07 Apr Consider Carefully How You Listen
“How we should listen” is more important than anything else. Especially in this crisis situation when the epidemic spreads, what people do is based on what they hear. Some people heard some news, so they went to the supermarket to grab daily necessities in huge quantities. Some people heard some news, and are still not cautious but continue to go out as they please, regardless of the pandemic. Actually, each of us have selective hearing, such that we listen to what we want to hear, and believe what we want to believe. In fact, the constitution of human life is to act out what we hear.
So, one of the most dangerous things in this world is fake news. Because fake news have the ability to take captive people’s minds and thoughts. They can cause people to panic, fear, and become helpless, such that they make irrational decisions, and those who start false news take advantage from conflicts among others. For example: At this moment of the pandemic, many people get rid of their stocks and cut off their investments because they are afraid of losing capital. This is all caused by the rumours they heard. Therefore, what the power of this world has been fighting for is the “right to speak”. For example, if Hollywood wants to make some reviews of a movie it produced, if various media are also expressing their opinions, or some people are unwilling to listen to the opinions of mainstream media, they start their own social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Line) to express their own ideas, so as to influence the public.
Why do they do so? Because we all know that it is most valuable to get people’s trust. Indeed, this world is always speaking, in order to gain people’s trust. If a country wants to defeat another country today, it may not use firearms, but can do so by destroying the world’s trust in that country and its regime. Thereafter, that country will no longer have the ability to influence the world. If a person wants to destroy another church, he first seriously wounds that church by saying that its denomination is heretical. When people do not believe what the church says, the church loses its influence. Therefore, we must know that the world is using words to gain the trust of people.
But here, we need to ponder, why do we have selective hearing? It comes from the innate tendency of each of us. In particular, when each of us listens to the word of God, none of us is complete. Because we selectively believe and selectively submit, we often leave gaps for the enemy. But because of the grace of the Lord, He not only gave His word, but also enables us to respond to His word. Therefore, the Bible often says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” In today’s scriptures, the Lord also warns us to be careful how we listen. This is because “whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” This verse from <Luke 8:18> tells us that some people can lose everything because of what they heard, while others get even more blessings because of what they heard.
Because we selectively believe and selectively submit, we often leave gaps for the enemy.
Instead of always focusing on the gains and losses on earth, perhaps we should reflect more about how we are listening currently. Especially when we hear God’s word every week: Do we hear and forget? Do we merely hear what we want to hear? Or are we obeying God after hearing? This will basically determine the fruits of our whole life.
How are you listening to God’s word today?
Relationship between God’s word and the human heart
Just as there is a relationship between the seed and the soil, the relationship between God’s word and the human heart will bring about great effect, which can even extend to eternity. Therefore, what we have received after believing in God’s word and being born again is not merely some temporary blessings, but eternal life. Furthermore, there is infinite potential in the life of the person who believes in God’s word, because the Bible says he will bear fruit. In other words, through his entire life, he will make known the word which he believes, so that many can believe and have eternal life. However, all these comes from a person’s heart developing a relationship with the word of God.
Lord Jesus said, “Consider carefully how you listen”
In this passage, what is different is only the human heart, not the seed. The seed is the same, but the hearts of the hearer include the twisted one, the biased one, the not upright one, etc. Thus, such people cannot bear fruit. Of course, we know that if a person does not teach the word of God clearly, that is distorting God’s word, and offering wrong teachings. This was also what Paul kept warning the church about <1 Timothy 4:1-2>. However, it is the human heart which causes a person to be unable to receive grace after hearing the truth (even frequently) <2 Timothy 3:6-7>. When there is problem with the ears of a person’s spirit, we can see that the person turns his ears away from the truth and turns aside to myths <2 Timothy 4:4>. Or else, after hearing the word, they always do not put it into practice <Matthew 7:26-27>
There are 4 kinds of hearts in listening to God’s word
(1) The heart that has no relationship with the word of God
This is like a person completely cannot understand and be touched after hearing God’s word. The Bible says that behind this, it is completely the devil’s work. In fact, the chief work of the devil is none other than preventing a person from understanding God’s word. <2 Corinthians 4:4> says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ…” Therefore, the church must understand that many people are being held in bondage in the hands of the devil, and that bondage is not merely illnesses, poverty, or the fears and helplessness in the heart, etc, but the inability of the human soul to believe in God’s word and receive eternal life.
