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Hearing vs. Listening 

“So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

Hearing is an essential component of the communication process.  Hearing is impeded by several factors: Distance: Too far away; Competition: Too much noise; Attention: Pre-occupied; Audibility: Not enough volume;  Meaning: Language and/or connotations not understood; Credibility: Speaker not relevant or knowledgeable.  These factors could not be more critical when it comes to hearing the Word of God. 

God’s Word determined the fate of Noah’s generation. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:37-39. This generation heard Noah’s preaching, but they remained ignorant until it was too late.  They heard the word, but it had no effect on them.  The operant question is:  Why? Why didn’t the preached word result in the transfer of viable, sound knowledge?  Did they have alternative explanations to the preached word?

Did they think Noah was crazy, extreme, out-of-touch? Did they think they were on the cutting edge of technological change?  Did they deny that they no crisis was imminent?  Did they think Noah’s presence was becoming a liability to society? 

One may hear without listening. “Who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 2:7. When people hear the word with the right attitude, something good happens!  “They who received the word gladly were baptized…”  Acts 2:40-42.  God speaks even if He knows His words will not be accepted.  He knocks on the door of an empty house. Why?  Because He will not be at fault for anyone’s failure to be saved.  “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Some kinds of knowledge can only be received with a right attitude.  If our attitude is not right, it will be as though that word was never spoken to us in the first place.  That means that hearers must interact with the word.  Faith: I believe it. Doubt: I’m not sure.  I want more evidence. Passivity: I’m not interested.  Rejection: I despise it. Acceptance: I will do it. 

Be very careful about how you hear and respond to the Word of God!  Make the most, not the least, of the Word of God.  Be fearful of opposing the Word of God. Take care not to overlook the Word of God. Do not add to or take away from the Word of God.  Never tamper with or assign private interpretations to the Word of God. “[Paul] as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” Peter 3:16.  

The Word of God, as the Source of Truth, must be spoken and received to be effective.  When you hear the Word of God but do not receive it, you become liable for it anyway.  God’s Word must be met with obedience, even if we do not understand it.  Otherwise, it is as though we pass judgment on the perfect Word of God.  This leads us to a dynamic conclusion: the Word remains dormant and inactive to the unbeliever; but when the Word is mixed with faith, it produces a powerful result. Don’t just hear, but listen.  Read and believe!  Trust and obey!

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