Summary: In James 1:19-20 James shows us three characteristics of growing in spiritual maturity.
The story is told of two men who were traveling along in a hot-air balloon when they began to realize that they had no idea where they were. To make matters worse, as they looked at the sky, a storm began brewing overhead and heavy clouds started rolling in. For a brief minute they came through a break in the clouds and they were able to see a man on a hill just beneath them.
In a shout of desperation one of them yelled to the man, “Excuse me, sir, but do you know where we are?”
“Sure!” he said, “You’re in a hot-air balloon!”
Before the men could respond, a big gust of wind came along and blew them back into the clouds. Then one of the men looked at the other and said, “That man must have been a Christian.”
“Why do you say that?” asked his friend.
“Because what he said was absolutely true, but it was also absolutely useless.”
It’s unfortunate that the world often looks at Christians that way. Christians are often seen as believing in things that may be true but that don’t really make a difference in one’s daily living.
It’s one thing to say that you believe a certain creed, but it’s a totally different thing to have that creed actually transform your conduct. It’s one thing to talk about your faith, but it’s something altogether different to live it.
That is why today’s text is so helpful. James shows us what growing in spiritual maturity looks like. So, with that in mind, let’s read James 1:19-20:
"19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19-20)
Retirement homes are generally quiet places. The St. Petersburg Times reported in spring 2004 that the upscale Spring Haven Retirement Community in Winter Haven, Florida found their peace disrupted over a nasty incident at the salad bar. Mealtime turned ugly after 86-year-old William Hocker complained to 62-year-old Lee Thoss about picking through the lettuce. Name-calling soon gave way to punching, and eventually the police were summoned.
Those in the way paid a price. One resident was bitten in his attempt to stop the fight, another knocked down. Thoss’ mother, herself a resident, tried to rescue her son. The octogenarian suffered a cut on the arm.
While no one was seriously injured, Thoss now must find a new place to live.
Those retirement home residents did not take time to listen, and they were quick to speak and become angry.
While we may smile at the incident, the fact is that you and I struggle in the same way. How often have you said something to someone and wished that you had listened before speaking? Or when was the last time you got angry? Oh! You may not have said anything or even hit someone, but inside you were annoyed.
In our text for today, James shows you three characteristics of spiritual maturity. James outlines three distinct marks of growing in spiritual maturity. In this passage he sets down for you the first of many spiritual litmus tests you will be taking together over the next several weeks, tests that are meant by God to help you get a better grip on what true faith looks like, tests that are meant to show you what a practical Christian looks like.
I. Be Quick to Listen (1:19a)
The first characteristic of growing in spiritual maturity is that you should be quick to listen.
James says in verse 19a, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen.” But, “Listen to what?”
The primary meaning of “quick to listen” seems to be quick to listen to God’s word. The context of this exhortation from James is God’s word, for in both the preceding verse (verse 18) and the following verse (verse 21) James is speaking of “the word of truth” and “the word planted in you.” And so James is saying that you must have an open ear to hear what God has said in his word.
Jesus constantly rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their inability to “hear” him. They heard the truth with their ears, but Jesus’ point was that they had never learned to listen with their hearts! It’s possible to have good hearing physically, but to be very hard of hearing spiritually.
Your primary task as a Christian is to tune your heart to hear the word of God. We saw last time in verse 18 that it was through the hearing of the word that God brings about the new birth in our lives. And it is through this same word that he has chosen to transform you and change you into the likeness of his Son.