“Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
Luke 8:18 NIV
As a child, I recall with ironic fondness, how my mother would ask me the repeated question “Mphatso! are you listening to me?”. My thought was always “of course I am!”. What did my mother mean by using the word “listen”? As an adult in various contexts, I understand that word to not only involve an auditory (hearing) component, but also an action. This action establishes whatever I am hearing as a truth that I choose to follow. In many instances, as a child, I heard my mother but I was short on the listening.
Listening is the process whereby I hear truth and then by my actions validate it in a way that honors the source. In the passage above, Christ had just shared the parable of the sower with his disciples (Luke 8:4-8). He followed this with a very detailed explanation of this parable and its implication for the coming ministry that his followers would embark on (Luke 8:11-15). He identified these men as people who would “sow” his Word in hearts of varying conditions. He concluded the teaching by demonstrating the utility of light. “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” (Luke 8:16-17).
Listening (hearing and applying) God’s Word establishes truth in our hearts. That truth, which is Jesus Christ, is then the light that needs to shine in this dark world. The more we understand and apply, the more attractive our light. The more attractive our light, the greater the number of people we are able to influence with Christ’s love. This means that there is a partial connection between the depth of my understanding, faith and commitment and the depth to which others, who are around me, seek God. I want my light to attract people to the kingdom who themselves become so firmly planted that they, in turn, attract others.
Listening also extends to relationships. If we only hear the words that others speak to us, without processing their meaning (to us and them), then we miss a vital component of communication. Developing a keen ability to listen actively to others matures our empathy which in turn creates paths of validation and affirmation for others. This is by no means an easy task and requires intentional actions around learning the principles of active listening and observing those who do it well. Observation is followed by practice through much repetition and openness to feedback.
Being teachable and willing to work with experienced coaches or counselors takes us in this direction. People are attracted to the serenity, sanity and transparency that comes from the actions of a surrendered life. Relationships thrive when developing the skill of active listening is prioritized and the associated behaviors consistently demonstrated.
Are you listening well? Is application a challenge? Share your challenge with someone whom you trust. God desires an abundance from your life. Give Him the opportunity to bring it about!
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