Choking the Word

thorny plants

“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them…” (Matthew 13:7). “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

The parable of the sower was one of the first parables (simple stories to teach a moral or deeper truth) that Jesus began to teach the people. In this parable, He was talking about a sower of seed who had distributed it among different kinds of ground. The seed here represents the Word of God. While each of the types of ground that the seed landed upon is important, the focus here is just on the thorny ground. When the Word is sown or distributed among thorns, or the cares of this world, then the Word is choked and has little usefulness.

Many today have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and they usually want to read His Word, the Bible. But they don’t want to yield to what His Word says.

They are driven instead by a desire to succeed. They have obtained many material goods and are determined to enjoy them.

They spend much of their free time entertaining friends, neighbors, and themselves. When approached by someone about God, they will readily mention that they are Christians, and might even quote a verse from the Bible. Yet, if the conversation turns to something deeper, they are quick to change the subject and move on to something else. Their lives are shallow and restricted. They may regularly attend a church and read the Bible some, but they find no real time to do what God says. They always have something else that needs to be done. (But if the Bible was an action-packed movie or a television show, they would easily make some time to watch it!)

thorny cactus

When thorns surround and choke a healthy plant, its growth will be significantly stunted. While it may still be green and appear to be thriving, it will never reach its proper fullness of growth unless the thorns are removed. In fact, it can’t grow anymore, because the thorns have taken control. The plant is basically helpless and will eventually succumb to the thorns. Unless something greater than the thorns comes and removes them, the plant will then wither and die.

When we allow thorns—the cares and pleasures of this world—to take over our life, then God’s Word no longer holds real importance to us. It may reach our heart, but we don’t grow, due to thorns like our job, our home, our vacation overseas, our vehicles, our friends, our movies, our television—on and on the list goes. But our relationship with God must come first. Our main focus should be on Jesus Christ, not social media, the Super Bowl and World Cup, or what restaurant our friends are eating at right now.

“…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 emphasis mine).

When we yield to Him and let Him pull out these thorns, then His Word will become clearer and we will desire to read it again. The more we eagerly want to know about Jesus, the more He will reveal Himself through His Word. The more we learn about Him through reading His Word, the more we will want to do what He tells us in His Word.

When Jesus sows His Word in our heart and we allow the thorns of the cares of this world to choke it out, we are saying that we do want Him, but we also plan to continue to do everything our way by ourselves. He then becomes like just another material item we own that we can proudly boast about to others.

Let Jesus be the source of your care, concern, and pleasure, not this world and all of its sources of temporary satisfaction.

Jesus said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21 emphasis mine). Go before Him in prayer and make Him your treasure, yielding the thorns over to Him. Then His Word will be able to blossom abundantly in your heart and give you real satisfaction.

Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

Fear, Fear and No Fear

When Mr. Rooksten entered the boardroom, a pronounced hush fell upon its occupants. “Gentlemen,” he said, his voice reverberating across the room, “my purpose for this assembly today is not to motivate you with trite announcements of our company’s position in the marketplace, nor is it to deliver a motivational oration of the greatest degree.” A sense of bewildered curiosity moved across the attendees.

“My purpose today,” he said, and then paused momentarily before continuing, “is to announce a decision to appoint an assistant to the position of Chief Executive Officer.”

Whispered gasps of surprise filled the room. Karl Rooksten has always been the prime example of a stark, solitary leader. This one announcement alone could send shockwaves across the business establishment as a whole.

“Mr. Rooksten, how will this affect the overall decision-making process of your position?” inquired Mr. Toomkinley, assistant vice-president of the equine neurology division.

“My decision-making process will always remain the same. My appointment of an assistant is merely for clerical and administrative collaboration. Under no circumstances will any assistant that I appoint to this office have the power to execute decisions or discharge any individual in this company, unless I personally give him the authority to do so. As always, I will insist on complete respect for myself, as well as for this office—a respect established since the founding of this company. Am I well understood on this matter, gentlemen?” Rooksten commanded firmly.

“Yes, sir!” the room echoed in totality, with hardly a note of irreverence.

***

“Hey, Stu! shall we give ‘em a little shake up?” Rodney sneered as he rhythmically tapped his fingers on the shotgun’s barrel. The teens, now shuddering with fright, huddled closer together in the corner of the alley. Stu let a small jeer cross his lips as Rodney took aim at the crumbling wall beside the teens. Blinding smoke and debris suddenly filled the air when the windows of the adjacent building shattered from a small explosion inside. The teens barely managed to slip out of the alley after the wall crumbled from the explosion. Stu and Rodney hurriedly moved down the road out in front of the alley. Then the air filled with the reverberations of Rodney shouting, “YOU MAY RUN NOW, BUT YOU’LL NEVER ESCAPE FROM US!” The teens made it back to the recreation center, where they sat together, filled with worry and trepidation.

“What are we going to do? Rod and Stu are determined to wipe us out, and we just can’t seem to get away!” one teen exclaimed anxiously.

“I don’t know and I can’t take it anymore!” cried out another. “It’s like we’re now in a constant state of dread and terror.”

***

“Ha!” Cameron sneered with glee. “I did it, and nobody saw me; nobody knows what I’ve done. I bet I could do even more and nobody could stop me!” Cameron grabbed a bowl of chips as he sat down in the recliner and turned on the TV.

