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 (Manna 22: Indifferent Neighbors)
Upon the Rock
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Upon the ROCK


            For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11)


SOMETIMES WE wonder how seemingly fervent believers can drop out of church altogether. Previously active in church work, regular in Bible-study and never missing a single service, they now keep Christ totally out of their lives. We just cannot reconcile our observation of their past zeal with their present indifference because we think that they were once like us, truly knowing why we are here and why we are Christians. Or are there times when we ourselves question why we ever got involved with Christ?

A Christian who does not know exactly why he is one must seriously examine his position. Unless he consciously commits his life to the lordship of Christ with full understanding and conviction, his church attendance is mere ritual and his faith, superstition.

Full Understanding

Not everyone who enters the church gates does so with the same motives or expectations. Parents, spouses, friends, eloquent speakers, interesting activities, miracles, material benefits, or simply having nothing to do, are but a few of a myriad of reasons why some people remain in church. But a church made up of such people rests on flimsy foundations and does not even approximate to the church which Jesus said would prevail against the gates of hell1. So there is no true church unless its people fully understand the reason for their following Christ.

John 6 traces the itinerary of a great multitude of Christ’s followers from southwest of the Sea of Tiberias where they numbered over 5000 to Capernaum further north where many left following Him2. The narrative reveals the wrong motives that many had in their persistent following of Christ. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that as long as one’s discipleship rests on motives other than Christ Himself, his faith cannot last.

Wrong Foundations

When the five thousand had eaten their fill and perceived that Jesus was no ordinary man, they started to have certain expectations of Him — that He should be their King and overthrow their Roman oppressors3. They had faith all right, but it was founded on an expectation of a physical kingdom. But Jesus withdrew from them, for His kingdom was not of this world4.

Not willing to be disappointed, the insistent multitude got into boats and pursued Jesus across the sea to Capernaum where He further exposed their carnal motivation — they sought the loaves, not Him5.

To these carnal seekers of political and economic gains, everything, including spiritual things, could only be understood in terms of the physical— unless they see a sign, they would not believe6. Are there not many today who say that unless they see God, they would not believe He exists? Are there not Christians who must have miracles spaced out at regular intervals throughout their lives, lest they forget or lose sight of the reality of God? Their foundation is not Christ, but miracles that can be seen and felt by their physical senses.

Full Conviction

In contrast with the wrong motivations which hinge on the physical, the love of God is the mainstay of a person whose faith is founded on Jesus Christ. The whole discourse about the true bread of life from heaven, the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood is really not that intriguing. It points to the simple fact that the sacrifice of Christ is the thing that spiritually attracts and keeps the Christian7. This is the beautiful way in which the Father draws people and those thus drawn will persevere till the end. None of them will be lost because they are taught of God8. Those who come to Christ because of Christ Himself will have the full conviction that secures their resurrection on the last day:

“After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.” John 6:66-71

“For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

Sure Foundation

The bricks and mortar of the church are those who truly know God and are known of Him, who stand on a sure foundation9. They really know why they are Christians and what they aim for in life. They confess that they are mere sojourners on earth and look forward to “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God”10.

Rooted in Christ

            Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:7)

RECOGNISING CHRIST as our sure foundation is not good enough. It is only the beginning of establishing one’s faith. God has known from before the creation11 those whom He sets upon this sure foundation. The Christian then, has to know Christ deeply, that is to be rooted in Him, before he can be built up into His perfection12. It starts with an intense desire to know Him. This was the key to Paul’s transformation from a merciless persecutor to an apostle with profound knowledge of Christ’s love.

“Who are you, Lord?”

Paul, then known as Saul, was a man who had great zeal in doing whatever he believed was right. The ignorance that blinded his zeal was cleared on the road to Damascus when he asked, “Who are you, Lord?”13 After his conversion, his zeal, now rightly focused on Christ, was with such intensity that nothing of the world was not counted as dung “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (his) Lord”.14 After years in the ministry, he still felt that he had not known Him enough: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection .... Not that I have already obtained this .... but I press on.”15 His life was a constant pursuit of Christ, of knowing Him better. The question: “Who are you, Lord?” was never far from his mind.

