How I Can I Prepare to Hear God's Word
First, Come ready.
I’ll give you three areas to address if you want to come ready: Sin, Scripture, Sleep.
First, address your sin. James 1:21 says “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” In other words, sin is blinding. It’s impossible to hear the word when the noise of sin is blaring in your heart. It’s hard to taste the sweetness of the word when you’re chewing on the gravel of your lust. To hear the word, remove the sirens of sin. To taste the sweetness of the word, spit out the gravel, confess your sin and run to Christ.
Second, address the Scriptures. I once heard a story about an ordinary pastor who received a phone call Saturday evening. It was Mark Dever, a well-known pastor, author, and conference speaker. He was in town with his son that weekend and informed the pastor they’d be attending his church in the morning. But that’s not why he called. He called to ask the pastor what text he would be preaching on so he could meditate on the passage with his son. I think that’s a good example for all of us. Prepare to hear the preached word by meditating on it the evening before.
Third, address your sleep. You are an embodied soul; a soulish body. Your sleep affects your mind and your heart. How many of us know the feeling of dozing off in church? I’ve done it (before I was the one preaching!). For some of us, work demands a late Saturday night. God provides grace for that. For many of us, the reason we’re dragging on a Sunday morning and having difficulty hearing the word is because we piddled away Saturday night.
Second, Raise Your Expectations.
What do you expect a sermon to do? Have you forgotten what the Bible claims to be? It’s a sword that pierces (Hebrews 4:12-13), it’s a seed that causes new life (1 Pet. 1:22-23), it’s a mirror that reveals (1:22-23), it’s milk that nourishes (1 Pet. 2:2), it’s a lamp that shines light onto our path (Ps. 119:105), it’s a fire that consumes (Jer. 23:29), it’s a hammer that shatters.
When you hear the word of God, you are putting yourself before the most powerful force in our universe. The preacher may be average. His message - if he’s preaching the word - isn’t.
I think your expectations reveal a lot about your faith. Do you have faith that God uses ordinary sermons from ordinary guys? And that those sermons can do extraordinary things in you?
Ask, Seek, Knock.
The Psalmist prayed “Open my eyes, that I might see wondrous things in your law” (Ps. 119:18). This is God’s Word, and he alone can open our eyes to see it. Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit’s help.
Listen with your Church.
I’m thankful for livestreams and podcasts and pre recorded videos. But there are no substitutes for real, in-person, sit-with-your-church-family sermons. You see, sermons are not only to instruct the mind, but they’re also to obligate the will. Good sermons call for response.
Now, if you’re listening on your earbuds, who’s holding you accountable for what you’ve just heard? If you’re watching youtube videos of Paul Washer and Steve Lawson, I know you’ll get pumped up. But who’s going to help you keep whatever resolutions you might make?
Christopher Ash writes, “When we listen together, you know what messages I’ve heard, and I know what messages you’ve heard. I’ve heard it. You know I’ve heard it. I know that you know I’ve heard it! And you expect me to respond to the message, just as I hope you will. And so we encourage one another and stir up one another to do what the Bible says.”
This is, by the way, why so many of you stick around after service. We’re talking about what we’re learning, we’re talking about how it applies to life, we’re talking about our struggles, we’re praying for God’s help to obey.
Open Your Bible.
It is the task of the preacher to teach and apply the Word of God. You will hear better if you have your copy of God’s Word open, and you’re following him as he explains the text.
Additionally, the unfortunate reality is that preachers can be unclear, or worse, irresponsible. Every believer has the responsibility to examine the Scriptures and see if it aligns with the word of God. This is what the Bereans were famously known for. They “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
There is an urgency to the word of God. The writer of Hebrews says, “Today, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart.” How many sermons have bonked you on the head before landing unapplied to the floor? How many sermons stirred up good intentions that were snuffed out before you left the parking lot?
There is always a right-now relevance to the Word of God. Maybe you need to write in your notes: “What am I going to do about this?”
I know many families who spend Sunday lunch talking about what they got out of the message. We have an entire growth group on Friday nights that aims to do this: how can we apply God’s Word more deeply? We believe the church should be an echo chamber - God’s Word is preached and it echoes throughout all the relationships of the church family throughout the week.
The most important thing is how we listen to God’s Word. How are you listening? Are you ensuring that you are listening? Fathers, are you the lead listener in your family? Mothers, are you helping the family listen? Children, do you really listen to God’s word?
Again Christopher Ash urges us: “Don’t go to sleep Sunday night without having asked yourself, ‘How will I respond to God’s Word?”