“Don’t touch that pie,” my mother said. “I’ve made it for when the company comes tonight.” But my stomach and my palate cried out, “You’ve got to have that pie. You can’t live without it.” So, when Mother went outside to do a task in the yard, I cut myself a good-sized piece of pie. It tasted so delicious! After a short while, I heard Mother coming back into the house. I made my exit quickly outside to the other side of the barn. In the distance, I heard my mother calling for me. I ignored the call.
When speaking to your small child, did you ever think you wasted your words? Did you ever hold your child’s head between your hands, look them right in the eye, and say, “Listen to me.” And then you told them what you wanted them to hear. Sometime later, you discover that they either did not listen to you or chose to ignore you.
Now, fast forward to your own life as an adult. Do you ever hear but not listen?
Have you ever –
Forgot someone’s name immediately after being introduced?
Forgot the pastor’s message immediately after hearing it?
Forgot “how to” instructions?
Forgot directions to a person’s place?
Forgot – or deliberately blocked – something you didn’t want to hear?
Hearing is different from listening.
You may hear a conversation or some noise, but you decide whether to listen.
You may hear with your ears, but listening requires engaging your brain. It requires effort.
When you listen, you are trying to make sense of what you hear.
Listening is a skill that can be improved.
We all have a built-in problem with listening. While the average speech rate is about 125 words a minute, your brain can process about 800 words per minute. So, while someone is talking, your mind can be following several other “rabbit trails” at the same time. There has to be a purposeful intention to listen.
There are also several other reasons we have difficulties in listening. We may have a negative attitude toward the speaker or the subject. We may have something else we would rather do. We think we have heard this before and don’t need to listen. We are distracted by something else going on around us. And many other reasons.
The problem of hearing but not listening is illustrated by the apostles. On the resurrection morning Peter and John went to Jesus’ grave and found it empty except for Jesus’ grave clothes. John believed; however, it does not say that Peter believed. John 20:9 states, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.” But they could have known if they had actually listened to Jesus.
In Matthew 16:21-24, Matt. 17:22-23, and Matt. 20:17-19 Jesus had clearly told the disciples that he would suffer, be killed by crucifixion, and rise again on the third day. Peter had even rebuked the Lord about this, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord.” Jesus had turned to Peter and sharply rebuked him, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” In Luke 9:27-36, at the transfiguration, Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus, Moses, and Elijah speaking together about Jesus’ decease that He would accomplish at Jerusalem.
Despite all this, they knew not the Scripture that he must rise again from the dead.
Were they deaf? No. There was another reason they did not hear and listen. They had a preconceived idea of what the Messiah would do – and that idea certainly did not include Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Think, for a moment, how much comfort and assurance the apostles would have had through the days of the crucifixion and resurrection if they had simply believed what Jesus told them. Instead, they chose to block out Jesus’ teaching and went through 3 days of doubt, worry, fear, and despair.
But I don’t think we would have done any better today. We are all prone to the same doubts and weaknesses. Yet, we do have the answer and the way to victory.
Sometimes, we can have a self-imposed mental block because what is being said doesn’t fit our idea of what should be. We hear just what we want to hear and block out every other contrary idea.
In Mark 4:9, Jesus says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” In this Scripture and other similar scriptures, the word “hear” means more than to hear audible sounds. It has the idea of “hear, understand, and listen.” As Christians reading or listening to the Word, we are to hear the sound, listen -give attention to it, understand it, and then act upon it.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. – – – But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22 and 25).
Today, as you read or listen to the Word of God:
Be sure you understand the meaning of the Scripture.
Act upon it and experience God’s blessing in your life.
Hear! Listen! Understand! Believe! Act!