Friday, December 10, 2010

The Keys to Listening

What did You say?Last week I wrote about discovering what God wants from me. At the time, I remember thinking; there is so much to be said on this topic. How can I fit it in just one post? I decided to write it in a way I felt gave honor to God, while offering encouragement to
those who hear or want to hear from God. Little did I know, that post would lead me into an area on my spiritual journey, which speaks to the subject of listening.

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:

The Message:
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

Living Translation:
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:
  1. Be quick to listen
  2. Be slow to speak
  3. Be slow to anger
Why does God want me to be quick to listen?

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:
  1. Be quick to listen
  2. Be slow to speak
  3. Be slow to anger
These lead me to the place of humility and the path of obedience where I am welcomed by Christ.

Father God,

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.


Spiritual Sunday'sNote: 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.

Footnotes:
  1. James 1:19-22, NIV
  2. James 1:19-22, The Message Bible
  3. James 1:19-22, New Living Translation Bible
  4. Mark 15:3-5, NIV
  5. Philippians 2:5-8, NIV
  6. Ezekiel 33:31-32, NIV
  7. James 1:26, NIV
  8. James 3:5, NIV
  9. Psalm 19:14, New Living Translation Bible
  10. Proverbs 21:23-24, The Message Bible
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  3. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  4. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  5. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  6. 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
  7. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


27 comments:

A Peculiar Person said...

Oh yes, listening is HARD! We get so used to jumping in with corrections, justifications, defenses, and counterarguments that sitting back with our mouths closed and just receiving the word of the Lord (especially when it comes from the mouth of a person) can seem impossible. It's a flesh killer, that's for sure, but so worth while.

It reminds me of the verse:

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you - 1 Peter 5:5-7 NKJV)

God bless!
Paula

Susy said...

Sounds like there's a deep work going on in you. May the Lord finish the work He has started, to His glory. Blessings as you continue to ask, seek and knock.

High Heeled Life said...

Wonderfully worded!! This too is something that I need to practice more of "listening". Thank you for your words today.xo Blessings, HHL

P.S. thank you for posting my BlogLand Pen Pal button. My hope with BLPP is to randomly bring smiles to people's day when they receive something other than advertising or bills in the mail. And also to let them know someone in the world thinks enough of them to take the time to write. xo

Audrey said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! As I read I was reminded that that is why God gave us two ears but only one mouth.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Wow what a transparent post! Thanks for sharing.

Jocelyn
http://justalittlesouthernhospitality.blogspot.com/

Joan said...

Wonderful post! Too often, I am quick to speak, slow to listen, and quick to anger - just the opposite of what God's word says. When I do this, I am neither pleasing or edifying Christ.

As Audrey pointed out, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

Blessings,
Joan

Whidbey Woman said...

Excellent post. I do believe that most of the problems that marriages, families, co-workers, and world leaders face is that they don't listen. Surely, in our relationship with God this is also important. We'll pray but we won't "listen" to what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us.

Cindy Adkins said...

Oh what an inspiring post--and all so true! Thank you for this important lesson...And also, wishing you the joys of the holiday season!
:-)
Cindy

Charlotte said...

Very good advice in this post. I think it will be helpful to many as it has been to me.
Thank you for sharing.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Lloyd said...

Thank you so much MTJ for this inspirational message that everyone needs to hear and abide by. Praying your prayer with you my brother in Christ. Lloyd

Peggy (mazmagi) said...

AMEN!!! Thanks MTJ...I think...
Convicted on all accounts!

Your last post did honor God as does this one, as a way of transformation for us from the old to the new. A place of true humility and obedience.

I am guilty and this was perhaps meant from God to me through you;
for I am slow to listen... (thinking what I will be saying or lashing out instead of waiting and listening) quick tongue... in the recovery process of learning this,
for I am quick to speak (and write sometimes)...
for I am quick to anger
at least when I lived at home with the people that this matters most to...in public, I'm a bit better.
Maybe this is why I am sent away on this exile? (lol) to learn all God has been taking my entire lifetime to teach me...

I do NOT know why I am publicly confessing my major weaknesses here, but it seems to me that many who are reading this look at it as
a deep work in you, and I see this as a message for each of us, to examine ourselves to be in a better place, renewed, transformed and changed by what God is revealing to you and through you.

I notice some honest souls above,so does that mean that all the rest don't have a problem with this? well, shame on me then... this message is meant just for me. Thanks MTJ and you honest souls!

Father God, Thank You for revealing this lesson through MTJ that I must humble myself before You, change my ways, be quick to listen and really hear what's being said, be slow to speak to allow You to speak through me, which in the end result may help me be slow to anger. Anger against what's happened or said, anger from the past that roars its vicious head, anger that needs Your healing touch, anger that needs my forgiveness and to be forgiven, anger that has stopped me from being who You made me to be, anger with and at myself... diffuse this dynamite spark and stop it from being ignited more easily than the love I have for You and others; may that be triggered in place of any anger... may You see my weakness and help me change. Amen to MTJ's prayer and I echo each word in Jesus' Name, we pray...

Peace on earth, good will toward mankind... love and JOY in Christ,
Peggy

sarah said...

You always hit on the right stuff...the stuff I need to hear and also practise. MTJ...I really appreciate your sharing and your heart to be everything for Him. You inspire....Stay strong out there okay...Sarah

Donnie said...

Those were good words for me to take in today. Very insightful post.

Virginia said...

Excellent post!! We can bring life or death by the words that come from our mouths.
Many Blessings,
Virginia

Cathy said...

Thank you so much for that great post, and for sharing God's truth. Blessings ~

Sharon Kirby said...

Oh, that God would teach me when to keep my mouth shut! Even when I think I'm being well-intentioned - even when I think I'm right in defending myself - even when...

Oh, to learn how to be silent.

You have been very honest in sharing, MTJ. And I appreciate it. Learning humility is one of the most difficult things in life. Because it requires "humbling" - and that can often be a painful experience!

You have chosen such apt Scripture - especially the words from James. I think he was a person who really had to learn a lesson in humility. He grew up with Jesus, and yet, for a time, did not believe in Him. It was only later, after the resurrection and an appearance by Jesus, that James realized how wrong he had been. It must have taken a lot to look at Jesus and say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong."

But look how God used him afterward!

So, I join you in asking God to work in my heart - and to give me humble ears to listen well, a wise mouth filled only with His truth, and a longsuffering attitude filled with His humble love.

GOD BLESS!

Anita Johnson said...

"I believe listening in conjunction with my silence, short-circuits my mouth and emotions".
This is a very powerful statement. Thank you for a fresh perspective on listening.

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

There is surly an art to listening. I can tell from the first seconds that I'm talking and the persons not listening. It's hurtful.Thank-you for this post today.
Blessings,
Ginger

Susan said...

Good word for us ALL!

Lisa notes... said...

James 1 is such a powerful chapter with many truths. What a blessing that you heard God so many places in it.

Vintagesouthernlife said...

This is an excellent post and one that I needed. I often ask for guidance and then have difficulty being still and listening. I am joining you in your prayer. It speaks the feeling of my heart.Thanks for sharing.

Wanda said...

Being a bit of the shy I've never been one that was quick to speak but really paying attention and listening is a totally different thing. Sometimes I'm quiet but my mind is busy forming a comeback. As always great words of wisdom you've shared.

Seams Inspired said...

Such a beautiful post, MTJ! Thank you for sharing your heart. I believe we all should hold these verses close to our hearts in hope our heads and mouths hold on to them too. I promise to keep your post at the forefront of my mind today as I check off my Monday list. Thank you! :o)

Nicole said...

Very very good post my brother. One that I really need to work on as well! I know I need to work on it and the times I fail and still am quick to anger I get more frustrated because I just didn't shut up!

This verse spoke volumes to me
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”7

and I know I really need to work on this and I pray that with my Father's help I will get there some day. Oh, to be like my Brother who kept his mouth shut!

Your prayer is also a pray for many of us!

Wonderful post and I am praying for strength for you. Please do the same for me ;)
Love ya MTJ and I hope you have a blessed week!!

Teresa said...

Beautiful entry...a victorious reminder on being quick to listen; slow to speak and slow to anger...the path of obedience, listening and with action as we rely on the Spirit of God! Hallelujah!

INSIDE THE SHRINK said...

I particularly like your comment on the meaning of never. That one really struck me. Great post. A lot of thought and prayer went into that one. Thank you also for your gracious and encouraging comments on my Daily Grace blog. God bless you, Bobbi

lioneagle said...

Hi MTJ -

Thank you for this important message about listening to and obeying GOD. You are right, that is essential.

Also, I love that you mentioned the blood of our Savior...