YOU HEAR ME NOW?
LISTENING LIKE SAMUEL
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
June 3, 2018
Text: I Samuel 3:1-10
(In first service, this sermon begins with a children’s sermon that is based on one found at www.sundaychildrensfocus.com/hearing-the-voice-of-jesus, that talks about helping children hear the voice of God)
Good morning everyone! I have an amazing Bible verse to share with you. It comes from the gospel of John. It tells us that Jesus calls us His sheep – and He knows us like a Good Shepherd. And He will lead us, and we can recognize His voice. Now isn’t that amazing? We can recognize the voice of Jesus!
I want to do a little experiment this morning. I want to see if you can recognize your parent’s voice. Would you come over here (Lauren…Divinity) and turn your back to the congregation so you can’t see anyone. Ok. (Lauren…Divinity), I want you to listen very carefully to some voices that you will hear – and put your hand up in the air when you hear the real voice of your mom/dad. … That’s right! You are good at recognizing the voice of your mom or dad! How did you do that? I think it’s because you have heard them talking all your life, every day! When you are around someone all the time like that – and talk with them a lot – you get to know their voice!
In the same way, Jesus says that we should be able to recognize His voice! And how do we do that? By spending time with Him – learning His stories in the Bible, praying to Him, being in church and Sunday School! The more we are around Jesus – the more we will learn to recognize His voice. Sometimes it is like a still small voice – kind of like a whisper. But when we learn to recognize His voice, we will know which way to go and we will also know a lot of peace and joy, because we are following His ways.
Children's Prayer: Thank you God for sending Jesus who is like a good shepherd. Thank you that he knows us and that we can learn to recognize his voice and his leading. Help us always to follow Him. Amen
(Beginning for 2nd service, if there are no children)
When I was growing up in the 1970’s, my father jumped into the craze of the CB radios – citizen band radios. During our vacations, he would connect a CB radio and start talking to various truckers and other drivers on the highway. Do you remember those days? It was during the days of the oil crisis and fuel shortage and 55 mph on the highway. People stared using CB radios to talk to other drivers, like the truckers, to find out where good gas stations were – to alert each other to traffic jams ahead – or where the police – known as “smoky bear” – were setting up speed traps.
They had their own lingo and slang to talk to each other. For example, they would say things like “put your pedal to the metal” or “10-4 good buddy”. And to see if a driver was in a close enough range to hear you, you would click on the CB and say, “Have you got your ears on?” – which meant: “Are you tuned in? Are you listening?”
That time of the CB’s, as I remember it, didn’t last very long. I remember how my mother and us kids really didn’t like the CB as it seemed to interrupt conversation in the car.
But now some 40 years later – another way to communicate has become very popular – and of course that is the cell phone. And we use that not just to communicate with other drivers – but with anyone we want to dial up. But we don’t say, “Have you got your ears on?” anymore. Now we ask: “Can you hear me now?”
That happened to me just this past week when Greg and I were trying to talk to each other on the cell phone. I kept saying to Greg, “Can you hear me now?” and there was just silence on the phone. Greg could hear me – but I couldn’t hear him. We just had a bad connection. I finally had to pull over and restart my phone so that we could get a better connection. And finally, I heard Greg loud and clear.
“Do you have your ears on?” “Can you hear me now?” Are you listening - can you hear me? It’s a question we often ask each other – but really the more important question is coming from God Himself – “Do you have your ears on? Can you hear my voice?”
*** (start here after Children’s sermon) How good is your signal strength when it comes to hearing from God? If you were to rate your communication with God, how many bars would you give it? Would there be two bars – three bars – or would you be “out of range” – or would you be in a “dead spot”?
God is wanting to communicate with us…! He wants to speak with us because He knows us and loves us and wants to be in a close relationship with us … and he wants us to listen. John 10:27 says "My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me." When we listen to His voice, God will direct our steps and show us the way to go. And God will give us, through the Holy Spirit, love and power, healing and hope.
BUT - if we don’t listen and learn God's voice – we can get lost in the distress and uncertainty of this life and can end up following just about any voice that seems interesting … even ones that are deceptive.
Today, we are starting a new sermon series that we are calling, “Can You Hear Me Now?” We will explore how to hear God’s voice in the chaos and noise of the world – and discern His calling on our lives.
As we go through the series, we’ll actually be looking at 7 love languages of God, as described in Mark Batterson’s book Whisper. We’ll hear how God speaks to us through Scripture, and whispers to us through our desires and doors and dreams as well as people and promptings and pain. Our prayer is that we will all learn better how to discern God’s voice and follow His leading for our faith journey.1
Today we are going to hear about someone who heard God’s voice and prayed a bold prayer that made a difference in his life and the life of Israel.
Get your Bibles and turn to I Samuel. I Samuel is in the Old Testament, just after the book of Ruth. As you are looking that up, let me tell you a bit about Samuel. Samuel was the son of Hannah and Elkinah. Hannah had prayed and prayed that God would give her a son – because she was barren. In her prayers she said that if she could have a son, she would give him back to God. So, God answered her prayer and gave her a son.
Hannah kept her promise and took Samuel to the Tabernacle when he was weaned and left him there to serve the Lord with Eli, the chief priest.
When we arrive at our story for today, Samuel is a young boy, maybe around 12 years old. Follow along with me as I begin reading at verse 1.
"Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon."
What does it mean that messages from God were rare and visions were uncommon? Did God abandon them – turn His back on them? No – I believe God is always trying to communicate with us – reaching out to us. The problem is the people – too many distractions, too much self-centeredness, doing what was right in their own eyes. The people weren’t listening for God. In Ezekiel, God complained that "these people have ears to hear but they never hear – eyes to see, but they never see."
But God was about to change all of that when He calls Samuel.
2 One night, Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed.
3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!” “Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?”
5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So, he did.
6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”
Again, Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli.
“Here I am. Did you call me? Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy.
9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So, Samuel went back to bed. 10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
That night, the Lord did speak – and Samuel listened. God gave Samuel a message of judgment that would be upon the sons of Eli. It was a difficult message to deliver but Samuel was obedient, and did just what God asked him to do.
Can you imagine what it must been like to be Samuel? How would you feel hearing the voice of God audibly calling your name, and giving you a mission? Now you might say: "I can't hear the voice of God – God doesn't speak to us like that now." But I believe God does continue to speak to us. God is continually reaching out to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit is our advocate that lives within us – and will never leave us. He speaks to us within our spirit, guiding us into truth, reminding us what Jesus said, convicting us of sin, comforting us and encouraging us in each step of our journey of faith. While we might not hear an audible voice calling out to us – God can speak within our hearts and spirits. And it often will sound like a gentle whisper – nudging us, filling us with peace and covering us with His presence and promise.
Mark Batterson, in his book Whisper, asks the question, “Why does God speak to us in a whisper? He says, “Think about what you do when you whisper. You have to get really close to someone to hear them. You have to lean in toward them – putting your ear to their mouth. That really is what God wants. God speaks in a whisper so that we can be close and intimate…and so that we can hear His heart. He loves us that much.”2
God is wanting to speak with us. But the question is, “Are we really listening?” What can we do to really hear the voice of God? How can we listen like Samuel did?
First and foremost, we have to have faith. We have to claim Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and open our hearts to having a personal relationship with Him. And then we have to believe that the Holy Spirit is present and wanting to speak to us. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 tells us to trust the Lord with all our hearts – and lean not into our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our steps. When we have faith, we open ourselves up to the hearing Christ speak to us.
Then we have to focus our prayer life and position ourselves in such a way to hear from God. In Psalm 46:10, God tells us: "Be still and know that I am God." The more we take time to be quiet before the Lord, the closer we will be in relationship with Him. We live in a noisy world. Our schedules are too busy – our life is too loud! And all that noise may be the greatest block to our communication with God. We need time to be quiet and listen for God’s still small voice. As Mark Batterson puts it, “God often speaks loudest when we’re the quietest.” We must allocate time to listen and pray. And make that a top priority in our day. God wants more than our left-over time. God wants us seeking Him first and foremost.
When Samuel heard God's voice, his response was "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." All too often, our prayers go more like: "Listen God, for your servant is speaking." I know I like to talk a lot to God and it is really hard at times to just be quiet. But God really wants us to listen – not just tell Him our shopping list of things we want Him to do for us. The secret of Samuel's success, I think, was he asked God to speak - that he positioned himself to listen!
Try using the 7-word prayer of Samuel’s. Right before studying the Bible or hearing a sermon, pray: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Right as you make a decision about how to spend your time or how to spend our money, pray: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Mark Batterson calls it a bold prayer that can change your life for the better if we are really listening.
You need to believe and listen and then be sure to follow through and do something with what you hear. When Samuel heard God – he obeyed and gave the message from God to Eli. But it didn’t stop there. Samuel continued to listen to God and grow in faith. In verse 19, we read that as Samuel: “grew up … the Lord was with Him and God let none of His words fall to the ground” His words, that he spoke from God were totally trustworthy and reliable. And all of Israel was changed because – because Samuel listened and followed through by obeying God’s voice.
When God call us, we have to act on what we hear. Hearing God’s word should make a difference in your life. And it will make a difference in the people around us.
Bill Hybels, former pastor of the mega church Willow Creek in Chicago, was one who has made a difference in many lives. When he was in the 2nd grade, he heard the story of Samuel, hearing the voice of God calling him. He was fascinated by the story. After class, he asked his teacher, “Does God still speak to little boys?” The teacher assured him that God does indeed still speak to boys – and she believed that God would speak to him. She believed that if Bill would keep listening to God speak – that He would use his life in a very special way. She then gave him a poem to keep and help him remember that story. That poem was a prayer that inspired Bill Hybels to really be the man he is today. The poem went like this:
Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear, an open ear, O Lord;
Alive and quick to hear each whisper of Thy Word;
Like him to answer to Thy call and to obey Thee first of all.3
May it be that our prayer as well.
The voice of God is calling – can you hear Him? Perhaps He is calling out to you today to make a decision for Him – to give your heart to Him and follow Him. Maybe He is speaking to you, urging you to make First Christian your church home – a place where you can serve Him and grow in your faith. Maybe He is speaking to you, calling you to come forward and re-dedicate yourself to Him. How is God calling you today? Won’t you respond to that call today? Come forward and we will pray with you and celebrate you answering God’s call.
1Batterson, Mark. Whisper. Multnomah Publishing, 2017.
2Ibid. page 9.
3Hybels, Bill. Whisper. Zondervan Publishing, 2010.