Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
A little over a week and a half ago, I lost my voice.
It happens to me about once a year…usually when I get sick.
And for the last 10 days, I basically haven’t spoken at all…except for on Sunday Morning (and I just made it through one service), 1 staff meeting, and at Encounter on Wednesday.
And for an extreme extrovert like myself, it’s a horrible experience.
And to just sit there…and listen…is hard.
So hard, that I started bringing my computer to most meetings, and talking through my computer
Let me show you an example of what that looks like J
(SHOW STAFF MEETING VIDEO)
But why’s it so hard to just stop and listen?
To just be quiet for a while?
I think, for a lot of us, listening is hard work.
It’s a discipline.
It’s hard because you give up being in control…you have to wait…you have to focus
All things that we’re not particularly good at.
As we get into week 2 of our Monarchy series on 1 Samuel today, we’re going to look at a passage about this very thing: listening.
Specifically…listening…or hearing from God.
If you weren’t able to be here last week (or you’re visiting for the 1st time today), last week we looked at chapter 1 in 1 Samuel.
Which is a book in the old Testament about the prophet Samuel, King David, and more.
And we learned about Samuel’s mother, Hannah, who once struggled with infertility, but God gave her Samuel.
And the chapter ends with her leaving the boy Samuel at the House of God with the priest Eli
We’re going to cover chapter 2, which goes into more detail about Eli’s family, in all of our house groups this week…which you can sign-up for at anytime.
But let’s take a look now at chapter 3, which tells us more about the boy Samuel
(1 Samuel 3:1-10) – NIV
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.”5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
And God begins to speak a message to Samuel.
The passage is quite lengthy, so I’ll summarize it.
God speaks a difficult message to Samuel about the judgment He’s bringing on the House of Eli, the priest.
It’s a hard message to start with, but on the positive side, it’s the beginning of a long trend of God speaking to Samuel.
The passage starts out by saying, “In those days, the word of the Lord was rare.”
Meaning, not that God didn’t speak to his people, but it wasn’t happening in as “grand” of ways
There was no obvious prophet like Moses or Joshua.
Partly due to the wickedness of the people
But through Samuel, God is going to usher in a new era
GIVE GOD TIME, SO YOU CAN RECOGNIZE HIS VOICE
And while Samuel is sleeping (we know it’s the early hours of the morning because it says “the lamp hadn’t quiet gone out”), God speaks to the boy.
And he jumps up, runs to Eli (the old priest), and says, “Here I am! You called me!”
Nope. Turns out it wasn’t Eli.
It happens again, and again…
And one of the things I think we can pull from this text is that it takes a while to recognize God’s voice
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, a follower of his, the Bible says multiple things about you:
It says that one you believe: That God’s Holy Spirit comes in you and indwells you.
And one of the reasons is because He’s there is to guide you…to speak to you.
It also says that you are a child of God.
And a good father…most assuredly speaks to His children.
God will absolutely speak to you.
The better question is: Do you recognize it when he calls?
Or like the boy Samuel, do you mistake it for something else?
And if you want to get better at recognizing God’s voice, realize that it will take time and help.
The primary way to better recognize his voice is to work on your relationship with him.
The more you know someone, the better you can pick out their voice.
Back when people used to actually call each other on a home phone line, I had a really bad habit of always trying to guess who was answering the phone.
I’d be calling for say, Robert, but I’d have a suspicion that it was his brother Eric on the phone, and I say, “Hi, Is this Eric. I’m looking for Robert.”
And a lot of times, I was embarrassingly wrong.
They say, “No, this is Sarah. I have a cold” or something like that.
But at the same time, a mom of 7 kids could call home, and when one kid answers, she KNOWS who it is.
The more you know someone, the better you can pick out their voice.
I imagine that the next time Samuel heard God’s voice, he didn’t run to Eli.
So part of hearing from God is just getting to know Him.
And getting to know Him (so you can better recognize his voice) isn’t rocket science.
I think sometimes Christians want a nice magic formula to hear from God, but it’s the simple stuff.
You just simple spend more time w/ Him.
You get more serious about your daily prayer time.
You get serious about reading the Bible.
You start one of our Bible reading plans on the app…or anything.
I submit to you, if you do that, God will speak to you…often EVEN!
But it’s rarely going to be the audible voice.
Most Christians die without ever hearing the audible voice.
Usually it’s in your thoughts…or impressions.
I mean, how often do you hear God speak to you in church even?
I have people tell me all the time that they were sitting in Renovation Church, listening to the message, and they’ll say:
“It felt like you were talking right to me.”
Which I was, I wrote that message just for you, and not the other 300 people. j/k
But what is that? That’s God talking to you!
