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.
I was recently a part of a think tank at work. We were in a room and had to solve a problem that the business is facing. After we redefined what the real problem was, it was time to find the solution. Our group let people speak and when there were good ideas, we write them down. After we decided on a solution we came up with what that would look like. The room beside us didn’t get anywhere on their problem because two guys wouldn’t listen to any ideas but their own. People offered compromises, but neither budged. The rest of their group suffered because of their inability to listen to what the other was saying.
As Christians, we can’t let pride stand in our way. It blinds us from correction God sends and becomes a roadblock in our walk with God. Listening to God is important, and so is listening to the people He puts into our lives that speak His words to us. It may not always be what we want to hear, but if we are wise, we’ll put our pride away to listen. All of my life, God has used people to speak to me. Life would have been much harder if I hadn’t learned to listen a long time ago. Consider who God has put in your life to speak to you. Have you been listening or pushing them away?
Here are some Bible verses on listening.
1. Listen to what is wise and try to understand it.
Proverbs 2:2 GNT
2. If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.
Proverbs 15:31 NLT
3. Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.
James 1:19 GNT
4. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation. But those who don’t listen with open hearts will lose what little they think they have!
Mark 4:25 TPT
5. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield (listen) to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
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.