Listen before you speak

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By Bill Martin

The phone rang, it was that nice lady from the Truro Daily News reminding me of the deadline for this column.

Bill Martin

Such gentle reminders come when you are already late.


Leaning back in my chair, I tried to clear my mind of the normal, pressing matters, so I could think of a subject to write. This is no small matter, as I am well aware that there are people out there who would jump on the slightest error of fact, or grammar, or spelling. I’ve learned, especially from my radio program, that every word is dissected and reviewed for errors or omissions by people who look not for wisdom but for flaws. The sad thing is that if you look for dirt you will find it and some people make that their steady diet.


My usual process involves a quiet time when I can listen for God to tell me what to say. If I give Him enough quiet time He gives me the words to speak and the prose to write. But being late and under the gun, my leaning back takes on an immediate importance, and I’m seeking an immediate response.


Most people of faith will understand what I just said, but others, especially the skeptics, will think I have departed my mind. Instead of recognizing the wisdom of listening before you speak, they will fixate on the idea that I listen for God to speak.


Some will say there is no God to speak. Others will claim that God is dead and cannot speak, while still others, including Christians, have come to the conclusion that God doesn’t speak to us anymore.


So, when I say He speaks to me, I know that some people are ready to make a reservation for me in the hotel with the rubber room.


We Christians, no we disciples, often say that God tells us this or says that but in most cases we are not referring to a spoken voice. We are not talking about an audible voice breaking through the silence of the ceiling. No, we are suggesting a connection with God who is more than capable of giving us instruction and direction by breaking through the cacophony in our minds, the noise of our world and distractions in our life. We often refer to that as “God lays something on our heart.”


I am saying that God gets through to me. He gives me an idea. He feeds me His wisdom. I am saying that if I listen clearly enough, He comes through the noise of my life and I connect with Him.


This is not an easy concept and it is most difficult to accomplish, especially on our terms, on demand.


We disciples are led to believe that God speaks in a small voice. It is part of the free will that He allows us. It would hardly be free will if God was shouting directions at us all the time. It would hardly be free will if He was nagging at us incessantly. And compared to the world which is constantly yelling for attention, it is no wonder that so many people think God does not speak anymore.


How, then, do we get to hear Him. How is it that some of us actually claim to connect with God amid the clash and clamour of life? Simply put, we listen.


You see, listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is more precise, more defined, far more deliberate. Hearing brings in all the sounds that surround you, many cancelling out another in the process. But listening is a focus, a seeking for that voice amid all the other sounds. It is discerning the voice amid the noise.


To hear God, you have to want to hear God. To hear God, you have to seek Him. To hear God, you need to quiet your mind, quiet your heart. You must dampen the noise of the world in a quiet place, and dampen your mind in a focus to listen.


There, I think I have listened enough now. I think I heard Him tell me what to write.


Bill Martin is Pastor at Debert Baptist Church and Points of Hope in Millbrook. He teaches: Jesus called unbelievers to come and see.

Organizations: Debert Baptist Church

Geographic location: Millbrook

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