We are overwhelmed by voices trying to get our attention. Everywhere we go, someone or something is reaching out to us; to make matters even more challenging, we carry instant connectors around with us… our cell phones. Technology is wonderful, and with it, connecting the world to the gospel is becoming easier, but it has a dark side. Moments without its influence are rare.
We don’t want you to just ditch your phone or tablet, but it is beneficial to find ways to limit the noise. Somewhere in the din there is another voice, a still, small voice, trying to connect with you. You know this voice and, if you could hear it, would recognize it, for “his sheep know his voice.”
Being heard when he wants to be has never been a problem for God. Burning bushes, appearing angels, visions, and disembodied hands writing on brick walls in the middle of a party come to mind; but most of the time, God’s voice is patient and quiet, waiting for us to listen. If we do not listen, we are the loser, after all. We miss out on being involved in a God plan, and seeing him work in godly ways.
Here are some suggestions for filtering out the noise and listening to the one that matters most:
- The most obvious one is unplug. You’ve likely heard this many times before, so we won’t beat you over the head with it. Although we love having the Bible right on our devices, choose a time to go retro and pick up the printed version. Leave your devices in another room and reintroduce yourself to those paper pages that contain those life-giving words.
- In your Bible reading, always try to include some time for the gospels. Jesus is the physical and perfect representation of God for us. Rereading what he has said and keeping it in the front of our minds helps us identify his voice from the others fighting for our attention. Why do you think sheep know their shepherd’s voice? Because it’s the one they hear all day, every day.
- When you pray, take time to listen. In order to listen well, it must be quiet around you, and you must be quiet as well. Allow your mind to rest in God. You may only get 5-10 seconds of a quiet mind at first, if this type of prayer is not a regular for you. That’s okay. It is a skill that takes practice but is worth the work. It may help at first to keep a pad of paper near you (not your phone!) to jot down things that interrupt your quiet. Once you write them down, let them go until later, and get back to quiet listening.
- Take a walk. Exercise helps us to focus, and walking out in God’s creation allows him to speak to us through it. Walking also gets us away from nearly all other voices that cloud our minds. Take your phone with you, but leave it in your pocket. Resist the temptation to listen to music, at least for some of the walk. Silence is the best environment for listening and hearing.
- Set aside one-on-one time with a friend, away from your devices and outside noise (so not at a sports bar). Share yourself. Listen well to them. Hear God in them. When Jesus said, “When two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there with them,” he meant that he is there with us in each other. Remember, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and as we walk together along the Way, we can carry each other.
Which voices are fighting for your attention? Which ones are you listening to? Force yourself to focus on the one voice that cares about you most!