Charles Stanley - Listening to God and Walking with God
It is the will of God that every single one of us be saved. It is the will of God that we walk in a way that is pleasing and honorable to Him. And Paul wrote to Timothy, He said, "God desires that all men," and women, of course, "be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth". And in Second Peter, He says, "It's not My will that any should perish". And the apostle Paul said, "If thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you'll be saved". And then He also said, "Whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". But it isn't enough just to become a Christian. It isn't enough just to have your sins forgiven. There's more to it than that.
The Scripture says in Ephesians chapter four that it is the will of God that you and I walk in a manner that is consistent with who we say we are. And in Colossians the first chapter, He puts it this way: it is the will of God that you and I walk in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Well, walking with the Lord is the will of God for every one of us. Walking in the will of God is not always easy, but it is His will and His purpose and His plan. And in order to walk in the will of God, you and I must learn a very valuable lesson. One of the most valuable lessons you'll ever learn: we must learn to listen to Him because listening to God is essential to walking with God, and that is the theme of this entire message. Walking with God, what is absolutely essential to make that a reality is learning how to listen to God.
So, I want you to turn, if you will, to James chapter one in the Bible. And I want us to look at this passage of Scripture because it deals with something that all of us have to deal with. And you'll find yourself in this passage in one of two positions. And so, He's writing, beginning in, if you will, in verse twenty one of this first chapter. "Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted," God's Word in their heart, receive it, "which is able to save your soul. But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he's like a man who looks at his face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides in it, not having become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does".
Now, everybody who's seated here and whoever you are and wherever you may be listening, we fall into one of two categories. We are either purposeful listeners or we are passive listeners. Now, what's the difference? A purposeful listener is a person who listens intently. They listen with a purpose of learning, obtaining, absorbing, incorporating into their life, applying to their life the truth that they've heard. That is, they intend for something to happen. That's why they're listening. They're listening with purpose. Then there's another kind of listener, and that is the passive listener.
So they sit and they hear it and they walk away and forget it. They do not listen with the intention of applying it to their heart. Listen with the intention of applying it to their heart so that they can become the persons God wants them to be and achieve the things that God wants them to achieve. They just heard information. It's one thing to listen to information. It's something else to purposefully listen to the Word of God and make application in your heart. And notice what in Ephesians is talking about the same thing. He talks about it being implanted in us.
So, I would ask you this question: do you go to church or do you come to church purposefully listening to the Word of God so that God can work something new in your life? How do I become a purposeful listener? Well, that's what I want to talk about in this message. And so, you see, if you're going to be what God wants you to be, one of the most important lessons you will ever learn in your life, one of the most important lessons you can ever teach your children is to teach them how to listen to God. Now, you can't teach them that if you don't know how to do it.
And I look back in my own life and realize after all these years that when I think about the part that that's played in my life; the real source of my sense of confidence and courage and convictions and strength and joy is the fact that very early in my life, I learned how to listen to God. It was my grandfather's words to me, not listen to God, but listening to him tell me how God was speaking to him. And it created within me this awesome desire for God to speak to my heart, and I knew that if that were true, I had to learn how to listen. And over these years, He's certainly taught me that. And I could not teach a more important lesson to anyone than how do you listen to God?
So, with this passage of Scripture in mind and thinking about all that's involved in that, let's think, first of all, what's involved in walking with God. That is, if walking, if listening to God is essential to walking with God, what's involved with walking with God? Well, walking with God is the most wonderful life there is. It is a life of joy and peace and happiness and provision, heartache, troubles, and trials, and all the rest. But there's something about listening to Him and learning how to listen to Him that enables you and me to walk with Him.
Now, think about this: you cannot walk with God; you cannot live a godly life if you don't know how to listen to Him. That is, to walk a godly life means you walk in the will of God. So, it's very important that you and I learn how to listen to God and that we're willing and ready and able to share it with somebody else. I believe it's the most valuable lesson you can possibly learn because everything else hinges on that.
Now, somebody says, "Well, okay, I get that, but suppose I don't listen"? Well, let's think about it. If you don't listen to God, you're going to listen to somebody else. Maybe something you read, it's still somebody else's writing. Or a television or radio. In other words, if you don't listen to Him, you're going to listen to somebody else. And you know what's going to happen? You're going to be easily deceived because this book is the truth. And all so-called truth either falls or lives on the basis of whether it contradicts the Word of God or not. You will be easily deceived.
Therefore, you will do what? You will drift into sin. Because this book is the anchor. If I believe this book and I listen to what God says and I listen purposefully, I'm going to follow what He says. Otherwise, I'm going to listen to other people and I'm going to be easily deceived and I'm going to drift into sin, and then I'm going to make excuses for my sin. Well, so-and-so, so-and-so, here's what they believe. And you know, there are people who do not believe the Word of God and here's what they'll say, they'll say, "Well, part of it's true".
