Charles Stanley

B. Childress
Aug 20 2010 08:00 A.M.

A young man who once came to me was probably as gifted in the ministry as anyone I have ever met.  He was extremely
well trained and equipped for godly service.  He came to me with a decision, and as he began to share, the Spirit of God
spoke in my heart with a quick alarm.  A red light flashed within, and I said, "Don't do it.  You're not ready."  I explained to
him why and entreated him to listen to me.  He wouldn't.  He decided he was ready, the time was right, and he turned a
deaf ear to what God was trying to say to him.  After two years he lost his ministry, his marriage, and everything he
owned, including his self-respect.  Several years later, I received a letter from him.  It began, "Dear Dr. Stanley, If I had
only listened!"

I firmly believe God gave this young minister His counsel through the insight the Spirit of God planted in my heart.  The
young man heard God speak, but he declined to heed God's warning.

As one goes through Scripture, it becomes evident that listening's crucial companion and completing mate is obedience.
Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly exclaimed, "O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it."  It was
not that Israel failed to hear God.  He sent His servants - Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and dozens of others - to His
people with clarion announcements.  They heard His intentions all right; they just didn't comply.  Just as their frequent
difficulties stemmed from not obeying God's voice, so too does much of the pain, hurt, and suffering in our lives result
from failing to respond obediently to God's voice.

It is significant that in the first couple God created were the features of those who listen but refuse to heed, and so reap
the painful harvest of disobedience.  Genesis 2:15-17 capsulizes this perennial principle:

    Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the LORD God
    commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of
    good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Although Eve did not sin against God until she partook of the fruit, the results of hearing but failing to act appropriately
are clearly demonstrated in her life.  God had placed in the Garden of Eden a perfect environment.  Adam and Eve and
everything in it were heavenly.  His instructions to maintain this pristine life were as lucid as a cloudless sky.  "It's all
yours, I created this for you.  It's available to you for your enjoyment and your pleasure.  All I want you to do is take care
of it.  I will give you the strength and wisdom to do so!"  Then He added, "I have only one restriction.  There is one tree in
this garden that I have put a circle around, and under no condition are you to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil.  For the day that you eat that fruit, you shall surely die."

There was no way for Adam and Eve to mistake what God said.  He was very clear, concise, and brief.  They could not
forget that simple word of caution and admonition.  Isn't it strange, when we think about our own lives and God's
provision, how Satan points to the one thing we have no business doing?  Isn't it amazing how he enlarges the one
forbidden area?  Every "thou shalt not" in the Bible is a promise of God's protection; He always looks out for our best
interests.  He is not preventing us from enjoying life, rather he is preventing us from destroying ourselves and placing
ourselves in a position where we cannot enjoy life.   Every "thou shalt not" is an expression of divine love to His children.

Of course, we know that Satan tempted Adam and Eve.  Eve ate the fruit, offered Adam a bite, and sin entered the
world, so that we still suffer the result of their indiscretion.  I want to share eight principles based on this scriptural
account that soberly depict what happens when we fail to hear God's revelation.  They are enduring truths, which know
no boundaries as to season, age, or era.


First, when we fail to listen to God, we listen to the wrong voices.  Unlike Eve, we do not live in the Garden of Eden
where there is no sin.  We live in a world rampant with sin, and when we turn deaf ears to what we know God is saying,
we listen to the wrong voices.  We begin to pay attention to other attractive voices that have only one thing in mind - our
ultimate destruction.  One of the most tragic acts anyone can carry out is to turn a deaf ear to almighty God.  Thus,
Satan is given a place instead.  We often know what God wants to do, but somehow we say, "I know, Lord, but."  When
we say
but, we're really telling the Lord we don't want to hear what He is saying.  It is then we turn our ears to those
voices that lead us away from the will of God, away from His purpose in our lives.


Second, when we fail to listen to God, we are easily deceived.  Genesis 3:1-4 records Satan's conversation with Eve:

    Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.  And he said to
    the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"  And the woman said to the
    serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the
    garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  And the serpent said to the
    woman, "You will not surely die."

That is, he said, "Now look, let's get the full viewpoint of this thing.  I know what God said, but let's not get so narrow-
minded about this.  The truth is, you surely shall not die."

Friends, when we listen to other voices, we become easily deceived.  Satan, who is the father of all lies, deceived Eve by
his cunning, crafty, subtle words.  (He used almost the same words God used.)  Not choosing to listen to God when we
know He is speaking to us is an act of rebellion.  When we listen to voices other than God's voice, our perspective
becomes unbalanced.  The individual who is tuned in to God and who listens to God is mentally sharper and clearer
than the person who does not listen to God when it comes to spiritual or moral issues.  He has a perception, an
awareness, an attentiveness that others do not possess.  There is a power to concentrate, a discernment that the
nonlistener does not have.

