BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:13-20 NKJV).
In the above passage, Jesus gave to the disciples the meaning of the parable of the sower He had told them earlier. My focus in this message is actually on verse 19: “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Choke the word! New Living Translation renders Mark 4:19 thus: “But all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.” As seen in this translation, choke means crowded out. Choke could also mean congest. And to be congested means to be crowded or overcrowded.
As we saw in that passage, the word that was sown in the heart was overcrowded with the cares of life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things. Consequently, it did not produce any crop because the word was choked up. An overcrowded life will make you unfruitful.
There are people like this today whose lives are overcrowded with avoidable activities and concerns. Their diaries are fully booked with little or no breathing space. And that is one of the reasons they’re living an unproductive or unfruitful life.
If this is how your life is, you need to do a sincere audit and identify those things that have congested your life – they may even be very obvious to you already – and get rid of them. You need to decongest your life spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc. to create space for God to fill you, to create time for you to invest in the needful and not be pre-occupied with the irrelevant. Some people even think, erroneously, that to be spiritual means to crowd their lives with religious activities. No. These activities could actually lead to congestion, making their lives unfruitful.
You need to get rid of anything – memory, feeling, relationship, meeting, programme, etc. that is not useful or helpful, especially in the realization of your God-ordained destiny.
Verse 19 of the passage above tells us three things that could congest, crowd, or overcrowd our lives – the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. I want you to see what the Bible says about each of these three hindrances.
1. The cares of this world. This is rendered in New Living Translation as the worries of this life. Jesus Christ taught us not to worry because worry shows a lack of faith in God, and worry can’t change anything. Jesus said when we worry we are like the pagans (Matthew 6:25-34).
Many people crowd their lives with worries about the legitimate things of life and they shortchange themselves. Worry chokes the word of God in their lives and worries never meet the needs they worry about. Instead of worrying, you should, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). God cares for you more than you care for yourself so you don’t need to dissipate your energy worrying. Worry or anxiety won’t help you; it’s a disservice to your life. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (NKJV). Worry would hamper your growth, progress, peace, health, etc. once it chokes the word of God because the word is spirit and life (John 6:63).
2. The deceitfulness of riches. This refers to the lure of wealth. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (NKJV). The deceitfulness of riches or lure of wealth occupies the heart of many people with all manners of schemes to acquire wealth which takes them away from God. Such desires choke the Word of God in them and their actions become opposed to God.
How many people today have stopped going to church or forsaken God because they’ve found some new friends that they thought would make them rich or some new business ventures that would fetch them millions! Instead of the living God, they’ve embraced idols – not necessarily graven images but modern idols of wealth, power, fame, etc. How easily the devil deceives people! But years down the line, most of them would come back empty-handed; they would not have anything to show for forsaking God. “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed” (Jeremiah 17:13 NKJV).
It should have been clear to them that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9; 6:15; Joshua 24:19; Nahum 1:2). You can’t walk out on Him and hope to prosper in the long run. You may have a somewhat breakthrough but it won’t endure. Isa 1:28 says those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed. “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy” (Jonah 2:8 NKJV). If you forsake Him, He’ll forsake you (1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:2).
These are all satanic congestion or overcrowding. You can’t love money and love God at the same time. It’s not possible to serve God and money; you must love one and hate the other or be devoted to one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Proverbs 23:4-5 warns, “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (NKJV). It’s a vain pursuit.
3. The desires for other things. When the desires for other things enter someone’s heart, he craves to have everything he sees. Such a fellow becomes acquisitive; he becomes materialistic. He is never satisfied with things; he wants other things, more and more. He’ll struggle to get them by hook or by crook. And the Word of God can’t grow in such a heart. But here is God’s warning: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV).
How to Decongest Your Life
1. Protect your heart against the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (NKJV). How? Jealously guard your prayer and Bible study life. Observe your quiet time every day – let not the devil steal it through the pursuit of money, wealth, or material things of this world. This daily discipline will give you God’s perspective of life and keep you on the right track. Don’t worry about anything; take everything to God in prayer (Matthew 6:25-34). Be content with what you have (1 Timothy 6:6; Hebrews 13:5). Pray about everything; don’t worry about anything (Philippians 4:6-7).
As a Roman prisoner, Paul wrote that he had learnt contentment in whatever condition he was whether in abundance or in lack (Philippians 4:11-14). You should also learn contentment in every condition you are in.
Charles Spurgeon says, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” According to him, “A man’s contentment is in his mind, not in the extent of his possessions.” Be content with what God has given you; beware of covetousness. Some people can say, “In God we trust” but for others, it’s in greed they trust! Be careful.
2. Be selective in your commitment to people. Don’t crowd your calendar with commitments or obligations. So many appointments would keep you unnecessarily busy. Don’t be too quick to say, “Yes” to every invitation. Don’t feel guilty turning down some invitations. You can’t be everywhere. Don’t spend all your precious time honoring people’s invitations that you neglect your work, your family, your destiny, etc.
Four times, Sanballat and Geshem invited Nehemiah for a meeting among the villages in the plain of Ono, planning to harm him. On each occasion, he turned down their invitation, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:2-3 NKJV) You must consider your work a great one that you don’t allow congestion of your life through over-commitment to people.
