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On your Mark

The thorns

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. (Mark 4:18,19, NIV)

There are multiple responses to Jesus.

The seed fallen on the path points us to the hardened heart. The seed fallen on rocky places illustrates the heart initially receptive to Him, but not for the long haul. The seed of Jesus’ words fallen into thorns presents us with the divided heart.

Unlike the seed among the thorns, the seed growing in rocky places has no plant competition. It’s the only thing growing there. That would explain the joy of many new converts. Jesus has become the only positive news in their lives — no wonder He is immediately welcomed with gladness. But hardship quickly scorches the seed among the rocks.

Not so the seed among the thorns — it is simply squeezed. There’s too much else fighting for attention. That person hears the Word, but that’s not the only thing being heard. Life is full of noises and attractions competing against Jesus.

Jesus says the thorns are three things: worries, wealth and desires. Usually, only worries are thought of as thorns — the prickly things that disturb our comforts. Worries or anxiety can become so large that they choke our human and spiritual potential.

We do worry — about our health, our children, our family, our jobs, our retirement and lots of other cares. We can become so bound up with these concerns that we lose meaning, purpose and joy.

Wealth is not a problem for most of us, since lack of money seems to be a more major problem. But I have noticed that those followers of Jesus who become financially well-fixed have the unique danger and temptation of exempting themselves from meaningful Christian service because their money can afford them much leisure.

Desires reach out to all of us. We want other things!

I remember once receiving a prayer request from a visitor in our church. It read: “Pray for me. I want a new home, a new job, a new wife and a new car.” It was the “new wife” I couldn’t pray for!

What unholy desires do you have? Can you live satisfied with what the Lord has put in your hands today? Or are you perpetually unhappy because you are always reaching for something more, for a future that is outside your grasp?

As followers of Jesus, we must learn to balance aspiration with contentment. Desires (and wealth) can be good things, but the nature of sin is such that even the good things in life can be contaminated through misuse.

Which of these “thorns” do you have the most trouble with? Worry? Wealth? Desires?

As a young minister, I went through a terrible season of anxiety about my work. In the middle of a nerve attack one evening, I shot up a desperate prayer to the Lord: “Jesus, I’ve worried about this all day. I would like to sleep. It’s Your turn to worry. Good night.” The Lord instantly answered my prayer. I fell asleep, and the healing from anxiety has remained to this day.

Why not give your worry, your wealth, your desires to the Lord? Lay them at His feet. It’s not His will that the thorns grow up and choke you.

A prayer of response
Come, Divine Gardener, and weed out of me that which is unlike You. Heal my anxiety with Your calm. Let my wealth serve You and others and not just myself. Replace my wrongful desires with passion to do Your will.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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