Houston, we have a problem!
These words – made famous in the Tom Hanks movie, Apollo 13 – were first spoken by James Lovell from space aboard Apollo 13 on April 13, 1970. The phrase does a good job of getting our attention. The question it immediately raises is “What’s the problem?”
Another famous quote (credited to Pastor Oswald J. Smith) effectively captures what I believe is the most urgent problem facing our world today:
The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart
All new news is old news happening to new people
God revealed this same axiom to the prophet Jeremiah over 2,600 years ago.
“The sin of Judah is written with an iron stylus; With a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts and on the horns of their altars... This is what the Lord says: ' Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt that is not inhabited' ... The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:1,5-6,9)
The culture of our day instructs us to look into our own hearts to decide what’s best. “Just follow your heart!” we’re told by every Hollywood movie or TV show. There’s a strong resistance to external objective standards in preference for subjective emotional urges, which typically fluctuate with the circumstances. Happiness is defined by whatever makes us feel good in the moment, irrespective of the consequences to others or even to our future selves. ‘Truth’ is relative, shaped to suit our self-centred desires.
The world parrots Pontius Pilate who sarcastically declared:
“What is truth?” (John 18:38)
The situation was the same in Jeremiah’s day. They too were stubbornly rebellious in the face of God’s truth and wilfully – even gleefully – ignored His gracious warnings of imminent judgement.
“So now, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Behold, I am forming a disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Now turn back, each of you from his evil way, and correct your ways and your deeds!”’ But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will persist in the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” (Jer. 18:11-12)
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The inherent fallacy of this approach is obvious. When you commingle 7.9 billion people who are all following their own evil hearts and striving for their unique version of ‘truth’, the result is inevitable strife, dissension and chaos. That is exactly what we see all around us.
The Only Sensible Alternative
The solution is to identify and adhere to a single common and infallible source of Truth.
To bring this idea to life, imagine 79 ships all trying to escape a raging storm by making their way into an extremely precarious harbour, which is blocked by numerous reefs and shallow sand bars. The captains of these ships decide they each know the best way to navigate into the port, ignoring the needs of all the others. Possessing no shared principles for navigation, they stubbornly cling to their own perspective and shut their eyes to the warning beacon of the lighthouse. Blindly they forge ahead with no concern for the consequences of their actions.
What these captains need to do is submit to the authority of the wise harbour master who has the foresight to engineer a rescue plan that is best for everyone, and his trustworthy marine pilot who knows intimately the location of every reef, sand bar and current. That is their only hope of reaching safe harbour.
Now multiply that scenario by 100 million and you’ll get some sense of the hopelessness of our current world system. There is the only sensible alternative:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:7-8)
There is only One who is perfectly wise, righteous and trustworthy, deserving of our allegiance and submission:
“I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, To give to each person according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10)
Our hearts need to be transcribed with God’s Word (Jer. 31:33), permanently erasing the sins previously engraved, and then knit to the heart of Jesus.
His is the heart we need to follow…
“'Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. And you know the way where I am going.' Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.'” (John 14:1-6)
… And His is the voice we need to listen to
“Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this purpose I have been born, and for this I have come into the world: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.'” (John 18:37)
We must not hesitate. We need to get our lives back on course while we can. The risk of shipwreck is too high and the consequences are severe. Invite the Pilot into the bridge of your life, give Him full control of the helm and let Him navigate the treacherous waters for you. You will be blessed if you do, and that’s a promise (Jer. 17:7).