By Joseph Giunta

Romans 10:17: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

There he is. He is sitting on the couch after a long day's work, relaxing and catching up on his favorite team's scores. In the background there is some noise. It is definitely something, but... "well, someone else will take care of it. I'm tired," he says to himself. These "noises" grow louder as they draw closer. Finally, his wife, with a loud and sudden burst of exertion, yells to him, "Did you hear me?" "Yes," he responds. "I heard you." "Then what did I say?"

Revelation sometimes requires us to answer a similar question. "What did I say?".

The husband, having exerted himself all day to fulfill his obligations to his everyday life, may have "heard" his wife, but he wasn't listening. So many times we go to God's word, in routine, repetition, and requirement. While all those things are good and admirable, you'll never get revelation in the word by incidental hearing, but from focused listening.

The International Standard Version quotes it this way: "Consequently, faith results from listening, and listening results through the word of the Messiah."

The difference between simple hearing and listening is attention. Hearing is a passive action. It is an ever-engaged sense that is capable of not just perceiving, but triggering a reaction to, outside stimuli several times faster than our other senses — including sight. This is why we are instructed to walk by faith (a result of hearing) and not by sight. Hearing doesn't happen because we try. It is a simple, natural reaction to the noise around us. We will never get true depths in faith and revelation if God's spoken or written word is simply another noise in our atmosphere.

Listening, on the other hand, while requiring the ability to hear, is a different thing altogether. Listening goes beyond the natural ability to hear sound and is the ability to distinguish and identify that sound from among the other noise around you.

Listening is less of a natural ability and more of a practiced skill. Listening is something that you practice. It takes some effort on the part of the listener. For God to take you into the depths and heights of His word, you must endeavor to become a student, even a practitioner, of what He teaches you. Listening is something that can be interrupted. Think about it. Even while intently listening to something, you can still hear the other things going on around you. However, a listener learns to internally turn the volume down on those things for the sake of hearing what is important, the thing you came to hear. The slightest sounds can be a distraction. We must learn to be less distracted by noise and more focused on the task at hand: listening to the word of God.

In other words, see with your ears, not with your eyes; and listen with your mind, not with your ears. When the Bible tells us that "faith comes by hearing...", it is calling for us to be listeners, learners, and walking examples of what it is we hear. We are being called to the depths of the Word. To get to that place called revelation (revealed truth), we must travel down a noisy road, not with earplugs that block everything out, but with headphones that are plugged in to His word. In revelation, we do, and not hear only.

"Did you hear me?" said God to us. "Yes, I heard you." "What did I say?" We can hear God, but are we listening?

Scriptures to study:

  • Romans 10:17
  • Luke 8:21
  • Acts 22:14
  • James 1:22-25
  • Amos 8:11
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