Even though I grew up in the church, there were a lot of years that I didn’t really follow Jesus. If I’m honest, I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure where He would lead me. It left me wondering if I would eventually regret the choice to do what He asked.
So, I learned about Him, even loved Him. But I wasn’t ready to actually let go of everything and follow Him wherever He would lead. To took me a long time to really learn that following Him is better than anything. Overtime, I moved from knowing about Jesus, to knowing Jesus. And I’ve learned that although the church sometimes makes things complex, following Jesus just requires we listen and obey.
Scripture tells us that those who listen and obey are blessed. So, the simple point is this; when you listen and obey, blessing will come.
If you want to impact the world. Listen and obey.
If you want to see miracles around you. Listen and obey.
If you want to see your neighbors or coworkers lives change. Listen and obey.
If you want to see your family changed. Listen and obey.
If you want your own life to be changed. You guessed it. Listen and obey.
Have you heard of John Wesley?
He listened to and obeyed God and was used to bring incredible revival to the world. I’ll share a very brief recap of his story for you.
He grew up in the Church. He was the youngest of… 19 children! (um. wow.) He studied at Oxford where he started a movement that came to be known as the Methodist church. He went on a failed missionary journey and became bitter at God when it didn’t go as expected.
Then, he had an encounter with God where he said that his heart was “strangely warmed”. I would put it like this- he went from knowing about Jesus, to knowing Jesus. Maybe you can relate. But, however you want to label it, he heard God and he responded in obedience.
God used His life in profound ways.
Wesley preached 40,000 sermons and ordained 296 Preachers. He sent out 19 missionaries to 5 countries. At the point of his death, there were 120,000 Members in Britain and America and nearly 500 lay preachers. Now, there are around 30 million people that have come to Christ in the Methodist movement.
Years later, there was a professor that took a group of students to visit the home of John Wesley. They toured the whole place. In fact, they were able to look in his study and see the books. They saw his living room and kitchen. Finally, they saw his bedroom. It was in there that the professor pointed out the two well-warn patches on the ground next to his bed. It was evident to the students that Wesley spent many hours, in the morning and night, kneeling next to his bed in prayer.
What an image of a man to listened and obeyed God. When you have a heart of surrender to what God asks of you, God will use your life in incredible ways. This is a kingdom principle that is evidenced throughout all of history.
Well, the tour concluded and as the students loaded back into their bus, the professor noticed that one student was missing.
He went back into the home of Wesley to find the missing student.
The student wasn’t in the kitchen or living room. He wasn’t even in the study. Finally, the professor found him kneeling next to the bed, occupying those well worn patches. With his arms stretched wide, the professor heard the student praying.
“Lord, you’ve done it before. Do it again. And will you start with me.”
The professor called to the student that it was time to go. And up from his knees arose Billy Graham.
Graham is another man who spent time listening to the voice and heart of God. A man who responded in obedience to the call of God. A man who God used to reach 3.2 million people with the Gospel.
Billy Graham didn’t all the sudden wake up one morning with the opportunity to change 3.2 million lives. But, through cultivating a habit of listening to and obeying God every day, God built a platform for Graham.
The same is true with with John Wesley. Each day, he opened the word and knelt in prayer. He listened to God; not just the commands, but His heart for Him and for lost people. And then he obeyed.
What’s the common factor?
These men listened to God and did what he said. And these are the people God makes a habit of working miracles through.
I want to look with you at a story of listening and obeying in the bible.
Learning to listen and obey will do two things.
It will bless you and it will impact the world around you.
To see this illustrated, look with me at Luke 5:1-11
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Notice in this passage that there are three chances for Simon to either listen and obey… or not.
His first chance to listen and obey: Push the boat out.
Frankly, this was just a practical thing. In a time before microphones and speakers, this created a floating platform that amplified the voice of Jesus for the people to hear. But Simon’s obedience brought a spiritual blessing for the people around Simon.
God might ask you to do everyday, practical kinds of things. But, you don’t know how He’ll use your faithfulness to bless the people around you.
Will you listen and obey?
His second chance to listen and obey: Let down your net.
Again. This isn’t overly spiritual. But this time, Jesus used the obedience of Simon to bring a physical blessing to him and the community. This act of obedience brought in a massive number of fish. And in a fishing community, what changes lives? Fish!
This was a simple miracle, but it changed the financial picture for the people in this community. It was food for some. Income for others.
Simon’s obedience brought a physical blessing.
I love this part of the story for a few reasons. The biggest one is this… Simon had fished all night and caught nothing.
These were professional fishermen… but even with all their ability, all of their training, experience… they finished the night with no fish.
