This past week God has repeatedly hammered three principles from scripture into my heart and mind. As I continue to reflect on these principles, I’m beginning to realize they significantly impact my capacity to recognize what God is saying and doing- especially His activity in people’s lives. I must confess that although these principles appear relatively simple, don’t underestimate the significance or challenge related to actually living them out.
Principle #1: Be slow to speak…. or as God often speaks to me, “shut up and listen.” Since my late teens, people have actually paid me to talk (i.e. preach, teach). God hardwired me as an extrovert. I naturally enjoy meeting new people and sharing stories, so listening often requires discipline. This disciple of listening often requires persistently praying for God to empower me to become a better listener whether with individuals, groups of people, my church, or my community. When we learn to listen first, God often gives us clues to what He’s doing beneath the surface in people. The result: we gain a better understanding how the message of Jesus intersects with what is really happening in people’s lives, which impacts how we approach conversations, large group teaching, vision casting, and engaging our community.
Principle #2: Redeem the time… or as some translations state, “make the most of every opportunity.” Most of us agree that time is a valuable commodity regardless of whether we or the people around us always recognize it as such. I still often find myself in situations, both planned and unexpected, where my mind travels to other places where seemingly more urgent and important tasks await. The problem: I don’t give myself fully-mentally and spiritually- to the moment I’m in. This can apply to everything from leadership meetings to family dinners to counseling sessions to impromptu wrestling matches with my kids to conversations with the school principal… you get the idea. We need to see the time we have with people as valuable and God-given- something that matters from an eternal perspective.
Principle #3: Don’t run aimlessly… and as the verse continues, “do not box as one beating the air.” For those of us who God chooses to hardwire as doers, we can often mistake busyness for fruitfulness. When not in constant motion, we feel lazy, unproductive, and often unsatisfied. I don’t meet many pastors, church-planters, or leaders in general who don’t have full schedules- mostly full of good things from a scriptural perspective. Our problem: we often say yes to what’s good rather than what’s best. Instead of focusing our time, energy, and relationships around what we’re most gifted to do and where we bring the most value to the kingdom, we run from one opportunity to the next. Think about it: what are the two, three, maybe four things God has uniquely gifted you to do in your church/ministry/organization/community? Now look at your calendar: is that reflected in how your prioritize your time, energy, and relationships?
Scripture references: James 1:19, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 9:26