Jesus was a busy man. He was in high demand. Crowds flocked to Him. Everybody wanted a piece of him. He knew what it was like to be busy. How did he handle it?
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'
Jesus replied, 'Let us go somewhere else...'" (Mark 1:35-38)
Jesus, God in the flesh, the 2nd person of the Trinity, didn’t do it all. By not healing everyone, by not ministering to everyone, did Jesus disappoint anybody?
Imagine living in the 1st century. You’re blind. You hear this guy, Jesus, is healing people left and right. You travel a full day on foot to go see him. You’re in a long line with others who have physical and emotional problems waiting to have Jesus heal you. Just as you’re about to get to Jesus, he decides to leave and go to another town to preach or to get away with his disciples, or get away by himself to pray. How disappointing is that for you? Here’s the kicker, Jesus disappointed people and he never sinned by doing so.
Please note: Jesus didn’t say ‘no’ to healing more people so he could go watch the game at Buffalo Wild Wings. He said ‘no’ to one good thing in order to spend time doing another good thing. He said ‘no’ to healing more people so he could spend time in prayer. Jesus shows us it’s possible to disappoint people and still be holy in doing so. Did you hear that? It’s possible to disappoint people and still be holy in doing so. Just because you’ve disappointed someone by saying ‘no’ or not meeting their expectations, doesn’t mean you’ve sinned. Jesus disappointed people. In order to deal with your busyness problems, maybe you need to as well.
It's Easter season. Perhaps this creates opportunity to give some thought to religion. And one concept even non-religious people ought to think about is the faulty idea that all religions are equally valid.
There are a number of ways to approach the notion that "all religions are equally valid." For instance, we could appeal to a subjective sense of decency. Are we really willing to agree religions requiring child sacrifice are equally valid to those that don’t? There are religions that have this horrific practice. There are also religions that teach child sacrifice is an abomination. They obviously don’t teach the same thing. Are we willing to agree they are equally valid? I don’t know many modern people who would say so.
Or take religions like: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity and compare them to Buddhism and Hinduism. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity believe there is only one God. Buddhism and Hinduism believe there are millions of gods. They can’t be all right at the same time. There’s either one God or there are millions of gods, but it can’t be “all of the above.” To believe it’s possible for there to be one God and millions of gods is like saying it’s possible for there to be such a thing as a married bachelor. Somebody is wrong. They can’t all be right.
Let’s break this down further. Islam and Judaism do not believe Jesus of Nazareth should be worshiped as God. He was a great teacher and prophet, but he wasn’t God. Christians, on the other hand, believe Jesus was and is God and should be worshiped as God. Jesus can’t be God and non-god at the same time. He’s one or the other. He’s either God or non-god. Therefore, to say Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all equally valid and teach the same thing is transparently false. It breaks the law of noncontradiction.
If you put all this together, the conclusion is inescapable: either all religions are wrong or one of them is right.
Following Jesus should never become a business deal. “Jesus, if I follow you, what will you do for me?” It is, however, difficult to avoid the conclusion that there are real benefits to biblical Christianity. I’m working my way through Rebecca McLaughlin’s new book Confronting Christianity. In it she takes up this topic. If you aren’t a passionate follower of Jesus Christ, this is worth pondering.
1. Giving leads to a blessed life
The Bible teaches “…it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This idea cuts against the grain of a society that values acquiring more so than giving. However, more and more research is demonstrating the value of of giving. Volunteering, caring for others, and financial generosity all contribute to our mental and physical health. Atheist social psychologist Jonathan Haidt observes:
“Surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people…Religious believers give more money than secular folk to secular charities, and to their neighbors. They give more of their time, too, and of their blood.”
2. Happiness in all circumstances
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want” (Phil. 4:12-13). Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert uses the term ‘psychological immune system’ to describe Paul’s mindset. Gilbert uses 17th century polymath, Thomas Browne, as an illustration of this. Browne once said, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”
Bold statement, I know. Gilbert asked in response: “What kind of remarkable machinery does this guy have in his head?” Well, as it turns out, Browne was drawing on his Christian faith to immunize himself against suffering.
The contentment that the gospel offers possesses a staggering correspondence to the ‘psychological immune system’ Gilbert speaks of.
3. Gratitude is good for us
The apostle Paul writes, “…give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16). Paul wasn’t writing theoretically. He had been physically beaten, shipwrecked, sick, and materially impoverished. Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough discovered that conscious, daily gratitude is quite literally good for us. They noted those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week. This led Emmons to call gratitude “the forgotten factor in happiness research.”
May I be so bold? If your life is miserable, turn to Jesus!