A lawyer’s dog, running around town unleashed, heads for a butcher shop and steals a roast. The butcher goes to the lawyer’s office and asks, “if a dog running unleashed steals a piece of meat from my store, do I have a right to demand payment for the meat from the dog’s owner?” The lawyer answers, “Absolutely.” “Then you owe me $9.75. Your dog was loose and stole a roast from me today.” The lawyer, without a word, writes the butcher a check for $9.75. The butcher, having a feeling of satisfaction, leaves.
Three days later, the butcher finds a bill from the lawyer: $100 due for a consultation.
He should have seen that coming.
It’s important that we see well, and hear well, also. Isaiah 6:9-10 says, “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Having sight is a powerful gift that we often take for granted. This is true physically as well as spiritually. We can hardly imagine life without our physical sight.
A student remembers the time she was walking across campus. She says, “I saw a blind man making his way across a court yard. He was using a walking stick with confidence, and I stood for a moment and watched him walk just amazed at the resiliency of the human mind. Here this guy had basically memorized the layout of the campus, and he walks where he needs to go without seeing a thing.
I turned to enter a building when it dawned on me that he was headed for a corner of campus where I knew there was a new construction site. I turned around and wondered if he knew it was there. A few more moments showed that he did not.
I ran across the courtyard just as he walked into one of those plastic orange fences that surround these kinds of projects. It was obvious he was confused. I explained what was going on, and he asked me to walk him back to the court yard. He could get to where he was going from there. When I asked him where he was going, he said that he intended to walk down the block to the corner. I took a quick look down the block and suggested I walk
him to where he needed to go because there was a bucket loader parked in the middle of the side walk working on some power lines.
His little walk to the corner would have ended in disaster. As I walked with him, I couldn’t help praising God for my eyes.”
You think your cell phone camera is complex. Consider all the parts of your eye: the cornea, the transparent front of your eye that lets light in, and the iris, the adjustable part of your eye that controls the amount of light that actually gets into your eye, and the retina, the projection screen of your eye that receives the light, and the optic nerve that carries the light signals to your brain, which is actually the “seeing” organ.
The process by which you look at an object and “see” is an astounding process that involves light waves, chemical reactions, electrical impulses all working together with split second precision.
But as powerful as your eyeballs are they have one significant limitation. Your eyes can only see physical reality. Every eye in this room is limited to seeing physical things: cars, people, buildings, planes, dogs, grass, pollution, microbes, trees, books, computers. These things are all physical. Our eyeballs are completely useless when it comes to perceiving spiritual reality.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to “see” it, and we’re supposed to see it. As scripture says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” In Ephesians 1:15–23, the author prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know . . .”
The author prays that God would enlighten the eyes of our hearts so we will see and know something incredibly important, the richness of God’s power in our lives. It takes more than physical eyes to see such a thing.
But stepping into the wealth of God’s blessings and seeing what God wants us to see isn’t a given. There’s a process with this as there is with physical vision. Before we can see what the Lord wants to share, Ephesians 1:17 says you need to have “a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know God.”
Why? Because we must be prepared before we receive. Just like physical sight, there is a process to seeing well spiritually. Seeing what God is trying to show you, seeing things differently than how many people see the
world and others, doesn’t just come to us because we want it. We need to be prepared, given grace, to be shown the kingdom.
After all, wishful thinking doesn’t get us very far in our lives or with God’s life. Or think of it this way: We don’t give our 12-year-old daughter a Camaro to drive. She’s not ready.
Now I know we’re all adults here, so we think we’re ready. But in spiritual terms many are still infants. We want to grow up but in spiritual terms, God decides when we’re mature enough.
We need to pray for maturity. We ought to turn to the Lord in humility. Give God a chance to grow you in wisdom. Let the Lord help you come up in understanding. Don’t rush the Lord’s work in you. Read scripture. Take ten minutes a day to pause and pray. Practice thinking differently about someone when you find yourself in the same situation that isn’t going well. There are incredible benefits coming to those who persevere in Christ.
And they will come. You will be rewarded. Our eyes will be opened to seeing in a new way.
Our scripture tells us the first thing we are to see when our heart is enlightened is the “hope to which God has called you,” and hope is no small thing in anyone’s life.
So often we look outside ourselves, desperate for inspiration, for a sign even a miracle to keep feeding our hopefulness. At some point, we must decide to hope, and hold onto hope because we believe in it. We believe in it because of the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that the Lord “put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places.”
God has the power to do what seems impossible to do. What we can see with our naked eye isn’t all that shall be seen under heaven or on earth. The Lord does the immeasurable without our knowing it’s being done. Keep your hope in God’s powerful works alive.
The fact is that life can put us in a box. We often construct a side or two of the container ourselves, but the other sides and top are often set in place against our will. We may put ourselves in places and positions we’d rather not be, we may make decisions and choices we wish we can take back but can’t, but others have their influence in our lives as well.
Yeah, life can come down hard on us. It’s not that hard to feel closed in, whether you’re a teenager who is being treated poorly or is confused about the future or her or himself; or whether you’re much older and there
are fewer options now than there used to be. We can feel trapped and overwhelmed. Losing hope can happen quickly.
Let the eyes of your heart look to the Lord for help. Be convinced that the hope to which God has called us isn’t empty. God hasn’t given up. The Lord doesn’t quit. No tomb closed in Jesus. Christ was risen. Hope lives since Christ is alive.
But this powerful hope eludes some, too many, in fact. You may have heard of three suicides this week. American designer Kate Spade, the sister of the Dutch Queen, and chef-author-TV show host Anthony Bourdain all committed suicide. Their deaths serve as reminder of the hidden pain that so many people carry—pain that can draw them into tragic acts.
There are more than 100 suicides a DAY in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It’s the 10th-leading cause of death in the nation. Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the people had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives. Compared to heterosexual teens, lgbt youth are more than twice as likely to consider suicide.
Despite that prevalence, suicide is preventable.
Many people who are suicidal are depressed, and most depression is treatable, experts know. Suicide however is an issue not only for the mentally ill but for anyone struggling with serious life stresses and problems. And the truth is anybody can experience those stresses. Anybody.
If you know someone, or are someone, the most important step is for someone to intervene with a direct question. We should ask others or ourselves, “Are you considering suicide?” Or “Do you feel like you might be better off dead?” Or “Have you been thinking about actually ending your life?”
If they say ‘yes’ or if you feel that that’s so, it’s best to talk to them very directly about reaching out or reaching out yourself. The best first option is turn to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
While it is true that some people are so bent on suicide that they’ll lie about needing help, most people aren’t that committed to ending their life. We can connect to the part of them that wants to live.
One person said, “’They will respond. You’ll see a flicker in their eye. They’ll cry. They’ll say, ‘Oh my God. It’s such terrible suffering.’ And that’s when you tell them they don’t have to live with the pain, that help is out there, and that life is worthwhile.”
There’s too much suffering in the world. We want to keep our hope. Reach out for help. Help someone to reach out. We may not be able to see that there’s a better way forward but there is. There’s no box God doesn’t have a key for.
Our scripture reading says if the eyes of our hearts are enlightened then we will be enabled to know the riches of God’s glorious inheritance. God has treasure to give, wealth the world can’t bestow, peace the world doesn’t know, contentment the world doesn’t understand, purpose the world doesn’t comprehend, joy the world doesn’t feel.
Open your eyes to see God’s powerful working for good in your life. Reach out to the Lord so that your hope arises. Take hold of the treasure of God’s blessings in your life. There is more to this world than can be seen by the physical eye.
May you find your way with the eyes of your heart opened to God’s grace and might.
Can the church say Amen?