Earle D. Treptow
A recent college graduate, with what appeared to be a bright future, tried to end her life. Her boyfriend of three months, who she thought was “the one,” had broken off their relationship. Without him, she could see no reason to live. No one loved her, and no one ever would. Or so she felt.
A young man, for whom his teachers and mentors had harbored high hopes, moved from one crime to the next, from petty theft to grand larceny to armed robbery. Only when he had money in his pocket could he experience joy in living. Or so he felt.
To hear such stories—and stories like that multiply—is to come face-to-face with the identical issue, though revealed in different outward manifestations. People regularly look in the wrong places for joy, meaning, and purpose in life. They’ve been misled by their sinful flesh and deceived by the Liar. The recent college graduate and the young man, as it turns out, have the same need. They both need to hear God’s Word. That should be said more strongly: They desperately need to hear what God has to say, both about their sinfulness and about his gracious solution to the problem they cannot solve. You can probably identify a few people who rise to your top ten list of “people in our life who desperately need to hear God’s Word.”
But then the devil sees an opportunity. He seeks to convince us that we are slightly different. Yes, we need to listen to God’s Word, but we are not like those who desperately need to hear it. The difference between “need” and “desperately need” is subtle, but significant. While we still recognize our need to hear the Savior speak to us, we consider it far more critical for those who do not know God’s love to hear the Word of God.
In heart and mind, we begin to think that our need for God’s Word is like our need for exercise. All would readily acknowledge the importance of exercise and its value for a person’s physical and emotional health. But, as some of us have proven, one can continue to live even without vigorous exercise four days a week. Some of us have skipped exercise—or at least skimped on it—when life is busy, and we have lived to tell about it. We may need exercise, but apparently, we don’t desperately need exercise.
But is that our relationship with the Word of God? One might compare it instead to our relationship with oxygen. We desperately need oxygen; without it we die. We don’t just need to listen to our Savior. We desperately need to sit at Jesus’ feet and hang on his words, for they alone give and sustain life. The devil loves it when we think that it’s others who desperately need the Word and we don’t.
Think of what Jesus said to Martha when she was frustrated with her sister. Martha thought Mary should have been helping her serve the Savior and support him in his ministry to those who desperately needed to hear his Word. She felt that there would be other times for Mary to listen to Jesus teach. The Lord’s words to Martha were clear and powerful: “Only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:42 NIV 1984). Mary recognized that she didn’t just need to listen to her Savior; she desperately needed to do so.
So do we.
Contributing editor Earle Treptow, president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon.
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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 8
Issue: August 2019
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