“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
How do we know when we are sick? We probably feel uncomfortable, have a high temperature and are unable to eat. But our feelings are not the sickness. Our feelings are symptoms of the sickness. Our feelings are actually defensive mechanisms alerting us to the fact that we are sick. Our feelings tell us when there is sickness lurking somewhere in our bodies. So when we get to a doctor, his assignment is that of determining the precise nature of the sickness. He does this partly by asking us about the symptoms.
But what if we are sick and have no symptoms whatsoever? What if we are ill but don’t feel sick? Such a situation might actually be life-threatening. Some sicknesses, like AIDS and cancer are “sleepers.” For a long time, people who are afflicted by them are unaware of them. Thus, some people just fall down and die. “But he was alright yesterday.” “But I saw him today and he looked fine.” He might have looked fine but in actual fact he was not. He might have looked alright, but as a matter of fact he was in the throes of death.
Our feelings are our bodyguards. If we have no feelings at all, we might fall asleep, put our feet in a fire, and not know until we were completely burnt. We might just wake up dead. But because we have feelings, if we put our hands in the fire unknowingly, the searing pain would immediately call our attention to it. Seen from this perspective, pain is actually good for the body. It protects it. Pain alerts us that there is something wrong, so that we can take prompt remedial action.
Pleasures of sin
I have never met anybody who liked sickness. But most people love sin. People don’t enjoy sickness, but we enjoy sin. One of the peculiarities of sin is that it is pleasurable. The bible is insistent in warning against the pleasures of sin. Sin kills the soul, while sickness only kills the body. Therefore sin is infinitely more deadly than sickness. Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28).
God sometimes permits sickness in order to save from sin. Indeed, sickness can sometimes be beneficial if it alerts us to the existence of lurking sin. Similarly, the wisdom of God sometimes prescribes suffering as the alternative to sin. The scriptures commend Moses for: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:25-26).
So if our feelings serve as defensive mechanisms, alerting us to the existence of sickness, what defensive mechanisms do we have to alert us to the existence of the more deadly sin? This requirement becomes even more imperative given the pleasurable nature of sin. How can we tell what sin is lurking in the inner recesses of our souls? How can we tell in good time so that we don’t end up in hell?
Blindness of David
How could an anointed man like David, who walked so closely with God, have nevertheless slept with another man’s wife, impregnated her, killed her husband and finally married her and be seemingly impervious to the sin? When he was told the parable of someone who committed a similar sin, he insisted that the person deserved to die. Somehow he never made the connection that he was guilty of the same offence. It never occurred to David that he himself was a dead man.
David’s conscience bothered him when he cut Saul’s skirt and when he conducted a census in Israel without God’s approval. But it did not bother him when he had Uriah killed. While he was busy conceiving and executing his plans, it never occurred to him that he was dicing with death. Not until a prophet was sent to him over nine months later did David realise the gravity of what he had done. In effect, David was dying of sin, but he did not know it.
What can we do to avoid this kind of predicament? Let us be instructed by the procedure with regard to sickness. Because there are some sicknesses, like cancer, which have no discernible initial symptoms, it is advisable to go for periodic medical check-ups, even when we are feeling fine. The thing about cancer is that it can be arrested if detected in its early stages. But if it is allowed to spread, there is no known cure.
Often what is done in the early stages is to remove the cancerous cells. This sometimes entails amputating the affected parts of the body. For example, mastectomies are performed whereby the breast is removed. Or hysterectomies are performed whereby the womb is removed. The same kind of approach is prescribed for the even more deadly sin.
Jesus taught that salvation is the prime objective of life. Using medical metaphor, he describes the struggle for life: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30).
Fighting for life
Jesus emphasised that the main struggle is against sin. The great battles of the life of a believer are not against the devil. The great battles are against sin. The believer strives and fights battles against sin all lifelong. In these battles, we are encouraged us not to give in or give up because we are more than conquerors through Christ’s love for us. (Romans 8:37).
Those who love the Lord should hate evil. We who hate sickness should also hate sin. Sin is far more devastating than sickness. It is far more devastating than the dreaded AIDS. The wages of sin is age-lasting (spiritual) death. The effect of sickness is only temporal (physical) death. Therefore, it becomes imperative to go for periodic spiritual check-ups where the soul is scrutinised for lurking sin.
That is why churches where pastors persistently preach “prosperity messages” are deadly. These pastors are quack doctors telling people all is well when it is not. What kind of church was David attending that allowed him to be so oblivious to his sin? What kind of messages was he listening to that made his conscience to be so seared? What kind of pastor did he have? That is why it was necessary for God to send Nathan, a true prophet, to expose his sin to him.
Thus, a repentant David would no longer live in the kind of self-delusion many of us live in today. Every so often, David would go before the Lord and say: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Jeremiah warns: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8:20).