"Hindered Hearing" (October 2003)
It's not often that I preach/teach the same message twice that God has given me unless I feel prompted by Him to do so. This is one of those times. I feel impressed to share with you this month a message that the Lord had me preach at my church recently. I believe it's a timely message for the Body of Christ, especially in light of the days in which we live- "the last days when perilous times shall come". (2 Timothy 3:1)
"And Jesus answered and said unto it [the fig tree], 'No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.' And his disciples heard it. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, 'Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away'." (Mark 11:14, 20,21) Our word from this account is... "If you aren't hearing what He [Jesus] is saying, you will miss what He is doing."
"And his disciples heard it." The Amplified Bible says, "And His disciples were listening [to what He said]." If the disciples had not been listening to Jesus when He cursed the fig tree, when they passed by the next morning and saw that the fig tree was withered and dead, they never would have known that this was the Lord's doing. They may have noticed the fig tree and wondered why it had died, what happened to it because it looked so green and alive just the day before, but they would not have known that the Lord had caused it to die.
If we are going to know what He is doing in this day and time, we are going to have to be listening to what He is saying. If we don't, we'll miss what He is doing. There is so much happening in our world now, we need to know what is of God and what isn't; we need to know which direction He is moving so we can move with Him; we need to know if He is cursing a thing so that we can let it go; we need to know if He is raising it up so that we can embrace it; we need to be listening so we'll know if it's the season for some things to die so that we will let them die or if it's the season for some things to come alive so that we will help "birth them in" through prayer. We have got to be listening to what He is saying, especially as it pertains to the Body of Christ and our role in these last days. In the Book of Revelation, the book of the Bible dealing with the "End Time", the Lord said seven times, once to each of the seven churches in Asia, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith". Listening to the Lord in these last days evidently is a priority of God for us.
God does speak to us; there is no question about it. He speaks to us through many ways. (We'll discuss a few of them.) "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." (Hebrew 1:1,2) "And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my beloved Son: hear him'." (Mark 9:7) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1,14) God speaks to us through the written word (the Bible) and the Living Word (His Son Jesus). Jesus spoke to us while He was on earth. He still speaks to us by His voice and when we read His word. God speaks to us by His Holy Spirit. "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, 'Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them'." (Acts 13:2) God speaks to us through a "still small voice". "And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:12) "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Romans 8:16) God speaks to us through the inner witness of the Spirit. God speaks to us through miraculous ways and signs and wonders. "And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, 'Moses, Moses'. And he said, 'Here am I'." (Exodus 3:4) "And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said unto Balaam, 'What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?'." (Numbers 22:28). God will speak to us through angels. "And the angel said unto her, 'Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God'." (Luke 1:30) God will speak to us through ministers. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." (Ephesians 4:11) There are many others ways that God will speak to us through, and He doesn't necessarily speak to us the same way every time; therefore, we need to not only learn how He speaks to us, but we also need to learn His voice. "When he has brought his own sheep outside, he walks on before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:4,27)
The question is not, "Does God speak to His people?" The question is, "Are we listening?" None of us want to miss what God is doing. If we don't know what He's doing (because we aren't listening), then we won't be a part of it. So, we need to learn to listen. Part of that learning process also includes learning that there are things that hinder us from hearing. That's what I want to talk about- what are the things that hinder us from hearing (listening) to what the Lord is saying.
When the Lord gave me this message, He spoke one word to me as to why we are hindered from hearing Him... Clutter! Clutter will hinder you from hearing God. What does that mean? What does God mean by 'clutter'? In order for Him to explain it to me, He had me go to the dictionary and look up the word 'clutter'. There were four definitions that explained what clutter is- disorder, confusion, litter, chatter. Let's take these definitions and use them in a spiritual sense to see what He means.
Disorder. When your life is out of order, it's full of clutter. What does it mean for a Christian to have a "life out of order"? It means that we have gotten our priorities misplaced (out of order). We are letting those things which aren't important have place over those that are. We are letting natural things come before spiritual things; temporal things ahead of eternal things; fleshly things above godly things. Let me sum it up with one scripture. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness". To be in order is to have God in first place in our lives. When we don't put God and His kingdom in it's rightful place in our lives- first place- then our lives are 'out of order' and we are hindered from hearing what He is saying.
