by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
A few years ago, I patronized a laundromat that was operated by a Korean family. As in most family businesses, everyone got put to work and they each took turns. One day, the oldest son was fixing one of the washing machines when he began speaking to his mother across the room in Korean. She was preoccupied and didn’t hear him. Finally, he yelled in English, “Hey, Mom, I’m talking to you!”
We all have a need to be heard. Each of us sometimes wonders if anyone is really listening. Wives frequently accuse their husbands, “You never listen."” Parents tell their children the same thing. My parents have said it to me numerous times. And, unfortunately, I’ve said it to our daughter, Monica, too. Some things never change.
In Jesus’ time, people couldn’t believe God actually heard them or that God cared about their troubles and problems. The religious leaders of the day had convinced them that God only listened to a select few like themselves. In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14), Jesus showed that God hears the sincere prayers of everyone. God sent Jesus to Earth to let everyone know God does care and God does listen. Jesus reminded them, “‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’” (Matt. 10:29-31 NIV). They knew they could believe Jesus because God listened to him (John 11:41b-42).
Recently at work, two men from the shipping department began talking to a third man in the lobby of the building. The third man asked the other two what they thought of some recent changes. They told him exactly what they thought and they weren’t very complimentary. Afterward, they found out the other man was the Chairman of the Board and the changes were part his latest pet project.
It’s rare for an ordinary worker from the shipping department to have an opportunity to talk to the Chairman of the Board. These two men had just such an opportunity. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t an entirely positive encounter.
Similarly, people in Jesus’ time had the chance to talk directly to God in the person of Christ. Today, we have the opportunity to talk to God every day. God is listening to us all the time and not just when we are praying or witnessing. Of course, listening needs to go both ways. If we expect God to listen to us, we need to be willing to listen to God and to respond accordingly.
There are people all around us who need someone to listen to them. They need to know someone cares. They need to know someone is listening. They need to know we are listening and that we care. If we act as though God is listening to us, they can believe God will listen to them. As we approach Christmas, we remember when God sent Jesus to tell everyone God was listening. We can continue to spread the message of Christmas by listening and by acting as if we believe God is listening to us. By listening and caring, we can show God's love and care as well as our own.
“Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!” (Psa. 66:16-20 NIV.)