A couple had two boys ages 8 & 10 who were mischievous. If there was any trouble around they were usually involved.
A new preacher came to town that’d had success with disciplining problem children so they asked if he would speak to the boys.
The minister agreed to see the two so the mother sent her 8 year old first in the morning, with the older boy to visit in the afternoon.
The preacher had a big booming voice so the youngster’s eyes grew large as he asked him sternly, “Son, where is God?” The kid’s mouth dropped open but he had no response, sitting there in wide-eyed shock. So the minister asked again, “Where is God?”
Finally the preacher stood in front of the boy & shook his finger in his face & asked again as loud as he could, “SON, TELL ME, WHERE IS GOD?”
The boy screamed & bolted from the room, ran home & got in the closet slamming the door behind him. His older brother found him in the closet & asked him “What happened?” The younger brother gasping for breath replied, “We’re in big trouble this time dude. God’s missing--& they think we did it!” I realize this story doesn’t necessarily fit here but I think it’s hilarious & I wanted to tell it.
When people get desperate, or think they are, it’s amazing what they are willing to do. For example, a wife has been faithful to her husband for years, but because he isn’t as attentive as he should be, she throws discretion to the wind & has an affair.
Or a Christian young man, unwilling to continue to wait to find a Christian mate gives in & marries a woman whose faith is dubious if she even has faith. Or a Christian teenager fed-up with inconsistent parents, rebels & starts taking drugs & having promiscuous sex. The aforementioned are acceptable ways of coping by much of the world. The theme that permeates many popular songs & much of television & movies is; “whatever gets you through the night.”
Recently I was watching Jay Leno in his “man on the street” skit. He asked a man to name one of the Ten Commandments & he replied, “Freedom of speech.” A woman was asked to complete this sentence, “Let him that is without sin……. The answer came, “have a good time.”
Is our society in trouble or not? But not only are the unsaved in trouble these days, many Christians are so desperate for answers they cook up remedies for their problems that are worse than the problems themselves.
Here are some ways even Christian’s are ruining their lives.
1. ALLOWING EMOTIONS TO OVERRULE GOOD SENSE
Recently I heard a financial expert say;-“most people will never buy a car in their lifetime where their emotions aren’t deeply involved.”
I can relate to that statement although we’ve put over one-hundred thousand miles on our present car & almost a quarter of a million miles on the car we owned before that.
We do far too many things because of our emotions. Actions usually follow feelings like baby ducks follow their mother but that doesn’t mean the mother knows where she’s going.
The other day we were driving on I-4 in Orlando & suddenly came on a wall of tail- lights. We feared the worst but when we got close enough to see the problem it was a mother duck, out in the middle of one of the world’s busiest Super-hi-ways with about ten baby ducks following her. They were cute little rascals but that mother duck didn’t have clue-one as to where she was going nor how much danger she & her babies were in. I don’t know about you but I’ve learned that my emotions usually don’t know where they’re going either.
I won’t belabor it here because I’ve talked about it so much but letting our emotions rule us is always a bad idea, because our emotions & moods can change in 15 minutes for no apparent reason.
I’D LIKE YOU TO IMAGINE A SCENARIO FOR A MOMENT.
Picture a young woman, an immigrant from another country. She’s unfamiliar with the culture & the language but she’s eager to succeed & get ahead. She finds a position working for a wealthy couple in their large home. They are God-fearing people & she feels valued there & is treated like a family member.
But as time goes by she notices problems between the couple. She tells herself it’s none of her business but soon she finds her boss stopping to talk to her as she works. He confides to her there are problems in the marriage & becomes more & more affectionate towards her, which starts to make her uncomfortable.
But to whom can she turn? She has no friends & no support network. She’s completely dependant on her employers for everything. As the boss’s advances become more obvious the young girl wonders what to do. If they fire her she could be out on the street without a job or a roof over her head. This is supposed to be a good & upright man & a respectable citizen. One day her employer comes right out & lets her know he wants her to take his wife’s place in his affections & in his bed.
