I read the story of a man who challenged his wife with a riddle, “You’re the engineer of a train. There are 36 people on board. At the first stop, 10 get off and 2 get on. At the next stop, no one gets off, but 5 get on. At the third stop, 4 get off and 2 get on. Now for the question: What is the name of the engineer?”
“How should I know?” snapped the wife. The man replied, “See? you never listen! Right at the start I said, ‘You are the engineer of a train.’”
How many times have people asked for directions and still missed their way because they were not listening when they were being given the directions? While Jesus was addressing a crowd of people, He warned, "Take care how you listen" (Luke 8:18)
Every week and sometimes during the week for some of us, we attend church and listen to messages prepared by ministers who have taken time to seek God for what to share. Listening is commendable, but how we listen is another matter entirely. This is why Jesus warned is to be careful how we listen.
In the Parable of the sower, Jesus taught us about four kinds of hearing. (Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4: 2-9 and Luke 8:4-8)
Why would the sower scatter the seed around just anywhere? Doesn't this action go against all human reasoning of prudence and economic management of resources?
Today's farm manager would have a lot to say about training sowers to distribute their seed in such a way to avoid or minimize wastage. In actual fact, machines would have been brought in programmed by computers to target only those portions of soil that is fertile and with nearly 100% chance a high yield.
The "seed" is the word of God and it is sown in the hearts of men so that it can germinate and grow, yielding fruit that will benefit the body of Christ. No minister of God's word creates this seed. Rather, the minister goes to the Master and requests that the Master would give him seed to sow. This is why preaching the word of God is different from any other kind of public speaking.
In giving the seed, God's intention is that it be scattered everywhere no matter how hard, rocky or unsuitable for sowing the ground is. The ministers job is to sow the seed and leave the result to the interface of God's spirit with the human heart.
The first category of hearers are compared to the seed falling by the way side. It describes the state of an unrepentant sinner's heart. He or she hears the word but it makes little or no sense to them neither does it pull any kind of string in their hearts. Therefore, those who fall into this category, hear the word but walk away leaving the seed for "birds to eat".
The second category of hearers are compared to the seed that drops on stony ground. They heard the word and were captivated. They had not heard anything like that before! For once in their lives, they realized that they are not hopeless and that they are loved by God. They accepted the Lord into their hearts and made a decision to follow Him all of their days. Soon however, their faith is tested and they begin to listen to other voices other than that of God. Eventually, those other voices drown out of the voice of God and they eventually fall back.
The third category of hearers are compared to seed which falls among thorns. Like the ones that fell on stony ground, these hearers listened to the word of God, accepted it and also followed up on their decision. Along the line however, the cares of this world and the pursuit of riches put a stranglehold on God's word in their lives. These continue in the faith but produce nothing. They are limited in their ability to be fruitful because their pursuit of worldly ambition takes precedence over the word of God in their lives.
Unfortunately, many Christians fall into this category of hearers. We get excited about the message, jump up and down in our seats and get fired up with the knowledge and revelation that we have received. As soon as we leave the meeting however, the worldly choke-holds move in and tie the noose around the word of God in their lives. This is the point where many of us lose the art of listening to God.
The last category of hearers is where God intends for us to be. This category is compared to the seed that falls on good ground. These are people who not only hear the word but also understand it, walk in it and demonstrate it. These are those who bring about a great harvest of fruit by their labours.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)
Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He lives in Kent, United Kingdom, where he works as an IT Professional. He currently serves as a Worship Leader as well as Home Group Leader in his local church and on occasion, speaks at invited events. He is the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online Ministry and Moderator/Editor of the Biblepraise Newsletter. He can be reached through His email address, firstname.lastname@example.org