"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, November 26, 2012

Humble Listening

As I mentioned last week, I would be continuing with the topic of humility and my lessons learnt in the US. The event I am going to share with you today was a brief encounter I had with a man while waiting for the bus to arrive.

It was a short moment. Rushed, even. With only a few minutes to go until the bus arrived, I felt... rushed. He approached the group of people I was among whom were waiting for the bus and asked us two very simple requests: did we have any spare change and did we know where he could get something to eat and drink.

What didn't strike me was his appearance or anything like that. It was one of his requests. His second one. His request for some food and drink.

But, why? Why did this strike me? What relevance did this have for me? Seeing this man who could barely sustain himself ask for such simple necessities showed me just how much he and I were alike. Here was a man who had been born in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and somewhere along the line, something happened, or he just didn't have the 'right' opportunities.

His situation was beyond his reach.

Don't we feel like that all too often? That we're helpless and misfortune has paid us a visit and heaped a load of depressing situations on our shoulders? And yet what does Christ say?

Matthew 11:28 NIV says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."


That's all we need to do. If we come to Him, He will lift our burden no matter how heavy it feels. What a blessed thought to know that our Saviour cares for us in this way. 

But what about the man who approached me at the bus station? Doesn't Christ also call him? 

You see, when he approached me, two things happened. The first was this: after he had made his requests, a man standing near me made a comment about some good food that could be found at some restaurant I didn't know the name of. 

How vague is that? Yet, how vaguely do we share the truth with those around us? Maybe people like to ask us questions or maybe God calls us to share with someone? Yet, we have a tendency to search for the easy road... when we're too busy. 

Maybe we'll say "Hey, God loves you. It's all good", yet we don't take the time to listen. 

Maybe we'll preach the entire gospel message to them... but we don't take the time to listen

In reality, it doesn't matter what form it comes in, one thing we don't give people is our time. Not time to talk, but to listen. To hear why people are hurting, why they are in need. 

We all know the verse James 1:19 NIV which says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry". 

And it seems we commonly use the 'slow to speak part' in relation to 'slow to become angry' and the relationship we find between how sharp our tongue can be because of our attitude. 

But how often do we think about it when it comes to simply listening? Maybe there's something we want to say, but we don't need to. Maybe the person just needs someone to hear them out. 

And isn't it a burden-lifting action in itself? When someone listens, and we have that sense that somehow, in some way, they are sharing our burden? Isn't that such a blessing to us? And the people we take the time to listen to, even simply listening, can release a tremendous burden from their shoulders. 

That was the first thing that happened, the vague comment made. The second was this: sure, I gave the man change I had on me. But it was't much. I knew I had more. If I had swallowed my pride and took out my wallet and gave him what I felt was better suited for his needs... but I didn't. 

I felt... rushed. 

And, again, how rushed are we when it comes to helping people? When we think we know what they need, rather than asking them. 

When I posted last week's message on Facebook, a friend of mine commented. A rather long comment about economics and giving money to the homeless, and as much as I was slightly irritated that he had missed my point, his point was still valid. Because we mistakenly think that money will solve the problems of the homeless... and it will.

Well, for a moment. 

Not only do we have an obligation to share the truth of Christ, but I believe we have an obligation to listen. 

As I'm sure some of you have heard before, "We must be good news before we can share the Good News." 

How? To give people something we value quite highly as middle-class citizens. 

Our time. 

Time is such an important aspect of our lives. We have the money, our needs are met, what we never seem to have enough of is time. And so when we feel that we could better manage our time, we'll block things out... and sadly... sometimes we'll block out divine appointments God has planned for us. 

But, truly, what does all of this have to do with humility? I know I said this message would be on humility and so here's my point.

The humbling truth is that anyone God places across our paths is worthy of our time regardless of who they are. We are not the judge of this. God is. He places these appointments in our lives, we don't. He is in control, we aren't. 

Let God arrange those divine appointments in your life and simply listen. Listen intently without trying to come up with some smart answer. 

Humble listening. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13 NIV) 

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