“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Matt.3:17-4:1
I’ve been musing about the difficulty of change. I would offer that change is the fruit of learning. We can’t really suggest we have learned something unless there is some type of change. This is magnified in the area of adult spiritual development.
There are a lot of resources spent on disseminating information with the notion that mere words will all of a sudden change someone.
In the course of our faith development we do need words, we need communication. That is the beginning place where human effort and Spirit endowment meet. We see this as the pattern in Jesus’ life.
At the outset of his earthly ministry, coming up out of the water of baptism, Jesus hears those words above from Matthew 3. Then words and Spirit work together to bring faith development: Jesus is sent out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Will he remember those words? Will those words be a source of faith and life for him during the temptation?
I think Jesus’ whole life was based on those words, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ He made choices for the rest of his life to go and be with the Father. I think he made those choices to be reminded, to hear again, of those intimate words.
He would get up early, stay up late, find time in the day to hear the Father’s voice (Matt. 14: 13,23; 26:36; Mark 1:36; 6:30-32, 46; 7:24; 14:32; Luke 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 34-35; 11:1; 21:37; 22:39-41; John 6:15).
Not only did he listen to those words, but they became rich supplies of faith as he then went out and loved others with that same love. He went out and obeyed what he heard and encouraged his disciples to do the same (John 5:19-20,30,37-39; 6:63; 7:16-17; 8: 26,28-29,42; 10:16,27,37-38; 12:49-50;14:10, 26-31; 15:15; 16:12-15).
Those meetings alone with the Father happened in the city, on the road, and in desolate places. Wherever it occurred it became a sacred place, a holy place: an ordinary spot used for an extraordinary purpose; the meeting with God. Those moments were very intimate and personal.
It may sound a bit unorthodox to say, but I think those moments changed Jesus (he was learning). They filled him with faith to depend upon the Spirit to move through him.
Now if listening changed Jesus, we can only imagine what might possibly happen to us! Even though God is speaking all the time to us, I don’t think listening is actually that easy. It requires some change on our part to listen and hear God’s voice. We have to change and make similar choices Jesus made, choices in the time we have. Choices to take that time to be with the Father. Time to listen, not just talk. Listening is hard; we must choose to be attentive, choose to battle through the temptations that come from all the competing voices. We have to learn how to do this, it doesn’t just come naturally.
The Scriptures are the primary means by which we learn to listen. Learning both the skills of study as well as devotional reading of Scripture are the great instructors in learning what the voice of God sounds like. We first learn what God’s voice sounds like. Then, as we engage in other means by which God speaks or as we merely go throughout our normal day of temptations and battles, we will have a clearer understanding of what He may be saying in the moment. Then we must exercise faith, as Jesus did, to let the Spirit work through us to obey what we may have heard.
Everything we do hinges upon the hard work of learning how to listen.
I pray this as a blessing upon you.