There is a long-standing slogan to which many have committed themselves over the years: “politics and religion don’t mix.” There are also many who refuse to stop there. Education and religion don’t mix. Science and religion don’t mix. Business and religion don’t mix. The question is, does religion mix with anything? Is it intended to exist only within the four walls of a church building or the confines of a prayer closet?
Several years ago a Chandler priest, accused of sexual misconduct, confessed to nearly 2,000 sexual encounters with males (22 of them juveniles). He said, “I did my job and I did it well; I didn’t let either of those two worlds, my secret sex life or my life as a priest, overflow into the other.” Do you really think that is possible? Can someone who is born again, filled with the Spirit, released from all sin and guilt and kept by the abiding grace of God continue to live a “normal” life (that is, never let it touch the other areas of his life)? I don’t think so. Neither did Jesus.
Jesus recognized the evil influence of the Prince of Darkness upon the popular practice of “secret discipleship.” He saw it as a strategy to nullify the influence of God’s people upon the world. Thus, Jesus’ appropriate conclusion was that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bowl…”instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
I think the challenge for us to cease viewing our faith as only one of the many hats we wear in life. Instead, we should see it as it truly is, the head upon which all the other hats rest.
A lady named Marge once voiced her complaint in a personal advice column. She said, “I’m 44, husband same age (swell guy). We get along OK...no drinking, no gambling, no skirt chasing. He has a good job and our home is paid for. Our children are healthy and normal. They do well in school and the three older ones have never caused us any trouble. So why am I writing? Because my life is blah. Something is missing. It’s like stew without salt. I feel a certain emptiness. What is it?”
I suspect that the number of people who could identify with “Marge” are numerous. They have worked hard to obtain the good life only to find that it is flat and tasteless, and happiness continues to elude them. Let me give you an important message from the Apostle Paul: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). “Treasure in jars of clay”. What a powerful image. Paul is not describing a fantasy or a special case, nor is he indulging in wishful thinking. He states emphatically that whoever accepts Jesus Christ and takes God seriously is the possessor of enormous treasure. But the context of that promise has to do with taking risks. It is only when we spend ourselves, take on difficult tasks and place ourselves in jeopardy for His sake that we begin to discover the ample resources He has already placed in our hands. I know many “Marges” who sit in church services every week listening to the promises of God but who never make any serious attempt to prove Him right or wrong. Their lives are flat and tasteless too.
The solution is simple. Those clay jars full of treasure weren’t meant to gather dust but to be invested. Put your life to work. Take on a task you’ve never done before. Do something risky for Jesus Christ. Jesus himself pointed the way to the abundant life when He said, “I have not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give my life a ransom for many.” Follow that example and you’ll never experience emptiness again.
I was once asked by an Elder’s wife to preside at the funeral service for her sister. She was a local resident with many friends and a very large family. But I was not prepared for the crowd that filled the cemetery chapel on that bright Spring day in Cincinnati. There were well over 200 people assembled for that service.
As I arose to speak I immediately noticed two unusual things: first, the crowd was more attentive than any I could ever remember addressing. Funeral services normally present wonderful opportunities for communicating truths about life and about God. Many people who have never intentionally listened to spiritual things before can be forced by the circumstances to experience a momentary opening of the heart. But this crowd was more than open. They were as alert as a company of soldiers being addressed by their commander before going into battle. It was a solemn attentiveness. A second thing I noticed was the unusual freedom of my mind. It was more relaxed and alert than at any time I could remember. In other words, I was given control of the moment and I knew it. I began by referring to common questions that arise in people’s minds at times like these: “”Why am I here on earth?” “Is there any purpose for my existence?” and “Where am I going after I die?” I understood my opportunity and took advantage of it by lovingly pressing upon them the importance of a relationship with God before our time here also runs out. As the service concluded and I awaited the dismissal of the people by the attendant, It seemed that everyone was still in some sort of trance. Of course, I knew what had happened. We had all experienced a genuine visitation of God. But just why, what He was trying to accomplish, and with whom, was not for me or anyone else to know.
I have often reflected upon that experience and the way God put those words in my mouth. Regardless of the many distractions of life, people are still struggling with the deeper issues reflected by those questions. It is that same set of questions that linger in peoples’ minds today. Try as it might, this materialistic culture of ours cannot totally eclipse the real meaning of life. We need to understand this fact. And we need to understand that God presents us all with opportunities like the one I had experienced. Families, friends, co-workers may try their best to run away from God but the loving Father brings them all, sooner or later, to that moment of clarity where they can be reached with the gospel. The big question is: will there be anyone available and prepared to share it with them,. Therefore, always be alert to the opportunities God will give you to address those questions that just will not go away.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship