Learning and doing math is not and has never been one of my strong points. All through school, reading, English, lit, history, those were always the things I enjoyed and did well at, then came Math and I didn’t care as much. What am I supposed to do with this stuff anyways?! So not only did I not really get it, but I went into my math classes with a casual kind of indifference (we’ll call it what it was, I was cocky and thought I knew it all) just listening to the teacher with half a ear, never really trying no matter how often people told me I actually needed this stuff in my everyday life. I didn’t believe them until I ran into how math actually did work in the real world: from figuring out my checkbook balances to working in my wood shop on cabinetry, then I got a little less “know it all” a little more humble, and actually actively applied myself to learning how this math stuff works. Today, I’m definitely not a math whiz, but I get it and I get how to use it and I keep learning how to apply it in my life.
Take this same idea but ask how we approach our Christian faith. What do we do with bible studies, discipleship classes, sermons and worship? Do we approach it with a casual kind of indifference as well? We’re here, we do our thing, but we don’t take it out to the real world? Or maybe we just haven’t thought all that much about what we are supposed to do with this stuff that is being shared with us. It’s nice and all to know that Jesus died for you on a cross to save you from your sins but does it change how I live today? We talk about people and places 2, 3, 4 centuries before I was born what does that have to do with my life?
I know I can stand up here all day long and talk about how all of this is actually the most important thing in your life and we cannot live a faithful Christian life that leads to eternity with God and Godly living today without it till I pass out, but it is one of those things that we have to realize on your own to admit the reality of our own need.
Oftentimes this happens through the Holy Spirit poking and prompting you, those internal dialogue kind of questions: do I matter, does my life matter, am I loved, how do I know how much I’m worth? Often times it is a passage of Holy Scripture, something you heard in church, or from your Christian family. There are life events that force us to ask questions: I just got a lousy diagnosis from the doctor, I’ve lost my job, someone I love needs help or I’m a dad, I’m a mom, I’m married, I’m getting older. Events across the world: tens of thousands of refugees flee ISIS; refugee child’s body brought out of the water after drowning, international tensions are growing again.
These are moments that you run into, like my first time realizing that if I was going to deal with all of the angles of building cabinets and trim boards, I needed to figure out this whole math thing a little bit. These are moments that confront you with our need for God and our need for a savior. It’s like these moments happen and they unravel our tough exterior that says, “I know it all” and reveals our real need inside for the love and wisdom of God in our lives.
God has to something to say about our need. We teach Jesus Christ who died for our sins and through Jesus we know God and His love. This relationship we have with God is often a parental one, God our Father and we His dearly beloved children. As God’s children we come to Him with our need and our questions so we can hear the full counsel of God, God’s wisdom that applies to every area of our life.
Think of some of the things that God is saying to us in our readings today:
- From James 3:7. God has already provided for you every way to resist temptation and the devil and it starts with willingly receiving His love.
- James 3:10 Humble yourselves before God and will exalt you. It’s hard to admit we don’t know it all and we need to learn from someone else, but there is a promise there that God himself will lift you up with His wisdom in ways beyond our imagining.
- Or from the Gospel reading, in Mark 9:35, about being greatest and least, how God didn’t let anything stop him from coming to you, not even the lowliest of deaths, death upon a cross, that is how much you are worth.
- 9:37 God loves our little ones and welcomes them into His embrace.
The whole counsel of God, our heavenly Father teaching us His beloved children. When God is speaking to us, how good are we at listening to Him? Are we prepared to have our earlier ways of thinking taken apart so a new and godly way of thinking can open up inside of us? Have we learned something from the full counsel of God and taken it into our lives. This may be one of the hardest parts because we are so used to sitting and listening, but then taking God’s counsel and actively applying it is so much harder. But if we don’t, it would be like me finally learning about measuring degrees to cut the angles on my miter saw and still only chopping straight lines. Or letting God’s Word take seed and watered in your heart and mind but then stomping it down before it has a chance to grow into plants of Christian living.
A good place to start is asking some basic questions.
- What is God saying to my life and my heart, where His Words touching a need? This isn’t a “I hear what I want God to say,” kind of thing, instead everything is always through the love of God in Jesus and how I respond to that love in my life.
- In what ways is God calling me to respond to His Word and His Wisdom?
- What am I going to do about it? Depending on what’s going on in your life, from simply coming back to church and let God build you up when you’re broken to a particular person in your life that needs the blessing of forgiveness.
You’ll be surprised at how actively thinking through your Christian life can change your whole way of living, little by little, and you start get to much more out of God’s Word, sermons and Bible studies. When you are actively engaged in your own learning and growing your desires to learn and come back for more keeps getting stronger. The Bible gives a particular promise in this, that the more you open your mind and your heart to God’s Word working in your life you will experience the fruits of the spirit growing in your life, blessings like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.
Or in my life, we learn how to cut really good angles and better and better cabinets. Amen.