Kindness in Action

Here is a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior.
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you,
then grab the initiative and do it for them.
—Matthew 7:12, The Msg.

Kindness in Action

By Pat Knight

In the orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room, several of us were anticipating an X-ray prior to our first post-surgical visit. Seated near me was a man holding a fistful of medicine bottles, nervously rolling them in the palms of his hands. He was muttering angrily in broken English to his companion that he couldn’t understand the necessity of having another X-ray, and he was “planning to tell them so.” Just then, a young, vivacious X-ray technician addressed the distraught man by name and announced, “I’m going to take a quick X-ray before you see the doctor.” With great effort, he stood up, flashing a side-long glance at the technician, as if reconsidering his defiant approach.

The technician offered her outstretched arm for him to grasp, asking, “Can I help you?” Even before he replied, she steadied him as they began walking, cheerfully chatting about the beautiful weather that day. It was apparent the man had reformulated his plan of opposition in response to cheerful kindness. If I were to venture a guess about the outcome, I think they had a pleasant visit, with the man’s anger dissolving as quickly as the melting winter snow on his boots.

In God’s Word, the Golden Rule is the most universally known command guiding our behavior, though not commonly practiced. The rule instructs us to treat others as we want to be treated. One Bible translation takes our responsibility a step further. “Here is a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior. Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them” (Matthew 7:12, The Msg.). Since everyone craves kind treatment, it is each believer’s function to disseminate kindness to others. The vehicle of kindness operates with the fuel of cheer, propelled by good works. Imagine what a pleasant world it would be if each individual made kindness a priority.

Some acts of kindness are premeditated when we are alerted beforehand to a need. Joshua secretly sent two spies to the walled city of Jericho to assess how best to attack and capture the inhabitants and the land. The king was apprised of the presence of spies in his city, so he confronted Rahab, a prostitute and innkeeper, as to her knowledge of the stranger’s whereabouts. She admitted the spies had been in her establishment but that they had left before the gates of the city were closed at dusk. Rahab deceptively directed the soldiers to follow the spies toward the Jordan River. In reality, she had hidden the two spies underneath flax drying on her rooftop.

Rahab informed the spies that her people were well aware of the continual miracles their God had performed to rescue and protect the Israelites. She specifically mentioned their knowledge of the parting of the Red Sea, causing the citizens of Jericho to melt in fear because of the Israelite’s God. Rahab professed her personal faith: “‘The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below’” (Joshua 2:11). Then Rahab offered to help the spies if they saved her family before the city was destroyed. “‘Please swear to me by the Lord, that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you’” (v.12). The spies agreed. “‘Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land’” (v.14). From her window in the city wall, Rahab let the spies down to the ground and instructed them to hide in the hills until the militia abandoned their search in three days.

The mutual kindness between strangers was predicated on trust. For their agreement to succeed, it was necessary for both partners to remain faithful. The spies must remember their promise to Rahab. She agreed to drop a scarlet cord from her outside window to identify the location of her family. Ultimately, all the believers were following the will of God, who orchestrated the perfect plan. “‘I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight’, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24b). Rahab and her family were saved, she was honored by Joshua, and her name is forever engraved in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).

In addition to deliberately planned acts of kindness, we frequently perform random, spontaneous benevolent deeds. We spring into action when a situation presents itself. The moment may not be the most opportune for us, but in that instant we decide that another’s delight or safety is more important than our own convenience.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ─Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, a man was walking alone on a road with a notorious reputation for sheltering opportunistic robbers who ambushed defenseless travelers. The pedestrian was attacked physically, stripped of his clothes and valuables, and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed the beaten, bleeding man, ignoring him by crossing to the opposite side of the road. A Samaritan, hated by Jews and labeled a half-breed, came to the aid of the dying man. He anointed the man with oil and wine and bandaged his wounds. Then he lifted the stranger onto his own donkey, delivered him to an inn, and personally cared for him. The following day the Samaritan gave the innkeeper enough money to house and care for the stranger until he returned, at which time he promised to reimburse any additional funds he owed. (Luke 10:30-37). The parable illustrates the total devotion demanded by the Great Commandment. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Kindness is defined as extending tenderness or goodwill; lavishing with happiness and grace. In God’s Word, it is frequently synonymous with love, lovingkindness, or unfailing love, often summarizing God’s covenants with His people. The Lord said, “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you {to myself} with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah31:3).

On earth, Christ showed kindness to everyone He encountered, regardless of their status. It is imperative that we learn the life principle Jesus embraced. When the Messiah was crucified, His body had already been physically abused beyond recognition. Tortured and with His last remaining trace of energy, Christ offered compassion to the criminal crucified on the cross beside Him.

“‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43). Christ granted kindness during His worst hour. Surely we can express similar outreach to others during our best of times. God expects more than civility in our relationships; He empowers us to adopt Jesus’ attributes. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Our compassion and kindness that imitate Jesus indicate a deep stirring within our inner spirit. True character is revealed when the charity that wells up in our hearts converts to tangible acts of lovingkindness.


All Bible references are taken from the NIV unless otherwise indicated.

Songs from God

Today I’m sharing from Truth for Life. Every night when I start to fall asleep, the song “I Love You Lord” starts running through my mind. The Lord reminded me of this song a few years ago when I really needed it. And since then every time I awaken during the night, that same song is still with me. I love that because it means my heart and mind are praising Him all night long. 

Songs from God

God, my Maker, who gives songs in the night. 
Job 35:10

Any man can sing during the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When money is in plentiful supply, any man can praise the God who provides an abundant harvest or sends home a loaded ship. It is easy enough for a tuneful harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to carry when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but it takes a skillful singer whose song springs forth when there is not a ray of light to read by. No man can make a song in the night by himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.

Let everything go well, then I can weave songs, fashioning them from the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and with what shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? 

Read the rest here.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

By Pat Knight

I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys.

─Song of Solomon 2:1

Cultivated extensively for the past five thousand years in the Middle East, rose petals have been used for confetti in ancient celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and as a source of perfume. During the 17th century, royalty used both the rose and rosewater as legal tender, for barter, and for payments. Designated as a tangible expression of love in our current age, what conveys affection or adoration more obviously than a bouquet of roses? Though long ago a cherished flower of nobility, roses of all varieties are now easily grown by novice gardeners.

Roses are designed and proliferated throughout the world by our Lord, the Master Creator. There are no color clashes in God’s world: red, orange, purple, fuchsia, and yellow exist in an array of hues, blooming side-by-side in natural harmony, illustrating the cooperative manner in which our Creator intends for people of all nationalities and ethnicities to function. The Lord Jesus claimed, I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys” (Song of Solomon 2:1), in whom the preeminence of God is revealed.

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus came to earth from the presence of God in heaven, the perfect Son, striking in beauty, lovely to gaze upon, to exalt, and to emulate. He lavishes pleasure through our senses, intensifies our praise, and magnifies our worship of the Godhead. Jesus is splendid and majestic! When He identifies with the rose of Sharon, He is portrayed as a beautiful, stately rose thriving in the fertile valley of Sharon in Palestine, where the elegant flower grows in profusion.

Jesus, the personified Rose of Sharon radiates unconditional love, fragrance, and delight. He occupies our minds as we seek Him, fills our hearts as we absorb His love, and permeates our speech as we exhale ministering words of devotion to him. “Taste and feel that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).Both the Father and the Son engage our senses, that we may fully experience their glowing splendor. We are reflectors of sovereign light, bearing the image and beauty of God as we derive our very life from Him. Similar to the way a delicate bud opens from the center to reveal glamorous layers of rose petals, our hearts display the nuclei of our spiritual lives, where Jesus’ love multiplies.

Physical beauty is rarely emphasized by our Lord. Though man’s priorities are often determined by personal beauty, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God is far more interested in the integrity of man’s inner characteristics. “It {your beauty} should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

Let us behold Christ’s beauty, purity, and holiness as He occupies our thoughts and affirms our priorities. In a world infiltrated with thorns of hurt and danger, the Rose of Sharon is poised to deluge believers with comfort and compassion.

Witnessing the unfolding of God’s glory in the Son must have been an ecstatic experience for those who glimpsed His presence on earth. It is no small wonder that masses were attracted to the blessed one of God. He was breath-taking, set apart from all humanity. We still marvel with delight at His glory and righteousness.

The believer responds to Christ on a spiritual level. Hearts are transformed by the Savior’s love and saving grace. Like the predictable maturing of a rose from bud to blossom, the believer’s faith unfolds with beauty, gentleness, and joy, one petal of obedience at a time. Blossoming in love is accomplished by Christ’s residence in the believer’s heart. Roses need abundant sunlight to bloom, just as Christians crave the abiding presence of Jesus’ splendor and majesty to flourish. As we diligently remain united with Christ through faith, we reflect His beauty in our lives. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

A rosebud is encased in a snug package, gently swaddled by a few select outer leaves. As the flower matures, the leaves relax, permitting each subsequent layer to expand to full capacity. Our hearts jubilantly respond like a newly exposed rose blossom, revealing a delightful uniqueness, radiantly shining with the light of Jesus, stunning the world with the intense fragrance of Jesus’ divine love.

Just as the flower bud’s true potential is revealed when its exterior sheath peels away to unveil a shining rose within, Christ living in our hearts promises a unique positional status as a child of the King and heirs with the Son of God for all eternity!

In each of His marvelous designs, our Creator is visible. Ponder the unique shapes and intricate details God invests in every rose. God isn’t reluctant to spend extravagant creativity on each flower, utilizing variegated colors and velvety softness to enhance a blossom. Then He lavishes specific plants with His proprietary fragrance, poured with impunity from His heavenly lab to gardens on earth.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly beloved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). As a renowned rose, Jesus is the object of extreme beauty and humility. Stooping to earth as the Son of man, Jesus espoused characteristics of meekness and gentleness. Living in any area beneath the glory of heaven required that Christ adopt a humble personality to define His earthly ministry.

