We are creatures who desire autonomy. We will fabricate a past, masquerade in the present and dream a better future all in the name of making it on our own. We want to be self-made, to be the hero and exemplar the world around us desperately needs. And this desire colors the way we approach and read the Word of God. How often do I read the Word and always put myself in the “good” parts? I was reading in Mark 4 last week, and a few verses stuck with me and have nagged at my mind off and on. Mark 4:7, 18-19 reads:
“Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain… And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
I had always read myself into verse 8 as the hero, the one who had it together. Verse 8 reads, “And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” But an honest glance at my current life would argue differently.
The interesting thing about this verse is that it doesn’t say that the plant dies like in verses 5-6, but that it “yielded no grain.” Why did it survive yet yield no fruit? Jesus said it was because the thorns (the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things) choke out the word. These other things take the resources that would have been used by the Word and the Spirit for fruit, and instead use them for their own gains. Our gifts, time, and talents are used primarily to take care of our worldly affairs, to try and gain riches (which ultimately proves deceitful), and to gain other things for ourselves. Just as a plant must have rich soil that is free from thieving weeds, so a Christian must be free from thieving thoughts and worries in order to bear fruit.
The idea of bearing fruit leads my mind to two other passages. The first is John 15:4 which reads, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” And the second is Matthew 6:32-33 which declares, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The answer to the dilemma of yielding no grain in Mark 4:7 is here in these two verses. The key to bearing fruit is abiding in Christ—ultimately casting our worries and cares on the sovereignty of Christ and trusting Him for both our eternal and daily needs.
I heard a saying on a sports radio show the other day: “Scared money don’t make none.” The host was making the argument that sport teams who aren’t willing to risk are not going to gain in the end. The team is not willing to give up current profits or players in order to risk achieving greater future success. The host used the word “content” in conjunction with his argument saying that the teams were more scared of losing their current successes, even if those successes were not the best they could achieve, and were content to maintain the current state of affairs. Do I not see the same attitude in myself? Scared money don’t make none. And a life occupied with the cares of this world is not a fruitful life at all.
Am I not content to go through my weeks with the “successes” of occasionally reading the Word, giving a Christian perspective on a topic at work, and praying with others when they need it? That would seem like a ten-win season for most of us today. But what if there was a vastly greater vision for life? What if I’ve become so accustomed to low expectations that I now am content and happy to coast through the rest of my life surviving in the faith but not bearing fruit?
The control and autonomy we are after is a myth. It is a lie, a mirage. And praise God for it because He has graciously opened for us a better way. Jesus said, “The one who loses his life for my sake will find it.” And the life to be found in losing our own is the good, abundant life—the very life of Christ. That is why the apostle Paul can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We in Christ—our lives lost in His—and Christ in us—His life made our own—and we will bear much fruit.