I recently heard the story of man who found out at an early age he would slowly lose his sight until he would be completely blind by the age of 40. At the time of the interview, he was in his mid-30’s and had only 15-20% of his sight left. Somehow he was able to turn this setback into an amazing story of overcoming adversity. Though legally blind, he builds furniture by hand and turned it into a full-time business!
Life as a follower of Jesus is most times the exact opposite of this story. Over the course of years we move from complete blindness to the ability to see fully and clearly. Typically, there is an immediate ability to see, but clarity comes through years of the practice of what it means to follow Jesus.
Men like trees
There is a story of man Jesus heals of blindness in Mark 8. What’s interesting about this story is the man begins completely blind, and though Jesus prays for him he only receives a portion of his sight. He says:
“I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”Mark 8:24 NLT
So Jesus prays for him again, so he can completely see.
Jesus had the power to fully heal the man the first time, but he didn’t. Why? Jesus was making a point about spiritual blindness. He is referring back to an earlier part of the chapter when his disciples aren’t clear why Jesus had acted as he did (feeding the 4,000). They saw what God was doing, but not clearly. It was blurry in their spiritual vision.
Sometimes spiritual clarity takes time.
You could easily replace the analogy of sight with hearing. We slowly learn to hear God over time. Sometimes we begin by hearing muffled sounds. We know it’s God, but it’s not quite a clear as we’d like. Other times we only know how to hear God in one way. It’s why this is a common theme of my writing. I want to make a few things clear: God speaks today. God wants to speak to YOU today. There are different ways to hear God.
Do you know how to hear him? Do you hear God clearly, or is it just muffled sounds?
Why before the How
Let me begin by encouraging you with the benefits of hearing God. There are many benefits to hearing God, so I’ll share two that Jesus taught about:
1. When you hear God, you are known by God.
The Gospel of John records Jesus walking through the Temple during Hanukkah. He’s asked a very direct question in front of the crowds gathered, “Are you the Messiah?” As a part of his answer is this line:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”John 10:27 NLT
When you hear God it indicates God knows you. There is power in being known by God. When you understand God knows you, you know he cares for you, you know you are an heir to all that God has, and you fully embrace being a child of God!
When you hear God, you are known by God.
2. When you hear God, you build a solid life.
If you grew up in the church, you might remember the Sunday School story Jesus tells of two men each building a home. In this story, one man build his house on sand, and the other man builds his house on rock. Eventually a powerful storm blows through, and the house built on sand is destroyed.
The house built on rock remains.
Jesus leads the story with the this phrase:
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”Matthew 7:24 NLT
When you hear God (listen and obey) you build a life on a solid foundation. Storms will blow through, it’s the one thing you can count on. However, your life will remain when you build it on the what you hear God tell you.
That’s all well and good, but how do you hear God?
How to Hear God
There are multiple ways to hear God. The most common way is through another person. Think about this in form of a pastor, priest, minister, or even a parent, mentor, or friend. The problem with relying on this way of hearing God is it ties you to that person or people to hear God. If they stop speaking to you (literally or figuratively), you no longer hear God.
The other two more common ways to hear God is through the Bible, God’s Word, or in prayer. I’ve shared more on these ways in detail at this post. A less common way to hear God is through meditation. Biblical mediation is only less common because it is much harder to practice. I added this habit into my life recently, and it has been so good for me.
Let me add one more way we hear God — contemplation. Like meditation, contemplation is a form of hearing God practiced through the ages. If you were to have asked me what contemplation was a few years ago, I probably would have given you an answer similar to what meditation is (being quiet in front of God thinking about Scripture, etc). However, as I’ve studied and learned more about contemplation, I’ve developed a better definition to how contemplation truly seems to operate in our lives.
Contemplation sees God in the world around us, so we can be God to the world around us.
Contemplation: See God
In the story of building of the Church after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to heaven, we see the apostle Paul travel to Athens (Acts 17). To begin this trip, Paul is alone (very unusual for his ministry model). Alone, walking the streets, listening to conversation, and observing his surroundings, Paul notices something unusual.
In Athens showcased shrines for all the different gods the Greeks and Romans worshiped. Among these shrines was one labeled “To the Unknown God”. Paul notices this and contemplates what it means. He determines the people of Athens have known from the beginning there is a God they need but don’t know — Jesus.
As Paul walked the streets of Athens, eyes and ears open to clearly hear God, Paul saw God. But Paul didn’t stop there.
Contemplation: Be God
It was Paul’s practice to visit the local synagogue of any new city he entered. Following this model Paul shared the news of Jesus to the Jews in Athens. Word spread beyond the walls of the synagogue, so the city officials invited Paul to share these new thoughts at the Areopagus.
While at the Areopagus in front of the thought leaders of the center of thought, Paul shared this story of seeing the shrine for the Unknown God. He also used their own poets to describe what he saw. Paul shared the good news of Jesus through this avenue of what he saw. Not many believed, but they heard. For just a moment, Paul became God to those in Athens. They heard the Good News of Jesus.
Contemplation: Culture, Creation, World Around You
In this story, Paul saw God in culture. There are two other ways we see God. Contemplation sees God through:
- World around us.
I want you to hear God clearly. I don’t want you to see ‘trees’ but men. I want you to add a new practice of hearing God, so over the next few weeks, I’ll share more on what it means to see God (hear God) through the three avenues of contemplation.
For now, begin to pray to see God around you. And don’t just see God, determine who you can be God to that world.
Will you hear God through contemplation?