Answering questions no one is asking; curing illnesses no one has

The first thing a salesperson seeks to do, whether standing at your front door or staring out of your television screen, is to convince you that you are in trouble without this product.

The opening lines of all those fund-raising letters we receive through the mail are phrased to alarm us. Something is bad wrong and here is the solution and you should do something about it. The recommended solution is to buy this product, subscribe to this service, or hire this attorney. Or, of course, send your money!

Sound familiar?

The September 22, 2014, issue of TIME features on its cover an arm with a computer display giving the number of calories consumed that day, one’s pulse,  conversations since climbing out of bed, and even how many steps the individual has taken.  And that’s just for starters.

The issue celebrates (and worries about) the new “Apple Watch,” the latest thing from those people who gave us the smartphone in my pocket at this moment.  This latest high-tech doodad hits the stores early in 2015 and will be all the rage, no doubt.

The text beside the cover picture reads: “Never Offline.  The Apple Watch is just the start. How wearable tech will change your life–like it or not.”

One paragraph in particular has stayed with me ever since reading the issue.

Apple creates demands for things that there previously was no demand for.  It takes products we never wanted and convinces us we can’t live without them.  It does this better than any company in the world.

Anyone doubting that should recall when we were able to walk around without a phone on our person.  Now, leave home without our phone (cell phone, smart phone, Android, whatever) and we feel unclothed, vulnerable, and out of touch.  Let your kid go off to school without a phone and you are frightened.  What if he should need you?  Your grandparents–my generation–boarded school buses and were gone from home for 10 hours without our parents giving it a thought.

The tech companies have done a number on us.

They have created demand for things no one previously wanted or felt they needed. Now, we cannot live without their appliances.

I wonder about all this. Do we really need laptops and iPads, smartphones and flatscreen televisions? Do we need televisions in the first place? And how about computers, microwave ovens, and dishwashers?  What about air-conditioning and carpeting, electric blankets and alarm clocks?

What do we really need?  Emphasis on “need.”

The ministry of the late David Wilkerson (www.worldchallenge.org) has just reprinted his article titled “The need in you and how to meet it.”  He recalls an event that occurred soon after his life-changing book “The Cross and the Switchblade” was published. (Published in 1963, this book sold over 50 million copies and is on the short list of the all-time most influential writings among evangelicals.)

(After the book came out), I met a number of well-known personalities on TV talk shows.  One was a comedian who had been divorced ten times. For the first hour we listened to the comedian mock marriage.  He joked, “I’m about to get married for the eleventh time.”  All that time his future wife was sitting in the audience.  The comedian said men should leave their marriage if they aren’t happy and find themselves a younger wife.

At one point the host turned to me and said, “Mr. Wilkerson, you haven’t been saying anything.” At that point, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I said to the comedian, “Sir, I think I’ve just met the loneliest man in America. I think you cry yourself to sleep at night. You’ve made light of marriage and your own past marriages. But I think it’s just an act.”

The host quickly went to a commercial.  A few hours later, after the show was over, I was waiting outside to hail a cab.  The comedian drove up in his car with a sad look.  He said, “Mr. Wilkerson, I’ve got to talk to you.  Please let me take you to your hotel.”  I climbed into the backseat of his car while he and his fiancee sat in the front.  The comedian looked at me in the back seat and said, “Reverend, you hit the nail on the head.”

As he drove along, he shook his head and continued, “Ten women couldn’t be wrong. And I have maligned this woman,” he said, nodding to his fiancee.  “I think I need God. All along I’ve had a need deep inside me. And when it couldn’t be met, I went from one woman to another. I was trying to find somebody who would meet this hounding need.” I ministered to that man, told him about Jesus, and prayed with him and his soon-to-be wife.

What do you need?

What do you really need?

The church is answering questions no one is asking, some have charged. And, I expect, some are guilty.

Here are a few questions from Scripture which indicate the most basic life needs of all of us, questions which God’s people need to be addressing…

“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? And what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

“How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9).

“With what shall I come before the Lord? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings? Does the Lord take delight in rivers of oil?” (Micah 6:6-8)

“Is Jesus the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11)

How can I find peace?  Where does one find forgiveness for his wrongdoing?  How do I break free from the strangehold of my past?

How can I help my neighbor who is going through hard times?  How can I bring my friend to Jesus Christ?

To be sure, if you preach on these and related subjects, the carnal-minded will accuse you of answering questions no one is asking. You must tough it out and stay with the program.

These questions deal with the hunger of the soul, an inner need that many are into denial about.  Just because someone is caught up in the pursuit of money and success and the burdens of daily living does not mean he/she will not be asking those questions later on when they awaken out of their soul slumber.

So, keep answering them, men and women of God.  You are not creating needs that did not exist before. These needs are eternal and represent the soul’s ache to get back to God, to “return to Eden,” as it has been called.

Never forget that in a few years the smartphone and the Apple Watch will be as outdated as the buggy whip. But pointing others to Jesus Christ is the work of eternity.

 

 

 

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