Often, to underscore the critical need to listen, Jesus would end his teaching with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (cf. Matt. 11:15, 13:9, 13:43, Luke 8:8).
How well do you listen?
Critical to the fruitfulness of our current Storm Strong Families series is a family’s willingness to both talk with one another about the key truths the Spirit of God is putting in front of us, and to function as a family-team in putting them into action in our home relationships.
Husbands and wives would do well to frequent a coffee shop together and discuss the teachings of the Storm Strong Families series. Parents would do well to discuss with their kids how they all together invite Jesus to live in their home, listen to Him together and pray, to understand what fearing the Lord is, to replace self-centeredness with love.
Great teams communicate. Great team members listen well to each other. It’s why we have two ears, and one mouth.
David Mathis, Executive Director of desiringGod.org, offers Six Lessons in Good Listening. Mathis suggests that “hearing is easy” but listening is more difficult. “We often fight against it. In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another…true sustained listening is a great act of faith, and a great means of grace, both for ourselves and for others in the fellowship.”
Let me summarize the 6 lessons here:
1. Good listening requires patience. It silences the smartphone and doesn’t stop someone’s story. It is attentive and patient
2. Good listening is an act of love. Poor listening rejects; good listening embraces. Poor listening diminishes the other person, while good listening invites them to exist and to matter.
3. Good listening asks perceptive questions. Open-ended questions (not “yes-no”) are best. A man of understanding will draw out the person he/she is listening to.
4. Good listening is ministry. Mathis says it well. “There will be days when the most important ministry we do is square our shoulders, lean forward, make eye contact, and hear their pain all the way to the bottom…at times what our neighbor (or son/daughter/spouse) needs is for someone else to know.”
5. Good listening prepares us to speak well. When we purposely listen well, our response can be helpful and encouraging. Bonhoeffer wrote, “We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.”
6. Good listening reflects our relationship with God. When we are close to God, God can channel his grace through us to those who need both a listening ear and timely encouragement.
My prayer these days is that what the Spirit is offering us to strengthen our families will make positive changes and important mid-course corrections. These new directions can happen through prayerful conversation and listening well to those we love.
Take some time to engage in family conversations. Use your ears. Listen well, patiently. Respond reflectively, wisely, even lovingly. Paul’s word to the Ephesian believers is timely:
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29