Did you imagine this story was taking place in a sprawling mansion of a multimillionaire? A high-rise in a big city penthouse apartment? Would it surprise you to know the original story I based this anecdote on happened in a tent made of animal skins at a desert oasis almost four thousand years ago?
Of course it was a different time & customs were different. A slave girl belonged to her owners & there was no such thing as human rights or a place to report sexual harassment. Polygamy was common & a man had a prefect right to have another wife or concubine if he wished, especially if his first wife was unable to have children.
ABRAM AND SARAH
In Genesis chapter 16 there’s this story of Abram & Sarah & their desperation to have a child. Sarah, - are you listening, - Sarah concocted the idea that her husband should have a child through their young Egyptian slave girl Hagar. How foolish does that sound to you?
Though this practice wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow in that time & among the folk of that day, Abram & Sarah [I know her name was Sarah at this point but I’ll call her by the name that’s most familiar to us,] were abandoning their faith in God’s promise he’d made them by a covenant in chapter 15. Abram & Sarah, so faithful in their lives to this point are now scheming according to the flesh & not according to faith in something that will result in disaster for them & all who would come after them. They were making the mistake of doing God’s business for God.
It’s interesting to note in this story that when Sarah is laughing Hagar is crying & when Hagar laughs, Sarah weeps. Their fortunes & prospects are always moving in opposite directions. Note also that Sarah & Hagar both speak but never to each other. Hagar speaks to God & Sarah speaks to her husband but no one but God addresses Hagar by name. The people around her speak about her but never to her & never call her by name. You may be interested to know Hagar is the only woman in the Bible who dares to give God a name when she calls Him “El-Roi,” meaning “The God Who Sees.”
Getting back to emotional thinking, emotions will say things like; “Well I don’t know what God thinks but I’m going to do this anyway.” Or, “I don’t care if I do go to hell, its hell to live in this condition anyway.” Before you use that last line as an excuse, I’d advise you to go back & read the eighty words that were spoken from hell in Luke 16:23-31.
The second foolish thing Christians do to mess up their lives is;
2. THEY LISTEN TO THOSE WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE WORD OF GOD.
Psalm 1:1 says, How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.
In verse 2-4 of Genesis 16, the deed was done. Abram & Sarah at last would have the child they’d wanted for so long. The house would soon be filled with the sounds of happiness. Sounds like its right out of a story-book doesn’t it?
But the euphoria was short-lived. Trouble was already brewing. Before the child saw the light of day tension filled the house so thick you could cut it with a knife. What was meant to produce happiness would end up producing nearly endless sorrow in areas they never expected.
Verse 2 says, -So Abram listened to the voice of Sarah.
You may say, “What’s wrong with a man listening to his wife?” Nothing; unless his wife doesn’t understand the will of God. God had spoken to Abram when he left Ur, when he left Haran, & when He made the covenant with him to give him a son. The revelation was made solely to Abram, & Sarah knows far less the he does.
It may surprise you to know how many people when seeking advice, will actually seek out either weak believers or those who don’t know God’s Word at all. As a matter of fact the surest way to make an enemy of some people is step in & tell them what the Bible says.
In Galatians 4 Paul says, --Before you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. Where then is that sense of blessing you had... Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?
I blame Abram for what happened here just as much as Sarah, in fact he shirked his responsibility big-time when he simply didn’t refuse what she suggested & remind her of what God had promised.
The third thing Christians do to mess up their lives is;
3. THEY BLAME OTHERS FOR THINGS THEY BRING ON THEMSELVES.
Surely when the trouble started because of what Sarah & Abram did they recognized their fault & owned up to all this, right? Wrong!
After the baby comes Hagar is suddenly elevated from the position of slave to second wife. She now had two things to hold over Sarah’s head; she’s younger & she can have babies. From Sarah’s vantage point this wasn’t the way it was supposed to work out.
But when we resort to fleshly schemes things never work out like we expected.
