“Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Matthew 13:7 (NIV)
This fall we are looking at The Parable of the Sower. Jesus shares the story of a farmer scattering his seeds in hopes that they will grow into fruitful crops. Unfortunately, many of the seeds do not become fruitful crops or even crops at all for a variety of reasons. Jesus uses these ‘crop failures’ to teach us spiritual lessons about what to avoid and what to prioritize when teaching others to follow Jesus.
In August we looked at the seed that fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. We learned that the seed refers to God’s Word, and we looked at the birds the enemy uses to steal God’s Word from our children’s hearts and minds. Then we looked at the key to preventing the enemy from stealing God’s Word from our children’s hearts, which is to equip them to fully understand His Word.
In September we looked at the seed that fell on the rocky places and how that seed sprang up quickly because it had little soil. When the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they hadn’t developed roots. We looked at how to provide good soil for our kids, cultivate deeper roots for them, and how to prevent trials from turning our kids from God.
This month we are discussing the seed that fell among the thorns and was choked. We will discuss what Jesus says these thorns represent and how to prevent them from choking our kids spiritually.
See Jesus’ explanation of the parable in both Matthew and Luke below…
“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 (NIV)
“The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, 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 (NIV)
Today we will focus on the fist explanation to thorns: worries. It’s interesting that worries can choke our kids’ spiritual walk with the Lord, but it makes sense when we think about it.
Let’s look at some examples we see in our culture today with college-aged kids who stop attending church (66% in 2017 according to this Lifeway study). According to the study, almost half (47 percent) of college students say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church. Here are some possible reasons…
- They are consumed with school and worried that they need more time to study to do well (even though many are probably out with friends on the weekends).
- They are anxious that they won’t make enough money or be able to find a more suitable job, so they have to work on Sunday.
- Their peer group is not going to church, and they are afraid to go on their own. In addition they may be afraid their peers won’t want to hang out with them if they find out they go to church.
When our kids and even our families make these kinds of choices based on worry, the consequences that occur are like thorns choking us spiritually. God created us to need community to build each other up, and when our kids are isolated from believers and neglect spending time in God’s Word, they will be so much more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and thereby choked by thorns as Jesus warns in this parable.
Worries can easily become idols when we prioritize them over God, and those worries start to influence our decisions. In the Lifeway study we see this with the college students who stopped attending church and how their worries became a hindrance to growing and standing strong in their faith.
What family values might have been lacking in the earlier years that lead to teens walking away from the Lord due to their worries? I believe that when the worries of life, such as school and work, become idols for us as parents, and we do not model a heart of trusting God and putting Him first, our kids will follow suit and often in a more extreme way.
Let’s look at three ways to prevent these types of behaviors from occurring in us and our children.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
1. Teach your kids what the Bible says about worry.
When our kids know that Jesus tells us not to worry and that it isn’t good for us, they will be less likely to get in the habit of worrying. Read Philippians 4:6-7 and discuss it: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
When we are tempted to worry, we can teach our kids to pray and ask God for what we need with thanksgiving knowing in faith that He will take care of us. One of my favorite verses is John 14:27 which teaches our kids to ask God for His peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (NIV)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12: 30 (NIV)
2. Make sure God comes FIRST in your family.
We can instill this virtue in our children when they are young, so it becomes a part of their values system when they are grown. Then worries will be less likely to take precedence over the Lord. Here are some ways to do this.
- Make a personal quiet time with God a part of your family’s morning routine.
- Set family devotion and Bible reading time as a priority each week.
- Make church attendance a top priority over activities, social events, work, school work, etc.
- Prioritize serving opportunities and mission trips.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Model and teach your kids to trust God no matter what.
The enemy loves to use fear to keep us and our children from following the Lord wholeheartedly. The opposite of fear is trust, and we must learn to trust God no matter what and know that our lives are in His hands. When we try to take control or control our kids’ lives, it just leads to anxiety and fear. Here are a few ways to “let go and let God” in our own lives and with our kids.
- Make a habit of surrendering everything to the Lord each morning, even the things you naturally want to control and fix. Imagine yourself placing those worries in God’s hands. Teach your kids to do the same.
- Whatever worry is plaguing you or your family, talk about how God is in control and will work things out in His perfect timing and way.
- When making decisions, encourage your kids to pray about what God would have them do instead of naturally making a decision based on fear or worry.
For worries that are tied to significant trials such as the death of loved one or financial struggles, check out How Do We Prevent Trials from Turning Our Kids from God?
Trials that lead to worry are a part of life in our fallen world that we all face, and our kids will face them too. When we teach our kids what God’s Word says about worry and help them remember how big and powerful our God is, their worries will seem much smaller. When they trust that God is in control, they will naturally follow His ways, and the enemy won’t be able to tempt them off of God’s path, choking them spiritually.