I am in a tough marriage, I can live daily with a sense of entitlement and fail to perceive God’s ways or I can seek to be thankful for what He is doing in it and listen to His voice of encouragement and wisdom. If I have been given great wealth, I can live with entitlement and believe that it is all about me or I can respond with thanksgiving and surrender to God’s purposes. Entitlement hardens the heart, but gratitude softens the heart. With entitlement, God is a means to an end. With gratitude, God is the end, the goal, the prize.
Often, we are like kids on Christmas morning looking at the pair of pants our parents gave us. We might not hear the love spoken through the gift because we believe we are entitled a new pair of pants, and therefore it is not seen as being a good gift. When there is gratitude, we see life as a gift, even the hard things. When there is gratitude, we hear from God in all of life, even in the hard things. Gratitude opens our ears to hear the gentle voice of God.
Today, create a note that you can carry with you and keep in sight that says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19) As you walk through your day, notice those time when entitlement rises up (e.g., “I don’t deserve this.” “Why me?” “I wish I had _______.”) and pray this verse as you ask the Father to speak to through the situation in question.
Pray this pray as a simple statement of your desire:
Father, help me to silence every creature, including myself. I want to listen to You as I hear your voice. Help me to learn stillness so that I might be attentive to Your good and gracious voice. As I hear, may I have the courage to follow Your heart from my heart. Thank you for desiring to do life with me.