Craig Smith - Five Keys to Faithfulness
Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us, whether you’re joining us in-person on campus or online, just so honored that you take a little bit of time this weekend to join with us. We are three weeks deep into a series on Noah’s Ark, maybe the most familiar story in the Bible, but also the least understood. Everybody tends to crop the story one way or another. Hollywood has made it cruel, and the church has made it really cute. But the reality is, it’s not a cute story. It’s a pretty gritty kind of a raw story, and it’s in that rawness that we really begin to encounter some very powerful lessons for what it looks like to live by faith.
Now, so far, we’ve seen a couple of big ideas. The first one is the idea that our faithfulness matters more than we think. We typically think that our faithfulness matters between us and God. It’s about just, you know, sort of that one-to-one thing. But the reality is as we saw a couple of weeks ago, that our faithfulness matters to our family, it matters to our community, it matters to the country, to the world. And sometimes God withholds blessing from a group because of a faithful few there. Sometimes God actually brings judgment. I’m sorry, that’s not right. Sometimes God gives blessing because of a faithful few. And sometimes God withholds judgment because of a faithful few. But when the faithful few stop being faithful, then it’s kind of bad news for everybody. So our faithfulness matters more than we think.
Second thing that Reza showed us last week was that our view of sin matters more than we think. We have a tendency to look at sin at least…well, we have tendency to look at other people’s sin and go, “That stuff matters. My stuff, not so much,” Right? And what we saw last week was no, our view of our sin matters more than we think. Here’s the problem that when we start talking about sin, and you really can’t talk about Noah’s Ark without talking about sin. The temptation is to give in to what I call the window and mirror dilemma, the window and mirror dilemma. What I mean is that our temptation when we’re talking about sin is to look out the window at them, right? We look out the window, we’re like, “Oh, look, look how bad they were back then.” And we look out the window and go, “Oh, look how bad they are right now,” as opposed to looking in the mirror and, sort of, dealing with ourselves.
But the problem is that Jesus made it very, very clear that we need to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window. We need to spend more time looking at ourselves. And so the question that we really need to wrestle with as we go through the story of Noah is, what does this teach me about living faithfully? What does this teach me? Not, what does it teach them? Not, oh, this is a good message for my nephew or my wife or whoever to hear. No, no, what does this teach me about living faithfully? And what we’re gonna see today is actually as we kind of get to the climax of the flood account. We’re actually gonna see five truths that really help us to live faithfully, five things that if we can embrace them really begin to help us live faithful lives. I promise you at least one of these truths is something that God wants you to hear today.
So why don’t we go ahead and dive in. Why don’t you go ahead and you grab a Bible. Start making your way to the Book of Genesis. We’re gonna be in Genesis chapter 7. By the way, if you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills’s app, I really encourage you to do that. You can follow along with all the message notes and take your own as well. Genesis chapter 7, verse 1 begins this way, “And then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.'” So, I’m just gonna stop there for a second because that is not how I heard Noah’s Ark growing up. When I heard Noah’s Ark going up, it was always about twos. They went in twosies by twosies. There’s just one pair of every animal. And I remember years ago actually reading the story in the Bible, the real story, and finding out that some animals there were seven pairs of. Anybody else surprised by that? Yeah, I was totally stunned to find out.
And here’s what’s interesting is it says there were seven pairs of clean animals. Now, what’s going on with clean? Well, in the Jewish religious system, there were certain animals that were considered clean, they were ritually or ceremonially clean. And what that meant was that they were suitable for sacrifice. Okay? That’s gonna become important next week because one of the things that happens after the flood is over is that God requires from Noah a sacrifice. And the thing is like that there was just like one pair of every kind of animal, if he sacrificed them, that would be it for them, right? Like, we wouldn’t have those anymore. And so he has seven pairs of the animals that he’s gonna be only able to sacrifice so that they will be able to continue that species.
