What Did You Say?

By Harold Fite

One would think that we as Americans, having lived in this country since birth, would have no difficulty in communicating with one another. But strange as it may seem, the opposite is true. We have a difficult time “getting it across.”

One of the great problems in marriage is lack of communication between husband and wife. Parents and children do not really know one another because of a break-down in communication. Loss of life has resulted from poor communication or none at all. The recent shelling of U.S.S. Stark by Iraq is a prime example. In the sports arena, a high percentage of “busted” plays occur because someone didn’t get the message. Those in the market place are constantly stressing “get it right,” but like our tax forms, verbiage in the office memos makes it difficult to understand them. Doctors and lawyers have created for themselves a language which the average person cannot understand. Many fail to recognize that we talk to “express” not to “impress.”

Why do we have this difficulty in communicating? While verbiage may be the cause in some instances, in my opinion the real culprit is the failure to listen! In communicating with a person, listening plays an important part. We spent 80 percent of our time communicating, and 45 percent of this time is spent in listening. But most of us, however, listen at an efficiency of less than 25 percent. In schools students spend 60-70 percent of their classroom time in listening. In business, listening is cited as being the most critical managerial skill. Seminars and classes in college are now dealing with the art of listening.

Listening is more than just hearing: (1) there must be the interpreting of what is heard, which leads to an understanding; (2) evaluation, when you weigh the information and decide how you will use it; (3) reaction, based on what you heard, and how you evaluated it – you react.

Poor listening can be attributed to prejudice, being overly emotional, and various other distractions. And we all must accept the simple fact that we cannot do a good job of listening while we are talking!

Now let’s put all of this in the framework of the spiritual. In a recent Gallup study conducted for the Christian Broadcasting Network, when asked how God communicated today, one in three (36 percent) said God has spoken directly to them, and 11 percent said they believe God speaks out loud to people. Nearly half of all Americans (48 percent) said they believe God speaks through one’s internal feelings and impressions, and 49 percent said God also speaks through the Bible.

The problem with many is that they haven’t been listening! The writer to the Hebrews said, “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1,2).

In olden times God spoke through the prophets (Ezek. 38:17), his method varying with the messenger and the message. By mouth he spoke to Adam (Gen. 3); through an angel he spoke to Lot (Gen. 19); he used a dream, a bush and an ass to speak to Jacob, Moses, and Balaam respectively, and wrote a message on the wall for Belshazza (Dan. 5). But in this dispensation of time God speaks to us through his Son. He doesn’t communicate with us directly, or through dreams, feelings, or other human beings – but only through his Son. On the mount of transfiguration God said, “This is by beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5).

The reasons for not hearing Jesus are the same in the spiritual realm as in the secular. Prejudice closes the mind to truth. When people have a preconceived idea of how things should be, there is the tendency to close the mind to anything contrary to it. The Jews had a preconceived idea of what the Messiah would be. When he didn’t fit their concept they rejected him. Jesus said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15).

Being overly emotional negates one’s reasoning powers. When a person says he has the baptism of the Spirit, can speak in tongues, feels that he is saved, and wouldn’t trade his feelings for a stack of Bibles, you might as well save your breath to cool your coffee, for that person is not going to listen while in that state.

Poor listening in business and the social realm may cost jobs, money, and friendships, but to fail to listen to God has eternal repercussions. Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how you hear” (Luke 18:8).

How does God communicate with us today? Through his word as it is articulated through Christ. Are you listening?

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 16, p. 487
August 20, 1987