Chapter 11 – What ‘goes in’

 

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

– Proverbs 4:20-22, NIV

Some people seem to have a tube running between their ears – whatever you say to them doesn’t seem to reach their brains at all. Others hold on to everything that anyone says, and later can perfectly quote their words in out-of-context situations. And some read far too much into everything they hear. Wouldn’t it be great if we had some kind of a switch on our ears, to filter out what we don’t need to listen to and remember what we do need to hear? It is important to monitor what we immerse ourselves in and allow ourselves to listen to, because sometimes things we hear can stick in our minds and cause damage to us. We must learn to surrender to God what, of what we hear, we choose to let into our minds.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “You cannot stop people’s tongues, and therefore the best thing to do is to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken.” What do you choose to let yourself hear – really hear? It is very easy to sit through a powerful sermon and leave without considering applying the words to our lives. Likewise we can hear the voice of God and still ignore His invitations. We can hear words of encouragement and blessing, and not be uplifted. We can hear words of hope, and still despair. We can hear words of challenge, and not be brought to repentance. But at the same time we can hear words of discouragement and let them penetrate our being and steal our joy. We can hear words of torment and let ourselves be filled with fear. May we surrender to God our ears and what enters our minds through them – let Him shape the way we deal with what we hear.

In our minds we can hear and receive advice from four main voices: our own and that of other people, both of which can be good and can speak wisdom from experience and express natural thoughts and desires; that of our enemy, which tries to bring us down and teach us false things about God and life and ourselves; and God’s voice, which is always good. Sometimes all of these can sound the same, and our minds can be confused and not know what is right. We need God’s help so that we can learn to think and make decisions based on His voice and on things that are good for us. May we surrender to God what we allow ourselves to hear and believe.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

– Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV

In this passage Isaiah is speaking to those who are despairing and have lost faith. They have heard about God’s greatness and about who He is – but they did not let what they heard penetrate their thoughts and attitudes. If they had let themselves really hear what God was telling them all along about who He is, they would understand that they did not need to despair – that there is still hope because their God is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

A friend of mine at one time had negative words spoken over him on a regular basis, but what he chose to hear from those words was not always exactly what had been said to him. For example, when someone told him he was lazy, he would think, “I am so lazy that I will never achieve anything” – and so he lost motivation to even try to get things done. When someone said, “the devil is trying to tempt you”, he believed, “I am demon-possessed and so cannot come to God”. This is, of course, a very extreme example, but it shows the power in what we choose to hear from what is spoken to us. May we learn to surrender to God the space between our ears and our mind, and let Him shape the way we receive what we hear!

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

– Romans 10:17, NIV

There is a song by the Innovation Trust band TBC, called Mind Your Head. It speaks of keeping an eye on what we choose to receive and what we let ourselves hear. It is not right to completely alienate ourselves from everything that is not exclusively “Christian”, to put ourselves in an exclusive Christian bubble with no interaction with the rest of the world, because then how can we be Christ’s light in the darkness? However, if we immerse ourselves in things that are full of darkness, then it can be difficult to remain in Christ’s light and to keep away from sin. Sometimes it can be a difficult balance to be ‘in the world but not of the world’. So as we surrender, may God show us His will and teach us His ways. What do we choose to immerse ourselves in and to really hear from our surroundings? May we surrender to God and let Him shape us.

The Bible feeds our faith. The faith and the trust that we have in God is nourished by the Bible and grows when we read and study the Bible, if we let it. We see in Hebrews 11 that Paul uses examples of people of faith from the Old Testament to encourage and teach people about putting their faith in Christ. His words about the heroes of faith can animate and strengthen us to put our faith in Jesus and live as His followers, with our security coming from Him. If we choose to really hear such words of encouragement, maybe our own faith will grow so that we can follow Christ wherever He may lead.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

– Philippians 4:8, NIV

So let us surrender to God the people and the things that we choose to listen to. Where do we take our words of advice? May we surrender this to God. From whom do we seek words of affirmation? Let us lay this down at His feet. Whose words do we choose to trust, and whose words are most meaningful to us? May we surrender to God even the music we listen to, so He can show us what He wants us to hear. Let us give to Him the films we choose to watch and other input into our minds through the media, and let God teach us how to receive the words that come at us from every angle. May we surrender to God the way we hear the words of those who discourage us, and the way we receive words from those who encourage us. Let us surrender to God the ways we hear the words of authority figures, of friends, of role models, of family members and others around us. Let us surrender to Him the ways in which we interpret people’s words. May we surrender the ways we hear and respond to Jesus’ words, too, and may God open our ears and reveal truth regarding what we choose to listen to.

 

Father God,

Thank You that You care about what I hear and what goes into my mind.

Thank You for Your words of comfort, guidance, conviction and encouragement.

I surrender to You what I allow myself to hear.

Please teach me to listen to what is healthy for me and my relationship with You.

Please help me to reject the things I hear that could be unhelpful.

I surrender to You the way I think about what I hear.

I surrender to You the way I receive words from my friends, family, authority figures, those who discourage me, and others.

Please shape my understanding.

Let Your word penetrate my being – I surrender to You.

Teach me Your truth, loving God!

I surrender to You the way I live as a result of what I hear.

May I live in Your ways, following Your voice above my own understanding.

Amen

 

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