So it’s half-time in the big game. Things could go either way, and you have time to say only one thing to your team before they head back onto the field. What’s it going to be?
- “Don’t forget all the plays you have learned!”
- “Don’t let me down out there!”
- “Keep an eye out for their star players!”
- “You’ve got this!”
How about pointing to the quarterback and saying, “Listen to him.”
It’s not particularly dynamic. Probably wouldn’t get a million likes on Facebook if it was recorded. Not especially inspirational.
But it might just be the best thing; after all, the quarterback is the one on whom things are going to hinge. He’s the one that’s calling the plays out there. What you most need your players to do is keep tuned in to the guy with the ball.
Some of you may see where this is going and shudder at the inelegance, not to say the inadequacy, of likening the Godhead to football coaching. You might be even more appalled when I confess that, despite having lived in America for more than twenty years, I still don’t get its idea of “football.” My understanding of what is happening out there actually decreases in inversion proportion to the amount of time I watch.
But the image is the closest I can come to trying to make sense of the transfiguration, when Jesus goes into a huddle with Coach Moses and Coach Elijah on the mountain. It’s the one occasion on which God the Father gives people direct, audible instructions in regards to Jesus, and He doesn’t tell them to obey Him, to worship Him, or to love Him—all of which many churches spend a lot of time doing each weekend.
No, it’s, “Listen to Him.” Why that? Maybe the parable thing didn’t appear to be working out too well (Jesus did seem to have to offer footnotes, after all). Perhaps there was some concern that people might get so caught up in the cool stuff that Jesus was doing that they’d miss what He was actually saying. Or it could be that only by truly listening can we ever really hope to be able to do the obeying, worshiping, and loving stuff. They are a response to Him, after all, not a way to Him.
Listening isn’t that easy when the game’s in full bore. You can hear your own blood pounding in your ears. There’s the roar of the crowd. The snarls of the opposition. The whistle. Yet everything depends on tuning in to the one voice that matters most.
The difference is that hearing just kind of happens; it’s everything that comes at you whether you want it to or not. Listening is something you choose to do, when you focus your attention on what matters most.
I’m left wondering how well I really listen for Jesus’ voice. In private prayer and Bible reading. In church services. In encountering others. Sure, I hear a lot of stuff in those places. But how well do I really listen to and for Him, and what should it look like when I have? Because it really seems to be important.