“Make your ear attentive to wisdom. Incline your heart to understanding”—Proverbs 2:2 (NASB).
A recent devotional in “The Upper Room” about listening with the heart led me to meditate on the writer’s words. The writer’s husband had retired early because of Parkinson’s disease. Because his voice had become soft and monotone, his wife often had trouble understanding his speech. However, she said, “Our adult son always understands what his dad is saying.”
One day she asked her husband the difference between their son’s approach and hers. Her husband replied, “Our son listens with his heart.”
The writer realized her preoccupation with household duties meant she wasn’t listening intently enough to hear and understand her husband. She said, “His words fell on rocky ground. Our son listened intently with a joyful heart and was able to understand his father.”
Listening for God’s Message
The writer began to wonder if she approached scripture in the same way as she did her husband. She wrote. “Sometimes, when I read the Bible, I become so preoccupied with my to-do list I don’t listen for God’s message.”
I know that happens to me. Instead of focusing, my mind wanders to the day’s agenda. But listening helps us reflect God’s love and bear fruit. Growing spiritually requires us to stay focused on His Word. We need a receptive heart to hear His message.
In Matthew 13, Jesus uses the parable of the sower to describe how people accept God’s Word in different ways. Jesus explains that the seed is the word of God—the message of God’s forgiveness, salvation, and great love for us. The various kinds of soil in the story represent the hearts of those who hear the Word of God.
Hearing the Word of God
The parable of the sower is a simple story. A farmer sows seed in a field. Some seed falls on the path and is quickly eaten by the birds. Other seed falls where there are rocks, but not much soil. While the plants grow quickly, the sun soon dries them. Because there is not enough soil, the plants die. In the third example, some seed begins to grow in a weedy place. The weeds stop the growth of the plants, and the plants die. Finally, other seed falls on good ground and the plants grow well. The farmer then has a good harvest from those plants.
Jesus’ explanation to His disciples was simpler. The farmer is Jesus and the seed He sows is the seed of the Good News. The farmer (Jesus) sows the seed in many different places, just as Christians share the Good News in many places. However, what happens to the seed is not the same in different places.
Jesus explains that some people, like the seed that fell on the path, hear the Good News but don’t pay attention to it at all. These people don’t change their behavior. The seed that falls on the rocks grows quickly but dies, meaning some people listen and like what they hear about Jesus, but it doesn’t last because they never really trusted Him. The seed growing among the weeds represents people who have no time for Jesus because they’re more anxious about worldly things. Finally, the seed falling on good ground represents the people who love the Lord. They believe in and trust Jesus. His Holy Spirit helps them to forgive others, love others and live in peace with them. This last group has been changed after hearing the Good News and letting it grow inside their hearts.
Putting our Hearts into Action
Matthew 13:23 reminds us that those who hear and understand the Good News and put it into action bear much fruit. They represent the good soil. These people know they need Jesus. They seek to grow through spiritual disciplines such as prayer, personal devotions, Bible reading and study, and attending worship.
Without discipline, our faith withers and dies. Discipleship is an ongoing, lifelong process to maturity in our faith. Becoming mature Christians requires effort on our part so that we produce spiritual “fruit.”
In The Passion Translation, Proverbs 2:2 reads, “So, train your heart to listen when I speak and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment…” If we want to hear God’s voice, we must listen with our hearts.