In light of the issue of “Soul Detox” we come to a subject in the account of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39 that can be labeled as “extremely hazardous” or “highly toxic” or more aptly “highly flammable”. Some have known the temptation of being alone with a person of the opposite sex. There is almost a sense of fire, of being in the “heat of the moment”. Furthermore, some have toyed with this fire and got burnt, evidenced not by physical scars, but scars of the heart. From a guy’s point of view, the general consensus seems to be an embrace of the fire. Most guys I know of seem to welcome the opportunity to be in the “heat of the moment” with a girl, even more so if they find her very attractive. For some reason or other, I have been disposed to assume that girls are not as welcoming of this fire. However, in my discussions with some girls on this issue, my assumptions have been erased and shown as being erroneous. Regardless of one’s stance on the issue of fornication, I believe we can all agree that it is indeed a powerful force. It’s got an almost commanding pull, a compelling ability to grab our attentions and fix our eyes on an object of lust. The business world recognizes this influential power of sex so much that they use it in advertisements of products that have nothing to do whatsoever with sex. It can produce an hypnotic effect, at times taking possession of a man’s whole being and directing him to travel miles just to satisfy a craving. I’ve seen sex take possession of entire societies — university campuses where girls proudly wear revealing clothes, boastfully expressing lewd behaviors and guys emptying their wallets in hopes of “catching a body”. Now one particular argument I have heard in favor of fornication is that just as humans have a need to satisfy a hunger for food, so too must they satisfy their needs for sex. If sex is a mere appetite, then how come our other appetites, like our appetite for food, do not exalt themselves as “gods” controlling our lives. I can’t think of an instance where a man ever traveled across the country just to satisfy a craving for food. Put it yet another way, if sex is only an appetite or a need to be satisfied like all our other needs, why the big deal made of it in our society. I mean we don’t see strip teases of food, and if we did we should conclude that there is something very wrong. And there is something wrong, something very wrong with our overly obsession and worship of sex. Just think of the destruction brought about in our society all in the name of sex. The sex trade, porn addicts, prostitution, rape, etc. Sex like a fire spreads and consumes, and our society is decaying under its destructive force. I hope no one will think that I am trying to show that sex is evil. I am only saying that we ought to recognize that it is more than just a mere appetite. It is a powerful force that can be used for evil or good. God invented sex and stamped it “very good”. Sex is the culmination of intimacy between a married couple. That was its intended design, and it is our society’s misuse of it that has brought about the desolation we now see. If we can grasp and understand the powerful force of sex, we will be doing ourselves a favor to follow the example of Joseph and to “flee youthful lust”. As society is a reflection of the individual, so too can the misuse of sex in an individual person’s life wreak havoc, and consume one’s very soul.
The question I will attempt to address today is: why is cultivating a relationship with God, our Father so important? We all know what it is like to be in any sort of a relationship. I am not here relegating relationships to the sort which tends to often come to mind when the word is mentioned, namely, that between lovers. I am using the term broadly to identify our daily social dealings with the people in our lives. Now one interesting fact about relationships is that they can grow very deep over time on the one hand, or grow apart on the other hand. What we find in the deepest of relationships is a significant level of trust, where communication freely flows, and virtually no information is withheld. No secret remains hidden. No topic too sensitive to discuss.
On the other hand, what we find in relationships once close that have grown apart is a sense of distrust. Communication becomes even more complicated. Words quite harmless in and of themselves are misinterpreted as originating from a motive of spite or ill will.
