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 (Manna 64: Dealing with Calamities)
Taking Root in the Word
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Taking Root in the Word

Adapted sermon by Chin Aun QuekSingapore

Testing our 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.

Strengthening our roots

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).

Taking root together

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.

Peter’s example

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.

 

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Author: Chin Aun Quek
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