May 19, 2002: Are You Too Busy Dictating To Listen?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we celebrate Your sending of the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Comforter, open our ears to His guidance and counsel. Enable us to really listen when He comes with eternal Truth and then to act on that truth so that we may be saved, others uplifted, and You glorified. Amen

TEXT: Acts 2: 1-4

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

The Holy Spirit is not a rabbit’s foot. He is not a Christian “good luck” charm. He is God Almighty, the 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity Who is in charge of personalizing Christ’s forgiveness and comforting our souls with the eternal peace and love that Jesus won for us on the cross. I fear that many Christians ignore the urgings of the Spirit until something rather dire occurs in their lives. Suddenly we’re overwhelmed by the untimely death of a loved one, or by a marriage gone sour, by a job upheaval, or by illness or disease. Suddenly our comfort zone is invaded, we feel like we’ve been kicked in the stomach, and we don’t know where to turn for help. At such moments, what do you do? You pray. You pray hard. You pour out your heart to God and tell Him exactly how He should fix your problems. And then we expect an immediate response-in exactly the form we’ve outlined it, don’t we? However, usually God’s timetable is different than our own. Usually He handles our problems far different than we expected or asked for. And as we engage in this “waiting game” with the Spirit we’re confused, upset, and sometimes angry with Him. “Lord, why aren’t You answering me?” is our constant question. Eventually as our haste subsides blinders seem to be lifted from our eyes and then we begin to see the Spirit’s subtle hand of guidance. All our worry was for nothing. All of our sleeplessness was a waste. For God truly does take care of His children!

I mention this because it dovetails rather nicely with today’s theme which is:


Certainly God wants to hear our prayers. He commands us: “Ask!” and then He adds: “It will be given to you.” “Seek!-And you will find.” “Knock, and it will be opened to you.” But, when does our asking cross over the line to dictating to God? Are we sometimes so busy pushing our own agenda down God’s throat that we fail to listen and thus bring a plague of worry down upon our heads? In last week’s lesson on Christ’s ascension into heaven, as found in Acts chapter 1, we run across a prime example of this “dictating to God” and missing the point in the process. Right before His ascension into glory Jesus is with the disciples and he gave them the command not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for Pentecost. To “wait for the gift my Father promised.” Immediately after Christ said those words, what did the disciples do? They asked that silly question: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Obviously they missed the point. Obviously they weren’t really listening to Him. Here He was promising them God’s eternal power, the gift of the Spirit to change the world by changing hearts. But all they could think about was “is He going to create heaven on earth and turn us into political big-shots?”

Another example of dictating to God instead of listening to His voice of comfort is found in the Old Testament. It is the story of the prophet Elijah. For three years Elijah was a hunted man. He had proclaimed God’s Word against the evil King Ahab and announced a three year drought to back it up. At the end of this time span Elijah had a show-down with those godless prophets of the idol Baal upon Mt. Carmel. God performed a miracle through Elijah and those godless prophets were slaughtered. Elijah is at his zenith. Then he gets word that the vile Queen Jezebel wants his head. What does Elijah do? He runs away in fear. He runs away into the southern desert and mopes under a broom tree telling God how worthless he feels. We’re told “he prayed that he might die.” After letting him vent his frustrations, God eventually comes to Him. He sends the Spirit to comfort him. But the Spirit doesn’t come in the great wind that tore the mountains apart. Nor in the earthquake that followed. Nor in the fire that God sent. No, the Spirit finally comes in the sound of the gentle breeze. Yes, when Elijah is through dictating to God, the Spirit comes in a gentleness that could easily be missed unless and until the prophet was ready to listen.


Did you ever wonder why Christ didn’t send the Spirit to the disciples the day after His ascension? Why did He make them wait for 10 long days? Well, I guess someday we can ask Him, but I believe the answer is: they weren’t ready yet because they were too busy dictating their ideas to God instead of listening. It was only when they got their dictatorialness out of their system that they were ready to listen. And that’s when the Spirit came. And in this case, He came with a violent wind that didn’t blow anyone over and with tongues of fire that didn’t burn the body but inflamed the heart. And the fact that we’re here today shows that that fire is still burning and that wind is still blowing, doesn’t it?

Like the disciples and just like Elijah, the Spirit comes into our lives when we quit dictating and embrace humility. Such Christian humility is nothing more than following Peter’s advice from last Sunday’s epistle: “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.” It is the heart singing the song: “Lord, I am but clay, You are the potter, make of me what You will.” It is the acceptance, the total acceptance of that age-old Christian phrase: “What God ordains is always good.”

Pentecost is about making head knowledge into heart knowledge. We all know with our heads that Jesus is God’s Son, that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, that Jesus promises never to leave nor forsake us. We all know with our heads that Jesus sends His strength and love upon us through baptism, the Holy Supper, and His Word of truth in absolution. But unless and until those “head truths” become “heart truths” worry, anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration will dominate our lives. Unless and until those “head truths” become “heart truths” we’re going to be dictatorial towards our God instead of accepting.

My friends, God gave you one mouth to praise Him and two ears to listen to Him. The Spirit comes simply yet powerfully through God’s Word of truth. When the Bible says: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” the Spirit is trying to break into your heart and comfort you. So, listen to His voice. Put your worries aside. Trust in Him to guide you always. Yes, humble yourselves before the Lord and then “He will lift you up on eagle’s wings!” To be sure, this is not easy for any of us to do. So let’s thank God every day that “God the Spirit’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Amen