Whew! But there’s a bright spot here. As soon as it dawned on her what she’d done, Sarah humbled herself & went to her husband & apologized for her ill-fated suggestion. Right? Wrong again! She blamed Abram. That’s right, she’s blaming him. It’s hard to believe that this is the same woman who’s held up to us in the New Testament as a model wife. But to be fair, everyone in this story is just doing what comes “naturally” not obeying God & doing things His way.
It’s very common for people to blame others when their own chickens come home to roost. A sure sign of spiritual immaturity is when people refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions.
I used the story in a message some time ago about a small airline operating out of South America. Most of the clients were missionaries who were shuttled around in the light planes owned & operated by this fledgling air-transport company.
One day one of the planes took off carrying several missionaries & two well known Bible translators to a remote area. The plane had been airborne just a few minutes when it burst into flames & crashed killing all aboard.
When the news reached the headquarters of the little airline where the plane took off & all the planes were serviced, a Christian mechanic took the news hard. The reason he took the news so hard was he remembered his hands were the last to touch the ill-fated aircraft before it left. As he contemplated it, he remembered that in the process of servicing the plane, he’d left a cap off a gas tank. He’d made a mental note to come back & secure the cap but had forgotten to do so.
One of the things that made the story so unusual was that the mechanic didn’t have to tell his story to anyone, but he was convinced his mistake had caused the plane to crash. I was impressed by that story for so many reasons, not the least of which was that mechanic was one in ten-thousand who’d implicate themselves when it would have been easier to just keep quiet about the part they played in the tragedy.
However, life seems to happen less in a linear manner than cyclical, & this man knew in his heart that in the long run he’d be more a candidate for God’s grace to help put it behind him & experience healing if he was open & honest about his mistake, rather than just bottling it all up inside himself.
If we can’t come clean about our mistakes we’re much more likely to repeat them. Many people stagger through life from one crisis to the next, battered, bruised & taken advantage of & it never occurs to them that they hold the key to changing things, but they’re too proud to admit they’re wrong. The wife blames the husband as Sarah did here & as Adam did in the Garden when he told God, The woman thou gavest to be with me she gave me from the tree & I ate.
The fourth thing Christians do to mess-up their life is;
4. THEY COMPROMISE THEIR CONVICTIONS FOR THE SAKE OF KEEPING PEACE.
Doesn’t it seem to you that its time for Abraham to take the bull by the horns in this story? Isn’t it about time he administered the Word of God to his bickering family?
He could have started by saying, “Guys, this all started because I let it happen. I didn’t have to consent to this fleshly scheme but I did & I was wrong. But Sarah, honey, I need you to own up to your guilt & admit it was your idea in the beginning. You brought this on yourself so its high-time you stopped pointing your finger at everyone but yourself; OK? You should have stopped & considered how Hagar was going to react in all this. And Oh, Hagar, girl you need to climb off your high-horse & remember you’re still a servant in this house & you must treat Sarah with respect because she’s my wife.”
So does Abraham start sorting it all out & put things back in order in his house? Nope! Abram turns out to be more of a push-over than a patriarch in this situation. Let’s face it; Abram didn’t want to deal with two bickering women so it’s much easier in this incidence for him to be a mouse than a man.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that men be overbearing with their wives, a thousand times no. But the husband is supposed to be the leader of his home & sadly many men don’t even know what that means. Godly pastors are preaching & teaching it all over America but men aren’t showing up to hear it. In America’s homes today about the only way a man’s going to rise up & breath fire is if someone misplaces the TV remote. Wives are frustrated, children are exasperated & many men are pusillanimous passives.
Twice during the difficult years of this story Hagar left Abraham’s camp. Once was just before Ishmael’s birth when she ran away because of conflicts that arose between herself & her mistress Sarah. On this occasion an angel from the Lord told her to go back to Abram & Sarah—perhaps because as a runaway slave she’d have no means of support & care for her baby outside their household.
