by Rev. Jeremiah Chueng
I will start by analyzing with you the structure of Mark 4:21-25. In verses 21-22, Jesus talked about one subject matter; in verses 24-25, he talked about another matter; between these two verses, V.23, is a warning: “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” What are we to hear? We are to hear the two subject matters Jesus talked about.
Why did Jesus emphatically declare: “If anyone has ears, let them hear!”?
1. This is very important. This is God’s working principle, so he who has ear must listen.
2. This is something men don’t like to listen to. The Chinese say `good words are unpleasant to the ear.’ We like to hear things that are pleasing to our ears: `You love the Lord so much! You’re really a pillar of the church, without you, the church would be nothing.” When we hear such things, our hearts are overjoyed. On the contrary, if a person says to us, “Do not think too highly of yourself, you are not that smart”, we are displeased. We do not like to hear such things. So, Jesus said: “If anyone has ears, let them hear!”
When we study this passage from this point of view, I discovered that there are two principles by which God works:
I. Whatever is Done in Secret, whether Good or Bad, will be Revealed by the Lord 21- 22
Jesus said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” It is strange Jesus said that people would light a lamp and place it under a bushel or under the bed. Placed under a bushel, it will be extinguished because there is no oxygen there. Under a bed, it will catch fire. Naturally, one lights a lamp to place it on a lampstand.
This is a simple truth, didn’t Jesus know that? Of course, our Lord knew this truth, but he wanted to tell us a more important truth, that is, nothing concealed, whether good or bad, will remain hidden. At the right time, God will let these things be revealed. Why? God will reveal the good things we do in the dark so that they may become examples for others; God will reveal the bad things we do in the dark so that they may become a warning for others. Whether good or bad, the goal is the same, and that is, to bring glory to the Father in heaven.
A. God Reveals the Good Deeds Done in Secret – To Serve as Example for Others
Some believers have done a lot of good things quietly for the Church and for the Lord. They do not want people to know but God has his way of making these things known, in order that they may become a good example for other believers.
A young man in the United States by the name of William Borden was the only heir of the Borden Milk Company. When he graduated at 16 from secondary school, his father gave him a present – a trip around the world. As he traveled in the Middle East and Asia, he saw a lot of poor people, he was moved by God and determined to become a missionary to help those poor people. When he told his family and friends the news, his friends and family were very shocked. And some people did not believe that it was possible, but he did not say anything and simply wrote down two words in his Bible “No Reserves”.
Later on, while he was studying in Yale University, he saw his classmates’ lack of spiritual interest, and so he organized a morning prayer meeting. As many as 130 students participated in it. On the year that he graduated, there were one thousand students participating in the prayer meetings. Because of his superior leadership, after he graduated, many international companies wanted to hire him, but he rejected the offers. He wrote a second phrase in his Bible, “No Retreats”. Later, he entered the seminary. After graduation, he had intended to go to China, Gansu Province to preach the gospel to Muslims. When his ship sailed through Egypt, he stayed there to learn the Arabic language; but he contracted meningitis. The disease was incurable during those times, and within a month he passed away. All newspapers in the United States carried the news of his death; everyone felt much regret over his passing away. Later on, they found his Bible and saw a third phrase he had written, “No Regrets”. “No Reserves, No Retreats, No Regrets” – this became a wonderful example and testimony.
Although he was not able to go to China to preach the gospel, his life still moved tens of millions of people to devote themselves to God towards the work of evangelism. William Borden did not tell anyone about his three mottos; only God knew about it, but God revealed them to the world.
B. God Exposes the Evil Done in Secret- To Serve as a Warning to All Men
God is awesome, God is omniscient, so there is nothing that can be hidden from him. Even the things we do in secret, although no one knows about them, will one day be revealed. Let me share a simple story- We used to have a helper in our home. She was a diligent worker, however, after a while, we often have things missing in our house. We couldn’t say that she was taking them because we had no evidence. Later on, my daughter also lost her cell phone. No one would admit to taking it.
Almost 3 month later, I was holding my phone and I do not know what I had accidentally pressed, but my daughter’s phone number appeared. I felt an urge to call the number (I had tried calling it many times before but I couldn’t get through), and so I did. Someone answered the phone, because the one on the other side spoke in Filipino, I immediately handed the phone over to my wife. My wife asked the man why he had that phone number, and we discovered that our helper had sold the SIM card to him. Thus, it was proven that our helper was the one who stole the phone, and she had no recourse but to leave our employ. The things done in secret will one day be revealed. The Chinese have a saying: “If you do not want people to know, then don’t do it.”
The Bible also records how the most famous David committed adultery with Bathsheba. David was a very intelligent man. It is frightening when a wise man commits a crime. By the hands of another, he killed Uriah and took Bathsheba. In men’s eyes, Uriah was killed in battle and David simply took in the young widow he left behind to care for her. Joab knew a bit of the whole story, but he wouldn’t speak up either for fear of losing his own life.
I have mentioned before that there was about a period of 2 to 3 years between the time David committed this sin to the time he repented of his sin. From the time Bathsheba became pregnant to the birth of the child and until the death of the child, at least two to three years’ time had elapsed. In those years, nobody knew what David had done. He looked the same, he continued to lead the whole nation in worshipping God, he served, he prayed, he gave; no one knew that David had murdered a man and had committed adultery.
