How often do we hear the words of Jesus yet fail to listen to him? How many times are we engaged in the struggles and pitfalls of earthly life and forget that Jesus showed us the way? In reality, it happens all too often. As a pastor, I sometimes wonder if Christians really understand the words God spoke when he said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Recently I had an opportunity for conversation with a colleague during which he made the statement, “I wonder if the words from my mouth spoken on Sunday make any difference in people’s lives Monday through Saturday?” His thought process was such that he cited Bible studies and sermons based on the Sermon on the Mount, parables of Jesus and the revelation of God’s power made evident through Christ’s miracles and wonders. Truth be told, I often have this same thought. Do Christians listen and apply the words of Holy Scripture, or is the Bible simply viewed as an ancient voice that gives advice from time to time?
As individuals, families and congregations struggle with the many challenges in life, we tend to look for the “fix” or the “remedy” for our troubles. We begin looking at bank accounts and bottom lines. In our churches, we wonder why it is that only a few members end up doing the bulk of the work. These are realities, but they are in no way the faithful first steps of a disciple of Jesus. All too often we get caught up listening to the voice of struggle, frustration and apathy that we forget God is still speaking. We need to hear God’s voice and listen to his Son.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us to pray, to love others, to forgive and refrain from judging, to give generously and to serve the neediest among us without holding back. Through his parables, our Lord teaches us the way of sacrificial love, what it means to be stewards, managers and caretakers of all God provides. The many miracles, signs and wonders of Jesus point to the power of God’s love and the faithful assurance of his promises, so that in all situations, the people of God can know Christ is Lord, our ever present help in times of trouble.
God is not distant; he is close to his people. His love is real; it’s not some imaginary force bringing momentary respite from worry. Prayer is our means to grow in relationship to God; it’s not just a gratuitous gesture before a meal or an opening to meetings. Holy Scripture speaks God’s Word and its teaching is foundational for all aspects of human life.
So how do we know if our worship, sermons and Bible studies make a difference? Well, if you don’t know where to find the teaching of Jesus, you’re not reading enough. If you’re consumed with worry about issues in daily life, you’re not praying enough. If your offering to the church seems burdensome, or is given without thought, you’re not giving enough. If you grumble about the homeless and the poor begging along the roadside, you’re not loving enough. In short, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (A nice place to start would be looking up this verse.)