Right Attitudes, Part 1- God is in Control (Sn2:Ep07)

Peace to Live By: Right Attitudes, Part 1- God is in Control (Sn2:Ep07) - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       In the fall of 1962, the United States faced one of its most fearsome and challenging times in its history as a country. For those who remember back at the time, it was discovered that the Soviet Union had setup missile silos on the coasts of Cuba, and these nuclear ballistic missiles were capable of reaching most anywhere in the United States. But as God would have it, though, he chose the right man for the right time. It was through wisdom and patience that President John F. Kennedy was able to handle the situation.

       It was during the evening of October 22 when President Kennedy delivered one of the most chilling speeches in American history. If you go back and listen to the speech now (say you YouTube it), it doesn’t seem all that frightening. But you have to understand what was going through people’s minds when the speech was given. You have to put yourself in their shoes. The United States was perhaps the closest its ever been to nuclear war, and the threat of nuclear missiles raining down on Americans was very real. In fact, to quote Kennedy, he said, “It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” That was the mindset of the time.

       The President had to take each moment of the conflict step by step, hour by hour. But President Kennedy was able to see a different view—a different perspective—into the possibilities of outcomes. While the Military wanted a military strike, he wanted to resolve things peacefully. The military believed no such ending was possible, while Kennedy believed the opposite—that a peaceful ending was achievable. And in the end, the President was right. It turns out that Kennedy’s quarantine, or blockade, of the Cuban Island was an effective measure to prevent the Soviets from continuing to build the missile silos. Not only this, but Kennedy’s communication with Premier Nikita Khrushchev proved to be effective. A deal was struck between the United States and the Soviet Union and war was avoided.

       Indeed, when looking at how President Kennedy handled the Cuban Missile Crisis, one has to consider his shrewdness in judgment taken at the time. Christian friends, I want you to take note of this example of patience and understand that if we are going to be pleasing to God, if we are going to exhibit the patience that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us—we have to able to see an event, a life circumstance, through. We have to have the ability, like President Kennedy did, to see the ending of the event in our minds—the one God promises to work together for the good.

       Let’s look at some of the problems facing our world today. For one, there is always the threat of nuclear war, right? Many major countries have nuclear weapons, including unstable and untrustworthy ones like North Korea. Right now, the United States isn’t on the best terms with Russia, the former Soviet Union. We, as the United States, don’t even have the ability to carry humans into space—at least at this moment, which nobody would have believed some ten years ago. Then there is always the threat of terrorism, though, the government has done a good job at warding off terrorist plots. The economic climate here in this country is one of continued debate. Some think the economy is getting better, while some believe it is getting worse. Not everyone has the job they want, or is making the amount of money they would like to make. Oh, and then there is the threat to our own personal health. Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or even Ebola can and do threaten people’s lives.

       In light of all the threats to our existence and things that would degrade our existence, I am so glad that I, personally, believe in God. I don’t know what I would think or do, if I didn’t believe in him. I would imagine that I would probably spend a lot of time worrying about things that I shouldn’t worry about. I would worry about the things I just mentioned when there really is no need to worry. It’s not that bad things can’t happen, it’s just that I know that God is in control. I can rest assured that no matter what happens, God’s got my life in his hands. It’s part of his plan. But I also know that most people don’t have this assurance of mind. Most people think it is up to human wisdom to stop the world’s problems, to stop nuclear war, or to stop the spread of diseases like Ebola.

       I want us to take a moment, on a basic level, and think about the past, like we did in reviewing the Cuban Missile Crisis. Let’s think about God. Indeed, whether we go all the way back to the beginning of time, some 6,000 years ago, or whether we go back to the times of Abraham, or even the times of Moses, or we could go back to the times of Christ, or perhaps even closer than that the time of King Arthur (assuming he was real)—we would find that no matter what time we consider—no matter what era it is—there is always one thing that is consistent. And that one thing is that God is in control. He led people through times of peace and times of war in the past, no matter what you consider, and he will get us through times of trial and trouble in this day and age. God doesn’t change, and he is in complete control of everything, as he has always been. We can look at the past for full assurance of the future.