One fundamental truth about God’s nature I want to highlight is his omniscience, or knowledge of all things. God does not simply know all facts about the world He has created, but about the decisions that we will take, about the future that collectively as a human race all our innumerable choices and actions create. We are constantly being encouraged in His word to grow deeper in our relationship with Him. Proverbs 3:5 advices us to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts”. James 4:8 encourages us to “draw nigh to God”. Jesus commands us in Matthew 22:37 to “love God with all our heats, soul, and might”. Which of us wouldn’t be filled with ecstasy to a state of delirium if a great person like a Bill Gates or a Barack Obama wanted to befriend us? Indeed how much pride we should take in being called their friends. To translate this logic over to a God, greater than any man, who wants to befriend us, who wants us to draw nigh to Him, it seems to me a great inconsistency in logic that we shouldn’t be filled with the same rapturous bliss as we would in the case of a great man. The deeper the basis of any relationship, the more exchange there can be. The closer we are to a person, the more things the person is comfortable in disclosing to us. Likewise, the closer we draw nigh to God, the more He is willing to reveal to us.
In Matthew 2, we see an account of God revealing to Joseph what Herod was about to do, which was to kill Jesus. We see God disclosing knowledge of the future to Joseph. It follows then that Joseph was a man who had a rather deep relationship with God. This life we live is filled with uncertainties. Even in the present hour we find ourselves, were we to trace our history we should think it very strange how all the various twists and turns has landed us in our current positions. Furthermore, moving forward will likewise resemble the past. It will be filled with many more twists and turns. It will be a journey we could never guess. We would end up in positions we had never for a moment imagined. Oh what an invaluable resource it is to have a friend like God. Oh what an infinite blessing it is to have our steps ordered by an all knowing Father. “For I know the thoughts I have towards you, thoughts of good and not of evil, to bring you to an expected end”. God, our Father has our very best interest at heart and He longs for a deeper and deeper relationship with us. When we grow apart from our Father, we misinterpret the truth of His word as coming from a motive of ill will. We feel God does not care or does not have our best interest at heart. Brethren, let us rid ourselves of the lie that God doesn’t care. Let us be no longer deceived that we can have a friend better than God. Let us draw nigh to God each day and he would reveal to us “the deep and hidden things and what lies in darkness”.
In this passage we are met with Jesus’ serious attitude towards the law. There is a tendency as Christians to have a lax attitude about our sins and to excuse them on the basis that they have been eternally forgiven. The devastating flaw in such reasoning lies in the implicit assumptions we make about the consequences of sin. If the pleasures of sin are to us worth its consequences, then at the outset, we have made it significantly easier to give in to temptation and to subsequently justify our wrong. The truth is that the consequence of sin is death — the gradual, imminent death of the true self. To be utterly rationale about sin’s destructive effect on our true selves ought to serve as an effective deterrent to our committing of sinful acts. Thus, the Christian who excuses their sins on the basis that God’s grace covers all sin has been thinking about the whole matter from the wrong angle. Paul asks in Romans 6:1 “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”, and follows the question with an affirmative answer “God forbid”! Jesus echoes this forbiddance in Matthew 5:17 “think not that I am come to destroy the law…but to fulfill it”. Indeed, a life of righteousness, a life of unwavering obedience to the law of God is of such paramount importance to Jesus that in the passage presented above, he gives what seems like impossible commands to obey. In verse 19 he says, “whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven”. In verse 20, “for I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven”. In verses 27-28, “ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery: “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”. We read these sayings of Christ and shudder at the possibility of strict obedience of every letter, in every waking moment, under all circumstances whether convenient or inconvenient. The law is the law, and we are required to obey every bit of it. God’s holiness demands of us perfect obedience. What should we make of a perfectly good God who let “little” sins slide? When we begin to speak like that, then where is the line to be drawn on these supposedly “little” sins. A very bad man will stretch it further than a moderately bad man. Here then lies the great dilemma. God’s holiness demands of us perfect obedience but our frail, ignoble, sinful nature cannot of its own possibly attain such a standard. Even the righteousness of the best amongst us are like a “filthy rag” before God. What are we to do? What is God to do? Well God has done His part, by sending his son Christ to live the perfectly righteous life we couldn’t live; in other words, to fulfill the law. What we can do is to accept Christ’s righteousness. However, our obedience to the law ought not to stop after that point. Christ still considers obedience to the law very seriously that he suggests that we take drastic measures to avoid sin. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” The idea here is not for this statement to be taken literally, but rather to be seen as Jesus thinking it necessary that we take whatever measures needed to avoid sinning. If there are certain places that create an atmosphere ripe for sin, then we must abstain from such places. If there are relationships that cause us to stumble and fall in our Christian walk, then we must sever all such ties. In brief, we are to view sin with the same seriousness as Christ and to take all measures necessary to reduce the likelihood of giving in to temptation and committing sin.
