• David McNitzky

Listening Lesson 2: Motives matter

At this stage of my life I am really enjoying being the father of three grown sons. One reason is that they have greatly enlarged my world with three daughters in law and three grandchildren. Another reason is that my sons and I can have a fun and free relationship apart from the expectations that filled their growing up years. I no longer expect them to conform to my house rules and they no longer expect me to solve their problems and pay for their meals:) Can you imagine how shallow our relationship would be if they only came to me for what I could give them and I only spoke with them so that they would live the life that I had in mind for them? In the same way, I believe that God, our Heavenly Parent, wants a free and fun relationship with us who are God’s children. God does not only want to hear from us at times when we need or want something from God. God wants us to be in conversation so that we can enjoy each other’s company and grow the relationship between us. This is why our motives matter in the effort to hear God’s voice and receive God’s guidance. There are some unhealthy motives that occur to me. The first poor motive is to see God as a “Cosmic Bellhop” (Harry Emerson Fosdick’s phrase) who exists to meet our needs. The desire to look religious and sound authoritative would be a second unhelpful motive. When anyone says, “God told me...”, I usually raise my defenses. A third questionable motive to me would be to seek God’s voice simply to be right on a given issue. Dallas Willard used to say that most Christians have a hard time when we are right about something. We usually become judgmental. It is more important to be in right relationship with people than it is to be right on an issue. So what are some healthy motives for seeking God’s voice? I’d start with the desire to have a better relationship by communicating with one another. Secondly, it would be appropriate to listen for guidance so that I can grow up and become more mature as a beloved child of God. As I spend more time with God, I can better learn to recognize God’s voice and can better take on God’s character. Finally, a good motive for listening is so that we can better participate in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. Jesus advised, “Seek first the kingdom” (Matthew 6:33). With our motives straight we can move forward in learning to recognize God’s voice. As we are learning, do not worry that you will miss something important. I find this principle reassuring: for those of us who love God, God will not withhold from us what is vital to our life and growth. ~David

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