SURVIVING MY PRESENT
Last Sunday evening we discussed the importance of surviving our present. I
suggested that if we were honest and open about our personal struggles, it would be
evident that the present threatens to drown most of us. And we likely represent a group
within our society that is the most likely to survive the present. If we struggle to survive
the present, can you imagine how distressed people are who have not turned to God,
who do not have the encouragement of those who love God?
- If we as individuals are to survive our present, two things that we individually
must do is survive temptation and survive deceit.
- Two specific temptations that we must survive are:
- The temptation to take short cuts that ignore God's morality.
- The temptation to abandon God's values.
- Two specific deceits that we must survive are:
- The deceit that declares the central issue of life is "my rights."
- The deceit that declares that the way to build is to destroy.
- The scripture we read as we began our thinking was James 1:12-18.
- The blessed person is not the person who has no trials, but the person who
perseveres under trial.
- Why is it a blessing to persevere under trial?
- The process of surviving trials is the process that gains God's approval.
- This process will result in the Christian receiving the crown of life.
- God promises that crown to persevering Christians because those who
persevere endure (through loving God).
- When temptation envelops the Christian, he must not think that God is enticing
him to do evil.
- Evil cannot tempt God.
- God does not use evil to tempt anyone.
- This is the anatomy of temptation:
- A person is tempted to do evil because an evil desire within him or her is
- The person is captured by his or her own evil desire as this desire
develops or stimulates an appetite for gratification.
- By creating a hunger for evil, the desire gets pregnant and gives birth to
- When that sin achieves its purpose, it spiritually kills the person.
- Do not be deceived: do not think that God is responsible for our evil desires
- While God is not the source of evil or evil desires, God is the source of every good
- Every good thing, every perfect gift has its origin in God.
- God is the Father of lights, not the father of darkness.
- This is the unchanging God who provides us a steady light that cast no
shadows, unlike the sun that always moves, always cast shadows.
- God exercised His will to create us spiritually so that we could be the best and
most beneficial part of his creation.
Transition: This evening I want to suggest two additional understandings that are critical
to surviving our present.
- If each of us is to survive the present, we must survive injustice.
- In this world, little is fair; little is just; and fairness and justice have little to do with
what happens in life.
- I did not say that God is not fair and just.
- God exceeds fairness and justice beyond our ability to comprehend.
- God's grace makes fairness look like neglect.
- God's mercy makes justice look like indifference.
- I said existence in this world has little concern for what is fair or just.
- Every aspect of existence in this world is touched by evil, either directly or
- Evil has no concern for fairness or justice; evil pursues its dreams and
ambitions through exploitation, abuse, and manipulation.
- Existence in this world, life on this earth, is not fair.
- The overwhelming majority of this earth's population live in poverty stricken
nations or in undeveloped nations.
- When a nation's internal conditions are produced by a lack of development,
poverty, and overpopulation, it is unlikely that nation will produce a developed,
secure, prosperous people.
- Early death is always a reality, and it likely will continue to be.
- Devastating disease is always a reality, and it likely will continue to be.
- Malnutrition and starvation is always a reality, and it likely will continue to
- It is highly unlikely that an individual will escape those circumstances; a
few do, but comparatively very few do.
- Joyce and I have good friends, very capable people, who succeeded in coming
to this country to acquire a Ph.D. degree in a scientific area and in a medical
- Both of them (a married couple) had great potential for blessing their
nation and people.
- Their dream was to return home and address conditions of desperate need.
- They returned home to work in a university and its community.
- On a consistent basis, they encountered danger, opposition, and
- What they dreamed of doing was impossible.
- Conditions became so unsafe and unproductive that they were convinced
that they had to leave the people they most wanted to help.
- The world is not fair, and even when good people want to produce good
changes, they have limited success. Evil challenges every improvement.
- When you compare the population of developed countries to the populations of
undeveloped countries, about ten per cent of the world's population controls
perhaps as much as ninety per cent of the world's available goods.
