Summary: to hear with ears that really hear, to prepare our “soil” for the seed of God’s Word
The Parable of the sower, is a very familiar portion of scripture. It can be very tempting to think to yourself, "I’ve heard this story, hundreds of times before, and there is nothing new here for me." Because we think that we know this story so well, we can close our ears to what the Lord wants to say to us. In fact, that is the point of the parable.
Right after Jesus told the parable, verse 8 tells us that Jesus called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." It is also very revealing that right after Jesus told his disciples the meaning of the parable, he says in verse 18, "Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." How we listen and respond to God, as he speaks to us, will determine the amount of growth and spiritual fruit we will have. Another way to say it is this, the condition of your heart will determine what God’s Word can do in your life.
For the longest time, I thought that this parable was all about how someone responds to the saving message of the gospel. This story is not just about hearing the salvation message. God’s Word comes to us many times, and the condition of our heart will determine what happens to that Word.
At any time, our heart can take on one of the four characteristics Jesus talks about in this parable. Because life is hard and unfair, we can respond to life from a carnal mind-set and become, hard hearted. When other people attack you, malign you, abuse you, gossip about you, slander you, or hurt you, the natural response is to protect yourself. You will either rise up and lash back, recoil and put up a wall to shield yourself from continued attack or you will run in order to escape. Whether you rise up, recoil or run, you will have a tendency to hold on to the hurt and play back in your mind the scenes of attack and hear over and over again the hurtful words that were spoken. As you harbor those images and words, if you do not allow God to bring you healing and help, you can become hardened by bitterness. Through unforgiveness and resentment, you can become so hard that your heart is unresponsive to God’s Word and your life never changes.
Jesus wants more than just for us to understand the gospel. Jesus wants that gospel to change our hearts and to bear good fruit. There are some difficulties that must be overcome in order for the word of God to have this kind of effect in our hearts, but our lack of intelligence is not one of them. You don’t have to be smart for the word of God to bear fruit in you. It is not an academic subject. Jesus tells us in this parable three things that we must be careful about. The first is the enemy who would come and steal the word of God away from us. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts. Romans tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
The most sure way to grow in faith is by the Word of God. Back in Jesus’ day not everyone could read, so He makes it easy, even hearing is enough, but the danger is that the enemy will come and steal it out of our hearts lest we should benefit from it. So the Bible tells us to hide them in our hearts. If you knew that a thief was breaking into houses around your neighborhood, what would you do? You would probably think about hiding some of your valuables. You might spend an hour or two making sure that even if the thief did break in, he would not get those things that are really important to you. We need to do this with God’s word as well. Let me give you a practical thing to do. If you hear a verse during the sermon that touches your heart, pick up your pen, right away, and jot it down on the bulletin. Then when you get home write it down again and hang it up in a place where you will see it often.
Another condition of the heart can be like the stony ground. Here the Word comes to the person but it does not have a lasting impact for there is no root that goes deep into their heart. This is the person that comes to church looking for an emotional lift. They hear the Word of God and they accept it with joy, but they don’t do anything more with it after they leave the sanctuary. Jesus says, "They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."(v.13) So many times I talk to people who are struggling with a decision or situations in their life and they complain that their faith seems dry. They say that church is no longer meeting their needs and they feel empty. Every time I ask the same question, "Are you reading your Bible?" Not once, have I ever had someone answer "Yes." If you are only fed or expect to be fed only on Sunday mornings, you will starve spiritually. You cannot feed your sinful nature six days a week and expect to hear from God and receive all you need from a 35 minute sermon. You might feel emotionally uplifted for awhile because God’s Word is good every time you hear it, but you cannot live without getting rooted. You cannot have only head knowledge and emotional lifts, you must have a heart that is fertile and deep. Not shallow and rocky under the surface.