(The first of several articles on the incident of Mark 2:1-12)
“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the door way, and He was speaking the Word to them” (Mark 2:1-2).
Everything starts with listening.
Everywhere the Lord Jesus went, people flocked to hear Him. They covered hillsides and blanketed lakeshores. They packed out synagogues and homes, so intent were they on every word coming from those divine lips. “Never man spake like this man,” they said (John 7:46).
People of our generation prefer to speak than listen, to argue rather than to hear and believe. They want their wisdom reduced to sound bites, to bumper sticker phrases.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” says Paul in Romans 10:17. Faith in God is given to those who will hear His Word.
Really hear it. Not just register it or record it, and not just scan it. Take it inwardly and digest it. Think about it, treasure it in our hearts, and meditate upon it.
You want faith? Want to know if God is real and Jesus is everything He claimed? Interested in checking out the Christian faith? Perhaps you are tired of seeing people slam Christianity while others glorify it and have decided to see for yourself? Good.
Start with the Word. The Holy Bible. Get into it and listen for God’s voice.
He makes you a promise: “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
I will be found by you.
God does not play games with those wanting to know Him. He’s not into hide-and-seek. He does not make Himself scarce when someone comes looking. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). God, who has given us the best Heaven had, is not going to start holding out on us now.
He wants to be found by you. He makes Himself available.
Question: How does one go about listening to God?
–Put yourself in a place where you can listen. Turn off all distractions.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” –Blaise Pascal
–Quieten your spirit. Settle down. Do not be in a hurry.
–Now, open the Holy Bible. Where to start? Many recommend starting with the Psalms, and there’s much to be said for that. I love the Psalms. But to learn about Jesus and the Christian faith, you’ll need to begin with the New Testament. I suggest beginning with the Gospel of Mark, then going on to the Gospel of John. Then, drop back and begin reading the entire New Testament, starting with the Gospel of Matthew and continuing through areas you read previously, all the way through Revelation.
–Keep in mind that you will not understand everything you read. Much of what you encounter will sound strange (wonderfully strange) to you. A young couple new to the Christian faith told my wife that they read the Scripture each morning at breakfast. Whenever they came to something they did not understand, the wife would say to her husband, “Just keep reading.” That’s how it’s done. Take what you understand–you’ll be surprised how accessible most of the Bible is–and leave the rest to later. You will learn more the second reading, and more every time you read the Bible.
–Have a notepad handy. Write down questions that come to mind, insights you wish to remember, verses to memorize, and whatever you believe God is saying to you about your specific situation. If outside duties are nagging at you–phone calls you need to return, tasks needing your attention–list them on the notepad and get to them when you finish here.
–I suggest you read a while, then stop and be quiet for a period. Read and wait, wait and read. From time to time, offer up a small prayer: “Help me understand, Father.”
The voice of God is in the Word of God, just as yours or mine is in our word. But God loves to speak into our hearts. I Kings 19:12 calls that “a still small voice” or “a soft whisper,” as one translation puts it.
To hear “soft whispers,” you need to be quiet yourself.
My friend Walter was working on computers in a bank office. At quitting time, the staff turned off their machines and left. Now alone in that large space, Walter realized for the first time that the bank had piped in music in the background. The noise of the machines had drowned it out.
Do you remember this tiny incident from our Lord’s ministry? “Jesus entered (Bethany) and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’ The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing (only) is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
Listening to the Lord is always the right choice.
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God. A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God. O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God–Hold us who wait before Thee near to the heart of God.
In Luke 6:27, our Lord began His revolutionary teachings on loving our enemy with this opening: “But I say to you who hear….”
Not everyone hears spiritual things. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit. They are foolishness to him” (I Corinthians 2:14).
I’m hard of hearing.
A couple of years ago, I paid a small fortune for what my doctor called “the Cadillac” of hearing aids. After a few attempts to have them adjusted to my level of hearing–unsuccessful attempts, I might add–I laid them aside and have not used them since. Consequently, my faulty hearing goes forth unabated.
Those of us who do not hear clearly often find ourselves straining to catch what was said. We may ask for it to be repeated. And we might miss some of the conversation.
We who are in this body do groan. We see poorly and we value inadequately and we hear imperfectly.
Let us labor to make ourselves available to the Spirit, to listen closely, and to have Him repeat it until we get it.