In the Face of Evil...
Dear heavenly Father, as we remember the violence perpetrated by terrorists against our country ten years ago, move us to repentance over our sins; cause us to look to You for our safety; and lead us to ever greater faithfulness as we seek to follow You, our Savior and Lord! We pray on behalf of our nation for Your presence, Your consolation, Your instruction, and Your mercy. Be with us as we worship this day. Amen.
Remember the Lord's Mercy!
The apostle Paul assures us that while we may well suffer many things in this life, our suffering cannot and will not compare to the glory we will experience in heaven. He promises that all things will work out for our good as we love God, for He has chosen us in connection with Christ from eternity, has called us into a relationship with Him, and has promised us that nothing will ever separate us from His love!
Sermon Text: Psalm 37:1-8
Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.
In Christ Jesus, our Source of truth and strength, dear fellow redeemed:
Today is the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks upon our country, in which nearly 3,000 people died in New York City, Washington D.C., and a solitary field in western Pennsylvania. Do you remember where you were when you first heard about those attacks? I was en route to Marvin and Jeanne Leiding’s home. I remember turning on the radio and hearing the announcer state that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. At first I wondered whether they might be broadcasting a modern day “War of the Worlds” radio drama, but when I arrived at Leidings, Marvin and Jeanne had the television on and we watched together as events unfolded.
On that day 19 terrorists changed our lives forever in many important ways. President George W. Bush addressed the nation that evening and stated: “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror…. Today our nation witnessed evil!” How ought we respond to evil? It is only natural to respond at first with disbelief, followed perhaps by sorrow and anger. President Bush spoke about bringing the terrorists to justice. Many people strongly desired revenge. Applications to enter the military sky-rocketed as men and women volunteered to defend their country and protect their families. In fact, earlier this week, an article in the Free Press stated that enlistments in the National Guard today remain high at least in part due to the attacks that occurred on 9/11.
Evil, however, does not just arise occasionally to surprise and attack us. Evil, because of sin, is all around us…all the time! Sometimes, as on 9/11 it threatens us physically, but it always seeks to destroy us spiritually. How ought we respond to the evil that surrounds us? This is a very practical matter, for it affects each and every one of us. David, the author of our text, was certainly no stranger to evil—both physical and spiritual. In this text he addresses it and thereby reveals the will of our God. IN RESPONSE TO EVIL, he tells us, God instructs us, “Not to fret!” Rather, David says, God invites us, “To be faithful!”
David begins and ends this text with many of the same thoughts. He begins: “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” He ends: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.”
I love this Psalm, for its thoughts are so practical and applicable to our lives. Which one of us does not at times “fret” about things as we face the evil of this world? In fact, quite a few of us tend to worry a lot! “What if this happens,” or “what if that happens?” Yet, God says, “Do not fret because of evil doers!” Why? Because in the end all “evildoers”—every “worker of iniquity” will be cut down by God just like we “cut the grass!” In the end those who practice evil will dry up like a weed pulled out by the roots!
My dear friends, it may not always seem that way! Osama bin Laden avoided justice for nearly ten years, but in the end justice was served. Evil men may often appear to prosper in this world—making large sums of money and living in luxurious conditions. We may even at times be tempted to envy them. They appear to be living the “good life!” But remember—“with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Let us maintain a godly perspective that recognizes that our existence and that of every man, woman, and child is not tied merely to life in this world. We have all been created with immortal souls and the time we spend here on this earth is but a fraction of our entire existence. God does judge evildoers, and he will ultimately judge all who embrace evil! Even if they should seemingly escape all consequences for the evil they have done, they will hear God’s words of final judgment: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” (Matthew 25:41b)
There is, however, a second very practical reason why God instructs us, “Not to fret!” Listen once again to David’s final words: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm!” Common reactions to evil are anger and wrath, but anger and wrath often simply compound the problems we face when confronted by evil. Anger and wrath confuse our thinking and blind our eyes and ears to the face and the voice of our Savior God! Together with worry, it must be strongly stated—they “only cause harm.”
Think about it in the most practical terms. How many of the evil things you worry about ever happen? A small percentage! God prevents most evil from entering our lives. To spend our time and our emotional strength worrying about every possible evil thing that can happen exhausts us and prevents us from fulfilling our callings in a good and faithful manner. To spend our time in worrying suggests that we do not recognize the power of God that is at our disposal as His children and heirs. Will God who has created us, redeemed us, and called us into His family, forsake us in this midst of the evil of this world? Of course not! He cannot not, for He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” The divinely desired result of that promise is that “we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6) Consequently, IN RESPONSE TO EVIL, God instructs us, “Not to fret!”