Confusion. When your life is in confusion, it's full of clutter. How does confusion hinder us from hearing God? "We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the Lord our God." (Jeremiah 3:25a) "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33) "For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." (James 3:16) Confusion comes as a result of sin. It comes from envy and strife (which is sin as well). Let me tell you how sin will hinder you from hearing God. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." (Psalms 66:18) The Psalmist is saying that if he holds on to sin, evil, wickedness, then God will not hear his prayers. If God doesn't hear his prayers, then what will God answer? God answers us in response to our prayers. "Call unto me and I will answer thee." (Jeremiah 33:3) "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7) When you harbor sin in your heart, He does not hear you call, He does not hear you knock. If He doesn't answer, then you will start going here and there looking for an answer. This is what happened to King Saul. His life was one big state of confusion. He had disobeyed God (which is sin- all disobedience is sin). As a result, the Lord stopped talking to him. (That's what happens, like we said, when you harbor sin in your heart.) Desperate to hear a word from the Lord, he went to a witch and asked her to call up the spirit of Samuel the prophet so he could hear something from the Lord- he knew Samuel always heard from the Lord so he reasoned that if he could call Samuel up from the dead, he would tell him what God was saying. (1 Samuel 28:5-25) Being in a state of confusion is very dangerous; it will cause you, out of desperation to hear a word from God, to go to the wrong places. There is no need for your life to be in confusion. The Bible tells us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) If you want God to hear your prayers, and you want to be able to hear His voice, then you need to forsake and "confess" your sin. There are those who have turned from the sin that they were doing but are still in confusion. Why is this? It's because they haven't confessed it- they have only turned from it. You have to do both. When King David sinned with Bethsheba in adultery and then had her husband killed to hide his deed, he married her and was living as husband and wife raising the child that they had from this affair. But he still had to confess this sin to God before he was cleansed from it. This is why God sent Nathan the prophet to expose David's sin- so that he would repent and ask forgiveness. "And David said unto Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord'. And Nathan said unto David, 'The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die'." (2 Samuel 12:13) David may have "put away" his sin by not doing it any more, but God hadn't "put away" his sin; and until God puts it away (puts it in the sea of forgetfulness) it's still there. We see this also in the lives of Peter and Judas. They both turned from their betrayal of Christ; they both were sorry for what they had done to Him; but Peter confessed his sin to the Lord and was forgiven; Judas confessed his sin to man and went out and hung himself having not received forgiveness. Just because we quit doing that thing that was sin doesn't mean that we have been forgiven of it. We have to ask for forgiveness, which comes through confessing it. When you have sin in your life, you are living in confusion and confusion will hinder you from hearing God.
Litter. The dictionary put it nicely, I call it garbage. What is "garbage" in our lives? When I think of garbage, I think of two things: 1) Something that gets smelly and stinks up the place if it sits too long. The works of the flesh fall under the heading of garbage. If you don't get rid of them, they will stink up everything they come in contact with. Take bitterness, for example, it is an unfruitful work of the flesh; when it springs up it will trouble you and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15) When we have ungodly attitudes, that's garbage in our lives. When I'm around a bad odor, it is hard for me to pay attention to much else- I am focused on the smell. The "stink" of spiritual garbage will distract as well. 2) Garbage is that unnecessary thing that needs to be discarded; it's excess stuff that is of no use or value- perhaps it once served a purpose, but now it's not needed. "And she had a sister called, Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, 'Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.' And Jesus answered and said unto her, 'Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things'." (Luke 10:39-41) The word 'cumbered' means- to drag around, to distract. Jesus wasn't correcting Martha for doing her responsibilities, He was telling her that she should let go of the part of it that distracts her from hearing what He is saying. She was caught up in the "cares of this life". It's the cares that choke out the word of God in our life. (Mark 4:14-20) The cares burden us down like excess baggage. They cause us to get fretful and worry; they bring fear and anxiety, and much more. They are the things that hinder us from hearing. Other things, besides the cares of life, that hinder us (that I call 'garbage') are those things that we have not given to God and gotten rid of out of our lives- past hurts, unforgiveness, sometimes it's past achievements (we keep living in the victories of the past and miss the ones that God has for us in the present), it could be guilt and condemnation over situations where we knew we "missed it", it could be any number of things and some thing different in each of our lives. Paul said, "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before". (Philippians 3:13) He said we have to let them go- the victories as well as the defeats- so that they won't hinder us from going forward because they have gotten in the way of us hearing from the Lord. Get rid of every unnecessary thing because it will hinder you from hearing God.
Chatter. The last definition of clutter was chatter. What is chatter? According to the dictionary it is- a rapid succession of loud, noisy chatter. Being around lots of noise all the time and never finding a quite place will hinder you from hearing what the Lord is saying. "And after the fire a still small voice... And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, 'What doest thou here Elijah?'." (1 Kings 19:12b,13b) You cannot hear a still small voice (which is how God will often speak to you) when there's lots of noise going on around you. Jesus often went away into the mountain alone to pray- it was a quiet place. "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35) If Jesus felt the need to find a quiet place to pray so that He could hear what His Father was saying, how much more should we. He taught us by example that we too should find a quiet place to be alone with God. I believe that this was another reason why He moved with such great power and anointing. He knew exactly what the will of the Father was in every situation He faced because He had already heard the Father tell Him what to do in His quiet time of prayer. For example- at the tomb of Lazarus we hear Jesus say, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me". (John 11:41b) When had the Father heard Him? There was no prayer or communication recorded between them in this passage of scripture. He heard Him when He was alone in that solitary place (quiet place) praying. Did you know, we have a direct command from the Lord to do this- get alone in quiet and pray? "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:6) Jesus didn't say "if" but "when" you pray, pray in a quiet place alone. This is not a case against public praying; we are to pray also when we come together for one another, but if you want to hear for yourself what God is saying, you are going to have to turn off some of the noise, find a quiet place, and "be still and know that I am God". (Psalms 46:10)
If you want to know what God is doing in these last days and in your life personally, then you are going to have to be listening to what He is saying. (This doesn't mean that you'll always understand what He's saying, but you can take that to prayer too.) In order to "have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying" you are going to have to de-clutter your life. If you don't...you'll miss what He is doing.