12th April 2016

Letter from the Pastor

What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8v36

These words, spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, are familiar ones. They help us to see things of this life against the perspective of an eternal backdrop as well as pointing us to the reality that life is not all about the material; but there is also the spiritual, the human soul, that part of us which shall live on after the death of our body, either in Heaven or in Hell. The verse reveals the sheer pointlessness of accumulating earthly possessions, wealth and power, for all these will be left behind when our lives end.
But does this verse only apply and have relevance to us following that moment when we pass into our eternal, fixed state? Is it a case that before death, those who neglect the spiritual side of their humanity do have solid joys and thrills arising from their gains within the world? This is certainly what the world would claim to be the case: the idea is put forward and tacitly accepted, that there is, for the most part, a direct correlation between material prosperity and happiness. The more we have the happier we are. The only thing which could spoil this, to the world’s thinking, is ill-health; so, provided we maintain a reasonable measure of health at the same time, happiness is sure to be ours. Consequently, many dream of acquiring that ‘lucky break’ which would secure for them that increase in wealth and possessions which, they imagine, automatically leads to an improvement in life and pleasure, so they can eat, drink and be merry before they die.
However, a recent study conducted by the Office for National Statistics contradicts this popular view. Reporting just before Easter, under the headline: ‘We’re healthier and wealthier than ever – but still grumpy!’ the survey showed that ‘in many parts of society life in the UK is improving’. Also that ‘the number of years people can expect to live before illness begins to have an impact has been rising’. In short, people are living longer and healthier, with more creature comforts than ever before; but at the same time the study revealed that levels of satisfaction and contentment with life have been declining; people, despite these measurable improvements to their lives, are still not satisfied, not happy – ‘still grumpy!’
So, it is apparent that the Lord Jesus’ words about gaining the world – even the whole world – not profiting a man, have relevance not only following this life, but during it too! As the pursuit for bodily health and material wealth becomes ever more the focus of society, neglecting the spiritual side is having a clear outcome – they are not profiting due to neglect of the soul.
For Christians these revelations hardly come as a surprise. We know from the Bible, God’s Holy Word, that if any are to know true peace and joy, real contentment and happiness, this can only arise through knowing God through Jesus Christ. Knowing His great salvation accomplished through His sufferings and death on Calvary, through which the penalty for our sins has been paid for and we can know forgiveness of them. Through believing this wonderful Gospel of God’s love and grace we come to know personally ‘the God of hope’ who fills us ‘with all joy and peace in believing’. Our souls, instead of being lost, become living – in relation with God through Christ our Saviour.
We may lose the whole world – at the point when life ends, all do lose all that is and has been our world – but the soul which is alive and with God here below, shall continue to live and be with God eternally above. So, through paying attention to our soul’s welfare, we not only do not lose our soul, but come to profit truly within – both in this life and the one to come. When all is well with our souls, then it is, that peace like a river attends our way.
Is all well with your soul? Have you come to Christ as your Saviour and known your sins forgiven by His work on cross? Has your lost soul been found? Do you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is to know Him and live with Him? May God help us all to not be caught up with the relentless focus on material and temporal things, to the frightful degree that we neglect and lose our own souls, and in the final analysis profit nothing.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! O voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope! Blessed rest of my soul!

It is well with my soul;
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-88)

Pastor Paul Ackerley