Regardless of what we think of the label, brothers, may we be this kind of man.
The Scriptures contain numerous exhortations as to how ministers of the word should pay close attention to their doctrine and teaching (see for one example 1 Tim. 4:13-16).
The word of God also addresses the other side of the communication quotient, the listener, in multiple places.
One such instance in the teaching of Jesus occurs in Luke 8 with his explanation of the parable of the sower. His point in the parable is that not all who have ears truly hear. So the end of the matter is this in v. 18 – Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
Kent Hughes, in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man (Crossway, 1991, 282 pages), gives two lists, one for Saturday night and one for Sunday morning that can make a huge difference in how we hear when we sit under the preaching of the word.
On Saturday (pp. 114-15)
- I have asked Christ to make me sensitive tomorrow to needs of people in the body who are hurting.
- I have solved the “Sunday clothes hassle” by making sure that what I will wear is ready today.
- I have spent time in confession so all will be right between myself and my Lord when we meet tomorrow.
- I have determined to get to bed early so I will be refreshed and ready for church tomorrow.
- I have planned on sustaining the delight of this time with Christ and his people by guarding against Sunday afternoon infringements.
On Sunday (p. 115)
- I have gotten up in plenty of time so I will not feel rushed.
- I have programmed my morning so I will not just arrive at church on time, but get there early.
- I have eaten a good breakfast, so an empty stomach will not detract from my worship.
- I have my Bible in hand plus a pen and paper for taking notes.
- I have left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there.
Careful hearing requires disciplined preparation. May we give ourselves to whatever it takes to have ears that truly hear, especially on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
I got to thinking about this when someone recently came to see me for counsel. He had been wracked by a pretty bad set of circumstances. It bothered him greatly that his anxious reaction seemed over the top. He was undone. Every time he gets a text lately his heart skips a beat for fear of more bad news. I can identify at times. Can’t you?
We turned to Psalm 112:6-8.
6 For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
7 He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
What the godly don’t fear is bad news. The psalmist works overtime to express the rock solid immovability of one who trusts in God. Never be moved. Remembered forever. Heart is firm, steady. He will not be afraid.
Charles Spurgeon commented on v. 7 in his Treasury of David:
He shall have no dread that evil tidings will come, and he shall not be alarmed when they do come. Rumours and reports he despises; prophecies of evil, vented by fanatical mouths, he ridicules; actual and verified information of loss and distress he bears with equanimity, resigning everything into the hands of God. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. He is neither fickle nor cowardly; when he is undecided as to his course he is still fixed in heart: he may change his plan, but not the purpose of his soul. His heart being fixed in solid reliance upon God, a change in his circumstances but slightly affects him; faith has made him firm and steadfast, and therefore if the worst should come to the worst, he would remain quiet and patient, waiting for the salvation of God.
Where does this kind of poise and power under trial come from?
Verse one has the answer.
Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
What the godly do fear is God. The parallelism of the Hebrew poetry suggests that to fear God is to greatly delight in His commandments like Be anxious for nothing (Phil. 4:6) and Trust in Him at all times (Psalm 62:8) and Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God (Isa. 41:10).
Again Spurgeon comments:
Jehovah is so great that he is to be feared and had in reverence of all them that are round about him, and he is at the same time so infinitely good that the fear is sweetened into filial love, and becomes a delightful emotion, by no means engendering bondage. There is a slavish fear which is accursed; but that godly fear which leads to delight in the service of God is infinitely blessed. Jehovah is to be praised both for inspiring men with godly fear and for the blessedness which they enjoy in consequence thereof.
One component of the blessedness which comes with fearing God by trusting Him is not being afraid of bad news, not being moved by hard providences.
Praise the Lord if you and I are so situated.
Peter thought so when he exhorted the churches, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).
We certainly don’t want to end up on the wrong end of that equation.
What does this kind of humility that brings forth much needed grace look like?
Watson proposed a tenfold test of humility by which we may measure ourselves:
- A humble soul is emptied of all swelling thoughts of himself.
- A humble soul thinks better of others than of himself.
- A humble soul has a low esteem of his duties.
- A humble man is always preferring bills of indictment against himself.
- A humble man will justify God in an afflicted condition.
- A humble soul is a Christ-magnifier.
- A humble soul is willing to take a reproof for sin.
- A humble man is willing to have his name and gifts eclipsed, so that God’s glory may be increased.
- A humble saint likes that condition which God sees best for him.
- A humble Christian will stoop to the meanest person and the lowest office; he will visit the poorest member of Christ.
Occasional Puritan hyperbole notwithstanding, how do you fare when you shine the light of these qualities against your own disposition?
Watson declared, “It is better to lack anything rather than humility.” Do you see the Lord growing you in this all-important virtue of humility?
We would do well to make John the Baptist’s rally cry in John 3:30 our own. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
May the Lord grant us grace upon grace for less of us and more of Him.