John Chrysostom was one of the most captivating preachers of the early Christian church. However, he recognized that even great orators cannot make everyone listen.

Chrysostom noted, “My preaching is addressed to all . . . , but it is the duty of each one of my listeners to take what is suited for his affliction. I do not know who are sick, who are healthy. Therefore, I discuss subjects of every sort and suited to every illness.”

In Mark 4, the parable of the sower and the soils teaches the importance of how we respond to the Word of God. It tells us that the success or failure of a crop isn’t necessarily in the skill of the farmer or in the power of the seed, but in the quality of the soil.

Some listeners are like rich soil, and the message takes root in their heart. Other audiences resemble the church parking lot, and the seed simply bounces off them. Still others are like a weed patch that chokes potential growth.

Preaching is not “the fine art of talking in someone else’s sleep.” We need to “drink in” the teaching of the Word just as the sick need medicine or as crops need rain. That’s why Jesus urged, “Take heed what you hear” (v.24). Whether or not you benefit from a sermon is largely up to you.