I am one of those strange kind of people who commonly cheers for the underdog. I am the kind of person who rejoices when unlikely people overcome impossible odds. My greatest admiration is not for the gifted person who achieves incredible things with few or no problems. My greatest admiration is for the person who seems to have few abilities but uses those abilities to make unbelievable accomplishments in the face of incredible problems.

I often feel a lot of inner emotion when I see or hear about kindness overcoming gross injustice, or compassion overcoming mean-spirited aggression, or someone whose life experiences hardship after hardship but pulls life together anyway.

I am the kind of person who thinks about all the people in our world who know pain and suffering every day of their lives and have no hope of escaping pain and suffering in this world. I am the kind of person who thinks about all the people worldwide who endure horrible injustices day in and day out and have no hope of escaping those injustices in this life. I am the kind of person who notices the many people who suffer the consequences that others created for them, and have no hope of escaping all those consequences in this life.

No, I do not have the answers. No, I cannot make the world good for all those people who suffer its evils. I just do a lot of inner grieving and help where I can.

These attitudes and this awareness are not the reasons I trust God. But these attitudes and this awareness attract me to God.

  1. Someone says, "David, you must be kidding!"
    1. "God, an underdog?"
    2. "He who created everything, who will allow Jesus Christ to bring all people into judgment, disadvantaged?"
    3. "That is ridiculous!"

  2. Before you dismiss me as a total fool, would you think with me for just a few minutes?
    1. May I suggest to you when Genesis reveals to us God's great creative acts, the primary point is about what God lost, not what God achieved.
      1. God made people in His own image, His own likeness, and placed them in charge of His "very good" creation (Genesis 1:26-31).
      2. Then evil perverted the "very good" creation God made.
        1. Evil perverted God's "good creation" by deceiving the masterpiece of that creation--the man and woman God made in His own image.
        2. When Adam and Eve preferred evil's selfish rebellion to God's love and goodness, God's design for this world crumbled.
        3. God could not with a simple act undo what Adam and Eve's failure did.
        4. At that point, God would have been justified in letting people pay the total consequences for their decision, destroying this creation, and expressing His rightful rage against evil--but He did not.
    2. With a few exceptions, people loved evil more than they loved God.
      1. For a while there were people who loved God and people who loved evil.
      2. But that did not last for many generations.
      3. By Genesis 6 the people who loved God ceased to exist, and the people who loved evil were all that existed.
      4. What began as God's "very good" creation now became everything that God was not.
      5. That which began as totally good now became totally evil.
      6. Again, God could have allowed people to suffer the full consequences of their lives and decisions and destroyed His physical creation, but He did not.
      7. He worked through one man who trusted Him, and attempted a new beginning.
      8. But it did not succeed, and in the struggle between good and evil in human lives, evil prevailed.
    3. Generations later, God found another man He could work with, a man who trusted Him as few people ever have, a man we know as Abraham.
      1. To this man God made a special promise found in Genesis 12:1-3.
        Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
        1. Two things stand out in this promise.
        2. From this man would come a nation.
        3. From this man and this nation would come a blessing that could bless all people.

  3. Then God demonstrated beyond all doubt how patient He is and how determined He is to bring mercy and forgiveness to our world.
    1. God spent several hundred years producing the people who would become the Old Testament nation of Israel.
    2. God spent four hundred years allowing the people who would become the Old Testament nation of Israel to live in Egypt and experience abuse and complete loss of identity as slaves.
    3. God spent forty years preparing them to receive a country of their own, generations leading them through judges, generations leading them through kings.
    4. Yet, even though they existed because God delivered them, even though they existed because God made Abraham a promise, even though they existed to allow God to bring a blessing to all people, they, too, preferred deceitfulness of evil to God's love and kindness.
    5. Yet, in spite of all their failures, the merciful, patient God persevered in His determination to keep His promise to Abraham.

  4. Then, about 2000 years ago the patience, mercy, and persistence of God triumphed.
    1. One evening God allowed His own son to be born as a human in what began as God's "very good" creation but had become a creation controlled by evil.
      1. That evening a heavenly host in unison confirmed a statement an angel made to some shepherds with these words:
        Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
      2. What a strange statement!
        1. "May the highest form of praise or glory be given to God!"
        2. "Peace can now exist on earth among the people with whom God is pleased."
      3. Was there a sudden outbreak of world peace? No.
      4. Suddenly, was there an incredible peace among all Israelites? No.
      5. People who belong to God could be at peace with each other because they could be at peace with God.
      6. God was keeping a promise He made to Abraham about 2000 years earlier.
    2. This Israelite baby born that evening grew to be a man.
      1. He became a man in the nation that knew God better than any other nation.
      2. He became the kind of man who would have existed in God's very good creation if there was no evil in this world.
      3. This man, who existed as God's man in a nation that was supposed to be God's nation, began a determined effort to teach this nation who they were, the true priorities of God, and God's commitment to mercy.
        1. And he did not fit.
        2. And he did not belong.
        3. And he was not trusted or believed.
        4. In fact, he was rejected and despised by most of those in his nation.
        5. Not even those closest to him who loved him really understood him.
      4. In that special agony produced when caring cannot connect, Jesus made this statement the last week of his life:
        Matthew 23:37-39 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' "
    3. Shortly after that, he was executed by crucifixion, and God kept His promise.
      1. God assumed upon Himself the consequences of our failures.
      2. Through Jesus' blood, God's forgiveness was available for all people.
      3. Through Jesus' blood, God's mercy was available for all people.
      4. When God resurrected Jesus from death and crowned him Lord and Christ, God did exactly what He intended to do--create a new beginning in Jesus Christ.

  5. Let me focus your attention on a statement Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:6-12.
    In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look.
    1. Peter wrote to Christians who suffered because they believed in Jesus Christ.
      1. "Do not let your pain convince you to leave your God or your faith in the Christ!"
      2. "Find joy in the fact that your suffering is purifying your faith in Jesus--just making it more valuable like fire makes gold more valuable."
      3. "The end result of all this pain is your salvation."
    2. "Realize that not even the prophets or the angels understood what God was doing."
      1. "The prophets realized God would do something incredible when He allowed the Christ to suffer, but they did not know when this would happen."
      2. "Not even the angels fully comprehended what God was doing when He sent Jesus to become the Christ."
    3. Do you realize that every godly man or woman in the Old Testament would swap places with you? Not because you are in America! Because you are in Christ!
      1. As great as Abraham was, if you are a Christian, you have a greater opportunity that he had.
      2. As great as Moses was, if your are a Christian, you have a greater opportunity than he had.
      3. As great as King David was, if you are a Christian, you have a greater opportunity than he had.
      4. As great as the prophet Isaiah was, if you are a Christian, you have a greater opportunity than he had.
      5. Do you realize what you have just by being in Christ?

The question: have you allowed God to fashion the new beginning in you?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 December 2002

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