One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: That you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what they have done. (Psalm 62:11-12)
Last Sunday I celebrated a special birthday with a whole bunch of my favorite people. No, it wasn’t my birthday, and (as far as I know) it wasn’t any of their birthdays either. It was the first “birthday” of our new church, The Living Well Church in Kalamazoo! And it was an awesome celebration! We shared breakfast, shared memories from the past year, and shared our vision for the future. In short, we did exactly what our mission statement says, “Share the Life!” As a first-time church planter, it was a profoundly moving and gratifying experience for me.
My first words to our young community gathered together that day were, “Living Well Church, we are ONE today!” Of course, I was referring to our new church’s age, but I was also intentionally making a point about what it means to be a church…and what it means to be the church. In some wonderful, mysterious way the church gathers each week to remember and to celebrate that, “We are ONE today!” The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5)
Sadly, much of the time it doesn’t feel like we are ONE. It’s hard to focus on the ONE THING that unites us with one another and not on the many things that distinguish us from one another. It’s hard to celebrate all of our beautiful differences and our beautiful oneness at the same time. Let’s face it, it’s hard enough just to remember everyone’s name on a Sunday morning!
I think we sometimes have the same difficulty when we thing about God. Is He a God of justice or a God of mercy…a God of love or a God of wrath…is He “out there” beyond our reach or “right here” next to us? Which ONE is it?
In Psalm 62, David offers a song of praise. He celebrates that God alone is the source of his salvation (vs. 1), his confidence (vs. 2), his hope (vs. 5) and his honor (vs. 7). He points out the huge disparity between God’s character and our human nature (vs. 4, 9). And then David sums up his theology this way, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: that you, O God are strong, and that you, O Lord are loving” (vs. 11-12a).
The “two things” David knows about God are the “one thing” God has revealed to him…in good times and hard times: God is able and God is willing to save him. The reason David can be so confident and hopeful through all of his changing circumstances is he knows that he belongs to an unchanging God…a powerful and gentle God…a strong and loving Lord…a Savior who is willing AND able to save. It’s not enough to know that God is able to act…if only He were willing. And it’s hopeless to follow a Savior who cares…but is powerless to save.
In the Gospel of Mark, we read two stories from Jesus’ life that illustrate David’s “one thing” theology. Both are stories of miraculous healings. In Mark 1:40, a leper comes to Jesus, falls on his knees and begs, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus looked at him and replied, “I am willing.” This man knew Jesus had the power, but wasn’t sure Jesus cared about his situation. Later, in Mark 9, Jesus is approached by a father whose son is being tormented by an evil spirit. He says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” To which Jesus responds, “If I can?” The desperate father wasn’t sure Jesus had the power to save his son. In each story, Jesus’ response was a “one thing” message. “I am willing and able to help.”
Jesus isn’t an “either or” Savior—some days he wants to help and other days he doesn’t. He isn’t an “if you can” sort of Friend—limited in his ability, authority and power. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, and he is the “one thing” God! He is the ONE who comes with the heart and the power to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). He is the ONE who died to save us and rose again to lead us into eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 8:11). We are ONE with each other, if we are ONE with him.
Jesus Christ is the ONE who lovingly wants to give us Living Water that can satisfy us and give us life; AND he is the only ONE who is powerfully able to give it to us. He is our rest and our salvation; he is our hope and our glory. He is the One Thing…the Living Water…always stay thirsty for him!