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2001 Sermons People Want To Hear

2001 Sermons People Want To Hear #2

"Good living in a bad world"


You are a Christian. You have committed your life to Jesus Christ. You want to be a good person and always do what is right. But, it’s hard.

Your child is the victim of a school bully. He’s afraid to go to school. The teacher doesn’t seem to understand. The principal doesn’t help.

Your neighbor’s yard is a disaster and your house is up for sale. He has cars on his lawn, two barking dogs, weeds all over the place, paint peeling off his house and a stereo that blasts music until after midnight. When you asked him to clean up and quiet down, he laughed and gave you an obscene gesture.

Your brother gave you bad financial advice. He said the stock investment was a sure thing and you’ve lost a huge amount of money that you couldn’t afford to lose. He is rich and doesn’t take any responsibility for his bad advice or your loses.

Your boss is incompetent and blames you. He makes you look bad and tells lies behind your back. No one seems to understand and no one seems to care.

Your father molested you but denies it. When you went to your mother to ask for help she wouldn’t believe you and told you to stop always causing trouble.

Your church abandons you. Maybe not literally, but they just don’t care. They just won’t listen. It’s like you don’t matter anymore. Other people have taken over and passed you by. You are hurt and sad and angry and upset and no one seems to notice.

The list goes on and on. We live in a bad world filled with injustice, discrimination, violence, evil and pain. There are times when some of us feel like giving up . . . or giving in. We try to live right, do good, be Christian but don’t know how or get discouraged.

In our survey asking what sermons people want to hear, many wondered about how to live a good life in a bad world. Some listed specific situations in their jobs, families, schools or communities. It becomes obvious that we all face different situations. But it also becomes obvious that we all face the same basic challenge—how can we be Christian when surrounded by evil?

The answers fill the entire Bible. It is a book about how to be and do good in a world gone bad. But there is some advice for Christians that leads the list.

I. Please God first Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 5:9

2 Corinthians 5:9
"Make it our goal to please [God]."

Matthew 6:33
"Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness."

Pleasing God and putting God first is both a decision and a mindset. It is a revolutionary and transforming approach to how we live life.

Perhaps this powerful principle is best understood by comparing it to other alternatives.
If I put money first, the guiding principle in every situation and relationship is profit. The Bible says that is common but bad:
Hebrews 13:5 = "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content
with what you have."

I Timothy 6:10 = "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some
people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and
pierced themselves with many griefs."
If I put pride first, I will become angry and upset when I don’t get my own way or someone hurts my feelings.
¨ If I put career first, all relationships and situations will be interpreted in terms of my job and business prospects for the future.
¨ If I put God first, the constant question I ask in every situation is, "What can I do to make God happy? What would God like from me? What would please God?"

This biblical advice will not answer every question or solve every problem, but it will get us started with our hearts, motives and faith in the right place. Sometimes God is pleased with a lawsuit and sometimes God is displeased with a lawsuit. Sometimes God may be pleased if I complain and sometimes complaints may displease God. As Christians, we need to take a good hard look into our hearts and ask what God would want us to do.

When we seek to please God and seek his priorities, our worries are reduced.
Our concern is pleasing him not getting even, rich, promoted or reconciled. When Jesus said to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness," he predicted what would happen next:
¨ Our needs will be met by God.
¨ We no longer have to worry about tomorrow’s problems.

Please God first.
Advice # 2 is to think good stuff.

II. Think good stuff Philippians 4:8

Philippians 4:8
"whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

What we think about is a major factor in how we deal with evil in our world.
If we think about hurt, hating, greed, lust, conflict, sin, revenge and hate—our thoughts will suck us into evil and the consequences of evil.

I heard the story of a well-known Christian in this country who thought about bad stuff so much that one day he was sitting in his office chair and passed out. That may be unusual, but I’ll tell you what is not unusual—some people think obsessively about bad things, bad people and bad situations until their lives lose joy. They become obsessed with political corruption, crime in our cities, conflict in churches, and bad relationships in our families. They think and worry and are damaged if not destroyed.

Some of us will insist that we cannot control our thoughts.
We just think what we think—we don’t like thinking bad things, we don’t want to think bad thoughts, it just happens. Well, that’s a bad thought itself! And, that is simply untrue. God would not tell us to choose good thinking if it were not possible.

Most of the time I fall asleep very easily and very quickly. I go to bed at night and am asleep in just a few minutes. I sleep well, and for that I am grateful. But a few times a year I go to bed and sleep doesn’t come. I lie there and just think. Sometimes I think bad thoughts. I worry about something and think of all the worst possible alternatives. I think of everything that can go wrong. I imagine ways of getting even with people who haven’t done anything bad to me except in my misdirected imagination. It gets out of control—almost like a virus multiplying in my soul.

Then I stop and realize what I am doing. I deliberately think about other things to think about. Good things instead of bad things. God-things instead of evil things. Thinking based upon faith and hope and righteousness instead of doom and gloom and sin. It works.

Philippians 4:8
"whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

III. Don’t condone wrong Romans 12:9

Very different but equally important advice comes from Romans 12:9. "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."

As Christians, we must hate evil and love good. Hating evil means never condoning it. Don’t approve of anything that is wrong.

Lying is wrong. Murder is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Idolatry is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Sexual harassment is wrong. Racial discrimination is wrong. Injustice to the poor is wrong. As Christians we should know what is wrong, see what is wrong and be unafraid to call evil evil. We should not condone sin.

