Last evening I had the privilege of listening to a sermon on James 1:19-21. A good friend and brother of mine is currently doing an expository teaching through the book. I'm always encouraging him to take his time and not rush through anything. Last night was a perfect example of why. He threaded that needle in a way that I've never seen.
The teaching centered in on being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. What I had never gleaned though was the contextual meaning. It was all dealing with hearing the Word, Law, or the Message of Truth. I always took the text to be speaking in a general way, but that's what often comes when we take "one liners" out of context to make them say something they were never intended to say.
We should be swift to hear the Word. Eager. Ready. Willing. On the edge of our seat. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11). We should want to listen in order to learn. When the Word is taught or read or sang, our antennas should go up for reception.
We should be slow to speak the Word. This is the context, branching out of James 1:18 and falling on the heels of being swift to hear. What does it mean, slow to speak the Word? Well, it means being careful and cautious. One doesn't need to try to explain something they don't understand. We must be willing to diligently study a matter out and understand it before speaking. This takes time. It's a slow process.
We must also be slow to wrath. Wrath (or anger) here means resentment when hearing the Word that "rubs us the wrong way" or "cuts." We may listen to someone speak from the Word and it may be the first time we've ever heard it. It may just go against our grain, but we must be slow to resent it before examination. When the Word cuts us, when the law kills us, when our sin is exposed, we must not try to stop the knife, but allow it to do what it needs to do.
As I was listening to this all be taught last night, my mind was racing. I knew it was all truth. It resonated with my spirit and was exegeted properly from the biblical text. The problem was that my mind always has the tendency to focus on others that I think need to hear the sermon. I sit there hoping that this brother or that sister, "gets it."
As I sat there last night and my mind wandered in this direction, I was rebuked by the Holy Spirit. I soon began thinking of myself. See, I'm not in charge of who else sees, but I know when I can see. I can't prick another's heart, but I know when my heart is pricked. I can't decide to obey with my neighbors mind, but I can make up my own mind. My focus must be on me. Not in a selfish way, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that instead of worrying about who else follows through with the teaching they've just heard, I should focus on making sure I make an effort.
I have learned (and am still learning) that people really aren't ready to listen until they are ready to ask. What I mean here is that I've been in places where I have tried to make someone see a biblical truth, and it's like trying to feed a steak to a newborn baby. However, if over time they observe me practicing my beliefs, they usually come to me and ask questions. The key is that this only happens if I've been focusing on myself. Focusing on myself enables me to be more effective in helping others. I tend to think it should be the other way around. "Let me focus on others. This is the way I will help THEM." But that's not how it works. You help others by focusing on yourself. I can't remove a speck from someone else's eye when there's a beam in my own eye.
I want to focus more on what Matthew should be doing. It's easy for me to point fingers at other people. It's easy for me to condemn and be judgmental, but that's pretty much doing no good. It's a mark of self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness.
I'm sure I'll continue to struggle with this. Yahweh teaches us all lessons by allowing us to struggle, go through trials, and take tests. I'm just glad my conscience was pricked of my own sin last night. I never want to be in a place where I'm not sensitive to my sins and failures to measure up to Yahweh's perfect standard.
It is extremely important that we do not forget the importance of family. Family is often overlooked in many ways in modern America. For example:
Yesterday I heard a great explanation of Matthew 5:6 where we read, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
When we think of hungering and thirsting in the natural we also think of eating and drinking in order to fulfill that hunger and thirst. What happens is that we get hungry (thirsty) and so we eat breakfast, but that only satisfies us for a little while. It isn't long after that that we get hungry (thirsty) again, so we then eat lunch. The point is that in the natural we eat and are satisfied, but the satisfaction is temporary. We soon eat again because our hunger is continual.
This is what Yeshua is talking about in his sermon on the mount. Those who continually hunger and thirst after righteousness are the ones who will be filled. He means that those who constantly long for spiritual meat will be the ones satisfied, but only because they are NOT satisfied with one meal. We eat a spiritual meal, and it suffices us for a little while, but only a little while. We are then hungry for more spiritual meat. We are never satisfied with just one meal.
So, what it really boils down to is this: those NOT satisfied will be the ones who ARE satisfied. Selah
I remember when I was a little boy singing a song in children's church that said, "Read your Bible pray every day and you'll grow, grow, grow." I never knew how true that song was until I became an adult and realized that when we skip even one day of Bible reading and prayer we do not grow, but rather shrink. The same goes for fasting. People today act as though fasting has been abolished. Yet fasting is mentioned so many times in Scripture as something people did to draw closer to Yahweh and have their prayers heard (Nehemiah 9:1; Psalm 35:13; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 17:21; Acts 10:30; Acts 14:23). I'm certainly not saying that I'm the best at Bible reading, prayer, and fasting, but I do know that when these things are active in my life, life just goes so much better. Don't delay. If you've not been putting these to practice, begin to do so today. Yahweh will be pleased, and you will not regret the fruit that these will bear.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.