Last week, we began a new series I'm calling, "Learning to Hear God's Voice". Nothing is more important to you than understanding that God wants to talk to you.
Jesus told the story in Luke 8, a parable, in which He says, Let me explain to you that it's all about mental attitude. There are four kinds of attitudes that will depend whether you get the message clearly from God or whether you don't. Obviously, if you can tune into God He can direct you, He can save you a lot of time from making wrong mistakes, He can comfort you when you need comfort, He can guide you, and so on.
STORY: There was a farmer who goes out to sow seed and as he went out to sow seed, his seed scattered all over in different types of soil. Back in the Middle East in the old days they didn't plant one seed per spot and cover it up with dirt. They did what was called broadcasting. A farmer would have a pouch on his side filled with seed and, as he'd walk through the field which he had already tilled, he would toss it out, scattering it. That's where we get the term broadcasting from. Obviously some of the seed falls on good soil and some of it doesn't. He says these four soils represent four mental attitudes. They're not four kinds of people, but actually all of us have been all four of these types. We vary from them from time to time. Sometimes we're very open to God to what He wants to say to us. Sometimes we're very closed. FARMER- GOD; SEED- HIS WORD; SOIL- MY MIND
The first thing I must do to hear God speak to me?
1. I MUST CULTIVATE AN OPEN MIND.
The reason that a lot of us don’t hear God speak is we have a a closed mind, obviously, God is not going to get through.
This is the first type of soil. v. 5 "Some seed fell on the path and it was trampled on and the birds of the air came and ate it up....[v. 12] Those along the path are like people who hear and then the devil comes along and takes away the word from their hearts so they cannot believe and be saved."
On every farm, in every field there's a footpath that the farmer would walk down. As he went he would sow the seed out onto the land that was tilled. There are two characteristics of a footpath. One, they're hardened because of the constant traffic of people walking. The soil is compacted and it's not fertile and tilled like the field. It's hard. The other thing about a path is it's narrow.
What causes us to have a closed mind? Pride, Fear, Bitterness
Today, we’re going to talk about the second step in hearing God speak is I must allocate time to listen.
2. I MUST ALLOCATE TIME TO LISTEN
I've got to make time to hear Him. I've got to slow down, be quiet, plan it in my schedule. We schedule everything else in life -- vacations, dentist appointments, dates, homework, everything else. Do you schedule time for God in your schedule? Or does God just get the leftovers.
The second reason a lot of people never hear God speak is we're in too much in a hurry. Americans are always in a hurry. We're in such a rat race society that we're always in a hurry. American Demographics said juice in jars is now outselling frozen concentrated juice because it takes too long to thaw and Americans don't want to put up with thawing anything. Even overnight Federal Express mail isn't fast enough any more. The cyber space, computer hackers call that snail mail because it goes so slow. You can set down at a key board and type it out and it goes in a nano second to wherever you want it to go. We're always in a hurry. This is nothing new. De Toqueville, a french philosopher said 150 years ago, Americans are always in a hurry.
When we live in a hurried lifestyle, God gets shortchanged, shuffled to the back of the deck. He gets the leftovers of our time. We want to hear God speak, yes, but what we say is, "God, I'm in a hurry, so do it quick! I only have a minute!" As I'm running out the door to my next project or assignment or job I'm saying "OK God, speak to me, but do it right now!" As a result, we miss what God wants to say to us.
v. 6 "Other seed fell on shallow soil with rock beneath. This seed began to grow but soon withered and died for lack of moisture." v. 13 "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe it for a while, but in the time of testing, they fall away."
Just as the hardened path represents the closed mind, the shallow soil represents a superficial mind. It's shallow. When He talks about rocky soil here He's not talking about soil with a bunch of rocks in it. In much of the middle east and particularly in Israel, much of Israel is built on a bedrock of limestone with about 3-4 inches of topsoil on top of it. That means plants can grow down 2-3 inches but that's about it. So when summer comes and the heat is on, the plants wither. They die because they don't have any roots because there's a bedrock underneath that does not allow them to develop deep roots.
He's saying this represents the superficial type of hearer who hears the word of God. It sprouts up and they're all excited about it but it doesn't last.
When the heat is on and when the problems come they will wither and fall away. Likewise we do this. Sometimes we hear God and we get all excited about it and we're superficially moved and we react emotionally and we're moved impulsively. But we never give it the time to sink in to our bodies, to sink in to our minds. I can't tell you how many people have told me, "I was so moved by that message! I was really touched. I was moved to tears!" But a month later there is still no perceivable life change or behavioral difference in their life. They're still living the same way. They got excited about the message but they didn't do anything about it. As a result they are just shallow, superficial. They have no roots. When the heat is on, they're not going to last.
Unless you are retaining and reviewing what God says to you, you're just kidding yourselves. How is it that people can come to church year after year and never really be changed? Because it goes in one ear and out the other.
The verse says this is the second kind of person -- v. 13 -- "They received the word with joy [circle that] but when they hear it they don't have any root."
We've seen all known people who have started off great. When they first became believers they were excited and enthusiastic and full of joy. Today you can't find them anywhere. They had enthusiasm but that is not enough to make it in the Christian life. It takes commitment. It takes the commitment to say, "I'm going to set down and regularly review what I'm being taught."
Why should God teach me new things if I haven't put into practice what He taught me last week? or yesterday? or last night? Why do people have no roots? Because they don't take the time. How do you get roots? Allocate time to listen AND pray.
Say, God, I'm going to spend 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes every day. It's not the amount of time. Just get started so that everyday you get alone with God and say, "OK God, what's next? What's the next step in my career? What's the next step in my marriage? What's the next step in my family? ..." God can't talk to you unless you slow down.
Daniel was a great man of faith and prayer. When he had to choose between praying to God or facing death for his beliefs, he was faithful to God. He was protected all night by an angel when he was thrown in a den of lions. We have his example to be faithful and stand up for God.
Have you ever been to the zoo? Did you ever see lions in a den? Did the zoo keepers let you go in with the lions and pet them? [no] Of course, not. The lions are fierce and might hurt you. Today I want to tell you about a story in the Bible about a man named Daniel. One time he had to spend a whole night in the lions den!
Daniel was given a top job in the kingdom of Darius because he was a faithful hard worker. This made the other princes jealous of Daniel. The only way they could find him at fault was to make a law that was against his religious beliefs. The princes tricked the king and got him to pass a law that said no one could ask a petition of God or man, except to the king for thirty days.
Daniel was a man of prayer. He had a habit to pray to God three times a day. Daniel knew of the law, but he continued to pray each day as he always did. King Darius liked Daniel, but when the princes told him that Daniel had broken the law, the king had to punish Daniel. He realized too late that the princes had tricked him into passing such a law.
The king ordered that Daniel be cast into a den of lions. The king hoped that Daniel’s God would deliver him, saying, Thy God who thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. A large stone was placed over the den of lions and was sealed. The king was so worried about Daniel that he couldn’t sleep that night. The first thing the next morning, the king went to see if Daniel had been killed. He cried out to see if Daniel was alive and Daniel answered him, My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me.
The king was overjoyed and had Daniel pulled out of the lions den. He then brought the men who had accused Daniel and threw them in the den of lions, along with every member of their families. The lions tore them to pieces before they could even hit the ground.
Do you ever have moments when you must stand up for what you believe in? Here in America, we are blessed to have great religious freedom. We are free to pray privately to God at any time and any place without breaking a law. Many people in the world still don’t have this basic freedom. We can thank Jesus that we have this privilege. We can look to Daniel as an example to stand up for our religious freedom, and to be faithful to Jesus at all costs.
Here's the question I want to close with: What are you going to do as a result of today's message? The Bible says "be doers of the word, not hearers only."
Do something. The moment you walk out the door, there's a little bird that's going to try to steel the seed of what we talked about today -- the devil. He's going to get you distracted, get you to think about where you're going for lunch, about the jerk who pulled in front of you in the parking lot, or any number of other distractions.