In his classic book, The Friendship Factor, Alan Loy McGinnis gives the following characteristics of a good listener:
1. Good listeners listen with their eyes.
2. Good listeners dispense advice sparingly.
3. Good listeners never break a confidence.
4. Good listeners “complete the loop” of communication.
5. Good listeners show gratitude when someone confides.
That certainly works in your relationships with people. But it’s also an opportunity to remind you that the God of Heaven invites us into a friendship with Him. In some ways, the things Dr. McGinnis has to say about listening well to other people can translate into listening to the Lord. Based on his wise advice, let me offer a few suggestions for being a good listener in the spiritual realm:
1. Listen with a variety of senses.
Use your brain! Your eyes, too. And your ears, your feelings, and your relationships. God is not an impatient communicator, like many of us are. He will patiently communicate with us, often in a variety of ways, in order that we can be sure it’s Him.
2. Remember, God doesn’t need your advice.
In other words, shut up and listen!
(I mean that reverently, of course.)
If you’re doing all the talking in your relationship with the Lord, you’re missing some critically important stuff.
3. Careful what you share.
Use great discernment in sharing the content and the implications of what the Lord says to you. What God says to you may not be for anybody but you!
On the other hand, He may intend to use what He says to guide or encourage someone else, but timing is critical.
Wait for God’s opportunity, don’t force your own. A little confirmation wouldn’t hurt, either.
4. Talk back!
Complete the loop of communication. Tell the Lord what you’re hearing from Him, and how you are responding to it.
That’s especially true if what you’re hearing is frightening, unusual, or contrary to your will. Don’t be like Jonah in the Bible and try to run from God. In a mark of extraordinary graciousness, the Lord invites you to argue – to contend with Him. He’ll win, of course, but He does let you have your say.
5. Say, “Thank you.”
Oh, the wonder and the mystery – that the God of Heaven would stoop to reveal His heart and His secrets to the likes of us!
Thank Him for it.
You’ll be much more likely to hear Him the next time.
The Lord delights in speaking to His children. The key is whether you’re listening or not.
And, of course, what you do with what you hear.
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