Have you ever tried listening to a newscast and found it difficult to understand what the reporter was saying due to static? Of course you have. It may have been electronic static in your television or radio. Or, it may have been the static caused by wind blowing into the reporter's microphone. Maybe the reporter was standing near a very noisy crowd. Static makes it hard to hear and understand what is being said.
Spiritual static interferes with hearing the voice of God and is an enemy of discernment. For this reason, it is wise to discover ways to tune out the static and wait in silence for God to speak. St. James offers wise counsel in his epistle, "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak" (James 1:19). Stephen Covey offers similar advice in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, when he says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." It's good advice whether you are trying to understand the divine Voice or the viewpoint of another person.
I recall the story of a dog that wandered out onto a baseball field during a major league game. The players, coaches, umpires, and people in the stands were all shouting to the dog, "Get off the field!" The dog didn't know which way to turn and kept running around on the field. At one point, the sportscaster who was describing the incident said, "He's confused because he can't detect the one voice he needs to hear; that of his master." The dog couldn't discern what to do because of the static of so many unfamiliar and angry voices.
When we are discerning what God would have us do, eliminating the static is one of the first things we need to do. Other voices and distractions make it very difficult to hear and recognize the "still small voice of God."
Certainly, we need to listen to what others have to say about the subject, as long as they are speaking the truth. But the time comes when we have to place the matter before the One whose opinion matters most. We fail in our spiritual discernment when we confuse the static for the divine Voice. We cannot hear God's response with our physical ears, but what we do hear with our phyiscal ears can block what we need to hear with our heart.
The Venite, Psalm 95:1-7, is the Invitatory Psalm we often use in Morning Prayer. Verse seven is a daily reminder of the need to eliminate the static so we can hear the voice of God: "Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!" That is my prayer for you during this day of discernment.
Horatius Bonar wrote this familiar hymn about hearing the voice of Jesus - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say. Here it is sung by the Choir of Manchester Cathedral, using the tune Kingsfold.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto me and rest; lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon my breast." I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn, and sad; I found in him a resting place, and he has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink, and live." I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, "I am this dark world's light; look unto me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright." I looked to Jesus, and I found in him my Star, my Sun; and in that light of life I'll walk till traveling days are done.
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