In our house, there are many noises that can affect a person's ability to hear. We have named each of our noises. We love each of our noises. And we have come to realize that sometimes our noises keep communication from being as effective as it should be. Many times, our noises will respond to a question such as "Why didn't you answer me when I called?" with "I couldn't hear you."
This past week, we started into the book of Ezekiel. It is a book I have been putting off (officially the 4th from the last book I will preach through - 61 books down, 1 in process for the last 2 years, 1 just started, and 3 'untouched' books of the Bible). I put it off because it contains quite a bit of imagery. I put it off because it is a fairly long book. I put it off knowing that it would be one of my favorites when I finally got into it. I was right.
The first 3 chapters discuss the call of God in Ezekiel's life. Starting with God calling Ezekiel from where he was, and showing Ezekiel a glimpse of God's glory, majesty, power and awe. Ezekiel's call continues with God telling him it wouldn't be easy - the people he would go to were rebellious. The message he would carry would be sweet - but would also turn bitter, much as the gospel is sweet, but a failure to respond to God's call results in the bitterness of judgment. Finally, God shows Ezekiel that following his call would be worth it.
*Confession* - I went into Ezekiel to attack the first 3 chapters in one shot, got all the way through them in one message, and managed to cover it all without getting it all covered. God tells Ezekiel that his duties were to give the message that God gave him. He was not responsible for the results. No matter how people responded, Ezekiel was to give the message, and God would count that as a success for Ezekiel.
But we like to try to control the results. We like to feel like a failure if things don't go the way we want them to. People don't respond to a message by implementing all the great suggestions we give, people don't follow our sage advice about how to do something, children learn the hard way rather than listen, and on it goes. We feel like we didn't do the best we could. We let the results impact how we view our efforts. In a very real sense, when serving God, we often hear a different call. God calls us to be godly friends, and we hear that God calls us to have all our friends respond positively to God. God calls us to be godly parents and we hear that God calls us to have godly children. God calls us to a ministry and we hear that God calls us to 'succeed' in that ministry by whatever standard we impose.
Sometimes, we just miss his call completely, sometimes we hear his calling wrongly. Either way, the problem is noise. Not the noise of precious children running around. Not the noise of construction projects. Not the noise of neighbors having a party. But noise. Noise that blocks us from "Being still" and knowing that he is God. Noise that keeps us from paying attention to a still small voice. Noises like the desire to be a success drowning out other sounds. Noises like pride, selfish ambition, greed, ungodly thoughts and thought patterns we have programmed into our minds.
When I struggle to hear something, I don't turn up the noise that is distracting me, I minimize it. When it comes to hearing God, we have to turn down the volume on the noises that distract us.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:2
What to do today? Find some of the sources of noise in your life and turn them down. Turn off the TV with its nonstop advertising, turn off the radio, stop feeding yourself noise and expecting to hear God's voice. Stop trying to conform to the world, and allow yourself to be transformed by getting in God's Word and letting God's Word get inside you.