Audiologists have been warning for years about the dangers of listening to music through earbud speakers or noise-canceling headphones. Yet, they still dangle from the ears of runners with I-Pods strapped on their biceps, connect iPads to a business-person making a table at Starbucks his office for the morning, or a laptop to the student finishing her paper in a corner of the library.
This constant soundtrack of our lives is enjoyable, but because the sound source is so near the ear drum and we (not just the teenagers) tend to play our music loudly, it has a negative impact on our hearing. It damages the tiny hairs inside the ear that channel sound waves to the hearing nerves and reduces our ability to process high and low frequencies. The damage happens slowly, over time, and it is irreversible.
And that doesn’t include the television with its blaring ads echoing through many homes for multiple hours a day, the radio in the car, the shopping music over the speakers in every retail outlet and more.
We are living in a world that battles silence and beckons us to dance towards deafness.
But for me, the largest threat of the world’s noise is not the diminishing of my physical hearing. There’s something far worse.
If I’m not careful, I can edge towards spiritual deafness.
I can become so immersed in the soundtrack of the world that I begun to live without hearing the voice of God. As a matter of fact, I can go days without being consciously aware of having heard God’s voice speaking to me.
And that’s a dangerous place to be, because Jesus Himself said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt.4:4) I may exist, but I will not truly live apart from the word of God.
Jesus also insisted that “my sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (Jn.15:27) I am haunted by that verse because it is so clear: it is impossible to live the Christian life in any measure without regularly, clearly hearing the voice of God, through the Son and by the Spirit.
There may be few things more important to my soul’s health than battling spiritual deafness and pleading with my heavenly Father to “awaken my ear to listen like a disciple” (Is.50:4).
Now, why are there seasons when my spiritual hearing grows dull and sleepy, so that God’s voice sounds like an indistinct and distant rumble?
I know and affirm the doctrinal truths of a personal, revealing, speaking God. God speaks and His word is eternal (Is.40:8), living and active (Heb.4:12). He speaks with authoritative power into nothing and a universe appears (Gen.1:2, Heb.11:3). God continually speaks in creation— sunrise and star, winds and snow, animals and flowers (Ps.19:1) God speaks by His prophets (Heb.1:1) and most clearly in His Son, Jesus (Heb.1:2) who is the Word made flesh. (Jn. 1:14) As we read or hear it, God speaks in His written word, which He breathed out (2 Tim.3:16), is the means of eternal regeneration (1 Peter 1:23-25), the headwaters of faith (Rom.10:17), the means of sanctification (Jn.17:17). and the equipment for every aspect of Christian character formation and mission. (2 Tim.3:17)
Yes, I believe.
But doctrinal accuracy and hearing the soul-deep voice of God are not always twins. (Remember, the Pharisees had impeccable doctrine.)
So, why do I go deaf to Him? Why can I walk through days where I only hear the echo of my own opinion and experience, but have no sense that the God of the ages has spoken to me?
I think I know. It can happen to anybody who has walked with Jesus for a long time, and can be summed up in one word: assumption. My identity as a Christ-follower shapes the way I do everyday life. I read my Bible and pray. Worship and interact with my church family. Do ministry and serve others. Give to meet needs and read Christian-themed books. Order my moral and ethical decisions by Christ.
All good stuff, right? Yes…
until it becomes dully predictable. Safe. Ordinary. Organized. Controlled.
Until I figure out how to do the Christian life with a detached proficiency and a certain cool efficiency.
Until living for Jesus becomes a set of religious skills that I have mastered more than the wild, untamed sweetness of being radically loved and formed by my Master.
Until I think I can do this on my own— and have no desperation to hear that Voice.
A desperate-less soul is a God-deaf soul.
Peter, James and John were on the mountain with Jesus and He opened their eyes to see the blinding beauty of His glory. Remember Peter’s response? “Let’s build something” (Matt.17:4) Bless Peter’s heart. He is so like us. “Let’s get busy doing something Jesus-y. Something religious. Something we can design and count and visit and admire and polish and promote and control.”
“He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt.17:5)
Don’t be deaf.
Listen. To. Him.
I don’t know about you, but I am desperate to hear His voice.
I need to hear from Someone bigger than and beyond this world.
I need to hear from One whose thoughts are beyond my own.
I need to hear God speak this day and not merely in past echoes.
I want soul-whispers that startle me with the huge holiness of godly fear.
I need unignorable Spirit-promptings that mess with my schedule and keep me scrambling to join with His delight-full dance of surprises.
I need to hear the One who alone can speak something out of my nothings.
I need to be overwhelmed by the power of a voice that tears down my movie-set faith-facades so I can live faith that is real, right-now, up-close, personal and transforming.
I need to hear God’s voice to me, in me, around me, for me—-so I can live.
The mercy of our heavenly Father means that spiritual hearing loss need not be permanent. He hears and responds to the cries of the desperate, the drowning — and the deaf.
So, my one word to focus my life and discipleship in 2014 is…LISTEN. To simply be intentional about pursuing the space and silence and time in the Bible and willing obedience that will help me hear my Father’s voice clearly and regularly.
Will you join me?