Taking Root in the Word
Adapted sermon by Chin Aun Quek—Singapore
roots in the storm
There was once a large tree that
fell in a storm, much to the surprise of the locals. When they dug up the
roots, they noticed that they did not extend very far into the earth. Indeed,
it was discovered that the environment in which the tree had grown was very
accommodating; its soil was abundant in nutrients and water, and locals would
generously throw fertilizers around the tree. The roots of the tree therefore
had no need to strive in search of nutrients or water for themselves.
There hadn’t been any past storms in the area, so when a terrible tempest
arose, all the large and small trees that had short roots fell to the ground.
Is our faith cultivated in a similarly
protected environment? If disaster unexpectedly brewed in our lives, could our
faith withstand the test of a storm? Or would we realize, then, how shallow our
roots really go?
In Jesus’ parable of the seeds,
some of the seed fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and
immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was
up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away (Mk 4:5–6).
Growing our roots has to start
from a young age. Without strong and deep roots, we will wither away when the
sun comes up, no matter how sturdy or beautiful we may appear to be on the
outside. Perhaps at present we are thankful for our belief in God, for church
and for pleasant circumstances. Yet even though we might be living in times of
peace, we have to understand that hard times will inevitably come our way.
Why do people forsake their faith
during such times? Often, it is because they have rooted themselves with a
mistaken view of the church. Some see the church as a mere social club, a
welfare organization or even a place for therapy; they enjoy the sacred music,
friendships and serenity. When such members no longer find the pleasures for
which they come, and when they meet with temptations, it is only natural that
they become disappointed and uprooted.
How does a truly rooted faith come
into being? Does it germinate through prayer? The disciples once asked the Lord
to add to their faith, and we too can certainly ask for faith in prayer. Nonetheless,
faith does not stem from prayer alone. Perhaps God worked a miracle for us
because of our prayer, which we take as a reflection of our faith. Yet, at the
same time, many who once personally experienced miracles and signs are also
those who rebelled against God’s teachings. In the end, they fell in the face
of calamity and temptation. Why was their faith not securely rooted?
Paul tells us: “So then faith
comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17).
He also says to the Colossians:
He has reconciled you in the body of His flesh through death, to
present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you
continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the
hope of the gospel which you heard…. (Col 1:21–23).
In fact, it is the word of God
that keeps us grounded in faith. God’s word is spirit and life, a living hope.
With this living hope, we can have the strength to face all kinds of
temptations and setbacks, which is why the church so often emphasizes the
speaking of the word. Sometimes we overlook the importance of listening to the
word. We cease to pay our undivided attention to sermons and we find ourselves
anticipating the arrival of the conclusion. But let us remember that soaking in
the word is crucial for our faith to take root. We must humbly search into the
word of Christ through sermons, fellowship and our own personal Bible reading.
When we come across words that prick our consciences, let us not feel irritated
or, worse still, gradually quench the working of the Holy Spirit, but allow the
Holy Spirit to work in us through the word of God.
Once we have soaked in the word of
God through the Holy Spirit’s help, we need to take root in it.
This process needs to be weaved into our daily lives. Take decision-making, for
example. We face education, career and relationship crossroads, as well as
day-to-day behavioral choices. If we neglect the word as our guide, we grapple
for what we feel we need based on our emotions or our worldly desires. Many
Christians wish to know the will of God for them in big decisions, but we must
first apply His word starting from the small, everyday choices.
To those around us, do we
speak words of peace or of enmity? Do we go out of our way to help others, or
are we in a rush to finish our daily tasks? Are we actively involved in God’s
work every day, or only when there is time to spare? If we make the conscious
decision to consult the Bible for practical reminders and act accordingly with
the help of the Holy Spirit, it is far easier to please God when it comes to
making the bigger decisions in our lives. As the word of God takes root in us
and we strive to make it common practice, we naturally make God-centered
choices in the big things. While others worry over whether they made the right
choice, we will have the passion to glorify God and be a blessing to others,
whatever our situation. We will be at peace, knowing that God’s word is truly a
lamp to our feet and a light to our path—on a daily basis.
Once we start practicing God’s word, we will experience His presence, guidance
and love. In this way, the word of God enables us to take root, build up
and abound in faith (Col 2:6–7).
Though we may have attended church
for a long time, we need to reflect on whether we have sought to be nourished
directly by the word during church gatherings. Some youths enjoy activities
during youth conventions merely because they are ‘fun’, taking pleasure in the
lively stimuli. When these activities are in motion, you may have noticed that
participants are particularly enthusiastic. But after the event, does this
vitality and energy dissipate over time? A musical ensemble or the mere
memories of a fellowship cannot replace deep exploration into the Bible. These
activities may physiologically stimulate our senses, but have our lives truly
been edified with the rich word of God? When we are faced with temptations in
life, persecutions and death, we need a faith that is not established simply by
activities, but by meditating on and practicing Christ’s teachings.
Thus, when we gather together, be
it on a regular Sabbath day or during a spiritual convocation, the goal at the
forefront of our minds should be to remind one another with Biblical teachings.
We must nurture a culture of frequently discussing Scriptures and longing to
gain deeper insight in God’s words.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of
some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. (Heb 10:25–26)
The author of Hebrews points out
that if we do not gather together with members of the church and exhort one another
with the word of God, this actually increases the chances of sinning willfully.
When our hearts are not set on God’s word, we begin to lose sight of
God’s will for us and how He wishes us to behave on a daily basis. Our
fellowships need to be centered on the word, with the help of spiritually aware
brothers and sisters. It is certainly not enough to just attend Sabbath
worship. Especially as youths and those young in the faith, we need regular godly
fellowship to be all the more sure of where we are planted.
In a certain campus
fellowship, the process of growing and taking root in God’s word reaped
benefits beyond the youths’ imagination. Comprising students from various
locations and backgrounds, many of the weekly activities were largely geared
towards entertainment, in hopes of attracting all members and keeping the group
together. As a result, some of these fellowships were not necessarily based on
God’s word, but resembled mere social gatherings, based on plenty of eating and
going out. The leaders of the fellowship realized that the group needed to
refocus on God’s word, prayer and discussing one another’s personal walks with
God. Since many of the youths stayed over in church over the weekend, they
started to pray together each Friday and Saturday evening, sharing their daily
struggles, joys and encouragements from the Bible. As a result, they
experienced God in very tangible ways; God poured down His Holy Spirit, gave
some of them uplifting visions and rekindled relationships with Him and each other.
Moreover, they became bonded through faith and intimate enough to draw on the
word of God as mirrors for each other’s behavior, attitudes and speech.
Enthused with God’s word, they reminded each other of areas for improvement, building
one another up in character and in faith.
Everyone has a unique story of
their journey to meeting Christ. Everyone has a different motivation. Do we
remember Peter’s? When his brother, Andrew, heard from John the Baptist that
Jesus Christ had come, he found his brother and said to him, “We have found the
Messiah” (Jn 1:40–41). Peter was drawn to Christ because he had been
waiting and seeking for the Savior. His faith was not rooted in healing, in
miracles or because he had his stomach filled, but rather in the Old Testament
prophecies concerning the Messiah and in the words of Jesus. Peter undoubtedly
recognized that Jesus’ words are the source of life:
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon
Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal
life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of
the living God.” (Jn 6:67–69)
What are our motivations for
following Christ? Do we believe because of our family, or because the Lord
healed us? Regardless of our initial reasons, we must progress to personally
rooting our faith in the word of life, both individually and as a church. In
this way, when those whom we love depart from us, when pains and hardships come
upon us, we will naturally remain and find strength in Christ who, from the
beginning, was the Word.