Instead, God invites us, “To be faithful!” The heart of our text is a series of encouragements by David to turn to and strengthen our relationship with God. They are, as it were, a series of invitations from God Himself! David urges us, first of all: “Trust in the LORD, and do good!” We have every reason to trust in the LORD! Think about our Scripture reading from earlier in our service. The apostle Paul began that reading by stating that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Earlier this week it was my privilege to visit one of our older members in the hospital. She had fallen and had a pretty severe bruise next to her left eye. The effects of an earlier fall were still evident above her right eye. She was pretty weak and receiving intravenous antibiotics. I directed her to this verse, encouraging her to trust in the LORD, because He was her Savior God. He loved her so much that He sent His Son to deliver her from sin, death, Satan, and hell. Her glorious future, which would last throughout eternity, was assured through Jesus’ triumphant resurrection. Her future in heaven does not include walkers, or glasses, or multiple medications, and bruises on her face. Rather, it will include everything both grand and glorious. Therefore, she could trust Him explicitly to help her through her present troubles. Doing that, she could then concern herself with doing good—thinking about how she might serve as an encouragement to others after her release.
God invites us to “dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” In the midst of all of the evil we see in this world, God has placed much that is good. He has given us the lives we lead—the homes in which we live, the property that we own, the clothes that we wear, the vehicles that we drive. God wants us to enjoy those blessings as His children. As we do so, let us focus not on the evil of this world, but on the goodness of God. People can and do feed on many things that are negative and hurtful, but that need not be! Yesterday morning I sat in a chair in our living room next to the front window of our home. My granddaughter, Rebecca, was on my lap and I was reading to her from a book of fairytales as the sun began to rise. We watched a dark blue sky turn into a pink/red horizon, followed by shades of gold and finally we could see the sun itself. God faithfully brings each day into existence. He provides for our needs in a myriad of ways. Think about that faithfulness. Jeremiah assures us that “the LORD’s mercies…are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). By feeding on every aspect of God’s faithfulness, we will be able to pass through any evil unafraid!
David encourages us to “delight yourself (ourselves) in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” In my mind this is one of God’s most precious promises. In effect--do something wonderful, and you will receive something wonderful! If we delight in the LORD we will want to spend time in His presence—here at church, but also in our homes, or while we are on the job. We do that every time we open our Bibles or hear the Scriptures read. God is talking to us. We do that every time we turn to God in prayer and communicate with Him. We do that every time we share our faith with others or express to others the reason for the hope we have regarding salvation. God promises to give us our heart’s desire. Now, that does not mean that God is like a genie in a bottle—someone under our control and bound to fulfill our every wish and command. In fact, as we delight in God, He will conform our desires to His will. His will is that our lives be filled with joy (cf. 1 John 1:4), and He will indeed fill our lives with joy!
David encourages us to “commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Your way is your life—every component of life. Entrust it entirely to God! That only makes sense when you keep in mind another thought from our Scripture reading today: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) God has a plan for our lives. As we entrust our lives to Him, He is sure to guide us and bring to pass everything that He both intends and has planned for us. Will we face evil along the way? Of course! Will Satan attempt to undermine God’s plans and remove us from His gracious, good will? Of course! Will Satan succeed in his efforts? Absolutely not! Once again consider our Scripture lesson. Paul asks: “Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Paul’s answer is a resounding, “NO!” In fact, Paul says, “In all these things (in other words in the midst of all of this evil) we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!” (Romans 8:37) He concludes by stating quite emphatically that nothing at all can ever separate us from the “love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
My dear friends, ten years ago when terrorists attacked our country, there were many lives lost as many people stepped forward with courage to help others. Many of those acts of courage were motivated by faith in Jesus Christ and continue to serve as examples for us today. David concludes this middle portion of our text by saying: “He (God) shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Satan uses evil in an attempt to destroy good. God promises to work all things—even evil—together for good to those who love God! IN RESPONSE TO EVIL may God move us not to fret, but rather always to be faithful! Then our Savior God will be honored, and we and all those around us will be blessed! Amen.