Responsive Reading: Matthew 13:3-17
Key Verse(s): Matthew 13:9
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:9-14
In our scripture for today, we see Jesus tell the disciples that they were blessed to have been living witnesses of the things they heard and saw Him do (Matt. 13:16-17). However, as blessed as they were to walk with Jesus, their faith in the Lord could not really kick in until after His ascension. After He ascended, the eleven walked as we do in that they weren’t able to see Him and physically be in His presence any longer. Walking by faith and not by sight, listening to God, can be incredibly difficult and has been difficult for many of us
Struggling to Believe
The foundation of our faith is built on Christ; believing in His death and resurrection. I would also tell you that our faith is built on being able to perceive (to listen to) the voice of God. You see, when we are able to listen to God then we can truly move by faith and walk appropriately. Because many struggle with listening to God, they are led astray and easily consumed. Are you struggling with listening to God and believing in Him?
Don’t just hear, listen
In our key verse for today, we will see that the Lord very much desires for all of us to listen to His voice. After sharing a parable, we will see that Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is repeated a few times by Jesus after a couple of His other teachings (Matt. 13:43; Luke 14:35). To the seven churches in the book of Revelation, it is repeatedly stated, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22).” The Lord still says to us today, through the Spirit, ‘[Those] who have ears to hear, let them hear.’ So, what does this mean?
For us to truly understand what this means, I feel I first need to point out that there is a drastic difference between hearing and listening. You see, when one hears they are doing so passively. What I mean by this is that we are able to hear all kinds of noises around us, but we aren’t really paying those noises much attention because they are unimportant.
On the other hand, there is listening, which I would say, is a true skill. To listen means that one is being attentive rather than passively hearing. One who listens is fully taking in what they hear in order to learn and understand — to comprehend. After gaining full understanding, the one who listened and learned, moves accordingly.
In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-8), Jesus explained the drastic difference between listening and hearing. Jesus taught that there was a sower (God) that went about scattering seed all over his field. The seed being sown, Jesus later likened to the word of the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:18-23). Jesus likened those that are attentive to and listen to the word of God to be good ground for growth. On the other hand, Jesus likened those who are passive in their hearing to poor ground for growth.
So, the Lord desires for us to listen and be attentive so that we can receive His word rather than us just passively hearing His word; when we listen, we can learn, we can believe, and we can keep growing in our faith. So, to paraphrase my key verse for a fuller understanding, Jesus said, ‘he who has ears to hear, let him listen and be attentive to the Spirit.’
Reasons some struggle with listening
Still, with that said, there are many of us who struggle with listening to God. Why so? Why do so many of us struggle with listening to God? In order to answer this question, I believe we first must consider why we struggle with listening in general.
In general, most of us struggle with listening to things that are simply of no interest to us. Personally, I am this way; I don’t listen to or keep up with conspiracies and things that create strife and cause contention. If whatever is being said does not uplift my soul or make me laugh, I just don’t care to pay it attention. Sadly, many people turn away from the word of God because they do not find it to be interesting.
As you have heard me say before, stubbornness is a key factor in why so many struggle with listening. There are many who feel like they know everything and because their mind is already made up, they find listening to what others have to say to be pointless. On that note, there are many who don’t listen to the Lord because their minds are already made up.
On the other hand, there are some who struggle with listening to things that can be too difficult to understand. When things are too hard to understand, many of us will eventually tune out and stop paying attention. So, on that note, there are many who struggle with listening to God because His word, to them, can be difficult to understand.
Blocked From Listening to God
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said that he did not go to them with excellence of speech or with worldly wisdom to declare to them the testimony (the gospel) of God (1 Cor. 2:1). Paul shared with them the gospel not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:13).
The carnal minded
For those who find it difficult to understand the Lord and His word, I want to make it clear to you that when God speaks to you, He speaks spiritually. This is extremely important for you to know and understand when it comes to listening to God, and therefore, believing in Him. Don’t try to listen to or understand God with a worldly mindset!
To reiterate that point, to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).” What this means is that in order for you to be able to listen to God and understand, you must be of the same spirit as Him. If you are not of the spirit of God, then His word will never make any sense to you.
So, Paul said to the Corinthians that when he first taught them the gospel he fed them like babies – with milk and not with solid food (1 Cor. 3:2). Why did Paul do this? He did this because he could not speak to them as to spiritual people but as to carnal minded people, as to babies in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1).
Had Paul spoken to them as people who had been walking by faith for a very long time, it would have been even more difficult for the Corinthians to understand God. Even at the point in time of his writing the letter to them, Paul said that the Corinthians were still carnal and behaving like mere men (1 Cor. 3:3).
So, even though he had preached the gospel to the Corinthians in the most simplest form he could, many still struggled to listen and understand. Why were they struggling to understand? Paul said that it was because their carnal (worldly) mind was blocking them from listening to God.
The carnal mind, we should understand, makes it difficult to understand that which is of the spirit because the carnal mind is contrary to the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:17). May I suggest to those who struggle with listening to God today, to stop thinking worldly and open yourselves up spiritually. This goes to those of little to no faith, and also those who are strong of faith.
