Twice a month we have a kids club in our neighborhood. As the main teacher, I get to interact with the kids and sharpen my teaching skills. On one occasion, I was teaching about how we show our faith by what we do. I used the example of electricity. We show we believe in the power of electricity by the fact that we turn on a light switch when we enter a dark room. That's when I was blind-sided by a precocious seven-year-old whose father is a skilled craftsmen. He said, "Actually, we turn on the light switch that allows electricity to pass through the wires that go up the wall to the light on the ceiling and illuminate the bulb."
I was stunned at the theological implications of a seven-year-old explaining away my illustration on faith. This little guy uncovered a human struggle: living in the balance between the physical and spiritual world.
The Lord created us as physical beings. We interact with our world through our physical senses - taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch. What we encounter from the beginning of our existence is mostly physical undergirded by emotion. As babies we can be comforted by the physical presence of our mother or be panicked by her absence when she leaves the room. Through faith, aided by our senses, we learn to experience God. We can see His handiwork in nature; we can hug someone who is upset. We can give food to a homeless person; we can hear a sermon that tugs at our heart...
So, we can say that if we are born again, we experience a spiritual realm through our physical being.
Isn't it interesting, that when confronted with a problem, we often find ourselves reacting two ways. This is a physical problem I need to resolve (or worry over), or this is overwhelmingly spiritual (Lord, where are You). Whether I’m in worry mode or crying out to God, I can see an overemphasis on the physical reality while overlooking something scripture tells me.
The Spiritual reality is the greater one. It will outlast the physical, because one day, heaven and earth will pass away.
The spiritual is more powerful than the physical as we can see in Jesus rising from the dead, and it is in no way limited by anything in space or time as we can see in fulfilled prophecy like Isaiah 53.
So my cry, “Where are you, Lord,” is quite often linked to my perception of a problem too big for me. A truer vision of God might see that He simply is and was there. Sure, I may be stressed out, but that doesn't change the fact that the Lord may just have allowed the problem I am facing. What if He uses it to jar me out of my satisfaction in all things physical to whet my spiritual thirst for Him? This brings me to a verse that really struck home. It comes from a passage where God is rebuking Israel for turning to Egypt's help rather than seeking His deliverance.
"The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together" (Isaiah 31:3).
Faced with an overwhelming problem, Israel sought help from powerful allies. We all need a hand sometimes, but God was letting them know that no one could do what they were asking. The Egyptians were only human. They may have been wise, powerful or rich, but at the end of the day, they were just people. Israel needed God's hand. Only He can truly deliver and do the unexpected, but more needed work, in their heart. In the same way, the horses are just animals: flesh but not Spirit. For Israel, the horses were powerful, much like technology is in my world. I did a lot of research for this article on my cell phone, which is a dynamic tool, but it's not Spirit. When the Lord stretches out His hand to save, no technology nor mortal person will successfully stand in His way!
How are we to live more spiritual lives as physical beings?
When it comes to a physical person living in harmony with the Spirit, there can be no better example than Jesus. Some of His phrases come to mind like John 10:30, “The Father and I are one.” Or in John 5:19b, “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
I want to be like that, but I cringe thinking about how much I default to natural solutions for my seemingly physical problems. If it's broke, fix it. Well, that's true, but there is more. I need Jesus. How can I compare myself to Him? I'm the one who is broken, and thankfully, He comes to fill me with the new life of the resurrection, flowing through my physical body. Maybe I need to recognize my self-sufficiency and confess it as sin. Confess that I've relied too strongly on human aid or some other crutch that has been a go-to-solution rather than Him. The Egyptians are but men; horses are only flesh.
Living in the balance between the physical and spiritual world isn't easy, and there comes a time when we might want to check our heart. Maybe the reason we turn to other people and other things is a question of love and treasure. Maybe we've slowly let them have more affection than they are worth. Rather than a complete satisfaction in the physical with a mild interest in the spiritual, we want total satisfaction in our Savior with a light hold on this world.