Various Community Resources: Good- But What Do We Need Most?
Andrew Murray, a 19th Century South African writer, teacher, and pastor was in Scotland one day, conversing with a company of people about what message was most needed to be preached in his time. One godly worker in the gathering answered very quietly and simply and determinedly: "Absolute surrender to God is the one thing” (Murray, Absolute Surrender, 1859, chapter 1, p.1).
If someone were to ask you the same question, "What message is most needed to be preached today?" given all that is going on in the world, what would you say? Tolerance? Peace? Love of neighbor? Let by-gones be by-gones? Judge not? What is the message that is true for all and that all most need to hear?
In Mark 2 four men brought to Jesus one of their friends. Their friend was paralyzed. They brought him to Jesus lying on a mat in the belief that Jesus had the power to heal him and cause him to walk again. When they got to where Jesus was teaching, the crowd of people was so thick that they could not get close to Him. As a result they climbed onto the roof of the house Jesus was teaching from, dug through the mod-podge ceiling and lowered their friend down in front of Jesus and the crowd. When Jesus saw what they were doing and gazed into the eyes of the paralyzed man now in front of Him, he said, "Son, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).
If we de-spiritualize this encounter a bit we can imagine the surprise of the parayzed man and his friends after Jesus said, "Son, your sins are forgiven". We can almost imagine the paralyzed man looking wide-eyed at Jesus and after a few seconds saying, "Thank you for the forgiveness of my sins...but that's not what I am here for. As you can see I have a much bigger problem I need help with."
The paralyzed man came to Jesus in faith that Jesus could help him with his biggest problem (his broken body). In reading the rest of the story (Mark 2:6-12) we find that indeed Jesus can help him with his biggest problem! But before Jesus healed the paralyzed man He made it clear to him that what he thought was his biggest problem was not actually his biggest problem.
Think about it: everyone in the city of Capernaum would have agreed that this man's biggest problem was that he could not walk or care for himself. Not only that, everyone would have agreed that he more than anyone else in the city had the biggest problems. Everyone would have looked at the plight of this paralyzed man and felt better about their own situation. They would have said, "I guess my life is not that bad. At least I am not paralyzed." The entire city of Capernaum would have been in concensus that the citizen who had it the worst was the paralyzed man on Elm St.
This is why the surprise would have been so shocking. The citizen with the biggest problem was brought to Jesus and Jesus told him, "That's not your biggest problem." You can almost hear the crowd say, "Really! Do you see a bigger problem!?"
What's the biggest problem in Laconia? Poverty? Drugs? Alcohol? Domestic Abuse? Suicide? Education? Broken families? Each of these are big problems, I agree. In fact we have various organizations in the city specifically designed to address each of these issues and more. But are these our biggest problems? Jesus would say "No". Jesus would say that our biggest problem is the same as the paralyzed man's biggest problem: sin.
The Bible tells us that every problem in the world from poverty to oppression to wars to hurricanes to sexual abuse to drugs to disease to terrorism to racism is a result of sin. In the case of disease, however, it is not as if we sinned and therefore we have a disease, although sometimes this is true as with an STD. Instead it is that disease exists in the world because sin exists in the world. In other words before there was sin (Garden of Eden) there was no disease or poverty or terrorism. The Bible tells us of a time when all of our problems did not exist and of a future time when Jesus will return to restore everything to its original goodness. In this way our biggest problem personally and our biggest problem collectively is the same: sin.
I am a strong advocate for the many human resource organizations we have in Laconia today. In fact I am involved in a few of them. These organizations are doing good things and should continue to do the good things they are doing. But if we were to place our particular organizations on a mat and lower them before Jesus I believe He would say to us, "You are working for a good cause and I am willing to help you with it. But that's not your city's biggest problem. Your biggest problem is sin."
What we need most in Laconia and all over the world for that matter, is an organization to help us with our biggest problem: sin. It is the church of Jesus (the people of Jesus really) that has been commissioned all over the world to communicate the Gospel of Jesus to people. The Gospel of Jesus tells us that we are all more sinful than we ever dared imagine and at the same time more loved than we ever dared hope. It tells us that our sin is at fault for all the darkness in the world but that Jesus Christ came to Earth to make it all His fault. The Gospel tells us that mankind could not extract himself from the pit of his sin so God came down to die in the pit of our sin for us. How does this answer the world's problem? It flattens us. It humbles us. It takes away any confidence we have in our ability to save ourselves. It daily reminds us that we dug our pit of darkness and we need a Savior to get us out of it. The problem with the world is not them, or that group or that political party. The problem with the world is the sin inside each one of us that will sink us if we do not float on Jesus.
In excitement for launching a new church gathering in Laconia in the Fall!