Points To Ponder Learning to Listen for the Still Small Voice
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
I’m not very knowledgeable about the stock market, but it seems that investing in companies that manufacture hearing aids might be a winner. Certainly you have had the same experience as I have. You are walking down the street and suddenly the sidewalk begins to vibrate, the trees shake a little, and then the approaching “thud, thud, thud” sound rhythmically pounds louder and louder. You look for the Jolly Green Giant or some such creature to come up from behind, stomping his big feet, but then you spot the source. It is a tiny little car with shiny rims that appear to have no tires on them. The vehicle seems to be attempting to impersonate a sports car. The driver is obviously cool - you are supposed to notice that - but he or she is hidden behind black tinted glass. Inside the driver has the volume of the radio or CD player screaming loud. The little car vibrates and rumbles to the beat. The sound is distracting and annoying. But just think; in just 10 or 20 years all these “cool” people will be stone deaf; and because you wisely invested in that hearing aid company you will be able to receive some kind of compensation for having to endure it.
Like these rolling boom boxes, the values and ways of this world beat loudly on our ears all day, everyday. The logic of how this fallen world defines happiness and success pounds away at us at work, at school, in business, and even in the church. The church is supposed to be in the world, influencing it for the better; but all too often the world is in the church, influencing it for the worse. As the world’s values, priorities, and reasoning pounds away on your spiritual ears, you gradually lose your hearing. God does not scream at you. His is the “still small voice.” You have to turn down the volume of what’s around you. You have to turn away from the things that want to control you or tempt you. You have to intentionally listen for the Lord’s voice and the Lord’s direction.
I think of Isaiah’s words to those who have borne the consequences of turning from God and have learned to wait on His direction.
“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:20-21, emphasis added)
I recall how this scripture was fulfilled in my own life. In my secular career life, I was following my own wisdom and the world’s way of understanding things. I was just beginning to be curious about spiritual truth and whether God’s word was real and authoritative. I recall listening to many radio sermons and good Bible teaching. Though I did not attend a church (nor even faintly desired to), I was becoming increasingly committed to listening more to the word and less to the world. I wanted to do what was right whether I liked it or not. It became clear that I was not where I needed to be.
One day I simply confessed to God I did not want to go to church; but if He made it clear that that was what He wanted, I would do it. Did not want to - no way; but if it was God’s will for me to join a body of believers, I would comply. I simply had to surrender to His way of doing things.
Many weeks or months passed; I had forgotten that prayer. A pastor who had recently befriended me, asked me to speak at his church’s men meeting. As I walked up the steps to Parkside United Methodist Church in Baltimore, it happened just as Isaiah described it. A voice, as if from behind me clearly said, “This is where you will go; this is where you belong.” I stopped in mid-stride, looked to the sky and after the initial surprise, I reluctantly said “Okay.” Such things do not happen every day, but I have found that if I really want His guidance, He will give it.
That weekend, my wife (then my girlfriend) Marcella and I began attending that church. My compliance with the answer to that early, seemingly minor, prayer request resulted in my ability to see and to hear other answers to other concerns and deeper questions. The more I looked and listened for God’s word and God’s perspective in the smaller details and relatively minor areas of life, the better I could see, hear, and comprehend His direction for the bigger things. It did not, and does not, happen instantly nor without hard work, prolonged struggle, or long periods of silence at times. The world is a loud place, full of distractions and demands, temptations and alluring things that seem right (Proverbs 14:12), but I want to hear His voice. I want to walk His way. In the end, that will have been the only path that was worth walking.
The admonishing words of Isaiah still apply to the people of today’s world. So many people want to try every other way and any other path than the one that requires humility to be able to walk it.
“All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!” (Isaiah 47:13a)
Try turning down the volume of life around you. Leave the TV off more often. Be more discerning about what you allow to enter your soul through your eyes and your ears. Try to read a chapter - at least a verse or two - of the Bible daily. Then listen for it. Watch for it.
“...your teachers will be hidden no more, with your own eyes you will see them... your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk it.’”
Do you know what will be an even better investment than stock in hearing aids? A daily, lifelong investment in HEARING.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.