My friend, Bob Johnston, was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rolla for over 30 years. He recently retired, but since then has been writing a regular blog. I always find what he writes very thought provoking. This week’s column was inspired by something he penned last December.
Bob wrote, “I find it interesting that so many people through the years have said to me that they wished God would speak to them in an audible way… and I understand that desire – when things are really difficult or confusing or painful, we often pray in a panic. ‘God, You have to do something! Tell me what to do! Show me the way! Work with your great power! Say something! Say something!’ We voice all of these things, almost demanding a verbal response – but do we really mean it?’ Do we really want what some have called the ‘talkative God of the Bible.’” His questions are difficult to answer, especially if what God is saying is not what we want to hear.
Bob suggests one of the reasons God is sometimes silent may be that we are not listening. All these questions about God speaking made me reflect on a moment in scripture when God unexpectedly spoke to a child. “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV) The final phrase was not an accident; God was to speak because Samuel was willing to listen.
Reflecting on how we listen made me think about how marriages often begin with two people who discuss everything, but gradually husbands and wives talk less and less. In many relationships, couples quit talking when communication becomes challenging. In other marriages wives talk but husbands only half listen. Perhaps we should consider if God regularly talked to us would we actually listen?
I must admit all too often I fill every waking moment with something. I listen to music, a book, or a podcast; I read, play a game or talk on the phone, but rarely do I listen for God’s voice. I am not alone. Many of us almost never listen for God’s still small voice because we are too busy listening to less significant voices. How tragic that the Creator of the Universe may be speaking to us, but we are too busy to listen. Like young Samuel our prayer should be, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”