“Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.“ ‘ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears’ ” (1 Samuel 3:9,10).
AS WE SEEK GOD, WE MUST KEEP OURSELVES OPEN TO HIS WORD. Like rich, fertile soil ready to receive the sower’s seed, our hearts must be receptive to the word which God intends to plant there. Although marvelous good things can come from God’s word in our hearts, this word can’t even take root in our hearts if they are hardened or unhearing. We must be ready to listen.
To be ready to listen means that we’re ready to receive whatever God wishes to say. Yet our hearing is often hindered by presupposition and prejudice. We already have fixed ideas about what God “must” say, and there are limits to what we’ll listen to, even from God. But if we limit ourselves to what we want to hear, not many of us will hear what we need to hear. It is critically important that we move past our personal preferences and allow God to say to us whatever He wills. After all, a servant is in no position to dictate to his master what instructions the master is allowed to give. As those who would serve God, we have not been asked to serve in an “advisory capacity.” It is our role (and our high privilege) to wait upon His word and do His bidding, whatever that might be. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”
The gift of language has been vouchsafed to us by God. But the gift was not given just so that we might speak; it was given that we might hear when our God speaks to us. Great issues hinge upon our choice in this matter. Readiness to listen is no accident of personality, randomly possessed by some people and not by others. It is a deliberate decision we make to open ourselves to God’s word. James encouraged us to do this: “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21,22). If we can honestly say what Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears,” then we have a maturity that can take us toward an even greater maturity in the things of God.
“One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read his mind and think his thoughts after him” (John R. W. Stott).