Now, the other thing I think is kind of interesting here is in my head when I think about the story of Noah’s Ark, I always thought it was kind of Noah’s job to go get the animals. Anybody else ever kind of think that? Like, I always pictured Noah with a clipboard, right, going, “Okay, zebra, check. Wolverine, check. Mosquitoes, check. Okay. Shem, go get me another mosquito,” right? But I always had the idea that he had to go out and get all these animals, including the ones he would need for sacrifice. But it’s interesting. If you drop down to verse 8, check this out, “Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark.” They came to Noah. In other words, God sent them. Noah didn’t go out looking for them. He didn’t have to go gather them. God provided them. And I think that’s fascinating because that means that God provided the sacrifice that he was gonna require later. He provided the very sacrifice that he required. And I thought that was really interesting.
And I got to think about it, I realized that’s actually a pattern that we see throughout the Bible. God require certain things from people, but he always provide those things for them. I was thinking, and maybe you know the story of Abraham and Isaac, where God required that Abraham sacrifices his only son, really hard story, difficult story. But Abraham was faithful, and he went up top of the mountain to do it, and when he got up there, he found that God had provided a ram. So God provided what he required from him. And by itself, that’s a beautiful picture of what we call the Gospel, that the wages of sin is death, that God requires death as payment for our sin. That’s what justice requires. But what did God do? He sent his own Son. He provided his own Son, who lived a perfect life and then died on the cross to pay for our sin.
And I thought, you know, it’s not even just sacrifices. God requires that we use our time, our talent, and our treasure to honor him and to bless others. But where does our time, talent, treasure come from? It comes from God, right? Or our God requires that we resist temptation. God requires that we resist the temptation to give into sin. But check this out. I love this. This is 1 Corinthians 10:13, “And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Even God’s requirement of avoiding temptation, God provides what we need to be able to do it. And I thought, you know, that’s such a consistent pattern that really, it’s a principle, and it’s really the first principle, I think, for faithful living we find in this passage, which is that God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. Do you hear me, church? God never requires from us what he hasn’t already provided for us. Whatever God requires of us, he’s already given to you.
Now, that’s a truth. That’s a principle we can hold on to. But the reality is, it doesn’t always feel like that, does it? And sometimes we find ourselves in places where we kind of feel like God is asking more from us than we have to give. That he’s asking more from us than we actually have been given by him. Has anybody ever been in a place where you feel like God’s asking more from you than you have? Yeah. I know I have. Here’s what I’ve come to discover in my own life. It’s that whenever I feel like that, it’s not because God hasn’t provided what I need. It’s because either I haven’t recognized it, I haven’t seen it for what it is, or I’ve used it for something it wasn’t intended for. I took the provision, I used it for something else. Here’s the thing. When we feel like God is asking too much, it’s because we’ve either overlooked or repurposed the provision. Does that make sense? God always provides. God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. So when we feel like God’s asking too much, it’s because we’ve either overlooked the provision or we’ve repurposed it.
I’ll be honest. During the last 13 months, I’ve had a couple of, let’s call them minor meltdowns. Okay. Not breakdowns, but minor meltdowns, where, honestly, I felt like it was just too much, that leading and being faithful and being strong and all those things, it was just too much because there was a no-win situation, right? Everybody was upset about everything, right, masks, no masks, in-person, don’t gather in-person, it’s politics, it’s racial injustice, all this stuff going on. And nobody’s happy about anything that gets said. And there were a couple moments where I just kind of melted down, and I remember kind of going, “God, this is too much. I can’t handle this. I can’t lead in this setting. You haven’t given me what I need.” And what I’ve come to understand is, yeah, he did. But I had repurposed it. God gave me mental strength and spiritual stamina. He gave me resilience. But I was using them on something that they weren’t intended for.
And particularly, I learned that I was using all that stuff, all that energy, worrying about what people thought of me. That’s where I was using all my mental energy. I was of worrying about this person’s upset with that person, that piece of criticism. I was so worried about trying to keep everybody happy and so worried about criticism that I was using up the energy that God had actually provided so that I could lead effectively. It’s not that he hadn’t provided. It’s just that I had repurposed it. I was talking to a guy a few years ago, and he said, “Hey, Pastor, I know that, you know, God wants us to serve, right, to serve in the church, to serve as a church, but I just don’t have the time for that. I just don’t have the time.” And I said, “Well, let’s talk through your schedule.” And He goes, “Well, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I play golf.” And I was like, “You can stop there because I think we might have discovered the problem,” right? It’s not that we don’t have the time. It’s just that we’ve repurposed it for other things.
