Most of us, when faced with a big decision, find it difficult to hear God counsel. We pray and ask God’s blessings but hear nothing. Perhaps we can’t hear God because we suffer from the spiritual equivalent of ear wax–primarily because we have ignored God’s counsel to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19). Thankfully the passage in James tells us how we can hear God: we are to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:21-22).
James says that the remedy to our inability to listen is to allow God’s Word to remove whatever is hindering us. And just in case anyone wants to translate that to mean we have no part in the process (we are to just “let go and let God”), James emphasizes the key part we play: we must put the truth we learn into practice in our daily life. We must be “doers” of the word, participating with God in the cleansing process.
But what does it mean to be a “doer” of the Word when it comes to listening? Well, it starts with our relationship with Jesus. When Christ is not central to our thinking about life, our mind will naturally fill up with all sorts of thoughts–many very dark. These thoughts stir up poisonous feelings and our heart becomes filled with toxic attitudes and fears. These feelings, in turn, cause us to speak harshly and do hurtful things. And often it is not until after we have said or done the hurtful thing that we even realize we hurt someone!
This spiritual dirt has been so ground into us that we sometimes mistake the dirt for our true nature. Ephesians 5 says we regularly need “washing with water through the word.” This spiritual cleansing is not complicated and is clearly explained in Philippians 4. We are told that it starts with a willingness on our part to rejoice and not worry. Instead, we are to simply make our requests known to God and be thankful for whatever he does. This releases our spirit and allows us to experience the kind of supernatural peace that only God can supply.
The key, we are told in Philippians 4, is our relationship with Jesus. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul says. “I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Our intimacy with Jesus deepens the same way as in any other relationship deepens and develops: by spending time together. This is an obvious truth–which is perhaps why so many of us miss it.
Next week we will look at what Philippians 4 tells us is the key to developing what Paul calls, “the peace of God that transcends all understanding.”