By Donald P. Ames
My youngest son recently returned home from Bible class and proudly announced what he had learned in class: “God talks to us through the Bible, and we talk to God through prayer.” This truth is readily recognized by those of us who are older, but I wonder if we have ever really considered its full impact? I wonder what kind of communication we really have with God?
Have you ever tried to talk to someone who could care less if you were there or who seemed determined not to talk with you? Maybe they patiently “listened,” but never actually heard one word you said. It is indeed a very frustrating experience, especially if you feel you have something important to say and they seem determined to “tune you out.” You find yourself calling upon all the resources you have available to find the words that might finally penetrate that barrier and get their attention.
God is indeed faced with that problem. He speaks to us through the Bible, as we see in Heb. 1:1-2. Jesus said those who listened to the apostles were listening to Him (Luke 10:16), and promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them (the apostles) in all their teaching (John 16:13, 1 Cor. 2:13). But so many today do not want to listen to God. They are not interested in the Bible or anything it may have to say to them. God has used many avenues therein to try and arouse their attention: prophecy, the death of His Son on the cross, the recorded miracles, the lives of the apostles, the church, and the word preached. by those who paused long enough to listen and obeyed His soul-saving message. But, they are determined not to be bothered.
Others sit in church every Sunday, going through the ritual of “listening” to God, when in reality that is all that it is-a ritual. God’s message is “tuned out”-except for a key expressions they want to hear. And when God listens for their response, it is not there. They have no time to talk to God. Perhaps they have “out-grown” prayer and God, or feel too “preoccupied” to be bothered. In either case, they seek to “tune God out.”
But even God will not force His communications upon us. His efforts are limited to His revealed word (John 20:30-31, Rom. 1:16, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, 2 Pet. 1:3) and the efforts of others to tell us about it (Rom. 10:1415, Matt. 28:19-20). If we refuse to listen, eventually God will tire of trying (2 Thess. 2:11-12, Rom. 1:26ff), and turn to those more willing to hear (Matt. 7:6). The tragedy here is some will not bother to listen until it is too late (2 Thess. 1:7-8). None of us like to be snubbed, but how freely we sometimes snub God!
“No Conversation Drop-Out”
Have you ever been engaged in a conversation, and been interrupted by someone who catches only a fragment of the conversation? Usually his remarks are completely unrelated to the topic under consideration, a rehash of what has already been established previously now being set forth as some great new idea. Generally, we grin, and quietly perhaps remark that “he has no intentions of becoming a conversation drop-out.”
Again, in talking with God we find the same problem. Many who do not bother to listen to God seek to impress others by injecting themselves as conversational authorities. They have little real grasp of what God is saying, but feel ready and willing to start commenting and expressing their views on morality, salvation, eternity, doctrine, etc. Sometimes they even resent the efforts of others to help them or to redirect the conversation back. No one, I guess, likes to admit they were caught in such a blunder.
Those interested in listening to God can see the folly of such comments, but cannot always afford to “grin and wink” at such, lest others be led astray and turned from the true conversation (2 John 9-11, I John 2:4, Rom. 16:17), and the vital message gets side-tracked on another subject (Gal. 1:6-7). Much credit goes to Cecil Willis, Ron Halbrook and others in their efforts to stop these “no conversation drop-outs” on the subject of God’s grace and fellowship today. Others have also held true to God’s message in opposing neo-pentecostalism, institutionalism, the “new morality,” etc. As Christians interested in helping others listen to God’s important message, we need to beware those who would side-track the conversation with some unrelated comment (Jude 3).
Then there is that boring fellow who always wants to monopolize the conversation completely. He is always busy telling us all he has done, or to be sure we know about all of his aches and pains. He is not interested in your . problems, only the chance to tell you his.
Some treat God the same way too. They are not interested in listening to God or trying to assist God with His problem (saving lost souls). If God seeks to correct that which they are doing, they do not hesitate to interrupt with their boasts of “good works” and to continue their side of the conversation again. Yet, on the other hand, they expect God to have a willing ear to listen to all their projects of human wisdom (so much better than His, of course), and to be ready to assist them any time they feel like pouring out to Him all their problems, desires and goals.
Certainly God wants us to communicate with Him in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17), but let us be careful we are not acting like the tax-gatherer (Luke 18)-so busy telling God of our great deeds and projects that we do not have the time to listen to His instructions too (see Matt. 7:21-23). Nor can we expect God to constantly be ready to hear. and answer our pleas if we do not intend to also hear His (Prov. 28:9).
Yes, talking with God is a wonderful and rewarding experience, but let us make sure it is a two-way communication, and not a one-sided dialogue. The latter no one sticks around to listen to for very long–and neither will God! Are YOU talking WITH God?
Truth Magazine XXI: 26, pp. 407-408
June 30, 1977