In this episode, we continue discussing how to listen to God as a method to experience the riches of the Kingdom of God. There are myriad ways to listen to God. Today we focus on hearing God in nature, listening to godly people as image-bearers of Christ, and listening to the Holy Spirit in ourselves. A book by Brother Lawrence, “Practicing the Presence of God,” is a rich example of listening to the Spirit and a reminder of the incredible divinity of God in the smallest of things.
Listening to God in nature
The path to true riches is listening to God. The first way is to read the Bible, and there’s a couple of keys for reading the Bible.
The second thing we talked about was nature. We talked about Psalm 19. The heavens declare the glory of God, uttering speech day by day, and we talked about looking at nature and seeing God, hearing God.
Things wealthy people can do to avoid having money make them miserable
I want to just think about one of the things that we talked about in this series of how to be rich was five things that the researchers have found that wealthy people can do to keep their money from making them miserable, which is the norm. Money mainly makes people miserable.
This was advice from this study of five things they could do. There were two fasting principles: If you like something, kind of space it out. You can buy all the chocolate in the world; don’t do it. You’ll end up hating chocolate. Kind of parse it out a little bit. That’s frequency.
Then, also, there was this timing. Pay first, enjoy later was another principal.
Then they had buy experiences instead of stuff, which makes sense, right? Because really life is made abundant when you enjoy sharing it with other people.
Then there was buy time instead of stuff.
Then there was do things for other people. It’s interesting. Buy time is the most interesting to me because how do you do that? How many hours do you have in a day? How many hours do rich people have in a day? How many hours do poor people have in a day? How do you buy time?
You know what that implies is that these wealthy people have gotten themselves as slaves to someone else. Have you been around really powerful or really wealthy people, and what you have to try to do is figure out how to get to their scheduler because you can’t talk to them. The scheduler determines who they will talk to and for how long. Why would you want to—? The scheduler’s more powerful than the person is.
Buy time is very interesting. What they’re really saying is not “buy time,” it’s redeem your time so you can spend it on what you really care about. What you should care about is doing things with other people that you enjoy doing things with.
The best way to redeem your time is to order your life where you always spend time with other people that you enjoy doing stuff with. That’d be the ideal, wouldn’t it? That’s what I work on; and, mostly, I have pulled it off.
I have just the greatest life there is. I work with people I like. I live with people I like. I like you guys. I like you. I engage with people I don’t like; but most of that is my service to others that I do, and I do it mostly with the people I like. It’s a good thing to angle for.
This “buy time,” this “redeem time,” we could use it to this nature concept because nature’s around us all the time.
Let me just challenge you to do something. I try to do this, and I find it’s incredibly helpful to me.
I used to have an office with a really fantastic view. I don’t have that anymore. Now it’s a view of a garage. When I did, I would take window breaks, and I would just, “Man, look at those clouds!” and just think about how amazing those clouds are from time to time.
You don’t have to have a view to do this thing. There’s always amazing stuff going on around us.
You can even burp or something and think, “Now where did that come from?” Isn’t it amazing all the little things going on down in my bowels.
I’m eating this stuff, chewing it up. It tastes good, and then it goes down.
Something down there—there’re all these little factories down there, and there’re little trucks that come and pick it up and take it to the Walmart distribution center. They parse it out, and this goes over here, and that goes over there.
Then the assembly line starts, and they start breaking it down. And then I can talk and eat and think. That’s unbelievable what’s going on inside of me, and I’m not even having to direct it all.
You can walk by and flip on the light and think, how do those electrons know to do that? Isn’t that amazing?
You can think about the person across from you and ask, how do they know what I’m saying? I don’t even know what I’m saying.
The heavens declare the glory of God. You can just redeem a little snippets of time, and just be aware. It’s amazing this stuff that’s going on around us all the time.
I said this a couple weeks ago. How do we not just fly off the world? What if God just said, “I’m just going to stop this spinning just for a second”? Everything just flies off!
The heavens declare the glory of God. It’s just worth some snippets of time.
Listen to others
The third thing was listen to others. Jesus said to the disciples when he sent the seventy out, he said, “When they listen to you, they’re listening to me.” When we listen to one another, we’re buying gold from God, when we hang around godly people.
We have a friend that used to say you can’t be like people you’re not around. One thing is to make a deliberate effort to be around people that are going to get you rich. It’s not uncommon for people to figure out how to be around people that have a lot of money. People that have a lot of money have islands in the Bahamas, and they have vacation homes, and they have jet airplanes and stuff. It’s fun to go do all that stuff, especially since you can leave, and they save all the problems, right? It’s not uncommon. That stuff just comes and goes.
We’re talking about riches that last, gold that lasts. If we’re around godly people that can help us live godly lives, then we’re really being smart! Being around rich people is a smart thing to do. The richest people are the ones with wisdom. If we can hang around those people, it’s a great way to get rich.
