Allen Jackson - How To Respond - Part 1
It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our study on how to navigate this big trouble, this turmoil that we're walking through, and in this particular session, I wanna explore with you some things we can do, really, as response points in our lives that, I think, the big idea to hold in our hearts is that we're not the first generation that recognizes we have wandered off the path. There's a bit of an arrogance amongst us that we think, well, because we're facing all of this darkness, it has to be the end of the age. In reality, the challenge of God's people through all of the ages is that we lose our focus, and we wander into disobedience either purposefully or intentionally. God knows how to bring restoration, and if we're willing, he'll use you and me to be salt and light in the midst of that purpose. It's an exciting time to serve the Lord. Grab your Bible, and get a notepad, but most of all, open your heart.
Now, we've been talking around this theme of how to thrive in the midst of big trouble. "Big trouble" is just the vernacular for the biblical word "tribulation". "Tribulation" means "big trouble," and we typically, I think, imagine that the tribulation is The Tribulation, the Ultimate Big Trouble. That's what's described in the book of Revelation. I mean, before the Lord comes back, there's going to be some really big trouble, and, you know, if you're in the midst of the trouble, it's big trouble. You know, the difference between minor surgery and major surgery is if it's on you, and the difference in "trouble" and "really big trouble" is whether or not you're involved with it, and we are living through a time of turmoil and chaos and confusion and realignment that is unlike anything in my lifetime. I'm not willing to say that it is the ultimate big trouble, but it has all the characteristics that will be reflected in that. Then there's ample biblical evidence to suggest that.
So the question becomes what do we do with that? Do we wring our hands? Are we filled with panic? Are we anxious? Are we angry? Do we ignore it? Do we just whistle more loudly? What do we do? And I want to submit to you that the Bible gives us a pathway so that we can flourish in the midst of the trouble. That's really good news. There's nothing happening in the earth that has caught God off guard or that frightens him or threatens him or causes him to be intimidated, and all those things are true of me, but they're not true of him. And it's almost unbelievable what we're watching happen. I mean, really, for me, it stretches the limits of credulity. Sometimes I have to, that just can't be, but it is. The World Health Organization, in the last week, has made the announcement that, from their enlightened perspective, that "human gender cannot be understood as binary". You can't make it up.
Last week, the leading teachers' unions in the states didn't wanna use the word "mother". They preferred "birthing person". I grew up on a farm in Tennessee. Those issues are much less confusing to me, but, I mean, that's just one sample. You know, economically, we are, as a nation, we're more than $30 trillion in debt, and our leaders on both sides of the aisle can't seem to promise us enough free stuff. That is a formula for absolute disaster. That's not a political statement. I'm telling you, the economic turmoil that we have, just, we see the fringes of, I don't see any way that doesn't intensify. It's a time of turmoil but, again, not a time to be afraid. It's a time to understand our faith in a new way. God, in his mercy, is waking us up. Up until this pandemic was introduced to us a little over two years ago, we were pretty much asleep at the wheel. We would talk about our conversion and our baptism and the style of worship we preferred, but we weren't overly focused on our faith.
I wanna share a quote with you that a friend shared with me this week. I wanna read you the quote and then see if you can guess who it is. It's a figure of some substance, a person of some substance. I'm gonna change one word, but I'll tell you which word it is before I'm done. "To live our lives and miss the great purpose we were designed to accomplish is truly a sin. It's inconceivable that we could be bored in a world with so much wrong to tackle, so much ignorance to teach, and so much misery we could alleviate. It seems that ambition and avarice know no boundaries, yet life goes on with too many living in a kind of shapeless idleness. Recreation becomes the goal of life. Bars abound, sports are perpetually proliferating, gambling consumes many, and almost any form of entertainment is pursued to fill the void created by a meaningless life. Year after year goes by in unprofitable pursuit".
You know who said it? Let me give you an important clue. That's a quote from 1797. 1797. That's William Wilberforce, the man who spent his life standing in opposition to the slave trade. Someone shared that quote with me this week, and I was dumbfounded. He said, "Life goes on with too many living in a kind of shapeless idleness. Recreation has become the goal of life". The quote says, "pubs" abound. I slipped "bars" in. Same word. I didn't wanna give it away. "Pubs abound, sports are perpetually proliferating, and gambling consumes many". I thought, when I heard it the first time, they were talking about all our fantasy sports leagues. 1797. Is it safe to say that "there's nothing new under the sun"?
The human character is not dramatically different that the reason our adversary is so effective, that the temptations that worked in 1797 work pretty well in 2022. I mean, we may have some technological sophistication, but human character really hasn't changed much. We're vulnerable in the same ways. So, if there is a season of tremendous change and realignment in the world, I'm of the opinion that it's a time of great opportunity for the kingdom of God. It's not a time to be frightened or withdraw. It's a time to advance. It's a time to stand tall and tell the truth as we understand it with as much clarity and with as much frequency as we're capable of. I'm expecting to see more people yield their lives to the lordship of Jesus and submit themselves to the authority of the Spirit of God than at any time in my life. I also expect we will see expressions of resistance unprecedented in our lifetime.
