L.I.S.T.E.N. rearranged is S.I.L.E.N.T.
For sixty-nine years I've been a poor listener. My grandmother Vera's words still echo across this lifetime. She would say, over and over again, "Sonny, God gave you two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak". Another of her proverbs was "God gave you a mouth that closes and ears that don't. Think about that for a minute or two". She's the one that did the spell check for me too, the truth that "listen" was "silent" when the letters are re-arranged. Even at a very early age she wanted me to learn the discipline of listening. Of course, that's one reason her wise words didn't penetrate. I probably wasn't listening! And, of the biblical instruction about careful living, listening carefully is among the most repeated. You know the reason. The Apostle Paul put it in writing so us poor listeners would get it---"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17, ESV). Careful living involves careful listening.
OK, the confessional is closed. Many of us are poor listeners, spiritual leaders out front. Our mix of spiritual gifts, personal strengths, analytical tools, and calling usually keep response fires ignited in us most of the time. Reading people and situations, carefully anticipating outcomes, and being prepared with biblical guidance activates a quick listening mode that often brings instant guidance and comfort to those who are seeking them. At the same time, this kind of listening, when applied to every personal interaction, can miss the conversational point or address topic just as quickly. That's why careful living involves careful listening. What is more, the biblical instruction about listening moves us vertically and horizontally, that is, listening to God and listening to the people in our circle of influence. There's plenty of Scriptural counsel here. Note a few examples---
He said, "If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if
you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of
the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."
Exodus 15:26, NIV, God to Moses
If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your
enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.
Exodus 23:22, NIV, God to Moses
Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of
you be on the alert.
Joshua 8: 4, NIV, Joshua to soldiers
Listen carefully to what I say; let my words ring in your ears. Job 13: 17, NIV, Job to friends
And he said to me, "Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to
Ezekiel 3; 10, NIV, God to Ezekiel
Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be
measured to you--and even more. Mark, 4: 24, NIV, Jesus to crowd
Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered
into the hands of men.
Luke 9: 44, NIV, Jesus to disciples
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow
Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to
what I say. Acts 2: 44, NIV, Peter to Jewish crowd
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 1 Corinthians 14: 29, NIV, Paul to Corinthian church
For many years I alibied my poor listening skills in the realization that listening is not a spiritual gift or a fruit of the Spirit. Whew! Then, an accountability partner/pastor friend reminded me that self control is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5: 22-23, NIV). If listening is a discipline, personal self-control should monitor and develop it. Woops! Time for the confessional again!
Careful listening is especially critical in the day of fake news, toxic relationships, and systemic cultural rationalization. Harriet and I are discovering the labor of careful listening as the years diminish our audio receivers. Today every conversation is punctuated by "huh?", "what did you say?", or blatantly wrong answers. The other night she asked me what I was "watching" and I replied that I "wasn't "washing" anything. Poor listening indeed.
When Jesus was a child he was separated from his parents after their annual trip to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. After a three day search "...they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2: 46, NIV). The Gospels are a wonderful record of his miraculous teaching. Over and over the crowds listened to him and followed him. But, on many occasions he overheard what they were saying and strategically taught them as a result. Even more, there was certainty about his mission and earthly ministry because he listened carefully to the Father.
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am
he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
John 8:28, NIV
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all
that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is
just what the Father has told me to say.
John 12: 49-50, NIV
You see, he had learned as a child how to listen. It is a power discipline for living carefully in every generation.
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