(2) The heart which believes in God’s word for a while but falls away in the time of testing
Think about it, what kind of faith does he have? That is a groundless faith (have no root in the heart), it is the faith that comes by one’s active choice. Perhaps he is not clear about God’s word, but only accepts Christianity by relying on some bold and positive attitude. The Bible says that such people only believe for a while. Perhaps they see some temporary benefits, or their hearts were stirred for the moment, so they believe, but it is not the faith which is produced after having a relationship with God. Thus, the refining brought by trials does not come to his life, it is also unlike what <James 1:4> says about making one’s faith mature and complete, not lacking anything. But the testing makes him fall away instead.
(3) The heart which cannot bear mature fruit from God’s word
Here it says, “as they go on their way”, meaning, after they heard God’s word and enter their living fields, they are immediately choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures. They always seem to be unable to let go of these worldly things. Indeed, this type of soil seems to be very “fertile”, but that soil not only can grow sprouts from God’s word, but it also makes thorns grow. This kind of life will be choked after growing to a certain stage. Perhaps he may attend church meetings, but once he leaves the church, because his interests and concerns are entangled by worldly things, he cannot spread the gospel. The Bible clearly says that he cannot bear mature fruit. In other words, him hearing the word cannot make him a person who lives out and spreads the gospel and who can nurture lives.
(4) The honest and good heart which accepts God’s word
Why does the Bible say his heart is honest? Because his heart is not deceitful. Whatever the Lord says, he believes accordingly. He will not twist God’s word just because the Lord’s word is different from his experiences and ideals. Furthermore, his heart is good. He does not have evil thoughts because of hearing God’s word, but he gives thanks to the Lord because of God’s redemption, and he views everything with the goodness and love of God. However, some people have more doubts after hearing God’s word. Others will say, “Why does God allow evil to exist? Why does God not stop humans from sinning? Why does God allow the world to have so much suffering?” Their evil heart causes them to stumble more as they hear more of God’s word.
The lamp that is on a stand
One lights a lamp = One listens to God’s word
The lamp here refers to God’s word, just as <Psalm 119:105> says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The basic reason why a person lights a lamp is to put it on a stand, instead of hiding it in a clay jar or putting it under a bed. The lamp can give light to all, revealing everything, even the thoughts in human heart. <Hebrews 4:12>: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Therefore, before the word of God, everything, even the motives and thoughts hidden in the human heart can be clearly seen. Then, after a person received this word, should he not use this word to think, judge, act, and even proclaim this word, so that others can receive the light as well? But if a person’s heart is darkened, for example: he does not repent because of the rebuke from this word, nor is he willing to turn to and submit to God because of this word, then he is someone who lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under the bed. Today, we will see many of such people in the churches. They receive the word to satisfy some of their desires or their quest for knowledge, but not to obey what the word tells them. Thus, the Lord says, “Consider carefully how you listen.” Some people listen to the word not to obey, but to find areas to affirm themselves from the word. Perhaps their faith living is lukewarm, or they keep hoping to receive earthly blessings from the Lord, otherwise they have one leg in the church and one leg in the world, yet they hope God will bless them. Such people certainly have errors in their hearing of the word.
Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them
This verse tells us how a person listens to the word will affect his whole life. When God gives a person spiritual blessings (faith, love), and the relationships, wealth, materials, good name, accomplishments, etc, that follows, it is because his honest and good heart of hearing the word reflects his glorious life. That also proves that he can manage all these which have been entrusted to him. On the contrary, another person may gradually lose God’s grace in his life, his heart is less and less thirsty for God’s word, and he is entangled by all kinds of worldly worries. Then, matching with his spiritual life, what he has on earth will also gradually be taken away from him. There is problem in his relationship with his family, material gains and losses also make him troubled, he also loses his dignity before others. This is the fulfilment of this verse. But what is the main point? That is not about whether he is smart or not, or whether he is zealous or not. But that is a result of how he listens to the word. If a person has a twisted or biased disposition when receiving the word of God, the consequences will gradually be revealed through the gains and losses in the days of his life. Therefore, we can see that some church-goers not only have no evidences in their lives, but they are also inferior in various areas compared to people of the world.
