In Proverbs 4:20-22, A Father was giving advice to his child on what to do to achieve a full life and wholesome health. He starts by saying, "My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words" (V4) In order to be the people that God has called us to be, we need to pay attention to His word. As parents, when we have something important to say to our children, our tone and the manner of our conversation is usually different. They instinctively know that what we are about to tell them is important and that it is in their best interest to pay attention.
In Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple one afternoon and came across a man lame from birth, sitting at one of the entrances of the Temple called the Beautiful Gate. Every day, this man would be carried to the same location so he could beg to feed himself. For him, this was just another day to survive. I can imagine he must have prayed that he would make enough to feed himself for the day.
When Peter and John approached him, the first thing Peter said was, ‘Look at us!’ My interpretation of this is, ‘Pay attention, something is about to happen!’ Well, he did pay attention but for a different reason. The Bible tells us he looked at them eagerly, expecting some money (Acts 3:5) What came out of Peter’s mouth was not what he expected but it was life changing. “I don’t have what you are expecting but I have better. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” From that moment on, His life changed, he was no longer the lame man who sat at the beautiful gate begging but the man who experienced the supernatural healing of God in the name of Jesus.
Research suggests that the average person hears between 20000 and 30000 words within a 24 hour period. Now, that is a lot of words but the question is, how many of these words do we really listen to? Over the years, I have learnt to listen carefully to my wife. Earlier in our marriage, my wife and I would be having a conversation but somewhere along the line, I would switch off. It could be something related to work popping up into my mind or a conversation I had with someone else earlier in the day. Suddenly I would hear the words, “Are you listening to me?” and I would reply, “Oh yes, I am”. Most times she would let it go but some other times, she would ask me, “What was the last thing I said?” I leave the rest of the conversation to your imagination.
When Peter told the lame man to get up and walk, I am sure he was wondering, “What is this man talking about?” This was not what he was expecting or wanted to hear. He didn't even make a move to follow Peter's instruction. Peter had to step forward, took his hands and helped him up.
God speaks to us regularly through His word, through other people and even through nature but we need to carefully listen to what He is saying or we will miss out on His plans for us. It is interesting that in some of Jesus' teaching, He placed emphasis on certain statements. It is almost like He is saying, "If you forget everything else I have said, don't forget this!" For example, when the disciples asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He knew what was going on in their minds and wanted to correct any misconceptions. He started with the words, 'Verily' or as some translations put it, 'Truly' or 'Assuredly', 'I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven'.
When the scribes accused Him of being possessed by Beelzebub and was casting out demons by the rulers of demons, Jesus first got their attention by starting his response with the same words, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” because they said, “He has an unclean spirit. (Mark 3:28)
For the Word of God to have impact on our lives, we should not just merely read or hear the word but we need to listen. Hearing does not require conscious effort which is why it is easier to forget the things we hear. Listening however requires effort which is why we tend to remember the things we listen to. This is why the Father in Proverbs 4:20 advised the child to "Listen carefully to His words".
I encourage you today to carefully 'listen' to God's word as you study, hear or read His word. The reward according to the father advising his child is, "they (the words) are life to those who find them And health to all their flesh" (Proverbs 4:22)