       So, considering this, what does this mean for us, as Christians? It means that knowing God has always been in control and that he still is in control, we can have full assurance of faith that no matter what comes into our lives, whether individually or collectively, as God will take care of us. We don’t have to worry about the world being destroyed by nuclear weapons because it’s not going to happen. How do we know that? Because God has told us the future in the Book of the Revelation. An astroid from outer-space is not going to destroy the earth, as that’s not part of God’s plan. And God will never destroy the earth again by a flood. He promises us this all the time with rainbows in the sky. Things like this we can be assured of.

       But is Ebola something that we really have to fear? Not if your a Christian. We don't have to fear things like this because, as I just mentioned, we know God is always in control. We're not going to catch something outside of God's plan and without his knowledge. It may be in God's plan for some of us to get sick in our lives—with whatever illness it be. He may help us overcome that sickness, teaching us things about himself, or it could be our end. Recall what David said in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (3-4, ESV).

       We as Christians are not to fear death. The Apostle Paul said, "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, ESV). Really, death means we get to go to Heaven and be with Jesus. The Apostle Paul even talked about how this is better for the Christian. But God has things for us to do here on earth before we leave. We have to share the message of God’s good news so that more people will be saved.

       But part of our problem as people is that we don’t really believe God for what he says. Many a times, I don’t think we really believe that God is in as much control as he is in control. We may see something bad happen in our world and think, “Hmm. Is God really in control?” The Bible, though, tells us that God is in control, and we should believe him when he says this. But I think many of us suffer from having to see something to really believe it. Many of us have Thomas’ problem. Remember what is written in John chapter 20. The disciples had just seen Jesus risen from the dead, but it is written of Thomas: “But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25, ESV). And I think many of us are like that.

       We just wont believe God for what he says. Sometimes God has to do miracles to get his point across, but then often we still wont believe it. For Thomas, Jesus had to appear to him. It is recorded: “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29 ESV). We should agree with King Solomon when he says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV).

       To be sure, though, not only is the world having more problems, but our own beliefs, as Christians, are coming under attack. Really, the ways God says are right are truly what is coming under attack. Whether it be in a circle of friends, at the workplace, or in our own families, in our own homes, beliefs will differ. Not everyone follows the truth, and this causes friction. Some who disagree will persecute us, as Jesus warned us repeatedly that they would. But seeing all the immorality in our world, and other evils, we don’t have to fret, as Christians. We don’t have to worry or give up. Remember, our home, our citizenship really isn’t here on the earth, but rather it belongs in Heaven. We should not let our emotions be shaped by the things going on in our world, by the seemingly scarily things that are reported to us daily.

       In view of the evils in our world, I believe, like some others, that a more severer form of persecution may be coming here to the States—both from individuals who would wish violence upon us and perhaps someday from our own government. As, society becomes more immoral, for instance, and we as Christian leaders do not back down on God’s truth—on reality—we will undoubtedly face persecution. Many, however, want to be tolerant of evil and not speak out against it. This concept has even run rampant in many churches of our day. Many churches don’t want to speak out against certain things like adultery, homosexuality, whatever—because they feel that it’s not peaceful (and they are afraid of losing their tax exemption from the government). But one cannot love others without telling them the truth. Let’s take an example of what this might look like.

       Surely, the day will come when we are penalized for saying homosexuality is wrong or we may perhaps even be locked up in jail for saying it. But that is a consequence for speaking the truth that we will will have to face when the day comes. Practicing homosexuality is something a person can change, and is not like the color of a person’s skin. People often link these two areas together in talking about civil rights. God creates people with the color of their skin in his own image, but God doesn’t create people to practice sexual immorality—to be sexually perverted. Now, I understand that many people don’t feel homosexuality is wrong—I get that. But God says that it is, and God loves us as people and wants what is best for us. We as Christian leaders cannot back down and are not going to back down on saying homosexuality is wrong, not now, fifty years from now, or a hundred years from now. God doesn’t change his Word. And hopefully we will stay true to this regardless of the consequences, whether they infringe on are own personal peace or rights to freedom.

