In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:6 NKJV
When the real leader speaks, people listen. In many situations, you can discern two kinds of leaders: the positional leader who speaks first and has minimal influence, and the real leader who speaks later and has maximum influence.
When Jesus was on this earth, Peter was the guy who always spoke up first, but he usually ended up putting his foot in his mouth. When he witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter proposed a building plan because he didn’t know what else to say. A voice came out of a cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7). In essence God was saying, “Hush, Peter, and learn how to listen.”
Real leaders learn to listen to God and speak only after they have heard from Him. To be influential in the kingdom of God, learn how to listen to God by using three listening tools.
LISTENING TOOL 1: SCRIPTURE
The first way to hear from God is to read and obey His Word. When you read and then do what God’s Word says, your understanding and confidence increase, and so does your leadership influence. By being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22), we can avoid being “feed me” Christians, who are educated beyond our level of obedience. The only successful Christ- follower is an obedient Christ- follower.
The first miracle Jesus performed in front of His disciples was a lesson in obedience. Jesus and His disciples were at a wedding when Jesus’ mother Mary came to Him with a problem. The hosts had run out of wine, a major social faux pas in that culture. Mary’s instruction to the servants is a statement every successful spiritual leader lives by— “Whatever He [Jesus] says to you, do it” (John 2:5).
Jesus’ directions didn’t appear to make sense, but the servants obeyed. They filled six huge pots to the brim with water, then drew some of that water and took it to the master of the feast. When this banquet VIP tasted the liquid, he announced that the bridegroom had saved the best wine for last. The master of the feast didn’t know what had happened, but the servants and disciples knew, and they believed in Jesus.
Some three years after this wedding feast, Jesus had one last feast with His disciples, where He spoke of His impending death and resurrection. He urged them to keep His commandments and promised that if they obeyed His words, He would make Himself plain to them (John 14:21).
Read Scripture with the intention of obeying what God says. Understanding is on the far side of obedience. You don’t obey because you understand. You understand because you obey.
LISTENING TOOL 2: A BLANK SHEET OF PAPER
When you ask God to communicate with you, expect to hear from Him and write down what you hear. When Israel’s last and greatest judge, Samuel, was a child, he heard a voice calling him in the night. Three times Samuel ran to the priest Eli, who finally perceived it was God speaking to the young lad. Eli gave Samuel specific instructions; when God called the fourth time, Samuel answered the way Eli had advised: “Speak, for Your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:10). When Samuel was ready to listen, God told him he was getting ready to do something really big.
When you’re willing to listen, sit with a blank piece of paper, trusting God will speak to you. Then write down what you think God is saying. This writing discipline will develop greater attention and clarity of thought.
Effective leaders invest time reflecting and recording their thoughts. Many modern leaders we admire kept journals. King David, considered by many to be the greatest leader in Israel’s history, left a treasure trove of journal entries in the Psalms.
LISTENING TOOL 3: PRAYER
Prayer is not just asking God for something; prayer is seeking to know God’s will. When you set aside time to pray, you are showing God you are intentional in wanting to know His plans for you.
Abraham took time to pray to the Lord to seek His will. As he traveled about the Promised Land, Abraham, on more than one occasion “built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:8b). This seeking created an intimate relation-ship which God blessed with several promises, including that through Abraham “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.12:3b).
A good leader prays and listens for God’s direction. God’s guidance is the best guidance, and that comes only when you spend time in intimate prayer and when you have a willingness to listen.
GOD HAS SOMETHING TO SAY
God has something to say to you through Scripture, times of quiet reflection, and prayer. Follow David’s example. He waited expectantly, listened to God, and then wrote, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require” (Ps. 40:6). God wants to open your ears so you can lis-ten because He has something to say to you! Wait with joyful expectancy to hear God and then do what He says. By learning to listen when God speaks, you can become a real leader with great influence.
Which of these tools do you need to use more?