In Matthew 6, Jesus contrasts two kinds of people in the manner in which they relate with God. There are those who make a show of their religious lives attracting attention to themselves, treating God as though He were a machine who performs when all the right buttons are pressed. Then there are those, who serve God in truth behind closed doors where no one sees. They are the ones who’s “left hand is ignorant of what the right hand gives”. Jesus warns against being like the overtly religious type. “Do not pray as the heathens who use vain repetitions and think they will be heard for their much speaking”. “When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do”. Be as those who “pray in secret” and “give alms in secret”. Jesus is not here saying we are not to pray out in public, or we are to go to great lengths to hide from the sight of others our generous deeds. In fact in Matthew 5:16 Jesus exhorts us to “let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven”. The point that is being made here is that there are those who serve God not for God’s sake but for their own personal sake. They treat God not as an end, but as a means to their own personal ends. They obey the Bible to the letter. They may even pray for extremely long hours. But in their service to God, they treat God as an employer — they fulfill their end of the bargain, and demand of God to grant their requests because they’ve been such “good” and “nice” people. They have no intimate relationship with God. Jesus wants us to be like those who see God as a “Father”, not as an “employer” to bargain with. Jesus wants us to see that the ultimate reward is in seeking God Himself, and not the things God can provide for us. Such people serve God for God’s sake and not for their own sake. Such people have a true intimate relationship with a Person. Their prayers are not “vain repetitions” but “delightful conversations”. Their ultimate end in praying, or in performing any generous deed, is not so that God can be put in their debt, but that they can further cultivate a more intimate relationship with God. They do not seek after their own ends first. They “seek first the kingdom of God”. C. S. Lewis once put it this way: “aim for heaven and you will have earth thrown in; aim for earth and you will have neither”. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you”. Whatever it is that we most want in this life, were God to open our eyes, we would see that in these things — whether it be the luxuries money can provide, or the warm company of a beloved — we actually wanted God. It is God that our hearts are most after. It is Him that we are seeking for in these “things”. In the “drink” or in the “sex” or in whatever we presume will finally fill us with joy, it is the infinite joy of God’s presence we truly desire. God offers Himself. He offers infinite joy. But we are “fooling about with drink and sex”. The problem is that we are “far too easily pleased”. We must not serve God for the “things” He can provide. We must serve God for God, for in the end what our hearts are really after but may find it difficult to express, is God!
The high and ever increasing costs of medical bills, healthcare insurance and the like indicates that a person will pay whatever price necessary for good health. What is all the wealth in the world to a man if his failing heart renders him incapable of enjoying the fruits of his labor? The award-winning French comedy-drama, The Intouchables, warmed our hearts to the core because of its cheery depiction of the true story of Philippe, an immensely wealthy man, paralyzed by a paragliding accident and sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair, aided by servants in a mansion full of luxuries he was unable to even enjoy. But then as the story unfolds, in comes an unruly yet intriguing personality in the character of Driss who in the end cultivates a lasting friendship with Philippe, and teaches him that despite your frail physical health, an enriching life was still attainable even for a man confined to a wheelchair.
Not even the hardest of hearts can read the remarkable passage presented in Matthew 8 sincerely without having their hearts warmed, comforted, and softened by the person of Jesus. In this passage, we are met with Jesus the ultimate Healer who turns no sick soul away. In verse 2 a leper comes worshipping and Jesus touches him and heals him. In verse 5, a centurion beseeches Christ on behalf of his sick servant, and Jesus speaks a word and heals the servant. In verse 14, Jesus comes into Peter’s house and sees his ailing mother, and cures her fever by touching her hand. Further into the passage in verse 28 we get the peculiar account of the mad man of Gadara who was spiritually sick, tormented by a legion of demons, and who was also healed by Jesus.
