In my sermon yesterday, I provided “10 Ways to Hear God More Clearly,” summarized from Thomas Watson’s book Heaven Taken By Storm. And I promised my church that these principles would be posted online, in case they were not able to write them down in the course of my preaching about them.
Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686. He is widely recognized as a faithful leader among the Puritans; well-read and well-loved by many. Heaven Taken By Storm is a book about the Christian life. In particular, he addresses the need for all Christians to take Christ seriously, and to fight valiantly for gospel comfort and holiness through faith in Jesus.
Below are 10 principles for hearing God more clearly, either when listening to His Word through preaching on the Lord’s Day, or in small group study, or even personal, daily devotional time.
- 1. When you come to God’s house (or God’s Word), do not forget to also prepare your soul with prayer. Since we cannot rightly understand or apply God’s eternal truths, revealed in Scripture, without God working in us, prayer is essential. Thus, we should ever be imploring God to help us.
- 2. Come with a holy appetite for the Word. Watson believed a good appetite promotes good digestion. Ask yourself, are you ready to hear God’s Word? Do you ready yourself? On Sunday or any other day of the week, how easy is it for the cares and worries of life to distract us from a focused readiness to hear from God? On Sunday morning, may our preparation not be merely of the body (putting on clothes and brushing hair), but also a preparation of heart.
- 3. Come with a tender, teachable heart, asking, “What shall I do, Lord?” It is foolish to expect a blessing if you come with a hardened worldly-minded heart. Therefore, we must bring our hearts into a right frame before coming to God’s Word, one that is teachable and ready to hear and act.
- 4. Be attentive to the Word preached. When Jesus spoke, people were attentive, hanging on His every word. Since it is the voice of Jesus which comes through the written Word of God, we must still hang on His every word. When we hear preaching or study the Bible for ourselves, let’s be attentive by giving our full attention.
- 5. Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, willing to hear the counsels and reproofs of the Word. Everyone loves to hear the promises of God, they are precious and magnificent. But do we have ears to hear His instructions and reproofs as well? God is a faithful Father, having compassion on us, His children. He speaks words of life to us, which we ought to receive in humility and dependence.
- 6. Mingle the preached Word with faith. If the chief ingredient of a medicine is missing, the medicine will not be effective. In hearing God’s Word, faith is that key ingredient. In fact, the Bible clearly teaches us that we cannot please God without faith, and that our relationship with God begins and continues by hearing with faith.
- 7. Strive to retain and pray over what you have heard. Don’t let the sermon (or your personal Bible reading) run through your mind like water through a screen, as though it should go in one ear and out the other. Be diligent to take notes and carry them with you, on paper or in your mind if you’re memory is strong enough.
- 8. Practice what you have heard. Live out the sermons you hear. Doers of the Word are the best hearers.
- 9. Beg God to accompany His Word with the effectual blessing of the Holy Spirit. Again, the Holy Spirit is responsible to lead us into all truth. He illumines our minds to understand the Scriptures. Thus we should, again, regularly ask God the Father to cause His Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
- 10. Familiarize yourself with what you have heard. When you come home from church or down from your study, speak to your family about what you’ve heard the Bible. The people of God–in the Church or in the home–are a family. We are united together in Christ, as brothers and sisters, and should share together in the gospel blessings of God’s Word.
I encourage you to print this page, or bookmark it in your browser. Come back to it often and practice, practice, practice these principles. They will strengthen your grip on God and help you hear from Him more clearly.
*Credit to Joel Beeke, reference unknown.