“Authorities announced today a complete investigation into the break-in of Outer World Technologies’ computer servers last night,” the TV’s speakers resounded across the small living room in Cameron’s place. ”So far, no suspects have been found, nor have any groups come forward claiming responsibility for the attacks. The amount of damage continues to rise as technicians uncover what some experts believe could be one of the biggest cyber break-ins in history.”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Cameron shouted, as potato chips went flying all around. “I’ve got no fear of anyone now!”

***

Fear is something we experience regularly throughout our lives, whether it is in respect of someone, in dread of another, or just fear of anything at all. It may surprise you to know that God expects these kinds of fear in us. He does not want us to completely remove all aspects of fear from our lives, but rather the instances that do not honor Him.

First and foremost, God expects us to fear Him, not anyone, or anything, else. To fear God in this manner is to respect Him with wonder and awe, to the point where we are continually looking up to Him in honor. Over and over the Bible speaks of the need to fear God:

  • “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name” Deuteronomy 6:13).
  • “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (Psalms 25:14).
  • “Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).
  • “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him” (Psalms 34:9).
  • “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:9).
  • “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

When we fear God, we are submitting ourselves to Him and giving Him the honor and glory. We are actually saying to Him that He knows more than we do, and, as a result, we bow out of the way, His way.

Secondly, we are to live our lives in a manner in which we fear His punishment for our disobedience to His commands. This is not the kind of fear where we are constantly in fright and terror, nor a fear where we feel that the slightest act of disobedience will result in God striking us dead. The proper fear we are to have is one out of love for God as our Heavenly Father. Most children can testify to this type of fatherly fear on a regular basis. They know that when they are disobedient to their parents, a rather painful punishment will follow. God will forgive us of our sins, but we still are held responsible for the results.

Finally, there is the point of no fear at all. While this may sound contradictory to what was previously mentioned, the lack of fear that I’m referring to is fear of Satan (or the devil). When we yield ourselves over to God, when we accept Jesus as Lord of our life, when we accept that the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross is final and complete, then we no longer give Satan the legal right to operate in our lives.

Sure, he is definitely going to attack us. He will pour out his hate and fury at us in full force. But the difference now is, that we no longer have to fear these attacks, as long as we place all of these attacks and problems into Jesus’ hands and take them out of our hands. When we try to fight these battles on our own, we are essentially canceling out the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for us.

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6). When we take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, on the attacks Satan is making against us, then our interest and focus has slipped away from Jesus to this present world and all of its issues. “There is no fear in love; but perfect [complete] love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect [complete] in love” (1 John 4:18).

Our fear is never to be toward human beings, or Satan, but toward God. We should never give men or women, regardless of their authority and position, more respect than we give God. When we stop fearing God and no longer yield to His Son in our hearts, or disobey His commands found in His Word (the Bible), then we open, or reopen, ourselves to physical fears. We give Satan the legal right to work in our lives again. We allow fear to control us. A void of peace in our heart reappears, leaving us to try to reestablish that peace on our own. Don’t continue on allowing ungodly fear to reign in your life; give it all over to Jesus. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

–James Pangburn

 

God Will Take of You

“… [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

There are times when the Lord God chooses to put His people into intensely difficult situations which appear to lead to a position where there is no way of escape. If He were to ask you in advance what you think about them, you would never choose to be involved in such predicaments on your own. Are you in such a situation right now, where it seems like a dark cloud is coming over you, engulfing you against your will? Then keep this in mind—no matter how dark the cloud you are sensing might seem to be, it will not stay forever. After the dark storm clouds pass, morning always comes again. Your cloud will move on. And then God’s mercy will fall on you like rain.

 

Are you struggling to carry a tremendous weight that God doesn’t seem to notice? The weights we think are so unbearable are like minute grains of sand to Him. These matters seem so grave and upsetting to us, but to God they are right on target in His plan for you. In the end, you will find that His handling of your situation is just, and that it has brought you right where He wants you—to a position of seeking Him, confessing that you cannot rely only on yourself. In fact, the very scene you’re in right now provides a stage to showcase the mighty power and grace of God.

Don’t doubt that His grace is working in your time of suffering. Don’t stop believing that He loves you in times of tribulation as much as in times of happiness. God will deliver you, and He will leave you with a lesson you won’t dare to forget.

Every time you return to this scene in your memory later, your spirits will be uplifted when you remember what God has done for you. Then you will be able to thank God over and over for doing just what He did.

The heavenly Father is continually watching over His children. His heart feels your distress and despair and He takes pity on you. Doesn’t He see that even the tiniest bird has food to eat? Then won’t He see that you are taken care of too? He will come to you and bandage your wounds. He will heal your broken heart. Don’t just lie there in a pool of despair—keep on hoping, and never give up.

Where does this burden you carry belong? It belongs to the Lord! Give it to Him. His powerful hand will be there with the help you need when you need it. He will calm your sorrow if you transfer all your concerns into His hands. Allow yourself to lie still in His hands, letting His will be your own.

My suffering brother or sister, be patient. Realize that God has not overlooked or forgotten you; He really does care for you! Why don’t you let the One who is your Provider do your providing? Has He ever refused to carry your burdens? Has He ever collapsed because they are too heavy for Him? If this same God really cares so much for you, why do you worry so much about yourself? God will take care of you!

–Alana Pangburn