Summary: In order for us to become everything God desires us to be, we must listen to His Word and allow it to conform our behavior to His Will.
At the age of 33, Erik Weihenmayer is a phenomenal athlete who loves to skydive, snow ski and climb mountains. Mountain climbing is his specialty. As a matter of fact, he is on track to be one of the youngest to climb all of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the continents. In 1995 he scaled Mt. McKinley, in 1996 El Capitan, in 1998 Mt Kilamanjaro. In 1999 he climbed Argentina’s Aconcauga. On May 25, 2001 he reached the summit of Mount Everest, a peak that 90% of those who begin to climb never finish. Since 1953, 165 people have died trying to climb Everest, but Erik made it. Now that is an extremely significant feat, but you don’t know the half of it. Weihenmayer suffers from a degenerative eye disease, and when he was 13 he became totally blind. All of his climbs have been without the benefit of his eyesight. Weihenmayer is a blind mountain-climber!
Now you have to ask yourself, “How is that possible? How can a guy who can’t see climb the highest peaks in the world?” If you ask him, he’ll tell you. He has learned to listen well.
- He listens as a bell tied to the back of the climber in front of him shows him which way to go.
- He listens to his climbing partners who shout back to him, "Death fall two feet to your right!" so he knows what direction not to go.
- He listens to the sound of his pick jabbing the ice, so he knows whether his footing will be secure or not.
For Erik Weihenmayer, being a good listener is a matter of life and death. (source: www.touchthetop.com)
The truth is, according to James, the same is true for every one of us too. Listening, I mean really hearing, is the only way any of us is able to follow the pathway that God has opened up for us. This morning my hope for each of us is that we will become better listeners, even straining to hear what God has to say to us and willingly deciding to follow His direction.
Text: James 1:19-27
Did you hear what James is saying to us? He is challenging us to take faith in Christ seriously enough that it changes our behavior. James is addressing Christian people here, and he is saying that we have to be willing to listen to what God says to us and then modify our behavior to conform our will to God’s Will. In order to do that, we have to do 3 things, Hear God’s Word, Accept God’s Word, and then Do God’s Word. It’s really as simple as that. Having said it, we could conclude the message and be the first ones to the buffet this morning. However, since we have some more time let’s consider those in a little more detail.
1. Hear The Word.
James might have easily pointed out here that it wasn’t by accident that God gave us 2 ears and only 1 mouth. He expects us to spend more time listening than he does speaking. But it’s hard, isn’t it. We believe that what we have is so important that it is just begging to be said. It is just our nature. With our kids we worked very hard to help them learn not to interrupt when someone else is speaking. And it was a slow process. Pam and I would be carrying on a conversation in the car and all of the sudden we couldn’t hear each other because of a question or a comment being hurled between us from the back seat. That made me so angry. But as we corrected that behavior in the kids, I noticed something. I was often just as guilty of it as the kids. In the middle of that time when we were stressing that the kids shouldn’t interrupt, I came up from the basement one day and Hannah and Pam were carrying on a conversation. I just had a little thing to say to Pam so I butted in and told her. “Dad, you’re interrupting!” What I wanted to say was, “Yeah, but what I had to say was important.” But of course it was no more important than what anybody else had to say.
When James wrote verse 19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” he wasn’t just talking about our willingness to speak and not listen to others. He was talking about our willingness to speak and not listen to God. You can’t miss it from the context. (read vv. 19-21) The only “Word planted in you, which can save you” is the Word of God. Don’t miss his point. We need to be more interested in hearing what God has to say to us than telling Him what we think! We need to hear the Word of God. I am convinced that people are much more interested in talking to God than listening to Him. Statistics bear that out. According to George Barna, a Christian pollster, in a given week about 37% of Americans will read their Bible, but 85% will pray. (source: barna.org) It sounds to me that we are quick to speak, but slow to listen to what God has to say. Can I share a pet peeve on this issue with you? I get to do that because I am the preacher. I have noticed that people are very respectful not to interrupt when someone is praying. If you are chatting and someone begins to pray aloud, if you are like most people you will stop talking until they say “amen.” I have noticed that people are nowhere near as respectful when the Word of God is being read. People will continue to chat just like someone was reading from the newspaper. So what is more important for us to respect, when people talk to God or when God speaks to us?