Our culture places very high value on tolerance. Let people do their own thing. Nothing is wrong unless it hurts someone else, and not even that may be wrong. While previous generations called abortions, pornography and sexual relations outside of marriage sin—our generation likes to call all these things choice and personal preference. The attitude is, "Keep quiet. Look the other way. Shut up. Mind your own business."
The Bible says: "Hate what is evil."

Listen well: While we must never condone sin, we do have to pick our battles. Just as Jesus didn’t confront every evil in his generation, we cannot confront every evil in our generation. We live in a world with sin, and sometimes we face tragic moral choices where we have to leave some evils unconfronted so that other evils can be confronted.

Let none of us become self-righteous nitpickers. Jesus taught us to seek God’s kingdom first, but he kept on talking. Listen to Matthew 6:33-7:5.
"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

In other words, we need to first be right ourselves and then we can help others do right. Don’t condone sin, but don’t focus your life on the sins of others.

IV. Believe that God is greater than evil 1 John 4:4

Advice #4 is really important--it takes faith to believe that God is greater than evil.

The Bible teaches that we are in a great spiritual battle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. It is a cosmic conflict between Satan and God. The war is real, ferocious and strewn with casualties. Sometimes the fight is obvious in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, in car bombs in the Middle East or the AIDS epidemic or the battle scenes from Saving Private Ryan or the gas chambers at Auschwitz. But more often the conflict between good and evil is what we see in road rage, marriages ending in unnecessary divorce, rape, dishonest business deals, political rivalries, sick and dying children, street crime and domestic violence. Every day, everywhere, we are on the battlefield between good and evil. We are stepping around and stepping on land mines. We are dodging bullets. And we are suffering wounds and casualties. Some of what we see and experience is insane, crazy, wild, irrational and senseless. That’s the way sin is.

Bad things in our world should never surprise us. This is war.

That’s bad news, but there is good news. God tells us in 1 John 4:4, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." This refers to the Holy Spirit of God inside and empowering every Christian. We have the greater power, and we are guaranteed the ultimate victory in this war.

When tired, discouraged and beaten—remember that God will win. When it seems unlikely, if not impossible, that any good can come—God will win! The only way to do good in a bad world is to believe to the bottom of your heart that no matter what happens, God will win! "Because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

V. Treat others well Matthew 7:12; Hebrews 12:14

The fifth and final advice for good living in a bad world is to treat others well. This distinguishes us as Christians. It shows that we have a supernatural perspective. We can and will love our enemies. We will return good for evil. We will forgive those who harm us. We are more like God than we are like those who do what is wrong.

Jesus gave the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12—"do to others what you would have them do to you." As Christians we treat others the way we want to be treated, not the way they treat us. Do you have any idea how revolutionary this is? It is thoroughly and essentially Christian.

I try to live this way and I am amazed at the practical power of Jesus’ teaching. When people criticize me, I try to be kind back to them. When a restaurant server treats me poorly, I try to give a generous tip. When someone writes an unkind letter, I try to write back in love. Does this always work? No, not always—but the goal is not always to change the other person but to please God and do what is right.

"Except," you say, "some people are impossible to get along with. No matter what I do, no matter how well I treat them—they refuse to get along with me!"
The Bible gives some very practical counsel in Hebrews 12:14, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy." What if it doesn’t work? What if the other person is unresponsive. What if your kindness is misinterpreted. Another line in the New Testament (Romans 12:17-18) says, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Christians do everything we possibly can whether others no matter what others may do.

If the other person wants a lawsuit, make every effort to avoid court and to settle. If the other person wants a divorce, do everything you can to reconcile the marriage. If the someone want to fight, make every effort to live in peace. It is the repeated Christian principle to do what is right no matter what anyone else does. Be kind. Love. Forgive. Be like Jesus—don’t let others or the situation control your beliefs, morals or reactions—be like Jesus.


A single engine plane was flying along the Amazon River in Peru a week ago. It was picked up on radar by a reconnaissance plane owned and operated by the American Central Intelligence Agency. Based on CIA information, Peruvian fighter jets scrambled and shot down the small aircraft. They didn’t check the plane’s ID before shooting. They didn’t find the flight plan that had been filed. They didn’t hear the conversation between the pilot of the small plane and the control tower—apparently they were on difference frequencies. The single engine civilian aircraft was riddled with bullets; the pilot was wounded in both legs. One of the bullets went through the body of Veronica Bowers and into the head of her 7 month old baby, killing both. Amazingly, the plane crash landed and flipped upside down on the Amazon River where the profusely bleeding pilot waited 45 minutes for help—along with two dead bodies, a new widower who just saw his wife and baby killed and the dead woman’s eight year old son who saw his mom die. They weren’t drug runners. They were missionaries.
Last Friday (April 27, 2001) the funeral service for Veronica Bowers and her baby was held in Muskegon, Michigan. Her husband, Jim, spoke at the funeral. He declared his love and forgiveness for the pilot and crew who killed his wife and daughter.
They did nothing wrong. They were wounded and killed in the war between good and evil. They were casualties of too many things going wrong in a bad world. But they were Christians, and their faith in God and commitment to Jesus Christ led them to good living in a bad world.

What’s your situation? Who’s been trying to shoot you down? What has gone terribly wrong? Remember:
· Please God first
· Think good stuff
· Don’t condone wrong
· Believe that God is greater than evil
· Treat others well

April 28-29, 2001 Wooddale Church

© Leith Anderson 2001

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