Among Thorns

Mediation: Mark 4:13-20

Consider this list:

  • Worried about money. 
  • Stressed out over work. 
  • A strained relationship is creating anxiety. 
  • Uncertainty and instability are overwhelming me.
  • So busy I can barely manage. 
  • Wallowing in debt. 
  • Focusing on career success as a first priority.
  • Workaholic. 
  • Constantly pouring over finances, budgets, stocks, and the like. 
  • Longing after more comfort, bigger home, better technology, nicer things. 
  • Wanting something different. 
  • Making “it” happen in my own life. 
  • Striving for physical perfection. 
  • Relentlessly looking for my life partner. 
  • Realizing the one I married may not be “the one.”
  • Struggling with all my might to make my children into the very best. 
  • Dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

Do any of these describe you?

Are you weighed down by “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things”? Are these worries, distractions, and desires choking your appetite for the things of God—knowing Him, reading His word, truth, obedience, gospel mission? 

As I read Mark 4 this morning, these verses caught me:

[Jesus said,] “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:18-20

The parable of the sower is familiar to many. We all want to believe we are the “good soil,” we all want to be fruitful. But the reality is, the description of seeds that fell on thorns sounds so much like so many in the church today—consumed by worries of some kind, pursing material wealth, looking for satisfaction in other things. 

We are distracted. We are derailed from the mission. We are deluded that God is pleased with our seashells and our mud pies. We are deluded thinking those things can satisfy us at all. We are deceived in thinking, “God understands I need to focus on ____ now and I will make Him my priority after” or “God wants me to be happy so of course I have to _____” or whatever excuse. 

Perhaps we count ourselves as “good soil” because we “hear the word and accept it,” but where is the result: “and produce a crop—thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown”? There is no way to qualitatively measure your spiritual fruit/harvest, but surely more is required of us than to say a quick prayer on our way out the door or serve once a month at church. 

If we want to believe we are the good soil that Jesus speaks of, we need to go beyond “hear and accept.” James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19). Intellectual acknowledgment is not enough. Look at how the bible describes true faith:

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says…Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

James 1:21-22, 27; 2:14-19 (NIV)

Let me be clear—we are not saved by good works. We are made righteous through Christ’s blood by faith. It’s all by grace. However, there is action—it is a natural and necessary fruit of salvation. 

Therefore, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”—worries, love of money, pursuit of material things, selfish ambition, earthly values, self-fulfillment—“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him”—Jesus who gave his life for you, who loves you and desires your good—“who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” ‭‭(Hebrews ‭12:1-3)

Pursue Christ with all your might and all these things—good deeds, spiritual fruit, a righteous life, a plentiful harvest—will follow.  ‭Spend your energy on gospel mission. Rejoice in spiritual fruit. Give God the glory. 

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