Summary: In the parable of the sower Jesus speaks of four kinds of listeners.


Matthew 13:18-23

INTRO.- ILL.- An excited little boy was telling his daddy about something that had happened to him that day. His daddy said, "Slow up, honey, you are talking too fast!" His boy shot back at him, "Oh, no, Daddy, I’m not talking too fast. You’re just listening too slow!" ARE YOU LISTENING?

ILL.- It’s been said that we think four to five times faster than we talk. This means that if a speaker talks at 120 words a minute, the audience thinks at about 500 words a minute!

I suppose I need to talk a lot faster in my preaching or else you need to listen slower, otherwise I will put you to sleep.

James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

ILL.- The story is told that when Napoleon was making plans to invade England, he was told that an American wanted to see him. "I can give him two minutes," Napoleon said. But two minutes was not long enough to understand the revolutionary idea of a ship propelled by steam. Had Napoleon listened longer to Robert Fulton the history of the world might have been altered.

ARE YOU LISTENING? It pays to listen to the right person, at the right time, and for the right length of time.

After Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, God said in Matthew 17:5 "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. LISTEN TO HIM!" It always pays to listen to Jesus!

ILL.- An 80-year-old grandfather went to his daughter’s house for Sunday dinner. When the meal was over, he announced that he was going to take a walk through the neighborhood. "I’ll be back in twenty minutes," he said. But two hours had passed before he finally returned. "Sorry I’m late," he said. "But I stopped to talk to an old friend and he just wouldn’t stop listening."

ARE YOU LISTENING? Sometimes it pays to listen a very long time. Especially, when it comes to listening to God in His Word. We should never stop listening to the Word of God.

ILL.- Someone said, "Talk and you say what you already know, but listen and you learn something new."

ARE YOU LISTENING? If so, then you are learning. And we all need to learn more about life, about others, and especially, about the Lord!

Matthew 11:29 Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

It pays big dividends to listen to the Lord and learn from Him whether through a sermon, a Sunday School lesson, a radio program, or through your own personal reading of God’s Word.

PROP.- In our text about the parable of the sower Jesus speaks of four different kinds of hearers or listeners.

1- The hard-hearted listener

2- The shallow-hearted listener

3- The clutter-hearted listener

4- The good-hearted listener


Matt. 13:19 "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path."

The hard-hearted listener is hardened to the Gospel because they can’t seem to understand it or grasp it. Satan snatches any little bit or piece was sown in that person’s heart before it can start to grow and bear fruit.

ILL.- While studying at West Point, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wrote, "The first class was studying the time-space relationship later formulated by Einstein as his Theory of Relativity. The text was complex and, being unable to comprehend it, I committed the pages to memory.

"When I was called upon to recite, I solemnly reeled off almost word for word what the book said. Our instructor, Colonel Fieberger, looked at me somewhat quizzically and asked, ‘Do you understand this theory?’ It was a bad moment for me, but I did not hesitate in replying, ‘No, sir.’ You could have heard a pin drop. I braced myself and waited.

"And then the slow words of the professor: ‘Neither do I, Mr. MacArthur. Class dismissed.’"

Brothers and sisters, it may be that some who teach us in life don’t know any more than we do. Or perhaps they don’t have any more understanding than we do.

I do know, however, that in my younger days as a preacher I would preach certain passages of Scripture and later on, I found out I didn’t even know what I was talking about. NO ONE EVER CALLED ME ON IT, HOWEVER. I guess they didn’t know either.

Now when it comes to preaching certain Scriptures, if I don’t think I have a pretty good understanding of it, I won’t preach it! I certain don’t try to pass off the idea that I know everything about every passage of Scripture. Far from it. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize how little I really know.

Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

There are many things that we don’t understand in life, but most of these things don’t really matter.

ILL.- For example, I never used a computer to do anything until we moved here in the fall of 1999. The church purchased a computer and we hooked up to the internet. And I must admit that I have learned many things about computers the last two years.

As much as I know about a computer, I still don’t know how the dumb thing works! I mean, when you take the cover off the thing and look inside, all you see is a board with all kinds of little circuits. And when I put my screwdriver in there and touched one of those circuits...MERCY ME! No, I didn’t do that.

I guess I’ll never understand how a computer works. BUT SO WHAT? It means nothing in regard to my spiritual life. And so with many things in life that we don’t understand.