3. Invest your time wisely. John C. Maxwell said, “Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.” You need to organize your life so that you can make the best use of the 24 hours per day that God has given everybody equally. “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NKJV). New Living Translation puts it thus: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
Cut off from your time wasters and invest the time saved to do what really matters. Someone has said, “In time take time while time doth last, for time is no time when time is past.” Don’t spend time; don’t waste time; invest time. Reduce drastically the time you spend watching TV. Use your phone only when necessary; don’t be addicted to it. Don’t waste invaluable time on online chatting, visiting unnecessary sites, etc. Don’t waste your time on some get-rich-quick schemes; instead, invest your time in legitimate businesses that God can bless. “Greedy people try to get rich quick but don’t realize they’re headed for poverty” (Proverbs 28:22 NLT).
The seconds and the minutes make up a whole, and before you know it, time is gone. How you use the smallest time matters a lot. An Irish Proverb says, “Time is so precious that it is dealt out to us only in the smallest possible fractions-a tiny moment at a time.”
4. De-clutter your home. Some people’s lives are congested with items they own that are useless to them. These are things they’re not using or are no more using but could be useful to others. They also include items they bought long ago that they never used but which could be very useful to others.
These things occupy space in their homes, and indeed occupy space in their hearts because the sense of ownership is there, ownership of items not serving any useful purpose in their lives. The solution is to decongest their homes of such things. Give them away. There is a blessing in giving. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NKJV). There is always a time of harvest for every seed sown (Galatians 6:7-10).
5. Be a habitual giver. You should in addition to de-cluttering your home of things you don’t need become a habitual giver. Cultivate the habit of generosity. Rather than wanting more, give more. Rather than accumulating more, give away more from your abundance. “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty” (Proverbs 11:24 NKJV). According to Proverbs 11:25, “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (NKJV).
Giving is actually an antidote to breaking the hold of the power of desire for other things on you. That’s why the Bible says those who’re stealing should work, not to meet their personal need but so that they may have to give to others. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28 NKJV). When they begin to give to others, they would destroy in them the spirit of stealing what belongs to others.
The Bible enjoins those who’re rich to be rich in good works and give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them (1 Timothy 6:18).
Appreciate what you have; don’t complain about what you lack. Don’t hoard your treasure on earth; stockpile it in heaven. Be generous towards others; don’t only store up things for yourself (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:21). “God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing” (Billy Graham).
6. Avoid overworking yourself. While the Bible teaches that we should be diligent, the Bible doesn’t support driving oneself crazy with work. Proverbs 23:4 says, “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!” (NKJV). We must maintain a balance between our work and other departments of our life. Overcrowding your life with work will not do you any good. Excessive hours of work, moving from one job to another or doing long hours of overtime, all in order to make more money at the expense of your spiritual life, family, and health, is dangerous.
God is a worker. But the Bible says, He created the heaven and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). God gave us this example. In the Ten Commandments, He commands us to do the same – work for six days and rest on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11). A violation of this commandment is one of the ways people congest their lives. As someone has rightly said, “Seven days without a Sabbath makes one weak.” Another version says, “Seven days without God makes one weak.” Join fellow believers for corporate worship of God, at least, once a week – cease your work and honour God. This is not a substitute for any other day of corporate fellowship during the week.
In addition to the weekly break from work to honour God and worship Him, you should also cultivate the habit of regular breaks from your work for a retreat to refresh and recreate yourself. It helps you to gain a better perspective of your work, review your work, re-strategize and reinvigorate yourself.
Don’t let your work take over or use up your time at home. As much as possible, let your work end at the workplace. But if you must take work home, because of the nature of your work, limit the time you spend on it. If you don’t, it would crowd your life. Protect your home from the pressure of your work; make your home your sanctuary, your place of refuge. Don’t turn your home into your office. Don’t transfer home the tension of the workplace. It would have a negative effect on you and your family. You deserve enough rest at home after a busy day’s work. “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet” (Ecclesiastes 5:12a NKJV).
If you work from home or at home, have a closing time or operate flexible work hours that would give you enough time to rest at home. If there’s any official work to do at home, handle it in a way that it doesn’t destroy family life. Your success at work can never compensate for your failure at home! I encourage you to work but I don’t believe being called a workaholic is a compliment because other equally important things suffer when you spend more time than is necessary at work.
Don’t fall for the temptation of taking up, because of extra money, more work that will steal your time for doing your quiet time and attending church programmes, especially Bible study, prayer meeting, and Sunday Service. That would amount to having the love of money which the Bible says is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10). The New Century Version says, “The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left the faith, because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselves much sorrow” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Conclusion: Don’t forget where I started – Mark 4:13-20. Your real source in life is the Word of God because it is the Word of life. Therefore, make sure that the word of God you read, hear, study, and meditate on is not crowded out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things.
Like everybody else, you definitely need some adjustment in your life. If your problem is congestion, decongest your life. If you do this, the Word of God will be fruitful in your life and you’ll live a productive life; not a life too crowded to accommodate God.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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