Charles Stanley

B. Childress
Jul 20 2010 08:00 AM

God never says anything unless it is important and worth remembering. He doesn’t engage in chitchat. He doesn’t
preface His remarks with anything. God is always to the point. He has something to say, and He says it precisely and

God speaks clearly because He has specific objectives in mind. Thus it is to our great benefit to know His goal in
speaking to us. During my ministry, I have seen that God’s purposes in communication seem to fall into three primary


When God speaks to us, His first goal is that we may comprehend the truth. He desires that we understand fully what He
is saying. If the only language we speak is English, God isn’t going to communicate in Hebrew, Russian, or Chinese.
When God’s speaking voice seems indistinct at times, it is not because of His lack of clarity; it is because there is usually
something in our lives hindering a clear hearing of His voice.

God has given to all believers a divine Person who lives within us to help us receive and understand the truth. God said
in I Corinthians 2:9, through Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things
which God has prepared for those who love Him.” At first glance, that seems incomprehensible. Then Paul explained by
adding verse 10, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep
things of God.”

Thus all believers have within them the Holy Spirit who perfectly knows the mind of God and who receives and
communicates to our spirits the truth God wants us to hear. Although we were born with a bent away from God, the
moment we received Christ as our Saviour, the Holy Spirit came in to teach us the truth of who God is.

Paul clearly stated this when he declared in I Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the
Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” The Greek word for
“know” is
oido, which means “fullness of knowledge.” The person who does not have the Holy Spirit cannot understand
the spiritual things of life because of a fallen nature (I Corinthians 2:14). Given over to a self-life, the unbeliever is
absolutely incapable of understanding the things of God.

I believe God has three primary areas He wants us to comprehend.
First of all, He wants us to know the truth about
. He wants us to not just talk about but to grasp His majesty, His holiness, His power, His love, His grace, and His
joy. When we begin to comprehend these mighty truths about the person of God, our lives are enriched, enabled, and

The apostle Paul’s life was one tribulation after another; he was stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, slandered, rejected,
imprisoned, and generally treated rather shabbily. Yet, in the midst of a lifestyle that few would term encouraging, Paul
wrote that his ultimate aim in life was to “know God.” And he surely did. Even today, almost two thousand years later, can
we think of an individual who has experienced a richer life?

Paul’s life was enriched with the knowledge of God. He knew Jesus as the Deliverer from a Philippian jail, as Comforter in
his incarnation, as Forgiver of his shameful past, as Healer on the Isle of Malta, and as Guide in his missionary journeys.
Paul comprehended the truth of the character and person of Jesus Christ, pressing on to know Him at all costs.

Second, God wants us to know the truth about ourselves. God wants us to realize our importance in the scheme of His
eternal plans and that our peculiarities sometimes hinder us.   But most of all, God wants us to know our position and
our supernatural privileges of who we are in Christ.

For too many believers, our position in Christ is a little-known truth. Once we were born again by God’s Spirit, His Spirit
came to permanently indwell us, and His sovereign love placed us in Christ. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus” (I
Corinthians 1:30).

Since we are one with Christ, all His divine privileges become ours. His righteousness is ours because He abides in us
and we in Him. His wisdom and His sanctification we can now appropriate as our own.

Just as a college diploma confers “all the honors and privileges appertaining thereto,” so our enrollment in the Lamb’s
Book of Life carries with it all the glorious distinctions of our new status as God’s children with one big difference: we did
not earn our position – it is a gift of grace from God.

Third, He wants us to know the truth about other people. God wants us to see them no longer in the light of earthly
wisdom, but to view them as His chosen instruments and His creations.

An example of this occurred when I was going through a painful period of suffering in my personal life. God was sifting
me, sanding me, pruning me, until I thought there would not be anything left. A friend who was one of my staff members
(and remains so today) helped pull me through this valley.

In the most unforgettable fashion, he demonstrated unconditional love. Sometimes I was harsh, even rude and unkind,
as I battled with myself and let it spill out on him. He never reacted. He would just say to me, “I understand. What can I do
to help?” He never rejected me nor showed disappointment; he never admonished me in a threatening fashion. No
matter what I shared (and I poured out my insides to him), he just loved me. Anytime I called upon him, he was there. He
wept with me, prayed with me, laughed with me, and patiently listened to me. I always felt I had his full attention. Through
his unwavering love we developed an unbreakable bond of deep-level friendship that strengthened my own intimacy with

When we begin to understand the truth of who God is and have a better understanding of ourselves as well as others,
we are thoroughly equipped to be fruitful, productive servants on earth.


