I have a friend who is in charge of a mental health service. I have discovered that we are blessed living in New Jersey because our state ranks number one in mental health facilities. Many other states faced a mental health service shortage even before the pandemic.
It worsened after the pandemic because many psychiatrists, psychologists, and nurses in the field left their practice, citing burnout. I was surprised to hear that because I thought they were supposed to be experts in handling burnout. If the experts on burnout could burn out, what about you and me?
According to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America statistic report, one out of five Americans experienced a mental illness, but less than half of them received treatments. According to NIH, that number is based on diagnosable mental illness. That means many other mental disorders are undiagnosable. That makes me wonder how deep is the rabbit hole.
After crunching some data from various sources, it seems as much as 75% of the population worldwide today have some sort of mental health problem, more or less, like a spectrum. I named the most common ones BAD (Burnout, Anxiety, Disturbance). You may have it without knowing it until its adverse effects appear on your medical checkup report. You have heard, “Healthy mind, healthy body.” Then how do you keep a healthy mind, and how does a healthy spirit contribute to a healthy mind?
So, I asked my friend, the mental health professional, if the church could help with people’s mental well-being. Since he is running at capacity, I wonder if we could be helpful. He said, “Absolutely!” Fewer people would end up at his mental health clinic if more people went to church and developed their spiritual health. Body, mind, and spirit intertwined. But it’s against the law for him to recommend his patients attend church.
I wondered why some people are more resilient to BAD (Burnout, Anxiety, Disturbance). Last week, I mentioned Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who survived eleven years in the concentration camp because he developed a solid spiritual anchor to maintain his sanity. I’ve also discovered many like him who preserved their sanity despite profound tragedy.
Jesus describes this kind of life as building your house on the rock so it will not collapse under severe storms. Storms are coming for sure because we live in a fallen world, and we deal with fallen people.
It reminds me of the story of The Three Little Pigs. One built his house with straws, the second with sticks, and the third with bricks. When the Big Bad Wolf comes, he will huff, puff, and blow the house down. In the children’s version of the story, the first two pigs are described as lazy, but as a real-life allegory, they just don’t know better. They are just uninformed or misinformed.
I have discovered that many people today have lost the wisdom to build their spiritual house with bricks—or on the rock, as Jesus said. Two reasons: today’s culture often cast doubts on traditional values, teaching people they can build their life on anything they “feel” right. So, they end up building their life on sinking sands. When the Big Bad Wolf comes, their lives crumble.
The other reason is that many churches have watered down the solid ground, thinking we are just one of the ways instead of The Way, fear of persecution, unlike Jesus, who risks his life to deliver the cornerstone.
In today’s scripture lesson, Jesus risked his life to deliver himself as the cornerstone to build our lives on. It will prevent your life from collapsing under stress and gives you indescribable joy and peace as you journey through life. Let’s take a look!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to John 11:1-53 (Select). [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
So from that day on they planned to put him to death. (Jn 11:1-6; 20-27; 38-48; 53).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
That is a long story, but the story’s main point is Jesus came to answer the big question, “Who is Jesus?” in the most profound manner. He said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
Jesus said that he is the resurrection and the life. That’s equal to saying that he is the Creator, the Author of life. No founder of any religion ever dared to say that. Jesus had made many claims before this—the Son of God, the Messiah, the One sent by the Father, etc. But none of them is as profound as this one. He is the Author of life, the Creator God in flesh. He asked, “Do you believe this?”
I know it’s hard to believe because it’s beyond reason and science. I have no way to prove to you that he is God in flesh, but I have discovered that it’s much riskier not to believe than to believe because it determines where you build your life on. Without him, people build their houses with straws or sticks. They will collapse when hit by the storms of life. That’s why it matters.
I am not saying we should believe him merely for our well-being. If what he says is true, we are designed by him to live, move, and have our being in him. As Paul said,
“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Ac 17:28).
If Jesus is the resurrection and the life, it means he is our Creator, and we have wholeness only in him. I told this once to a young man to convince him to believe in Christ for his own well-being. He is very articulate and very talented at debating. He immediately lashed back at me, saying, “That’s putting the cart in front of the horse.”
I was dumbfounded at his eloquence, but I suddenly got a quick wit and said, “All right, I am showing you the cart because you can’t see the horse. The cart is your life; if it is not moving in the right direction, you must have attached it to the wrong thing. You put it in the front or elsewhere at your own risk.”
You’ve got nothing to lose in trying Jesus out to see if your life becomes more joyful, peaceful, and fruitful. He is not binding you, but he sets you free. Saint Augustine discovered this after trying many other options. He said,
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” ~Saint Augustine
Those who read Saint Augustine’s biography know he was a playboy but couldn’t find true happiness anywhere until he surrendered his life to Christ. Why? Because God created us for Godself. Without God, we build our castle on the sand—without Christ, we are a house of cards. It falls apart when the Big BAD Wolf comes to huff, puff, and blow it down.
Jesus risked his life to deliver this message because he knew he would be crucified when he exposed himself as the Author of life. This miracle is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The priests decided to kill him after this event.
Yet, this message was so important for his disciples to know that Jesus risked his life for it.
Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:5-6).
Jesus could have come sooner to heal Lazarus before he died to prevent triggering the rage of the religious leaders because they functioned in fear of the Romans. But he delayed two days to wait until Lazarus died. His purpose was to show his disciples that he was more than what they thought.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (Jn 11:14–15).
He said, “for their sake,” he was glad he waited until Lazarus died. He wanted them to believe he was more than a prophet, more than a Messiah, but God Himself. They were about to witness something unthinkable because, according to the Jewish faith in those days, the Holy God could not walk on the sinful earth. But they were wrong. Jesus decided to drive the last nail in the coffin of their doubts.
Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (Jn 11:16).
The doubting Thomas was sarcastic. It was risky for Jesus to God to Judea at this point because the religious leaders wanted to silence him. That’s why Thomas implied that going to Judea could be deadly.
But Jesus wanted them to see what they had never seen before he went to the cross. This miracle sets the cornerstone of their faith and turns these cowards into warriors. Before this, their houses were built on straws and sticks. Now, Jesus gave them bricks to build their houses that could stand against the storms of life.
He is the resurrection and the life. How could that be? I won’t logically argue why what Jesus’ said is true because many great scholars have done a great job on that. The best among them is C. S. Lewis because he could put it in plain language. There is no reason to doubt he is the Creator because, as Paul said, we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.
My main concern is to answer the crucial question, “Why it matters.” First, it matters to you regarding your health and well-being. Life is a series of storms; without him, we are like the first two houses in The Three Little Pigs story. The wolf would come and show his teeth and say, “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.”
It’s not to scare people, but it’s the reality of life in this fallen world. Remember, the BAD for the Big BAD Wolf represents Burnout, Anxiety, and Disturbance. Only in Jesus Christ we build a brick house that no storms can knock out. As the Psalmist wrote:
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. (Ps 118:21–23).
The strong sense of security God has provided us is marvelous. We need it even more at trying times like these.
The second reason “why it matters” is that we have a mission to help others build storm-proof houses. As the statistics show, many people today live in fragile mental, emotional, and spiritual homes that cannot stand the huff and puff of the Big BAD Wolf. Like the disciples, we have a calling to help them build their life on the rock with Jesus Christ as their chief Cornerstone. Let’s do it together!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.