Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 9:36c “. . .because they fainted,. . .”
Because Christ had healed many, the crowds were swarming Him. Jesus met people’s physical needs, an example we need to follow. He saw lots of hurting, and whatever form the pain took, He sought to relieve the sufferer’s sorrow.
Jesus met people’s spiritual needs, another example to follow. He lovingly scrutinized the rabble hounding Him. He assessed their religious status, and found the view sobering, somber. These moral agents, answerable to God in this life, and going to live forever in Heaven or Hell, seemed clueless on how to find God.
They knew they needed something more. The zeal with which they followed Jesus proved their desperation, and yet, sorrow of sorrows, their efforts to find true religion, real spiritual satisfaction, left them empty. Christ saw them fainting, weighed down with life, ready to collapse. Jesus views the human sea today and still sees the same sad sight, folks overcome by their situation in life.
Over a generation ago, voices began to clamor against the Bible and Christianity. Cynics claimed we can live without Jesus. These predictors of a new utopia said we can be moral without religion, happy without God, strong without Christ, stable without the Bible. Now we live in the wreckage of their world view. We look on a society of their making and see a vast sea of carnage, of people fainting.
They said people don’t need to go to church, other societies and groups will meet people’s need for interaction. The result has been the creation of the loneliest society in the history of the Western World. People are fainting.
They said Christianity shackled the mind, making it negative and pessimistic. They promoted intellectual license as the road to greater happiness. The result is the most mentally ill culture in the civilized world. We cannot train psychologists and counselors fast enough to handle the case loads. People are fainting.
They said casting off Bible restraints would liberate women and children. We would end their repression by discarding the archaic ethic of Holy Writ. The result is the highest divorce rate in the world, more absentee fathers than any nation in history, plus more battered, abused children than ever. People are fainting.
They said religion was an opiate, a drug for the weak. As Ted Turner says, “Christianity is a religion for losers.” They said if we cast off the yoke of religion, the result will be strong individuals. Instead, the result is so many people with addictions that we cannot begin twelve-step programs fast enough to help them.
All our efforts to help people apart from religion have not produced stronger people. They are fainting. People highly educated and physically fit find themselves powerless to control their own passions and urges. Even if they know right from wrong, they’re not strong enough to side with right and to win against wrong.
The moral within falls a slave to animal lusts. Conscience drowns in a sea of physical titillation. Samson could overwhelm a hundred Philistines, but could not muster enough strength to overwhelm the lust in one, himself. Robert Burns will forever be the darling of Scotland, its greatest poet. Yet, with all his ability, he could not control his urge for sex and alcohol, excesses which killed him in his thirties. They said we would be strong without God, but instead we are as helpless as a baby trying to get a runaway locomotive under control. People are fainting.
They said we need to cast off old ideas of guilt, it was merely a tool used by power brokers to control the weak, there is no guilt, no one offends God, negative sensations are merely hang-ups society forces on us. People have been told this repeatedly, yet the hound of heaven relentlessly dogs them. They still sense guilt pressing on their conscience and feel helpless to lift the load. People are fainting.
And once people have long struggled, what do they finally do? They give up. The Psalmist saw them sitting “in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction” (107:10). “They stumbled and there was none to help” (PS 107:12b NAS). They said casting off God would free us and make us happy. Instead, people sit in darkness, not knowing God’s ways. They sit in death’s shadow, clueless of what will happen after death. They stumble, not knowing how to live, how to be happily married or raise children, and no one is there to help them.
“There they sit, because there is no hope in rising and moving. They would have to grope if they arose, and so with folded hands they sit like the Buddha” (Maclaren). This is one reason Buddhism has become the USA’s politically correct religion. If there is no living God, if Jesus did not pay for our sins on the cross, if His teachings are cast off as untrue, we are left with fatalism. Thus, the best recourse is to slip into denial, an alternate reality, a state of no feeling at all.
This is Buddhism’s attraction. It gives all who reject a living, personal God a way to deal with life’s crushing troubles without going insane. Millions understandably choose the noble path of Buddhism, but Christians choose a nobler path.
We believe in a living, personal God who created a perfect world. When people rebelled against Him, and spoiled creation, they knew something was wrong and began creating religions in a desperate effort to find and please God.
We believe in a loving God who sent His Son Jesus to the world to tell of Him and to shed His blood for the world’s sins. We believe every word Jesus spoke is truth. There is a Heaven to gain, a Hell to shun, and a Holy Spirit who comes to live in the heart of all who forsake sin and surrender to the rule of Christ.
They said it would be better if we cast off Jesus and the Bible. They lied. They lied. They lied. They lied. Now it is time for all who know the truth to be bolder than ever. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” and defined this liberating truth as His Father’s word (JN 8:32; 17:17).
The Father’s written word, the Bible, and the Father’s personal word, His Son, provide for every human being’s needs. To the lonely, we offer the enfolding arms of a loving small group in a local church. To the mentally ill, we say soothing words, God loved you enough to send His own Son for you. To any in marital stress, we offer Jesus as the one Person who can take charge of your marriage and cause both spouses to quit competing for mastery over the other. For those with children, we offer the Bible, the best textbook on parenting, and we offer programs whereby we promise to do our best to help you raise your children and teens right.
For those trapped in addiction, we offer the Holy Spirit’s releasing power, and support groups to surround you with people who can help. Will recovery be easy? No. It will be a battle the rest of your life–ours is the way of a cross, not a cake walk–but it is your best hope for help. Our government wants to help drug addicts, but the only programs which help are faith-based. Thus the dilemma, will they fund religious groups, or leave addicts hopeless? For the guilty, we proclaim free forgiveness based on repentance, on turning from sins, and calling on God.
To those who have given up, we offer another chance. Don’t quit. Joy and purpose can be had even in this lifetime. God has a meaningful life to offer you.
Fellow believers, the need to speak truth has never been greater. Americans are interested in spiritual things more now than ever before. The emptiness secularism produced has resulted in people desperately seeking spiritual answers. They look in strange places, but look nonetheless. That’s why newspapers and magazines are full of religious articles. They know people are keenly interested in this. We conservative Christians need to join in this cultural discussion. We have the advantage of having the only message that works. We need to be sharing it.
In “How to Reach Secular People” George Hunter tells how Samuel Shoemaker, a founding influence on Alcoholics Anonymous, foresaw emptiness descending on our country and predicted the current tidal wave of addictions. He gave his life to help people outside of Christ, whom he saw as lost, needing to be found. He knew they could not by themselves find earth’s most important door, the one leading to God.
They want to find it, but find instead only a wall where a door ought to be. Without help, they keep groping until they finally give up due to their despair in not finding God. Shoemaker opted to stand by the door to faith in God, “I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.” He admired those who went far into the faith, but preferred to stay at his “old accustomed place” by the door–“Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there, but not so far from people as to not hear them–Outside the door.” Shoemaker is in Heaven now. We need folks to take his place, to stand by the door, telling the truth to fainting people who’ve been lied to.