Jesus often used stories and word pictures as he was sharing the message of the Kingdom. He would say, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!" as in Matthew 11:15.
He said that phrase repeatedly — "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Why do you think he rarely explained what he was teaching? I wonder if he wanted his listeners to think about what he said and discuss it amongst themselves. I wonder if he trusted the Holy Spirit to move in their hearts and minds.
True listening goes deep. True listening asks the Holy Spirit to reveal insights. It says, "What am I supposed to be hearing?" Listening builds the secret place — where you truly know and are known by God.
There are three levels of listening.
Self-focused listening is looking for connections. It's a good start. It says, "What do I have in common with this experience?" The result can go one of two ways. This type of listening can either bond people who have had similar experiences or evoke a comparison of the experiences.
Have you ever been sharing your heart or telling your story and been cut off or one-upped by someone else's story?
Self-focused listening is just that. It is focused on self and not necessarily on the person sharing.
Others-focused listening goes a step further. It is filled with true curiosity and empathy. It holds back its own stories and gives attention to the one sharing.
Pastor Josh Finley once said, "The best way to love someone is to listen to them." Think about it. Do you feel loved when someone is truly curious about you? When your thoughts or feelings are valued above their own, it is a gift of care and honor.
Let's consider the famous love chapter in a creative way. Substitute "listening" for "love."
"Listening is patient and kind. Listening is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. Listening is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. Listening does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Listening never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Loving is listening. Listening is loving.
The third way to listen is the deepest. Internally it asks, "What is really happening in the spiritual realm here?" It is an intentional seeking of what God is doing in the moment.
God is always proposing answers; he offers his presence to people. He is always working to show us the kingdom way.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that could assist in discerning what God may be doing.
"What is the person looking for?"
"How are they feeling?"
"Who is God trying to reveal himself as?" (Comforter, Guide, Hope, Healer, etc.)
"What am I supposed to be understanding through this?"
"How does God want me to respond?"
Try asking questions that take the person deeper and connect them with God's love and his plan in the midst of their situation.
"I wonder what God is saying here. Any thoughts?"
"How can I help?"
"Tell me more."
"How can I pray for you?"
"Who is God revealing himself as to you in this season?"
"What do you want me to truly understand?"
Proverbs 14:33 says, "Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart; wisdom is not found among fools."
As you grow in listening and loving people well, here's something you can pray: Father God, I want to be wise and have understanding hearts. Help me love others by listening, seeking first to understand. Teach me to discern what you are saying in the midst of my life and conversations. Guide me to walk in your kingdom ways as you reign in my conversations. I welcome you to help me put others first and listen and love like you listen to and love us.