The angel also told her she’d bear a son & that she should call him Ishmael the name that means “God hears.” Fourteen years later Hagar left Abram’s home again this time Ishmael was a young man. Not surprisingly his stock in the family had gone down with the birth of the promised child Isaac. The conflict was so bad Abram sent them away but God spoke to Hagar again & provided water when her son was dying of thirst. God also provided encouragement for her & Ishmael as he led them into a new life. Certainly Hagar was marginalized if not victimized in this situation, a woman without value & standing in the eyes of man. Though God didn’t plan to send the promised son through her, & she wasn’t the lawful wife of Abram, He didn’t see her as insignificant, nor ignore her. God saw her, He spoke to her & he reached out & touched this woman who had no reason to believe her life was of any value to anybody.
Most people know that what we are seeing in the Middle East today, the bombings that are in the news almost daily is the fruit of Hagar’s son Ishmael being born; the fruit of what went on ‘behind the tent flaps” of Abram & Sarah’s household so many years ago when they left God out of their planning & took up fleshly methods rather than rely on the promises of God.
The fifth thing Christians do to mess-up their life is;
5. THEY JUST AREN’T WILLING TO WAIT FOR THE GOOD THINGS GOD HAS FOR THEM.
Nobody likes to wait. As a matter of fact our culture hates to wait. Waiting isn’t one of our strong traits. Make us wait too long & we’re pretty sure something is wrong. Waiting frustrates us, makes us mean, challenges our faith & tempts us to lose hope. There’s a name for people who can patiently wait without going nutso. They’re called saints. Many people however if forced to wait too long, give up & become cynics making the decision to just coast through life. They become permanently disappointed with God & man.
Here’s where young people get in trouble in our materialistic society. They look at what mom & dad have, maybe three cars, an RV, a five bedroom house, flat-screen TVs all over the place, plus a quarter of a million in their retirement account. Not understanding that it took the parents 45 years of working their fingers to the bone to accumulate what they have, the young person sets out to have what the parents have, but they want it NOW!
And just how are these young folk going to do this? Easy! ---Think with me about the credit card you have in your wallet or purse. Did you know it’s a “time machine?” Oh yes, that card at least for a while can reach out & grab the future & pull it right into your present. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way did you? Each day people are charging their way into the future because they’re too impatient to wait for the future to come.
Saving is such a slow & tedious way to work toward home ownership that people have signed for mortgages they can barely afford. Also it’s hard for young people to wait for marriage to have sex so fewer & fewer couples are waiting.
Are you waiting for something big to happen in your life, your marriage, your health, finances or even your ministry? Will you let me tell you something extremely important?
Here it is;--LIFE IS PRETTY MUCH A WAITING GAME. Let me go a little further. Life is slow, tedious, many times mundane & is so full of waiting if you’re not careful it can cause you to do something crazy; that is if you don’t know what I’ve just told you. Life includes seasons of running & seasons of waiting with a lot more valley time than mountain-top time.
If you’ve read many of my messages you’ve heard me say—God isn’t a time-dweller & isn’t impressed with time as we are. He calls on us to wait.
God wants us to wait in humility because He’s the king & we’re His subjects. He’s in charge. He knows when the time is right.
Waiting doesn’t mean we’ve been bad or that God is angry at us. Waiting doesn’t mean we’re lost or that God is punishing us.
Let us not grow weary of waiting like Abram & Sarah did & produce Ishmaels in our lives. Let’s not try to jump from mountain-top to mountain-top so we can live on a “false high” all the time.
Waiting doesn’t necessarily even mean that we are in need of repentance of some sin. Waiting just means that we need to be faithful & continue serving God in life’s routines.
In Hagar’s grief & agony, in her shame & hopelessness she cried out to the God of the helpless & the hopeless. The God who saw Hagar also sees you. He sees your need. He sees, knows & cares about your feelings & wants you to reach out to Him. Will you turn to Him? This story reminds us there’s a wonderful wideness in God’s unassailable love.
I invite you to remember with me this marvelous verse;
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run & not be weary & they shall walk & not faint.—Ish. 40:31