One thing I found most fascinating about this passage was not the individual miracles themselves, but the basic fact that not one person who came to Jesus was turned away. I dare you to read and reread the passage a hundred times and to single out a case of a sick soul who was rejected by Christ. Jesus in this passage holds true to his words in John 6:37: “Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.” Poor physical health renders useless all material wealth, leaving us like Philippe incapable of even enjoying all the luxuries money can afford.
As humans we have a sickness much more serious than the severest of cancers. It is a spiritual cancer called sin, which is eating away at our spiritual health and robbing us of joy and peace, rendering us incapable of even enjoying all that God has blessed us with. Let us go to Jesus, the ultimate Healer. Let us come in droves in our sick condition, for he will in no way cast us away. He bore our infirmities and our sickness on the cross not necessarily that we might be physically healed. That is a far easier healing that pales in comparison to the true healing from the disease of sin.
I know there are some out there who like Philippe are in great discomfort, and in poor physical condition and can’t see how it is even possible to have an enriching life. But like Driss, in Jesus you have a friend who will teach you that it is possible even in your poor physical condition that an enriching life is still attainable. Unlike the unruly nature of Driss, Jesus is the gentle friend who comes that you might have life and have it more abundantly. Despite what physical ailments we may have, let us understand that the more severe ailment is our sin, and let us come to Jesus, our ultimate Healer who will never cast us away.
The individual’s body is liken to a house. It is an abode for the real person, the true one living inside, the inner man. We are told in the Bible that man consists of body, soul, and spirit. All three components are equally of immense importance to God which is why He made them all and deemed them “good”. There are some, often secular people that place an over emphasis on the body at times to the point that they forget altogether the “inner man”. They decorate it (speaking of the body) with stylish clothes and cosmetics, refine and sculpt it with rigorous exercise, darken its color with tanning. They are immediately drawn to others with nice looking houses. They speak to the “attractive” at the exclusion of the “less attractive”. Their whole lives seems driven by the body or the flesh — food and fun.
On the other extreme are those who disregard the flesh or body altogether, and focus solely on the spirit. The religious, Pharisee sort that spend their entire lives mechanically obeying religious rules and condemning in their hearts those “fleshly people” that do not share in their “spiritual enthusiasm”.
As the Greeks instructed us, “moderation in all things”. This is not to say that all things performed insufficiently on the one hand or excessively on the other, is rendered bad by virtue of the incorrect balance in practice. Rather, I believe what the Greeks meant when they instructed us so is the fault comes as a result of placing an impoverished or excessive interest in the wrong view of the purpose of a thing.
Here is what I mean. An obese man eats excessively and a man of poverty eats very little. Both are unhealthy. The obese man eats what is excessively bad — foods abundant in the sort of substances whose cumulative effects are of great detriment to his health — though the obese man as a byproduct also absorbs some necessary and healthy nutrients. The man of poverty equally suffers great detriment to his health by the lack of foods which provide the necessary nutrients in repairing his body. The man of good health is the man who has an excessive interest in the purpose of food. He is the one who is well read in nutrition, and understands the purposes of the various nutrients his meal consists of. His excessive interest in nutrition, not lack thereof, directs him to pick out the right balances of fat, carbs, and protein. Over his lifetime, he would have consumed a great number of meals, but they would have been meals carefully picked in light of his understanding of the purpose of food.
Likewise, the “fleshly” man and the “Pharisee” are equally spiritually unhealthy because of their lack of understanding of the purpose and intended design of the “human being”. All three components of the human — body, soul and spirit are interwoven and are intricately linked and dependent on each other. What is done in the body affects the soul and what is done in the soul affects the body. The more a house deteriorates on the outside as a result of bad elements, the less inhabitable it becomes. Similarly, a house left untidy, attracts insects, bugs, rats, and other such “niceties” that gradually eat away at the house, also leaving it less inhabitable. Whether from the outside or the inside, the end result is the same — an inhabitable house. Whether we are worldly or Pharisee, the end result is the same — an unhealthy soul.
