Do Not Be Choked by the World
Manna 83: Spring

Jeffrey Lin—Seattle, Washington, USA

 

 

The parable of the sower illustrates four types of ground (the wayside, rocky ground, thorny ground, and good ground) to represent the different hearts of men, and the difficulties we face when receiving and keeping the word of God (Lk 8:4–15). As believers who have heard the word, kept it, and allowed it to take root in our hearts, we might not relate ourselves to the first two types of ground (Lk 8:12–13). However, living in this world, we are naturally exposed to various “thorny” environments. Let us examine the potential dangers we might face in our spiritual lives, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom and overcome the trials and tests of the thorny ground.

 

 

A SEED AMONG THE THORNS

 

“And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.” (Lk 8:7)

 

Just like a seed, a thorny plant needs time to grow. The verse states that “the thorns sprang up with it,” which is an explicit warning to us that thorns will not only grow when we stray from God’s word, but even when we have God’s word in our hearts.

 

Our hearts are like a piece of land with a limited amount of space. The environment around us and our lifestyle choices—the people we associate with, the decisions we make—are all factors that directly impact our spiritual lives. If we spend a good amount of time each day with God, through prayer and meditation on His word, we are cultivating the seed and giving it more space to grow. If we do not set aside time to cultivate the seed daily, we allow space for the thorns to grow and thrive. Similarly, if we are setting aside only minimal amount of time for God, we must beware that the thorns are also constantly competing for the land. As thorns grow along with the seed, the things of this world can allure us if we are not careful, no matter how spiritually strong we think we are.

 

 

IDENTIFYING OUR THORNS

 

“Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”(Lk 8:14)

 

Jesus defines thorns as the "cares, riches, and pleasures of life," which can become of greater importance to us than the word of God. Before we can uproot a thorny weed, identifying and knowing which thorns are in our heart helps us to target the areas in which we need to change and improve.

 

 

Worrisome Cares

 

The cares of this world cause us much worry and anxiety—whether it is our future, our career, our relationships, there is always something to worry about. Worrying can cause us to stumble in our spiritual lives, especially if we decide to take matters into our own hands, without considering God. It is not that we will never be without worry in our lives, but whenever we are anxious, we should look to Jesus and fix our thoughts on Him. Giving our lives to Him and letting Him take full control is the first step toward an anxiety-free mind (Prov 3:5–6). A God-centered lifestyle helps us to establish our trust in Him, alleviating our worries. Rather than looking at our problems, we can instead focus on the promises of God, and find security in Him.

 

 

Deceitful and Seductive Riches

 

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:9–10)

 

The world and the people around us are focused on earning, gaining and finding success. We all want to strive for a better, more comfortable life. While this is not necessarily bad, we need to evaluate whether the things we pursue are necessities or personal desires. We may attend church services, pray and read the Bible, but if our desires take precedence over our faith, we are giving more space for the thorns to grow. True diligence in our spiritual lives is greater than doing just the bare minimum. It means that we are vigilant about our personal pursuits that are motivated by desire, greed or impulse, and we strive to live "soberly, righteously, and godly" (Tit 2:12).

 

 

Lust for the Pleasures of Life

 

“[T]hat you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” (Eph 4:22)

 

When we seek after things that please our senses, rather than that which pleases God, we will start to justify our actions. Eventually, the roots of our lust can run so deep that they become almost instinctive: the need to satisfy our lusts will grow stronger, while our sensitivity to sin will grow numb. As humans, we cannot avoid lust and are in constant battle with it. However, let us not forget that our Lord Jesus was very much human as well (Heb 4:15), and He was able to overcome lust during His lifetime. He is living proof that lust can be defeated as long as we walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Walking in the Spirit means that we rely on the Holy Spirit to renew us and cleanse us daily. If we are willing to draw closer to God and let His Spirit renew us, we will find that lust will no longer be an adversity for us.

 

 

CHOKED BY THORNS

 

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (Jas 1:15)

 

The process of thorns growing and choking one’s faith can be slow, gradual and even silent. We need to be mindful of this. When our desire for God no longer exists, it is the result of our lives being choked up by the thorns of the world. Eventually, we may gain all that we want in this life, but we will lose God, His promises, and our home in heaven. Therefore, let us always remind ourselves to evaluate and reflect upon the state of our spiritual lives, as well as the choices we make from day to day.

 

 

A SEED STRONGER THAN THE THORNS

 

At times, the thorns which pose a great threat to our spiritual lives seem to be too deep-rooted. No matter how hard we try, it seems like these thorns will never stop growing. Despite the difficulty of removing these thorns, we must remember that the seed of God’s word can grow stronger and faster. We have God, and in Him we can always find hope and assurance. God knows our hearts and is willing to offer His strength and guidance to us. However, we must be willing to take that first step. Once God has freed us of our thorns, let us not forget His grace and mercy, and resolve to live a new life—a life that is worthy and pleasing to God, filled with His hope and blessings.  

 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn 2:15–17)

 

 

Date
Jul. 13, 2017
Author
Jeffrey Lin
Publisher
True Jesus Church
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