You have heard of the saying, “Only the good die young.” Or someone will ask, “why does it seem like so many good people are oppressed but you see all these evil people flourishing in life?” Have you ever asked that question? Why does God allow evil people to prosper? In Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 Solomon states, “Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So, I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.”
Solomon’s thoughts here are similar to those in Proverbs. The thought of the oppressed being powerless was troubling to Solomon. The abuse of power, the suffering of those afflicted, the power evil men have, was hard to comprehend. Why does God allow cruel and evil people the strength to oppress others? Although Solomon was a very wise man, he did not see the justice from God coming as often as he it seemed he should have. In the Old Testament, God is stated as the avenger of the oppressed. In the Law of Moses, the Word of God states, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless”
There is a promise here that God will punish the oppressors and set the ones being oppressed free. Solomon did not understand that they do have a Comforter. We too must remember when we are being oppressed by someone or something, God is there. Solomon then in Vs. 2 makes a comment that possibly means he saw death as a means of one escaping the deeds of evil men and will receive their reward. In 2 Timothy 4:17, it appears that Paul believed so, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Solomon goes on to make a point that is it an advantage for men not to know about all the oppression people do to others in the world. Death is the only escape. The answer to the question, “Why does God allow evil to prosper” is answered by Asaph in Psalm 73. It seems to us that these types of evil people have their way, that they are blessed in this world. But they too will face judgment. They may get away with evil here on earth. They may have many blessings as they do their dirty deeds. But their prosperity is clouded and short-lived. They will have to face the vengeance of God when death finds them (Hebrews 12:19).
There is a story about a wealthy man who shared a passion with his son for collecting art. Together they traveled the world collecting priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and others. The young man left to serve his country in the war. His father received a telegram from the Army that his son was killed in combat while saving a fellow soldier. On Christmas morning the old man opened the front door and there stood a soldier with a large package in his hand. The man said, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. I’m an artist and I want to give you this.” The gift was a portrait of his son which featured the young man’s face in detail and captured his personality. The following spring, the old man passed away. According to his will, all of the art were to be auctioned. Art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. The auction began with a painting that was not on any of the museum’s list, a painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid of $100. The room was silent and nobody made a bid. From the back of the room someone said, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Forget it and go on to the important art.” The auctioneer replied, “No, we have to sell this one...who will take the son?” A friend of the old man who knew the son made the $100 bid and won. Cheers filled the room, and someone said, “Now we can get on with it!” The auctioneer then announced the auction was over. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. There is millions of dollars’ worth of art here! The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son, receives everything.”
It is the will of the Father whoever “takes” His Son, gets everything! In Ephesians 1, Paul speaks of those who “take” the Son, or “bid” on Jesus, receive the whole inheritance (Vs. 11). Only those who are named in the Father’s will, who are “in Christ” receive:
Obedience to the gospel of Christ is how one “takes” or “bids” on the Son. Many want the blessings of God but want to ignore the Son, they want the riches of the world. When we abide by God’s will (Matthew 7:21), we receive the whole inheritance.
There was a time I went hiking to camp. I was unprepared. The hike in was not bad, however, the hike back was brutal. It was blazing hot and we ran out of water. We were exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. It was like heaven having a cool shower, burgers, beans, corn and cold water. We made it to our rest. I was so happy to be back that extra lettuce on my burger was a big deal. This life can be like that path of exhaustion, hunger and thirst, that we wonder if we will ever find our rest. However, we must remember to be faithful and never give up. In Hebrews 4 we have a passage with “extra lettuce” or “Let Us,” that will guide us home to our rest.
#1 - Let us FEAR
Hebrews 4:1 tells us a promise of rest remains but let us fear. We are to fear we will fall short of God’s rest and face His wrath. In Chapter 3, the inspired Hebrew writer gives a warning to not harden our hearts as in the rebellion like the Israelites who missed out on their rest, Canaan. What about us? Do we fear God? Are we being unfaithful forcing God’s wrath? Since God made a promise of another day of rest,
#2, Let us be FAITHFUL
Hebrews 4:1 teaches that our diligence will guard us from being disobedient. The word “diligent” here means the same thing as being faithful. The “rest” the inspired writer is talking about is a heavenly Jerusalem. In Jesus, we have rest. He’s living, active, and sharp (Hebrews 4:12). In Revelation 19:11-16, Jesus is called “The Word of God,” which is Living and Active. We serve One who is active, and discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart. He is sharp and penetrates to the joints and marrow, to the division of soul and spirit. We must remember, like the Israelites were accountable to God, we must give an account to Jesus (Hebrews 4:13). Therefore:
#3, Let us hold FAST.