It was like the case of TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Jimmy Swaggart committed sexual immorality; Jim Bakker failed in matters of financial accountability, he swindled many members of their money. But it took several years before their sins were exposed. All that time, they were still doing their television evangelism; no one knew what they were secretly doing. But our God is awesome, He knows everything, He has his way of revealing everything in time.
Jesus said, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” We must let our light shine before men, but is our light a true or false light? May God’s Word remind us that whatever we do in the dark, good or bad, will one day be disclosed. Let us not deceive others or ourselves.
II. He who Has More will Have More, He who Has Less will Have Less 24-25
He continued “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” These two bible verses teach us two principles – first, men’s principle; and second, God’s principle.
A. Man’s Principle
With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – men live by this principle. In other words, people will treat you as you treat them. This is a very basic principle – When you smile at them, people will not curse you. When you curse men, they will not smile at you. If you curse them and they smile at you, then you have to be careful of such men, for such men hide a dagger in their smile. They may be smiling at you, but there might be murderous intent in their heart. Those are scary people. In ordinary situations, people will treat you the way you treat them.
In order to establish a healthy church, we must first establish a spiritually healthy environment. What is a healthy environment? When you wake up to have your exercise regimen, you will see many health-conscious people exercising; although you don’t know each other, but because you are all health enthusiasts, a good rapport can be found among you; you will greet each other with a smile and even say good morning. It is because the atmosphere is healthy. But if at 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and everyone is in the midst of their busyness, you stand in the middle of the road, and say` good afternoon’, no one will reply. People will say you are crazy, because there isn’t a healthy atmosphere then.
The interpersonal relationship among people is interesting. Usually, I bring my daughter to school in the morning. Every day, we would pass by a place where an old man stands begging for alms. One day, my daughter told me, “Dad, please give him a little money.” I did as she said. I don’t know why, but from that morning on, every time I pass by the place, I would automatically give him some money. After a week, he seemed to have recognized my car already, for even before I reach the spot, I would see him smiling at us. When I give him the money, he would give us his best smile and say thank you. I don’t know why, but my heart feels happy doing it; so every day we would hand him some alms. About a month after, we passed by the place and didn’t see the old man. Unable to give him money, my heart felt some sort of a loss. I felt like seeing him so I can give him some money. Human relationships are very interesting! In the church, we must build a healthy atmosphere. Here, we help each other, we love each other, we encourage each other, because this is a home, a spiritual family.
B. God’s Principle
“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” He who has more will have more, he who has less will have less. Jesus had once used a parable to explain this principle, “The Parable of the Talents”. In this parable, a master gave 5000, 2000 and 1000 talents respectively to his three servants. The servant who got 5000 talents earned 5000 more, and the master was very happy, rewarded the servant with the original 5000 talents and the 5000 he earned. The servant who got 2000 talents earned 2000 talents more. The master was very pleased and gave the servant the original talent of 2000 and the 2000 more he earned. The servant who got 1000 talents did not earn anything, and the master was very displeased; he took back the 1000 talents and gave it to the first servant who already had 10,000 talents by then. The master said, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” He who has will have more, he who does not have, will have less. God follows a principle when he works. You must use wisely the talents God had given you. The more you use them, the more you will have. If you don’t use them, the Lord will take them away and give them to those who do use their God-given gifts to serve others. And so, those who are gifted become more and more gifted.
Actually this isn’t a difficult truth to understand. A group of classmates who graduated 30 years ago had a class reunion. In their reunion, they discovered there were some among them who were very successful bank managers, doctors, department heads, while some remained ordinary. Thirty years ago, when they were still studying, their grades were almost the same, so why was there a big difference in how they turned out? Some people started to complain, “The world is really unfair, heaven didn’t give me good opportunities!”
An old professor was there and said, “Let me ask you a math problem, 10-9=?” What kind of a question was that? Even a grade one student could answer that! But the professor said, “Do you know how to play bowling? The rule is you have to hit ten pins. Your score depends on how many pins you hit. If out of the ten pins, only one pin is left standing, then you get a score of 9. If you hit a strike, that is, all 10 pins fall, you don’t put a score until the next frame is done. If out of ten frames you hit ten strikes, you get 300 points. If you get a score of 9 in all 10 frames, you get a final score of 90.
The difference of the scores between the person who hits a strike for all ten frames and the one who hits 9 pins for all ten frames is 210 points. When you were studying, your grades were almost the same, but after graduation, some of you just graduated and some continued to learn and to progress; thus in ten years’ time, the gap between you grew wider and wider.”
Brothers and sisters, isn’t it similar in the spiritual aspect or in any other aspect in this life? The poor becomes poorer, the rich becomes richer; the educated becomes more educated, the uneducated becomes more uneducated. This is so true. Church, the more we use the talents God gave us, the more we will improve, the more we will bear fruit. Do not be lazy, do not be afraid of hard work, for to the one who has more, more will be given.
We have seen the two great principles by which God works: God will reveal all things, good or bad, so that they may become examples and warning for others. Also, he who has more will be given more, he who has less will have less. So, do not be weary in doing good, for in time you will reap a harvest. Amen!