In what and whom do we really really put our trust? We all have three levels of needs: physical needs, for food and shelter; emotional needs, for family and friends; spiritual needs, for a clear conscience and purpose. Into whose hands do we commit our needs? Where do we lay to rest our worries?
Mark Twain once said that he had faced many troubles in his life, few of which had ever happened. As you and I peer into the mists of an uncertain future, do we trust in our bank accounts, or commit our needs to friends and family? Jesus Christ calls us to lay to rest our worries in Him, to trust in Him against an uncertain future.
The word “believe” comes from “by-live,” that is, “live by.” What we believe is what we live by. Do we who believe in Christ live by the promise of His care?
There is an old Arabian legend about two sheiks of the desert who grew date palms. One sheik worried constantly over his trees. When the boughs seemed dry he prayed for rain, and it rained. When the limbs seemed too moist he prayed for sunshine, and it came. When the trunks seemed limp he prayed for frost to strengthen them. With so much asking and changing, the trees died.
Fearing starvation, he journeyed across the desert to the prospering orchard of another sheik, seeking advice. The latter said, “I have prayed to God only this: ‘For my date palms, Thou, O Lord, knowest what is best,’ and lo, the trees have brought forth fruit abundantly.”
Each has a need — physical, emotional, or spiritual — which he hoped to have fulfilled by something or someone other than Jesus. Each had a worry he did not trust to Christ.
The first man was overflowing with enthusiasm. He was ready to follow Jesus anywhere! Or was he?
Jesus never lured anyone into the kingdom with a sugar-coated gospel. Jesus was not after decisions; He was after disciples. Jesus warned His followers to count the cost, to bear their cross, to realize what the giving over of self to His lordship meant.
And Jesus knows what is in a man. To him Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”
This man must have been accustomed to the comforts of home. The parallel account in Matthew tells us this man was a scribe, and as such led a secure, contemplative life. It was a Jewish custom for a rabbi to be supported by a disciple. The scribe may have been expecting to share in such support.
In any case, this scribe could not follow the call of Christ into an uncertain future without knowing in advance where the next meal was coming from and where he was to spend the night. He had to have something tangible to count on!
How many of us are like that? How many of us need just to pay off the mortgage on our home and then we will be secure, or just that next promotion and our worries are through. John Paul Getty, perhaps once the richest man in the world, was once asked how much money it would take to make him happy. He replied, “Always just a little bit more.”
Another man on the Jerusalem road is called by Jesus to follow Him. The man simply asks to say farewell to his family. But Jesus’ strong rebuke shows the motive behind this request was not healthy.
This man wanted the support and approval of his family in his decision to follow Christ. He did not want discipleship to alienate his family. He did not want to burn any bridges.
We all need love and a sense of acceptance. We cannot live as human beings without them. Each of us is part of a small enclave of people — usually a family — in which our emotional needs are met. We look to these people for solace and comfort, for love and joy. Yet to totally entrust our emotional needs to mortal men is to build our house upon sand.
Here is where the prospective disciple on the Jerusalem road had difficulty. Would his family approve of Jesus? Would his family allow him to become a disciple? He would return home before making any decisions. And Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was passing by for the last time. In a few days He would be hung on a cross. The man must decide now. And he must decide alone. Now or never. All or nothing.
There on the Jerusalem road Christ calls yet another man. This one asks leave to bury his father, a very noble, filial desire. Still, Christ sees what is truly in a man.
The duty of burial was the highest duty in all Jewish law. It took precedence over prayer, over the study of the Law, over Temple services, and over even the Passover feast. This man was a devout Jew, striving to fulfill the letter of the Law. And therein lay the problem.
Christianity is distinct from all other religions in that these prescribe a set of rules whereby man reaches up to God; only in Christianity does God reach down to man. God in Jesus Christ was reaching out to this man, but he was too busy with his own efforts.
This is our temptation, also. You and I have spiritual needs crying to be met: a need for a clear conscience, a need to worship Someone bigger than ourselves, a need to have meaning in our lives.
Just as with our physical and emotional needs, we trust in this world’s provision to meet them. We whitewash our conscience with rules, moralisms, and taboos. Abraham Lincoln once complained that too many people consider themselves Christians simply because they are decent enough to keep out of jail.
We starve our need to worship on the dry crusts of dull, institutional formality. We replace meaning and purpose with a hurried schedule, thinking if we just move fast enough we won’t worry about where we are going. Jesus Christ is alive. He should be the focus of our worship and the meaning to our lives.
As Christians we do not deny that we have God-given needs of body, soul, and spirit. But as Christians we ask ourselves where we put our confidence. Do we calm our worries with thoughts of our bank accounts, our families, or our church attendance? Or do we rest in the knowledge that with us in an uncertain future is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, our Lord and our God, whose grace is sufficient for every need?
In the face of uncertainty, do we truly cast our burdens upon Him? As the three men in the Scripture lesson, each one of us on our own Jerusalem road meets Jesus Christ, and each one of us is asked by Him, “In whom do you trust?”
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