Over the summer, while on sabbatical, we enrolled our two-year old daughter in a music class called “The Music Class.”  The people who created this class are either completely unoriginal when it comes to names or it is “The” class to teach your kid about music.  Regardless, at the beginning of the summer when my wife suggested this for our daughter I thought it would be a great idea.  If you have never been to one of these classes imagine a room full of nannies, moms and toddlers sitting in a circle and dancing around a room with egg shakers, colorful scarfs and other musical instruments singing songs about dolls, ducks and going to the zoo.

It looked a little something like this…

I thought that this class would be a great idea for our two-year old.  That is, until my wife suggested I take her to the class since I had all of this extra time.   All summer I ended up being the lone male in the room feeling completely awkward and uncomfortable in this sea of nannies and moms trying to retain whatever shred of masculinity I had left.

And while those classes were some what on the awkward side, there was one moment during the course of the summer that was actually quite profound.  As we were sitting in a circle getting ready to sing the next song, the teacher of the classes gave her usual charge about the importance of using the CD’s and song books in order to sing these songs with our kids at home.  And boy did we ever.  There were times I found myself alone in the car out running errands singing songs about “lizard blues,”  “the noble Duke of York,” and some frog named “Senior el Coqui.”  That CD was on all the time.

But as she was reminding us the to sing these songs with our kids she said in passing, “Listening is a learned skill.  And singing these songs with your kids helps them to learn how to listen.”  Huh… Her comments made me pause and say to myself, “I think that might be true.”  And all of a sudden I began to recall times I had been out on a walk with Kate pointing out to her the different sounds that we would hear.  A bird singing in the trees.  A train speeding past on the tracks.  A dog barking in the distance.  Instinctually I would point out all of these sounds in order to teacher Kate about listening to her surroundings.

And just like listening to the sounds of the physical world is a learned skill, listening to the sounds of the spiritual world is also a learned skill.  In John 10 Jesus says to his disciples,

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

A significant part of following Jesus is learning how to listen, learning how to recognize the voice of the shepherd.  Jesus goes on to say that this is actually a serious matter, as serious as life or death.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

In Isaiah 55 God says to his people,

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.

When it comes to learning how to listen for God’s voice, it’s not so much that we aren’t listening, but rather all too often we are listening to the wrong voice.  Because our ears and hearts aren’t fully trained, the voice of the enemy fills our minds and we are led down   a path that can lead to death.

If listening for the shepherds voice is a learned skill, how do we grow in this area?

We grow in recognizing God’s voice by knowing God.  Not just knowing about God, but actually knowing Him.  I know my wife incredibly well.  Better than I know any body else.  Because I know her so well, it’s easy for me to recognize her voice even in the midst of many other voices.  One of the unique features of my wife’s voice is her singing voice.  Even when she is singing with a small group or in a choir, and all of the different voice are coming together to make one sound, I can still pick out her voice from the collective whole.  I have come to easily recognize her voice by coming to know her, by spending time in her presence.

The same is true of God.  The more time we spend in God’s presence, the more we grow to intimately know God and the easier it is to recognize His voice.  The way we spend time in God’s presence is through…

1. His Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  It says in Hebrews 1, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

2. His Spirit.  In John’s Gospel Jesus says, “ But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears.”

3. His People.  In Ephesians 4 Paul uses the analogy of a human body to describe the people of God.  In order for a body to function properly, it needs all the parts working together.  The same is true of the church.  We come to know God in His fullness only when we are living in community.

1. What other ways would you say we grow in hearing God’s voice?
2. What are different things that hinder us from hearing God’s voice?