When I was a very little girl, my mother told me many stories about Jesus. My family went to church every Sunday, and one day when I was ten a traveling evangelist and his wife came to our church and presented the gospel message. I was sitting in the back of the church when he gave the invitation and I ran to the front of the church to repent of my sins (oh, for the sins of a ten-year-old) and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Over the years, I’ve never forgotten this, and while I have stumbled my way through most of my life, Jesus has never taken His hand off of me. You see, when I accepted Him as Lord and Savior of my life at the very young age of ten, He put something in me (no doubt, the Holy Spirit) that has kept me chained to Him all these years, through all the bad and the good.
Jesus frequently spoke in parables, and the one I’m thinking of right now is “The Parable of the Sower” (Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). Jesus spoke to a great multitude about a sower who went out to sow his seeds, and as he sowed, some fell on the wayside and was trampled down and the birds devoured it. Some fell on rock, and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because of a lack of moisture. Some fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked it. And some fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded up a crop a hundredfold. When He finished this parable, He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Most who are familiar with the parable know that the seeds represent the Word of God (the Bible), and it is fairly clear that the first two soils found no place to grow either because as soon as they hear, it is forgotten and never takes root; or else when they hear, they at first receive it with joy, but develop no roots and fall away at the first sign of temptation. It is the last two soils I want to address here: the seeds that fell among the thorns; and the seeds that fell on good ground.
Thorns–we’ve all been there. We can look back at the day we accepted Jesus Christ at whatever age we were and accepted our new lives in Christ with joy. We made it past the first two soils, and then we hit the thorns. You know, thorns–the cares of this world–running after the money trail or the “prosperity gospel” grabbed your heart, or maybe you just got tired of the struggles that come with life and decided to take in the pleasures of this world, or you did whatever it took to get ahead in your career or profession, figuring your soul would still stay intact, or you lived in fear and doubt most of your life, or pride. We’ve all been there, and many are still living there, but the thorns in life produce no fruit that clearly shows that we are called to live out a different type of life from the rest of the world. And if we stay in this state, at the end of our lives we’ll discover we’ve wasted our lives, and when we stand before Christ to give an account we will have nothing to give to Him, and no amount of excuse-making will work. In fact, I dare say, the shame will be almost unbearable when we realize at the end of our lives we’ve really only lived for ourselves. It’s called wood, hay, and stubble. And it gets burned up.
I have a lot in my past that will be burned up. In fact, if it wasn’t for what happened to me in Houston, I’d still be mistakenly going in that direction. You see, when I accepted the job in Houston, I thought that maybe, just maybe, some of that “prosperity” stuff was actually true; that perhaps I had it wrong all my life (I am not of the Charismatic persuasion where much of that teaching is taught). I was never so excited about a job in my entire life and I really thought that God was smiling on me big time. The salary was more than I had ever made in my life by a substantial amount, and it was in an environment that I loved–art and creativity abounded. And, I could attend the megachurch of the pastor I had been watching for the past year and a half on TV. Life was good or so I thought.
Well as you know by now, I lost that job in Houston a scant seven months after it began. I lost all of the money I spent to move there, and I lost most of my possessions (including furniture and appliances) and over 1000 books (I love books and that was the hardest thing to lose) because I couldn’t afford to move them back to Florida. The prosperity gospel wasn’t so prosperous after all; nor did it ever represent the Gospel.
By now you’re thinking I must have missed God’s will big time when I moved to Houston, right? Not at all, in fact I had never been so right in the middle of God’s will for me in my whole life. You see, Houston was my Crossroad, and God used that experience to wake me up to the fact that my life was filled with thorns, that I had lost my first love (Him), and He used some pretty drastic measures to get my attention. My blog post titled “Moving Forward” addresses those issues.
God, in His unfathomable love, reached down to yank me from the thorns and my pitiful spiritual state. Also, I have never been so aware of spiritual warfare in my entire life as during my days in Houston. The adversary is, indeed, a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). I learned a dependence on God in a way that I never would have learned in any other way. I clung to Him, I repented, and He brought me out so I could finally land on good ground.
Good ground… past the thorns that choke out life. In these past two years since I lost my job in Houston He has planted me in good ground; the ground of His Word, the ground of prayer, the ground of fellowship, the ground that softens the heart. It’s ground that is capable of bringing forth good fruit. And while I may be much closer to the date of my death then the date of my birth, and, therefore, not have as many years left to yield a crop of hundredfold as in the parable (and not in the Charismatic way of meaning hundredfold), I know that I can do nothing that bears real fruit without Christ. But, I’m finally in good ground, and the wood, hay and stubble (and thorns) are behind me, thanks to God’s great intervention in my life.
It’s not too late for you to turn your life around if you’re stuck in the thorns. Hopefully, it won’t take as drastic of measures as it did in my life. But no matter what, it’s never too late to leave the thorns behind and move on to good ground. But don’t look to the world for the answers. It has none. Look to God, and give the thorns to Him (it’s called repentance).
You’ll never regret it . . . .
The title for this blog post came from the painting above titled “Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads” by Otis L. Stanley.
Photo credit here