Listening is the Greatest Gift

James 1:19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Listening is the most important gift you can have when you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. You first must listen to the Holy Spirit in order to do what He wants you to do. It is the first step in the learning process … listen to God’s Word, and listen and honor others in the Body of Christ.

Most people do not listen. You can tell them instructions, and they will not listen to comply. I believe the primary job of the disciple is to listen for God and to listen in honoring other believers in Christ.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Listening is the opposite of talking, which shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but we love to talk more than we love to listen. My wife, who is in radio, told me that the name ‘listeners’ is an oxymoron because the inquiries were not based upon what was said. I have found this to be true in preaching too. Often people will approach me following a sermon with comments on the sermon that made me wonder what they were listening to.

Listening is an art … an art that is slowly disappearing in society. We are taught to speak, communicate, and express an opinion, but rarely are we taught how to listen to understand, evaluate, and process. Most of the time instead of listening to a person, we are thinking of how to respond to them. This is how we also treat God. We don’t listen to understand … our interests are only in sharing our thoughts.

Jesus knew that in order for us to listen, our heart needed to be changed because hardness comes to a life when all is fixated on self:

Matthew 13:15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.

Proverbs is very direct about people who choose not to listen in order to gain understanding:

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 2 2Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Understanding and knowledge are related, so when you listen to understand someone you are on the path of knowing something you had not previously known.

When God says His people cannot hear, nor can they see what He is doing, what is He really saying? Isn’t God saying that His people do not believe in God? That is what Isaiah said about Israel:

Isaiah 29:13 And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”

There was no understanding of God in Israel. Even the priests and the prophets were blind and deaf to the point where God said, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Being blind and deaf is a condition of the heart … it chooses not to see and not to hear God.

Listening to God can be as simple as reading His Word. It is taking time to read, think, and discern how what you read applies to you in the moment. The Holy Spirit will confirm the truth in the Bible to you. He will confirm it by giving you understanding of how it applies to your daily life. Listening to understand someone is a discipline of honor. You won't agree with everyone you listen to, but you are not looking for agreement with people … you are looking for understanding.

God understands us and that is why He knew we needed Jesus for salvation and the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live. God always listens but He doesn’t always act. You too can always listen, you do not have to agree nor do you need to act. Listening to understand truth, listening to understand a person who is struggling, listening to understand, listening to gain knowledge … this is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and those you listen to. Listening is the first step of knowing God.

Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler