Have we ever had a jolting experience--something that caused our heart to race and our mind to panic? Maybe it was a near miss in a car. Or maybe it was a serious injury of some sort. I remember when I was in San Antonio, TX some years ago on an elevator in a parking garage. As the elevator was nearing the floor I wanted to get off on, it suddenly jerked in a violent manner. I thought for sure that was it for me. My heart began to flutter uncontrollably. I thought the elevator was going to crash several floors below.
I’m sure that if we have ever had a harrowing experience of some kind, it certainly got our attention. It might even have caused us to change our behavior. "Next time, I’ll make sure I’m much more careful. I’ll be much more attentive." Or, in my case, "I’ll take the stairs from now on." Whatever our experience may have been, it changed us to an extent.
It’s interesting how we humans are if we think about it. It usually takes something traumatic to get our attention and wake us up. That’s just how we are.
That explains why Jesus says some of the things He does in the Bible, like in our text. The only way people might wake up is if they hear words that are direct and piercing. That is Jesus’ intention in our text where He says that those who don’t believe in Him will go to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. You see, He’s trying to paint a picture and create an experience that will cause a person’s mind to panic and heart to race, because when that happens, a person might change his behavior. It’s for the person’s own good that Jesus does this. Unfortunately, it’s the only way at times to get a person’s attention. He has to say something extreme.
I don’t think we are an exception. We become complacent in our spiritual life. Our spiritual routine has a droning effect. We begin to dose and nod off. We need something extreme to wake us up, like the fist of a preacher crashing down on the pulpit. Then our eyes will open wide. We’ll shake our heads and blink our eyes. Our heart will race for a bit. This is what it takes at times to get our attention on spiritual matters.
Simple speech and methods don’t always work. Look at Hollywood, for example. The movie industry is always trying to come up with extreme effects to get the attention of movie watchers. It’s the only way to get people to watch their junk.
To get our attention on spiritual matters, to get our hearts racing, Jesus has to use extreme words. Wouldn’t we agree? Our text is a good example of that. If everyone paid attention to Jesus the first time around, He wouldn’t need to use strong words. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.
We need to remember that Jesus uses strong language for the good and benefit of His hearers--who we are today. His words serve as a warning to us and to all who don’t take Jesus seriously. I hope His words will get our attention and cause us to reflect on where we are in our spiritual walk with the Lord.
Now I don’t want us to think that all of Jesus’ words are this harsh in tone. Some of His words have a different purpose, for example, to comfort us in hard times, to reassure us of His promises, to bring happiness to our downcast faces. I say this because I don’t want to turn us off to God’s word. If the Bible were filled just with threats, I’m certain we would have no desire to read it. So I want to let you know that He says other things as well in His word, things worth our attention and reading.
Those things as well ought to get our hearts racing, not out of fear, but out of excitement. Jesus promises us a blissful future with Him. How could that not get our hearts racing from excitement?
Just think how excited we get when we think about our vacation plans. We imagine all the fun we will have. It may cause our heart rate to increase when we think about the specific things we’ll be doing that bring us a lot of joy.
I remember when I was in grade school that every other year we would take a trip up north to the Minoqua area. I used to very much look forward to the trip. I would get excited thinking about all of the fishing and swimming we would do. The place where we stayed offered things like archery and crafts for us kids. There were plenty of other kids for me to play with. My heart raced with excitement when I would just think about our trip.
I hope our heart races with excitement as we think about our future plans with Jesus in His kingdom. I’m sure it’s going to be far better than my family vacations to the Minoqua area.
Praise God we have something to get excited about. Just think of a future without anything to look forward to. Just think of a life without anything to get excited about. Life would be dull and drab. But praise God we don’t have lives like that. Jesus death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins are proof that we have a wonderful future with the Lord.
I would encourage us not to give that up or let it slip away from us. Often times, we become complacent where we are in our spiritual lives. We run the risk of becoming lukewarm Christians which God doesn’t accept. We must run the race to the finish line as Paul tells us. We must remain firmly committed to our Lord all the way to the end and not give up along the way. If a runner stops running along the way, he won’t make it to the finish line. If we stop living for the Lord the way we should, we won’t make to the end.
Let’s remember that we have the Holy Spirit who keeps us going along the way. There may be times when we feel living for Jesus isn’t worth it, but out of nowhere we get a boost from the Holy Spirit. And so we continue.
I’m sure some of us if not most of us have experienced an inexplicable boost to keep going. I remember getting the urge from nowhere to continue to run when I felt like giving up. Running is not my strength but throughout my life I’ve had to run. There were times when I felt like just stopping, but for some reason I kept going.
The same holds true in our spiritual walk. There may be times when we feel like giving up, but from nowhere we receive strength from the Holy Spirit to go on.
Now let me summarize where I have taken us. If it seems like we’ve been meandering just a bit, we probably have. So, let me clarify what I intended to get across to us today.
In our text Jesus uses some direct and powerful words to get our hearts racing, kind of what we experienced if we’ve ever been in a near miss situation. Thoughts immediately started darting through our head and our heart rate shot through the roof. Jesus said what He said in our text to get our attention and change our behavior. "Weeping" and "gnashing of teeth" cause us to think what our future will look like without Jesus in the picture. That ought to motivate us to get on board with Jesus.
But not all of what Jesus says in the Bible is meant to scare us. Many of His sayings are meant to get our hearts racing in an excited and positive sense, especially as we think about our future with Him in His blissful kingdom. This is what I meant to share with us. I pray that the Lord will continue to boost us along as we journey toward His kingdom.