“I know whom I have believed”

The sweetness that a deeply rooted Christian experiences as he “grows in the knowledge of (the) Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”16 is something incomprehensible by someone outside the relationship. It thrives even in adverse circumstances: “that I may know Him ... and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death”17; “and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed.”18

Sharing in the sufferings of Christ draws the Christian closer to Him, because by so doing he cuts himself off from sin.19 In this manner, he becomes not only conformable to Christ’s death, but also experiences the power of the resurrected life: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection .... that .... I may attain the resurrection from the dead”.20

Rooted & Grounded

The goodness of Christ fully satisfies a Christian who reaches deep enough to tap its inexhaustible resources: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”.21

The process of understanding Christ’s love is reinforced with a progressive realisation of one’s own imperfections. To the Corinthians Paul wrote (circa AD 55): “I am the very least of all the saints.”22 Years later, he wrote to the Ephesians (circa AD 61): “I am less than the least of the saints.”23 Towards the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy (circa AD 63): “I am the foremost of sinners.”24 The more he knew Christ, the deeper he felt about his own imperfections, and the more he appreciated the extent of Christ’s love for him. At this stage, nothing could separate him from his Lord.

Against the Tide

            And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock (Mt 7:25)

A CHRISTIAN needs to be deeply rooted in Christ and His words because he is called to stand against, the tide. Being rooted in Christ, we grow in “the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed about with every wind of doctrine.”25 Not only can we defend against evil, we “contend against principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”26 by being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”27 Elijah, “a man of like nature with ourselves”28 provides an example of one man against the tide.


Elijah was a man full of vigour. Beginning from the bold proclamation of drought to King Ahab, his life was filled with activity and spectacular events; travelling to Chenth, to Zarephath, to Carmel, and to Jezreel; the miracle of the oil and meal, the raising of the widow’s son, the contest on Mount Carmel, the slaying of Baal’s prophets, the praying for rain. By the hand of the Lord, he was always at the forefront, thrusting forward with unrestrainable force. This was beautifully pictured in his race against the coming rain in which he overtook Ahab’s chariot to arrive before him at the entrance of Jezreel.29 Today, the phrase “in the spirit and power of Elijah” describes one who stands against the tide to turn it around, that is, to turn the hearts of the people back to God.30


Power and perseverance are complementary. In a long race, both speed and stamina contribute to final victory. Chasing chariots and being at the forefront were not all God had intended for Elijah. He had still one important lesson to learn — perseverance. So God allowed him to suffer his first failure — giving up in the face of persecution. The same man who courageously opposed Ahab, called fire down from heaven, slew 850 false prophets, now asked for death when threatened by a mere woman. But he quickly learnt to “eat and drink” from the providence of God to receive new strength.31 The Elijah who sped past Ahab’s chariot with all his might now pushed forward steadily, with sustained stamina, through 40 days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

At the mount, Elijah lodged in a cave, and it was there that the lesson on perseverance was impressed deeply in his heart. There “a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice”.32 He saw that God was not found in the powerful manifestations but in the still small voice that assured him of the silent reserve of 7000 God-fearing souls in Israel who had not worshipped Baal.33 God’s solution to problems, Elijah found, did not lie in the thick of action that he had grown accustomed to. If only he had realised earlier the truth of these words: “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength”34, he would have persevered.

Final Words

There is no other foundation but Christ, the solid Rock upon which the Christian stands. Rooted in Christ, the Christian is like a strongly founded tower, an emblem of unyielding strength against the tide. The world passes away quickly, but the Word of God endures forever.35 So does every Christian who hears the Word and practises it faithfully.36


1. Mt16:18 

2. Jn 6:1, 10, 23-24, 66 

3. Jn 6:14-15 

4. Jn 18:36 

5. Jn 6:26 

6. Jn 6:30,36

7. Jn 12:32-33 

8. Jn 6:37-39, 44-45 

9. II Tim 2:19 

10. Heb 11:10, 13-16 

11. Ephesians 1:4

12. Colossians 2:10 

13.Acts 9:5 

14. Philippians 3:8 

15. Philippians 3:10, 12 

16. II Peter 3:18

17. Philippians 3:10 

18. II Timothy 1:12 

19. I Peter 4:1 

20. Philippians 3:10-11 

21. Ephesians 3:17-19 

22. 1 Corinthians 15:9 

23. Ephesians 3:8 

24. 1 Timothy 1:15 

25. Eph 4:13-14 

26. Eph 6:12 

27. Eph 6:10 

28. Js 5:17 

29.1 Kgs 18:44-46 

30. Lk 1:17

31. 1 Kgs 19:5-8 

32.1 Kgs 19:11-12 

33.1 Kgs 19:18 

34. Is 30:15 

35.1 Pet 1:24-25

36. Mt 7:24-25

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Author: Shee Tse Loong