During our 2016 District Conference, I briefly mentioned some ideas about desperate dependence on the Holy Spirit and the correlation to listening to the Holy Spirit. Since that time a number of people have asked for those comments again, so perhaps there is value in using this article space to put them in writing. We are often quick to throw around phrases like “listen to the Holy Spirit” but for many of us, the first question that comes to mind is “how exactly do you do that?” It’s important to remember that it’s not a science. There isn’t a magic formula. However, there are some practical elements that we might consider as we seek to be more attuned to the voice of the Great Shephard.
Here are six practical elements to listening – saturate, eliminate, be stilled, be filled, ask and practice. Note: these are not given in sequential order (do this, then this, then this), but simply stated in a way that makes it easier for me to remember. So let’s unpack these briefly –
Saturate – Colossians 4:6 says, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” We need to saturate our hearts, minds and life with the words of God. Josh McDowell said, “The Holy Spirit has a specific vocabulary and that vocabulary is the word of God.” The more saturated we are with the Holy Spirit’s vocabulary, the more likely we are to pick up what He is saying to us. Like learning a second language, it is done best through immersion.
Eliminate – Sin in our life grieves the Holy Spirit and thus hinders our ability to hear Him speak, Ephesians 4:30. Sin serves the same function as earplugs. It prevents us from hearing or at least hearing clearly. Sin places us in a distorted position with the Lord that makes it particularly difficult to listen well. If you are going to listen, then you have to eliminate sin. Keep short accounts and regularly ask for the deep introspection of the Lord.
Be Stilled – There is a lot of noise in the world, both externally and internally. For many, learning to be still is difficult. Sure, you can find a quiet corner somewhere to escape the external noise. It’s the internal noise of the “to do” list, the self-talk, that is often the most difficult to escape. If we are to hear, we must learn to be still and know that He is God, Psalms 46:10.
Be Filled – Paul equates being filled with the Holy Spirit to being drunk, Ephesians 5:18. If you get enough alcohol in you, the alcohol navigates its way to the very cellular level of your body. From there, it literally impacts everything you do; the way you see, walk, talk, emote, think, and yes, hear. The admonition is to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that He controls everything you do.
Ask – We are told to ask, 1 John 5:14-15. We need to be intentional about asking for what is already ours, which is the ability to hear His voice, John 10:27. Lord, give us ears to hear. We have not because we ask not and we ask not because often we are not aware of all we can ask for.
Practice – So far, we can get away with doing these other practical elements within the relative safety of our private lives. Practice is where we have to move out of our private comfort zone and into the public, “take-a-chance” zone. Lord, did I hear that right? Well, the only way to find out is through practicing obedience to what we hear. The more we practice listening and obeying the more confident we will become in hearing. It takes practice and starts small. Like little children we need to learn to listen to the little things first. Then, when the big things roll around we will have confidence in listening.
There is a whole lot more to flesh out here, but hopefully these practical elements will be helpful as you seek to build a solid theology and practice Holy Spirit dependence.
Todd Sovine, Director of Church Planting