“Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”
In his sermon “On Living Without God,” John Wesley tells a scientifically implausible story about a frog who lived its life trapped inside a tree. Evidently, there was just enough moisture and sustenance in the tree to sustain this unfortunate frog’s life. Upon being released from its living tomb, the frog hopped away with all of its sensory organs fully intact but inoperative from disuse. This poor frog is analogous, for Wesley, to a human who has everything he or she needs for life but who deprives him(her)self of seeing, hearing, touching, or otherwise experiencing God.
Wesley is not speaking of those who do not believe God exists at all, for he says that he has only met two actual atheists in his entire life. He is speaking of those who, regardless of what they believe, make no effort to recognize, explore, or interact with God. They live as much without God as one who does not believe in God at all. They are “practical atheists.”
It may be tempting to consider it hopeless that these people would ever be reached. Just as the frog shut up in a tree lacked sensitivity and clear perception of anything in the physical world, those who have lived utterly without God are oblivious to the realities of the spiritual realm. Where is the hope?
Wesley had experienced too many awakenings and conversions to consider any of these goals with God unreachable.
Some people may be hopelessly cut off from all human influence and persuasion, “but the moment the Spirit of the Almighty strikes the heart of him that was till then without God in the world, it breaks the hardness of his heart, and creates all things new. The Sun of Righteousness appears, and shines upon his soul, showing him the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He is in a new world. All things around him are become new, such as it never before entered into his heart to conceive.”
Who are the names on your prayer list that have not experienced God, nor expressed any desire for Him, and seemingly have no sense of His existence? I remember the saints of the church praying down conviction on their lost loved ones, asking God to make them so miserable without Him that they wouldn’t be able to eat or sleep until they had peace with Him. It has been a while since I thought in those terms. It has also been too long since I have been part of such a glorious conversion. Before I do one more thing today, I’m checking my list and adding some names.
Scott Sherwood is the district superintendent of the Northwestern Illinois District Church of the Nazarene.
To read the full text of the sermon, click here.
Written for Coffee Break.