Jesus is our High Priest so we can be confident holding fast to Him (Vs 14). Why? He knows our weaknesses, pain and struggles. He’s been tempted in ALL things that we are (Vs. 15). Holding fast our confession is trusting in the Lord, knowing Our High Priest will deliver us. Are we holding to our High Priest Jesus? Israel did not draw near to God and lost out. Therefore:
#4, Let us FOLLOW
We are to draw near to the Throne of Grace (vs. 16). We follow closely to Christ and His teachings to “Draw Near to God.” Atonement comes only through Christ. In the tabernacle, the time of Moses and Aaron, the High Priest was the only one allowed to go into the Most Holy of the tabernacle. He did this once a year to sprinkle blood (Day of Atonement - Exodus 25:8-21). Notice Vs. 22. The atonement cover, the Mercy Seat, is where God gave atonement to the people. To get this, they had to draw near to God. Today, we draw near to God in obedience to our High Priest, Jesus. The blood of Christ brings us near. This happens in baptism, then walking in the light of Christ. This is how we obtain mercy and find His grace in time of need. Have we drawn near to God?
This morning I was pondering what to write about because so many ideas and topics come across my mind daily. However, there are times when what other people write stops me in my tracks and I have to share their Godly love and wisdom. There was a status posted on Facebook from a very good friend and brother of mine who is the Family and Youth Director at Brown Trail church of Christ in Texas. His name is Jon Warnes and he truly lives what he teaches and preaches. Jon wrote, “Have you thought about what your final words on this earth might be? They're likely to be soft, caring, motivational, forgiving, peaceful, honest, kind, and well thought out. Well, since we'll never know the exact timing of our passing, it would be good for us all to always speak as if we are saying our last words.”
Wow. His post really made me think. How often have I used my speech in a way that was not seasoned, and did not edify? What if those words were the last words I spoke on this earth? And what about my actions? What if the last thing I did on this earth was to not treat someone in the way I should? If I had the opportunity to show Christ just by saying something kind to make their day but I did not? Paul wrote, "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward others, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). Christians must act and speak in Godly grace and wisdom to show others who we are and who we represent on this earth. We should never miss an opportunity to be loving and kind to all men. Paul wrote to the Ephesians to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Later on in this chapter he stated, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear ... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:29-31). Truly wonderful words to live by.
Our world is filled with evil and hatred. So many in society act how they want to act, say what they want to say and they do not care who they hurt. We cannot change that sad fact. However, this world also has people who are trying to reflect the love, kindness and mercy Christ showed as He walked on this earth. Let us be this type of people every minute we breath the air God has blessed us with ... so when death comes we will know we lived lives of Godly love, wisdom and grace and it made a difference in this world.
It warms my heart to see young men learning to be leaders in the church. Our first Tuesday of the month where these young boys are up front song leading, praying, and doing devotionals, gives these boys confidence and lets them know they are adequate, able, and aspiring members of the body of Christ in Ripon. This pleases God.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes to young Timothy showing him how to be a man of God, even when other men feel he is too young to be adequate for God. Our young boys have hearts for God. They want to serve God and please Him. Imagine if they were not given the opportunity to? Imagine if we discouraged them in their youth, saying they should not be up there as leaders because they are too young? Imagine if Paul had this attitude with Timothy? It amazes me that there are congregations in this country that do not develop their youth in the church and we wonder why we are losing so many of them to the world.
In 1 Timothy 6:11-14, Paul shows Timothy a portrait of the man of God.
First, the man of God FLEES (Vs. 11). He flees from false teaching and holds to the doctrine of sound words, which comes from God. He does not get caught up in the ways of worldly men (1 Timothy 6:3-5). The man of God also flees from the love of money (Vs. 10). Money can become our idol and Paul states to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Paul also tells Timothy a man of God is one in whom also flees from youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).
Our we fleeing from these sinful things?
Second, the man of God FOLLOWS. He pursues heavenly things, such as righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness (Vs. 11). Are we in hot pursuit of the things of God?
Third, the man of God FIGHTS. This is the noble and good fight, the fight of faith (Vs.12). This is one in which never gives up. He has made the good confession and takes hold of eternal life in which the devil wants to take away. Are we fighting the good fight of faith?
Fourth, the man of God is FAITHFUL. He keeps to the Word without stain or reproach. Nothing will be able to get us to pervert the truth, or fall from it. Are we being faithful every day to the Lord? Are we being men and women of God?
In His Service,
600 West Milgeo - Ripon California 95366