Choked and Poked
Midland SDA Church
December 9, 2017
Our scripture this morning is known as the Parable of the Sower. We are all familiar with this story. And it is probably due to the fact that it is recorded in three out of the four gospels (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8). In the parable, Jesus tells about four different categories of soil or ground. There is the seed that fell on the wayside, the seed that fell on stony ground, the seed that fell among thorns and the seed that fell on good ground.
SEED AMONG THORNS
Today, I would like to focus on the seed that fell among thorns. Let’s take a look at the portion of this parable from all three references. It’s important to see what all of them have to say because even though they all communicate the same point, some of them emphasize different aspects.
· Matthew 13:7 – And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
· Mark 4:7 – And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.
· Luke 8:7 – And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.
Fortunately, we are not left to wonder about the meaning of the parable. Jesus’ disciples asked him plainly about the meaning and He goes on to explain it to them later on in the chapter.
· Matthew 13:22 – Now he who receives seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
· Mark 4:18-19 – Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
· Luke 8:14 – 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.
what are these verses saying to us? Jesus tells us that the seed (Luke 8:11 Word
of God), was in soil (Luke 8: 12, 15 our hearts) that had all of the right
ingredients for plant growth. The seed sprouted and took root. The one thing
that got in the way of bearing fruit were the thorns (Luke 8:14 cares, riches
and pleasures). Did you catch that? The thorns grew in good soil!
Now Jesus used parables to communicate lessons to people for several reasons. One of the main reasons was so that those listening would have something tangible to understand and relate to. In this parable, Jesus talks about sowing or planting, which all of them would understand. Now I know that not all of us in today’s world are as familiar with the process of planting and harvesting. Even I had to do a Google search to remind myself what I learned in elementary school. The key elements in seed growth are air, water, sunlight, nutrients in the soil, temperature and space. If any one of these ingredients are missing, the plant does not produce as much as it would under ideal conditions.
So, what if the soil of your heart is not “good ground” and you find yourself among the thorns or weeds? Is there hope that God’s Word will bear fruit in your life? What is the key for this to happen? The key to the heart becoming good ground is to remove the thorns. Today, we would probably just call them weeds. Throughout the remainder of my sermon, I will probably use the terms weeds and thorns interchangeably because I believe their essential characteristics are the same.
CHARACTERISTICS OF WEEDS
Characteristics of weeds include abundant seed production, rapid plant growth with little nutrient requirements, long-term survival of a buried seed and adaptation to spread. They can also be prickly (like the thorns in our text) or even poisonous. Weeds can get big quickly and use up nutrients that other plants could use. When they get big, they can shade other plants, so they don’t get as much sunlight. And still, some plants that would be considered beneficial in the right situation, can be harmful in the wrong one.
It’s pretty easy to identify most weeds, since the Bible mentions categories such as cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches and pleasures. But, weeds can take on any form. Basically, a weed is anything that monopolizes your resources and does not allow God’s Word to become fruitful in your life. Just like certain plants can be beneficial in the right circumstance, there may be “good” things in your life that keep you from letting the Word grow in your heart. If you crowd your heart with many good things (or plant them to close together), they don’t have room to spread their roots and become fruitful. They are competing for the same air, water, sunlight, nutrients, temperature, and space. And when this happens, none of them become fruitful.
The best way to remove a weed is to get the entire root, since stubborn weeds can grow back with even a little bit of root remaining. Obviously, this is going to be much easier when the plant is young, and the root isn’t deep. The problem escalates the longer you leave the weed in the ground, so you need to pull weeds often. Not only does the root get bigger and go deeper in the ground, but the plant itself produces a lot of seeds very quickly. If you wait long enough for the weed to go to seed, you have just multiplied your problem and very soon you will be overwhelmed with the number of weeds you have to deal with.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Yes, we must be willing to get rid of the whole weed in our lives. We cannot let there remain a desire for it in our hearts. Just like stubborn weeds can grow back from a piece of the root, if we allow desire for cares (control of our lives) or riches or pleasures to remain in our hearts, they will come back at some point.