So the important thing to understand, God will never require from you what he hasn’t provided for you, but sometimes we feel like he has because we’ve either overlooked a provision or we’ve repurposed it. Here’s kind of an interesting question. Is there an area of my life where I feel like God’s asking too much because I’ve overlooked or repurposed a provision? Think about your life. Think about maybe a place in your life where you’re like, “I just feel like it’s too much,” and you need to understand, it’s not. Whatever God’s requiring of you, whether it’s faithfulness, or strength, or time, or talent, or treasure, whatever it is, God has provided what you need to give to him and to give to others what he’s required of you, but you might have overlooked or you might have repurposed it for something else.
“Seven days from now…” God said, “Seven days from now, I will send rain on the earth for forty days and nights. And I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I’ve made.” And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. Now, Noah was six hundred years old. Stop there for a second. Because sometimes people go, “Come on, you know, Pastor, you told me that this is prescriptive history. It’s describing what happened in the past in order to tell us how to live in the present, but really, history, six hundred years old, that sounds like fantasy, that sounds like myth.” And if you get caught up in that, you’re not gonna be able to get into what God’s really trying to say here. So let me just real quick say this, it may not be as fantastic as we tend to think that it is. First off, most cultures, most ancient cultures at least have stories of the distant past where people live to be hundreds and hundreds of years old. So it’s very common across the continents, across all kinds of cultures, which suggests that there is a common history that they’re all referring to.
And then also too, even today, there are reports of people living incredibly long periods of time. Like right now, in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, there’s a couple different people that are rumored to be over 170 years old. Now, I say, rumored because we don’t have any, you know, objective proof because nobody was handing out birth certificates in 1850 in the Caucasus Mountains. But we do have a couple people, they were 120-plus years, and they remember that guy as being really old when they were little kids, which suggests they’re quite a bit older than that. Because even today, you might have people living that long. Okay. But in general, obviously, people don’t live this long. So why not?
Here’s the way I think of it. I imagine when God originally created the world, it was like a perfect placid pool. Okay. Everything is like mirror smooth. And then Adam and Eve rebelled, and they threw a rock in. Now, when the rock went in, obviously, it wasn’t smooth anymore, it wasn’t perfect, but the ripples hadn’t reached all the way out. They started to move their way out, and so, you know, the chaos from sin began to move slowly out towards the edges. But then once, you know, the ripples hit the edge of the banks, they bounce back, but they don’t bounce back in perfectly straight line, they bounce back in different angles. And pretty soon, it gets very ripply and chaotic, but that takes time. And I believe that’s what happened to the world. When Adam and Eve sinned, they threw the rock in, but it took time for the world to break down to the point that we began to experience it today, the way that we experience it today.
And so, you know, it took time before the genetic code got broken and messed up. It took time before viruses and bacteria, those kinds of things, began to do things they were never intended to do. And so over time, you see a gradual reduction of lifespan. Okay? I don’t think it’s fantasy. So don’t get hung up on that. Again, this is something that many ancient cultures report, and I think it makes a certain amount of sense when we understand the biblical story. But it says, “Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. And pairs of clean and unclean animals of birds and all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah, and they entered the ark as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days, the waters came on the earth.”
Now, there’s something really important happening in that section that I wanna make sure we don’t overlook. And that is, that section began with God saying, “In seven days, the flood’s coming.” And then it ends with saying, “After seven days, the flood came.” So that section is bookended by references to seven days. And that’s actually really important because in the ancient world, and in Hebrew thinking, in particular, seven was the number of perfection. Okay? Seven was the number of perfection. And the fact that he bookends the story of the flood with statements of perfection is actually a way of communicating that God is in control of what’s happening here. In fact, you might even argue that it’s saying that God is perfectly in control of what’s happening here. Does that make sense? In the ancient world, that’s particularly interesting because, in the ancient world, floods were considered an agent of chaos. And, in fact, in a lot of ancient mythology, the flood was really a symbol of chaos. Okay?
