Christian living

The Super Power of Asking and Listening

It sounds easy, but it’s rare…

There are a lot of ways to show we care about someone. We can tell them. We can buy them a present. We can give them a hug. We can do something nice for them.

One of the best—and most neglected—ways to show we care about someone is to ask them questions and then to intentionally, carefully listen to the answers.

“What’s going on in your life?” This simple question opens a dialogue. It says you’re interested in that person. Everyone wants to share their story with someone. An interested person who asks a question could be the best thing that happened to that person that day.

Jesus asked questions all the time. “Why are you afraid?” “What do you want me to do for you?” “Where is your husband?” “Who do you say I am?” He cared about people and asked questions to show his compassion and also to lead them toward spiritual revelation.

“How are you doing?” Technically, it’s a question, but how often do we ask it, receive the stock answer, “I’m good,” and then move on without learning anything about what’s going on in that person’s life? How often are we more interested in what we will say to them than what they are saying to us?

Philippians 2:3 cautions us to, “…put others first and view others as more important than ourselves.” In verse four, we are advised to have, “…a greater concern for what matters to others instead of our own interests.”

If we want to share Jesus with others, it starts with being genuinely interested in their lives. That interest often shows itself in the form of a question.

Be on guard—the question loses its impact if it isn’t followed up with sincere, active listening. James 1:19 says, “…Be quick to listen, but slow to speak…” So often, we’re exactly the opposite. We’re quick to speak. We love the sound of our own voices. We are compelled by the importance of the happenings in our own lives. But we aren’t so good at listening to the circumstances in the lives of others.

Most people don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply.

Stephen Covey

People want to tell someone about their job, their children, what they had for dinner, and much more. They may be dealing with a sickness in the family, financial problems, or wondering about the purpose of life. Everyone needs someone to listen and to care, and we can be that someone.

Listening does more than just allow someone to vent. It creates a relationship. And a relationship may lead to an opportunity to share Jesus.

So, ask the question. Commit to listen more than you talk and to be more concerned about the other person’s concerns than your own. Asking questions and genuinely listening to the answer could be the start of change and healing in someone’s life.

 Be brave and be interested. Be compassionate. Be like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, make me a better listener. Give me a genuine interest in others. Help me ask wise questions and give me the ability to listen with empathy and compassion. Use my interactions with others to show your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Handling Life's Problems

Difficult People: They’re Everywhere

They’re at the supermarket, at work, at school. They’re in our families and in our churches. They’re even in the Bible. David had Saul. Nehemiah had Sanballat. Elijah had Jezebel.

Difficult people are everywhere.

If difficult people are a very real part of everyone’s life, how do we deal with them? How do we handle a person who annoys us, criticizes us, and drives us a little bit crazy?

Jesus probably dealt with more difficult people than any of us. The Jewish religious leaders were constantly angry with him. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied ever knowing him. Jesus had it so bad that after his very first sermon, people were so furious they wanted to throw him off a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30).

Here are three tips for dealing with difficult people in our lives the way Jesus dealt with the difficult people in his life:

  • Know who you are. Jesus knew who he was. In Matthew 3:17, God spoke these words about Jesus, “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.” Friend, we are a child of God. We are his beloved and favored. Let’s walk in that identity. What others may say or think about us isn’t important when we know who we are.
  • Know what God called you to do. From childhood, Jesus knew he had a purpose given to him by God. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” Negative, angry people didn’t flummox Jesus because he was focused on his calling and his purpose. We also have a God-given calling and purpose. We’re here to bring glory to God. Negative, angry, difficult people become less difficult when we keep our focus on our calling.
  • Look at difficult people through God’s eyes. People who frustrate us look different when we look at them through God’s eyes. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked at a crowd with compassionate eyes: “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’s heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus looked at these people, he saw how tired they were, how powerless and weak they were, and how lost they were. Sometimes, the people who hurt us, who make us angry, and who seem determined to judge and criticize us are actually weary, weak, and lost. When we see them through God’s eyes, we become less annoyed and more compassionate.

The bottom line is to treat people, even the difficult ones, the way Jesus did—with love and compassion, with a steadfast determination to fulfill our purpose, and with a heart of prayer for those we find difficult. Isn’t that how we would want others to treat us?

Dear God, draw me closer to you. Give me such intense joy in the work you have for me to do that I’m not easily distracted. Bless those people in my life who frustrate me. Give me a heart of compassion and wisdom in dealing with difficult people. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Making a Difference

Compassion in Action

Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)

In this one verse we are told to be both sympathetic and compassionate. Here’s my question: What is the difference between sympathy and compassion? Don’t they both mean to feel sorry for someone? Why repeat the same instruction twice in one verse?

I looked it up, and sympathy and compassion have different meanings. Sympathy means, “to have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Compassion, on the other hand, is, “the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it.”

I’m not too great at math, but here’s an equation we can all understand: Sympathy + Action = Compassion.

If you fell into a pit, would you rather have someone feel sorry for you or have someone reach down their hand to help you out of the pit? Their sympathy doesn’t help you, but their action does.

Sympathy is a feeling. It’s fine to feel sorry about someone else’s pain. But compassion is more than a feeling. It may start with sympathy, but it doesn’t end there. Compassion includes action that changes someone else’s situation.

We saw it with the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). The priest and the Levite may have felt sympathy for the man lying half dead on the side of the road, but they had no compassion. The Good Samaritan saw the same situation but took action to help because he was moved with compassion.

Y’all, compassion makes us move. It pushes us to do something.

When Jesus felt compassion, somebody’s life was getting ready to change.

  • He saw a widow weeping as she went to bury her only son. Jesus was moved with compassion and the widow’s son was raised from death to life. (Luke 7:13)
  • Jesus felt compassion for a hungry crowd. He turned a few loaves of bread and fish into a meal for thousands, and the hungry were filled. (Matthew 15:32)
  • Jesus was moved with compassion when a leper asked for healing. Jesus reached out and touched the man, and what was unclean became clean. (Mark 1:41)

Jesus’s life on earth was marked with genuine compassion. He repeatedly helped the hungry, the poor, the grieved, and the sick. Just like Jesus, our lives should be marked by compassion.

Compassion without action is just feeling sorry for people. People don’t need our sympathy, but they desperately need our compassion.

Dear Lord, please open my eyes to see those around me in need of compassion. Let my heart be moved with a desire to help people. I want to make a difference in someone’s life. Use me to show Christ-like compassion in a world filled with people in need. In Jesus’s name, amen.


Who Is My Neighbor?

“Finally, another man, a Samaritan, came upon the bleeding man and was moved with tender compassion for him.” (Luke 10:33)

In Luke, chapter 10, Jesus and a Jewish religious scholar discussed the greatest commandment, summing it up in just a few words: “Love God. Love your neighbor.” Sounds simple, but the religious fellow wanted to give himself an out. He wanted a clear definition of who qualified as a neighbor. Who do I have to help? Who do I have to love? Who can I ignore?

Jesus answered the question with a compelling story about what it means to love our neighbor. We call it the story of the Good Samaritan. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s in Luke 10:25-37.

A Jewish man traveling the road to Jericho was attacked by robbers and left half dead. Over time, a Jewish priest and a Jewish Levite both walked by, saw the man, and did nothing to help him. But a repulsive Samaritan, despised by the Jews, saw the Jewish man near death on the side of the road. He had tender compassion for him and greatly inconvenienced himself to save the Jewish man.

Jesus closed the story by asking a question: Which of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?

See, the Jewish expert wanted to know who he had to consider his neighbor and who he could justifiably overlook. Jesus gave an example of a Samaritan, detested by the Jews, who showed compassion to a Jew. If the Samaritan treated the Jewish man with compassion, the Jew should treat even a Samaritan with compassion.

So, who is our neighbor? We may think of a neighbor as someone who lives in our neighborhood. Actually, anyone we encounter on our journey through life who needs our compassion, encouragement, or care is our neighbor. Our neighbor doesn’t have to be a Christian. He doesn’t have to agree with our politics. He can have his life in perfect order or in complete disarray. We reach out to people right where they are, just as they are.

The Samaritan met the need of the injured Jew right where he was, on the Jericho Road. Jesus also met people where they were—Peter at the Sea of Galilee and the Samaritan woman at the well.

We follow the example of Jesus. We meet people where they are. They don’t have to meet our criteria or measure up to our standards. Everyone deserves our compassion, encouragement, and care regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the dangers of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho: “It’s possible the priest and the Levite wondered if the robbers were still around. And so, the first question they asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

At the heart of our faith is the command to love God and love our neighbors. As we daily live out this command, our question should not be, “If I help my neighbor, what will happen to me?” Our question must be, “What will happen to my neighbor if I don’t?”

Dear God, help me to see people through your eyes. Teach me to be a good neighbor. Give me grace to show compassion, encouragement, and care to those I meet on my journey. Let me show your love to everyone—literally, everyone. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Making a Difference

Nothing I Do Makes a Difference

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” (John 6:9)

Life can mess with our heads. It can make us believe our actions make no difference, that what we do doesn’t matter.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, everything we do matters.

In John, chapter six, a child whose name we don’t even know offered up his lunch to feed thousands of people. Why would he do such a ridiculous thing? He must have known his little lunch wouldn’t make a difference. But he gave it anyway. His small action sparked a mind-boggling miracle. Everyone ate their fill, with food left over. Thousands of years later, his action still assures us of God’s supernatural provision.

What we do matters greatly. The plan of God is always his presence working through his people. Just as the boy’s lunch must have seemed small to him, our actions may seem small to us. But just as God worked through that boy, he will work through us and use our seemingly-small actions to make big changes.

What does God’s presence working through us look like? Here are some small actions that cause big-time changes in the world:

  • Be kind to people, even to those who disagree with us. There’s no reason to be ugly to anyone.
  • Be patient. Listen—not in order to respond, but to heal.
  • Show compassion. Reach out to someone who is hurting.
  • Forgive quickly. Because we have been forgiven of much, we should generously forgive.
  • Be willing to share Godly wisdom with others, when the time is right.
  • Smile! The joy of the Lord should show on our faces.

These six actions reflect God’s character. He is kind, patient, compassionate, and forgiving. God gives us wisdom. And he smiles on us with a joyful twinkle in his eye. We are to daily become more and more like God, and these six actions are a pretty good start.

In the book, “The Shack,” by William Paul Young, the character of the Holy Spirit says, “If anything matters, then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes. Every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes. With every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished, and nothing will be the same again.”

Everything we do matters. “Nothing I do makes a difference” is a lie designed to keep us from the destiny God designed for us. Before we were born, God planned our destiny and the good works he wanted us to do during our lives (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t fall for the lie. Take every opportunity possible to do good. That’s how we change the world.

Father God, open my eyes to the difference I can make in the world. I know my actions make a difference. What I do changes the world for better or for worse. Fill my heart with kindness, patience, compassion, forgiveness, Godly wisdom, and joy. Let my life impact the world in the best possible way. In Jesus’s name, amen.