Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about all the blessings that God has poured out on us. And we’ve learned that God hasn’t just blessed us so that we can live a fun and fantastic life, but rather, God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others.
God wants us to pass along our blessings. He wants us to bless the socks off the people around us.
So we’ve been trying to learn – just exactly how do we do that? How do we bless our community?
To help us remember our lessons, we’ve been using the acronym BLESS. The B – as we learned last Sunday – stands for “Begin with prayer.” And it’s a pretty simple prayer – It goes like this “Here I am. Send me.”
And I’m curious to know… Did anyone take me up on my one-week challenge – where you begin each day with that prayer – volunteering to be used by God. Did anyone begin their days by asking God to setup some divine appointments for you that day?… And did God send people to cross your path so that you could bless them?
He did for me. It was actually pretty exciting to know that God set up a divine appointment for me to be a blessing to someone else. It was great. It was fun. I’m excited for God to do it again! And it all began with that little prayer “Here I am. Send me.”
Now today, we’re moving on to the L in our acronym BLESS – which stands for “Listen”. If we are going to be a blessing to the people around us – we have to learn to listen. And this morning, I’m going to show you how Jesus did that, how his disciples did that, and then finally, how you can do that too.
I want to begin with the story of Jesus and the blind beggar. You can find this in Luke 18 – starting at verse 35.
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. 36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by.
Now I should note that by this time, Jesus had become quite well known for his ability to do miracles. He’s already healed lepers, raised people back to life, feed 5000 people, and yes, he’s even restore sight to the blind. So when this blind man heard it was Jesus who was going by, He knew that this was his chance for a miracle. Verse 38
38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And you can imagine what a ruckus this fellow was making. Jesus is in the midst of a large, noisy crowd – so if this blind man wants to get his attention, he’s got to be making a lot of noise. Of course, the people in front of him aren’t very happy about it, and so they yell right back at him “Be quiet!” And of course, I’m not an expert in the original Greek, but my guess is that a more accurate translation of that would be more like “Shut up!” Or something even less pleasant. But noticed what Jesus did.
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” Luke 18:40-41
Jesus didn’t tell him to shut up. When everyone else told that blind man to be quiet, Jesus listened. Not only did he hear the man yelling for help, but He stopped what He was doing to give the blind man his full and undivided attention. He simply asked “What do you want me to do for you?” and then He listened.
How many people in our community would feel incredibly blessed if someone simply took the time to listen to them?
We live in a world where listening is a lost art. In our conversations today, we might take turns talking, but we rarely listen. Even when we’re not talking, we’re not really listening either – we’re just waiting for out turn to talk. Isn’t that true?
I found a short clip on the internet that shows just how poorly we listen to each other. Take a look. The Skit Guys – You’re Not Listening
Let me see by show of hands, how many of you, have done something like that? Right in the middle of a conversation with someone, your brain just wanders off somewhere else entirely and you don’t hear a word the other person says? You start planning a bacon party or something…?
I’ll admit it. I’ve done that. (not the bacon party part, but the zoning out) And it’s a habit that I’m working to stop. Because what does it say to the other person when you don’t listen to what they’re saying?
It says “What you have to say isn’t important to me.” And even worse, it says “You are not important to me.” That’s the message you are sending when you don’t listen to someone.
Think about it: If one of your personal heroes came up to you, someone who you respected and admired deeply (Get that person in your mind – someone whom you respect and admire deeply – maybe a grandparent, or one of your mentors, or some hero out of history.) If they came up to you and had something to tell you – would you zone out on them or would you carefully pay attention to every single word? There is no way that you would zone out on them. You would give them your full and undivided attention. Why? Because that person is important to you. What they say is important to you.
And that’s just how Jesus treated this blind man. Jesus stopped what He was doing, and gave that blind man his full and undivided attention – because that blind man was important to Jesus.
While everyone else was yelling at that blind man to “Shut Up”, Jesus sent a different message. The message was “Hey, you’re important to me. You matter to me.”
Is that the message we send out to the people around us – That they are important to us? That they matter to us?
This principle applies in all realms of life. In your marriage – do you actually listen to your spouse? How many issues in your marriage could be avoided if you both simply took the time and made the effort to listen to each other? Not only would that avoid lots of little bumps and conflicts, but by truly listening to each other, you’re re-enforcing to your spouse that they are important to you.
You might want to apply this to your kids as well. How often are they told to “Be quiet! Daddy’s busy. Go play.” We have to be careful what messages we send to our kids. Our kids need to know that they are important to us – and by taking a couple minutes out of our day to give them our full and undivided attention as we listen to them – that speaks volumes to them. When you interrupt whatever it is you are doing to pay attention to your kids – that tells them that they are more important to you than anything else. And that’s a good thing. We’ve got to listen to our kids.
And of course, this applies to us as a church in our community too. If we want to bless the people around us, we have got to learn to listen to them. It is a huge blessing to know that someone cares about you. It such a simple thing, but just by listening, we can bless the people around us. We’re actually going to talk a bit more about this later on, so I’m not going to get into the details right now. But hold onto that thought.
The second lesson that I want to pull out of this story of Jesus and the blind man is that, not only did Jesus listen to the blind man by giving Him his full, undivided attention, but he also listened to the blind man by asking him questions. Usually, we think of listening as “being quiet” – but we can also listen by asking the right questions. Look at Jesus example:
40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”
42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.
This is a perfect example of how and why listening is such a key to being a blessing to the people around us.
As we mentioned earlier – simply by listening, the first thing Jesus does is to let the blind man know that he is important to Jesus. The second thing Jesus does, by asking the question “What do you want me to do for you?”, Jesus learns exactly how he can be a blessing to that blind man.
The blind man replies, “I want to see.” And once Jesus knows the man’s need, he meets that need – and God gets the glory! That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Let me show you another example of asking the right questions so that you can be a blessing to the people around you.
Flip ahead to the book of Acts, chapter 8, starting at verse 26. This is the story of Philip – one of Jesus’ disciples – who had learned well from Jesus’ example of asking the right questions.
26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Now I just want to interrupt this story quickly to point out a somewhat separate, but a very important point about listening. It is so important to listen to the Holy Spirit. We will miss out on so many divine appointments if we don’t learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. And unfortunately I think that happens way more than it should.
So if you’ll allow me, let me quickly interrupt this sermon with a mini sermon on listening to the Holy Spirit! Now, I’m not an expert on the Holy Spirit – probably some of you have learned much better than I how to listen to the Holy Spirit, but let me give you a couple quick principles that I’ve been applying in my life.
First of all, I find that the Holy Spirit will give me nudges. What do I mean by that? You know when you’re sitting in church or a meeting or something with your wife or friend and they have something to tell you. They try to be a little discreet and they kinda give you a little nudge with their elbow to get your attention and whisper – “Hey, psst. Pass the tick tacs….” I find that’s often how the Holy Spirit speaks. I’ll be in the middle my day just doing whatever and I get this nudge – like a thought in my head (usually out of no-where) that’s like “Hey, you should call up so and so”. And it’s just a quick little thought.
Now of course, every little thought that randomly pops into my head isn’t always from God. When I’m watching tv and suddenly think “Boy, I could sure go for some hot wings.” That’s not likely a message from God.
So how do you know what nudges are from God and which ones are just your own random thoughts? Well, there are three things to look for.
#1. A Holy Spirit nudge is unexpected.
Just this week I was working in the office and out of no where I had the thought that I should text a certain person. I wasn’t think about that person. I wasn’t thinking about texting. But I decided to do it. And I’m sure that was a Holy Spirit nudge because after I sent the text and saw the reply, I knew that God had a divine appointment in store for me. But I would have missed it if I hadn’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudge.
#2. A Holy Spirit nudge is subtle but clear.
God doesn’t mumble – but He doesn’t yell either. That nudge for me to send that text only came once, but the instructions were clear. “Send a text”. God didn’t repeat Himself. He didn’t consume all my thoughts with sending that text. It was subtle, but clear.
#3. A Holy Spirit nudge is uncomfortable.
Usually, God nudges us to interrupt what we’re doing or do something that we don’t really want to do. God’s agenda almost always requires us to interrupt our own agenda. When I was nudged to sent that text, I was in the middle of doing my own thing. I had to stop what I was doing, send the text, and as it turns out, change the course of my whole day. But I guess that’s what happens when you pray “Here I am, Send me.”
So that’s your mini sermon on listening to the Holy Spirit. Now, getting back to our story with Philip, I imagine all these characteristics of a Holy Spirit nudge were present when the Holy Spirit told Philip to go walk beside the Ethiopian Eunuch’s carriage.
I don’t imagine that Philip woke up that day expecting to take a hike beside an Ethiopian Eunuch’s chariot. This nudge from the Holy Spirit was unexpected. And it was also very clear. The Scriptures record the very words of the Holy Spirit. There was no mistaking it. And it was also probably somewhat uncomfortable. I know if God prompted me to go run up beside a random car sitting at the stop light, I’d probably be a little uncomfortable doing that. But regardless of how he felt, Philip listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and we continue in verse 30.
30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” 38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
Now this certainly fits what we talked about last week – about God setting up divine appointments for us to do His work. We can clearly see how God caused Philip to cross paths with this Ethiopian Eunuch so that He could receive Christ that day.
