When I was around 9 years old, I had been going to Sunday School all my life. I noticed that curriculums started to repeat, and I wasn’t having it. I had heard this story before several times from previous Sunday School lessons, children’s church and Vacation Bible School. So during the Bible lesson, I began to talk and cut up. Sister Belva, who had known me all my life, wasn’t afraid to call me out or to make an example out of me in front of the other children. She said, “Chris, if you think you know so much, why don’t you get up here and teach this lesson.” Instead of being embarrassed and quieting down, I got up and told the story I had heard so many times before. After class, she told my parents what had happened. Even though she told them I did a good job teaching the lesson, I still got in trouble. I didn’t understand it at the time, but my parents were trying to drive out a prideful spirit that won’t listen when I think I know something. I still struggle with that today, but I’m getting better at catching myself.
My parents introduced me to James 1:19 that says, “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak” (TPT). They would also say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.” I always thought that was impossible since I was such a talker, but it’s true. If you can’t listen, how can you learn? If you can’t listen, how can you empathize? Listening is a skill required to follow Jesus closely. He said, “My sheep hear my voice (John 10:27),” but how can you hear it if you’re never quiet. The psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).” When we are quiet and still, we can listen, learn and know. It’s time that we ask ourselves when is the last time we just sat and listened to God or others. I can assure you that it’s probably been too long. I’ve learned that when I sit and listen, God will often give me instructions I’ve been needing.
Proverbs 10:8 says, “The heart of the wise will easily accept instruction. But those who do all the talking are too busy to listen and learn. They’ll just keep stumbling ahead into the mess they created” (TPT). Do you consider yourself a talker or a listener? If it’s a talker, how easily do you accept instruction? Chances are it’s a hard thing for you to do. It could be pride causing it or fear or something else. Dig down deep to find out why you have difficulty listening and learning. God is always speaking to you, but you can’t hear it if you’re too busy talking. He also places people in our lives to guide us along the paths He is trying to take us down, but we will miss the instructions if we’re too busy trying to talk over them. If you want to be wise and grow in your faith, learn to listen and accept instruction. It’s time we stopped stumbling from one mess to another and took the time to hear what God is saying. He knows where all the pitfalls in our path are. So focus on listening for a change and you just might graduate from the school of hard knocks.
John Maxwell, one of the world’s top leadership experts, says that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Every one of us influence others in some way. We use our charms, our gifts of persuasion and our example of living to influence others. From the time we are children we look for ways to get other people to do what we want, which mostly benefits us. Great leaders don’t use their influence to get what they want though. They use their influence to help others grow. Take a moment to think about the people in your life who influence you. Are they getting you to do what they want or are they helping you to become a better person?
Additionally, we have two unseen influencers in our lives: the Holy Spirit and our sinful nature. One is trying to influence us to live a godly life, while the other is trying to get us to live for ourselves. If you take a moment to look at the fruit of your life, you’ll see who you are allowing to influence you more. Galatians 5:19-22 lists the fruits of both influencers, and it’s a good idea to look into the mirror of your life to see what fruit you’re producing. These two influencers produce very different fruits and all of us are producing one kind or the other. It’s a matter of whose voice you’re listening to and whose desires you want to satisfy. Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (NLT).
The Holy Spirit is constantly speaking to us leading us into Christ-like living. He uses reminders of God’s Word to challenge us and to push us. Your sinful nature plays on your sympathies to get you to do what it wants. It tries to convince you that you deserve a little pleasure for what you’ve been going through. If you’re going to be influenced and led by the Spirit, you’re going to have to quit giving into the sympathetic voice that gets you to cave to sin. If you want to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, you’re going to have to let the Holy Spirit guide your life. His way is not the easy way because it’s the opposite of what your sinful nature wants, but it produces the fruit that allows you to influence others for God’s Kingdom.
Driving through Houston can be complicated. I had a customer once call me to tell me where they were on their way to training. I told them it should only take about ten more minutes to get to the location. After 20 minutes past, I wondered where they were. After 30 minutes I began to worry. When they finally arrived, I asked what happened. They had tried to drive to me without their GPS, started talking and missed the sign that had the exit they were supposed to take. Instead of coming right to me, they ended up passing me, but then took the loop around instead of making a U-Turn. They got caught in traffic, but eventually made their way to me.
Life can be complicated too. God has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He’s given us to Holy Spirit to be our GPS to guide and direct us, but we don’t always listen to Him. He’s also put up sign posts in our lives to help us know where to go, but sometimes we’re too distracted to see them. As a result, most of us take the long hard road to get to where He’s trying to lead us. We think we know better than the Holy Spirit’s GPS, so we keep going when He’s trying to help us avoid traffic and distractions. He has cleared the way for us, but we must learn to follow His leading.
After King Solomon prayed for wisdom, he built the Temple that God had told his father he would build. While dedicating it in 1 Kings 8, he prayed, addressed the people there then blessed them. In verse 58, he blessed them said, “May he (God) keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors” (MSG). I pray today that God will keep you centered in the chaos around you. That He would give you direction with the decisions you are having to make. That He would keep you alert so you can see the signposts He’s put in your path. Also that you would be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice above all the noise, and that you would have the wisdom and courage to follow where He leads.
When I was a kid, another kid dared me to go up to a wasp nest and swat it down. After knocking it down, I ran as fast as I could. It turns out, I wasn’t faster than some angry wasps! I got stung all over. I wish I could say I learned my lesson that time, but I’m a try, try again kind of guy. It took a few times before I was convinced I wasn’t fast enough to outrun angry wasps. As you can guess, I got stung a lot as a kid by just about every kind of wasp, hornet, and bee.
Now that I’m older, if a friend dared me to do that same thing, I would decline that dare. I can still hear my parent’s voices, “Just because you’re dared, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it.” Over time, I’ve learned to listen to those voices of wisdom in my head, and to let them drown out the other voices that would like me to do some foolish things. It’s taken me some time to learn which voices to listen to. Pain and experience have taught me well!
No matter how old we get, we’re all given opportunities to do things that go against God’s Word. We all struggle with the voices that are trying to get us to try it and run, or with the voice that tries to keep us from doing it. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge” (NLT). Many times each of us fail to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in those situations because we haven’t attuned our ear to listen carefully to Him in those situations. The result is that we sin.
Now, none of us are perfect, and none of us can go the rest of our lives without sinning. However, we can commit to putting God’s Word (instruction) into our hearts so that we won’t sin. The more of God’s Word we read, listen to, and meditate on, the more likely we will listen to the words of wisdom God tries to speak to us in those moments. I’d rather take the route of listening to wisdom than to continue learning from the sting of sin. The Holy Spirit is a much better teacher if only we’ll learn to listen.