A. W. Tozer said, “A great preacher is made by great listeners.” We demand a lot of things from a preacher. Whenever we hear a sermon, we evaluate the preacher’s sermon. In a sense, my sermon is being evaluated by you weekly. As many of you would recognize, it is not easy for a preacher to preach always well and righteously. For such reason, a preacher has to live daily with the holy pressure in their heart. If so, then who should evaluate the lifestyle of the listeners of sermon? If the congregation is searching for a great preacher, then God is searching for a great listener. Being a great listener is more difficult than being a great preacher.
A great listener is the one who listens attentively to the word of God. Listening may be easy but listening attentively is difficult. What does it mean to listen attentively, and how can we listen attentively? In order to listen attentively to sermons, we first must prepare our hearts with prayer. The Word of God is like a seed. Therefore, when the seed falls on the soil of the heart that is well prepared, it bears abundant fruit. Pray for the preacher and the message that he will deliver. And pray that your heart will be like the good soil that richly receives the Word of God. God works marvelously on a prepared heart. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the understanding of the depth of God’s Word through the opening of the spiritual eyes when you hear the Word. When we don’t understand, we cannot be changed or healed (Matt. 13:14-15). When we understand, we bear abundant fruit (Matt. 13:23).
When a great listener receives the word, he receives not as the word of man but as the Word of God. The Word works in the one who believes. The saints of Thessalonica who received Paul’s message as the Word of God were praised. “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
A great listener receives the Word of God and applies and puts it into practice in his life. Jesus says that a man who only hears is not a wise person but the one who puts into practice of what he hears is a wise person (Matt. 7:24). If we hear but don’t carry out in action, then we are virtually no different from the ones who do not listen at all. Of course, we are slightly better than those who don’t listen because we have a chance to put into practice of what we have heard someday; however, when we put into practice immediately of what we’ve heard, we experience change. We are not changed when we receive the Word, but we experience change when we put the received words into practice. To learn means to change, and the change is experienced only when the truth is put into practice.
A great listener records as he receives. To record means to recognize the value of what you are hearing. We cherish and treasure what we value. To record means to treasure what has been received, and it means to show a will that you will share it with others. When you write down what you are hearing, then the speaker becomes very careful. He can’t help but be careful because he has met a person who puts value in his words.
A great listener considers sharing as a prerequisite for receiving the word. A person who receives a good thing has responsibility to share it. We are called to be good stewards of God. We are enriched in the process of sharing good things. When the word of Christ is richly abiding in us, we are able to admonish and teach each other with wisdom (Col. 3:16). When we don’t share what we have heard, it is easily forgotten. On the other hand, when we share it, we remember it for a long time. When we share it repeatedly, we come to understand greater and deeper truth in the process of sharing. We master the truth when we share. Truth becomes part of our being.
A great listener thinks of God when he receives the word. The embodiment of the word is God. For such reason, when we hear the Word, we must think of God and receive strength and comfort through God. The reason I can continuously grow as a preacher is because you listen attentively to the message I deliver. I thank you for listening attentively to the Word of God. You are the great listeners. I love you.
Joshua Choon-Min Kang from the Pastorate