Rev. Mark H. Creech
You may have heard the story about the young priest who was playing golf alone one day when he approached the fifth tee. Between him and the green was a small lake. As he was considering which club he ought to choose, a Heavenly voice spoke: “Use the 7-iron.”
Shocked and startled by this divine intervention, the young priest then pulled out his 7-iron.
“Now put down a new ball,” the voice instructed.
Again, the priest did as he was told.
“Now, take a practice swing,” the voice said.
The priest took a practice swing. After the swing, the voice spoke once more: “Put down an old ball.”
If you’re a golfer, you’ll get the joke. If not, you probably won’t understand it.
Similarly, if your heart is open to God, you can hear him speak. If your spirit is not open, you may hear his voice, but not understand it.
Various Christian scholars have debated whether God hears the prayers of unregenerate individuals. The question seems to be answered in Jonah 1:14, where God listened to the prayers of the pagans on the boat on which Jonah had embarked. God saved them from the treacherous stormy waters in response to their prayers.
What might be said is that God is not obligated to answer the prayers of any person who resists his sovereignty in their lives. Nevertheless, for the advancement of his own purposes, God may listen to and answer the prayers of an unbeliever.
Still, perhaps a question of equal significance is whether an unsaved person can hear God.
One of the most interesting chapters in the Bible is Acts 9, which records the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Saul had been a relentless persecutor of the early church. After being literally confronted by the living Christ on the Damascus road, Saul would ultimately be changed to become the Apostle Paul.
Saul’s conversion experience was dramatic, to say the least. He was authorized with papers from the religious leaders of his day and given an official entourage to pursue Christians and have them arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison. He was zealous in this cause and even played a role in the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. But suddenly, on his journey to Damascus in search of believers there, an exceedingly bright light from heaven enveloped him. Saul fell to the ground and heard the voice of Christ asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul, the Bible says, listened to the Lord and obeyed his instructions with a receptive heart.
The account of what happened to the people who were with Saul that eventful day, some have suggested, is contradictory. Acts 9:7 says the men with Saul were astonished at what happened. They could see the light and heard a voice speaking to Saul, but they couldn’t see the source of the voice. In Acts 22:9, Paul testified before a mob in Jerusalem that he could hear Christ’s voice, but the men with him couldn’t hear it.
There is no error in the biblical story, and the diligent student of God’s Word can see that the seemingly opposing texts are actually complementary. In other words, those who were with Saul heard a sound, a noise; but they couldn’t make out what was being said. They were rendered speechless by something supernatural happening, and they could hear the sound of a voice speaking to Saul, but they couldn’t understand the words spoken. Consequently, they heard, but they didn’t hear.
And such is the case for many today. People are exposed to the teachings of the Bible. Through various means, they hear it. God’s message falls on their ears, but his holy words never enter their hearts. God always deals with the heart. When a person opens up to God, they can hear with clarity the voice of God – then and only then will an individual hear the instruction of God’s voice and receive Christ as Savior – only then will that person walk in the ways of the Lord.
Over the years, I’ve known some remarkable Christian apologists. I’ve watched their debates with some of the most brilliant unbelieving minds in the world. The apologists’ arguments in defense of Christianity are both superior and irrefutable. Yet, most skeptics and atheists who contend with them respond by doubling down on incredibly spurious and illogical contentions. How can such intelligent people be so foolish?
As someone once said, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” The same could be said of hearing: “There is none so deaf as he who will not hear.”
One day a man said to me, “I would believe, if it could first be shown to me.” I responded, “It will be shown to you, when you first open your heart to God.”
The voice of God is only heard by a receptive heart.
The apostle Paul said of the people in Rome with whom he had shared the Gospel, “For this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their heart and be converted.” (Acts 28:27).
Can you hear the voice of God? Does God speak to you and direct your life? Do the words of the Bible resonate deeply with you? If not, the problem is not likely that there’s something wrong with your hearing; instead, there’s something wrong with your heart.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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