Listening to God is an exceptional quality. By paying attention to everything He instructs us from the Word, we not only subject ourselves to Him, but also lay the path to reap the fruit of obedience. God is thrilled when we listen to Him in all matters. The principal effect of it is we conform to His will, plan and wisdom. Though we do not know what lies ahead, we can be sure of a good and effective outcome. The principal reason God wants us to listen to Him is that we remain safe, blessed and glorify Him through all areas of our life. What exactly happens when we listen to Him? The answer lies in the following. “But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers? Then they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us’” (Zech. 1:6).
The word ‘overtake’ can be understood as ‘worked for.’ When the Word reached the fathers of the then Israel and they listened, it enlightened them. It worked for them so that they repented and chose God above all else. God’s instruction is so powerful that at its appearance we are convinced of His wish to us. It takes stubbornness to reject that which we are being convinced of. While stubbornness maybe defined in a few ways, its predominant nature is the unwillingness to accept the truth presented. When those fathers listened to God, they did not give room for stubbornness; they were stubborn to stubbornness. Hence, the Word overtook them, i.e. it worked in their hearts to convince them of what God was wishing toward them.
The above verse can also be extended to other areas. Let’s say God is calling you for a specific work. He instructs you from the Word for it. When you listen, the Word overtakes you so that you are convinced He has purposed to do to you by your obedience to Him. You understand there will be fruit to your obedience. In fact, the fulfilling of your needs and desires is by listening to His specific call. Your path to serve Him is established. He not only instructs you for a specific work, but also for a specific or a right direction you must take, even if it relates to the small and simple matters of life. At times His instruction will be to wait. He only instructs you, because you subjected yourselves to listen to everything He instructs. And so, it is utterly important to have a listening ear while praying and meditating on the Word.
Once God’s instruction overtakes us, change is inevitable. Whether it is the change that should take place in us or a change that must take place for us, it is certain. As often as His instruction overtakes us, we are the more courageous, blessed and free. He instructs us by our emotions. So, if we have unhealthy feelings regarding a matter He understands them. He intends to deliver us from them. Often men feel there is none that can understand them. If they only knew the Almighty God of Christ! However, we know Him and He instructs us for our safety and His glory. Again, if our emotions are from excessive burdens in life, He speaks His Word to relieve and embolden us. And if they are of joy, He further instructs to promote us in life.
Whatever it is that is necessary for us, we now know God’s Word can overtake us for it. In other words, it works for us. “And He said to her, ‘Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter’” (Mark 7:29). The Syrophoenician women always had a listening ear to Christ’s words. She knew Him as the Son of God. When she had need, all she wanted was His say regarding her daughter. She convinced Him from faith for the good work of God. Jesus spoke to her, and it worked. He understood her emotions that were from excessive burden. Her daughter turned shipshape. Relief and joy are the aftermath of God’s instruction.
Now, the question is how deeply we desire God’s Word to overtake us. There are those who attend church services and think to be on the right track. Then, there are those that do various works and think they are doing good to God. And then there are those who simply desire God to instruct them. If we desire His instruction in all matters of life, our joy will be full. This is evident from Jesus’ words. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’” (John 7:37). Whatever God did for the fathers and Jesus in the flesh for people, Jesus is willing to do for us. He does it in the Spirit. As He said, He will make rivers of living water flow from our innermost being. Thus, God’s instruction will overtake us to that which He purposed for us. Our needs and desires too are quenched.
Let us always be with the desire for God’s instruction. If it is flamed out, the aftermath would be the following.
1. We miss out on many wonderful things of God. We may still be God’s children, but since we close our ears to His instruction, we miss out on many good things; we showed ourselves stagnant to His enthusiasm. There were a people who were once stagnant to His very salvation and lost the instruction that gives joy, blessedness and freedom. Paul said to them, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen” (Acts 28:28).
2. We forget the responsibility God gave us. In other words, we take the principles of the gospel lightly. Then, we can neither influence people for Christ nor be in a position to speak justice for God. God will have to use measures to discipline us, at times severely, so that we turn around. And Paul said, “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Gal. 2:14).
3. We become weak in hope. Our life does not reflect the promise of eternal life from God; for we act as those who hope in the flesh. Very soon we demonstrate it as redundant. Furthermore, to have hope in all the things God spoke to us becomes a distant thought. On the other hand, Paul, due to his undying desire for God’s instruction, was absolutely steadfast “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Tit. 1:2).
4. The worst thing happens. The sin which rules the hearts of the world will also begin to rule us. We permit it to entice and rule us. We again become one with the world and their habits. And all our deeds will be noted by God for consequences. “And he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues’” (Rev. 17:15).