But it’s interesting to note that God never told Philip what to say or what the Eunuch’s need was or what God wanted to accomplish that day. He just sent Philip to be at the right place at the right time. It was up to Philip to listen. To ask the right questions. And He did. Look at verse 30.
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
Do you see what Philip is doing here? He knows that he’s here for a reason. He knows that this is a divine appointment. He just don’t know the details yet. So he simply asks a friendly question: “Do you understand what you’re reading?” And as he listens for the answer, look what happens!
31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
Whamo! The door is open for God to use Philip to bless this man’s socks off for eternity! Just from asking a simple question!
And we can do the same thing. In fact, most of us already ask the right questions, but we just don’t listen for the answer.
How many of you arrived at church today and you either asked or were asked this question: “How are you today?”
Of course, our default answer is usually “Fine, how are you?” But every once in a while, people answer that question honestly and they’ll say “Not that great. I’ve been better. Could be worse.” or something like that. And that’s invitation for you to ask another question so that you can discover what their real need is. And perhaps you’ll discover that this isn’t just a chance meeting, but rather that this is a divine appointment where God can use you to help meet that person’s need.
But if we don’t ask the questions – we don’t discover the need. Sometimes we assume what their need is, but we’re not always right.
I was reading recently about a mission group who went to a remote part of India to help this very poor village. These missionaries had all the tools, resources, and skilled people necessary to help these people living in slum-like conditions. So they came to the village leaders and asked, “What can we do for you?”
We could build you a hospital so you can take care of your sick. We could build a school so your children can get an education. We could build a church for you so you could meet and worship God. What do you want us to do?
And the village leaders replied, “What we really want is a mailbox.”
A mailbox? Really? We can do so much more than just a mailbox! You’ve got the resources and the people. We can build a school, a church, a hospital…”
What we really need is a mailbox.
What these missionaries didn’t realize was that if you live in a slum in India – you don’t have a zip code. And if you don’t have a zip code – you don’t exist on the map. Even if you have 20,000 people there – if you don’t have a zip code, the government doesn’t recognize that you exist – and thus, you cannot receive any services from the government.
The way these people could get on the map and receive services from their government was to have a mailbox. Thankfully, because these missionaries asked the question “What can we do for you?” and because they listened to the answer, they were able to provide a mailbox for that village. It took two years to work through all the red tape, but eventually they got their mailbox and the village began to be restored.
We can’t assume what people’s needs are. We have listen for what they really need.
This is one thing that I’ve believe the church must get better at. We have to listen to our community and find out what they really need.
Does our community really need “Burger for a buck?” Does they need kids programs? Do they need a Christmas banquet? Those things are all good and nice, but are we truly serving our community if we’re not meeting their real needs?
This is one of the reasons why we’re having this forum that I talked about during announcements about raising our kids to be disciples of Christ. I want to know, “What do the families in our church need to help them raise their kids to be disciples of Christ?”. Sunday School is nice. Kids’s club is nice. Youth group is nice. But is it what the families in our church and in our community really need? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But I want to ask the question and listen to the answer.
You might want to try this principle at home.
If you want to be a blessing to your spouse, why not ask some questions and listen to what they really need – and then meet those needs.
If you want to be a blessing to your kids – ask some questions and listen to what they really need – and then meet those needs.
If you want to be a blessing to the person sitting next to you today – ask some questions and listen to what they really need – and then meet those needs.
If you want to be a blessing to your neighbor – ask some questions and listen to what they really need – and then meet those needs.
It’s not complicated, and it works great! When you start really listening to people – and finding out what they really need – and then you meet that need…! Man, that just opens the floodgates for how you can bless that person! It’s a blast! It is so great to be a part of God doing a miracle in that person’s life.
We began this morning by asking our neighbor “How can I be a blessing to you this week?” I don’t know what kind of answers you got, but I hope you were listening. And I want to encourage you, that if you were able to identify a real need in that person’s life, do whatever you can to meet that need this week. And if you couldn’t get it out of them earlier – maybe ask them some more questions before you leave and find out their real needs are.
We want to be a church that is known for being a blessing in our community. So let’s do that. Let’s bless the socks off ‘em!
Let’s B – Begin with Prayer – asking God to give you a divine appointment where your abundant blessings can meet someone’s need.
And when we meet that person, let’s L – Listen. First of all, to the Holy Spirit as He guides and directs us. And also to the other person – with our full and undivided attention – let them know that they are important to us. That they matter to us. And let’s ask the right questions. Find out what they really need. Listen carefully. And then let’s meet that need.
You’ll be pleased to know that the next letter E stands for eat, but we’re going to talk about that not next week, because we are away at break-forth, but the week after that.
So let me pray for you now so you can go out and start blessing the socks off people this week!Note: Much of this sermon is based on two books: ‘Discover Your Mission Now’ and “You Were Born for This”