Or people will say, “When you talked about that tough issue, I felt inside of me, that I needed to change my life”
Well, what is that? That’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit!
I can’t do that.
See, you probably wouldn’t say to me, “David, as you were speaking, THE LORD SAID UNTO ME…,”
But, what you are saying is that God did actually talk to you!
And he does the same thing as you read your Bible, and you think, “Wow! That’s amazing. I need to know that in my life!”…and then you underline it in your Bible or highlight it on your Bible app
Well, what is that? It’s God speaking to you!
Or you’re driving to work, and as you’re praying, “You have this strange sense that you’re supposed to invite your co-worker to church”
Well, where did that sense come from?
It’s God! God is talking to you!
FAR too many Christians tell me that they’ve never heard from God, when in reality, they’ve probably heard from God 1,000 times.
They simply mean, I’ve never heard God speak out loud.
Well, neither have I.
And neither have most Christians over the past 2,000 years.
God is speaking all the time…it just takes a little time to recognize it.
And by the way, often it takes a little help.
Which is, what I’m trying to help you with today.
But you can get even better help…personal help.
For instance, look at the text…how did Samuel eventually figure it out?
He got help.
Eli helped him recognize that it was God’s voice.
He realized that it was the Lord calling the boy, and he tells Samuel what’s really going on.
And when you have other believers in your life that you can talk to, like say members of your house group, they can help you through these things.
And help you discern whether what you’re hearing is actually God or not.
If you’re thinking, “Okay, was that God…or was that just weird thought I had because of ADD?”
Christian community can help you with that!
GIVE GOD SPACE
So I encourage you…be purposeful about attempting to better recognize God’s voice.
Give him time in your life.
But also Give Him Space.
It doesn’t take a college professor to figure out that one of the reasons we hear so poorly from God here in America is that there is a whole lot of extra noise.
I think one of the reasons people always come back with such glowing reviews of our Haiti Trip is because they hear God speak to them there.
And it’s not all about geography…it’s about technology.
When you leave your phone at home, when there’s no TV in the house there, and no tablet to be found…guess what…there’s SPACE for God to speak.
There’s a story told of a young boy who was at an orchestra concert with his father…
His father told him, “Listen for the flutes in this song. Don’t they sound beautiful?”
But the boy, unable to distinguish the flutes amongst all the other instruments, looked up at his father with a puzzled look, and said, “What flutes?”
See, in order for that boy to hear the flutes amongst all the other instruments, he needs to first understand what flutes really sound like on their own.
It’s the same with God.
If you want to hear from God, you have to make time AND space to hear the sound of just his voice.
Notice that Samuel is in the right position to hear from God.
He’s serving God every day.
He’s sleeping in the House of God for goodness sakes.
Which, don’t think about sleeping here…you’ll probably get arrested tomorrow morning.
But I think sometimes people don’t hear from God because they just never make space for Him
They’re too busy.
They don’t take the time.
They don’t come to Encounter to worship and pray and listen.
They don’t spend time in the Bible to hear the Word of God.
They don’t take time in the morning to pray and seek God’s will.
And it’s often those same people who say, “Yeah, this topic is bogus, I’ve never heard from God!”
It’s because you’ve never made space to hear from God.
It would be like a married person who is never home to see their spouse…complaining that their spouse never tells them what’s going on in their life.
Samuel makes space for God.
And when He thinks God is really speaking, He gives Him room to speak!
He says in verse 10, “Speak, for your servant is listening!
Too many American Christians walk around with spiritual earbuds in.
They’re blasting success, materialism, entertainment, growing their family, and everything else so loudly in their ears that they’re never going to hear God because they simply don’t give him any space to whisper into their lives.
But if you give Him space…He will speak.
No matter who you are.
If you’re sitting here this morning thinking, “Who am I that God would speak to me?”
“I’m just a middle school student…”
“Or, I’ve done so much wrong….”
“ Or I’ve…whatever your excuse is.
God speaks to maybe the least likely of all people in the House of the Lord that night (out of all the people sleeping there)…a young boy.
And in the same way He can speak to you.
GIVE GOD YOURSELF
So Give God Time so you can recognize His voice….Give God Space…and thirdly, Give Him Yourself.
One of the things that really jumps out to me about this passage is Samuel’s attitude of obedience.
It’s presumably 3 or 4 in the morning when this story takes place.
And remember, Samuel thinks that he hears Eli, the old priest saying, “Samuel!”
And yet, even for that, at 3 in the morning, he jumps up, runs to the priest, and says, “Here I am! You called me?”
That’s a heart of obedience. A heart willing to serve.
He even addresses himself to God saying, “Speak, your SERVANT is listening!”
Like someone who is willing to obey.
Most kids nowadays would just be like, “What?! I’m sleeping. Figure it out yourself!”
