An American friend of mine and her husband had a distressing experience listening to a visiting evangelist at her friend’s church recently. What she heard really bothered her. She shared her experience with us and wondered how best to approach a situation like this. At that time, we were just coming to the end of our group study of the book of Acts and on the last chapter, we read about people who are “ever hearing but not understanding, ever seeing but not perceiving”. These were my thoughts for our study
“i think sometimes we choose to hear only what we want to hear and see what we want to see because knowing the truth would require some kind of action or change from us and we’d rather not. but it says here that this is a sign of a calloused heart. if we allow this to happen over a period of time, our heart will be so hardened and any change or turning back will be even more challenging. i interpret the phrase “understand with their heart” as “revelation”. knowledge and revelation are different. knowledge without revelation is powerless. revelation without knowledge can result in foolishness. but together, they make wisdom. i believe that is how god wants us to operate – out of wisdom. i think when we feel like we’re going round in circles, feeling stuck, maybe it’s time to ask god for a fresh revelation on that situation and then act on it.”
No believer wants to be in such a position, although many do fall into it, whether knowingly or not.
I’ve had similar experiences with hearing (or in my case, reading) things that threaten to tear down what I’ve been taught for years. It can be difficult and very confusing. After praying about my friend’s experience and asking God for wisdom, I still do not know how best to respond but gave her some principles which have helped me in my own experience.I find these principles essential to learning and especially so when faced with conflicting views and ideas.
(Not in any order of importance)
- acknowledge that my knowledge is neither perfect nor complete, therefore I could be in error about certain things. likewise for any other man of god, no matter how great they are.
- give the other person the benefit of doubt. try to look beyond my own prejudice, assumptions, even the way the argument was delivered and listen with an open mind.
- try to be as unbias as possible. consider the facts without dismissing the role faith plays
- be humble and ready to admit you were wrong
- hear with the intent to understand and not to poke holes. try to see the subject from another perspective.
- adopt a teachable spirit.
- agree to disagree.
- recognize what are foundational truths and what are not. essential doctrines are worth defending and should not be compromised. but do not fall into the trap of majoring on the minor.
- judge the idea, not the person.
- check against God’s word and God’s character.
- seek the counsel of other mature believers, pastor or mentor.
- watch for signs of dis-ease or heaviness in the spirit. there should be a sense of liberation, joy and peace in the spirit. this is a little tricky because emotions may not always be reliable and emotions are often confused with the spirit’s leading.
- if you can’t reach a conclusion about an issue, be ready to let it go without passing judgement. but don’t write it off. keep it somewhere in the corner of your mind. if you have prayed and ask god about it, he will bring it to light eventually. i have personally experienced this many times – god answering my questions months and even years later.
- pray and ask God.
Hope these help.