What’s keeping you from being effective? Productive? Fruitful? Healthy and mature in your relationship with Christ?
All this month, we’re talking about harvest… looking at the Scriptures that speak to this theme. In the four Gospels, Jesus told the Parable of the Sower. The seed – which was the life-changing, life-giving Word of God – fell on different kinds of soil, or hearts. Some seed grew quickly, but just as quickly withered and died. Some never took root at all.
But some “fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.” (Luke 8:7)
This is the verse that I think should really grab our attention today – those of us who are committed Christ-followers. The seed has taken root, so we’re not in danger of being hard soil. And we’ve survived the initial challenges to our faith. It’s here to stay.
But how healthy is it?
Jesus explained to His disciples just what the thorns were and what they could do:
“Then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless.” (Mark 4:19 AMP)
Luke 8:14 puts it just a little differently, sheds even more light: “And as for what fell among the thorns, these are [the people] who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked and suffocated with the anxieties and cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not ripen (come to maturity and perfection).” (Luke 8:14 AMP)
I think every one of us is always in danger of our spiritual growth being “choked,” of being suffocated or distracted, of neglecting our relationship with Jesus. Always in danger of putting other “gods”—other desires, other priorities, other relationships – before Him. It’s how our hearts work.
So this week during my quiet time, I’m asking myself some tough questions … and then taking steps to tackle whatever issues I find.
I thought I’d share the questions and the steps with you:
What’s choking the “Life” out of me? What attitudes or actions or behaviors?
What’s keeping me from being more fruitful – from producing a “harvest of righteousness”?
1. Start by asking God to open your eyes to what He sees in your life – the things He wants to put His finger on. Sometimes we tend to major on minors, or we may think we know what our problem is, but God knows our hearts a lot better than we do. Best to let the Holy Spirit do the convicting!
2. When you do identify sinful behaviors, don’t stop there. Ask yourself: What needs are these behaviors meeting in my life? What do they do for me – or promise to do for me? Try to get to the underlying heart issue.
3. Confess any sins that God shows you and bring them to Calvary – not Sinai. (Focus on what it cost Jesus – how much He loves you, how much you love Him – and not what it’s cost you.Read more here.)
4. Think about how you can replace poor choices, bad habits, or sinful behaviors, with healthier, more positive, productive ones. “When I feel like doing this, instead I will do this…” Keep it simple, small, focused. The more sweeping and grandiose your plans, the harder they will be to implement and keep up – take it from me!
5. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector (finisher) of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-3). You do your part, and rest in the knowledge that He is doing His. He is the Lord of the Harvest, and He knows what He is doing. He knows how to produce a harvest in you. He sees growth even where you don’t, even when you can’t.