God is always willing to speak to those who are willing to obey.
See, when God speaks to you, the important thing (and a lot of Christians miss this), is not so much that He spoke to you, but that you obey Him.
The important thing is NOT that you tell everybody that you heard from God…
The important thing is that you OBEY God
I think a lot of Christians are muting God’s voice in their life because He’s saying things they don’t want to hear.
They skip parts of the Bible that might challenge them
The avoid listening in prayer (or prayer altogether) because they don’t want God to convict them of a certain sin.
If your prayer life is suffering right now, it might very well be because you have some sin in your life that you subconsciously don’t want God to speak to you about.
Are you hearing me correctly?
Yet another reason that we claim that we’re not “hearing from God” is because we’re simply not allowing Him to speak.
It’s similar to what I said earlier about not creating space for Him.
Although that tends to be a little more a sin of neglect.
This is more a sin of rebellion.
Sometimes, God, because He’s all-powerful, even gets a powerful message across to us (often a warning) even in the midst of our rebellion…and yet, we still often choose our own way.
In one of his books, Author Ken Sande tells of a fascinating situation he once personally witnessed:
He writes the following in his book:
“One day during my morning run I noticed a blind woman walking on the other side of the street with her Seeing Eye Dog, a beautiful golden retriever.
As I was about to pass them, I noticed a car blocking a driveway a few paces ahead of them. At that moment the dog paused and gently pressed his shoulder against the woman's leg, signaling her to turn aside so they could get around the car.
I'm sure she normally followed his lead, but that day she didn't seem to trust him.
She had probably walked this route many times before and knew this was not the normal place to make a turn.
Whatever the cause, she wouldn't move to the side and instead gave him the signal to move ahead.
He again pressed his shoulder against her leg, trying to guide her on a safe path.
She angrily ordered the dog to go forward.
When he again declined, her temper flared.
I was about to speak up … when the dog once more put his shoulder gently against her leg.
Sure enough, she kicked him ….
And then she impulsively stepped forward—and bumped square into a car.
Reaching out to feel the shape in front of her, she immediately realized what had happened.
Dropping to her knees, she threw her arms around the dog, and spoke sobbing words into his ear.”
Listen, don’t let it get that far.
If you feel like God is starting to nudge you towards doing something…even if it seems hard…do it.
If God speaks, don’t just listen. Obey.
(James 1:22-24) – NIV
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
Samuel is a great example of obedience .
He listens to God…and he follows him.
He even passes on the hard Word he got from God to Eli…who is basically his adopted father at this point.
Listening to God is a discipline
The more you take time to listen, the more you will hear.
The more you hear, the more opportunities you have to obey
And the more you obey, will certainly lead to more opportunities to listen and hear.
Let me give you an example of this.
I’ve mentioned before that my undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education.
By the time I was a senior in college in 2004, I knew God had called me to be a pastor, but I still had to do my Student Teaching to get my degree.
I did my student teaching at Catholic School about 20 minutes outside of Saint Cloud.
Where they let me do everything except ironically teach Bible classes…
But one early cold January morning, I had to get to school even earlier than normal…
Which, sidenote, I loved sleeping in so much in college, that I (no joke), literally ordered my school preferences for student teaching placements by how late each school started.
And at the staff meeting that morning, the principal (who was a very talented nun), had to deliver really hard news to the teachers.
It was hard news, but as a leader, I thought she did a phenomenal job dealing with a delicate and difficult situation.
About 15 minutes after the meeting, I was in the office printing off some papers…
And as I was walking by her door, and I felt like God was saying to me, “Go in her office and encourage her about how well she did.”
And at once I thought, “Um, no thank you. I’m some 22 year old student teacher…who’s not even going to be a teacher…I’m sure she doesn’t even care what I think”
And I started to just walk by her office.
And immediately I felt sick to my stomach.
God sometimes gives you “signs of disobedience”
So I walked back in, and I said, “Um, hi. I just felt like I should tell you that I thought you did a really good job handling what was a delicate and difficult situation this morning. I was impressed with your leadership”
And she looked up at me, clearly overwhelmed from the moment, and said, “Thank you so much! I just really, really needed to hear that.”
And this is how the cycle works…
When you listen, and then obey, and you see that “AH! That was God! That wasn’t just me!”
It’s only easier to listen and obey next time.
But remember, in order to do that…you need to give God time to recognize his voice…give God space…and give God yourself…
You need to be willing to listen and obey.
And be fearful (I mean this…be FEARFUL)…of hearing God and turning a deaf ear.
That’s what the Bible calls the hardening of the heart.
Because if you harden your hearts to his voice, your ears will surely plug up as well.
Keep your ears open and your heart willing…and God will speak!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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