Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Life has allowed me some time to finally go back to these thoughts on sowing and reaping. Jesus told us that this parable, found in Mark 4, is the lynch-pin to understanding all the other teachings on the Kingdom of God. So far, we have learned that being hard-hearted toward the promises of God will allow Satan immediate access to steal that Word of promise. Being of a "shallow heart" - one who is easy to forget, prone to give-up, or easily distracted - will allow the pressures of life access to scorch out the promise of God in our lives. Jesus shows us in this parable that three-out-four times the promises of God do not come to fruition in a person's life. And, once again, that is not because of some plan of God to teach us lessons - it is due to the condition of our own hearts towards God and His Word. The final "issue" we must learn to overcome...
The "Cluttered" Heart
I picked up a book at Barnes and Noble. The title is irrelevant (mostly because I forgot it...). The author doesn't need to be named (mostly because I don't want to defame them). I turned through the pages at random. Then I saw the words. Somehow, this individual had come to the conclusion that doubt is a perfectly acceptable, and even healthy, component of the Christian life. I'm not sure what Bible says that, but it certainly isn't mine...
Worry is rooted in doubt. It is thinking on all of the the "what-if" scenarios that could happen should God not come through in a way that would be beneficial and helpful to us. It is a direct result of fear - which is the opposite of faith. Worry (acting in doubt) is a sin.
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
~Philippians 4:6, Amplified
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
Do not fear therefore...
Get the picture? These are commands, not suggestions. Jesus command to Jairus is the same command He gives to the rest of us. We have been commanded by God to lay aside worry and walk in a life without fear. He has given us His Spirit - a spirit of love - by which fear is cast aside (1John 4:18). Fear, worry, doubt, and Co., are not acceptable elements of the Christian life. That doesn't mean you walk in condemnation concerning these things. If you struggle with fear, make the adjustment. Look to the Lord for help, just don't accept these as fundamental elements to your spiritual growth, because according to Jesus, these demonic cohorts will destroy the progress of the promises of the Word of God. And, so too, will misplaced trust...
A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room watching Dr. Bill Winston, a pastor from Chicago, speaking on God's provision. He said something that blew-up within me. If you look over to your right, you will see the quote has become a staple for this site: "You were not designed to bear the the burden of your own provision." Why are we so determined to take care of ourselves? Somewhere along the line, the "American Way" became the Christian life. It is not your job to provide for yourself, to take care of your family, to amass your retirement account or nest egg. No. It is God's Word, His Blessing, that brings the increase. Look to the proof:
The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].
~Proverbs 10:22, Amplified
But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.
~Matthew 6:33, Amplified
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work
That is just a small sample-size of what God says regarding our provision. We have a job to do in this life. That job is to listen to, and obey, the voice God concerning our lives. Where we work, how long long we work, what we do for work, is up to the Lord. Somewhere along the line, we put all the pressure on ourselves. Too many Christians have placed themselves outside the Will of God, all in the name of the mighty dollar. Jesus doesn't mind us having money - and lots of it. This parable in Mark 4 is not condemning riches. Jesus is condemning the deceitfulness of riches - that they always be there for you. When we put our trust in our ability and in our money - or in our striving to make money - we place ourselves in a position where the Word of God takes a back seat. It will be choked out because of all the other "stuff" that we have put in the way...
Speaking of "stuff," that is the final component that the Lord Jesus specifically points out to us as being detrimental to the fruition of God's Word in our lives. What kind of "junk" stands in the way of us and God? For me, it's sports. I have had times where the Lord has been showing me all sorts of marvelous things. My prayer life is vibrant. I'm feasting daily on the Word. I'm full of strength, love, peace and joy. But then, March... Oh, that stupid college basketball tournament comes around and I get sooo wrapped up in teams and players I know nothing about 11months of the year. Next thing I know, it's April. I'm cranky. I don't want to do my Bible study. My prayers sound generic. Stuff got in the way. And don't get me started on NFL training camps...
The point is, we all have those fun things in life. God doesn't mind them. In fact, 1Timothy 6 lays out for us that He has given us all those things for our enjoyment. I know that the Lord smiles when I watch sporting events, because I'm His kid, and I'm having a lot of fun. The problem is when all the fun things in life take top priority. We neglect our time with the Lord. Our faith stagnates. Our hearts become dull, or in this case cluttered. The things of God get choked out, because we do not give them the time to grow vibrantly.
So what is it with you? Do you worry too much about your future? Health, welfare, finances, children? I'm not belittling your stuff. I have issues in my own life. It can be difficult at first, to "let go and let God". But He will do it. He will provide, heal and restore. Is your hope, trust and time linked to your job? To your retirement? Your investments? Do you put all the weight on yourself, rather than on the Word and the Blessing? Stop thinking like that. Stop putting pressure on your job, your paycheck, what you can do. Just do what God tells you to do - and expect that He will provide beyond all you can ask or think (Ephesians 2:20). And make sure that all your fun stuff doesn't get in the way. Yes, this year the Seahawks will definitely contend for a SuperBowl Title. Yes, they are going to crush the 49ers, and it will be wonderful. Enjoy it. But don't neglect time spent with the Father.
Father first. Family second. Football later.
Clear out the clutter...