I don't think we should be surprised that when the Supreme Court acts on behalf of the sanctity of human life and allows individual states to make choices regarding the unborn in those states. It doesn't surprise me at all that there are protests objecting to that. Evil very seldom relinquishes the stage. We have to overcome evil with good. So it requires us to find our voices. I hope you're doing that around your kitchen table and your neighborhoods, at the ball fields when you're waiting for your children, at work. Wherever it is the Lord has given you influence or an opportunity to interact with people, I hope you're helping identify the things you see God doing. I hope you're talking about them and encouraging other people to see them. In this session, I wanna focus on one specific aspect of how we thrive in this big trouble, and it has to do with the foundations of our lives.
When there is tremendous stress, the ultimate determination if the structure, the event, the business, the relationship, whatever it is, will survive has everything to do with the foundation. If you're doing the Bible reading with us, our reading today seemed appropriate. How many of you are doin' the daily Bible reading? Good for you. What do the rest of you do? It will help you. It really will. Fifteen, twenty minutes a day, you can read through your Bible in a year. The discipline of it will change your life. I can testify to that. It is changing my life. But our reading today, the first four verses said, "When you go to war against your enemies and you see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours," when the enemy is stronger than you, "do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you".
When the enemy is stronger than you are, don't be afraid of them. Do you ever feel inadequate, a little too insignificant, your voice is too small, your resources aren't great enough? "Nobody cares that much about my opinion". The knuckleheads have bigger microphones. It's not a new thing. This goes all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy, and God is addressing it: "When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army". The priest. "He shall say, 'Hear, O Israel, today you're going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid.'" If God's telling you not to be fainthearted or afraid, guess what? Your heart is thumping, and you're terrified. "Do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory".
The victory doesn't come from the army. The victory doesn't come from your strategy. God may give you an effective army and an effective strategy, but the victory comes from the Lord. We've been saying this for months and months now: The problems we face are not political or ideological. They're not about a political party or economic decisions or international circumstances. The problems we face fundamentally are spiritual, and until we have a different spiritual response, we're not gonna have a different outcome physically. God is training his people in the book of Deuteronomy how to lead triumphant lives, and he said, "When there's a physical enemy, where there's an army that can overpower you, don't be afraid of them". That's counterintuitive. In fact, he said, "When you find that circumstance, call the priest to talk to the troops".
I'm lookin' forward to that day when we bring prayer back forward in our nation, when we bring it back into our hospital corridors without anxiety or back into our courtrooms and our classrooms, back into the military. It's time. I hear people who spent their career in the military saying that they don't have the freedom any longer to encourage somebody serving with them to read their Bible or to pray in Jesus's name. It's almost unthinkable, to me, that we sit silently by while that happens. What have we been doing? Lord, I'm sorry. I hope you are. This isn't somebody else's problem, folks. On our watch, we've been quiet for too long. They've told us not to bring our faith to corporate America while corporate America takes their worldview and imposes upon the rest of us. I'm not angry at them. I'm embarrassed for my cooperation with the intimidation tactics of the last few decades. But we're changing. We're beginning to pray. We're beginning to put our trust in the Lord in some new ways.
So what is our response to the big trouble? Hebrews 12, in verse 2, we looked at this verse on Sunday. We'll take off from here. It says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God". Jesus is our model. What do we do in the face of trouble? It says, "Fix your attention on Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross". He had to go through something. He couldn't fulfill God's purposes for his life without having to overcome something, and neither will you or I. This notion that the point of our faith is just to make our lives easy and every moment fun is deception.
Now, you don't have to go looking for trouble. Life will bring enough to you, but the coaching we're given is to fix our attention on Jesus. He's the author and the completer of our faith. "Consider him," in verse 3, "who endured such opposition from sinful men". He endured opposition because there were people who rejected God. In every generation from 1797, to the first century, to the 21st century, there are men and women who will not cooperate with God, but they're not passive in that rebellion. They oppose those who choose to cooperate with God. They crucified Jesus, they opposed Wilberforce, and they will oppose the purposes of God of the 21st century. Okay, duly noted. Let's go anyway. "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart".
So what's the warning? Don't get tired, and when you get tired, don't lose heart. You ever get tired? Yeah, look at the person next to you. Say, "You look like somebody that gets tired". We all do. We all have those days. It usually starts with a thought or an idea, or maybe it gets assaulted with a feeling: "I, just, I don't wanna do that today. I don't wanna read my Bible. I don't wanna be kind. I don't wanna be upright". I mean, we laugh about it. You know, you go to the grocer. You're in the express line, "eight items or less". The person in front of you has got 40. You know, on some days, I'm feeling compassionate. I'll help them bag their groceries. Most days, I wanna take the celery stalk and thump 'em over the head. "Let me help you count to eight: One, two..." Right? But usually those aren't my real challenges. I can find enough patience to get through the grocery store. It's the days when you think, you know, "I don't wanna do this. I'm tired. It's not workin' out right. I'm afraid that the change is too much".
