A FEATURE OF BIBLICAL “LISTENING TO THE LORD” THAT MANY OF US HAVE UNDERVALUED
For those of us who are now serving the Lord outside the Organised Church, listening for God’s voice, as He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, is rightly considered very important – on a par with heeding the guidance He gives us through the Bible. We have turned our backs on a lifestyle where, among other reservations that we had, we felt that far too much of our service was prompted and directed by church programmes. In that situation, however, most of us have realised that we will have to “listen to the Lord” more intently than ever, if we are to know what He wants of us on a day-to-day basis. For my own part, I have got into the habit of: 1) keeping my eyes open for any situation that the Lord laid across my path (hopefully, like the Good Samaritan), and 2) keeping my ears open for the Holy Spirit’s promptings – anything He lays strongly on my heart – in the course of whatever I am doing.
A few weeks ago, however, I had an experience that made me realise that – with regard to the “listening lifestyle” – there was a dimension that I was under-valuing. I had been asked, by a good friend of ours, to read the manuscript of a short book that someone else had written, and to tell her what I thought of it. (Our friend wanted to get some independent opinions of the book, because she was helping the author to prepare the manuscript for submission to an internet publisher.) The reason for my reading the book was, I suppose, simply to be supportive to the person who had asked me, but, to my great surprise, the result of my reading it was that I received a genuine spiritual blessing! The little volume definitely moved me forward in my understanding of “listening to the Lord”.
As I went carefully through the pages I had been asked to read, two facts gradually dawned on me. The first was that the author (whose name is Bridget) seemed to hear God more frequently, with more clarity, and in more detail, than I myself did – and, I suspected, than most Christians do). The second, and more encouraging, fact was this: there was an identifiable reason for the depth of her experience.
I have come to the conclusion that Bridget’s “secret” – which she is soon hoping to share with others through her book – is that she “lingers” in God’s presence, more than most of us do. I myself, though I certainly take time apart with the Lord, wouldn’t have described myself as a “lingerer”. A “listener” – yes, but not a “lingerer”!
I have set great store by what He has laid powerfully on my heart (what He has, more or less “shouted” at me), but I now realise that I have not so often sat around, waiting in case His “still, small voice” wanted to whisper something to me. I have gladly responded to a clear leading such as “Contact Joe Bloggs today”, but usually not paused long enough to ask “Is there anything in particular I should be saying to him?”, or to get any further details for my time with this particular person. I have earnestly “waited on the Lord”, if I had a specific problem to which I wanted an answer, but have not been strongly into “waiting” when all seemed to be going swimmingly – the very time when He might have had something new to say.
Not so this particular author! She was frequently to be found ‘lingering’ before the Lord, for long or short periods, making sure she was getting any major guidance, or even any follow-up details, she might otherwise have missed; making sure she heard the whispers of the Lord as well as the leadings that He had laid strongly on her heart. Like me, she likes to be “active in God’s service”, but she makes the point that there is no use being active, unless you are being active in the things your Heavenly Father really wants of you!
Bridget’s book made me think of the difference between the two words “malingering” and “lingering”. “Malingering” is sitting around unjustifiably, making weak excuses for not getting involved in work. Malingering is not to be commended. “Lingering”, on the other hand, is to be highly commended to the Christian. For the believer it can mean sitting around purposefully, in the presence of God, receiving a much wider range of guidance for the work of the Kingdom than most of us normally get in our busy lives.
I believe many of us, even though we are sincere “Listeners”, need to become “Lingerers” in greater measure. Unless you feel that you have already been led fully into this approach to hearing God, I suggest you start considering how this could become a more important feature of your lifestyle.
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength… They shall mount up… as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31 AV)
Note: When the book is actually published, I shall write a short review on this website, and give details of how to get hold of the book.