In this pandemic, we should put the lamp on a stand
As this pandemic continues to spread, people of the world are hoping for a miracle to happen. But some negative realities also made people gradually lose hope. Singapore has recently entered into a partial lockdown state. Schools and workplaces are generally suspended, isolation wards in the hospitals are almost full. When we see infected cases increase by the day globally, even if a small nation like Singapore can effectively control the pandemic, if it continues to be out of control elsewhere, such a small country like us cannot remain under lockdown for long because we do not have the ability to be self-sufficient and self-contained. Perhaps some people may be slightly more optimistic, hoping that the situation for the nation will get better by 4th May. Some others may ponder deeply over the situation and clearly know that the future is very hazy. Then, what should believers do at this moment? Lord Jesus clearly tells us, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” <Matthew 6:33> At this moment, if we get embroiled into the same worries or greed as people of the world, or if we believe the optimistic words that leaders of the world are telling us, we will surely be devoured by the world together with the rest of the people. However, if we lift up the light of the gospel at this moment, using what we possess to bless others, then we will experience unimaginable provision and protection of God. Hence, we will continually share the word of God through books we have printed regarding COVID-19 and the church, distributing various gospel tracts, mailing these free-of-charge to churches in various countries. While our church meetings are temporarily suspended, God’s word never ceases. God continues to speak through His servants. Please also continue to forward the word of God to bless many sheep who currently lack nourishment from God’s word. Finally, when we spend more time with our own families, may we seize this opportunity to be their blessing, so that even those non-believing family members can be touched by the virtues of our lives. If we have been listening to the word correctly all this while, we will surely see that this is the moment for us to spread the Lord’s gospel, saving God’s people who are harassed and helpless.
If we have been listening to the word correctly all this while, we will surely see that this is the moment for us to spread the Lord’s gospel, saving God’s people who are harassed and helpless.
The Lord says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
Find true and everlasting relationship in obeying God’s word
This statement tells us that there is a relationship between believers that the world cannot understand. We can be together not because you and I have compatible personalities. Such a relationship will not last long and cannot endure tests. The relationship between believers is deeper because we all obey the word of God. Therefore, in this pandemic, people, even families can be distant. Fear seems to be above the relationship that humanity needs. However, in this pandemic, we must remember that it is not the relationship of our family that can help us, but it is the relationship in the Lord that can truly edify our body, mind and spirit. An earthly family will be trapped at home due to fear. In that state, they will not be able to support one another. Especially, when we see the whole world is locking down the whole countries or cities, the spiritual life and fervour of believers will suffer. There will be more quarrels in the family, and because of boredom, many may be addicted to the Internet or dramas. Some people may even be bound by pornographic contents online. Therefore, although believers cannot physically meet, we must continue to encourage one another using technology, so that we can know each other’s updates and pray for each other. In the midst of this, pastor will also encourage all brethren through messages. When people of the world are feeling more hopeless, those who obey the word of God will confirm the value of true relationship at this moment.
From obeying God’s word, believers will develop a relationship that is closer than the one with our family
In obeying the word of God, sometimes, we will go to the extent which our family cannot understand. Many decisions we make because of our faith may not be understood by our non-believing family, or even family members who are weak believers. In comfortable times, perhaps the time we spent in church and serving God and the price we pay cannot be understood by them. In times of crisis, we wait upon the Lord with joy and hope, leading a godly living. This is also what our family members cannot understand. However, we have blessed many more people through these, and draw more of God’s people into the sheep pen. Also, the relationship between our brethren in church cannot remain at the state of just enjoying gathering to relieve problems and perplexity, but we must reach the stage where each wants to obey the will of God, where each wants to take up the challenges given by God, and to complete the mission that God has entrusted each one. In this way, our relationship will truly grow deeper in essence.