TRA 22nd September, 2002
Nothing and nowhere is secure any more. Sin is alive and well on Planet Earth. In the early hours after the terrorist attack on America, I e-mailed many friends and churches in America to give them the prayers and support of Australians. I wrote on your behalf: "The hearts of all Australians are with you in this unprecedented tragedy. God has heard our prayers throughout our night as we have watched through the night and will continue throughout the day. We pray that no further terrorist attacks will occur and that everything will be done for those thousands of people dead, injured and traumatized in New York, Washington and wherever Americans at home feel violated. The sympathy of all Australians is with you. Our love and support is with you. If there is anything else we can do, we will do it. Americans have no other nation that so genuinely loves America and Americans than Australia. God bless you."
Wesley Mission was probably the first church to respond from our nation. Before the sun was up, we had organized more than a hundred prayer meetings, support for fragile people in this country who would be deeply affected, calls to support Americans in this country included those on our own staff and in the USA. The minister from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York told me he was numb as he went about his work trying to comfort people. He wrote, "I have over a hundred church members who work in the World Trade Towers." Rev Tim Keller reported that he had not yet heard of anyone from the church among the killed. However, Tim Keller says, "I can't help believe that there are some." The church is preparing to help New Yorkers deal with the trauma.
He says, "We have to address the fear and the problem of hate. Right after the Sunday service, we are going to have a memorial service for everyone that died. We are going to cancel our classes, mourn our losses and thank God for the home-going of Christians." He says churches need to respond to the hatred for the terrorists. "If those towers hadn't come down, I think it would have been different. Their collapse was much more horrific and will forever stand for an intrusion, a hostile attack. It was satanically brilliant. I felt a hatred in me, so we are going to have to deal with that too."
The attack of September 11 was not only an attack on the United States; it was part of an ongoing assault on humanity. This was an attack both long in coming and rooted deep in something within all of us that needs to be checked. Our reaction is that we must stop such vile sin. But to stop sin, one must change the heart, the tendency to think selfishly. Those who undertook this terrorist attack had been taught since childhood to hate. So hate they did. That is the world we live in. On September 11, 2001, we saw its darkness explode in living colour. We have to examine the insecurities and hatred in our own hearts and teach young people how to live now. Too many young people have no sure foundation for the building of their lives. They have no solid basis of morality by which they can judge their actions and no sure example from their homes on which they can model their behaviour. They are building their lives on the ideas and behaviour patterns of other kids, and modelling their futures on television and music stars. They are building on sand. Half the problems faced by adults are due to feelings of insecurity.
Jesus once underlined the absolute necessity for security at the base of any person's life with dramatic parable. He said: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain will come down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish many who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matt 7:24-27
We are living in a time of storms; terrorism, famines, AIDS, poverty, drug addiction, racism, and homelessness. Jesus spoke with profound insight into the nature of humanity, and with bluntness about the consequences of those who ignore His standards. Note the implications:
MANY PEOPLE ARE INSECURE
Many people are insecure. Frequently that insecurity is obvious and they have learned to handle it. Sometimes that insecurity springs up suddenly because of a surprise trauma. Rev. Venetta Singh-Lucas, our Chaplain at Frank Vickery Village responded to my early morning call to all Chaplains to hurry to our aged care centres, mental hospitals and centres where we have people at risk. She found such insecurity and put off her annual holidays to be with residents who had been traumatised. Several have relatives in USA and were fearful for their safety. A number were fearful concerning a possible outbreak of World War Three. The trauma of World War Two still lives within them.
Many elderly have deep insecurities. Some fear becoming ill alone. An increasing number fear home invasions. Little children feel insecure when left in the dark. Businessmen feel insecure when creditors do not pay and the bank charges them harsh interest rates. Unionists feel insecure about their job security. The HIH and Ansett collapses impacted on peoples' insecurities. A survey of 275 university students found that over 90% lacked self-confidence and felt insecure. Wesley Mission is a place where an insecure person can find a welcome and sense of security. You always find many winners in a church like this because they were once insecure people who have found the secret of true security. Most people go through periods of great insecurity. Only significant positive relationships in their lives can make the difference. I know no better place for a person with insecurity than the Church, because here you will find a solid rock foundation.
