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Do you want to multiply your efforts? Consider how you listen
Today we hear more voices competing for our attention than ever before. In today’s digital culture the average person hears over 5,000 media messages per day compared to 300 forty years ago. The amount of content that is uploaded daily on all kinds of platforms is staggering. For example, over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.More than ever, we must be discerning about what we listen to. However, it is not just what we listen to, but how we listen. The way we hear, the way we process what we heard, is vital to our success in life.
How is it that two people can attend the same school or church, and one succeeds and the other doesn’t? Or, two employees are given the same opportunities and one rises to the top and the other doesn’t. Why do some people seem to have things go their way and others struggle to see any fruit in their lives? Could it be related to the way they listen?Jesus tells the parable of a farmer planting seed. When His disciples asked about the meaning, He told them that if they didn’t understand this parable they wouldn’t understand the others. One of the keys in this story is the principle of listening. Jesus begins the parable with a one-word sentence in Mark 4:3: “Listen!”.
Later in the chapter He makes this powerful statement: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear.” In other words, be careful how you listen and what you listen to.
Jesus gave us four ways to listen in this parable, three of them will produce little or no fruit in your life, but one will truly multiply your efforts.
1. Listening with a closed mind.
In Mark 4:15 we read, “The seed that fell on the hard path represents those who hear the message, but then Satan comes at once and takes it away from them.”
The seed here represents God’s truth and the soil represents our heart. The way the seed takes root in our heart, germinates and multiplies is connected to how our mind processes it. This first soil that Jesus mentions represents the closed mind. Like the soil on a pathway that is hard, this type of person has their listening ability hardened by something. Although they hear the words being spoken, they close their mind from the message.These are those who listen with selective hearing. They often prejudge the message by the messenger. A closed mind has a hard, prideful attitude which says, “I have already heard this,” or “Who are you to teach me?”. They look at the speaker, and although they hear them, they tune them out for reasons like:
• The presentation was poor,
• They are too young or too old,
• They are of a different gender,
• The person is related to them,
• They are prejudice against their nationality,
• They aren’t educated enough, or they are too educated,
• They don’t like the way they are dressed,
• Their manners or customs turned them off.
These people heard the message, but for whatever reason, they tuned it out which allowed Satan to come and take away the seed that could have been planted in their hearts.2. Listening with a passive mind.
Next, Jesus talked about those who listen and accept the truth, but they passively offer no response or resistance when problems come along. Jesus put it this way, “The rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word.”
These people are listening and they like what they hear. The truth is exciting, but their experience has been merely emotional or intellectual. When the individual is challenged, they quit believing. In this approach, little or no application is given to the word after listening to it. They fail to understand that the challenges they have encountered will cause the roots to grow, and lead to an incredible increase later in their lives.These individuals are not sure why they believe what they believe. Rather than dig deep to defend the truth when they encounter problems or challenges, they passively let it go and move on to something else.
3. Listening with a cluttered mind.
Thirdly Jesus talked about a mind that had been so cluttered with the cares of this world, that the seed which did take root and grow, became choked out before it yielded fruit. He put it this way, “The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things, so no crop is produced.”
These people are those how hear the message but the truth gets crowded out by worry, wealth and wants. Their mind has become so preoccupied with the cares of this life, from thinking about shopping, work, holidays, texting, posting, fashion, how they look, what they drive, where they live, who they are with, etc. that their lives never bear the fruit that they could.
4. Listening with a devoted mind.
Finally, Jesus talks about the fourth type of listener. These are those who listen, accept and continue to act on the truth they heard. He said, “But the good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s message and produce a huge harvest—thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”
These people evaluate their life in light of what they are hearing and decide to obey it, whether it is comfortable or not. This type of listening goes beyond just paying attention, but trying to understand how they can live it out. They are devoted to the truth and have an open heart to receive it, despite how or who delivered it. When opposition for it comes, they hang on; they put aside distractions and don’t let go of it for temporary pleasures.Solomon in his wisdom summed it up this way in Proverbs 4:20-23: “Pay attention, my child, to what I say. Listen carefully. Don’t lose sight of my words. Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning. Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”