So let me ask you: now, if part of the Bible's true, who becomes the judge as to what's true and what's not true? Who becomes the judge? Well, you become the judge. Now, if that's true, I can tell you exactly, human nature is human nature and it never changes. That's why God gives us another nature: His nature. So, the question is: okay, then in order to listen to Him, what's necessary? Let's think about it for a moment. You're seated here and you are purposefully listening. I can tell you are. So, that being true, how do we listen to Him? How do we know when He's speaking? How do we know that it's not us and somebody else?
Well, put it this way, if I'm going to learn to listen, I got to get in the Word of God because I'll hear people say, "Well, here's what God said to me". And I can tell them, "No, it's not". And the reason I would say that is because if it contradicts the Word of God, God didn't say it. God is not a God of contradiction. You think He says, "I'm not a God of confusion". If I told you something was true and the Word of God says it's not true, then what am I doing? I am contradicting the Word of God, I'm creating confusion in your mind and heart. And so, the Word of God is the basis. If I'm going to listen to Him, I have to start with the Word of God. Secondly, I must have the Holy Spirit, watch this carefully, living on the inside of me to interpret.
Now, watch this, God speaks to His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who speaks to our spirit; our mind; our heart, as we would call it, and gives us instruction and helps us to see what's going on. So there must be the Word, and there must be the Holy Spirit. Then there must be prayer. That is, if I'm going to learn to listen, I've got to talk to Him. And prayer is talking to Him and listening to Him. And so often, we spend all of our time doing the talking instead of listening.
And somebody says, "Well, my goal is to read through the Bible in one year," wonderful goal. But let me just say this: it is more important that you read a portion every day and listen for God to speak to you and give you instruction and that you implant it within your soul, that you absorb it in your life, that you begin to say, "How can I live this out every day"? than just reading through it all one year. That's wonderful, but if you're just having to read, read, read, read, read, read so you can get through it, listen, that's not the motivation for the Word of God. The motivation of the Word of God changed my life.
So, there must be prayer, there must be the Word of God, there must be the work of the Holy Spirit, and then God also speaks to us through circumstances. He knows exactly what He's doing and why He does it. He speaks to us through circumstances. Now, watch this carefully, here's the reason I've said to you over and over and over again: when you read the Word of God, you learn how God worked in the lives of people in the Old Testament and New Testament. That's how you learned how He worked. How does He work today? Same way. Circumstances are different, same way. In other words, God hasn't changed. He says He doesn't change.
And so, He works through circumstances, and so something happens in your life and you think, "God, well, why did You allow this to happen"? Or, "What's happening, Lord"? And oftentimes, it's through circumstances that He guides us. He closes this door, opens this door. He shows us this and helps us to realize that this over here is error. So, He speaks through circumstances to us. And those circumstances can be one of many things. And then, of course, sometimes He speaks to us through others. And I would certainly like to believe that every single Sunday, not some Sundays, every single Sunday, with all of my heart, I do my best to prepare the message of absolute, undeniable, inescapable truth so that you who hear it can absorb it and know it's the truth. Apply it to your life and grow in your Christian life. That's our only motive, to see you come to know Christ as your Savior.
And so, we have to oftentimes listen to others about things. And sometimes it's a mother speaking to her child, and God speaks to that child through that mother. How many times did I realize, as I look back, when my mother said something to me, it was straight from God? But now, here's the bottom line: whenever God speaks, he never speaks in a way that contradicts his Word, no such thing. Now, one last thing I want to share with you. There are requirements for listening to Him. How do we learn to listen? We start with meditating upon the Word of God, which may mean, let's just take for example the first Psalm. Look at that for just a moment. And I'm not going to teach you how to do this by going through this. We could, but I just want you to watch this.
Listen to this, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, doesn't stand in the path of sinners, doesn't sit in the seat of the scornful! His delight's in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He'll be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, its leaf does not wither; in whatever he does, he will prosper. The wicked are not so," they're not like that, "they're like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish".
Now, a young child can get that message. You say, "What's the message"? The message is living a life of obedience to God, otherwise here's what's going to happen: you're going to be like chaff. Life's not going to count. So, if you take a passage and you meditate upon it. You see, you say, "Well, how long should I read that"? Here's what I've discovered: when I read a passage of Scripture and the next morning I'm still in that passage of Scripture, I know that God is trying to say something to me. There're some passages that I've read for days, and sometimes off and on for weeks, and all of a sudden, at some point I'll say, "Yes! I finally got it. Thank you, Jesus".
You say, "Well, you ought to be smarter than that". Well, maybe I ought to be, but I'll tell you this: God, listen to this, God speaks to us when we're ready to hear Him. He speaks to us, that is, we get the message when we have done certain things. So, first of all, it begins with the Word of God. Secondly, I must listen to Him prayerfully. Father what are You saying to me? For example, in that passage, Lord, am I standing in the, that is, am I fraternizing with people who are going to lead me away from You? Lord, help me, show me how to apply that to my life.