You see when you listen to Jesus and obey, He will accomplish things that you cannot. This act of obedience was counter-intuitive. But through Simon’s obedience, a miracle was brought about.
At the word of Jesus, the impossible becomes possible.
It’s the word of God that brought everything into existence. And it was the word of God that heals people, free’s captives, changes lives. John 1 says that Jesus is the word made flesh. So, when Jesus gives the word of instruction to Simon, there was a power in it. But, it took an act of obedience to the word on behalf of Simon for it to be accomplished.
There may be things that Jesus wants to do in you and through you and for you… but it will take your being obedient for it to come to fruition.
So, will you listen and obey?
His third chance to listen and obey: Follow Me.
This is the best of them all. Jesus asked Simon to follow Him. What a strange invitation for Simon. At this time, it was very early in Jesus’ public ministry. Even if Simon knew about Jesus, He didn’t really know Jesus yet. But, at the invitation, He left everything and followed.
He heard the invitation of Jesus. And he responded with obedience.
In your own journey, and in that of those around you, Jesus has made an invitation to follow Him. And there comes a point for each of us when we either respond in obedience or rejection. There comes a point for each of us when we move from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus.
Notice that Jesus asked and Simon freely obeyed. He left everything to follow Jesus. But Jesus didn’t force Him. That would be kidnapping. I love that Jesus is a gentleman.
Jesus won’t force himself on you. But He will always extend an invitation. It’s your choice if you’ll listen and obey or not.
Because Simon in obedience to Jesus, God used Simon in incredible ways. This act of obedience was sacrificial. It required Simon to leave everything and follow. Jesus might ask you to do something that requires sacrifice.
Because of Simon listening and obeying what God invited Him into, Jesus did amazing things through him and the other disciples. And because of your response of obedience, Jesus might do amazing things through you.
Like… healing, preaching, casting out daemons… just to name a few. Oh, and Simon get’s a name change… He is actually Peter. He is the one to whom Jesus said “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
What an incredible thing… 2000 years later, we’re a part of that very Church.
Peter didn’t know what Jesus was going to do at the onset. He just listened and obeyed.
And the next day, he listened and obeyed. And the next day. And the next day. And every day after.
Jesus does amazing things through people who are willing to listen and obey. But, it rarely seems like it’s gonna be anything special at the onset. It just presents itself as another opportunity for obedience.
In big things and little things, Jesus just asks that we listen and obey.
And the same invitation that He gave to Simon Peter, is the same one He has given to you.
Hang out with me.
Spend time with me.
Obey me and watch what I’ll do.
Think again of John Wesley. Do you think He had a great vision of 30 million people? No. He was just being obedient to the word of God saying “go and make disciples”.
Do you think Billy Graham had high hopes of being a celebrity pastor? Nope. He just responded in obedience to the word of God saying to preach the Gospel.
So, I want to give you some application.
If you listen to God and obey what He says, He will work powerfully through you.
The three primary ways you can listen.
1. Read the bible.
The bible reveals Jesus. You’ll learn His heart for you and for the world in there. And you’ll find instructions in there. So, spend time reading it and you’ll hear His voice.
In prayer, you’ll talk to Him, but you’ll also listen to Him. His voice will sound a lot like the bible… In fact, He won’t contradict the bible. But, as you spend time with Him in prayer, He will speak to your heart about who you are and how he wants to grow you and work through you. He’ll give you dreams and visions for what He has for you.
3. Listen to People.
God will speak to you through the people around you… He’ll use wise people around you to point you to Him. Godly, wise, faithful people will draw you closer to God. So, examine who is closest to you and make sure they are the type of people who are drawing you closer to the heart of God and helping you to hear His voice more clearly.
Now, you know how to listen. How do you respond in obedience?
1. Trust Him.
It probably sounded crazy when Jesus asked Simon Peter to leave his family, his job, his city, to follow Him. But for some crazy reason, he trusted Jesus enough to say yes. You see, Jesus is trustworthy. No matter what, you can trust Him. We know from the bible that He is always good, He is kind, He will care for you, He loves you and will never leave you. So, whatever He asks you to do, you can trust Him.
2. Take positive action.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom asks you to clean your room… and you didn’t?
Did you take an action?
Yup. Even if you didn’t clean, it was a negative action, but it was an action. To be obedient, you need to take a positive action. You’ll either be obedient and take action to do what He has asked. Or, you’ll be disobedient by delaying, ignoring or denying Him. So, to be obedient, take good action… do what He has asked.
What is Jesus inviting you to do today?
So, Jesus might be inviting you to a specific action. But, more than likely, He’s just saying… follow me!
He just wants you to know him. To listen and obey. And through that obedience, He will do amazing things… and He’ll change the world. But…. it always starts with listening and obeying.