Abiding But Not Thriving
There are two questions every believer must deal with in their Christian life. The first is: "Why aren't I bearing more fruit for the Kingdom of God?" The second is more troublesome: "Why does a good God allow evil and suffering in the world?"
As He sits by the sea one day, Jesus answers both questions. In the parable of the sower, He reveals the believer's four-step growth progression towards fruitfulness. We know the first two: "wayside" hearers who do not understand the Word, and "stony" believers, or those who love the Word but have no root in themselves to persevere. It is the third type of believer we can learn from.
"Thorny ground" believers represent the majority of Christians. These are real lovers of God who have taken root in Him. Many, however, are abiding but not thriving. They often wonder how they can love God so much and yet produce so little! Life seems to rob them of every excess, keeping them spiritually stunted and even growing "prickles" themselves. The fourth and final step of "30-60-100-fold multiplication" never seems to manifest for them, no matter how hard they try.
The reason is that Satan has preoccupied them with the troublesome twins of worry and money. With Jacobean guile, he robs the heirs of the Kingdom of their birthright through deception. Concerns over family, money, health, jobs, or broken relationships keep them so focused on their own situations that they do not have the energy to reproduce.
I wrote last week about Jesus's answer to worry. (You can read more here).
1 Timothy 6:10 describes the dangers of money: "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil; some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many griefs." It's no accident that this verse uses words like "root" and "pierce!" Thorns hurt.
Jesus's subsequent parable of the tares expands on these questions for us. Rooted among the good crops of wheat are evil tares of the enemy. These thorny plantings were not sown by our good God, but by the Father of lies.
When we struggle with the "why's" of our faith, we must remember that after God sowed good seed in the world and rested from His work, an enemy came and sowed bad seeds. We are now "in the world but not of it;" our roots are planted near the roots of the evil one, and God has chosen to wait until the end of the age to harvest both good and evil to their respective destinations.
That which is lawless and wicked around us will be consumed in the end. Why doesn't God just deal with the evil He sees and end our suffering now? Because our good roots are intermingled with the roots of the tares. To uproot one would be to destroy the other, too. For the moment, we must determine to abide alongside these tares, coexisting, resisting - and hopefully - influencing.
Bearing fruit despite the thorns requires our commitment to grow at all costs. It means finding the Son when the clouds of doubt and deception, loss and pain seem to steal all our sunlight. It requires patient and trusting endurance, like a mature tree in a storm. It means digging our roots down more deeply than ever, so that our branches may extend still further, releasing new, good seeds in the fields.
The more deeply we draw from Him, the greater our multiplication will be. Those who abide in Christ will bear fruit. Our sovereign God allows both thorns and tares to remain, knowing that our growing inner strength will eventually cause every impediment to be pushed aside.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions
Deborah Perkins is the founder of His Inscriptions, a ministry for Christians who want to know God's Word and hear His voice. Through her website, inspired teaching and a weekly blog, Deborah offers discipleship for those who want to grow their relationship with God. A ministry leader for over 25 years, Deborah is an experienced prophetic counselor, marriage mentor, and prayer warrior. She's also fond of her hubby, 3 sons, and dark chocolate - in that order!
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.