I sometimes find myself in the company of strangers, people I have never met before, whether on a golf course or at some social event. One thing I have noticed with most people, regardless of whether or not they are believers, is that few take the trouble to ask me questions about my life. However, most are more than happy to talk about things on their minds. I sense, though I may be wrong, that this is a characteristic of the culture in which we live. I also think that it can be a predominant tendency within the body of Christ. We have, in some instances, lost the art (perhaps also the desire) of listening to one another, I mean really listening such that we 'hear' what is being said between the sentences.
This, I believe, is a priority that we must rediscover in the context of our relationships, be it in our home churches, with those we are called to disciple, or especially with those we meet who do not yet know Jesus Christ. I remember hearing the story of the man who 'set up stall' as it were in a coffee shop with a sign saying that he would buy a free cup of coffee for anyone who would listen to his story. He had very few takers. When he changed his approach and offered a free cup of coffee to anyone who would tell him their story, he had a steady stream of customers.
We all want to be heard, it is a sign that someone values what we have to say, that they value our opinion, that they value us. It is an essential characteristic of love and humility, chief virtues within the kingdom of God. I believe this is something Paul was getting at in this verse from Philippians. Your experiences may be different, but I invite you to put this to the test over the coming weeks, both in terms of really testing how much people prefer to speak of themselves, but also in terms of seeking to ask people questions about themselves, their lives, their walk with the Lord if they are a believer.
This priority should also translate into our devotional times alone with the Lord. How much time do we spend telling him about ourselves and what we want, versus truly listening to his heart, his word, and what he desires to speak to us. When we come together in our home churches it is helpful to ask one another how God has been speaking to them, and then reflect corporately as to what that might mean to you all as a community, even what you might need to do about it. Let us have the heart of Samuel, who upon discovering that wonder of wonders, God was speaking to his heart, responded with the words "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening".