"Did you hear what I said?" "How many times do I have to remind you?" "I'll say it again . . ." "You're not listening to me." Wearisome comments, all. Are these common phrases in your house? I hate to admit that I make similar statements all too often. It can be extremely frustrating to think that someone is not listening when I am talking. After all, what I have to say is important or I wouldn't have said it, right? Not always. Sometimes I actually speak without thinking it through first and end up having to communicate my apologies thereafter. Then again, sometimes people are really just not listening to me. What should my response be at either end of the communication spectrum, i.e., talking or listening? 

One of the many passages of Scripture that convict me in this area of communication is this well-known passage in the first chapter of James: 

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20) 

I've heard that so many times that I have it memorized. But memorization is not enough when I haven't applied a whit of it to my actual life. It seems that daily there are those justifiable situations that call for being just the opposite, and I am slow to listen and quick to speak my angry mind. I'd like to break these verses down into their most memorable parts: 

Swift to Hear 

Often times, I am quite the opposite. I am swift to ignore, swift to turn a deaf ear, especially if it's something I don't want to hear. I really hate it when others do that to me, but I don't seem to mind implementing the same tactics in reverse. I don't want to hear it when the kids want to tell me about someone else's offense against them, but boy do I want people to hear me when I've been offended! I hate to hear constructive criticism from my husband, but I sure love to dish it out to him and expect him to take it graciously. I don't want to hear my friends complain about things, but it sometimes tends to be what we all do best in a group setting. 

Why would God want us to be swift to hear? I have found at least three reasons: (1) It is because He knows our propensity to turn a deaf ear, and (2) because He Himself has important things to say to us that require our attention, and (3) it is very conducive to a loving relationship when both parties are "hearers." 

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it." That simple statement from the glorious hymn writer1 sums up the human condition. And God knows we are prone to wander when we have chosen to ignore the voice of God. But God desires to arrest our attention in order to provide the wisdom, rest, and peace we so desperately need on this planet. Jesus knew those needs and also knew He needed to heed the voice of His Father in order to walk in wisdom, rest, and peace. 

In Scripture, our Father often exhorts us with these words: "Hearken unto Me . . . ." That phrase conjures up in my mind a picture of the Father holding the face of one of His children and saying: "Please listen to me. I need your full attention." 

And why does He need our full attention? Why can't we simply give concentrated attention to God here and there instead of making Him the focal point of our lives? 

God is all about fullness. God has given us His fullness through Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of God. (See Colossians 2:9.) And as such, He requires our fullness given back to Him. Thus, our full attention and devotion should be toward Him. And our full attention will not go unrewarded, as He always has something to impart to us if we would be swift to listen

What does He want us to hear that is so important? I did a little study and came up with these things that God wants us to "hearken to" or hear from Him. I have a picture of God holding my face and saying these things: