Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
There is a parable found in Luke 8 (and also in Matthew and Mark) that discusses a sower who went out to plant his seeds. We read in verses 4-8 about the four places where the seeds fell – the wayside, rocks, thorns, and good ground. After Jesus finishes the parable, the disciples convey to Christ that they are having trouble interpreting its meaning. Christ then breaks down the symbolism found in this parable, and the message that it carries, starting with the seed – which is the word of God.
He follows up with place 1 – the wayside. This scenario represents those who have heard the word of God, but then allow the devil to come in and take it all away. Next is place 2 – the rocks – an area where growth cannot occur. The seeds that fall here reflect those who are initially excited about the gospel, yet do not invest the time needed to grow their relationship with Christ. Their foundation isn’t solid, which eventually causes them to fall away. Afterwards, we arrive at place 3 – the thorns. As a reminder, Christ says this in verse 7 about the thorns: And some [seeds] fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. What does this one mean, and why is it so significant for us today?
Well, we can all find ourselves choking.
In Jesus’ explanation, we find the following statement in Luke 8:14. He says: 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. In this clarification of the parable, Christ gives this group three stages. First – they hear and go out, which is positive. Second – they become choked, which is negative. Third – they bear no fruit, which is reflective of what has happened inside of them.
Starting with the first stage, we realize that this group, unlike those who completely disregard God’s word or don’t nurture their relationships with Him, find themselves a bit distracted. I write a lot about being distracted because I think this world is doing its best to condition us to remain in this state. Distractions can appear more convoluted than temptations. For most, temptations are about desires and it’s easier to identify them as such. Distractions, however, speak to priorities that don’t always present themselves as sinful. Afterall, taking care of your children, having a career, or being a supportive partner/friend – these are all beneficial priorities.
But Priorities Can Shift
When we give into our primal needs, we run the risk of placing our personal priorities over our spiritual ones. Life has a way of pulling us in. Our thoughts become consumed by what’s in front of us, and we knowingly or unknowingly, start to block out the voice of God. This is, in part, why God gave us the 10 commandments in the way that He did. To combat self, we have to master the first four – which deal with our relationship with God. Those four are what make the other six (which deal with our relationships with others) possible.
Jesus reaffirmed this concept to the disciples when asked – which is the most important commandment of all? In Mark 12:29-30, we read Christ’s reply:
To love God with all of our hearts requires intentionality in our actions, but how do we know when we’re facing distractions?
We’ll feel ourselves choking.
In the midst of prioritizing our “cares, riches, and pleasures of life”, the air, which we need in order to live, becomes restricted. We don’t always notice this happening at first, because as the parable states, the thorns spring up with the seeds. We access God words, and for a while, we’ll believe we’re on the right track. Still, over time, we’ll find it more challenging to breathe. Our ability to connect with God starts to fade as we feel continuously dissatisfied. We’ll chase after the cares of this world only to find that our peace remains just out of reach. We’ll look for value and validation in earthly measures, foregoing heavenly standards. We define success by what we have; we’ve forgotten to consider who we truly are.
The spiritual result of such a mindset is found back in Luke 8:14. It is written that in this state, we are unable to bring fruit to its maturity. If we think of this fruit as the fruit of the Spirit, consider it to be the results of Christ abiding in us. Christ tells us John 15:5: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. In other words, we know we’re choking when our characters and lives aren’t a reflection of Christ. That doesn’t mean we’ve stopped going to church, or having devotion, or considering ourselves to be generally good people. What it’s saying is that we’ve chosen self, and in that space, we are unable to fully reap what God intended to sow.
What it takes to Breathe
To some, less air is okay. For others in search of true connection with God, we have to practice living with intention. This thought process requires us to put our faith into action, believing that God will deliver on His promises – even when the path feels incomprehensible. It’s a choice we make daily, hourly, and even minute-to-minute, which builds up our skillset in perseverance. Perseverance is the gift that allows us to keep going forward, even when forward includes some rough terrain.
Furthermore, with Christ abiding in us, we experience the power of the Holy Spirit, who will guide us in much-needed self-evaluation. We’ll start to think more carefully about our words, choices, judgements, and thoughts. We’ll remember that gratitude in the cornerstone of growth and is required in our relationship with God. Each day we’re faced with the choice of prioritizing God. Remember, life will give us scenarios and desires that run the risk of constricting our air flows and beckoning us to prioritize this world. To overcome, we mustn’t focus on our need to breathe, but instead hold fast to God, believing that He ultimately holds our breath in His hands.
To Bear Fruit with Patience
Once we do develop the habit of keeping the word of God in our hearts, we become those where seeds fell on good ground, and yielded crop. When Jesus provides further explanation of this group, He says in Luke 8:15: But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Note that we will bear fruit, but we need to also have patience for this to occur. We see the same theme in Revelation 14:12 as the followers of Christ find themselves in last-day events. The scripture states: Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Bearing fruit takes time. Such a statement can be frustrating as we’re in a world that believes in instant gratification. Still, I cannot state enough the importance of us understanding that growth, positive outcomes, and blessings can all take time. We mustn’t find ourselves discouraged because time has passed by. Instead, it’s important to know what we should be doing in the waiting. In Revelation, we gain some insight when we see that the saints are keeping the commandments of God. In Luke, we see the same – that they are keeping the word.
You and I have the equivalent call today. If we want to experience God in His fullness, then we must be willing to face the darkness within us that stops us from keeping God’s commandants in His fullness. The pleasures and cares of this life will always try to distract us, but never forget, what we do next is always our choice.
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