"The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear it, satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Others, like seed sown n rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life,
the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word,
making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it,
and produce a crop --thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown."
I'll admit it. When I was a teenager, I was a "Big-Time Wrestling" fan. I could cite stats on Hulk Hogan, Jake the Snake Roberts, Sergeant Slaughter, Andre the Giant (and a host of others) on demand and sometimes faster than Vince McMahon. (Only a real fan knows that Hulk Hogan's real name is Terry Gene Bollea...and I knew that long before Al Gore invented the internet or reality TV arrived on the scene.) When I say I was a fan, I mean I was a die-hard fan. I watched every match, hoping one of my favorite wrestlers would be up next.
I went to some live matches, too. I touched Hulk Hogan's shoulder once. He shook his sweat on me as he walked by. I had Hulkamania posters on my wall; I had a Hulk Hogan "Stretch-Armstrong" doll. You get the idea? I loved watching WWF wrestling. No one could convince me it was fake. Sure, I could see that might be a very slight outside possibility, but I wanted to believe it was real, and therefore, I did.
Well, thankfully, I've matured a little, and that chapter of my life's obsession is now over. But in those days, a common wrestling move was called "The Choke Hold." Real fans also knew it as "The Sleeper." You can probably imagine what it looks like. One wrestler wraps his arm around the other wrestler's throat until oxygen is seemingly cut off from the brain, causing them to pass out. (Or at least appear as such.)
As I read this passage in Mark this morning, I couldn't help but think of "The Choke Hold".
How many times are we challenged (convicted) by something in the sermon on Sunday, but by Monday, we can't even remember what the sermon was about? Why is that? It's because satan's ultimate goal is to put that "choke hold" on Christians. He can't win the match, and he knows that, but he wants to put the moves on us to make us immobile for the cause of Christ, so he uses the distractions of life to do just that.
Take a look at verses 18-19: "...still others hear the word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful."
Now, as you probably know, I have a brown thumb. I have but one plant, and it's one that I'm told you just can't kill. It was given to me by my boss when I was in the hospital with my 2nd cancer surgery, and it's very special to me. But aside from that one amazingly still green and growing item in my home, no other plant exists. My sweet neighbor keeps telling me in her adorable Indian accent, "Beth. I will teach you." I just giggle at her and shake my head. You see, Ankita can try to teach me all she wants, but a horticulturist I will never be.
A sports fan, though, yes! That is me. And sports analogies just work better with my tom-boy, 3-brother/no sister brain. So when I read this passage, I don't think about the farmer and the seed; I think about a sports event - and in this case - a wrestling ring. (I don't know why they call it a ring, anyway. It's very clearly a square, don't you think?)
We are truly in a wrestling match with satan. His one and only goal is to put us out of commission, to put the "choke hold" on us. The sleeper. After all, what good are we for Christ when we are just doing nothing? What good are we when we're distracted by the worries of life and things of the world? Absolutely no good. And satan knows it.
But as I thought this through and contemplated the whole scenario and satan's evil tactics, I remembered scenes from yesteryear. Perhaps you've seen the images as well. Do you ever remember watching one of those WWF matches and seeing one of the underdog wrestlers just about get beat to a pulp when out of nowhere comes another wrestler to his rescue? Usually it's one of the really popular ones who has come to stop the slaughter - to be the savior of the day. Well isn't that what God will do for us? But the truth is, our tag-team partner Jesus Christ is right there the whole time. He doesn't have to make an illegal move onto the mat to come to our rescue. All we have to do is call on Him for help! At the mention of His name the demons tremble, and the choke-hold is released.
I often wonder how many times I put the choke-hold on myself. I allow fear to immobilze me from taking a step of faith. Sure, satan is right there whispering in my ear telling me I'm not good enough, telling me I'm a nobody, telling me to not try because it's a worthless cause. And it's at that point that I have to realize who is speaking more strongly in my ear. Satan or Jesus Christ. Who will I listen to? Who is King? And who is the all-time, undisputed, undefeated, reigning champion? Is it a belly-wallowing serpant? Or is it the King of Kings who defeated the grave and sin?
And just like the wrestler, down on two knees, almost ready to concede finds the strength to stand, to defeat the opponent, and to claim the victory in Jesus Name...
Not by might, not by power, but by His spirit, Victory is gained and the choke-hold is broken.
Until the next match.
Be sober, be vigilent, he is walking around looking for people to devour.
--- Beth Banfill