Basics of listening, doing

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By Keith Stewart

(James 1:19-27)
   We live in such a fast-paced, hectic world we forget that God’s voice waits to be heard. Nothing is more urgent. Nothing is more needful. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing what God has to say. Oftentimes the question isn’t, “Is God speaking?”, but rather are we being still enough and quiet enough to listen?
   In the Book of James, we find ourselves dealing with the subjects of “listening and doing.” Earlier James spoke about facing our outer trials and defeating our inner temptations. In response, James gives his listeners a couple of warnings. He suggests that believers should listen closer to God’s Word and they should do what He instructs them to do. The problem for many Christians is rather than being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath; they are slow to listen, fast to speak, and even faster at getting angry.
   What is James warning to all believers? —— He is warning them to listen closer. In order for us to properly receive God’s Word, James lists four elements for listening closer. The first element is being “swift to hear.” “Quick to listen” is a lost art in our worldly culture. The command to “be swift to hear” calls for an eagerness to hear and obey God’s message.
   There is the element of being “slow to speak.”  “Slow to speak” demands silence until we have taken the time to understand and apply the message given us. The moment you begin to speak before someone has finished what they are trying to say, you have already stopped listening. A very wise person once said that God has given us two ears and one mouth because He wanted us to listen more than we speak. Far too many Christians argue with God’s Word, if not out loud, at least in their hearts and minds.
There is the element of being “slow to wrath.” What is James trying to communicate? Do not get angry at God or His Word. It is a warning within itself against becoming hostile and having bitter feelings toward God’s Word. A child of God cannot hear Him if they are distracted with resentment, hatred, or vengeful attitudes,
   There is the element of having a “prepared heart.” In order for the believer to receive the “implanted Word of God,” their heart must be prepared for it.
   When the work of preparing our heart is finished, then we are able to receive with meekness the implanted Word. When you receive God’s Word with meekness, you’re not arguing with it, you’re accepting it.
We are not merely to listen to God’s Word, but we must also put it into action. It’s not the hearing that helps us to grow spiritually, but rather it’s the doing of God’s Word. A person who considers himself to be religious but does not listen and do God’s Word demonstrates their lack of spiritual maturity.
   As Christians, our first responsibility is to receive the Word of God by listening closer. Then, we must do it; otherwise we are deceiving ourselves. What are we deceiving ourselves about? For many people, they are deceiving themselves into thinking they are saved, when the opposite is true. For others, they are just being disobedient.