Life Among the Thorns

“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.”
 Mark 4:7 ESV


The parable was referenced in a book on fasting. A book I’ve read multiple times. And of course it’s a parable I’ve read dozens of times. But a little voice in my head whispered, “I think I’m living in the thorns.”

I ignored it.

But then the same passage came up in another book I”m reading. That’s not so surprising, since it’s a devotional on The Gospel of Mark. But still…in a matter of days, to read the same passage in two different places?

The “parable of the sower”–as it’s often called–is one of the only parables Jesus explains in detail to His disciples.  The seed sown is the Word, and the various “soils” it falls on are people with various levels of receptivity to the Word.

“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,  but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19 ESV)

Desires for what other things? Hmmmm. How about…

  • the comfort and warmth of staying at home in subzero weather, rather than visiting a sick friend?
  • the peace of avoiding an argument when someone mentions Jesus in a disrespectful way?
  • the security of a paying job rather than the uncertainty of raising support for missions work?
  •  the ease of sleeping late rather than getting up to read and pray first thing in the morning?
  • the pleasure of a calorie-laden “snack” which you know full well is poison to you?
A vicious weed in my garden--for its story, click on the link in this paragraph.

A vicious weed in my garden–for its story, click on the link in this paragraph.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Desires for evil things”  or “forbidden things” or even “unhealthy things”… No, He just said that the desires for “other things” choked out the desire for the Word. Like weeds in the garden which look so innocent and inconsequential, these “other things” grow and spread and choke out the plants we intended to grow. Our “good intentions” are not strong enough to withstand neglect, coupled with strong competition from weeds which don’t need as much cultivation.

I’ve observed many times in my life that–for many people, at many times in their lives–the choices we face are not between “What fun!” and “Oh yuck!” Rather, they are between what’s good, what’s better and what’s best.

“Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.”  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

God’s gifts to us are good. But God Himself is better–indeed He is best of all. Which do we value more, the creation or its Creator?  As John Piper observes, in his superb book entitled A Hunger for God,

A Hunger for GodThe greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts…”the desires for other things”–these are not evil in themselves. These are gifts of God.  They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

The more deeply you walk with Christ, the hungrier you get for Christ…the more homesick you get for heaven…

...If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

The soul stuffed with small things…the fruit choked by thorns…death by a thousand tiny pricks.  God, save me. I don’t want any counterfeit loves, any false gods. I desire to bear fruit for You in my life. But I can’t do that until I desire You most of all.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”  Philippians 1:9-11 NIV

14 responses to “Life Among the Thorns

  1. Reblogged this on Winnowing…sorting the wheat and chaff of my thoughts and commented:

    Seems to be as much as I can manage to write ONE blog post per week, so I’m posting it here, too. Some day maybe I’ll have enough time and energy to write separate material for Winnowing..

  2. thank you for sharing and encouraging to seek more of our lord and word

  3. Great devotional. Thanks.
    God puts within my hearing a certain part of scripture and when he gets to the third lesson, I pull out my Bible. He always shows me 3 times! Guess I’m kind of spiritually deaf sometimes.

    • You and I both, I guess! But isn’t He good to persist in trying to get our attention? Thanks for reading and commenting, friend.

  4. Very timely and appropriate! Thanks for the encouragement! God Bless you!

  5. “And all of them can become DEADLY substitutes for God”…..what an amazingly powerful statement, and so very, very true. I find this many times when confronted with a situation, tending to turn FIRST to worldly solutions, or if you will, solutions of men. What I should be doing FIRST is seeking the counsel and guidance of my Heavenly Father….

    • I can’t recommend Piper’s book highly enough. Although I’ve read it several times in the past, I have a feeling I should be re-reading it annually…

      • I will most certainly be picking up a copy. Thanks, GBL. I’m not an avid reader like you and JTR, but this sounds too good to NOT read!

  6. Definitely a good article. Maybe I will check that book. I’ve read many that are parts of studies that well, I have to sort out. (many are highly recommended from others…) but it is nice to see and hear some unvarnished perspective unskewed. This made me think that of all these (worldly) things there is a monetary or social value attached to them. Our faith and personal relationship is one thing we have to set the value on ourselves. It takes some vigilance.

    • I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in “A Hunger for God”, Bullright. John Piper is a pastor and Bible scholar, and a very readable author. His banner statement (and one of my all-time favorite quotes) is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Says it all, doesn’t it? Thanks for reading and commenting. Vigilance, indeed!!

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