Satan easily deceives us by saying, "You don't mean to tell me that you think you're going to be like your parents?  Your
parents grew up in a whole different generation.  They went to church because there wasn't anything else to do.  They
didn't have television and all the activities that are happening.  Going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and
Wednesday night was their entertainment.  This is a whole different age, a whole different society.  Surely, you don't
want to be like them!"

Whenever we get in a conversation with the devil, we are headed for failure.  His appeal is to our flesh.  The more we
listen, the less distinct God's voice becomes.  Satan's shouts all too easily deafen our ears to God's still, small voice.  
We find ourselves thinking illogical thoughts, rationalizing, and tolerating attitudes and actions that we know are wrong.  
When we fail to listen to Him, the other voices sound so inviting.


Third, when we fail to listen to God, we express pride and independence of God.  The bottom line of all sin is
Independence.  Satan told Eve, "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be
like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).  What he did
not tell her was, "Eve, you're not going to be like God,
knowing good and evil, but I'm here to tell you Eve, you're going to hate the day you ever learned the truth about evil.

Every single time we choose to disobey God's reveal truth, we choose to act independently of Him.  It is an expression of
our pride.  We tell God we can handle it.  We declare to an omniscient God (who knows our past, present, and future)
that we're making the best choice.  That's like a five-year-old dictating the menu to his mother because he knows what is
most nourishing.  Isn't that foolish?  Isn't that the epitome of all folly, that we would act independently of God because we
think we know what's best right now?  We'll never know better than God knows.  Just as Satan slyly conned Eve into
subtle pride, so he lures many young people into sin because their friends say, "Well, you'll never know till you try it."

Wouldn't each of us agree that we have learned some things in life we wish we had never learned?  We've experienced
what we wish we had never experienced.  That's the subtlety.  When we fail to listen to Him, we listen to other voices
whose appeal is that of independence and pride, and whose value system is the antithesis of God's.


Fourth, when we fail to listen to God, we make decisions that appeal to the flesh, not to the spirit.  Satan doesn't
appeal to us concerning our hunger for God.  He doesn't appeal to us concerning our thirst to know Him.  He doesn't
appeal to us in our desire to be obedient to God.  He doesn't appeal to us in our desire to know the Word of God.  He
doesn't appeal to us in our desire to understand the meaning of prevailing prayer.  What does he appeal to?  

What did he appeal to, to Eve?  Genesis 3:6 explains: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it
was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her
husband with her, and he ate."  Satan appealed to Eve's desire for wisdom to make her eat from the tree.

On the other hand, God is interested in speaking to our spirits.  He is interested in what is best for us and our families.  
Even though we have been saved and have a brand-new nature, the principle of sin abides within us.  We no longer
have to yield to it or be dominated by it unless we choose to be.  We are no longer conquered by it - unless we give in to
it.  There is a power working within us greater than all the power of sin, Satan, and hell.

But when we cease to listen to God, we listen to what appeals to the flesh, and so we are deceived.  Our names may be
written in the Lamb's Book of Life, but if we don't listen to God, the same Satan who appeals to the unbeliever will use
the same methods to appeal to us as believers.

That's why we must be people of God whose ears are bent to listening to God.  The world speaks a different language
from the one God speaks.  The world marches to a different drumbeat from the one God marches to.  God wants our
ears tuned to Him because He wants to give us divine directions and because He has our best interests at heart.  If we
are honest today, however, we'll have to admit, whenever we stop listening to Him, we start listening and making
decisions based on things that appeal to the flesh, not the spirit.


Fifth, when we fail to listen to God, we make excuses for our wrongs.  Genesis 3:8-9 says when the Lord God came
walking in the garden in the cool of the day, "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.  Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, 'Where are you?'"

Don't think for a minute that God didn't know where Adam was.  He wasn't asking for information.  He knew exactly where
Adam and Eve were, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.  Adam responded: "I heard Your voice in the
garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself" (Genesis 3:10).  Remember, Adam had never been
afraid before.  Fear was a brand-new emotional experience.  He was hiding out of fear, just as many of us hide
emotionally and spiritually.

God said: "Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should
not eat?" (Genesis 3:11).  God never asks questions to find out information.  God asks questions to receive a
confession; so He queried Adam.  Adam's tragic reply is found in Genesis 3:12: "The woman who You gave to be with
me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." (He was blaming it on someone else.)  Listen to the next verse: "And the LORD
God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"  And the woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'"
(Genesis 3:13).

You know what?  That's what we do today.  God speaks to us, and we know exactly what He is saying.  We try to
rationalize our disobedience, but God doesn't listen to any excuses.  When God speaks and we turn a deaf ear, our
alibis are unacceptable.  We can't blame somebody else.

God had spoken very concisely to Adam who told Eve.  Eve couldn't tell God, "I couldn't remember Your instructions,"
because God had said clearly, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).  That is the point!