The important thing is for us to have a better understanding of God’s truth in His Word. How can this happen? There is a two-fold remedy: my part and your part.

Col. 4:3-4 Paul said, "Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly..."

We who preach and teach God’s Word need to present it as clearly as possible. Some sermons and lessons are about as clear as mud, as some have said.

ILL.- A worker asked for a pay raise and got this note back from his supervisor: "Because of the fluctuation predisposition of your position’s productive capacity as juxtaposed to standard norms, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate your requested increment." The puzzled worker went to the supervisor and said, "If this is about my pay raise, I don’t get it." "That’s right," said the supervisor.

If I preached like that supervisor talked, you would walk! And I couldn’t blame you. I try very hard to make my messages as clear as possible. All of us who teach must strive for clarity.

If understanding is to take place, you must do your part as well. You must read. You must read Scripture. You must pray for discernment and understanding, saying, "God, please help me to understand your Word and put it into practice." And you must ask questions. Just be careful whom you ask.

The hard-hearted listener becomes hardened because of a lack of understanding.


Matt. 13:20-21 "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away."

The shallow-hearted listener doesn’t have any staying power. They are quick to believe, receive and rejoice, but they don’t stay with the program or the person, that is Christ.

Many people lack staying power when it comes to anything in life.

ILL.- I’ve known a number of people who started a jogging program because it seemed so exciting and beneficial, but after only a short time they quit. Why? The excitement wore off. The going got tough. They experienced sore muscles, leg ache, shin splints, etc.

What people have done with various sports they have also done with jobs and THEY HAVE DONE WITH CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH! The shallow-hearted listener lacks staying power. They can get excited about the possibility of a better life, but they can’t make it stick.

ILL.- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. His mind, wit and work earned him the unofficial title of "the greatest justice since John Marshall." At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers."

Brothers and sisters, I seriously hope that I don’t look like or act like an undertaker. I don’t think I do, but....

I happen to believe that Christianity is good medicine. This is why I laugh a lot. I see humor in many things. This is also why I use a lot of humor in my sermons. I think Christianity is appealing and I do my best to make it as appealing as possible.

The gospel is good news! It is joyous news! It is the greatest news there is! Christ died for our sins and because of Him we can go to heaven when we die! THAT’S FANTASTIC NEWS!

Consequently, the gospel appeals to most people and well it should! There is no better offer than what Christ offers! People should be quick to believe, trust and obey. In fact, I don’t know why more people aren’t coming to church and accepting Christ.

But some people who are quick to follow Christ and join the church begin to question things after a period of time, saying, "Is this Christianity stuff really true? Am I really saved?" "Will God take care of me here and now as well as there and then?" Or they may think, "This Christianity business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be." And some of them drop out.

ILL.- Senator Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children were cared for in their last days, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful."

The shallow-hearted listener will not remain faithful. When the going gets tough, they get going in the wrong direction.


Matt. 13:22 "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."

The clutter-hearted listener has cluttered up his life with the things of this world.

ILL.- A wife was coming down the stairs and asked her husband who was lying on the sofa what he has been doing.

He replied, "Killing flies".

She said, "How many have you killed so far?"

He said, "Five, three males and two females."

She said, "How did you figure that out?"

He replied, "Three were sitting on the remote and two were sitting on the phone."

Some people are caught up in the world of entertainment which keeps them from being captured by the Lord. The world of entertainment being TV, movies, sports, hobbies, play ball, play everything, do everything, go everywhere, etc.

ILL.- Did you know that last year Americans gave: $2.9 billion dollars to overseas missions? Sounds pretty good until you hear the rest of the story. Americans also gave $8.4 billion to see movies, $13 billion to buy chocolate, $23 billion to buy toys, $23 billion to buy stuff for their pets, $24 billion for jewelry, $58 billion for soft drinks, $85 billion for lawn and garden care, and $354 billion to eat out at restaurants!

ILL.- I heard a preacher say one time, "Let me look at your checkbook. I’ll tell you what you believe in!"

Where we spend our money is either a "portrayal" or a "betrayal." It portrays what we really believe or it is a betrayal of the faith of Christ. The same principle applies to what we do in life, i.e. how we spend our time as well as our money.

ILL.- I have a friend who ran the Chicago Marathon one time and set a personal record. It was his best marathon ever! And there is nothing wrong with running a marathon, but the Chicago marathon is always run on Sunday morning.

