Simple Honesty…When Man Listens by Cecil Rose for The Oxford Group
The first condition is our own simple honesty. If we try to hand on to other people something we have not got ourselves, it will be no wonder if they are unimpressed. People are drawn and captured by something they can see has really happened to us. It is not that we are consciously dishonest; but we present to others the belief and the experience we feel we ought to have, rather than those we actually have. Pride creeps in, and we pass quickly over the gaps in our knowledge of God. Or perhaps we are afraid that, if the other person sees the meagerness of our Christian life, he will not be attracted; and consequently we pitch the note of our witness higher than is justified by fact, or resort to giving good advice instead of honestly telling the other person the things which are real to us. In either case the note rings false.
God does not reach other people so much through our opinions, and our advice as through the rock bottom facts of our life, honestly presented. It is reality which is redemptive.
I have known a man, only an hour old in the Christian life, bring another man to God simply because he was honest about the facts of his own surrender. The first price of life-changing is this kind of honesty.
The second condition is that we should be really interested in people. When our interest ceases to be centered in ourselves or the small circle of our particular friends, and we begin to take a real interest in the varied folk we meet, we see a whole new range of opportunities for entering other people’s lives, and every encounter becomes a responsibility given us by God.
God cannot use many of us deeply in the lives of other people because we do not see. And we do not see because we are not interested. Christ was intensely interested in people. In other words, He loved them. We shall not share in His redemptive work with men and women unless we too love them. Life-changing can never be performed as a duty. It is something which happens when we are deeply and sincerely interested in people.
The other condition of God’s using us in changing lives is that we should be guided. As we saw, a changed life is the result of what God has been doing in a man’s mind and heart. We are only of use if we fit in at the time and in the way which dovetails into what God is already doing for the man. If we try to gate-crash a man’s soul before the door is ajar, or try to hurry him ahead of the convictions God is bringing home to him, we merely spoil God’s work. We need to know when to speak and when to be silent, what to say and what to leave unsaid, when to step aside and give the other man time to think, and when to press him relentlessly towards decision. These things pass the wit of the wisest of us. They are only made clear to us through a sensitiveness to people and their needs which is born in prayer. God cannot guide us rightly in individual work unless we pray for people and listen for His directions about them.
We must be guided too in the choice of those in whose lives God wishes to use us. God cares for everyone, and His ultimate purpose is to bring all who are willing, into a full life, but, in carrying out that purpose, He does choose the men and women whom He needs next as leaders. It may, therefore, be much more important for me to spend hours with some man or woman on whom the lot of hundreds of others depends, than to run about after a dozen people who are not God’s next work for me. God has His strategy, and it may be vital for a whole community that the `salient’ of a single life should be captured before any wide advance is possible. It may be a business man (or a workman), who, when changed, will be able to carry out God’s plan in a whole industry, a teacher who will open the way to a God-controlled school, a local `tough’ who will win all his `tough’ friends, a politician who will set a new level of national policy. And God can tell me, if I listen, who is my responsibility.
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