Since God knows our future, our personalities, and our capacity to listen, He isn't ever going to say more to us than we
can deal with at the moment.  So we can't blame our failures to listen on anyone else.  I've come to the Lord on many
occasions and tried to plea bargain away some of my inadequacies.  I rationalized some of my behavior, blaming it on
the death of my father when I was very young.  Then one day God showed me that I couldn't blame my sin and pain on
any person or circumstance.  It makes no difference what happened to me or you.  I'm responsible for my responses,
and you are responsible for yours.


Sixth, we fail to listen to God, we will suffer the consequences.  When God finished talking with Adam and Eve, He
listed the consequences that both Satan and they would have to endure.  Genesis 3:14-15 indicts Satan:

So the LORD God said to the serpent:
"Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He [Christ] shall bruise your [Satan's] head.
And you shall bruise His heel" [that's the Cross].

Satan did injure Him because of sin, but Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God was the Victor.  Then in verses 16 through
19, God listed the painful results of Adam' and Eve's rebellion:

To the woman He said:
"I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you."
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice
of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded
you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it:
"Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles
it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return."

Later, the Bible says God cast them out of the garden (Genesis 3:23-24).  When Adam and Eve ceased to listen to God
but listened to another voice, they lost it all and suffering began.  All suffering and pain ultimately can be traced to the
evil of the garden.

When we fail to listen, we will suffer the consequences.  The most serious business that you and I should engage in is
listening and heeding the voice of God.  As a pastor, I have seen much suffering because people refused to obey God's
counsel.  One particularly successful minister wanted to enter a new field of ministry.  Some very professional people
advised him that he was not capable of engaging in that work.  Everyone who knew him and loved him, everyone who
was looking out for his best interests, said, "Please don't."  He turned a deaf ear to this wise, godly counsel.  It cost him
his life.

How many times have I sat down with a distraught father who had counseled his daughter, "Honey, don't, don't, don't go
out with that fellow.  There's something about him that tells me you should avoid him.  He doesn't have a godly mind."  
She turned down God's voice through her father, and ended up pregnant, ruining her life.

So many pregnant teenagers have listened to the deceiving voices of evil and now have to live with tons of guilt that only
God will be able to remove.

Literally dozens of men I have known have confessed, "If I had only listened to my wife.  She told me it was a bad deal,
but I figured she didn't know anything about money or finances.  She pleaded with me not to go through with it.  I
wouldn't listen, and I lost it all!"

During one marriage counseling session, I said to the young woman seated beside her fiancée, "Don't marry this man;
he doesn't love you."  They both looked strangely at me.  I explained, "Let me tell you why he doesn't love you.  When I
asked him these crucial questions concerning the values of the marriage relationship, he gave me the wrong answers to
every one.  There is no evidence of his love for you but only evidence of his desire for gratification of the flesh."  She
didn't listen.  Someone else married them because I wouldn't perform the ceremony.  I can still remember her, standing
in my office door one day, tears streaming down her cheeks.  It had only been four months since their marriage, and she
said, "If I'd only listened to you..."  There is no way to turn a deaf ear to God without suffering.

After a church service a few years ago, a young woman came up to me and related this story: "I know exactly what you
were talking about this morning.  I knew when I married my husband, who was an alcoholic and not a Christian, I
shouldn't have done it.  I knew that wasn't what God wanted me to do.  But I did, and my marriage is wrecked, lost, and
gone forever.  God is just now beginning to put the pieces of my life back together."

Before you get ready to do something, if there is a gnawing deep inside, a sneaking suspicion, think twice before acting,
because God could be telling you, "No!"  Be wise enough to stop, confront God, and say, "Lord, would You tell me one
more time what Your will is in this matter?"  God will tell you the truth and save you a lot of pain.


Seven, when we fail to listen to God, others around us are hurt.  You cannot sin in isolation.  When a husband fails
to listen to God, his wife hurts.  When children fail to listen to God, their parents hurt.  When a man in business fails to
listen to his godly partner, their business hurts.  When the leaders of a nation fail to listen to God, everybody in the
nation hurts.  Other people hurt when we fail to listen.

Adam and Eve's disobedience resulted in the alienation of the entire human race.  Their sin in the garden reached
around the world.


Finally, when we fail to listen to God, we miss His very best.  The Garden of Eden was God's best, but Adam and
Eve lost it all.  My friend, let me ask you a question.  Many people are on the brink of losing God's best because they
have chosen to listen to a voice other than God's.  God has provided the finest for you.  If you fail to listen, you'll go
through life having missed God's very best.  Are you willing to substitute what Satan has to offer you for God's supreme
gifts?  When you listen and obey, God's best will be yours.

In I Samuel 15, Samuel sent Saul on a mission to "Go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do
not spare them" (verse 3).  Saul, however, saved some of the best spoils and spared the king's life.  When Samuel
discovered Saul's disobedience, Saul replied: "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD
and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice" (verse 24).  Trying to accommodate his fellow
warriors and their greed caused Saul to lose his perspective of God's original command to eradicate Amalek and its king.


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