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Summary: Listening is one of the finest ways to show people how much we love them. Love is patient and kind.

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"Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)

Illustration:Two psychiatrists meet at their 20th college reunion. One is vibrant, while the other looks withered and worried. "So what’s your secret?" the older looking psychiatrist asks. "Listening to other people’s problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me." "So," replies the younger looking one, "who listens?"

American Health, quoted in Reader’s Digest.

Many people are usually not good listeners. They are too busy thinking of what they will say next in their battle for truth.

Do not get discouraged. Appreciate the fact that certain people are so caught up in their need for control that they have a lot to learn in areas of patience, understanding, and empathy.

Illustration: As a child, General George S. Patton learned how to listen to the best voices inside of his head. Patton faced a severe reading disability, but through special visualization exercises, he conquered his handicap. When he faced numerous enemies in real battles he visualized the great warriors who had gone before him, guiding him on to victory. During times of depression, Patton visualized joy flooding over him in future celebrations of victory. Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy were met with pictures in his mind of a God who values him greatly. Days of boredom were filled with visualizations of the excitement of drawing up strategy for the next great battle. By visualizing the overcoming of any obstacles, Patton conquered his greatest enemies of fear, self-hatred and inferiority.

Learn to listen for God’s affirming promises. He will supply you with the messages you need. Sometimes He will use people. At other times He will use your memory. Most of the time He will use the scriptures as He speaks through that still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Learn to be a listener. If you would have God hear you when you pray, you must hear Him when He speaks. Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9)

The Lord understood that some people could listen to truth, but fail to apply it to their lives. Look at the principles of listening that comes from the parable of the sower and seed. Here are some suggestions for helping all of us to learn how to be better listeners:

There were four types of listeners in the parable of Mark 4:1-22:

A. The resistant, closed and shallow listeners - This type of soil represents the hardheads that are closed to any new insights. They prefer to remain stuck in their traditions. They are resistant to anything new that God wants them to know.

B. The open but superficial listeners - These people listen for facts, but fail to grasp the crucial principles that are being taught. Some people forget new ideas when they realize that implementing them will involve work and commitment. Primarily, these people do not give truth a sufficient opportunity to affect their mind, will, and emotions. A poor listener seldom hears great teaching.

C. The open but distracted listeners - These people are open to truth, but allow the worries, riches and pleasures of life to deter them from focusing on making applications to their lives. Some peoples’ minds are so cluttered with distractions that truth is not able to bring forth any spiritual fruit. We reform others unconsciously when we walk uprightly.

D. The responsive and obedient listeners - These people listen, understand and obediently apply the scriptures to their lives by faith. They continually remain open to new insights. They search for deeper levels of understanding because they recognize that all truth is God’s truth. They feed on the scriptures as food for their nourishment, growth and vitality. They are not content to just receive truth, but actively look for ways that they can teach it, apply it and embody its message. These listeners are the most productive people. Many opportunities are missed because we are broadcasting when we should be listening.

Illustration:Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. "I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day," he recalled in his book Stress Fractures. "Before long, things around our home started reflecting the patter of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.

"I distinctly remember after supper one evening, the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, ’Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.’

"Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, ’Honey, you can tell me -- and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly." "I’ll never forget her answer: ’Then listen slowly.’"

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