There are two kinds of listeners: passive and aggressive. A passive listener does not come to God to hear a decision
from Him. The aggressive listener comes knowing and seeking to hear diligently what God has to say. If he is in church,
his Bible is open and his pen is ready. If he participates in a Bible study, he is all ears and his mind is inquisitive. If he is
involved in personal devotion, his notebook is replete with insight into God’s ways. An involved listener is always
probing, searching, and comparing what he hears with previous data he has accumulated. He wants to be sensitive to
what God is saying; he thinks constantly, How can I apply this to my life? The aggressive listener is accurately depicted
in Acts 17:11 where Paul spoke of the Berean Christians, saying, “These [Bereans] were more fair-minded than those in
Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether
these things were so.” They weren’t just saying, “Oh, Paul is coming.” They were investigating the Word.

James said, “But the one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a
forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25
NASB). Notice the word
intently. That means that we are to listen and hear the Word of God with a fervent focus. We are not to sit idly and allow
the Word of God to stay simply on the surface level.

One of the problems today in the body of Christ is that too many Christians have been passive listeners for too many
years. That is why after forty years as believers, they won’t teach a Bible study or lead a class because they “don’t know
the Word well enough.” Where have they been for the past four decades?

We come to church, watch television, read, listen to radio, or attend revivals, seminars, or conferences so that we might
listen to God, not man. Man doesn’t have much to say, but when God is speaking through His servants, then the hearer
must aggressively hear what God is imparting. The passive listener comes into a church service or Bible study and
never gives a second thought to what God is speaking. He is not involved in the hearing process. If God were to send
Charles Stanley a letter and address it, DEAR CHARLES, and sign it, JEHOVAH GOD, would I put it aside and read it
after the evening news was over? Of course not. I would open the letter reverently, read every comment, read every
word deliberately, and when finished, I would probably read it over again. I would put it in a precious place, so that I
would always have God’s message before me.

You see, the Bible is that letter, and we ought to be listening intensely because it is that truth that will shape us into His
image. If God speaks to us through our circumstances or our mates, then we should pay close attention because God is
communicating to us. Oftentimes, out of the same voice comes the same word, but in every spirit there is a different
message. That is why we must listen aggressively.

Often after I give a particular series of messages, many people come up to me and thank the Lord for how He has been
utilizing His Word and His truth to change their lives. They tell me, “I am beginning to see God from a whole different
perspective.” “I see that God accepts me the way I am.” “I see that the cross is adequate.” You see, they moved from
passive listening to aggressive listening, and the result was that their entire lives were transformed.

Matthew 7:24 says, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who
built his house on the rock.” The solid foundation of our lives comes from aggressively hearing and implementing the
Word of God. Nothing less will do. Anything less will cause our lives to be built upon shifting sand.


The second part of God’s goal in communicating to us is that we may be conformed to the truth. In Romans 8:29 Paul
wrote that the Lord has predestined us “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” How is God going to conform us to
His image? By revealing the truth of His likeness. As we are confronted with the truth, we can do one of two things: We
can refuse to be pushed into God’s mold; or we can yield to Him and be fashioned into His likeness.

I once preached a series of sermons, “How the Truth Can Set You Free.” God was working in my heart and I knew it.
Week after week, people would come up to me and say, “I want to tell you how the Lord has set me free. I want to tell
you how last week’s message changed my life.” Oftentimes when they would walk away, I would think to myself,
what about me?  I’m the one who told them
. I knew I was not free as God wanted me to be, even though I was sharing
with other people how to be free. After months of being confronted by those whose lives were being changed, God
changed my life in a remarkable way.

We are to listen in order to comprehend and to comprehend in order to be shaped and conformed to His truth. God
never speaks in order to entertain us. God speaks that we may be made like Jesus. James wrote, “For if anyone is a
hearer of the word and not a doer he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes
away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:23-24). We are not simply to hear but also to obey –
not simply to glance at the Word but also to grasp the Word. We are either in the process of resisting God’s truth or in
the process of being shaped and molded by His truth.

The apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy, is an excellent example of an individual’s being conformed to the truth. After
spending several years with Paul, he was assigned to shepherd the work of the gospel in Ephesus and Asia Minor. It
was in this context that Paul wrote in his first letter, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in
word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (I Timothy 4:12).

In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul penned these words: “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you,
which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (II Timothy 1:5).

Timothy didn’t just know the truth; he was transformed by its power in such a way that his life was a constant example of
godliness. How? By the unfolding ministry of God’s Word.

Paul explained in II Timothy 3:14-15, “But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured
of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are
able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”


The third objective God has in speaking is that we may communicate His truth. God never gives us anything to keep for
ourselves. Whether it is money, insight, or truth, it has to be shared. Jesus said in His great command in Matthew 28:19-
20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” To those who witnessed His ascension
He declared in Acts 1:8, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses
to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus very clearly let His disciples know
that the truth He had taught them during the past three years was not to be kept in a personal reservoir of knowledge.
They were to give away everything they had received.

Chuck Colson comes as close to exemplifying this as anyone I know of. A trusted member of Richard Nixon’s White
House staff, he became ensnared in the political embroilment now universally known as “Watergate.” Calling upon the
Lord out of his distress, he was born again into God’s Kingdom. He was sent to a federal corrections institution in
Montgomery, Alabama, where the seed was planted for a vision that has since blossomed into a nationwide prison
ministry, reaching thousands of men and women with the restoring gospel of Christ. Only as Colson consciously
surrendered all and gave himself to selfless service did his ministry bear fruit. He became a servant, communicating the
truth that had set him free.

In II Timothy 2:2 Paul admonished his young pupil Timothy, “And the things that you have heard from me among many
witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Timothy was to communicate the truth he
had learned through Paul’s instructions to others who would, in turn, pass it along.

In II Corinthians 5:20 Paul noted that we are “ambassadors for Christ.” The sole purpose of ambassadors is to relay
policies and decisions of their superiors to the people of the countries they are assigned to. So it is that we have an
obligation to declare to others the divine plan and scriptural policies of our Master.

Each of us communicates something every waking moment by what we say and what we don’t say, by what we do and
what we fail to do. A son asks his father, “Well, Dad, how much are we going to tithe this Sunday?” Dad says, “We are
not going to tithe this Sunday because I can’t afford it. I’ve got too many bills to pay, and I simply can’t use any of our
money to tithe.”

The father is communicating a lie to his son. Although not directly, he is communicating that we cannot trust God with
our money, that God is not faithful to meet our needs, that God will not keep His promise concerning the tithe. A father
who never reads the Bible is communicating that he is smart enough to make his own decisions without input from God’s
counsel. He teaches his family that a person can get along quite fine, thank you, without the advice and wisdom of God.
The child who never sees the parents praying learns that fellowship with God is not required, that it is not necessary to
ask Him about the important matters of life, that trials and tribulations can be handled without any direction from God.

On the other hand, a father talks to his family and says, “Well, God wants us to raise the amount we give. We are going
to trust the Lord to provide us with the funds that we must have, and expect Him to meet our needs.” That father is
saying that we can depend upon God in every facet of life – when we can’t see our way clear, God will work things out
for us and be sufficient for our problems.

Often, even when we remain silent, we subtly state something. This was the case of the apostle Peter. Though
recognizing the Gentiles as rightful recipients of God’s grace, he developed the bad habit of withdrawing from meals
whenever the Gentiles sat down to eat. Pressure from the Jews had its effect on him.

Though he was never outspoken in the matter, his prideful practice was soon picked up on by other Jews with the result
“that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:13). Without a word, Peter had effectively sent
a message to those around him that the Gentiles were inferior. His actions said it all.

We must be honest in evaluating our responses to God’s communications. Considering what God has graciously taught
to us over the years, are we deliberately applying these truths to our lives on a daily basis? When we comprehend the
truth, are we conforming ourselves to the image of Christ? Are we then communicating this truth to others?


HOW TO LISTEN TO GOD, by Charles Stanley, Copyright 1985, Thomas Nelson, Inc.