Some time after he ran that marathon he said to me, "I’m never going to run a Sunday marathon again!" He didn’t explain why he said that, but I think I know why. He is a Christian and I think he felt like he had dishonored the Lord or perhaps displeased the Lord by missing church to run.

I think every Christian should be committed enough to the Lord to be in church on Sunday morning.

Acts 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread." The early Christians were committed to Christ and the church.

Isaiah 58:13-14 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land..."

That’s powerful! I realize that we worship on Sunday, the Lord’s Day and it’s not the Sabbath. Some old timers have often called Sunday "the Lord’s Sabbath," but it’s not the same.

In Christ we are free. We are free, but constrained by our love for Him. We appreciate so very much what Christ has done for us that we should be moved to honor Him and worship Him on the Lord’s Day! We are so humbled that we would not want to displease Him or dishonor Him on the Lord’s Day or any other day!

The clutter-hearted listener has cluttered up his life with things instead of seeking to please the Lord.


Matt. 13:23 "But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

The good-hearted listener hears the Word, understands it, and bears fruit.

ILL.- A school teacher said to little Johnny, "Johnny, can you tell me the difference between perseverance and obstinacy?" Little Johnny replied, "One is a strong will and the other is a strong won’t."

We need to have a strong will in doing God’s Word, but a strong won’t is bad news.

ILL.- A man walked out of church one Sunday morning and said to his preacher, "That was a good sermon. I couldn’t find myself pointed out one time."

People who respond like that to the Word of God are not good-hearted listeners!

ILL.- I heard one time that the gauge of a good sermon is when a person leaves church, not saying, "What a good sermon!" but "I WILL DO SOMETHING!" That’s the good-hearted listener!

James 1:22 "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only." KJV

ILL.- A lady of high society was looking at a picture she had never seen before in the city’s art museum. "My dear fellow," she said to the Curator, "I have never seen this painting before. I find the image shallow and rather crude in appearance. What do you call this?" The curator answered without giving the slightest expression, "That madam, is a mirror."

James 1:23-25 "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking after himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."

The good-hearted listener sees himself in the mirror of God’s Word and doesn’t like what he sees. Consequently, he does something to change that image. He believes and obeys the Word of God. He allows God’s Word to bear fruit in his life.

ILL.-Ready for a baseball trivia question? Who is Clint Courtney? Clint never came close to making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, it’s very doubtful that his picture appeared on any bubble gum cards. This guy wasn’t a legend in his own time -- not even in his own mind. He was only a memory maker for his family, and a few die-hard fans who were inspired by his tremendous fortitude.

Clint played catcher for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1950s. During his career he earned the nickname of Scrap Iron, implying that he was hard, weathered, tough. Old Scrap Iron broke no records -- only bones. He had little power or speed on the base paths. As for grace and style, he made the easiest play look rather difficult. But armed with mitt and mask, Scrap Iron never flinched from any challenge.

Batters often missed the ball and caught his shin. Their foul tips nipped his elbow. Runners fiercely plowed into him, spikes first, as he defended home plate. Though often doubled over in agony, and flattened in a heap of dust, Clint Courtney never quit. Invariably, he’d slowly get up, shake off the dust, punch the pocket of his mitt once, twice, and nod to his pitcher to throw another one.

The game would go on and Courtney with it -- scarred, bruised, clutching his arm in pain, but determined to continue. He resembled a POW with tape, splints, braces, and other kinds of paraphernalia that wounded people wear. Some made fun of him -- calling him a masochist. Insane. Others remember him as a true champion.

Brothers and sisters, "old scrap iron" Clint Courtney possessed something of what all Christians should possess. Perseverance. Doing the job regardless of the cost and the pain. JUST PLAIN DOING WHAT THE OWNER OF THE GAME CALLED HIM TO DO.

And that’s exactly what a good-hearted listener of the Word of God does! WE JUST DO WHAT GOD CALLS US TO the game, follow the rules, do our best, do the best we can for others, love people, be kind, witness, spread the good news, etc.

The good-hearted listener listens, understands, and bears fruit.


Jesus said in Rev. 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

Are you listening? Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart. He is knocking in many ways and by means of many people. Do you hear him? Are you listening? He is not saying, "let’s do lunch." He is saying, "Let’s do life together." Are you listening?