MAKE YOUR LIFE COUNT:
How to Get Your Name in Heaven's Newscast
© 2015 Philip A Matthews 09/13/2015
Mark 4:3-20”Jesus said, "Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams¦ He continued, "Do you see how this story works? All my stories work this way. The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them. And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles [and chokes] what they heard, and nothing comes of it. But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams" (The Message).
For time's sake, let's accept Jesus' very clear explanation of this Parable of the Sower but pay special attention to the next to the last group of people, i.e., those where the Word fell into the thorns and weeds and was strangled and became unproductive. The Greek word used here was "sumpnigoÌ„, meaning "to strangle completely, to smother or choke, literally to drown and overwhelm and reduce to wheezing or not being able to breathe!
Is there a better way to describe what life in this society is currently doing to most people, even most Christians? Most of us are being so overwhelmed and choked by life that we bear very little fruit for the Kingdom of God. In our crazy fast-paced lives, we just wish we could find a little breathing room so that we could finally be free to do great exploits for God. But life relentlessly gives us no relief.
But now let us tie in the fact that the Apostle Paul has already informed us that "we don't wrestle against flesh and blood and physical enemies but against "rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 6:12 ISV). Remember Hilary Clinton's phrase concerning a dubious "vast right-wing conspiracy? Well, we should realize that there is indeed a "vast Satanic conspiracy to overwhelm us with busyness, distract us with constant crises and urgencies, flood us with diversions, and keep us from thinking seriously about the next world by making us love this world as the only world.
The devil, with all his earthliness, has completely absorbed our prayer life, stolen our time and desire for God's Word, and utterly eliminated our one-on-one time with the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:31 Amplified). Satan sends us troubles and problems to pester and paralyze us, and we allow them to. He gets us bogged down by endless activity. This is not by accident by any means. This is all part of the plan. When will we wake up?! Stop your life”put something on hold”and get something done for God asap!
Too many Christians are completely caught up in the struggles of daily life, paying bills, straightening up all the people who do them wrong, fighting for justice and their due respect, going through the motions of "normal life. Others are trapped into all kinds of temptations that are dangled before them: Free sex, porn, bigger and better financial opportunities, pleasure, entertainment, the constant search for the perfect relationship, personal development, etc.
But is that the true purpose of life, God's purpose for putting us here? Is that all He has in mind? You paid your bills on time and were never late to work”you managed to make it through the daily struggle. But that was never all that God had in mind for you. That is far below the high calling of a child of God. Have we forgotten that we are here to glorify Him, to bring worship to His name, and to build His Eternal Kingdom? Have we forgotten James 1:27, that "real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the needy and loveless in their plight, and keep oneself from being corrupted by this godless world.
And before you know it, you've lived 80 years and don't have much to show for it!
So how do you make your life count?
Make decisions that cause you to give your life for something that outlasts your life, something that is eternal.
Remember the words of the Christian martyr, Jim Elliot, who died in the jungles of South America before his missionary work could barely get off the ground: "He is no fool who sacrifices that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose. After his death, God opened the doors to the cannibalistic tribe that killed him, and then He opened the hearts of the tribe members to the Gospel. This agrees with the words of Jesus Himself: "I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn't produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain (John 12:24). Following that principle will make your life count.
In a practical way, this is how it works: You will daily be faced with choices, decisions to make on how you are going to spend your time, or your money, or your energy. Every one of these decisions will pit your own interests against the interests of God, your own desires against the desires of God, your own opportunities against the opportunities for God, your own ideas for how to use your time versus God's ideas for your time. You must choose to "die to your interests and ideas in order to concentrate on God's interests and ideas. If you spend your life choosing only your own stuff, then after you have lived your life you will discover that you did nothing that had any eternal value. You will discover that, as far as eternity is concerned, you have wasted your life, and you have nothing to show.
The attitude of someone who is wasting his life
You will be like the unprofitable servant in Matthew 25:14-30 who never made the choices to expand or increase his lord's money. He was given time, energy, talents, gifts, opportunities, and valuable resources just like the other two, but instead of finding the time and putting forth the effort to use himself for his master's purpose, he buried the gifts in the earth, i.e., within himself, because he was made from the earth.
He had the typical attitudes that characterize a person wasting his or her life: He made excuses for his lack of productivity. He chose convenience. He chose to remain in his own comfort zones. He protected himself from the risk and embarrassment of being called a failure. He complained that nobody was around to help him; he had to do everything by himself. He claimed he didn't have enough time to help”even though he had the same 24 hours in a day like everybody else. He said that his life was already filled to the brim. He felt like he didn't have much of anything to offer anyway.
He asked WHY should HE be concerned about helping people who got themselves into trouble by doing stupid things in the first place. He opted out whenever he was tired. He never asked his Master for a little more love to love the unlovable nor for a little more grace and patience for the utterly intolerable. He was always getting to the "last straw.
He never gave the "widow's mite because he was always waiting for his "ship to come in before he could give anything. Or maybe he was one of those Christians who is willing to give money”lots of it even”but refuses to get involved with actual ministry to people because that would require too much time, effort, and humility of life. He pays for the "privilege to avoid the "dirtiness of getting down on the level of the people who really need help. But that is an attitude that completely forgets that the Lord Jesus Christ, "though He was rich, made Himself poor, that we might become rich through His sacrificial poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). And Jesus did not give money: He came down to our level and gave HIMSELF! "Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see¦
The concept of the balance scale
One of the metaphors that the Bible uses is the concept of a balance scale where you put a weight on both sides of the scale. Whatever you put on the left side needs to be balanced by something on the right side. So everything God has given us is placed on the right side of the scale: time, energy, talents and abilities, money and the ability to earn it, knowledge and intelligence, good health, even the very breath we breathe. The right side of the scale is extremely heavy, so it goes down immediately, while the left side shoots straight up. So on the left side, in order to bring things into balance, we must place what we are doing and being and accomplishing for God using the resources He has given us on the right side.
So is your scale balanced? What are we going to say when He asks us, "What happened to all that stuff I gave you? What became of all that breath I gave you? What did you DO with it? Unfortunately, most human beings won't know what to say because they are GREATLY out of balance! All they have to show is what God has given them and very little of what they have given Him. This is why King Belshazzar was told, "You've been weighed on the scales”and you don't measure up!" (Daniel 5:27 ISV).
We must have a spiritual one-track mind if we ever expect to produce anything for God. We must be single-focused if we ever expect to plant eternal positive seeds within our families. There are just too many extraneous activities and distractions in the world today, and the forces of evil are creating thousands and thousands more every year. Many people will be lulled to sleep and will lose their souls; many others will be busied, harried, and hustled into losing their souls. They will be pushed and shoved into living like this world is all that needs to be considered, and will go out of here empty-handed into eternity.
You make your life count when you give it for something that is greater than your life, something that is eternal. Jesus Christ takes note and gives you a standing ovation, like He did for Stephen, the first martyr, whose sacrifice changed the whole course of Christianity by spreading it all over the world, and it continues to spread (Acts 7; 11:19). You will actually make the news in heaven!