There's, I mean, you have to guard your heart. Everybody does. The delivery of those ideas and those emotions is universal. It comes to all of us. It's why the counsel of Hebrews is to not grow weary and to lose heart. So what do we do with that? Let's take it a step further. Jesus gave us some instructions in Matthew 7. It's a familiar parable. You will know it. I didn't even put the whole parable in your notes. He said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice", that's the category that people who hear his words and put them into practice. You need both parts of the equation. You can know all about what Jesus said but choose not to practice it, but "those who hear the words and put them into practice is a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it didn't fall, because it had its foundation on the rock".
Now, you know the alternative. Somebody built their foundation on the sand. Same beautiful house, same construction company, just two different foundations, and Jesus said the outcome isn't the storms. The storms are the same. Life's challenges come to everybody, unexpected disappointments, intrusions, unfair, illegitimate expressions of evil that touch our lives, but he said you can build your life in such a way that, when the storm comes, it doesn't collapse. I'm interested in that. Are you interested in that? How do we establish our lives that way? Well, the author of Hebrews says we have to fix our attention on Jesus. Jesus said we need to hear his words and determine to put them into practice, so I think it's safe to say from that, that foundations are essential.
I know it's true with the building. I've been involved in quite a bit of construction, and I know that those foundations have a lot of specific engineering directed towards them. The more sophisticated the building, the more sophisticated the foundations. They're important because whatever structure comes above it will never be any better than the foundation. I had a friend, one time, who lived in Florida, and he was showing me some construction projects, and there was a multistory apartment building that was leaning. It was gonna have to be completely demolished. They didn't get the foundation right. Whoops. We've seen that in our spiritual lives. Some of us had to have had to tear some things down and rebuild on a better foundation. It's a part of how we learn. So foundations are essential.
Look at Psalm 11, in verse 3: "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do"? That's a very important question because there are times in history, times in the unfolding narrative of civilizations and the people of God, when there is an intentional attempt to disrupt foundations. We're watching one of those times. They say they're gonna redefine marriage. Well, God hasn't changed his imagination of marriage. They're gonna redefine family. Well, God hasn't changed the definition. In spite of brokenness of our marriages and the brokenness of our families, God's imagination of that has never changed. It is proven over millennia to be the most stable, fruitful ways for human beings to live together. We're living in a time where evil is celebrated and good is condemned. Things like purity and integrity and honesty are openly chided, and we will celebrate people who are manipulative, dishonest, immoral. That sound like the world you're watching? Recognize it for what it is. It's an attack on the foundations. We cannot continue to do that and imagine we will flourish as a people.
Now, I'm not talking about your faith, but I'm telling you, as a society, if we want our children and our grandchildren to live in a stable place with opportunity and freedoms and liberties, we're gonna have to have the courage to stand for those foundational ideas and values. Things like truth should be expected. We shouldn't be tolerant of deception and misleading statements and misremembering. We all make mistakes, but there's a difference in making a mistake and being intentionally deceptive. But don't look outside the walls of the church. Listen, we've gotta come back inside and begin in the mirror with ourselves around our own tables. We've hidden our sin. We've dismissed our ungodliness. We've winked at immorality. We've used our words to tear people down with innuendo, with suggestion. We've cast aspersions on character.
There's no place in all of society that's worse about that than the church. There's no place where we more quickly assassinate character with suspicion, innuendo, double entendres. We've gotta repent. It's wicked, and you shouldn't imagine you'll escape the judgment of God if you practice it. It's not a good idea. "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do"? Well, I would submit to you, this really isn't that complex. The truth is we've been warned. In multiple places in the Scripture, when Jesus talked about the trouble that would come as we approach the end of the age, he told us about the kind of things that would happen, the escalation of violence, lawlessness, betrayal, deception, apostasy.
We've been warned. He told us about that. The real question, we're told to meditate on this book, day and night, not to let it depart from our eyes, to talk about it to our children, when we lie down, when we walk along the road, when we sit, when we're in the house. We don't give as much attention to that as we do training them in other things. We don't give as much attention in our own heart. So the question becomes when will we choose to listen and obey? Those of us that go to church, when will we choose to listen and obey? Remember what Jesus said: "The one who hears my words and puts them into practice has a foundation that will stand".
There's not a more powerful choice you and I can make with our lives than to choose obedience to the Lord. How many times do we have to hear the truth before we'll decide to be obedient to it? God doesn't have to convince us. We have to decide to yield to the lordship of Jesus. That's my prayer for each of us today that we will choose him and his truth with our whole heart. Let's pray:
Father, forgive us for our stubbornness when we are unwilling to yield. Lord, we come today in humility to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our entire person, body, soul, and spirit. We choose obedience to you with all that we are and all that we have, in Jesus's name, amen.