Jesus said that there are people who hear the Gospel, ”…but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14). When you read this, what is your response? Are you convicted that there are areas in your life that take priority over God? Do you think about your problems (worries) more than you think about God? Do you focus on money, possessions, and security (riches) more than you focus on God? Do you spend more time on hobbies, entertainment, and physical activities (pleasures) than you spend with God? As a Christian, are you ‘choking’ on any of these?
What Distracts You from Jesus?
By using the term, ”…but as they go on their way,” Jesus is referring to people who hear the Gospel and follow Him, but then succumb to the distractions of the world before maturing past the ‘baby Christian’ phase. (Note: To read more about the ‘baby Christian’ phase and its pitfalls, see Jesus Said Don’t Receive the Gospel and Then Fall Away.)
Jesus said distractions take one of three forms:
- ”Worries of this life” – There is an endless list of distractions in life that can cause us to worry: the economy, employment, our children, our health, the future, etc. The list is endless, so the temptation to worry is endless, too. Jesus made it clear that worry is sin because it shows we do not trust God (Matthew 6:25-34). God is to be our focus, not worry.
- ”Deceitfulness of wealth (riches)” – Who doesn’t like nice things? Who does not want to be financially secure? The point is not that we would rather have decent clothes and be in the black financially vs. wear rags and be in the red financially. The point is that we are not to be focused on these things over God and are not to be distracted by them. Rather, focus on God and His Kingdom, where real treasure is found (Luke 12:32-34).
- ”Desires for other things (pleasures)” – This is probably the most common distraction for a Christian in a developed country. Once our basic needs are met, if we aren’t focused on God, we are focused on ourselves and our own pleasure and ‘stuff’. That ‘stuff’ can be desires for tangible items or non-tangible things like recognition, awards, a stress-free life, or pampered lifestyle. God is to be our focus, not personal desires and pleasures (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
Jesus said some people hear and follow the Word for a while, but then distractions ”come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). This implies that, prior to that, the person responded to the Word and was fruitful, but over time things changed and he or she began to focus more on this world instead of on God’s Kingdom. So what does it mean to be fruitful or unfruitful?
How (Un)Fruitful Are You?
In the Kingdom of God, being fruitful means your life bears evidence that you are a disciple of Jesus, like the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. There is also Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8, where Jesus said, ”This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” which reflects the same teaching He gave in Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20, and Luke 8:15. All kinds of wonderful things happen in and around us when we bear fruit. A natural result of this fruit is that we share the Gospel with others, fulfilling the Great Commission to ”…go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The flip side of being fruitful is being unfruitful. Jesus said that those who are distracted by the worries, wealth, and desires of this world become ”unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:18-19) and “do not mature” (Luke 8:14). Their lives do not show evidence that they are disciples of Jesus.
Call to Action
Take inventory of where you stand in each of the three areas of distraction:
- Worries of this life
- Deceitfulness of wealth/riches
- Desires for other things/pleasures
Is the fruit of your spiritual Christian life being choked off as you go along in your physical, natural life here on earth? Be honest with yourself and with God. If the answer is ‘Yes’, repent, confess your sin, and produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). The way to do this is to make Jesus your first love all over again. Devotion to Jesus chokes off all other distractions.