“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” — Jesus, Matthew 11:15
When Christians face difficulty and temptation, the human tendency is to try to overcome it ourselves. Human pride leads us away from dependence on God. In some cases, we have spent so little time actually searching out God’s will, there is little knowledge or understanding of the help he can give. This leads to a corresponding lack of understanding in applying its principles to the challenges we face. The end result is that we can’t overcome the power of the devil, and we lose the precious blessings of God’s spiritual help.
Here are four recommendations to consider for getting the most out of listening to God through his word, the Bible.
1. Set aside time each day to read and meditate on a portion of scripture. It doesn’t have to be a long passage, although it should include the immediate context of the story or discussion presented by the inspired author. Many like to try to read the Bible through in a given period of time — usually a year. This is a good practice, and hours spent reading is time well spent. But if it results in mental numbness, not an understanding of what is read, a shorter passage with greater comprehension might be better. Don’t be in a rush about your Bible reading; instead, gain the blessing promised by God through the psalmist, who wrote that the man is blessed whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who “meditates” on his word day and night (Psalm 1:1–2).
2. Confess to God your need for him and a clear understanding of his will. Think about it: Because the Bible is the only means we have of knowing God as fully as possible, it is important we understand his word as well as we’re able. The Ethiopian treasurer told Philip the evangelist that he needed help understanding the Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah, which Philip was specifically sent by the Holy Spirit to give him (Acts 8:34–35). There are those who can help us today in comprehending God’s word of salvation. Jesus said that if we are truthfully willing to do the will of God, we can know the meaning of that revealed word (John 7:17). So, pray for God’s help in understanding the directions he provides.
3. Based on Jesus’ promise of understanding, every reader should resolve to “put into practice” the truths learned in reading and studying. If you’ve attended very many preaching services, you’ve likely heard prayer asking God to help in the habit of translating learning into action. Recall that the devil knows scripture and is able to quote it, as he did in his temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:5–6). But, like the demons who believe in one God and tremble in fear because of their “faith” (James 2:19), their mere acknowledgement of God doesn’t lead them to obedience so that they can be saved. James had previously cautioned against merely hearing God’s word and not doing as it instructs. Those who do so, he said, are deceiving themselves. See James 1:22–25.
4. Give thanks to God for the help his word gives in living life. Of all that is said in the Bible about the benefits of God’s revealed will, perhaps Psalm 1:3–6 expresses it as well as any. The man who consistently meditates on God’s revelation is compared to a prosperous, well-watered, fruitful tree. Furthermore, he is blessed above “the wicked” and is promised the mindful attention of the Lord, not only in this life but in the life to come.
May the Lord bless each of us as we hear his word.