Finding a problem with God
Sadly, many refuse to move on from their carnal minds which is a danger, especially to those that desire to listen to God and believe.
This reminds me of how Jesus described the generation of this age while He lived and walked the earth. Jesus likened this generation to children running back and forth in the marketplace playing games trying to entertain themselves; they would go from one thing to the next but would eventually grow tired as the fun faded away (Matt. 11:16-17).
Jesus explained that was how some of the people approached John the Baptist; they enjoyed him but grew tired of him. John was a man that was not a glutton or a drunk, but they said he was demon possessed. The people, Jesus said, did the same to Him as they followed and were amazed by Him for a period of time. However, the people turned on Him because of His spiritual speech and they complained that He was a glutton and a drunk that hung out with sinners (Matt. 11:19).
When you cannot let go of the world – the carnal mind – you will end up shunning the Lord. Many completely shun the Lord today as, again, they are not interested in having faith in Him. Those that shun the Word of God, will always look for and find a problem with the Word where there are none.
Over the years, many have tried to dress up the gospel by trying to teach and preach it with persuasive (enticing) words of human (worldly) wisdom rather than in demonstration of the Spirit. Many of us believe that if we engage others with such enticing, those we engage with will end up having faith in the Lord – they won’t.
In rather harsh words, Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces (Matt. 7:6).” Why give those who are uninterested in listening to God the time of day? We who testify of God should feed those who may be struggling to listen to the Lord but actually desire to listen to and believe in Him.
Listening to God
So, again, I feed those that desire to listen but struggle with this message: In order for you to be able to listen to God, you must be of the same spirit as Him. Again I say to you, let go of the carnal mindset and open yourselves to the Lord, spiritually, and then you will know Him.
Taught by the Holy Spirit
To the Corinthians, Paul quoted scripture from Isaiah when he said to them, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9; Is. 64:4).”
God’s word can only be understood with the help of the helper — the Holy Spirit. Only those that have loved Christ and strive to keep His way can know and receive the Holy Spirit. When you receive the Holy Spirit of God, you are then of the same spirit as Him. Let us remember what Jesus said about the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. To the disciples, Jesus said, “when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13).”
To this day, the Holy Spirit is leading us unto knowing – understanding – the word of God. You see, it is by the Holy Spirit that we hear from the Lord and learn from Him. As I have said in the past, when the Spirit speaks to us, we should listen to Him rather than become combative; that is God speaking to us.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Now, when Jesus taught the parable of the sower, we find that His closest disciples were struggling to understand His message. So, when they did not understand, they asked Jesus, “why do You speak to [the people and themselves] in parables (Matt. 13:10)?” The disciples desired for Jesus to explain the parable so that they could understand. I want you to understand that when you are struggling with listening to God and understanding Him, don’t be afraid to ask the Lord to explain further!
In His response, Jesus answered, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, he will have abundance (Matt. 13:11-12).” This was to say that whoever wants to know the Word of God can know it and God will reveal it to them in a manner so that they can understand it!
As you have heard me say before, God has not hidden His word from anyone. Let us remember that Jesus proclaimed that He is the light of the world; He encouraged that we should all walk while we have the light lest we are overcome by darkness (John 12:35).
So, in His response to the disciples, Jesus makes it clear that He desires for us to come to Him for clarity when we may be struggling with listening to God. To add to that point, remember that Jesus also said that we should always ask and seek for Him; we should always knock on His door because He will open it for us (Matt. 7:7).
If you’re struggling with listening to God today, open yourself to the Holy Spirit first. If you continue struggling to understand, don’t ever feel like you can’t go to the Lord and ask questions. If you want to know, if you want clarity, God will give it; He may have to feed us like babies but He will feed us so that we can understand.
Valuing God’s Voice
I share this with you today because I want you to understand that there is great value in listening to God and His word that those who shun Him do not understand. In a prayer of his, David spoke about how the wicked close up their ‘fat hearts’ with their mouths speaking proudly (Ps. 17:10). This is a sentiment echoed in Psalm 119, where the psalmist spoke about the proud having hearts “as fat as grease” living in their pride (Ps. 119:70).
The psalmist in Psalm 119 expressed just how much they valued the word of God. The psalmist expressed that the word of God, which we know is true, gave them life (Ps. 119:50). I tell you today that when you listen to God, His word will give you life!
Because the Lord’s words gave the psalmist life, the psalmist proclaimed, “You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep your words (Ps. 119:57).” Just how much did the word of God mean to the psalmist? The psalmist expressed, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver (Ps. 119:72).” I tell you, I agree with the psalmist on that note! I don’t need gold or silver because I have God!
For the psalmist, listening to God and hearing His word was highly valued; it was worth more than the finest silver and the finest gold. The psalmist said he was molded and fashioned by God’s mouth, and he desired even more to learn the way of God (Ps. 119:73). Do you desire to be molded by the Lord? Do you highly value the voice of God?
We should value listening to God over any riches from this world. As we know, this world and its riches are fading away whereas God’s word will never fade away. The word of God establishes our steps; it leads and guides us in what is good in the eyes of God. In other words, when we listen to the Lord, He is leading us unto righteousness. What will listening to anything or anybody else do for you? Certainly not what God can and has done for you.