Who Are You Listening To?
The Pelicano is the world’s most unwanted ship. Since 1986 she has been roaming the high seas looking for a home. She has been rejected by Sri Lanka, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, the Antilles, Honduras, and many more. The problem is not the boat. Though it is rusty, the 466-foot freighter is seaworthy. The problem is that the Pelicano is loaded down with fifteen thousand tons of trash. It is the orange peelings, coke bottles, newspapers, and half-eaten hot dogs that piled up in the summer of 1986 when the municipal workers of Philadelphia went on strike. Initially no one would accept the Pelicano because there was too much trash, now they will not accept it because it has rotted for so long it is potentially toxic.
I know you are thinking, “What does a toxic ship have to do with the voices I listen to?” Well, let’s use the ship as a metaphor for our lives. We too are a vessel floating through this life, and we also receive contributions from others that we are unable to dispose of. The difference between us and the ship is that we have veto power. We have the power to choose what we let on board our vessel. This is where the voices come in. We choose whose words and opinions we allow to take up residence in our hearts and minds. Who we listen to affects who we are and how we feel about our life, ourselves, other people, and every situation we encounter. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all shaped by the voices we allow to influence us.
- Identify the Positive Voices In Your Life
Do an inventory of the individuals you allow to influence your decisions and identify whose voices are impacting you in a positive way. A positive voice is not a voice that always tells you what you want to hear. A positive voice is a voice that speaks honestly even when it isn’t popular. An honest voice is a voice that challenges you to be a better person.
Esther had been placed in the kingdom at a critical time. She was positioned perfectly to save her people from destruction, but to be their salvation, she had to be brave enough to put her life on the line. In her moment of wavering, it was her cousin, Mordecai, who spoke into her life. Mordecai’s words cut through Esther’s haze of doubt and clarified her purpose. Mordecai uttered one of the famous lines of the biblical narrative, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, New King James Version). It was Mordecai’s voice that emboldened Esther to fulfill her purpose.
We often praise Mordecai for his role in the unfolding of Esther’s story and herald him as one of the many men who played a part in saving God’s people throughout history. However, we must also note that Esther had identified Mordecai as a positive voice in her life and allowed him to influence her actions. As queen, Esther had the power to turn Mordecai away and not heed his words. Identifying the positive voice and receiving the positive voice allowed Esther to successfully save her people.
- Identify the Negative Voices in Your Life
If Eve would have identified the serpent as a negative voice, where would we be today? There are a plethora of biblical examples in which people of faith had to endure negative voices and ultimately make the decision to reject them. After all Job had lost, he was also forced to endure the negative voices of his spouse and closest friends. It doesn’t get much more negative than your wife telling you to curse God and die. David had to hear his brothers and King Saul express their doubts about his capability to kill Goliath just before he walked off to pick up his smooth stones and confront the great giant. Moses had to listen to the Israelites constantly complain despite the miracles God continued to perform in their midst.
Perhaps the most tragic story is that of Samson falling prey to the negative voice of Delilah. Judges 16 records that “when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; that he told her all his heart” (Judges 16: 16-17). He was captured, blinded, and bound. Worse, he lost his God-given gift of strength because he had listened to the negative voice in his life.
Delilah is such a great example of a negative voice. It might be easy to form the opinion that a negative voice is a voice that is encouraging us to do something really bad. For example, we would definitely know that a voice was negative if it was telling us to commit a crime or do drugs. What made Delilah’s voice negative is that it was encouraging Samson to compromise his commitment to God. Any voice that encourages us to be less committed to God and to the life we are asked to lead in the Word of God is a negative voice.
Sometimes the negative voice in our lives can be our own voice. We can make the mistake of allowing our low self-esteem to shape our perception of who we are. It is easy to get caught up in our unfortunate circumstances or rocky family situations and begin to speak negatively to ourselves. Thankfully, it isn’t God’s plan for us to view our lives through the window of our own circumstances or our own portion of self-confidence. God’s intention is for us to view our lives through His plan of who we are in Him. All the pressure is taken off of us, and we are simply left with the responsibility of surrendering our lives to Him and shutting out the negative voices, even our own, that speak failure into our hearts and minds.
After identifying the positive voices and vetoing the negative ones, we must ultimately tune our hearts and minds to the voice of God. God speaks promise and hope into our lives. He whispers to us of the person He wants us to be. If we have too many other voices talking in our head, we will miss the opportunity to hear the still small voice that saves us.