Trust is a big thing, not so much because we do a great job with this one, but it is so often the focus of attention because of how frequently it is breached. Look at how many 'hacking' issues have left millions exposed to identity fraud because one individual was able to breach what others thought they could trust in. Consider how many relationships dissolve each year, simply because trust was breached. 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 and how they 'promised' they would be able to perform. I know I have antivirus software on the computer, but has that kept me free of SPAM, occasional virus invasions, or computer crashes? No, because the 'lines of trust' are always changing today! It is harder and harder to know what or who it is that can be trusted.
But 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)
Within this passage, we find the idea of calling out for help - expressing there is a need, being honest with others about what that need truly is, and then being willing to open up to having that need met. 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 where to place that trust so it is not violated. It is important for each believer in Christ to realize that is exactly our mission while on this earth - to point the way for others to see and know Christ - the basis of all trust, the very image of true integrity, the One, true God. All other foundation for 'trust' is really a pretty shaky foundation! It is true that very few of us are called to be missionaries, evangelists, preachers, or teachers of the Word. We aren't moved upon with that compulsion to make this a "full-time" ministry in life. Yet, we have a place of influence that is unique to us wherever it is we are placed in this world. 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. The message is ours to carry to a lost world - how can anyone hear if no one is telling them?
What does it mean to be living epistles? It means we find very practical ways to be messengers of Christ to a lost and hurting world. We find the idea of us sharing the hope we have paired with the idea of our message needing 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 - it is almost rejected, or perhaps we might say the individual sharing the message feels rejected rather than the message itself. 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? He found himself repeatedly warning Israel that their missteps as a nation were leading them deeper and deeper into compromise and further away from relationship with God.
Listening ears are prerequisite to a responsive heart. Trust stems from the heart - there is always going to be an emotional investment in trusting someone else. People don't want to make an emotional investment if their past experiences with trusting have ended in disappointment or catastrophe. Sometimes 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 - someone that surpasses the trustworthiness of anyone else in our lives at times. 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 of the one who has the opportunity to hear that message, in turn opening their 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 required to develop trust. 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 non-trusting soul to "take a chance" at trusting God! Just sayin!