When you prayerfully meditate upon the Word of God, you're going to begin to listen. God's going to, in other words, if you said, for example, just in this passage alone, if you said to Him, "Now, Lord, as I read this passage, what are You trying to say to me"? And, for example, suppose you come to this part that says, "But His delight," that is, the person that God's going to bless, he delights in the law of the Lord. He delights in the Word of God. That means the Word of God's very important. If that's true, then I I've got to be meditating on the Word of God. So prayerfully, meditating upon the Word, meditating it prayerfully.
Listen to this carefully now, you listening? Say amen. With a submissive spirit, "Whatever You say, God, enable me to abide by it". It isn't enough, remember, we said purposeful listening, not passive. That is, if it's purposeful, then what I want to do is grasp it, understand it, apply it to my heart and begin to try to walk it out. So, I must listen with that in mind. Then I must listen expectantly, expecting God to speak. Now, when somebody says, "Well, I pray but, you know, nothing ever happens. God isn't going to talk to me". Well, you might as well quit praying. But don't, maybe He'll get you sooner or later. But that's not purposeful living and praying and expecting. That is, anticipate, expect God to speak, listen to this carefully, to your spirit.
You say, "Well, I'm not perfect". You know what? You're looking at somebody else who's not. Nobody's perfect. Nowhere does He say you must be perfect to hear Me. Now, if there is known, willful sin, I can tell you exactly what God's going to say. You say, "What's that"? He's going to keep pointing His finger right back to it. You say, "Well, I haven't heard God say anything". Well, what you didn't hear Him say is you've got to get rid of that. I'll have to listen submissively, listen intently, listen carefully, listen with purpose, expectantly. And, listen carefully, listening patiently.
As I said, sometimes I have read a passage and I knew that God had something to say to me, but I didn't get it. I couldn't quite get it. And some major decisions that I've made, I've read the same passage over and over and over again until finally it all came clear. Now, you say, "Well, why would God do that"? Sometimes it's because He wants to alter our thinking about something. Listen, He wants to work in our life to the point that we can believe that what we're hearing could be true. That's what faith's all about.
Faith's all about facing those situations and circumstances when it looks like there's no way in the world for me to be able to do that. And what happens? We keep reading and keep reading and keep reading, and yes. It's like it's implanted within us. It's growing within us. God's doing something within us. And what is He doing? He is maturing our faith, and as we listen to Him, what happens is we become more and more confident, more and more courageous, more and more bold, more and more sure, more and more strength. God is up to something fantastic.
And here's the thing about it: God will speak to anyone with clarity, listen, clarity in direction if they're, listen, if they're willing to listen prayerfully, submissively. That is, continuously saying, "Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord". If You don't want that in my life, I want it out. Whatever You say, God, I want to be careful to listen. Listen carefully, when you start listening, your life is going to change, and secondly, you're going to hear Him more often. Why? Because now that you're willing to listen, God's ready to say what He wants to say to you in such a way that you will one day finally say, "You know what? One of the most important lessons I ever learned in life is to listen to God".
Let me ask you a question: when all hell is broken loose in your life and you don't know where to turn and everything's upside down, what do you want most of all? Don't you want a word from God? Don't you want to hear Him say to you, "My son, My daughter, I have everything under control, I'm going to guide you through this, I'm going to empower you, I'm going to strengthen you, I'm going to use this incident in your life to make an impact in the lives of others"? He's willing to speak if you're willing to listen, but we must listen intently, purposefully, not passively.
And think about this: why go to church somewhere and spend an hour and walk away with nothing? It's a bad investment of your time. But what about coming and spending an hour and God pouring truth into your life, truth into your life that you're going to pour into other people's lives. If, listen, if you don't hear another sermon, this has nothing to do with me personally. It has to do with the nature of the Word of God. If you never hear another sermon and you simply practice what you've heard in this message about learning to listen to God, it will change your life. But it depends upon where your values are in life. If you value something else more than you know, and you value something else more than you value learning this awesome lesson, you may never learn it.
We spend our time on things we value the most. We love those things we value the most. I don't know of anything any more important in life than listening to the God of this universe. The Sovereign of the universe who has all power to meet every single need that I have, answer my prayers, give me direction, strengthen me, encourage me, help me, aid me, heal me, whatever. What's more important than that? Is it not true, don't you really and truly want to walk intimately with that kind of person? You can, but first of all, you must learn to listen.
Well, if you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, you say, "Well, how does all this work"? It doesn't work at all until you're willing to confess your sinfulness, your desperate need of Him and surrender your life to Him by faith. It all begins right there. And the best life you could possibly ever imagine is right in front of you if you'll trust Him, claim it by faith and the surrender of your life to Him as Lord and Master. And that's my prayer for you.
Father, how grateful we are that You talk to us. How grateful we are that You make it simple and plain. Thank you for Your forgiveness, times we've misinterpreted You, times we've not really wanted to hear what You had to say. But You just keep on pouring it on us until finally we're able to live submissively, continuously surrendering to Your will and Your way and knowing that it is always the best way. I pray for somebody who is listening who's never trusted You as their Savior. Give them the courage to admit that their life's a mess, that they need you. They've tried everything else. They desperately need You. And that they can listen to You and You'll speak to them. That's my prayer, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.