And chaos, of course, means that no one’s in control. What Moses is telling us here is that even though the floods seem like chaos, the reality is that God’s in perfect control of it, right? And that’s a really important thing to understand. In fact, I would argue that’s the second principle for faithful living we find here is that God is still in control, even when things seem like chaos. God is still in control even when things seem like chaos. This is such an important thing to understand, too. During the last 13 months, this is something I’ve had to remind myself of over and over and over again. Because when we forget that, when we look at the chaos, and it feels like no one’s in control, what happens is we start to react. We’re constantly going, “Okay. Well, I’ll do this, and I’ll do this, and I’ll change this, and I’ll try this, and I’ll try this.” And we just…not only do we respond and react to that chaos, but we contribute to it. And we make everybody around us feel chaotic, right? That’s what happens when we forget that God’s in control.
But when we remember, in fact, that God is still in control, even when things seem like chaos, we begin to go, “Okay. Then what do I need to do? I just need to take my next step of faithfulness.” What does it look like to be faithful in the situation? Just take that one small step. And those steps add up over time, and then they take us through the chaos. But that’s only possible when we remember that God is still in control, even in what seems like chaos. And that may be a truth that you just need to hear today. You may be in a place in your life where it just feels like everything is chaotic, and it’s out of control, and you’re kind of panicking. You just need to take a deep breath and go, “Okay. God is still in control.” He’s in perfect control, even in what seems like chaos. You know, we look around at the country today…at the world today, between the global pandemic, between politics, and racial injustice, all thing the things, it feels like things just got out of control, right? But they’re not out of God’s control. And so we take a deep breath, we calm down, and we take whatever our next step of faithfulness is, with our family, with our community, with our work, whatever it is, the next step, because God’s in control.
However, we’d be missing something important that’s happening here if we didn’t also take it one step further and recognize that it’s not just a question of God being in control, in spite of what looks like chaos. God’s not just in control in spite of what looks like chaos, God is actually in control of the chaos, meaning God actually sent the chaos, right? This isn’t something God knew was coming. This is something that God sent. And why did he send it? Because of sin. He sent it because of human sin. And as we saw a couple of weeks ago, not just human sin, but even his people had begun to live in a way that refused on…even his people has started putting their desires over his designs. Even God’s people had started basically idolizing human strength and forgetting about God’s power. And it was at that moment that God sent the flood.
But understand that the chaos of the flood was really intended to confront sin. And the reality is, we don’t necessarily like this, but the truth that we have to come to grips with is that God is not above sending chaos into the lives of his people in order to confront the sin of his people. Do you hear me, church? This is the third principle we need to grab hold of, it’s that God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. And he does it because he loves you. He does it because he loves us. He knows that peace and joy and hope are only to be found in a close relationship with him, but as we sin, as we get further and further from God, we experience chaos.
And God sometimes allows and sometimes he even sends more chaos into our lives to cause us to wake up and realize where we are, how far we’ve gotten, and to repent and to turn back and to draw close to him again. Sometimes God allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. I can’t help but wonder, in the United States of America over the last 13 months, as I look at the chaos that’s going on, and I can’t help but wonder, is this because God is calling us as his people to recognize that we are not living faithfully, to confront sin in our lives and in our churches and our families? So what happens? It’s inevitable when we get far away from God. And so sometimes God allows it or even sends it to confront that sin.
Here’s an interesting question. It’s not a fun question, but I think it’s an important one. Where in my life do things feel over-chaotic? Where does my life feel over-chaotic? And I say over-chaotic because the reality is, in a fallen world, there’s sort of a base level of chaos all the time. That’s the way it’s gonna be in a world that’s not fully redeemed yet. Okay? But sometimes there’s those places, maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s finances, maybe it’s an addiction, maybe it’s something at work, somewhere, there are sometimes these places where it just feels like chaos is just ruling the day. There’s just so much chaos, and we even find ourselves, “Why can’t we get an attraction? Why are things just always so messed up? Why is it so broken?” That’s the places I’m talking about. Where does my life feel over-chaotic?
