If you have ever been part of a marriage conference or counseling…they teach you the art of active listening. Each has the others undivided attention as they converse back and forth…repeating back to the person what they heard and asking, “Is this what you meant?” There is much more listening done than speaking, and more unselfish attention given than self-centeredness. Listening to the Lord is a lot like that. It is not blabbering on incessantly about our own feelings and emotions…it’s listening with all our being…taking the time to be quiet…hearing and then heeding His voice.
Jesus taught the crowds that clamored around Him with parables…but when He was alone with His disciples, He would explain the meaning behind them. It tells us in Mark 4:10 that, “When He was alone, the Twelve and the others around Him asked Him about the parables.” Reading about God from some author isn’t the same as being alone with God yourself. Solitary time with God and His Word enables you to ask those tough questions you’re confused about. And as you probe deeper into His Word, that alone time with God becomes even more important…for it’s then that He can teach, edify, and exhort you.
Natural human love expects something in return. To sacrifice for you, you must first be really special to me, and then I also expect to be reciprocated for what I did. But in this Scripture, Paul was willing to give it all…that I may be able to get you to God. The real test here isn’t one’s willingness to teach or preach, but one’s willingness to serve. Service to others takes our time, energy, and emotional strength. It encroaches on our personal space…robs us of “me” time, and turns our carefully crafted schedules upside-down. Expending yourself for the Gospel… helping, and supporting others is a thankless job by human estimation…but it’s counted as everything in the eternity of God.
God is a generous giver and His desire is to bless us. It says in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So as big-hearted as God is towards us, we need to reflect that generosity in our giving to others. But He’s not just talking about money here…for it’s easy to give money. No, He’s talking about our time…and we’re probably more tight-fisted about that than any amount of money we’d give. Proverbs 21:26 tells us, “The righteous give without sparing.” So if you’ve been stingy with your time for the Lord…think of this…you will never be able to out give God.
In this passage God is doing away with this well-known proverb and giving His people a new one. For in the next verse He exclaims, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to Me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to Me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Here God gives us a declaration of individual responsibility for our sins…for only us are accountable for our sins…and some day, we will be the only person that will answer for them.
It tells us here, if you love God – you hate sin. There’s no middle ground or compromise for this statement either. If Jesus is living inside of you, sin and wickedness should evoke within you a strong aversion and loathing. If sin of any type is still enticing, tempting, and luring you…even if you don’t act on it…I pray that you confess this captivation and ask for forgiveness. For our God is not only able to rescue you from the hand of the oppressor, but give you peace.
For many, life has been hard. Years have been lost to bad choices, addictions, and the consequences caused by other people’s decisions. We can’t but feel that our life has been robbed of time. But the Lord is telling us in this Scripture that He will completely fulfill those lost years…allowing us to reclaim the happiness and contentment…the peace and security that we thought we’d never have again. For He is the God of redemption – accomplishing the impossible, and bringing to pass the unimaginable in our lives.