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Take Heed How You Hear

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

I grew up in the "dark ages" when the radio provided home entertainment. With sheet­covered head I chilled to Intersanctum's creaking door. With beating heart I rode adventure trails with The Lone Ranger. With vivid imagination I knew each item that tumbled out of Fibber McGee's closet. Sometimes static swallowed the signal just when the Gangbusters were about to bust the gang, and life came crashing down. It made no difference whether the transmitter stopped transmitting or my little receiver stopped receiving; it took both to communicate.

Preaching is like that. Sometimes preachers don't transmit; sometimes hearers don't receive. Jesus addressed the hearer's responsibility in the equation when he proclaimed, "Take heed how ye hear." He urged the hearer to examine the receiver for the static's cause before blaming the transmitter.

Jesus' words are jarring not only because we attach limited importance to hearing, but also because we consider hearing to be morally neutral-no credit is given for listening; no blame attaches to turning a deaf ear. Whose concern is it if I give no thought to preparing my mind and heart for worship? What difference does it make if I make no effort to control and concentrate my mind when the Word is preached? Jesus made it his concern.

Immediately prior to Jesus' startling assertion, in the parable of the sower he had explained that the soil's nature-more than either the quality or the sowing of the seed-determined the harvest. The soil's produce flowed from its preparation. Preparation to receive the truth is the foundation of all improvement.

What preparation do we make to hear the Word? Can we expect to be edified by the proclamation of the Word if our hearts' soil is not ready for the sowing? What can we do to prepare our hearts for the worship of God through proclamation of his Word?

1. Prepare to receive the message. A farmer prepares the soil; an athlete prepares his body; the pianist prepares her concerto. The worshiper, having neither prayed nor studied the Word all week, bolts out of breath into the building, plops onto the pew, and is amazed that the service seems "flat." Both body and mind must be prepared for worship; the body by adequate rest; the mind by prayer and study of the Word.

2. Concentrate on the message and not the messenger. If the preacher, like Paul, lacks eloquence (1 Cor. 2:1), does he preach the Word faithfully? If his lessons don't take "fresh" approaches, like Peter, can he not edify by reminding hearers of that which they already know (2 Pet. 3:1­3)?

3. Be grateful that the Word is preached. Are eloquence and organization preferable to faithfulness to the Word? Paul was able to overlook even evil motives for preaching as long as Christ was preached (Phil. 1:15­18).

4. Glorify the Word. When Paul and Barnabas turned from the Jews who had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life to preach to the Gentiles, the Gentiles rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord (Acts 13:48). Could it be otherwise? It is the Word of life (John 6:68) from the Word of Life (1 John 1:1). It is able to build us up and to give us an inheritance among all them that are sanctified (Acts 20:32). It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Does it lose its power because the preacher is not an Apollos (Acts 18:24)?

If a messenger brought us news that we were to receive unimagined wealth, would we reject it because he was not eloquent? Because he was not organized? Because his grammar was poor? Would a starving person refuse bread because it was made from wheat grown in a field with crooked rows? Can we not see the surpassing greatness of the power of God in spite of the earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7)?

Published February 1996