And here’s a question that I just think as followers of Jesus, we have to be willing to lean into, is there a sin that God might be using this chaos to confront? Is there a sin that God might be using this chaos to confront? Because that’s what happened here. It’s not just that God’s in control of the chaos, he sent it to confront the sin of humanity. And remember, we need to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window. So before we start going, yeah, he’s confronting, you know, this thing over there and that thing and this choice and that choice and this where our nation is. Okay. Let’s look in the mirror first. Is there a sin in my life that God might be calling me to confront?
“Now, on the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, on that day, all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened, and rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” And it’s interesting as another place where I didn’t quite understand the story growing up. When I heard the story of Noah’s Ark growing up, I always pictured that it was just about the rain coming down, right? Anybody else? But this clearly says the water came from two sources, right? It fell down from the heavens, but it also welled up from the deeps. And that’s interesting. And people have tried to do different things with it by going, “Well, maybe that’s, you know, all this water under the aquifers and things like that,” and it might be.
But what’s really significant here is that what Moses is doing as he’s writing this is he’s taking us back to an earlier part of the Book of Genesis. He’s actually taking us back to Genesis chapter 1 when God created everything. Because when God was creating, one of the first things that he did was that it said that he separated the waters above from the waters below. He put a vault to separate the waters above from the waters below. And now what’s happening is that vault is being removed, that separation is being removed. And so now the waters above and the waters below are all mixing again. And the point is that God’s kind of going back to the way it was before. Does that make sense? He’s going back to the way it was before. And that’s so important because we tend to think of Noah’s Ark as a story of destruction. We tend to see that, well, this is God in vengeance and wrath, destroying the sin of the world.
And certainly, there is an element of that, but more importantly, by calling us back to Genesis 1, what we’re being told is that God isn’t destroying the world, he’s resetting it. So important. He’s not destroying the world. He’s resetting it. Like, you know when you have to call tech support and you’re like, “My thing’s not working,” right? And they ask you that super condescending question, “Have you tried turning it off and back on?” And, you know, God forbid if you haven’t done that because if you have not even done that, like, you get zero respect. You have no chance of getting that problem solved. Okay? So what do we do? We reset it. We’ve learned to do that. Well, that’s basically what God’s doing. It’s not working the way it should be, and he’s not destroying it, he’s resetting it. He’s going back to the beginning. And actually, you see this kind of language continue on. Check this out.
He said, “Now, on that very day, Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. And they had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings, pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.” Now, what’s interesting about that is it’s all the same language that comes from the creation account in Genesis 1, creation account in Genesis 1, there’s all this talk about the different kinds, the livestock according to kinds, the birds according to their kinds, everything that had the breath of life, everything that moves along the ground, all the same language. And again, he’s taking us back to Genesis 1.
And it’s very interesting. And if you go back to Genesis 1, there’s a very clear theme that shows up over and over and over again in the creation account. And that is, every time God creates something, he calls it something. And then he pronounces something about it. And that pronouncement is always that it is, anybody, it’s good. He separated the waters above from the waters below, and it was good. He created the sun and the moon and the stars, and it was good. He created the birds, and it was good. He created the livestock, it was good. He created human beings as his image, and it was good. It’s good, good, good, good, good, good, good. So why is God resetting creation? To get to good. He’s resetting creation so that he can redirect it back towards its original purpose, which is good.
Here’s the fourth truth that’s so important for faithful living, it’s to realize that sometimes God hits reset to redirect towards good. Sometimes God hits reset to redirect towards good. It’s what he’s doing here. And he does it in our own lives, too. And when we forget it, what happens is that we sometimes find ourselves in a place where God seems to be taking something away that we were really committed to, something that we were really excited about. And when that happens, the temptation is to go, “Well, I thought God was good. Maybe he’s not good.” Oh, yes, he is. He’s so good that he’s unwilling to let you settle for lesser good than what he has for you. And sometimes the decisions we make, sometimes the sin that we commit leads us into a place where like, “I think I’m good here.” And God goes, “That is not good. And I love you too much to leave you there. So we’re gonna hit reset to redirect you towards good.” He’s incapable of not doing that because God is a good Father.
