Be Careful How You Listen
One of the greatest breakthroughs you can ever make in your life can come from something very simple that Jesus said: “Be careful how you listen.” When you hear God’s Message in any form, you have a choice. You can let your mind wander, or you can really try to grab hold of every word.
Remember, Jesus talked about the good soil standing for people who hear and embrace God’s Word, then persevere and produce a crop. It all begins with hearing truth and then holding on to it tightly. It requires making the effort necessary to remember truth and then finding ways to apply it. It means thinking and talking about what you want to retain. That’s the difference between hearers who grow and prosper and those who wither and die spiritually.
The ones who grow up to be strong and fruitful and know Jesus in a powerful way are those who learn to be very careful how they listen. They don’t just go “brain dead” and start daydreaming. They really lean into the teaching of God’s Word. They want to hear it, yes. But they also want to understand it. They’ll ask questions later about what they heard, because they care. They’ll consider how the Word applies to them. They’ll think about the difference between obedience and disobedience. They’ll take note of the consequences of both. They will genuinely care. They will be careful how they listen.
You’ve learned a little bit of that lesson when your parents or other adults have asked you to do something. Whether you obeyed or disobeyed had a lot to do with how carefully you listened. Maybe you didn’t really hear them say, “I want your bed made before you eat breakfast.” So what did you do? You just went along in your own little world and started eating breakfast. When they discovered your bed wasn’t made, you were punished—or at least you should have been! And if you thought about where things went wrong, you’d have to admit, “Well, it was because I didn’t listen very carefully. I didn’t really mean to disobey. I wasn’t trying to disobey. I didn’t decide, ‘I don’t care about my bed. I don’t care what they say. I’m going to eat anyway.’ What the adult said just slipped past me. I disobeyed because I wasn’t careful how I listened.”
The starting place for bringing pleasure to God and to others in authority is learning how to listen first. You have to discipline your mind. You can’t let your eyes or your thoughts wander. You have to focus!
Have you ever seen a horse pulling a carriage? Usually the horse has little shades covering most of its eyes. Have you ever wondered why? They are called “blinders.” They are supposed to keep the horses focused on their job! They’re designed to help the horses look straight ahead rather than getting distracted. And that’s what you have to do for yourself in your own heart. You have to choose to focus your thoughts on what you are hearing!
This lesson applies whenever there’s something important to listen to—whether it’s the voice of someone in authority, an assignment that you’re given for your studies, or truths from the Scriptures that Jesus or the apostles taught. If something being said is important, you have to discipline your own mind. You won’t see too many children wearing horse blinders on their heads! Instead, you have to make yourself pay attention, because nobody else can do it for you. You must decide that you’re going to focus on what you’re hearing. You have to keep yourself from getting distracted. A horse’s owner sticks blinders on the outside of the animal’s head. But you have to decide to stick invisible blinders on the inside of your own head so that you don’t get distracted!
You must decide to be very careful how you listen. Whatever important thing that you are told, you will understand, receive, and embrace. You want it! Whatever important thing you are taught, you will find a way to put into practice. You will push distractions out of the way. You will stick with it. You will push, push, push. You will remember. You will keep moving in the right direction without looking around until this thing is done. You will be very careful how you listen.
So, what if you find yourself just looking around or thinking about something other than what you are hearing? What if your mind starts thinking, “Boy, I’m hungry, and it’s hot in here”? What if you find yourself starting to mess around like a play-baby? You must have the self-discipline to re-focus your mind!
Unfortunately, there are lots of adults in the world who have lived their whole lives without learning how to discipline themselves. They let their thoughts float around. They give themselves the liberty of thinking about other things when they should be paying attention. They let their minds wander and don’t focus. They choose to disobey Jesus! He’s the one who said, “Be very careful how you listen.” But because they just won’t obey Him in that simple matter of focusing, they end up disobeying a hundred other commands, too, because they don’t hear them very well. A sloppy person will die spiritually. You don’t have to turn out that way!
You can choose to put blinders on and look straight ahead. You can choose to be very careful how you listen, because all the other commands require focus and perseverance. You can’t obey a command that you never really hear. You won’t hear if you are sloppy in your thinking. You won’t hold on to what you do hear if you let your mind wander.
So start there! Be disciplined in heart and mind. If you’re singing, then focus on the words. If someone in authority is giving you direction, then focus on every aspect and remember it. If you hear a command of God and you think you might forget it, then write it down. If you are learning something new, then tell others and ask them to help you remember. Take what’s most important and stay focused! Don’t let yourself get distracted with a sloppy mind. Sloppiness is deadly. So be very careful how you listen!