Listen Series, Part 1: Slow Down and Listen

Listening devices

This is the first of three lessons in the “Listen Series” about listening to God that I put together for the Harvard Avenue College Ministry Fall Retreat a few weekends ago. 

“I’m busy.” 

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say this to me when I’ve asked them if they wanted to play disc golf, watch a movie, or come to an event (I’m even guilty of using it myself often).

Let’s face it. We live in a very busy culture, especially as young 20-somethings (aka “Millennials“). We have friends, classes, jobs, family, sports, and organizations pulling us in all different directions. Our days are usually busy from the time the alarm goes off in the morning until our head hits the pillow (if it even does) at night. Rarely do we take time to slow down and listen to God (not listen to music, the TV, white noise, or birdies chirping). Let’s take a look at a common biblical example of this principle found in Luke 10:38-42 (ESV): 

38Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Let’s take a quick look at some of the characteristics of each woman before seeing how it applies to us:

Mary– presence of God: sat and listened in the place of a disciple. Valued fellowship with the Lord more than daily tasks, even good ones done for the Lord. Contemplative, focused on the Word, enjoys being, has a Type B personality, about relationship, has a full heart.

Martha– presents for God: “distracted with much serving.” While not bad in and of itself, Martha was too busy serving Jesus to take time to spend with Him. Active, focused on the work, enjoys doing, has a Type A personality, about responsibility, has a full schedule.

Both– Both minister to Jesus (give Him place to stay, food, etc) and have a good intention for what they are doing.

We all have Mary & Martha characteristics. In our culture, we tend to have more Martha tendencies, though we crave to be more like Mary. We serve in church, we go to class, we work, we participate in Bible studies, and we can justify it saying that we do it all “for the glory of God.” This can get us burnt out really fast. We get “distracted with much serving” just like Martha did (though Martha often gets a bad reputation, it is important to note that it is her who “welcomed him into her house”). Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that the fact that Martha is serving (ie getting food ready, prepping the house, etc) is the bad thing: it’s her heart attitude; she was “anxious and trouble about many thing.”

Throughout Scripture we see that the heart attitude is what God cares about. Take Cain and Abel for example (Gen 4:3-8): they both brought something to lay before God (just like Mary and Martha); however God rejects Cain’s sacrifice. Why? Because God like meat more than fruit? No, because Cain’s heart attitude behind the sacrifice was wrong.

So when we are serving, it is important to examine the reason we are serving: are we doing it to try to gain favor with God,  impress other men, or to make ourselves feel better? Are we so busy serving that we don’t take time to listen to the One who sustains us with His Word? It’s all about the heart attitude (See 1 Samuel 16, esp verse 7).

When God first created everything, he made a “Mary world” (built around relationship with Him) with “Martha moments” (times to work, steward, and serve). Because of the Fall, we have to fight for “Mary moments” in a “Martha world.” So take some time this week to slow down and listen. It’ll be tough to do, but it’s a fight worth fighting. Believe me.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

[image credit: abrinsky on Flickr]

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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

3 Responses to Listen Series, Part 1: Slow Down and Listen

  1. Sooo…. I can use this in my Sunday School class, right? 🙂 But for real…can I use it?

    I look forward to parts 2 and 3.

    • Most definitely! Any of the posts in the theology section are free to use.

  2. Pingback: Listen Series Pt. 2: Importance of Listening « A Little Bit of Everything

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