Open Our Ears

A new year always inspires new resolutions and goals for the coming year.  I haven’t really made resolutions in the last couple of years, but I did set some goals.  Last year, I didn’t accomplish all of the goals I had aspired for myself, so coming into 2024, I wanted to set myself up for better success.  

One of my biggest goals this year is to be more intentional with my time, starting with my quiet time. If I can be honest, my quiet time over the past couple of months hasn’t been very strong.  It’s been short, rushed, and not very intentional.  I want 2024 to be different.  I want to read the Word every day and not just read it to check it off the list, but read to understand, ask questions, and hear what God says through those verses.

I was reminded to stop and hear what God has to say a couple of weeks ago when I had the opportunity to lead the worship service for Opendoor Littles.  The theme for the month was “Heroes Listen to God,” and we talked about how Samuel had to listen to God when Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king.  

READ: 1 Samuel 16:1-12 (NLT)

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

…In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”  Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”
“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.
And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

Samuel would have anointed the wrong son if he hadn’t stopped to hear God’s direction.  I asked the group if God is speaking all the time, and most of them said, “Yes!”  Then I asked if we always hear what God is saying, and they surprisingly answered, “No!”  I reminded them that we always need to pause and ask God what He is saying so we can hear and obey.

Conference 2024 is finally here this weekend, and Pastor Aaron asked all of us to fast and pray in preparation.  For me, fasting is all about intentional pausing to seek and listen to what God has to say.  In the past, I haven’t experienced anything earth-shattering on the other side of fasting, but I do believe that God honors our obedience and willingness to pause and reflect.  God is always moving on my behalf, even if I can’t see it.  Part of being more intentional with my time this year is watching less TV and enjoying the silence or listening to worship music.  I believe this provides more margin in my mind to hear what God is saying at that moment.

In my quiet time this morning, I was reading Matthew 6:16-18 (NLT):
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

For the first time, I noticed the phrase, “...your Father, who sees everything, will reward you…” is repeated 3 times in Matthew 6 (verses 4, 6, and 18).  Jesus uses this phrase when He talks about giving, praying, and fasting.  Fasting is something between you and God to draw you closer to Him, to hear His heartbeat, and to hear what He has to say about you.  Sure, we can skip a meal, not watch TV, get off social media, say “no” to sugar, or whatever your fast may be; but if we don’t fill that space with intentional time with God, that time is not nearly as fruitful as it could be.

ACTIVATION:  Add 5 or 10 more minutes to your quiet time to stop, pause, and listen to hear what God is speaking over you in this season.

Over the next few days, I challenge you to stop or pause just a little bit longer.  Sit in the silence for a few more moments. Turn on worship music instead of the radio or TV.  Let’s prepare our hearts for what God has to say during Conference and for the year.  God is always speaking, but we have to be quiet long enough to hear what He has to say.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” - Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT):

PRAYER:  God, thank You for always speaking, whether I hear it or not.  As I set aside time to fast and intentionally listen, speak Your truth over me.  Illuminate what is hidden - areas, situations, or people that I need to release to You.  Remind me of promises You have made that I have forgotten.  Remind me who You are, regardless of the circumstances.  Thank You for everything You have done, You are doing, and everything You are going to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!
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Andre Weston - January 19th, 2024 at 5:03am

This was a good read as this is something I constantly think about. Being more intentional with my time and reading my word, prayer, fasting, etc. Sometimes being distracted by “noise” like TV and social media can cause stagnation with drawing nearer to Jesus. I throughly enjoyed this read and will make more time throughout my day to spend time with the father.

Yolanda James - January 19th, 2024 at 6:04am

I'm thankful that God has put people in place to minister through instruments such as devotionals. I love the REAL-ness that is expressed through them, reassuring me that I'm not alone with the ups-downs of life followed with practical things to do to stay encouraged and to keep pushing until Jesus's return!

Thank you, Ms Joy!

Rebecca - January 19th, 2024 at 9:32am

Joy, this is so good, speaks to me on many levels! Stop and listen, and actually just enjoy the moments with God, let those moments linger as long as He wants. Most important, ask Him the questions, and allow for His response! He is already moving and working, and He wants us to hear Him. Thank you for sharing your heart, Joy!