Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching,
1 Tim 4:2.
Thomas Watson was one of those wonderfully, practical Puritans we need to learn from today. To help his congregation benefit from His faithful, biblical preaching, he once gave them “Ten Commands for Hearing God’s Word.” Here is my slight paraphrase and summary of what He said.
1. When you come to hear God’s Word, don’t forget to prepare your soul with prayer. (Psalm 119:36). It is more important to get your soul ready to hear what God says than it is to dress up your body for church.
2. Come hungry for God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2). It is hungry people who benefit most from a good meal. So come hungry. Cultivate a genuine appetite and desire to hear God’s as he speaks.
3. Come with a tender, teachable heart (2 Tim 4:3). It is foolish to expect a blessing if you come with a hardened, worldly-focused heart. Ask God to give you a readiness to hear Him and do what He says.
4. Give your full attention to the Word as it is preached. (Luke 19:48; Acts 16:14; Neh 8:3). Attentive listening is hard work. Listening well does not come naturally to most of us. We must work at ignoring distractions so we can focus on what is being said. These days that includes turning off your phone or at least keeping it out of reach. What a terrible sin for God to be speaking through His word while you busy distracting yourself with a game or surfing the web. Hearing takes conscious effort, but it is worth it. Indeed, hearing God’s word can be a matter of life and death for your soul. (Deut. 32:47).
5. Receive the word humbly. (James 1:21). Humility begins with a heart that acknowledges God’s authority and is thus ready to submit to His greater wisdom. Only fools imagine they know more than God, or can figure things out apart from Him. It is the word planted deep in your souls that gives you the wisdom that leads to life and salvation.
6. Receive the preached Word with faith. One of the warnings given in Hebrews is that those who fell under judgement did so because, even though they heard the word with their ears, they did “mix it with faith” (Heb. 4:2). Faith is necessary since it is through faith that we lay hold of God and believe what He says. If the main ingredient of a medicine is missing, that medicine will be ineffective. In the same way, make sure you don’t leave out the main ingredient for effective hearing, which is faith in Christ! Believe that what He says is true! Expect Him to speak through His Word. Apply His promises as you hear them. Heed His warnings. And at every point look to Christ to help you.
7. Strive to retain what you have heard. Don’t let the sermon run through your mind like water through a sieve. Hebrews 2:1 warns that we must pay “closer attention” to what we have heard lest we drift away from it. Find ways to keep the main point of the sermon in your mind throughout the week. Perhaps jot it down and carry it with you.
8. Apply what you have heard. Find ways to “live out” the message. James 1:22 warns that we must not be “hearers” only, but “doers of the word. Doers are the best Hearers. So look for ways to put the word into practice. Let it begin to shape your life and change your attitudes until you find yourself being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Of what value is a mind filled with Bible knowledge if it does not result in a life of spiritually healthy fruit?
9. Ask God to accompany the hearing of His word with the help of His Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus says the Spirit is given to “lead us into all truth.” Without the Holy Spirit, you’ll never grasp the truth of God’s word. But with His help, you can grow in your knowledge and experience of Him daily! Ask Him to take His living word and plant it deep within your life!
10. Take steps to familiarize yourself with what you have heard. When you get home, discuss the message with your family. Ask your children if they understood what was said. If not, review it with them (this will help you and them). Talk about it with a friend after church. Ask them what they though was the most important point, and then share your own thoughts with them. Let the word continue to dwell richly among you!
Striving to make the best use of our time for the glory of God in all things!