Sunday, June 30, 2013

Be Ready to Listen and Prompt to Understand

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God
James 1:19,20
Swift to Hear
I'm not the best listener in the world.  I will draw wrong conclusions because I think I know what it is someone means without really listening to them.  My husband gets totally frustrated with me when this happens, especially when we're in the middle of a conflict.  Sometimes when we have a misunderstanding and he can't get his point across because I won't listen, he will say to me, "Stop!  You're not listening to what I'm saying; you're hearing what you think I'm saying.  Listen to my words."  I hate it when he does that but he's right.  When I pay attention, understanding usually comes quickly.
In James 1:19, James exhorted his reader to be "swift to hear."  Let's take a closer look at the meaning of these words.  The following definitions come from the Strong's Concordance, Vine's Dictionary and Webster's Dictionary:

swift - Greek tachus - fleet, i.e. (fig.) prompt or ready; - swift.  The word "fleet" means swift, rapid, quick.

hear - Greek akouo - to hear (in various senses):  - give (in the audience (of), come (to the ears), "shall hear (-er, ken), be noised, be reported, understand.  Vine's Dictionary says "hear" means to get "the meaning or message of the voice."

Picture a runner at the starting line of an Olympic race.  He is bent over, tips of fingers touch the ground, his foot is securely in the block and his body is taunt ready to promptly respond when the gunfire sounds.  He has trained hard for this moment and his body is eager to react to the "go" signal.  Listening for that signal and promptly responding to it doesn't just happen but is honed by years of hard training.  In fact, it is difficult to win a race without this valuable attentive-listening-and-quick-responding skill. 

What if I was that attuned in my conversations with others?  What if I was eagerly focused to hear what it is they were attempting to say?  What if I was that determined to promptly respond to what I heard them say?  Swift to listen.  God does desire that, as Christians, we be ready to hear what a person is saying and be prompt in understanding what they mean.  As a result of our quick response, many conflicts could be resolved before they had a chance to blow up.    There's sweet victory in the words, "Oh, now I get what you're saying."

The desire to be heard instead of listening and the desire to be right can fan the flames of conflict.  Learning to truly listen to someone else's heart doesn't just happen but flows from an inward work of the Holy Spirit.  Just like the runner who trains to readily listen and promptly respond , the Holy Spirit can help me tune my heart to hear another person's heart, thus producing the fruit of righteousness instead of the fruit of wrath.

Application of God's Word:

1.  For many of us, listening is something that has to be learned.  Why do you think we have to work harder at listening than talking?  Read 1 Corinthians 13.

2.  In your own words, what do you think James is saying when he says to be swift to hear?

3.  What are some advantages we have as Christians when we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us be swift to hear?

4.  Can you think of specific examples (maybe from your own life) of what it means for a person to be swift to hear?

Personal Matters:

Remember the devotional where I said I was still a "work in progress?"  Sigh.  Swift to hear is something I'm still learning to walk out in my own life.  Don't get me wrong.  I will eventually get what it is you're really trying to tell me but for some strange reason, it's easier for me to assume your needs and your wants then it is to listen to you.  I do know I have an inherent need to be right.  Maybe it's because I want to think I'm people-smart and have you all figured out.  Ego probably does play a role in it.  When my ego is puffed up (I am right and you are wrong, end of discussion; therefore, I don't need to hear what you're saying), conflict will ensue with no resolution in sight.  The sun will set on my anger.  However, when I allow the Holy Spirit to work in me and love steps into the situation, there's no room for ego or demanding my rights or needing to be right.  Love will cause me to be aware of you and your side of the argument.  (Yeah, the 1 Cor. 13 kind of love.)  It will help me to be able to say, "You know what, I get what you're saying.  You're right, I'm wrong.  Please forgive me."

Yes, I'm still a work in progress but I want the Holy Spirit to teach me how to be ready to listen and prompt to understand what you are really saying.  If I can learn to be swift to listen then we won't find ourselves in conflict in the first place.


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