“And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”Luke 8:14-15 ESV
Choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life.
That line stood out.
It stood out because it reminded me so much of how I feel during very busy days – which is pretty much every day for me. Many times, in my desire to achieve goals, fulfill dreams, become more efficient, solve problems, and please stakeholders, I find that I do not put God before me in all that I do. I may not be doing anything crazily wrong, but He is clearly not priority as seen in the way I make decisions, in the way I react in fear or uncontrolled anger or compromise when threatened, or how I make decisions without prayer (then ask Him why it didn’t work when it fails or give thank you lip service when it happens to work), or when I bury myself in a flurry of work whenever things are not enough, or whenever the voice in my head accuses others of not being as kind, or as understanding, or as disciplined, or as hard working as me, when things aren’t going the way I want, or…
… I can keep going on. I won’t run out of situations that show how I many times leave God in the periphery of my life. His word is so easily choked out by the cares of life, my needs, and my wants. When I don’t have what I need or want, I am choked by fear and striving, forgetting that what God is looking for is a heart that will glorify Him in lack and find ways to enjoy just being with Him despite not having our wish. When I do have what I need or want, I am choked with pleasure, forgetting that God wants me to glorify Him even as I enjoy and, even more, enjoy the giver more than the gift.
How do I know my heart is being choked? A simple way is to know a choked heart is to look for impatience.
And I’m impatient. It’s a good thing I have a girlfriend who always reminds me after listening to me vent my frustrations, “David, are you trusting in God? Maybe you should step back first and spend time in prayer.”
As I read those verses this morning, I stopped to repent, praying, “Father, help me be patient and trust in You. Please forgive me for allowing Your word to be choked out of me by focusing too much on my dreams, my goals, my responsibilities, and my needs. You love me. You’re in control. I can trust You.”
Ultimately, God doesn’t check my bank account, nor my balance sheet, nor my schedule, nor my social media accounts. He checks my heart. And He asks me to do two things: “Glorify Me. Enjoy Me”
“When you don’t have enough, glorify Me by being content with just spending time with me. Enjoy this time of lack with me.”
“When you’re scared or worried, glorify Me by casting your cares on Me. Enjoy My comfort and peace beyond understanding.”
“When you feel alone or rejected, glorify Me by choosing to love others. Enjoy Me by praying your pains out and reminding yourself that I’m with you.”
“When life is good, glorify Me by acknowledging My name. Enjoy Me with gratefulness.”
Life can many times feel overwhelming. It can be difficult, confusing, painful, busy, challenging, random, and crazy. With all the decisions we need to make each day, with all the circumstances we need to face and respond to, it helps to simplify our life goals to two things:
Every day, in all that I do, glorify God.
Every day, in all that I do, enjoy God.
I have been very bad at being mindful of this. As I thought about this reality, I felt a wave of condemnation wash over me, but it disappeared quickly. In that moment, I practiced the morning’s lesson, and glorified God by repenting and enjoying His forgiveness.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
– James 4:6