I love that song that we sing here. God is a good Father. He’s not a good uncle. You know the difference between a father and an uncle? I had an Uncle James, Uncle James. I thought he was a good uncle because he always had peanut M&M’s. And James, like, stuffed peanut M&M’s into my mouth from like the time I was like 2, which was way before my parents wanted me having peanut M&M’s. But James wanting to be liked. He wanted to be the fun uncle. He wanted to be the good uncle. He had, like, an endless supply of M&M’s. I never really understood it. So this day I’m addicted to peanut M&M’s. I tended to think he was really good, but the reality is, my parents didn’t think he was so great. See, we sometimes get this mixed understanding what really is good. God’s not a good uncle. He’s a good Father. And he only gives us, and he only settles for what is truly good in our lives, not just for moments, but for all of eternity. If you find yourself in a place where God seems like he’s hitting reset, hold on to this truth that it’s because he wants to redirect you to good, to true good, to lasting good, not just to a moment of pleasure, but to peace and to joy that doesn’t go away and isn’t dependent on circumstances. That may be the truth you need to hold on to today.
“And the animals going in were male and female of every living thing as God had commanded Noah. And then the Lord shut him in. For forty days, the flood kept coming on the earth. And as the waters increased, they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits.” A cubit is a measurement from your elbow to the tip of your fingers. And if you take the average human link there, this basically means that this is about 23 feet. So, the highest mountains were covered with 23 feet of water. And this is another one of those places that some people go, “Really? So Mount Everest? Mount Everest was 23 feet underwater?” Because for that to happen, the entire globe would have had to, like, expanded like two or three times. Like, that’s crazy. The whole volume of water, where did all the water come from? And so some people get stuck there. Maybe that’s you.
And here’s the thing, I don’t want anybody to get stuck there because if we get stuck there, you’re gonna miss the larger point. Okay? There’s a bigger point here. So we need to make sure we don’t get stuck. Let me offer you a couple of ways to think about some things. I actually think that the best way to think about this is really to keep our thinking inside three boundaries. Okay? Three things that might help you. The first one is to understand this, it’s that God communicated using language that they understood back then. God communicated using language that they understood back then. I mean, if you think about it, the Bible says things like, “Well, the sun rose.” And we know that that doesn’t happen, right? The sun doesn’t rise, but that’s how they understood. That’s how it looked to them. And honestly, even today, have you ever turned on the news and heard, “Tomorrow at 5:27 a.m., the earth will rotate into such a position that the sun becomes visible over the Eastern horizon?” Have you ever heard that? No, what do we say? 5:27 is sunrise.
Okay? It’s describing things the way that it appears to us, not the way it, sort of, scientifically is. And so I know good Bible-believing conservative scholars who believe that in the ancient world, they thought of the world is where humans lived. And so if all of humanity was kind of isolated in one part of the planet, then it would have covered the whole world in their thinking, even if it was only in that area. I’m not saying that’s what actually happened, but I’m saying I know conservative Bible scholars who think that’s a perfectly valid way to understand what’s being said here. So, understand he’s using the language that they used back then.
Second thing to keep your thinking in this kind of triangle here is this, is that the world might have been very different back then. The world might have looked very, very different. I’ve people argue, “Well, maybe all the continents were still together, Pangea, and maybe they spread after the flood because of the motion and the impact of all that water. Or maybe the mountains weren’t as high. Maybe all that water ultimately, when it started to recede, allowed upheaval. And so maybe there wasn’t a Mount Everest before the flood, and it rose, you know, very fast after that.” That’s another possibility. Maybe the mountains weren’t as big a deal. So maybe the world looked very different back then. It’s another possibility.
Then there’s a third one we gotta keep our thinking in, it’s just this, God can do miracles, right? God can do miracles. We tend sometimes to look around and go, “Well, you know, this doesn’t seem to obey the laws of nature.” Yeah, we have a word for when God refuses to obey the laws of nature that he made. And that word is miracle. The God who created the laws of nature is not bound by them. And so maybe God created all this additional water, and then maybe he just took it away. I don’t know. But as followers of Jesus, especially, you know, it’s interesting to me, I’ve had followers of Jesus get hung up on this, and yet they believe in the Resurrection. And I’m like, “Can we talk about that for a second?”