Matthew 6:31-34 – Therefore do not worry, saying, what shall we eat or what shall we drink or what shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
1 Peter 5:7 – casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let you requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
1 John 2:15-17 – 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 Timothy 6:6-12 – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 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.
è Now this text does not say that it’s a sin to be rich. On the contrary, the key to this text is the word love. In fact, verses 17-19 of the same chapter counsels those who are rich not to trust in riches, but to trust in God, to be rich in good works and be ready to give and willing to share.
ARE WEEDS SO BAD?
At this point in my sermon, some may still be thinking, what is wrong with a couple of weeds in my life? I go to church and give offerings. I always try to do the right thing and I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. I love my family and would do anything for them. Are a few guilty pleasures, that big of a deal? What is at stake if I don’t get rid of the thorns?
Satan wants nothing more than to see us destroyed. He is very smart and will use any method to win his battle. He studies us (his enemies) and he knows our weaknesses. He knows that some people are drawn to entertainment, the desire for riches and material possessions. He also knows that there are others who aren’t enticed by these things, but all he must do is keep them busy with the cares of life and they will not have time for God. Satan loves it when he sees weeds in our hearts. He wants to take down as many of us as he can before his time runs out.
1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Revelation 12:12 – Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, the Bible warns us of a strong delusion that is coming
will remove the Holy Spirit from those who did not receive a love of the truth,
so that they will believe the lie). Ellen White wrote about this in the The
Great Controversy on page 334. “Only those who have been diligent students of
the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded
from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony
these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will
come. By the sifting of temptation, the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are
the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not
yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to
the Bible and the Bible only? Satan will, if possible, prevent them from
obtaining a preparation to stand in that day. He will so arrange affairs as to
hedge up their way, entangle them with earthly treasures, cause them to carry a
heavy wearisome burden, that their hearts may be overcharged with the cares of
this life and the day of trial may come upon them as a thief.”
WE NEED HELP PULLING WEEDS
Is this something that we can conquer on our own? For some weeds, that have just sprouted in our lives, we may have the strength to pull them on our own. But for those, that have been around a long time and have made a deep root in our life, we cannot do it alone. We must recognize our weakness and turn to the Lord for the strength that only He can give. I would like to share with you some verses that will provide hope if you are struggling with a stubborn weed.
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Isaiah 40:31 – But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
Psalm 121:2 – My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
So, I must admit the reason I chose today’s topic is because every time I’ve heard this parable, I identify most with the seed that fell among thorns. I’ve always wanted to be able to say that my heart was good ground, but I recognize that there are too many thorns in my life that keep me from bearing fruit. Probably the biggest category that I struggle with is the cares of the world. One of my biggest downfalls is that I am addicted to my planner and I am a perfectionist. I work so hard to plan out my day around the various things I need to do and still have time for God and my family. I am always fooled into thinking that if I just finish this and that, I will finally have time to relax and spend time with family. But is that even possible? Sickness, car trouble, house maintenance, church responsibilities, laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn, blowing leaves, shoveling snow, flooded basements, haircuts, budgets---will it ever end? Will you ever be finished with your list? Has anyone hear ever finished their list? Have you ever reached a point when you said, “I’m finally done”? The truth is, the list will always be there. Granted, there are some things that must be addressed, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you can finish your list, you will finally be able to relax and have peace. We will only find relief at Christ’s return. At the end of your life, do you want to be able to say that you finished your list (your need to dos) or you spent time growing your relationship with God and your family (your love to dos). I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of being choked by weeds and thorns. My priorities should be flipped. I need to plan my day around God and my family and hopefully still have time for things that need to get done.
Now when you hear the parable of the sower, you may lump yourself in a different category then the seed among thorns. However, I hope that if it’s not already “good ground”, that you will leave today with the desire to remove anything that’s getting in the way of becoming fruitful. Remember that God is the one that give us the strength.
How do we balance the good things in our life? Why is it so hard to let go of control of your life? Unexpected things happen – we cannot plan for (must rest our hopes in Christ rather than our plans) James 4:13-16 and Proverbs 16:1,3,7,9, Proverbs 19:21