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Something That Was Never Designed To Be A Substitute For Listening

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

One of the highlights of my childhood was spending time with my grandfather. It didn’t matter where we went, in fact, I don’t remember what we talked about half the time. The sheer joy was just being in his presence.


How about you?  As we navigate the river of life, it’s so easy to forget how important it is just to spend time with people. The conversation doesn’t have to be deep every time and it doesn’t matter if you never solve all of the problems in the world. What matters is the company….the connection….or, in the words of one of my favorite English professors “experiencing the human condition together.”

I admit I’m just as guilty as anyone. As a pastor, I often feel like words are my greatest commodity and I have to fill all the empty spaces of a visit with pearls of wisdom. What I’m learning, is words are important but what really matters is presence. Jesus spent time with his disciples. He pitched his tent among them.  He even hung out on the cross for them.  However, as a leader it’s so easy to feel like time with others is wasted unless we solve some kind of problem or relieve a pressure point. Not true. Often, a touch of the hand or a kind smile or furrowed brow has the power to accomplish what words never can.  Sometimes just knowing you’re there is enough.  If you don’t believe me, go and read Psalm 23.  In it David is greatly comforted by Jesus his shepherd, yet there is no mention of words as one of those comforts!  Presence is often greater than words.

However, many times, in my relationships with others, I often revert to lecture mode. If something’s going to get fixed, I infer, I must say something. I must put forth a rational solution. Define the facts. Come up with a solution. When in reality, our families don’t need another coach, or specialist. All they want is us. Crazy, I know! But when’s the last time your kids or your wife asked you for clear, sound, practical advice? Bet you can’t remember. But skip a game, or a meal, or a Saturday with them and watch what happens. It’s not our advice they want, they just want us.  “Where were you”, they’ll ask, not “tell me again what you said before”.

These days, in my opinion, there is a lot of doing and not a lot of hearing.  Because if there was more listening going on, it would show up in our actions.   James says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Again, there is no shortage of doing. In fact, people can’t stop doing. Every waking moment has to be filled with activity. It’s an epidemic. Productivity, however, means being busy at the right things. In my own experience it’s so easy to get busy without first taking the time to listen. If you’re too busy to listen, you’re too busy to lead….for God, in your home, at work, and in the community and world around you. It’s time to start getting busy with our ears, especially before God, and then start getting busy doing.

Just yesterday a good pastor/friend reminded me that as disciples, one of the key things we do is spend time with Jesus. Not just talking to him, but listening. Every time in my life that I have, the ice has melted and there was a Springtime thaw. It’s amazing what just a short, but intentional period of time, will do for your home life, personal circles, and spheres of influence. Yes, we must DO, but first we must make time to HEAR.

And if Jesus spent time with his disciples, therefore we must spend time with our loved ones. They’re not going to get what they need from a video on Youtube, T.V or their friends. What they need is us. In tune. On point. Present. Available.

So what are you trying to do? Whatever it is, God is with you. In tune. On point. Present. Available. When you go to bed, he’s with you. When you wake up, he’s with you. When you go to the dog groomer, he’s with you. When you hurt, he’s with you. When you laugh, he’s with you. Just as you wanted to spend time with your Grandfather when you were young, God wants to spend time with you. Maybe you’re feeling the pain of separation right now and you’d give a million dollars to be able to spend one more minute with a lost loved one. Guess what? God knows.  He’s listening.  He never wastes a hurt and you shouldn’t put a period where he’s put a question mark.

Imagine if we decided to stop what we’re doing, right now, and spend some time just listening to God. Again, here’s a good verse to start with “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” Think about what God is saying. As thoughts come to mind, write them down on a piece of paper. If thoughts don’t immediately come, wait until they do. You may even come back later this week and write down some more.

Imagine if we focused on being present, the next time we’re with someone else. Rather than just thinking about what we’re going to say about ourselves next, imagine if we got seriously interested in finding out what that other person is going through. Just listening. Maybe nodding our head from time to time or giving just a brief vocal response to let them know we’re still listening. Maybe that’s why God wants us to develop the discipline of intently listening to him so that we can patiently listen to others.

Finally, do. We are human beings, and not human doings, but part of being human means taking action. In fact, be the kind of person you expect those you lead to be. Yesterday, pastor Johhny Hunt said, “If you want your people to be generous, you be generous. And you don’t have to be rich to be generous. You only have to be generous to be generous.” Eventually you will have to use words but when you do, you’ll be ready because you will have spent time with the wisest person who ever walked the planet. You’ll also have to lead, but that too will be no problem because you will have taken the time to be led.  Leaders listen and then act on what they’ve heard.

If you reread the words of James, there is a catch. The catch is this. There are people who take the time to listen, but they don’t take the time to act accordingly. We like to think it is because fear or feelings of insecurity creep in. James, however, says if something walks like a sheep and talks like a sheep they’re probably a sheep. However, if someone says they’re a sheep yet walks like a goat and talks like a goat, they’re probably a goat.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is more doing than listening these days, or is the reverse true? Where once there was great listening and very little doing, there now seems to be great doing and very little listening.  Doing was never designed to be a substitute for listening. 

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11 (NLT)

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