- People in undeveloped nations tell you quickly that this is not fair.
- If you lived in their circumstances, you would declare it is not fair.
- Our society is not fair.
- These are the facts of life in our society:
- Society gives unfair opportunity to the connected (it is a matter of whom
- Society gives unfair consideration to the elite (it is a matter of what family
you came from).
- Society gives unfair advantages to the powerful (it is a matter of how much
clout you carry).
- Society gives unfair favoritism to the prestigious (status does matter).
- Society gives unfair "red carpet" considerations to the gifted (it is a matter
of you being superior to others).
- Society unfairly rewards those who are physically handsome or beautiful
(feeding the fantasies of others brings special rewards).
- The "haves" have incredible advantages over the "have nots."
- While there are exceptions, that is the common reality.
- Those advantages have nothing to do with fairness or justice.
- Life is not fair.
- Some have more than their fair share of hardships and struggles.
- Some suffer more than others and endure more than their fair share of pain.
- Some deal with significant disadvantages because of mistakes made by their
families; they must make more than their fair share of hard adjustments.
- Some endure more tragedy than others, and they cope with more than their fair
share of sorrow.
- Some endure more reverses than others; it is not fair that they have to begin
life again so many times.
- There is not a single adult in this audience who could not use your life and
your family to prove that life is not fair.
- So, regarding the reality of injustice, what is the question we each must answer?
- The question is not: "how do I eliminate injustice in my life?"
- The question is: "how do I react to injustice in my life?"
- You can dedicate yourself to escaping or eliminating injustice, but that
decision is more likely to "consume" your life instead of "rescuing" your life.
- Will I allow injustice destroy the person I am capable of being?
- Will I allow the injustice to become my obsession?
- Will I allow the injustice to shape me and make me vindictive and hurtful?
- Will I allow God to work in me and help me develop the heart and attitudes
that rise above injustice?
- Again, Jesus is incredibly relevant as we address the issue of personal injustice.
- None of us will ever endure the injustices he did, and it is highly unlikely that
the injustices we experience will approximate the injustices he experienced.
- Injustice did not change him; he was compassionate and merciful even to the
unjust, not vengeful and cold.
- Injustice did not change his objective; he came to extend help and forgiveness
to all the victims of evil.
- Injustice did not distract him from his goal; he did what he came to do.
- In Jesus' life, ministry, service, and sacrifice, injustice changed nothing.
- "How did Jesus do that? I cannot understand how that was possible."
- Any scripture that helps us better understand Jesus' actions brings a special
- A scripture that gives me that special blessing is 1 Peter 2:23, "...and while
being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats,
but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;"
- Peter discussed Jesus' conduct as Jesus was executed.
- For a long time I could not understand how Jesus the human controlled
himself in the face of such enormous, constant injustice.
- Peter told us how Jesus did it; as each injustice occurred, with complete
trust, he gave the injustice to God who judges righteously.
- He placed God in charge of injustice while he focused exclusively on
being the person God wanted him to be who did what God wanted done.
- As a Christian deals with injustice, he or she cannot divide his or her energy.
- We cannot seek justice and to behave as God wants us to behave.
- We will never have the energy and strength to do both.
- If you are to become the person God wants you to be, you have to entrust
injustice to God.
- We Christians will survive injustice only if we trust God enough to turn it loose and
give it to God.
- That brings us to James' final point regarding temptation: if we survive the
present, we must believe that God is the origin of all good, and trust that truth.
- We will not find good outside of God.
- We must know that to the degree we leave God we leave good.
- God is not the source of evil; God is not the source of temptation; God is not the
source of suffering; God is the source of good.
- We cannot always understand that truth.
- We cannot always explain that truth.
- But, if we are to survive the present, we must always trust that truth.
Do you survive the present by placing injustices in God's hands as you focus your
life and energy on being the person God wants you to be? As you do that, do you trust
this truth: God is the source of all good?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 December 1998
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