HUMAN INSECURITY IS WELL HIDDEN
Most people do not observe the insecurities because people cover them well. The point about the two men in the parable of Jesus, was that they both built good houses in nearby locations and from the road it was impossible to notice any external difference. There was none obvious to the eye. People are like that. The insecurity is often well hidden. Their insecurities are hidden deep within. According to psychiatrists, it is so deep that they might not even know themselves. Who would guess that the teenager, who dresses in all the symbols of peer acceptance, is but covering a deep-seated insecurity? Those shouting trade union protesters simply fear for their future. Those hate filled skin-heads are deeply insecure about life. That business entrepreneur who spends money on lavish works of art, and large social functions where invitations are sent to all the significant people in the community, is but papering over his insecurities with hundred dollar notes. Jesus understood this facet of human nature and in His parable He made the two houses indistinguishable. The difference lay in one house built on insecure foundations and another house built on rock. Jesus knew insecurity is well hidden. He also knew that:
ULTIMATELY ONLY GOD IS OUR SECURITY
Jesus knew that the secret of our inner security lay in nothing we possess, but in what possesses us. We read of people putting their trust in people, who promise them high interest and remarkable returns on their money. Greed and false trust combines to make people place their savings in some never-fail investment system that promises great tax-free returns quickly. But the systems fail and people turn out to be untrustworthy. People can be so gullible. When will we learn that our insecurities cannot be answered by human promises?
Other people put their trust in things by seeking a big bank balance, large houses, new cars, a more significant job, and social status in the hope that things will give them security. But do people find ultimate security in things? Security does not lie in accumulating wealth, possessions and status. Jesus spoke of a wealthy man who sought to find security in things. This successful man said: "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods." Luke 12:18
He said to himself: "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry." But that very night, a clot of blood moved in an artery and shifted to the brain and "God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" Jesus said: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Jesus speaks with common sense: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matt 7:25. Nothing is more important than the fact that we build our lives on the solid Rock that is secure against all storms. That rock is our relationship with Jesus Christ. That is something that many people cannot accept. They cannot see why Jesus should become the solid rock security to their future. That is not a new problem. Even in the early church people found Jesus Christ a rock over whom they stumbled. The Apostle Paul put it like this: "As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Romans 9:33. The Apostle Peter made the same point: "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message, which is also what they were destined for." 1 Peter 2:8. Jesus causes many to stumble, but they who trust in Him find true security, rock solid.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against those Christians who said they were followers of His but who did nothing about it, and those Christians who knew Him and who had heard His word, but who did not put it into practise. These listened to the Word of God and understood it, but do not build their lives upon it. They may fool the rest of us for a long time, but when the storms come, it will be revealed they have no real foundations! Then it will be seen that they have built upon sand!
Jesus says neither saying the right words nor possessing the right facts is enough - Christianity is a faith that must be seen in practise. There is no substitute for obedience. The real test is not whether we say the right thing or even know the right thing, it is whether we do the right thing. Our faith starts with belief and trust, but must be expressed in obedience and good deeds. As James 1:22 puts it: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
To build your life upon Him is to build upon a firm foundation. You may not look any different from the others in your street, but when the crisis occurs, when the calamity strikes, when the storms blow, when the disaster falls, when fire rains from the sky, then it will be obvious to everyone that you have build upon solid rock. You are left standing! Many people have deep insecurities. They are often hidden. The most important thing you can do is to make your decision to build your life upon that solid rock, Jesus Christ, so that when the storms come, when the fire falls, you may continue to stand rock solid.
If you would like to receive a printed copy of Word Talk via mail, you can subscribe for just $15 per year. Please contact us on 02 9263 5555, or write to:
Turn 'Round Australia
PO Box A5555
Sydney South, 1235