Our church—to the extent that we have people that aren’t in small groups, or don’t have a circle of friends that they can integrate with, aren’t engaged in serving—and one great way to be around godly people is to do things like work in the nursery or our being one of the youth leaders or being an AWANA leader or something like that. When you do that, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to do this, and you may learn more from that than you do sitting and listening to a sermon or coming to a Sunday School class and listening to me.
When we have people that aren’t engaged like that, we need to reach out and encourage them to get engaged. Working, serving together is a fantastic opportunity to be around those godly people and hear what they have to say. It could be that watching Jamie interact with young children has more impact on your growth this week than hearing something that Tim has to say.
This is something we usually don’t put a real high priority on. It’s more like “I’m serving because I’m supposed to,” or “I’m serving to try to diminish the amount of guilt that’s being put on me.”
Serving is a way to get rich! You’re hanging around the rich people! They all have islands in the Bahamas––in the new earth anyway.
Don’t forget the parable of the unrighteous steward. Make yourself friends with unrighteous money that they’ll invite you into their eternal home, their eternal Biltmore. You’ll get on the invitation list of their Biltmore.
That also applies to this. It’s not just doing it with money; it’s your time. You redeem your time when you hang around godly people. When you do life with godly people, you’re putting each other on your invitation list and just making yourself an enrichment forevermore.
James 1, if you want to turn to that. Since it’s a Sunday school class, we’ve got to use a Bible at least once. And just look at 1:26.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious—
Now, I’m going to do an entire sermon, and I’m going to determine what “if anyone among you thinks he’s religious” means without any context. Just an example. No, I’m not going to do that.
Look at this 1:19. So then, my beloved brethren—it’s another book to believers—let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
Swift to hear. What are we talking about? What’s the word? Listening. I’m talking about listening.
for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
If you really listen to someone, it’s hard to go to wrath because you have to set aside your own thoughts in order to hear what they have to say.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your lives. Psyche.
We’re talking about saving our lives from what? What’s the context talking about here? What’s in here that you would like to be delivered from?
Trials in the first one, but what’s in this verse?
Do you like filthiness? Mark, you in particular. Do you like filthiness and disorder? Would you like to be delivered and preserved from that?
Please. How about wickedness? Do you like wickedness? You want all of that you can get, or would you like to be delivered from wickedness? Those are the two things, filthiness and overflow of wickedness.
So you want to be delivered from that? How do you do it? Receive with meekness the implanted word.
How do you do that? Listen.
How do you do that? You start by listening to people. If you listen to people, you’re learning to listen. When you learn to listen to people, you’re learning to set aside your own wrath because instead of not listening to them and just waiting for their mouth to stop moving so you can blast them, with your wrath, you’re actually trying to understand, well, what are you saying, why are you saying it, what’s your perspective? I may or may not agree with it; but I’m going to listen to it.
That’s training your soul to set aside wickedness and overflow of evil so you can receive the word.
What better people to listen to than godly people? You can practice this on ungodly people. You can actually listen to them, and should. The best thing to do is listen to godly people because they’re going to help you deliver your life from the pollution of wickedness and overflow of evil. Deliver your life, save your soul.
You automatically, If you say “deliver your life,” you think, deliver it from what? “Save your soul,” you think, “hell.” Kind of making the other point.
Listen to God
The fourth thing that we talked about is listening to God. And we talked about that the Spirit’s actually talking to us all the time. Jesus said, “I’m going to send the Spirit because the Spirit is going to talk to you and tell you the things that I could tell you but you can’t handle it right now. I could tell you this; you can’t handle it. I’m going to let the Spirit—and he’s going to speak to you the things he hears. Speaking.
There’s a book that’s a Christian classic called Practicing the Presence of God. Anybody know this book? You know you know when it was written?
It’s about a guy named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence worked in a French monastery. He was on the kitchen staff in the 1600s, and this is still one of the main books about practicing the presence of God in Christianity. It’s still in print, still widely circulated, still influential. From the 1600s. He was on the kitchen staff.
Let me just read you a little bit about it:
“The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was on August 3, 1666.”
There’s another thing about Brother Lawrence. He didn’t write any of the book. He never wrote anything. He said, “Every time I tried to write something down, it was so inferior compared to what was going on in my soul, I just immediately tore it up.”
These are all people writing about conversations they had with the kitchen staff guy. He never even made it in to be a monk.
The first time I saw brother Lawrence was on August 3, 1666. During our conversation, he told me many things. Among them, that God had done him a remarkable favor in his conversion at age 18.
That winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and the flowers and fruit would appear, he received a high view of the providence and power of God that never left his soul.
There’s your nature observation. Psalm 19 in action.
This view perfectly set him loose from the world and kindled in him such a great love for God he could not tell whether it had increased during the more than 40 years since then.
Actually, I think you can say it has.
