A friend whom I love and respect shared some thoughts about me (I asked) and my friend realizing how I (at times) tend to overreact tempered what was said. Of the few words which were spoken to me, there was one word which caught my attention. The word was never.
Now never is a word in and of itself, which can be either good or bad. I understood it to be absolutely bad. To me, the word was all-encompassing (even though it perhaps was not meant that way). For me, the word never, spoke to my past, present and future. For me, there was no escaping never.
I was imprisoned by a word which offered no reprieve.
I decided to go and pray because I needed grace to overcome the disappointment, hurt and anger echoing in my ears. I found myself directed by the Holy Spirit to James 1 and there I read something that pierced my disappointment, hurt and anger.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”1
What caught my attention were the words, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger does not produce agreement or the correct standing with God. I will never agree with God when I’m angry. If I won’t agree with God, I’ll never agree with anyone else.
I thought it might help if I looked at other versions of scripture to learn how it might be expressed:
“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!”2
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.”3
This time, what caught my attention was, “get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts”. To accept the word God has planted in my heart takes humility. I cannot take a defensive position regarding my life (no matter how justified I may feel that position is) and be humble to the extent of accepting God’s word.
Why do I attempt to defend myself? What will my pleading and arguments accomplish?
The key to listening seems to be tied to both my senses and emotions. There are three actions I must take to humbly accept the word of God:
- Be quick to listen
- Be slow to speak
- Be slow to anger
I believe listening in conjunction with my silence, short-circuits my mouth and emotions. If I’m not talking, I’m not attempting to defend myself. Look at the example of Christ:
“The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”4
Instead of listening, I opened my mouth in a vain attempt to defend myself. I was wrong.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”5
The example set forth by Christ is that of a servant! How can I presume to be more than Christ? Can I sublimate my ego to the place of humility? When I get there, I will find Christ waiting for me. To be humble, I must do more than listen…I must do what I hear. It serves me no useful purpose to listen, if I’m not committed to obeying God.
“Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”6
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”7
Humility and obedience are interconnected as spiritual virtues. The more humble I become, the greater my capacity to obey God word. Having the capacity to obey is not the same as obeying. To obey takes discipline and self-control of my life, particularly what I say.
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”8
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”9
“Watch your words and hold your tongue; you'll save yourself a lot of grief. You know their names—Brash, Impudent, Blasphemer—intemperate hotheads, every one.”10
It is a difficult lesson, but one worthy of learning:
- Be quick to listen
- Be slow to speak
- Be slow to anger
I realize that the in order to hear your voice, I must come to the place of humility. It is there where Christ wants me to stay, that I will hear Your voice. You don't want me to just hear, I must obey You. This is my desire O Lord. I reject my ego and my arrogance. I accept the mind of a servant; I will not practice my own form of self-justification. I am only justified by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Without Him, I am lost and I have no hope. I exalt You because You are life to me.
Now, O God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servants. For Your sake, Lord, look with favor on this nation of people. Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the emptiness of our hearts. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because the people of this nation call on Your Name.
When we are weak, You give us strength. When we are afraid, You give us courage. When we are distressed, You give us peace. When we cry out for forgiveness, You hear and forgive our sins.
Thank You for all that You are O Lord. You are the Great and Mighty God who reigns supreme throughout eternity. We praise You with our hearts. Amen.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger). I believe you will find the blogs linked there filled with a passionate love for Christ. I encourage you to visit. You won't be disappointed.|
- James 1:19-22, NIV
- James 1:19-22, The Message Bible
- James 1:19-22, New Living Translation Bible
- Mark 15:3-5, NIV
- Philippians 2:5-8, NIV
- Ezekiel 33:31-32, NIV
- James 1:26, NIV
- James 3:5, NIV
- Psalm 19:14, New Living Translation Bible
- Proverbs 21:23-24, The Message Bible
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
- The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
- King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
- The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
- New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
- The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
- The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896