In Matthew 12:25-26, Jesus having read the thoughts of the Pharisees, addresses them in this manner: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?…He that is not with me is against me!” In brief Jesus teaches us that the human has to be of a person of integrity. Integrity is derived from the word “integer”, which refers to “whole numbers”. Integrity means sticking to a side, being whole, not being divided. A Christian must either be completely Christian or not at all. To be a Christian and to live in disobedience of one’s Christian beliefs is a situation of a man divided against himself. “I would rather that thou were either cold or hot”.
Christianity encompasses the whole man. It is a religion that touches on every aspect of a person’s life. From what a person ought to do with his body, to what a person ought to do with his soul. Christianity leaves nothing out. Those who relegate Christianity to a matter of “mere spirituality” are ignorant of the fact that it has something to say about the body. Christianity gives us the right and true purpose of the “human” both bodily and spiritually. It instructs us that “bodily exercise is good, but spiritual exercise is better”. It is the true way to live and any person who becomes a Christian must be ready for it to dictate everything about their lives from what they do with their bodies to what they with their souls. Moderation in Christianity is no good at all. Excessive interest in Christianity is like the man of good health who has an excessive interest in good nutrition. Indeed, the excessive interest in Christianity directs a man to honor the intended design and purpose of being “human”.
In conversation with people whether we recognize it or not we are continually engaged in a study of the person whom we are conversing with. Sometimes we proactively try to get information by asking specific questions. What’s your name? Where are you from? But we do not end with such simple interview-like questions. After some time, we desire to take the conversations into higher depths of knowledge about the person. We desire for the person to be open with us, to disclose information about themselves which we haven’t even demanded of them. The conversations that most engage us are the ones with very few barriers, with minimal “noise” that do not subtract from the meaning of what is being said or contribute to the tendency for words to be misunderstood. We are social beings. We have an insatiable thirst to know in order to reduce our uncertainty and thereby be in better position to relate with our fellow beings.
The Bible continually uses interchangeably words like, the inner man, the hidden man, the soul, the spirit, or the heart of a man, when it speaks of the “true self” or the “real person” or whatever else you would like to call it. In conversation, what we really want to know about a person is not how they look, or anything about their outward appearance. We see them and thus it is information that is readily available to us. There is no need for conversation to know what the color of a person’s hair is. What we really want to know is the information that is hidden. What we really want to know is what a person’s favorite color is, what a person’s dreams and aspirations are, what a person likes and dislikes. In other words we seek information about the hidden man which we cannot possibly attain just by looking at a person but which we can only attain in conversation. You learn more about a person by their own words than by any other means.
In Matthew 12:34 Jesus reveals the secret to knowing a person. He says to the Pharisees “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. The Pharisees always touted themselves about as holy men. They practiced aloud spiritual disciplines and put on a show to deceive people into thinking that their hearts were really good. On the outside, haven’t engaged in conversation with them, the information that one got from observing the Pharisees was “here are people who are very righteous and holy and good”. But whenever there was a situation that required an expression of love, the Pharisees exposed themselves as the evil people they truly were. They were the first in line to stone the prostitute caught in adultery. They were the ones to criticize Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. In the end it is surprising that not the hardest of criminals were the ones to kill an innocent man, but it was the Pharisees who’s accusation nailed Jesus to the cross.
Jesus teaches us the secret by which we can truly know a person — out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The true person is revealed in what they say in casual conversation. When a man often casually jokes about being abusive to women, he is providing hints that he is an abusive man. When a person often makes bawdy jokes about sex, he is showing himself to be a man chiefly concerned and motivated by lust and not love. When a person often speaks words of negativity, they are showing themselves to be people of fear, people of tremendous worry and unremitting anxiety. The words of a man in casual conversation betray his attempt to cover up and hide who he really is. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things”.
