A Rock Amidst Shifting Sand

It’s hard not to be disillusioned with almost everything and everyone.

We’re surrounded, world-wide, with stories of corruption, blame, digging dirt, and smoke and mirrors. Opinions are a dime a dozen, and everything seems in a constant state of flux and uncertainty, as if we’re living on quicksand.

Perhaps we are are.

What if it’s not surprising? A predictable consequence of a loss of direction, loss of foundation, loss of moral integrity. It’s each for their own, expediency ‘trumps’ experience, corrupting power, short cuts, short memories, short conversations, short attention spans – short circuits. Sparks flying, power outages, darkness everywhere.

Nothing is new. In the early days of Israel God gave direction, foundation, promises, and protection. The people looked around at those who neither knew nor cared about ‘their God’. They turned their back on the One from whom they’d been formed crying, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” Read the account in 1 Samuel 8. God warns them of the consequences of trusting in a king of their choosing rather than Him. His words fell on deaf ears and their choice left them in constant turmoil, battles, defeats, and chaos.

The last verse of the Book of Judges (which describes the time leading up to Samuel) is chilling. “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)

We do exactly the same as individuals. We’ve forgotten how to look up, or inward with patient thoughtfulness. We’d rather look around and define our truths from a horizontal plane; looking in the mirror , looking around, envying others and drawing our conclusions from what we see through scratched cataracts and distorted lenses. As we see fit.

Where are the leaders who speak truth whatever the personal cost? Where are the leaders who cast aside personal ego, political games and alliances, and short term rewards? Where are leaders who will declare a truth and vision that rises above partisanship? And I’m not talking about Christians rising up to judge and force their beliefs on all and sundry. We’re rising higher than that. True leadership, democracy and freedom, provides a safe environment and opportunity for all to live whatever their belief systems. And in that environment there is freedom to have conversations sifting through perspectives as we seek after ‘truth’.

The trouble is that we live in a similar time where the thought of God leading is largely dismissed and rejected as narrow, or mindless fanciful thinking. I’m sympathetic with this dismissal partly because when Christians do get the opportunity to influence they’re too often self righteous, judgmental and come across harsh. They tend to reflect Old Testament prophets and rulers rather than the One who appeared in human form, spoke truth, laid down His life in courageous love, and rose in defiant victory. It’s easier to speak beliefs than it is to incarnate and model the substance of those truths.

The vast majority of Christians have a foot in both camps. They stand on one leg to speak about what they believe and what God is doing (on their side of course). Then they switch to the other leg to work, accumulate wealth, provide security for their family, and to keep up with the neighbors. After all, “God doesn’t want us to suffer and His favor brings wealth to His children who follow His ways.” Which is heretical nonsense. Just ask First Century Christians, Third World believers today, and many noble souls following Jesus as best they can and living with the bare minimum of resources. They vastly outnumber the ‘have’s’.

Over two thousand years ago in a dry and arid land Jesus told a story to illustrate a point. It was a controversial and politically offensive story that challenged the status quo but sounded quite harmless at first hearing. The story was about a wise man building a house on rock and a foolish man building his house on sand.

It’s a story that’s been turned into a children’s song and produces laughter and certainly conveys truth even in that format. The controversial piece is where Jesus describes a solid foundation emerging when people listen to His words and put them into practice. The sand is described as those who hear His words and do not put them into practice. The key is not in hearing, or even agreeing. The key is to put into practice the words and teaching of Jesus.

It goes even further than that because He also says elsewhere that apart from him we can do nothing. It’s therefore his teaching in the context of relationship with him that transforms a foundation into something lasting and capable of withstanding the inevitable storms.

This is a principle that can’t be abstracted out into ‘them’. It is basic. As I seek to appropriate Jesus’ teaching in my head and his sacrificial love in my heart a foundation will be formed that will be my rock. From that place only do we discover revelation and light that will spread outward and begin to impact others and the environment.

What does this mean pragmatically for me today? Quite simply; do I live my life as best I know how as a servant of God, Jesus, my King? Or do I ‘go it alone’ living as ‘I see fit’ with ‘me’ front and center of every decision, choice, and action?

I’m quite aware that this statement sounds simplistic. But if we want to see deep and lasting change, whether politically, socially, or even regarding Global Warming, then the state of the individual human heart is crucial to attend to. Which is really what this whole blog ultimately highlights. Let’s stop pointing fingers and waiting for others to change or to provide our value. It’s a cliche but true. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world by quite simply offering ourselves to God. Affirm Him as King of your land (personal life) and then attend to what’s at hand in your environment and world.

I find it a relief to know I’m not alone and that I don’t have the wisdom to live in this chaotic world without substantial help. And even when I think I know, and acclaim Jesus as my Lord and King, I still get so much wrong and have a long way to go. But as the wonderful artist Charlie Mackesy says in one of his drawings: “Look how far we’ve come.”

Perhaps others need to see a different expression of God’s love and grace before they believe that there is indeed a rock worth standing upon. One which they can lean into and place the weight of their lives upon. One whom they can trust and discover for themselves what the first disciples declared to Jesus: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68)

Perhaps we can help? I hope so.

A great way to start is to simply kneel and acknowledge the One who is King of kings. The posture will touch your heart and open your mind to know what words cannot describe or convey. To help, here’s Hillsong leading “King of Kings.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of5IcFWiEpg

John Cox

Offering Pastoral Counselling to encourage, heal, transform, and give hope.

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