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What Do We Mean by “Essential?”

Posted: 4/10/20 at 9:00am. Column by Ed Jordan.

There’s a word we hear in the news and in daily conversations during this time of COVID-19 isolation; that word is essential. People like to purport their determination of what is essential and what is not. But is what is essential for them or essential for me? Is what is essential for me, essential for them?

For medical workers it is essential to keep everyone healthy. Is that ever totally possible? If it’s not possible, can it be essential? It is essential to try, but that does not guarantee outcomes. For environmentalists, it is essential for man to control the climate. That too is impossible, so can it really be essential?

So we see that it is easier to identify that something is essential, than it is to actually accomplish an impossible goal. I applaud all the people in the medical services and first responders risking their lives to save the lives of others. What they do is very important, and indeed they save many lives.

I applaud those who want to take care of our environment, which is also important. I applaud people for making sacrifices to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and I pray for those losing income and jobs.

But again that begs the question: How do we identify the difference between what is important, what is not so important right now, and what is essential?

How do we identify the difference between what is important, what is not so important right now, and what is essential?

The vast majority of us are giving up for a time our physical presence with others, and we are keeping our social distance from each other. We have determined that right now keeping others healthy is more important than our social lives, so we try to maintain essential contact in different ways than before.

For physical life to be sustained, we conclude that air, food, water, and shelter are essential. The form of the food isn’t essential; it doesn’t have to be steak or caviar—we just need a healthy diet. We need water or fluids to drink, air to breathe, and shelter for protection and rest. All these things are physical essentials for health.

Some people would not include spiritual essentials in the list of essentials for human health. But we should. It is God who gives us our physical life. It is God who has the power to do what doctors and medicines cannot do. It is God who is beyond the natural. God is supernatural, and God has wisdom, power, and resources to intervene when we are at wits end. It is God and our relationship with God that is essential.

Are there spiritual essentials that are necessary for sustaining a healthy spirit? Yes, there are. God himself is essential for us to have what is needed to establish a life-giving, life-sustaining relationship with eternal God. And what God accomplished in the Easter event makes all the rest of life with God possible.

Paul states that what God did in Jesus is essential, of first importance in restoring God’s life to fallen humanity. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (CSB) we read: “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep (died).”

Jesus is the essential. He died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life again.

God wants us be alive in him, not dead and alone. When we admit we have done things against God (sinned), and turn to God for a new life in Jesus, our sins are forgiven. As we exercise faith in Jesus, we bring God’s power over death and sin to work in our lives. As we surrender our lives and agendas to God, Jesus comes to live within us, along with power that ultimately defeats death in both our physical and spiritual lives.

John explains it this way in 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (Jesus).”

Jesus is the ultimate essential for all spiritual living. In the midst of conversations about what is essential, do not neglect Jesus, who is the ultimate essential of life here, and life eternal.  He died, but broke the power of death. He is now alive, and active in our midst. Do you know Jesus? Do you serve him? Celebrate Jesus Christ this Easter!    

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.