A lot of times when we’re listening for God, we hope that he speaks loud and clear like the sound of a howling wind of a hurricane. Or we’re looking for some kind of ground-breaking revelation or special insight from God into spiritual things that nobody else has ever encountered or discovered. Or we want him to speak through some mountain-top experience like a retreat or a conference, that sets a fire burning in our hearts. God can certainly speak to us in those demonstrative, very expressive, flashy, dramatic ways like he showed the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. But in the end what actually touched Elijah in his heart… what Elijah heard and responded to… wasn’t the wind or earthquake or fire. It was a gentle whisper (NIV). He was listening to the still, small voice of the Lord (KJV). That’s the voice you and I can be listening for – that gentle voice of the Lord speaking into our hearts. It’s the voice of the Holy Spirit. Maybe not even audible, but you know God has spoken. You know it in here, in your heart. To hear that kind of soft voice you need to be listening quietly. No boom box. No earbuds plugged into your phone or ipod.
Listen, God is always speaking. But we’re not listening very often… we’re not listening very well.Another way to think of the wind, earthquake and fire in these verses is that they represent turbulent times in our lives. They are naturally occurring experiences, everyday events that confront us. They’re life’s troubles and challenges screaming for our attention. They dissuade us or prevent us from maintaining our focus on God. They can strike fear in our hearts – fear of divorce, fear of death, fear of losing your job, fear of losing a loved one. The noisy, thunderous difficulties and troubles of life are so loud that they can drown out the voice of God. Even the everyday events of life – they don’t even have to be difficult or troubling – can capture our attention and hijack our emotions. They can even grip our hearts. And if you take a moment to reflect and catch your breath, you might discover that you’ve not been listening for the still, small voice of the Lord.
You know it’s said that after a couple has been married a long time, the husband develops selective hearing. You wives out there certainly know about that! I wonder if we’ve allowed ourselves to develop selective hearing or selective listening with God – that we only hear what we want to hear. And what we want to hear is only what we like and enjoy. But God has a lot more to say to us.
In 1st Samuel 3, God calls Samuel four times before he finally responds with the words Eli, the High Priest, told him to say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1st Samuel 3:9-10) Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. It’s such a beautiful response! Seven words that will change your life! Here’s how to apply these words in your life. When we pray, we spend way more time speaking than listening. In fact, a lot of times we have a long list of prayer requests and when we get through our list, we don’t have any time left to listen. But if we will add these 7 words to our prayer time, not only will we be inviting the Lord to speak to us, but we’ll be reminding ourselves it’s time to listen… that it’s time for us to be quiet… time for us to be still. It will remind you it’s time to stop talking, and to listen to receive a word from the Lord. Let the Lord speak to you. Listen with your head and your spirit. He’s not the accuser of the brethren. He’s not going to shame you or guilt you. But he does want you to move in a spiritual growth direction.
Attune your ear to the Good Shepherd’s voice so that you learn to distinguish his voice from all other voices. Despite all other noises around you – despite all the problems, fears, anxieties, frustrations you face in your life – you can attune your ear to hear the voice of Jesus calling you. And then… you can respond with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”