Beyond the Thorns

Beyond the Thorns

Luke 8:14-15 (NIV)  The seed that fell among 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. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

As I have shared before, our family is selling our house and moving to the county close by. After accepting an offer on our existing home, it was time to write a contract on the new house. Leaving, I noticed rosebushes in the flowerbed along the walkway leading to the driveway. These bushes have been here awhile as they are mature and beginning to bloom. I love roses. I have noticed that the bigger the blooms so are the thorns. Thorns are the rosebushes defense system developed to protect its fruit. Each bud turns into a magnificent flower beauty to the eye, fragrant to the smell, and even sweet to taste. If a rose did not have thorns, it would be extinct by now quickly consumed by all living creatures. It has survived because just beneath the leaves hidden from view are sharp barbs warding off the unwanted attention and immediate destruction of others. The thorns on roses are a defense mechanism to keep them from being harmed.

Song of Solomon 2:1 (NIV) I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Jesus is the Rose of Sharon. Did you know that of all the flowers in God’s Creation that the rose is considered the loveliest and sweetest? It has three qualities of pure perfection – shape, color and fragrance. The rose is the most common flower. It doesn’t matter where you travel, the rose is there. It is universal. It belongs to everyone. Jesus Christ died for everyone. His Love is universal.

Matthew 27:28-31 (NIV) They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The process of sacrifice that Jesus endured in the giving of His Live universally for all humanity has many aspects and elements that define the benefits of salvation. It is multilevel in acquisition. It is multifaceted in its complete beauty. During his torture before being nailed to the Cross, the soldiers ruthlessly twisted together a crown woven of thorns and put them on His Head. They were mocking His Lordship and majesty. They put a staff in His Hand with which they would take back from Jesus to strike his head wearing the crown of thorns again…and again. All this before the people who continued to cry for His Death by crucifixion. Jesus remained silent and endure this punishment for us. Our faces were on His Heart replaying in His Mind as He underwent such physical pain on our behalf.

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures…”  Reading today’s passage again, the thorns look a little different especially when tinged with the Blood of Jesus. The seed in the story is God’s Word. God’s Word is Jesus once wrapped in human flesh subject to die for our sins but who would not just set us free, but allows us the opportunity to live in right standing with God the Father all over again. Our life is a beautiful masterpiece much like the creation of the rose. It cannot be duplicated in its perfection and purpose. A rose without thorns is defenseless yet much less painful to touch. We are called to have hearts of rich soil and to grow these seeds invested in us. We are to grow, develop, mature and produce fruit. Some may say this is impossible due to all the thorns. I say that is only possible because of the life’s thorns.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV) “…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Hugh Miller, a Scottish geologist, writer and evangelical Christian said, “Problems are opportunities with thorns on them.” When we face challenges and difficulties as believers in Christ, we have a promise attached to each. Because of His Great Love for us, we can count on all things working together for our good. However acceptance of Christ is not enough. We must make Jesus the Lord of our life. In Numbers 33:51-55, God saved the Children of Israel and now is releasing them into the Promised Land. They are take possession of the land. They have full authority and power to do so as the Lord has ordained it to them. He has gone before them preparing the way and all they have to do is step into it and take it over. They were to drive out the other inhabitants or risk them becoming “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.” Could this be a message to the modern day believer? When we do not walk in the Blessings and Prosperity of God’s Purpose and Plan that there will be thorns in our life? Hmm…

In Joshua 23:12-14, there is a similar warning when we decide to yoke ourselves with the “inhabitants” of the land. Again, Jesus Christ has given us His Power and Authority on the earth. It is enshrouded by His Love but is not weak and helpless. We are empowered by His Spirit to take dominion in our life by the power invested and evident in me of the Holy Spirit. However, when we cease to force out the unwelcome inhabitants in our life…they become snares and traps, whips on our backs and thorns in our eyes. Not a single promise God has given you has failed, it just may be hidden behind some thorns.

Thorns in our flesh make us uncomfortable. At times they are an annoyance and other times quite painful. The purpose in the thorns is to keep us from become comfortable and complacent in a place of compromise. Just about the time pride and arrogance rise up creating vain glory, it is dissolved in a shortcoming. When disbelief or doubt threatens our resolve, a thorn rises up to nudge us closer to Jesus for His Careful Assistance and Heartfelt Comfort. It in that very moment that the sufficiency of God’s Grace is discovered all over again. In times of weakness, His Power comes to life in us. The greater our weakness the more significant His Power released as we no longer hinder or restrict it. I concur with Mr. Miller that indeed our problems are nothing more than opportunities covered in thorns.

Luke 6:43-45 (NIV) “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The fruit of our labor indicates the condition of our heart. God examines the production of our life seeking the Fruit of His Spirit. It is not the same thing produced by those who belong to this world. It is the harvest of soulful qualities. The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are not naturally generated characteristics in human beings. The Spirit of the Lord takes those areas of our life surrendered to Christ and plants seeds of right standing there for a fruitful harvest. It is when we encounter unexpected thorns or problems that we begin to really inspect the contents of our life to ensure it is worthwhile. Worth the struggle. Worth the pain. Worth the investment of our life in Christ. It is then and only then that we discover the power of His Sufficient Grace working in me and through me to produce the harvest that saves my soul and becomes the Light of the world.

Hebrews 6:7-8 (NIV) Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

A life overgrown with thorns and thriving thistles is not the life that God has prepared for us. Our purpose is not to be a problem or produce thorns but by faith to navigate through life in the midst of the thorns. You will have tests and trials. There will be hardship and heartbreak in life. What we do to get through such times makes all the difference. Thinking about the rosebushes at the new house makes me happy. I know that there will be beautiful flowers for us to enjoy. But if I were afraid of getting poked or stuck by a thorn and fearful of the pain, I would probably ask my husband to cut them down. See faith without works is dead. Jesus told us that there would be struggles and difficulties in life but they would come with purpose. To refine our faith making it genuine so we can live in confident hope. I can choose to settle for less beautiful and enduring flowers without thorns. Why should I settle when Christ to give me all of His Power and Potential now and forevermore? The Lord is handing me the Keys to the Kingdom to open every door closed by doubt and disbelief to release the beauty of fulfillment and complete satisfaction to me. It is up to me if I risk discomfort to have true freedom just as He promised.

Pope Francis said, “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.” I believe he was speaking of our heart. When we take God’s Word to heart, believing it enough to live by it making Jesus Christ the Lord of our life, there is a shift in our life that allows us to have all that God promised and prepared for us from the beginning. Just as the soldiers did, this world mocks the authority and power of Jesus Christ. Nameless and faceless gods have popped up all over. We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no greater power than that in the Name of Jesus Christ. Today we claim that power by looking at the thorns around us as opportunities to experience God’s Grace just a little more and be filled with His Power. His Power allows meek Christians to become mighty warriors in the Kingdom of God and soulful acquisition. We must not settle for comfort but reach past the thorns in life to claim the Rose of Sharon. His Name is Jesus Christ.

John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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