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Stability and steadfastness in an unstable world.
Alexander Maclaren on finding Christ to be your ever-present, never-shaking Solid Rock.
It’s no secret that I am fond of the works of Rev. Alexander Maclaren. I resort to his expositions of the Scriptures on a consistent basis, and, more often than not, I am greeted with a superb remark regarding the truth and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the prevailing thought throughout the excerpted passage I want to share with you today. It’s derived from one of his sermons, entitled, “The Ultimate Purpose of Reconciliation and Its Human Conditions,” which can be found in his exposition of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Taking Colossians 1:22–23 as his text, Maclaren proceeds to explore how Jesus’s ministry of reconciliation through his own death on the cross is able to make sinners and sufferers “grounded and steadfast in the faith.” He writes:
If we and our lives are to be firm and stable, we must have a foundation outside of ourselves on which to rest. That thought is involved in the word “grounded” or “founded.” It is possible that this metaphor of the foundation is carried on into the next clause, in which case “the hope of the Gospel” would be the foundation. Strange to make a solid foundation out of so unsubstantial a thing as “hope!” That would be indeed to build a castle on the air, a palace on a soap-bubble, would it not? Yes, it would, if this hope were not “the hope produced by the Gospel,” and therefore as solid as the ever-enduring Word of the Lord on which it is founded. But, more probably, the ordinary application of the figure is preserved here, and Christ is the foundation, the Rock, on which builded, our fleeting lives and our fickle selves may become rock-like too, and every impulsive and changeable Simon Bar Jonas rise to the mature stedfastness of a Peter, the pillar of the Church.
Translate that image of taking Christ for our foundation into plain English, and what does it come to? It means, let our minds find in Him, in His Word, and whole revealing life, the basis of our beliefs, the materials for thought; let our hearts find in Him their object, which brings calmness and unchangeableness into their love; let our practical energies take Him as their motive and pattern, their strength and their aim, their stimulus and their reward; let all hopes and joys, emotions and desires, fasten themselves on Him; let Him occupy and fill our whole nature, and mould and preside over all our actions. So shall we be “founded” on Christ.
Without that foundation to give stability and permanence, we never get down to what abides, but pass our lives amidst fleeting shadows, and are ourselves as transient as they. The mind whose thoughts about God and the unseen world are not built on the personal revelation of God in Christ will have no solid certainties which cannot be shaken, but, at the best, opinions which cannot have more fixedness than belongs to human thoughts upon the great problem. If my love does not rest on Christ, it will flicker and flutter, lighting now here and now there, and even where it rests most secure in human love, sure to have to take wing some day, when Death with his woodman’s axe fells the tree where it nestles. If my practical life is not built on Him, the blows of circumstance will make it reel and stagger. If we are not well joined to Jesus Christ, we shall be driven by gusts of passion and storms of trouble, or borne along on the surface of the slow stream of all-changing time like thistle-down on the water. If we are to be stable, it must be because we are fastened to something outside of ourselves that is stable, just as they have to lash a man to the mast or other fixed things on deck, if he is not to be washed overboard in the gale. If we are lashed to the unchangeable Christ by the “cords of love” and faith, we too shall, in our degree, be stedfast.
May you, then, find Christ alone to be your ever-present, never-shaking stability — your Solid Rock — in a life that is constantly rocked this way and that. He is, indeed, your steadfastness in an unsteady world. Amen.
Alexander Maclaren, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Colossians and Philemon (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1901), 108–10.