       But what do we, as Christians, do about the scares and evils in our world? In its most basic sense, we are to pray. That may sound like a simple answer, but prayer can and does make a difference. The Apostle Paul gives us a good rule to go by. He said in Philippians 4:6-7: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV). If you read the verse correctly, God says here that we are not to worry about anything—anything at all. This verse, undoubtedly, is very hard to comprehend in its true essence. I don’t think any of us practice it; I know I have failed in practicing it. But we should take seriously what this verse says and thereby live in freedom. Jesus gives us this encouragement: “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, ESV). We should live one day at a time. This blocks out any worry for possibilities of trouble tomorrow.

       We have to remember to be thankful to our Heavenly Father. He didn’t have to give us life to begin with, but has chosen to bless us with life. Remember what King Solomon teaches us in Ecclesiastes. He says, “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, ESV). It is possible that tomorrow will be a better day. But regardless, we should be thankful to God. After all, he has saved us from our sins, made us new creations, fellow heirs with Christ, and the list goes on and on. We will one day be with God in Heaven, as our future is in Heaven with him. We can have peace now, regardless of our circumstances, as we saw God promised us earlier, and we are guaranteed peace in the future. We can have the best of both worlds.

       Whatever is going on in our world or in our lives, the Bible tell us what we should be thinking about—how we should be structuring the thoughts in our minds. It is written in Philippians 4, again, by Paul: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV). We have freedom in our thoughts. God tell us to think about good things. Again, controlling the thoughts going through our minds can be extremely difficult, but through the power of the Holy Spirit it is definitely possible. It is just a continual process, moment by moment. And Paul notes that following God’s Word and the example he laid out will bring us the peace from God that we are really looking for. We just need to live moment by moment, day by day, remembering God and his promises—his Word—and things will be good in our minds.

       In conclusion today, going back to what I talked about earlier with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the other problems in our world today, like Ebola for instance, do you find yourself worrying about these types of things in our world? Do you find yourself having a continual, underlying feeling of dread or doom presiding over your thoughts and mind? You see, we as Christians know that God is in control of our world, though God never guarantees us, as individual humans, another moment in time. God is the one who decides each of our fates, but we can rest assured in his perfect ability and perfect will.

       Today, we have looked at the fact that in spite of problems in our world, God really is in control. Perhaps, today, you’re not a believer in God, but what I’ve said today has caught your attention. Perhaps you’re not in close fellowship with God, but what I have said has been interesting to you. Perhaps you have come to realize that God really must be in control, and that he is the one with the power over all things. Well, no matter who you are, God wants you today to come into a personal relationship with him. He wants you to believe that he really is God and he wants to make available to you the freedom from worry and anxiety about the world and about your own life. God wants you to accept his provided payment for your sins, so that you can come into personal relationship with him today.

       You see, some 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to the earth as a human and died on a cross to provide the ultimate sacrifice for sins that God's righteousness requires. Since we as humans have all sinned against God, we have to be made right with him to be approved by him. Jesus makes this possible. You can have a personal relationship with God today through Jesus Christ. God will guarantee that you will escape any of his wrath to come, which includes hell, and that you will always have the choice of peace today and you will always live with him in peace in Heaven in the future. God doesn't want to have to send anyone to hell, but in his righteousness and justice he must do so for people who will not accept Jesus.

       If you would like to believe in Jesus today for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life, then follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I have sinned against you in my life. I have not lived following what you want, but I have done what I have wanted. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead so that I might have a new life with you. I give my life over to you so you will give me your peace and accept me. Please give me a new life, and make me more pleasing to you, like Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

       Let's pray:

       Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity today to learn about the fact that you are in control of our world, the fact that you are in control at all times and that you control all the elements around us no matter what happens. Father, we do not have to fear things in our lives because of your control. We don’t have to fear untimely or unexpected death because you have already decided our death dates in your perfect plan.

       Help us, Father, as Christians to be pleasing to you. And, I pray that if our time comes, we will not be ashamed before you because we were not ready to come into your presence. I pray for those who have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior today, that you will build that person up in the newfound faith that they have in you and that you will teach them your truth, so that they might be at peace in their own minds, and now, pleasing to you. Father, please bless us as we go about the rest of this day. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton