We are working through the book of James at True Vine Wednesday group. This morning as i sat with the children as they ate breakfast i began to read through a few verses that we have looked at over previous weeks and my eyes and attention were drawn to James 1:19-20, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (NKJV). I couldn’t seem to read any further, this is all i read. These two verses in my bible are titled ‘Qualities Needed in Trials’. I prefer to think of it as ‘Qualities Needed for Every Day Life FULL STOP!’. What a challenge; to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. I realised how much i needed this in my life.
I prayed recently that God would show me and my husband how to be more effective parents in the way we encourage our children to listen and for there to be a greater depth to our parenting than merely surviving the day doing the practical side of parenting. We all need to eat, clothes to wear, have pets to feed etc but more than that we are directed to bring up our children not just in the ways of God but so that they can know God and the application of scripture for themselves. I realised in that moment reading this scripture that i had an answer. The phrase ‘be quick to listen’ is something i knew i could use with my children, particularly the eldest who is currently obsessed with being the fastest, the first and the best. Using scripture to encourage her to be quick about listening to her parents (and ultimately God) is one sure way of developing in her that quality needed for trials and indeed everyday life. It also gives her knowledge of the Word of God but equally is something she can apply to her life. She asked me what i was reading and so i read to her the two verses in a paraphrased way (be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry). She immediately said, ‘I do that already mummy, all the time, I do’. I explained that even mummy needs God’s help to do those things and that we all are able in Christ to listen well, be slow to speak and to be more patient. I have been using the phrase today and i can see it is working. It also reminds me that i need to stop and listen when my children speak and most importantly that i need to be more actively listening to God, and quick to respond to Him too.
After a time of worship at True Vine we began reading James 3 which is all about taming the tongue! I am all too aware how easy it can be to say things we should keep quiet, to assume, to even say things we don’t even mean. I was aware of that this morning when i pondered on ‘be slow to speak’. Doing the study on James 3 after that only highlighted this to me. At home later on today i looked up a few verses about being slow to speak and found these very relevant and important scriptures:
Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise”. There is wisdom to keeping quiet! Slowing down our response time with our mouth gives us time to think clearer with wisdom and allow God’s Word to filter through what we would normally say.
Proverbs 17:27 “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit”. Choose your words carefully and stay calm. Talking too much means we will usually say something we shouldn’t.
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit”. Be very careful with your tongue-learn to choose words of life instead of destruction!
These are powerful reminders that what we say is so important. I am hoping to develop my ability to be slow to speak!
Being slow to wrath is an ongoing life mission for me. My desire to be more patient with people is definitely a hard task. A prayer i often pray is for more patience, which i know many say is a dangerous prayer but still i want more patience! I know many say praying for patience is asking for trouble because it just seems to bring us more testing circumstances. I can’t counter that – i feel my life is full to the brim of patience-losing situations. However, the more i trip up in this area the more i truly want to be more Christ-like in it. I desperately wish i could just slow down my reactions enough to prevent me from responding so irritably at times!!! Perhaps this is where being slow to speak will help! It might give me a pause button to press before i respond in what could potentially be a situation where i would normally ‘lose my cool’. I love my children. I so want to be the best possible mother to them i can be. It is horrible to see the response in their little faces when we allow anger or just plain unhelpful speech enter their realm…when we use our ‘dark voice’ as my eldest calls it a little too much or too loud when a quiet reminder would have sufficed; when our ‘nasty eyes’ glare at them and it makes them fearful, or when we get frustrated because only because they haven’t fulfilled the expectations that we have placed on them that they realistically cannot achieve perfectly yet (or ever, let’s face it, none of us measure up to perfection)…it is fleshly living and it is not God’s way. Anger and frustration obviously doesn’t just arise with children on the scene – we can get angry with all sorts of people and situations. What we have to remember though is that we must not allow it to rule us or result in sin. Shouting at our kids through anger and frustration, or indeed at anybody, does not communicate Godly love. Taking time to quietly but firmly correct and instruct in gentleness, this is what demonstrates Godly love. I am by no means achieving this right now, but i intend to deliberately focus on being slow to get angry, For me, this is made manifest most at home. For you it may be different. Either way, let us be seeking to become more patient people!
Proverbs 14:17 “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated” – it is that fiery temper that gets us into trouble time and time again, making our behaviour and conduct foolish
Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” – wow, this is inspiring! What self control it is to be able to control our reactions and emotion. We are stronger than warriors if we can hold inner strength over anger
Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools” – ultimately, what lives inside of us will come out of us. Who we are under pressure reveals our true nature. We are fools if we allow our spirit to be turned toward anger
I have so much to learn! But i am encouraged. I know this is God speaking to me and i hope this speaks to you too. We don’t always need grand messages from God like lightning bolts. What we feel drawn to in scripture usually is His voice reaching into our depths, particularly if we begin to notice a theme in that which is spoken into our lives at the time. This is exactly what happened here. In the space of a day i have been struck time and time again about the power of our words, the need to slow down and be in no rush to have our voices heard but instead to simply listen, and the consequences of being quick to get angry. I hope this becomes a running theme in my life. I would love to have this as my first response (and my family’s!) when i feel overrun by situations or emotion: be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.