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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Open ears opens hearts

14-17But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims,
   A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!  But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to.
(Romans 10:14-17)

Trust is a big thing in our society today - it is often the focus of attention because of how often it is breached rather than how often it is assured.  Trust is based on the integrity of another - we count on them to do what it is that they represent themselves capable of doing.  When trust is broken, we find ourselves questioning the strength of that relationship because we have based everything on the belief that the other party would perform as we expected.

Our passage today begins with the idea of calling out for help.  Society is full of individuals just waiting to know where they can place their trust without having it crushed in utter disappointment.  It is hard to be in a position of wanting to trust, but not knowing in whom to trust.  That is our mission - to point the way for others to see and know Christ - the basis of all trust, the very image of true integrity.  

It is true that very few of us are called to be missionaries, evangelists, preachers, or teachers of the Word.  We just don't feel that compulsion to make this a "full-time" ministry in life.  Yet, we have a place of influence that is unique to us.  A family in which we were raised, a neighborhood in which we dwell, or a business in which we associate with customers and labor alongside others.  Paul reminds us that the message is ours to carry to a lost world - how can anyone hear if no one is telling them?

Surprisingly, Paul takes a little different "spin" on this concept of being living epistles - messengers of Christ to a lost and hurting world.  He couples the idea of us sharing the hope we have with the idea that our message needs to fall upon listening ears.  I have often been encountered by individuals so earnest about sharing their faith with family or friends, yet feeling like the message is just never embraced by them.  Why is it that we share and they don't get it?  Isaiah struggled with that same question thousands of years ago - how come they don't get it, God?  

Listening ears are prerequisite to a responsive heart.  Trust stems from the heart - there is an emotional investment in trusting.  People don't want to make an emotional investment if their past experiences with trusting have ended in disappointment.  If this is the case, the only thing we can do is to continue to prove the trustworthiness of our God - both in our example and in our words.  

Trust implies reliance upon someone.  There are times when we are so reliant on ourselves, we fail to reach out to rely on another.  That may be the case in a soul that seems resistant to the gospel message.  At other times, the individual may have reached out in reliance, only to find that what they were counting on was inadequate and incapable of performing as they hoped.  When individuals are facing this type of confusion about who or what they can trust in, there is a reluctance to attempt to trust again.

Listening ears are ears touched by the grace of a holy God.  We can share the message, but we also need to ask God to touch the ears, in turn opening the heart to receive the truth that gives absolute and confident hope.  Paul and Isaiah both were right - there needs to be messengers who will bring the message of hope.  There also needs to be prayer warriors that will come alongside to intercede for the opening of ears, the softening of hearts, and the responsiveness of spirit.  Together, the message is a dynamo that will ignite hope like nothing else this world has to offer.  

So, whether you are the preacher/teacher or prayer-warrior, your influence is great.  Don't be defeated when it appears no one is embracing the message - keep on living it out!  The lived out message is often the one that encourages the un-trusting soul to "take a chance" at trusting God!