March 1, 2018
“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 4:19 (NIV)
The moment went from ordinary to dangerous in mere seconds.
It’s been almost 30 years since I sat with friends around the lunch table, but I remember the events of that day so clearly.
I don’t remember the boy’s name, but his silhouette still forms in my mind. I don’t remember the look on his face, but I can still hear the scratch of the chair legs on the floor as he shot backward from the table.
One day during our school lunch, my grade-school friends and I ate our food as we enjoyed the familiar, secure space of our lunchroom.
A boy in my class must have eaten too quickly or laughed too hard, but whatever the cause, a piece of food lodged in his throat, blocked his airways and threatened to take his life.
Our key verse today points out a different kind of choking, but one just as dangerous: “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 4:19).
We find this verse tucked within a parable Jesus tells in Mark 4 as a farmer plants seeds and they fall in different places — some along the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some in good soil.
The seeds represent God’s Word, and the ones in our key verse were seeds sown among the thorns. Jesus says these seeds are like people who hear the Word, but because of worries, wealth or desires for other things, they never bear the fruit of the Word of God.
I’ve read this parable in Mark 4 many times, and I tend to skip the first thorn and focus on the last two — the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. Somehow those seem more important to address or more likely to cause trouble.
But Jesus does not distinguish worry from the rest of the thorns. He deems worry just as dangerous.
What are you worried about today?
We’re usually not short on answers to this question. In fact, we could probably write pages and pages of worries plaguing our hearts.
As long as we carry worries around with us, we risk becoming consumed by them — choked, suffocated and ultimately destroyed. With our key verse, we can find three ways to identify our worries, and once we identify them, we can pull those thorns up by the roots.
First, let’s define worry. The Amplified Bible says, “[the distractions of this age with its worldly pleasures]” (Mark 4:19a).These are the thoughts that pull your mind away from the matter at hand. They are the ones that cause you to be nervous or uneasy.
Second, the Amplified Bible says the thorns, “creep in and choke and choke out the word” (Mark 4:19b). This implies a kind of sneakiness to our worries. They don’t always announce themselves. Sometimes they show up suddenly or slip into our hearts over time.
Finally, our worries render us fruitless. Worry robs us of the sweet blooms of love and peace and gentleness, leaving us with a withered heart. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When we produce actions and emotions that are the opposite of these fruits, worry could be the root of the problem.
In the lunchroom that day, a prepared teacher rescued the choking boy. She’d been trained for such a moment, and she responded with confidence.
As fast as the panic had consumed the room, it fled. But we all noted the importance of taking the time to chew before we swallow.
The cares of the world will come, but we don’t have to swallow them whole.
God urges us to cast our cares on Him and let Him care for us. When we do, we make room in our hearts for God’s Word to grow and produce more fruit than we can imagine.
Dear God, I’m tired of carrying these worries. They rob me of the life You came to secure for me and distract me from walking in the fullness of Christ. I want my heart to be free from the thorns of worry. Today, I cast them upon Your capable shoulders. Open the airways of my soul! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Have you ever wondered why it can be so hard to keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus? Join us for the next First 5 study, Prone to Wander: The study of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. In the first portion of our study on the Minor Prophets, you’ll read the constant plea of the prophets to the Israelites: "Come, let us return to the LORD” (Hosea 6:1). The study starts March 12. Click here to learn more!
Stop by Katy McCown’s blog today for a free download of 15 Promises to Fight Fear and Anxiety.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of some thorns of worry in your heart right now. On a piece of paper or some sticky notes, write your worries as a prayer. Place the prayers somewhere you’ll pass a few times a day. (I keep mine in my closet.)
Each time you’re tempted to let the thorns of worry choke your fruitfulness, use these sticky notes as a reminder to replace your worry with prayer.
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© 2018 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.