Quick – can you name the 3 things that according to Jesus’ parable of the sower in Mark 4, “choke the word” and make it “unfruitful”? Here they are:
1. The cares of this world
You can’t possibly live a life of faith if you are anxious about things. Anxiety is just a form of fear, and fear torments you. Faith rests, but the cares of this world scream in your ear, “How will you ever afford a house? How will you ever be able to pay property taxes after you retire? How will you deal with your mother-in-law when you see her next month? What bad thing will happen to your body next?” God already has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but “cares” keep playing movie previews of possible failure in your mind.
A solution to this is found in Philippians 4:6-8. It’s certainly not the easiest passage to obey, but we’d do well to consider that it contains commands, not just nice, positive suggestions!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”
1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”
Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you.”
So you avoid getting buried by the cares of this life by casting them on God. Easier said than done, but the benefits to your mental well being are enormous! Besides, since God has promised to supply all your needs, what do you really have to worry about anyway as a Christian?
2. The deceitfulness of riches
Notice that riches themselves do not choke the word. Abraham had great riches and stayed faithful to God. But there is a lie about riches – that they alone could make you truly happy. They won’t! But some people in their endless quest for more and more money have quit going to church, praying, reading their Bibles and other things that would keep make them strong in faith. They traded Jesus for the rat race, which can only be won by a rat! Even if you get that fancy home, you’ll envy the guy with a sailboat. If you get a sailboat, you’ll envy the guy with a cruising boat. If you get a cruising boat, you’ll envy the guy with a yacht. If you get a yacht, you’ll envy the guy who actually has money left over after buying and maintaining a yacht! It never ends. Don’t get sucked into the lie that whoever dies with the most toys wins. Having a relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing that will really make you happy in the long run. It’s also the only thing mentioned here that you get to keep after you die!
3. Desires for other things entering in
Someone said that it isn’t that we don’t love God, we just found things we love more than God. Watch out for that! John warned us to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21). Whatever you love more than you love God is an idol. It can be a spouse, a sport, a job, a house, or any number of other things. But the bottom line is that your new “first love” consumes your time so that you no longer have any time for God. Do that the word will be choked in your life, and you can’t afford that. Why not? Because the trials of life come to everyone. The rain beat against two houses in Matthew 7 and the floods rose up next to them; the one built on rock survived and the other fell with a great crash. The one that survived represents the person who heard the Word of God and did what it says. To do what it says, first you must know what it says!