Hearing God in the secret place is one of the greatest keys to living the Christian life. However, it must be linked with its corollary: radical obedience. We hear, and then we do. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22, NKJV).
By "radical obedience," I mean immediate obedience that fulfills the commandment to its fullest measure. Radical obedience does not seek to comply to the minimal standards but pursues extravagant, lavish fulfillment. If Jesus says, "Sell all," then we sell all! Immediately.
The New Testament word for obedience, hupakoe, is a compound word of two Greek words, hupo, "under," and akouo, "to hear." So to obey is "to hear under." Obedience involves listening attentively with a heart of compliant submission and, then, obeying his word.
Implicit obedience starts, for every one of us, not in doing good works but in sitting at his feet and hearing his word. Devotion to the secret place is the saint's first great act of obedience. Jesus revealed this:
But He answered them, saying, "Who is My mother, or
My brothers?" And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! For
whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and
mother" (Mark 3:33-35, NASB).
The will of God in that moment was for the people to sit at Jesus' feet and hear his word. Until you attend to this responsibility first, you will be constantly frustrated in your inability to uncover the joys of radical obedience. Works of service gain their spiritual energy from the furnace of a fiery love relationship at Jesus' feet. The true fulfillment of serving Jesus is discovered when we get first things first: First we sit and listen, and then we go and do.
My friend, Steve Peglow, once told me he thought some people were "common law Christians." By that he meant they want the benefits of living with Jesus without making the commitment. But even as the full joy of living together is found only within the context of the commitment of marriage, so too the joy of following Jesus is found only in abandoning oneself to every word that proceeds from his mouth.
Some people put their best energies into creative thinking. However, God has a way of negating the plans of men: "The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever" (Psalm 33:10-11, NKJV). Instead of focusing on being creative, focus on being obedient. Give your best energies to waiting on God in his presence, listening for his voice, and then moving out in action only when he has spoken. There's no sense in coming up with your own ideas when it's only God's counsel that will stand! I'm saying it several different ways: The key is in hearing and obeying.
Oh what joy to hear his word and do it! The benefits are profound (I will mention only a few among many):
Obedience Unlocks Eternally Abundant Life. Jesus said, "'And I know that His command is everlasting life'" (John 12:50, NKJV). Coming from the master of understatement, these simple words contain far more impact than a cursory reading would reveal. Take that statement to your place of meditation and let him awaken you to the life-giving power of extravagant adherence to his command. The life that resides in him flows into you when you obey.
Obedience Incurs the Gaze of God.
God looks with special interest and affection upon the one who is devoted to obedience. He said it this way, '"But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word"' (Isaiah 66:2, NKJV). It's fantastic to just imagine it: You're in the secret place with his word before you, and you're trembling at the prospect of his speaking to you; He sees your willing spirit and conceives of ways to honor your devotion. Wow! To tremble at his word means firstly that we long for him to speak, and secondly that we tremble with ready diligence to act upon the word that comes. When we tremble for his word with this kind of keen anticipation, he fastens his gaze upon us in order to do good on our behalf.