Today's "thought" comes from a book entitled "Gospel Fluency" by a man named Jeff Vanderstelt. It has to do with putting the Gospel into practice, or developing Gospel-like habits in our relationships. Not simply believing the Gospel and leaving it at that, but living in such a way as to help make Gospel-driven people more believable. This selection has to do with drawing out what's deep in the hearts of people. His point is well taken. Enjoy.
Listen and Learn
"Proverbs 20:5 says, "The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." We need to become people of understanding -- people who seek to understand others before we expect them to understand us and what we believe. We need to learn how to ask more questions and draw out what is deep inside people's souls. We need to learn to slow down and listen closely to the longings of their hearts. We need to learn their stories. In short, we need to care more about winning people to Jesus than about winning arguments. Gospel fluency isn't just about talking. It's about listening as well. This requires love, patience and wisdom. Jesus was so good at this.
Whenever I consider how I can grow in being a person of understanding who listens well, I think of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well. It was high noon, when the sun was at its hottest. There was a reason this woman was getting her water at this time of day. She chose a time when no one else would be at the well. Nobody went there in the heat of the day. But she probably wanted to avoid running into one of the wives of the men with whom she'd been sexually involved. She had five husbands, and the man she was then involved with was not her husband. However, Jesus didn't start with where she was wrong. He actually started in a humble posture of receiving from her. He asked her for water, and she poured out her soul.
I've found that starting with a posture of humility, standing in a place of need, and having a heart that is willing not only to give answers but also receive insight, creates a welcoming place for people to open their hearts. The more open we are to listen and learn, the more likely people are to be open as well. If you look at the story closely, you discover that Jesus continued to make very short, provocative statements that invited more conversation. He was drawing out, little by little, the longing of her soul. He was a master at drawing out the heart... I'm amazed at how often well-intentioned Christians overwhelm people with a barrage of words. We go on and on about what we believe and what they should believe, assuming we know what others think, believe or need. I often find that we are giving answers to questions people are not even asking, or cramming information into hearts that are longing for love, not just facts. We fail to listen. We fail to draw out the heart. And we miss opportunities to really love people and share the love of God with them They also miss out on getting to hear what's going on in their own hearts.
I have found that when people, including myself, are invited to say out loud what they believe, they come to realize something is wrong. This is why counselling is a busy enterprise. People have no one to listen to them They need to speak out loud what is going on in their hearts, and the only way some can do so is by paying a counselor to listen. I'm all for counseling, but I've spoken with many counselors, and most of them agree that if God's people would slow down, close their mouths, open their ears, and listen, many people wouldn't need counselors. Jesus slowed down, drew out the heart and listened. As he did this at the well the Samaritan woman's heart spilled out. And as it did, he guided her in a process of confession -- not just of her behaviors, but also of her beliefs. She had been looking for love in all the wrong places, and had clearly misunderstood God and how he interacts with us as humans. As Jesus engaged and listened, he was able to show her how he could provide what she thirsted for most. He could lead her to a well that would never go dry, providing an unending supply of soul water. He was the water that would deeply satisfy her soul.
The love she was looking for was standing right in front of her. And the God she should worship would go with her wherever she went. He wasn't on this mountain or that. He said he wants to come to human hearts like an unending stream of water that refreshes the soul. She believed Jesus, and then went to tell her whole village about him. That's what you want to do with good news -- share it with others. When people really grasp the good news of Jesus, satisfying the deep longings of their souls, it's hard for them to keep it to themselves."
A friend of mine used to enjoy pointing out that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason -- so that we would listen twice as much as we talk.
He had a point. Too often we seek to talk when we need to offer people the gift of listening, and nowadays it is a rare and scarce gift. As the author goes on to point out: "Francis Schaeffer said, 'If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first fifty-five minutes asking them questions, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth." Yet, regardless of the specific ratios or percentages of time, we should in the very least make it our aim to spend more time earnestly listening than talking. That's how we become people of understanding, as Prov. 20:5 puts it, who aim at drawing out the deep waters in a person's heart. Maybe we could all give this a shot at one of the upcoming holiday parties or events. Two ears, one mouth. That's a good ratio. Let's do it.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff