The Sting of the Thorn, Part Two

We've been talking about Jesus's parable in Mark 4:1–20 about the farmer who sows seeds in four different types of soil. As I mentioned in Part One, I'm bothered by the third group because thorns come in and destroy the healthy growth of the Christian.

It is interesting that the thorns were already present at the time the seed entered, and that the thorns were never completely out of the picture even though the seeds began to take root (Mark 4:7).

And what do the thorns represent? Again, we have Jesus's own words to answer that question. They represent "the worries of the world," "the deceitfulness of riches," and "the desires for other things" (4:19). When these thorns enter, spiritual growth and production slip out the rear exit. Our Lord doesn't say they might cause trouble, nor does He suggest they have been known to hinder us. He says that they . . . enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (v. 19).

Period. No ifs, ands, or maybes. The thorns are dictators. They know nothing of peaceful coexistence with the life of freedom and victory. Shunning a brash frontal attack, these enemies of our soul employ a more subtle strategy. Slipping under the back door, their long tentacles advance so slowly, so silently, the victim hardly realizes he or she's being strangled. Demanding first place, they ultimately siphon off every ounce of spiritual interest and emotional energy.

Are you a compulsive worrier? The term worry is derived from the old German word wurgen, which means "to choke." Somehow, by extension, the word came to denote "mental strangulation," and finally to describe the condition of being harrassed with anxiety. All of that and more are in Jesus's mind as He presents this parable.

It's the thorns that bug us. Always growing, forever aggressive and ready to "choke the word" right out of our minds. Like worry—a thin stream of fear trickles through our minds. If entertained, it cuts a deeper channel into which other thoughts are drained—often good thoughts, God-given thoughts gleaned directly from His Book.

The same is true of "the deceitfulness of riches." What a consuming passion . . . yet how empty, how unsatisfying! We rationalize, of course, by saying it doesn't mean that much to us. Like the late heavyweight champ, Joe Louis, who smiled and said, "I don't like money actually, but it quiets my nerves." Yeah, sure, Joe.

But this third species of thorns is the killer—"the desires for other things." Better think that one through. It's the picture of discontent, the plague of pursuit: pushing, straining, stretching, relentlessly reaching while our minds become strangled with the lie, "enough just isn't enough."

Do you find it next to impossible to be satisfied with your present situation? If so, these words are nothing new to you—you've been stuck by those thorns since your soil first received God's seed . . . and if the truth were known, you inwardly enjoy their presence. After all, it's risky to abandon your entire life to God by faith. You'd rather worry, possess, and complain, than rest, release, and rejoice. Thorns inject a powerful anesthesia.

Why do so many Christians live among thorns like these? Because we have a quiet, respectable, secret love for them. I know. I've got the ugly scars to prove it. Each one is a mute reminder of years trapped in the thicket. And periodically I still have to yank a few.

I've never heard of such, but I'd like to proclaim today as Thorn Pulling Day. We may bleed and it may hurt . . . but, oh, the beauty of a thornless day!

The stream of worry cuts a deep channel into which good thoughts are often drained.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.

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