He had been a footman [to this particular guy], and he himself was a great awkward fellow who broke everything. And he had desired to be accepted into a monastery thinking maybe there he would suffer for his awkwardness and the faults he would commit. So he would sacrifice his life and pleasures to God.
Which was a common thinking in those days. I need to suffer in order to please God.
And he said he was disappointed severely because he thought he’s supposed to be suffering, and he was really happy.
Brother Lawrence ended the conversation by saying that if it was my intention to serve God sincerely, I should come to him as often as I please without any fear of being troublesome; but if it was not my intention, not to bother him anymore.
He understood some things, didn’t he?
This is from a guy named Nicolas Herman who died in 1691. He says,
That there are no comprehensive biographies of Brother Lawrence is both ironic and perfect. Ironic because he stands today as a man of profound influence in classic Christian literature, and we have a natural curiosity about him; and perfect because his life was never about him.
He was a simple man who simply served God. And the main way he served God was by washing dishes. In fact, he never even wrote a book.
The book you’re about to read’s a compilation of letters and recollections of conversations that were assembled after his death.
Brother Lawrence was the Carmelite monk who was born Nicholas Herman in the Lorraine province of France sometime around 1605. He was in a Carmelite order. And he took on the name Brother Lawrence.
He was assigned to kitchen duty, preparing food and washing dishes and mopping floors. Amidst the steaming pots and pans, he entered into conversation with God.
He admitted distaste for kitchen drudgery day in and day out. You can tell he’s very human.
But more important, the secret of his grace, that he disliked it, was beside the point. That he used it to serve God was the gift. He transformed drudgery into devotion, and therein is the lesson we learn as we browse his letters and eavesdrop on conversations held hundreds of years ago.
This is a quote from brother Lawrence:
The time of business does not differ from the time of prayer. And in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.
Brother Lawrence says of his constant conversation with God:
I make it my business to rest in his holy presence which I keep myself in by habitual silent and secret conversation with God. This often causes me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes outwardly so great I’m forced to use means to moderate them.
Doesn’t want to bother the people around him.
It’s tempting to think Brother Lawrence’s grace came easily, that he was a serene and joyful monk who smiled and moved gently through his days, but this was not the case. He was, in fact, a very human man, prone to anxiety and melancholy. His nature, however, was secondary to his relationship with God.
He suffered from sciatic gout and created great agony while he was in the kitchen. But, he said, “We ought not to grow tired of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work but the love in which it’s performed.”
Menial tasks done in God’s name are meaningful
Here’s a guy who’s in kitchen duty and because he took menial tasks and did them for the devotion of God, became immensely joyful as a person and drew people to come and talk to him and ask, how are you doing this? And 400 years later, we’re still reading about it. Why?
One reason is because he was in a monastery, and people kind of expect amazing things to happen in monasteries. There’s probably a lot of people like this that didn’t get talked to.
Another reason is because this subject doesn’t get talked about enough. There should be books galore on this. We can all write the book in our own lives. There’s no such thing as a menial task in the eyes of God.
He gave us an example of the main thing that he wanted to focus on in terms of serving other people. What is it? One example he used over and over again. A cup of cold water in his name.
You’ve got to go to the cistern, you got to take a pot, you’ve got to walk down the stairs, dip it out, come back up, and pour some out. It’s trouble. I mean, I know all you males back in the days when you had a water bottle in the refrigerator, I know that when it got down to half an inch, you stopped drinking it—I know that—instead of filling it up, right?
Right? Yeah. So. And the females too? Did you do it too? Did I hear a giggle there?
We go out of our way not to have any trouble.
A cup of cold water is trouble, but this is something most anybody can do. That’s the example Jesus used. A menial thing, just to take a little effort to go out of your way to do something in his name.
That’s Brother Lawrence’s point. Everything we do—business, children, family, neighbors, church—everything we do is all hugely meaningful. It’s changing the whole universe every time we do anything in Jesus’s name.
How do we do that? We have an ongoing conversation with him all the time. “What do you want me to do next?”
I think the most important prayer we can pray might be, “What do you want me to do next? How do you want me to treat this person?” Because listening to God is more important than talking to God.
He wants to hear our petition. The prayer of a righteous man avails much. I’m not saying don’t talk to God. But I am saying listening to God is how we get gold and riches. We can do that just as an ongoing conversation, just like brother Lawrence did.
We’d like to be rich. We want riches that last. We want riches that you don’t have to worry about spoiling or being stolen. We want riches that’ll compound forever. We don’t want the stock market or some external force to take it away from us. This is the way we get it. Listen to God.
Listening to God involves reading his word, reading what it actually says, paying attention to the world around us. It’s speaking to us all the time. Listening to others, especially godly people, because God can be speaking through them and is all the time. And having an ongoing conversation with God, even in things that the world says is menial, but there’s no such thing as menial in the economy of God.