This week we are looking at the topic of listening.
It’s worthwhile to learn to listen to the people around you. Is it easy for you to listen to others share their stories and perspectives?
I listed out a few reasons why it can be hard for me to listen:
- Busyness – A packed and crowded schedule, leaving me exhausted with no time
- Desire – I want to be listened to rather than listening to others
- Pride – I feel like I know more than the person who’s speaking
Can you think of other reasons that make it difficult for you to listen?
If you missed this past Sunday’s message by Pastor Vijay, you’re encouraged to watch it here. It will provide a good foundation for this week’s reading. But If you only have 15 minutes today, let’s jump right into Day 1’s reading.
Read Mark 1:35
It’s a short verse, right!?
We will stay with this verse today. Very often it’s not the volume you read, but the attention you give to what you read.
Before you read the verse again, ask Jesus “help me listen and hear your voice, speak to me freely”. Take some time to ask now.
Now let’s read the verse again and pause for longer (30 seconds to a minute is a good start).
Did you hear anything? Don’t fret if you didn’t. It’s normal to not hear sometimes.
Ok, let me share with you what I saw, and I kind of cheated a little by looking at the passages that came before and after that verse (that’s another trick I find helpful when reading scripture).
I use the NIV and the chapter is sectioned with subheadings. Now mind you, the subheadings aren’t in the original papyri. They were added by the translators to summarize the verses.
I took a quick glance at these subheadings from Mark chapter 1, here they are:
- John the Baptist Prepares the Way
- The Baptism and Testing of Jesus
- Jesus Announces the Good News
- Jesus Calls His First Disciples
- Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit
- Jesus Heals Many
- Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place (where verse 35 is under)
- Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy
Did you notice something here? Jesus was baptized and was tested by the devil in the wilderness. He then announces the Good News, calls his disciples, casts out demons, and heals many. All of which are considered “real” ministries. But Jesus taking time off to pray by himself?? Most would not consider that to have any real value. Yet the writer of Mark decided to include that in the first chapter of the book of Mark to set the stage for what’s to come.
Among all of the activities is this one inactivity, or so it seems.
If Jesus took time to pray, to listen, then so must we.
Question: what time of the day can you set aside for some alone time before the Lord?
It’s wonderful that this pivotal prayer for the Israelites has to do with listening to the Lord. To listen and to do, to be precise. I find it helpful this type of listening is not merely allowing sounds to enter our ears. Rather, it is to focus on or to pay attention to.
Some questions to help you reflect on listening:
- “Real listening takes effort and action.” – do you agree with this statement? Why do you think it requires effort? What does making an effort to listen look like in your life? What about listening takes action? Can you think of times when listening requires you to take action?
- Is there a person who you think can benefit from having your listening ears?
Begin 2 minutes of silence before God.
Read 1 John 4:19-21
What grabbed your attention as you read the passage? Was it where love came from? Or the intricate relationship between loving God and loving others? What spoke to you?
What struck me was that it is possible for someone to claim that they love God, but yet neglect or even hate the people around them. The writer of 1 John said these people are liars. You cannot love God without loving other people.
During his message on Listening, Pastor Vijay led us into a time of reflection to pay attention to things that when done excessively and habitually, would stifle, crowd out, and choke the life that was meant to grow in Jesus.
These activities may be the reason for our lack of vitality.
I’d like to invite you to watch and go through the exercise here. It is around 9 minutes in total for the explanation and then 4 minutes of quiet reflection. You can close the video after the time of reflection (at around 33:43)
So what did you hear? Were you able to identify an area that you need to make adjustments to?
Here are the areas again.
What is stifling, crowding or crushing you?
- Scheduling too much (work, activity,
- errands, projects, leisure)
- Scheduling too little (time to stop, time to
- listen, time to seek)
What small action can you start doing or stop doing to help you free up more space for God and for others?
Spend a couple of minutes to ask God to help you make these changes.
Begin with 2 minutes of silence before Jesus.
Read James 1:19-20
Listening and speaking is an everyday activity. That doesn’t only include auditory and verbal expressions. Whether it’s reading someone’s lips as a way of listening or the motioning of hand gestures – listening and speaking are ways we communicate.
It doesn’t get more primal and basic than this.
The writer of the book of James, in addressing the brothers and sisters of the church, laid out for them a pattern to take note of. The pattern is in this order: quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
The emphasis here is not just the act of listening and speaking and becoming angry, but the speed with which you are doing these things.
There is so much packed into these few actions. Let’s have a look.
I’ve observed that in myself and in others, whether in-person or online, the pattern is often flipped on its head in a destructive manner: we get angry easily, and we are quick to express our angry, pointed, sarcastic comments, and then we pretend to “listen” when in fact we quietly and expeditiously form our next argument. It’s reversed!
Here, the passage reminds us that God’s righteousness – his truth and his justice and his judgment – is not accomplished by human anger, through this reversed pattern. Rather, his righteousness seeks first to give room for others to speak while you listen for their story, their reasoning (no matter how unreasonable it seems), and speaking truthfully and graciously.
A question to ponder for today:
- Was there a time in the past few days where I have been quick to get angry, quick to speak, and slow to listen? Who was I speaking to? If you know you’ve caused harm, spend 2 minutes to have a renewing of your mind and ask for forgiveness from Jesus.
- For today and tomorrow, what are the opportunities for you to practice being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry? With whom will you be interacting? Spend some time praying for yourself and that person or group to ask Jesus to be present in that interaction.
Read Matthew 9:35-37
Do you think Jesus led a busy life? He went through all the towns and villages, taught in the religious centres, and healed every disease and sickness. He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom!
If he was here today, wouldn’t you think he’d go through Vaughan, Bolton, King City, and the GTA? He’d be online, too, don’t you think?!
That is a busy life. You can be sure he’d also set aside time for solitude.
What struck me the most, however, was his response in the midst of the busyness. This passage tells us what Jesus saw, how he felt, and it tells us the next small step he took.
First, he saw the crowds; he saw the people. His eyes did not gloss over them, he saw them.
Second, he had compassion on them. His heart was stirring. He was moved from the depths of his soul. He saw and felt their need for a shepherd; their need for God.
Third, he didn’t just see and felt, he called his disciples to the tasks at hand. There are so many people in need of connecting with God and his Good News, yet the guides are few. He calls his disciples to the tasks that he has been doing.
He saw, he was moved, he took action. I think that is why Jesus is the Good News. His busyness didn’t get to his head but rather, the purpose of his mission was as clear as ever.
Do you want to have eyes like Jesus? Do you want to feel the compassion he felt? These are “scary” prayers in that we’re asking God to give us a heart big enough to take in others and their needs.
Hey, but maybe we don’t have to start with taking in the crowd. How about seeing and feeling compassionate for a family member in need? How about for a neighbour or a friend?
Take a couple of minutes to respond to God for what you are sensing right now.