James 1:19 reads, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” It is one of many of my favorite verses. Its truth applies on so many levels of our lives. Most of us would immediately think of how it applies in our relationships with other people, especially when we consider the number of times we respond inappropriately to something said by someone else and one or the other and often both wind up getting angry.
But stop and think about this verse in terms of our relationship with God. James tells us to be quick to hear, and slow to speak. In this case something happens, whether it involves others or not, and our immediate urge is to respond with our emotions and without carefully considering what we say or do. This is so true in particular with those issues we’ve been through over and over again. We just react, and often that reaction is in some way regrettable. If we were to apply James 1:19 here and STOP before God, and seek His wisdom for the situation and His words and/or response, just imagine how things might change as a result. This does not have to be a long STOP. It may only be a split second, but in other cases it might be much longer. And sometimes, if the situation is pretty intense, it might be repeated stops. But if we find the stops to be regularly repeated in quick succession it might give us cause to ask if we really stopped in the first place to listen to God, or if we only coasted through the stop sign and we haven’t really listened.
The verse also tells us to be slow to speak. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” In being slow to speak we are to consider how God might have us respond, placing our trust in Him for both the process and the outcome.
Later on James tells us that our tongues are a restless evil, something seemingly untamable. This is true apart from the power of God to control it. When we practice stopping before God and seeking His response it often results in a calming to the situation, but not necessarily always on the part of the other person(s). The one thing it does do for us for sure is to bring us His peace and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
James 1:19, as well as Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:7 (all favorites) are reminders to me that I need to be aware of God in all things and rely on Him even for my responses and reactions. When I do this, whether it is a simple conflict or something severely wrong that may be happening, I remember that my God is in control and He has me firmly in His hands. This is very steadying.
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/17)
I am training you in steadfastness. Too many things interrupt your awareness of Me. I know that you live in a world of sight and sound, but you must not be a slave to those stimuli. Awareness of Me can continue in all circumstances, no matter what happens. This is the steadiness I desire for you.
Don’t let unexpected events throw you off course. Rather, respond calmly and confidently, remembering that I am with you. As soon as something grabs your attention, talk with Me about it. Thus I share your joys and your problems; I help you cope with whatever is before you. This is how I live in you and work through you. This is the way of Peace.
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7