How to Listen to a Sermon: Don’t Miss the Dolphins

A lone dolphin fin rises above the churning water of the Atlantic Ocean. It reappears, followed by the arch of the dolphin’s body as he gracefully glides through the waves. A second dolphin leaps into view, then another, another and then a fifth! I am in awe of the ocean, but add a line of soaring seagulls, a few pelicans dive-bombing for their breakfast, plus five dolphins performing a synchronized swimming routine, and I am in bliss. 

Other vacationers don’t share my excitement. In fact, they aren’t even paying attention. They are positioning umbrellas, slathering suntan lotion, reading novels. They are oblivious to the glorious sight in plain view. 

Travel with me from the Atlantic coast to the church you attend. We arrive just in time for the sermon. But wait—the people around us seem otherwise occupied. Few seem to be in the moment and ready to receive as the glory of God’s Word comes into our spiritual view.

So I wonder: how can those of us who routinely sit in church hearing message after message, keep from “missing the dolphins”? 

  • Pray. Ask God, “Lord, what have you got for me today? Speak to me. I’m listening.” The Holy Spirit will deliver a personalized message if we are open to receiving it. 
  • Be All There. Don’t just show up. Arrive on time and resist the temptation to constantly check incoming communication on technology gadgets. 
  • Don’t Focus. On the speaker, that is. No matter if he needs a haircut, has attended a few too many potlucks, or has imperfect elocution. God’s Word, proclaimed through the ages by some unlikely characters, is to be our focus. 
  • Put Your Ears On. As I was having my driver’s license photo taken, the DMV employee said “Smile if you care to.” Life is made up of choices! Listening is a choice. 
  • Expect To Be Changed. God’s Word is alive. Encountering His living revelation should be a life-changing experience. Romans 10:17 assures us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. 
  • Anticipate that your faith will be enlarged. Be Aware. Satan is our enemy. The last thing he wants is for our faith to increase. He will eagerly snatch away any unclaimed seeds sown from God’s Word. 
  •  Ask “Now What? Hearing God’s Word without “putting legs on it” is simply collecting spiritual data. Pray about what you’ve heard, then take action. 
  •  Chew On It. The message is not over at “Amen.” Continue to pray over what you’ve heard. Review your notes throughout the week. Share your discoveries with a friend or family member. 
  •  Ask God to reveal deeper meanings and more specific applications. 

If we put these tips into practice we will be more awake and aware, focused and expectant. And we won’t miss the dolphins! 

Kim Jackson

Kim Jackson serves as an advocate for homeless elderly in Romania via , writes a weekly Brag On God Blog at , and travels the globe spreading encouragement and inspiration to a variety of audiences--at last count, in 30 states and 6 countries. Her favorite Scripture verse is Ephesians 3:20: "Now to God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be the glory...."

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