In practical application, let us not ignore the hints that people provide us when we converse with them. Let us not downplay the lewd comments, the offensive jokes, the misogynist remarks, the angst and bitterness in tone of voice. To ignore them and to embrace all sorts of people is to admit into our circle evil friends who do not have our best interests at heart. Rather let us seek the company of the ones who constantly speak blessings. Let us limit admittance into our inner circle those grateful and loving hearts who are always in haste to say “thank you” or “I love you”.
When a person, for the first time begins to put aside their biases, prejudgments, and misconceptions, and undertakes an objective examination of the claims put forth by Christianity, consulting authoritative sources and doing everything in their power to truly understand what Christianity is really about, what a person finds in the end is an indisputable message that accounts for all of life. Religion is an attempt to answer the big mystery which is life. What is life? Why are we here? Doubtless many other religions come close to an answer. There is much wisdom and sense contained in the sacred pages of other religious text. But in math there is only one right answer and many ways of working out the problem might get you close. Likewise, when we set up the equation, life equals “x”, and undertake a process by which to solve this greatest mystery, many answers that religions provide will come close to the right answer. But on the most consequential of points, Christianity stands in stark contrast to all other religions. It is at this main point, that other religions turn in the wrong direction. In solving a math problem, one wrong turn is all that is needed to reach an incorrect answer. The problem ought to be solved correctly on all scores from beginning to end or else there can be no right answer.
Those who have allowed themselves the blessing of believing in Christianity have found day by day the truth of its message being confirmed. It becomes so obvious that a person becomes dumbfounded at how he or she could’ve believed anything else. In Matthew 13:13-15, Jesus Christ diagnoses why still many resist the truth of Christianity. “They’re hearts have waxed gross”. “They’re ears are dull of hearing”. “They’re eyes they have closed”. Unbelievers like believers come from all classes of society. There are members of the elite who believe in Christianity and who do not. There are people of poverty who believe in Christianity and who do not. Christianity does NOT contain an inherent exclusive quality which restricts it to particular groups of people. There are people of tremendous diversity and differences who share in common their belief in Christianity. The problem with people rejecting Christianity is an ardent attempt on the part of the individual to resist the truth of its message. People sit in church , hear a powerful sermon, are unable to find any inconsistencies in the logic of the message, yet will leave the service with no intention of practicing what they heard. People find themselves tossed about in the storms of life, cry out to God for help, and after help arrives forget all about the Helper. People find in themselves a great emptiness which they attempt to fill in various ways but continually refuse to admit to themselves how unsatisfied they still are. Indeed, I begin to see how fair a day of judgment will be. God, having done everything in His power to tell us the truth, from the beauty of creation to the message of the cross, has freed Himself from all blame if we in exercising our free will choose to harden our hearts, dull our ears, and close our eyes to the loud, clear and undeniable message of Christianity.
In the passage above Jesus identifies four distinct types of persons an audience consist of when a message is preached. A message need not be relegated to only a sermon. A message can take many forms. It could be by way of a lesson taught in class, lyrics from a song, story depicted by a movie, a theme explored in a book. The presenter of the message, whether it be a professor, a singer, an actor, or an author, hopes for their message to drop and take root in the hearts of their audience. They hope for their audience to leave the classroom, to let the lyrics echo long after the song fades, to leave the theatre, to put the book down with a renewed awareness and understanding of life that motivates and directs a desired action. The author therefore take many great pains in constructing a message that is tailored for the particular audience he is attempting to address. The same message though relevant to a wide range of people ought not to be communicated in the same manner to all. A message of courage must be taught differently to the soldier as it would be to the young boy attempting for the first time to ride his bicycle.
