7 Tips for Hearing God's Word w/ Maximum Benefit
Is there anything God uses more in our lives than grace-enabled, Spirit-empowered believing meditation on Scripture? To fuel this most important of all disciplines, we must first put the Word of God into our craniums. I can think of four ways to do that: read, hear, study and memorize. By the way, our Lord regularly participated in all four, as any godly Israelite of His day would have. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!
In this post we consider 7 tips on hearing God’s Word with maximum benefit. Several of these will apply to the entire worship service each week, not just the climax of expository preaching.
Commit yourself to never miss a sermon from your pastor preaching in your church. With today’s technology, make ups are exceedingly convenient.
But nothing compares with being there in the flesh, live and present and engaged. As a pastor, I often want to ask wandering sheep, “If you missed work as much as you miss church, would you still have a job?”
Why is work more important than church to so many Christians? There are lots of ways to answer that, but the deepest truth is people value the material and physical over the spiritual. We simply value more what work gives us than what gathering with God’s people in worship gives us. We value comfort over conformity to Christ and material treasure over eternal treasures.
Church is not a weekly decision for committed Christians. You made that decision when you bowed the knee to Christ! If Christ is Lord, then church is habit, duty, gracious privilege.
I compare this to the difference between dating and getting married. I don’t make a daily or weekly decision about dating someone else. I’m married! That decision has already been made. I date Kim McKnight. The answer is no for the rest of the world.
I go to church on Sunday morning. The answer is no for everything else. Simple.
When you have to miss, continue to pray for those in attendance and make sure you listen to the sermon afterwards.
Have you ever cooked up a nice meal for someone who didn’t show up? Maybe they forgot. Maybe they found something better to do. Maybe they didn’t really want to be there in the first place.
That’s what faithful pastors are doing every week. They are cooking up special meals for their church family and they want and expect every family member to be at the table. I heard of one brother who calls his pastor if he’s going to miss church because he feels its rude not to. Something tells me he doesn’t miss much church.
Consider your travel plans carefully. Leave Sunday afternoon or Monday. Get back home on Saturday. Why do we intentionally schedule ourselves to be away from church?
Listen, you have a guarantee of no benefit from every service you miss!
MINIMIZE PRE-CHURCH STRESS
What are the Sunday morning stress points? We oversleep, clothes not ready and picked out, breakfast is unplanned, car is out gas, kids are out of control.
To minimize pre-church stress we must be proactive. We must think and plan ahead. Work the problem. Lead, don’t follow. Pro-act don’t react. So much of this stuff is predictable and preventable.
COME READY TO WORSHIP
If we were brought up in ancient Judaism, we would understand something about the Sabbath that has been lost. Their days were sundown to sundown instead of 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. This means that Saturday Sabbath began Friday night at sundown. The principle for us is the same – Sunday morning begins Saturday night at sundown. Start thinking about church. Go to bed on time or even early. Get up on time or even early. Prepare your body, mind and heart to come before Him with thanksgiving.
Give thought to food intake, even on Saturday. A huge, spicy meal on Saturday night will still be paying dividends on Sunday morning. Think about breakfast. Donuts and coffee is the worst possible breakfast before church. No wonder you are crashing and falling asleep during the sermon! Eat light, eat some protein and come to church with a little bit of hunger to help you be mentally sharp. Drink enough water to be hydrated.
Leave the TV off at home on Sunday morning. Play praise music or just enjoy some silence if possible.
Pray for yourself and family, the singing, the preacher and congregation. Pray for the fellowship before and after, pray for the offering to be pleasing to God, pray for the prayers of God’s people to rise like incense. Pray for visitors to come and be treated well. Pray for the lost to be saved, the saved to mature and the mature to multiply. Pray that God is glorified by the making of disciples.
Visit your church’s website for the title and text of the upcoming sermon and read that text a couple of times. Pray that God would give you ears to hear it.
Consider attending Sunday school. This ensures you are warmed up mentally, on time and ready to worship. If no Sunday school, use that hour for prayer and the word. Say to God, “Lord, speak to me. I need to hear your word. Help me to worship You in spirit and in truth.”
