Friday, August 20, 2010

DEVOTION: Learn to Listen - Kathi Macias

…they held their peace and answered him not a word; for the king’s commandment was, “Do not answer him”  (Is. 36:21).

            One of the most difficult things for me to do is to keep my mouth shut (and I’m not just referring to overeating, though that may also be true on occasion). I’m a communicator, an exhorter, an encourager and a teacher—and sometimes I just like to hear myself talk.

            This self-absorption with expressing our own thoughts, opinions, and feelings is universal, whether or not you’re a communicator by gifting and calling, and I’ve spent enough time around people to know that I’m not the only one who suffers from “foot-in-mouth” disease. The Apostle Peter was famous for it, and there are countless other examples in the Scriptures that show how people got themselves into trouble by speaking first, thinking later. Mario Murillo describes people like that as those who “gargle with gun powder and then go around, shooting off their mouths.”

            The Bible is full of admonitions to be still, be quiet, listen, hear, hold your tongue and control your speech. Is there anything more difficult? The Book of James is replete with teaching on this very topic, which is why I find myself having to read and reread it so often.

            Years ago I served on a church staff, and one of my primary duties was that of biblical counseling. How na├»ve I was when I first began to serve in that position! Thankfully I at least had the understanding and humility to seek God before I started, but as I prayed for God to show me what to say to these people who came to me for help, I was stunned to discover that instead of telling me what to say, the Lord told me instead, “Learn to listen.”

            Listening is an art, and it takes time and practice to learn it. We live in a world of noise—some imposed on us by others, but much self-inflicted. It isn’t enough that we have radios and televisions and CD players blasting us at home; we take those same noisemakers with us in our cars, to the beach, to the park, to the mountains. It’s as if we’re afraid to “Be still and know that [God] is God” (Ps. 46:10). We are a people who claim to want peace and wisdom, and yet we refuse to do what is necessary to obtain them: to be still, to be quiet, and to listen.

            God had to teach me to listen—not just to those who came to me for counsel (what they were saying, as well as what they were NOT saying), but also to the Holy Spirit, as He whispered words of wisdom to my heart. Without first listening for God’s wisdom and direction, I would have nothing to offer anyone except my opinions and thoughts, worldly wisdom that profits nothing.

            And then there are the times we want to defend ourselves, to argue our position and prove ourselves right. Even as someone is expressing himself to us, we are forming our answers in our mind, ready to fire back a response the moment the other person takes a breath. The problem with that is that while we’re formulating our brilliant comeback, we can’t hear what God is speaking to us, and we end up wondering why our words only complicated the problem, rather than clarifying and resolving the situation.

            Sometimes God tells us to loudly and boldly proclaim His Word; as writers and communicators, and as believers and followers of Christ, we must do so. At other times He tells us to be still and listen. I personally find those listening times to be much more challenging and difficult to obey. But obey we must. When the King commands, “Do not answer him,” then may we put our hands over our mouths, open our ears and heart…and listen to the One who hung the Universe by His Word. Only then will we have anything worth saying to others.

Kathi Macias is an “occasional radio host” and an award-winning author of more than thirty books, including her popular international Extreme Devotion fiction series from New Hope Publishers. 


  1. Kathi, You'll get no backtalk from me about your words on listening. I listened and heard. Now it's time to practice keeping my mouth closed, be thoughtful and careful about what I say to others and to remain still to hear the Holy Spirit. This is my first visit to Harry's blog and I'm so pleased you are here saying what we need to hear. I understand you have offered a book for giveaway, and I appreciate the chance to win. I really hope I do win. I've not read your writings previously, and I'd find much pleasure in doing so.

    Grace & Joy in Christ,
    Barb Shelton
    barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

  2. "I’m a communicator, an exhorter, an encourager and a teacher—and sometimes I just like to hear myself talk." I totally relate!

    God recently urged be to be silent on a particular subject. Often I go on FB and find multiple postings about this subject. I position my hands on the keyboard and God reminds me not to give my opinion. At first it was SO difficult--but the more I obey His voice, the easier it has become. I also believe at some point I will understand and be thankful I remained silent.
    Thank you for sharing from your heart and feeding mine! Hugs, Rita

  3. Ditto with the mouthspeak. I study at a Benedictine Monastery and one of the disciplines we practice in our desire to follow St. Benedict is the art of soulful listening. Much is learned through each of the senses, but most especially the ears. This is why we must pray for the things that fly out of our mouths, less so for the things that fly into our ears (or nostrils.)

    Another artful discipline I am learning is to write enough--and then stop.

    Anne Schroeder

  4. Very wise article! I'm the worst at listening to those who are very close to me. I'm learning that their insights are so valuable, and God has appointed their words specifically for me. Obviously, God knew what He was doing when He gave me my family!

    Whenever I listen, God meets me through insights of those I love!

  5. I'm a talker too, and your words truly convicted me! My father always got a laugh out of the fact that God used my greatest weaknesses: talking too much, and some slight exaggeration to earn a living! God does turn our weakness into strengths, and Kathi, you have offered some great advice to temper our weaknesses! Wonderful article. Thanks for posting!