I have not all the time and do not wish to bore my audience with a lengthy study of each of the four distinct groups Jesus points out in the passage. For our present purposes, it would serve just as well to lump the first three types into one category, and to set the last apart in its own class. In brief, Jesus wants us to understand that there are two people in the end: those whose heart are unable to take possession of the fruit-bearing power of a powerful message and those who have so cultivated the acreage of their hearts in order that it can be fertile ground for the seed of a message. When we hear a presentation, that is to say any medium by which a message is communicated to us, we do not just listen to the message in a vacuum. There are prejudices and biases, relevant experiences and prior knowledge that we bring to bear in our interpretation of the message. Our prior knowledge of the story of David and Goliath, serves us well when the preacher’s sermon is entitled “Overcoming Your Giants”. A person who has never read or heard the story, though may hear the same sermon, will find it difficult to understand the parallels the preacher draws out between the story and how we can overcome our fears in our lives. To illustrate it another way, the benefit of a K-12 educational training serves us well when we take any course in university. A person who did not receive the same benefit though logically may be able to sit in the same classroom, read the same book, be taught by the same professor, is lacking of the necessary foundation that enables him to understand the complexity of a university-level subject.
This is why Jesus uses the fitting analogy of a farmer sowing seeds. The problem with the first three groups is that the foundation is not cultivated enough to be built on. The ground is not fertile enough to receive seed. There is still more fundamental work that needs to be done. The last group has avoided that problem by doing much former work to establish a strong foundation or to cultivate a fertile ground. As the Buddhist proverbs goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. It therefore shouldn’t surprise Christians who go evangelizing and are unable to win souls. Some people are just not ready for the message. As Christians we ought to practice patience in getting a person to understand the message of Christianity. We must get “down and dirty in the mud” so to speak, and help them to establish a better foundation. We must teach our unbelieving neighbors the fundamentals. We must talk to them not exclusively about the complex subject of “salvation” but must entertain them with simple stories like Noah’s Ark or the Adam & Eve. For in the end all these stories are fundamental in really understanding the message of the cross. All these messages have running through them the theme of salvation, and culminate in the grand story of the cross.
A father frets incessantly over the likelihood that his boss might give him the boot given the volatile swings in labor demand. He fixes a sober and gloomy gaze at the gentle, smooth, and soft faces of the daughters who mean the world to him and it further fans the flame of his worry. The parent leans over an ailing parent. Wrinkles etched into the forehead of the old frail woman who once upon a time was stunning in good looks, young and strong, of means enough to not only support a family but to shower her darlings with love and luxuries. The lover who once got on one knee and promised at the altar “till death do us part” now mourns uncontrollably at what were once mere words becoming a reality. Life is a voyage, and there come times where “in the midst of her seas, we are tossed about with waves, and the wind is CONTRARY.” Contrary to our expectations. Contrary even to what makes logical sense. That anguish we cry out summed up in the small but momentous question “Why?” never seems to receive an answer that suffices. In the passage above, Matthew presents the famous account of Jesus walking on the sea. Peter after being reassured that it was Jesus and not a spirit, exercises his little faith by coming out of the ship to meet Jesus. He takes a few hesitant steps on the water, amazed at his defying natural laws. But as the account goes, the winds grew boisterous and Peter grew fearful. In his fright his gaze shifted from his Savior to the winds, and he immediately began to sink. This short passage provides a great resource in dealing with the “storms of life”. Take note that Peter sank when he shifted his gaze from his Savior to the winds. Tony Robbins once told the story of a woman who had a terminal disease yet lived each day with such cheer that just by looking at her one could never get any inkling that her days were few. He asked what her secret was and she said “I don’t focus on my disease”. It is a fundamental truth that the way we feel is largely a function of what we focus on. If we find ourselves in life’s troughs, with no end to our problems in sight, we sink when we shift our focus from our Savior to our problems. Focus is a powerful tool that can cause a person who has everything to feel he lacks all and a person who lacks everything to feel he has all. A person can immediately begin to change the way they feel at any moment just by the simple tool of shifting focus. Focus is the lens by which we see our world and consequently feel about it. If all we see is problems then we will feel defeated. But if we see our Savior we will feel victorious, nay, light enough that it seems we are walking on water.