Because according the laws of nature, dead people don’t walk out of graves after three days either. So why is that a miracle, and it’s acceptable, but God couldn’t do this? Like, “Well, this is a much bigger one.” There’s no such thing as a big miracle for God. The God who flung hundreds of billions of stars and galaxies across the sky with a word is not looking at any particular thing going, “That seems like a lot of work.” It’s not gonna work that way. Okay? We gotta keep our thinking inside that. God uses language they’re familiar with. The world might look very different. And God can do miracles. Okay? So let’s just kind of accept that there may be a little bit of mystery here. And I know some of you are like, “Yeah, but which one was it?”
I wanna move on because again, there’s a point here, and it’s important that we don’t miss the point getting caught up in some of these details, some of these questions we have. And the point ultimately comes down to this. Everything that moved on the land perished, birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. People and the animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left and those with him in the ark. And the waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days. It feels a little dark, doesn’t it? We have a pre-service meeting every weekend, and when we’re doing that, somebody said, “Hey, Craig, can you just give us a summary of the sermon?” I was like, “Yeah, everyone dies.” Which is kind of how it feels, right? Because that’s what it said. I mean, everyone, everything died. And that feels really dark.
But what we need to remember is that this didn’t happen without cause. It didn’t happen without grace. As we said a couple weeks ago, God had actually given them 120 years to respond to the pronouncement of judgment, but they didn’t, and even his own people started putting their desires over his. Even his own people started idolizing human strength and forgetting about God’s power, and they lived in sin. What’s happening here is a result of sin. It’s a challenge against sin. It’s a confrontation and a condemnation of sin. And that really, in some ways, that’s the point of the entire story of Noah’s Ark, it is to drive home this incredibly important principle, number five, number five principle for living faithfully is that we have to understand that sin is serious business. Sin is serious business. Again, we have a tendency to go, “Well, I know their sin is. I know his sin or her sin or those people’s sin or that group’s sin, I know that’s serious,” but we don’t do the same thing when we look in the mirror. We look out the window, we see serious sin. We look in the mirror, and we think, “Yeah, this is not a big deal.” And the point of Noah’s Ark is largely to say, yeah, it is. It’s a much bigger deal than you think it is.
One of the most powerful illustrations of that truth is something I heard years ago is I heard the story of a man who was driving through the Southwest part of the United States with a pickup truck, he was collecting metal. And the idea was he’s gonna go back to his village in Mexico and sell the metal. And he picked up an old x-ray machine. And as he put that in his truck bed, a bunch of ball bearings fell into the bed of the truck. There were bearings that had been in the x-ray machine for years that had been used for many, many years. And the thing is that because those bearings were in an x-ray machine that was being used, they had picked up radioactivity. They fell into the bed of the truck. He went back to his village in Mexico. He sold everything. But the little balls stayed in the bed of his truck, and the kids in his village found them. And they looked really cool. They were shiny, they were fun to play with, and they looked so safe. So they played with them for years. And then one by one, all the kids in that village started to get cancer. And they eventually traced it back to this thing that had seemed like nothing but, in fact, was deadly dangerous.
And sin is like that. Not their sin, our sin’s like that. We often look at it and we go, “What’s the big deal? This is not serious business.” And God says, “It’s far more serious than you think it is.” Because here’s the reality. Nobody decides their way into great sin, right? We all have our, kind of, list of great sins, right? And we go, “I’m never gonna go there. I would never do that.” But nobody decides their way into great sin. Nobody decides, “I think I’m gonna have an affair today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll get an addiction to alcohol today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll get addicted to pornography today.” Nobody decides, “I think I’ll be an embezzler.” Nobody decides that. We drift. We don’t decide our way into great sin. We drift our way into great sin because we have these little things.