We should warm up for church like an athlete for his event or game or like a musician before a concert. You would never expect either to rush into either without some warm up and that for the perishable wreath and the applause of man! You can’t walk into a church service stone cold spiritually, half awake physically and foggy mentally and expect to get anything or give anything for that matter.
Arrive early. Set your heart and mind on the Lord and give Him the glory He deserves. Give Him your very best.
MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS DURING WORSHIP
Once the service has started, many things can go wrong and distract your worship and hearing from the Lord. Make plans for your kids, whatever their age, capacity, etc. Train them at home. Play church and teach them what is happening and what is expected. Reward good behavior and punish bad. Undisciplined children can be a major distraction to you and others around you. Trained children are a great blessing to both parents and church family.
Where you sit matters.Some need to sit up front or closer to the front. Some people are easily distracted, others not as much. Consider where is best for you to sit.
Go to the bathroom. Please. It’s amazing how distracting one person leaving during the sermon is. If you have health issues, sit in the back and closest to the facilities. All about planning ahead. And deal with your phone. No one wants to hear your phone ring in church, especially you.
During the service, how you sing matters. Are you engaging both heart and mind? Are you thinking about the lyrics, doing your best in singing with volume and joy? All of this will have a bearing on how effective the sermon is to your soul. Let the songs minister to you.
The guy who gets in an argument in the Foyer over Saturday’s football game, is texting his buddy during church and sits in back corner of the balcony with his kids crawling all over the place is the guy who leaves and says, “That preacher is over rated.” He may be. He probably is. But he could have been better than John the Baptist and phone guy wouldn’t have noticed.
BE AN AGGRESSIVE LISTENER
Give thought to whether or not you should take notes. For some this is crucial. For others it becomes a distraction. If so, don’t try to capture every word, just outline, key statements, application thoughts for yourself. Notes are for you to concentrate and review later.
Consider your physical posture. Sit up straight, lean in, be alert and attentive as possible. Pews are not recliners no matter how hard we try to make them so. In the old days teachers made their student’s sit up straight and look straight ahead in class. And kids learned. Today we just hope they come to class.
What should you look at during the sermon? Either the text or the preacher is a safe answer. I will often look at nothing in particular because sometimes the preacher himself distracts me, so I look at the carpet and listen. Find out what works best for you.
Ask yourself thru out the sermon, “what do I do with this?” Hear as a doer building on the rock.
As you listen, the Spirit may prompt you to worship or pray or confess sins or silently thank God. Do it! That’s the point of the sermon is for you to meet with God so if that happens and you have to sort of not listen for a moment, that’s ok.
Remember, God is speaking to you thru His word (check out Ephesians 2:17 and 4:20-21 for Paul’s understanding of Christ preaching through human instruments). It is hard to imagine that there’s anything more important than this all week long.
If Jesus was standing in the pulpit, do you think you would hang on every word or pass notes, play on the phone, whisper to your spouse or let your mind drift to after church plans? If your pastor is faithfully expounding and applying the Word of God, Jesus is standing in that pulpit and speaking to you. Through His Spirit, indwelling and using human instruments playing the harp of the gospel and pounding the drums of the Law.
BE A DISCERNING LISTENER
God is speaking to you thru the message, but the instrument is flawed and capable of error and misspeaking.
Some preachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Some are immature, untrained, inaccurate preachers.
Some are biased, unbalanced, ax-to-grind preachers.
Some of distracted or sinning or disgruntled or depressed.
As we are charged in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, we must not despise preaching but we must examine all sermons carefully and cling to the good and abstain from the rest. They are either life-giving words or poison for your soul.
IT'S NOT OVER WHEN IT'S OVER
As sermon prep is never done until the sermon is done, so no sermon that has delivered God’s Word is ever truly over. Sermons live on as we …
A while back our church hosted a Caroline Cobb Concert. I’m not really into music much but I am into worshipping God, so I wanted to be prepared for the concert. My preparation for that serves to illustrate what we can do every week. I listened beforehand to become familiar with her sound, lyrics and style. During the concert I tried to focus and engage and worship. Afterwards I picked up a CD and shared with her what specifically had blessed me from one of the songs about Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
A biblical sermon is never over. It lives on and becomes part of who we are.