Here at Bob Jones University, we live our lives immersed in the Word of God.

We hear about six sermons a week. In the average academic year, we will hear over 200 sermons, and in four years of college, a student hears over 800 messages!

My suspicion is that in all of this hearing, we often aren’t listening.

Now, I understand how a person who is in rebellion against God would reject listening to His Word. But I don’t understand how someone could say they love the Lord, yet fail to listen effectively to God’s Word when it’s being presented.

I know the tendencies of my fallen heart. I also know Satan will do everything he can to minimize the value of God’s Word in our lives. So here are some practical suggestions I’ve learned over the years when listening to sermons.

  1. Beware of a critical spirit – strive to be easily blessed!

Our hearts have a tendency to be critical of what we don’t enjoy. We all have our preferences for sermons – some of us like “fiery” sermons, others like logical ones, and still others like down-to-earth preaching. When we get tired, frustrated, or under pressure, we get all the more critical when listening to sermons – and sometimes block them out altogether! While God wants us to carefully evaluate all that we hear in light of the truths of His Word, we must strive to avoid our heart’s tendency to become a sermon critic.

  1. Beware of exalting the messenger over other good messengers of God’s Word – or over the Master Himself!

This is exactly what happened in Corinth where you had groups centered around Paul or Peter or Apollos. I fear that there’s too much Corinth in our circles today! We either get overly impressed by the preacher or under-impressed – or even offended! In both cases we are prone to two perils: 1) we become followers of a man or 2) we miss the work God was intending to do in our heart because of too much focus on the man behind the pulpit. The point to all preaching is Jesus – we should see Him, be made to know Him more, love Him more, and marvel at His beauty.

  1. Come prayerfully prepared to glean God’s wisdom for your life.

Bring your Bible. Take notes. Listen actively – not just passively. Pray silently as the preaching of unfolds “Yes, Lord! I need more of that in my life! Father, help me to do this!” Determine in advance to obey whatever God’s Spirit prompts you to do. Two things that need to be brought to every sermon are honesty and obedience. Honesty – I need to be open and transparent about the sin problems of my life, no matter how painful it may be to recognize them. And obedience – I need to do what God wants me to do about what He has shown me from His Word, even if it means some awkward conversations or difficult decisions.

  1. Make a point to thank the preacher – and if possible, ask God to bless him!

Even if you disagree, thank him for his ministry. Too often, our Sunday afternoon lunches are full of critical conversation of the morning’s sermon. But it is very hard to be critical to others of a man that you have just thanked and for whom you have just prayed.

Let’s commit afresh to developing our spiritual listening skills. Let’s determine that we will be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22). Let’s strive to be Berean believers when it comes to studying the Word after hearing it preached (Acts 17:11). May the Word of Christ dwell richly in us (Col. 3:16) – so much so that it flows out into every part of our daily life!

May we say with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).

Sam Horn

Posted by Sam Horn

Dr. Sam Horn is the EVP for enrollment and ministerial advancement at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Prior to BJU, Sam served at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Northland International University, and various churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Sam and Beth have two children – a son in college and a daughter in middle school.