Well, it doesn’t matter, you know, if I open up that website. It doesn’t matter if I go to that bar. It doesn’t matter if I let that look linger. It doesn’t matter if I get into that conversation. It doesn’t matter if I make this little change to the books. Then the point is we don’t decide our way into great sin. We drift away into great sin by making small decisions in the same direction that we really didn’t think were a big deal. But the problem is that one step, even the very smallest ones after another ends up leading us to places we never would have thought we would have been. And the place to begin to deal with that to protect ourselves from being in those places of chaos and condemnation is not to take the small steps that ultimately add up to those journeys.
Sin is serious business. So we’ve seen five truths today, five truths that if we hold on to them will…I promise you, they will enable us to live faithfully. And so the question I want you to ask yourself is which truth do I most need to respond to today? Which truth do I most need to respond to? Maybe it’s the truth that God never requires from us what he hasn’t provided for us. Maybe you need to look around and realize that you have either overlooked or repurposed a provision. Or maybe it’s the truth that God is still in control even when things seem like chaos, and to begin trusting that and stepping forward in faithfulness and not constantly reacting to the chaos around us because God’s in control of it. Or maybe it’s that God sometimes allows chaos into our lives to confront our sin. Maybe there’s that place in your life where chaos is actually a calling card where God is asking you to focus in and realize that it’s happening because there’s a sin that needs to be addressed. Or maybe it’s that God sometimes hits reset to redirect us to good. And if you’re in a place in your life where it feels like God’s hitting reset, it’s not that he’s, it’s that he’s recreating to redirect you towards something much better than what you feel like you’re losing. Or maybe it’s this last true that sin is serious business. Which one of those truths is God calling you to respond to today? Let’s pray about it.
God, we come to you, and we thank you for your Word. We thank you that even when things don’t feel good when they’re uncomfortable and they’re awkward, that that’s actually a sign of your goodness, that it’s you challenging us and confronting us and urging us to repent, and urging us to move back towards you, where there is safety, where there is peace, where there’s joy. So, Lord, we invite your Holy Spirit to speak to us in those ways that we need to be spoken to about ways that maybe we’ve gotten off base. We didn’t think sin was serious, and we’ve allowed ourselves to take one, and two, and three, and maybe even four more steps away from you. So, Lord, we thank you for the fact that there may be chaos in our lives that is a challenge to our sin. We thank you for the truth that sin is serious business, and that it needs to be dealt with. And we thank you for the fact that even in the midst of those heavy challenges, there’s also this incredible news of your goodness that you never ask from us, you never require from us what you haven’t already provided to us. You’ve given us what we need to be faithful. You’ve given us what we need to live lives that honor you. You’ve given us what we need to be on mission with you. And that even when we encounter parts and times in our lives where everything feels like it’s falling apart, and you’re taking away what we were so excited about, it’s because you are hitting reset to redirect us towards good. We thank you for this truth of your goodness, even in the midst of this heavier truth. Lord, speak to us, show us which of these truths we need to grab ahold of and respond to.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you continue in an attitude of prayer right now? Would you just start praying for all the people listening to this message that are not followers of Jesus yet? And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, maybe for the first time today you’ve heard that even in the story of Noah’s Ark, which maybe you’ve thought of as a sign of God’s wrath and anger, that even there, there’s signs of goodness because God is too good for his goodness not to be on display in any situation. Maybe for the first time you’ve heard how committed God is to bringing good into your life. Maybe for the first time you’ve heard that even though the wages of sin is death, God provided the sacrifice with his own Son. God loves you. In fact, the reason that God hates sin so much, the reason that God takes sin so seriously, is that God hates sin because he loves you. And God wants you to be in a relationship with him, and he’s provided everything necessary.
And if you’ve never received forgiveness for your sins, if you’ve never begun a relationship with God that starts now and goes on forever, you can do that right here, right now. That’s what God wants. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with him. Right now in your heart say something like this. Say:
God, I know that I’ve sinned. I understand that it’s serious business. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place to pay my price. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, an eternal life of joy that begins now and goes on forever. I’m ready to accept those gifts. So, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m trusting you from here on out. I’m saying yes to following you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.