While watching some of the recent coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, I joyfully marveled again at the God-given human athletic skill on display. Our wise Creator’s genius in the human body comes spectacularly to life in this global competition every four years. And every time I view these games, Psalm 139:14 comes to mind: “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.”
King David eloquently expressed God’s exquisite and skillful design in creating human beings. One reason I enjoy the Olympic games is that they highlight the diverse talents and gifts given by Him to every person. What fun it is to witness the beauty of discovered human talents and well-developed skills!
And as jubilant celebration follows every Olympic triumph, so it is that God is glorified when members of Christ’s Body, the Church, discover, develop and use their gifts skillfully.
Some time ago, I had an unexpected opportunity to interact with someone whose worldview was quite different than mine. Our views, for example, on faith and morality, marriage and divorce, euthanasia and religious freedom, were poles apart. At first, our disagreements got rather tense. He was brash and sarcastic. I got defensive. But when I showed an ability to listen, things improved.
It wasn’t that I just chose to go silent. I still shared my perspective and beliefs. What changed the dynamics of the conversation was listening skill. His sudden abruptness had taken me by surprise and, initially, I reacted unskillfully and impolitely to his remarks. Frankly, I just wanted to walk away. But a sense of higher purpose weighed upon me to stay.
Though I don’t think I changed his mind much, we did “agree to disagree” agreeably. And as we parted, he turned around and said, “Hey, thanks for listening!” That’s when the lesson sank in!
Listening is a useful skill in every conversation, but especially at the intersection of faith and culture. Olympic athletes practice their skills tirelessly for years in hopes of winning the coveted medal prize—and I applaud them! Similarly, isn’t it wonderful when God’s people practice Kingdom skills, like listening to others, to win hearts and minds for Jesus Christ.
In The Message Bible, James 1:19 says, “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”
James’ words indicate that good listening is a skill we can all benefit from improving. I’ve found it to be one of the very best ways to advance the story of Christ’s love. My experience suggests that listening makes better disciples, stronger churches, and wins over lost people quicker by establishing a higher quality of relationship. Now that’s the Creator’s genius coming spectacularly to life in an eternally significant way—that’s a triumph to celebrate!
Okay, that’s it! Stay awesome in Christ and “listen up.” Good things are coming!
(Pastor Graham has a weekly email to hundreds of pastors across North Carolina. If you would like to receive these encouraging words each week, click here (ncfamily.org/churchleader) to learn more and sign up!)