Christians exude the beauty of Jesus in unrivaled form and fragrance. A joyful attitude and a forgiving spirit, combined with acts of kindness, places followers of Christ in unparalleled positions to bountifully disseminate the soothing, aromatic scent of the Rose of Sharon.

Love Song

We were treated to a spontaneous mini-concert by our two-year-old grandson, whose full repertoire consisted of “Jesus Loves Me.” He belted out the chorus with vigor and quality. If one of us attempted to sing along, he abruptly fell silent until we ceased. He indicated in non-verbal terms that he intended to perform solo.Then he resumed the lyrics, never missing a word.

The words of the song are simple, yet profound; personal, yet universal; gentle, yet powerful. Little did our grandson appreciate the joy and heart-warming belief he conveyed in his memorized lyrics, booming out the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus heard the succinct but sincere words of “Jesus Loves Me” and acknowledged the love the words generated in our grandson’s heart. If there is no doubt in a toddler’s mind regarding the unconditional love of God, why would any of us harbor skepticism?

Throughout God’s Word we are presented with substantial evidence of God’s love: “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), explains the source of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), condenses one of the most powerful messages in the Bible.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), states the purpose of God’s love. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1b, NLT), describes the eternal nature of our Lord’s love.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-14; 16, NLT).

If Jesus had appeared, our grandson would have eagerly run into His open arms. Children of all ages readily believe God. They do not require long explanations; just a statement of the love of God from trustworthy adults is convincing enough for them. Children love Jesus because Jesus first loved them. God simplifies, removing cobwebs and confusion. Young children readily understand simple, direct explanations and commands, for their faith has not yet been sullied by deceptions of the world. God instructs us to mirror the faith of children who possess uncomplicated, unpretentious faith.

There was another young boy who expressed his love in a tangible manner. One day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place to pray, multitudes of people who anticipated his next stop walked ahead of Him on land, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). All through the day, Jesus ministered to the people, offering healing to body and soul. As evening approached, the disciples suggested their Master send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to feed the multitudes in the remote countryside. When Jesus’ disciples returned to Him after checking the crowd for any remnants of food, they had found only five barley loaves of bread and two fish, donated by a boy in the listening throng.

We have no knowledge of the boy whose lunch was used in Jesus’ miracle to feed thousands of hungry, attentive followers. Had he been sent from his home that morning to accomplish an errand, but intrigued by the crowds, he fell into the rank and file of those pursuing Jesus? When the disciples circulated among the people asking for any available food, the boy offered his own lunch. In a time when many people went hungry, the gift of food for Jesus’ use displayed phenomenal generosity.

The little boy who contributed his lunch of bread and fish, gave it up willingly. The loaves were small, like individual dinner rolls. The fish were also diminutive, perhaps a smoked or a pickled variety, like herring, a delicacy for lunch.

God had already planned to use the boy’s meal to feed the entire multitude of five thousand men plus women and children, who would minimally total about 15,000 people. Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, took the boy’s small lunch to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:10-13).

If we allow God to use our availability and material possessions, as the little boy demonstrated, we may also be used as catalysts for a miracle. Imagine the thrill and amazement on the face of that boy who watched as Jesus multiplied his meager lunch to feed the masses. Fascinated by Jesus’ miracle, he then participated in the picnic created from his personal lunch donation. What a story he would tell his family when he finally arrived home later that day!

Jesus loves and respects boys and girls, and they know it. “‘I tell you the truth: anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:17); a severe warning, encouraging us to simplify our faith enough for a child to understand. Though Jesus’ disciples initially displayed doubt, they learned a new level of uncomplicated faith displayed by a child. Jesus commands all of us to emulate the frank openness of a child’s faith.

The miracles Jesus accomplished aroused anger and hatred among the Jewish rulers and teachers of the law. When they “saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15). When those same rulers asked Jesus if he could hear what the children were saying about him, Jesus replied, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus acknowledged praise from children. They were His ardent supporters; they knew they were loved, professing their faith as they enthusiastically sang about their Savior in the temple courts.

Envision the children clasping hands, dancing around the courtyard in a circle, singing exuberant worship songs to Jesus. If you listen intently, there will arise above the crowd an angelic voice singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong.” Suddenly Jesus’ attention will be focused compassionately on our grandson, the little boy with unsurpassed love for Christ, the one who treasures his adoration and praise.

Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.

Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.

Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star

Jesus, You’re Beautiful by Sara Groves is a lovely song of praise to Jesus that truly touches my heart. Its sweet lyrics are wonderful to sing and easy to remember.

As you listen to this song, thank God for Jesus our beautiful Bright and Morning Star:

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me,
to give to every one according to his work.

13 
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life,
and may enter through the gates into the city.

15 
But outside are dogs and sorcerers
and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters,
and whoever loves and practices a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel
to testify to you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

—Revelation 22:12-17

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