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Quick to Listen | The Word

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

James 1:19–20

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:3–4

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew 7:24–27

‘Bad listeners do not make good disciples.’

So said John Stott – whose centenary we celebrate tomorrow – taking James’ advice a bit more seriously than most of us would probably like. Stott’s ‘listening ear’ remains at the heart of what we, as disciples, are called to do today. Next week, we’ll explore how to listen to the world but, first, we’ll start where Stott does: listening to God.

We listen to God because God speaks, and he speaks primarily through Scripture. Through the Spirit’s animation, these ancient scrolls remain living and active today, addressing our contemporary world.

Listening to this living word is to receive life itself; to ignore it leads to death. Such high stakes explain why our Bibles are packed with urgent reminders and stark warnings to listen to what God is saying. If we turn away from his word, our hearts, speech, and actions follow. But if we listen, we discover nothing less than Christ’s riches imbuing our everyday lives.

Beyond ink on a page, his words inform our minds, reform our hearts, and transform our actions. That’s why for Hebrew writers, hearing God was inseparable from obeying what he said – to hear and not obey is as ludicrous as building a house on a beach in hurricane season.

So, what does it look like for us to be obedient hearers of the word?

First, we listen to God for our frontlines, prayerfully carrying our workplaces, our families, and our streets with us to Scripture, seeking wisdom for how to live gospel-soaked lives in ordinary places. As we read the text, and let it read us, the way we go about our day – from replying to an email to greeting a shop assistant – should look different as a result.

Then, we listen to God on our frontlines, sensitive to where the good shepherd is at work in the everyday. Where might his voice lead us if we expected to hear him not just in our morning quiet time, but on the bus, in the pub garden, at the supermarket? What might he say to us, and through us, for the places we go and the people we meet, if we’d only make time to pause, and hear? What starts as a gentle whisper to us could outwork shalom through us to demonstrate the kingdom to those around us.

Because, as Stott reminds us, often being the hands and feet of Jesus first requires us to use our ears.

Matt Jolley 
Editor, Word for the Week

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Quick to Listen | The World (2/2)