Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Discipleship Series By Justin McRoberts: Learning to Listen

On Tuesdays this semester we're running a series of posts on discipleship by Justin McRoberts. If you've missed the first 6 posts, click the links below to catch up.

MISSION, Part 1: Listen

Jesus is most recognized for the work he did (healing, teaching, the Cross and Resurrection). I hope you’re recognizing during this blog series that, as vital as His work was, it was one aspect of his life. I think it’s important to know that Jesus was equally serious about the practices of Prayer and Community. His relationship with His Father and with His Disciples carried equal work in conjunction with His life’s work, which I will call his “mission.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at this third aspect of Jesus life - how He went about His work in the world. How did Jesus do “Mission?”

Jesus was intimately familiar with the people and culture around Him. When He called the disciples to follow Him, He called them by name. When He taught the crowds who followed him, He did so using stories and imagery from the farming and fishing cultures folks were most familiar with. He was teaching, healing and leading people He knew. I would suggest that, as you serve the world for, with and like Jesus, the most important thing you can learn to do is listen.

My friend Matt is a hitting coach for softball and baseball players. He has years and years of knowledge in the area of hitting. But he knows that he can’t really help a hitter get better until he knows what she or he is already doing. She might not need help with her stance but lots of help with her grip. Or he might need help with footwork while having a perfect bat path. The only way he knows how he can be of the most help is if he pays attention to what’s going on in that athlete first.

Similarly, I often have ideas about what should happen in the world around me, and even in the lives of the people around me. But my ideas are bound to be lesser ones than God has. My hope ought to be for God to have His way in the lives of those I love and the only way I am going to discern what He is doing is to listen. Jesus knew the world around Him and the people He worked to love. I want to love the world like Jesus does. So, I want to be a good listener.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible appears in the eighth chapter of Acts. The story features two men. The first is a man named Phillip, who was a member of the first- century Church. The second is a traveler from Ethiopia. Phillip is on a journey south when he comes across this Ethiopian man, traveling in a chariot (an experience we can all relate to, I’m sure). Upon seeing the Ethiopian man in his chariot, Phillip hears God say, to him, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” So, Phillip walks up to the chariot and stands there, listening. He is there long enough to hear the man inside is reading the Scriptures; Specifically, the man in the chariot is reading verses in the book of Isaiah that Phillip’s new Christian community would have also been reading. In other words, God was already up to something in that Ethiopian man’s life and Phillip only discovered it because he listened. Had he walked up to the chariot and immediately started talking, Phillip may have missed the moment entirely.

As the story goes on, Phillip gets to have a wonderful conversation with the traveler and help him along his journey with Jesus. Phillip gets to talk with the traveler about his questions and share his own experience with Jesus. Eventually, Phillip even gets to baptize his new friend! And all of that happened because Philip listened first. So, let me suggest that, as you serve the world for, with and like Jesus, the most important thing you can learn to do is listen.

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