Is It Good, Or Is It Bad?
IS IT GOOD, OR IS IT BAD?
Philippians 1:12 – 14 , Romans 8:28
Have you ever had anything good happen to you, and then, perhaps years later, as you looked back on the event, realized that what seemed so good at the time had bad results? Or have you ever had anything bad happen, and then realized later that what appeared to be bad at the time was really good?
Sometimes it’s hard, while you’re going through the experience, to know whether the ultimate consequences will be good or bad.
This evening let’s look for a few moments at a scene in the Word of God that seems like a really bad situation. But the Apostle Paul says that it’s actually a good situation. Listen to his words in Philippians 1:12 14.
"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
Paul is saying, "I’m in prison. That’s bad. But the result is that more and more people have heard about Jesus. In fact, the entire palace guard now knows about Him. And the brothers who are sharing with me in the ministry are now more courageous in their preaching, too." Those are amazing words, aren’t they?
Now, it’s not always easy to know whether something is going to have good or bad results when it is happening. For instance:
Let’s say that you win the Publishing House sweepstakes, and suddenly start receiving more than $30,000 a month for the rest of your life. That’s good, isn’t it?
Or how about this? Let’s suppose you’re a member of a large family and you have several brothers and sisters. But your brothers really don’t like you very much because you are your father’s favorite. At Christmas time he always buys you the best presents. So they’re all jealous of you because of the relationship you have with him.
Finally, they get so angry that they get you off alone and beat up on you and throw you in a dry well. Now, that would be bad, wouldn’t it?
Again, suppose that in our congregation we have a nice young couple with sparkling eyes and cheery smiles. We enjoy coming to church and being in their company. They’ve been married 3 years, and are expecting their first child.
But then one day, while they’re driving home from church, an 18 wheeler suddenly swerves into their lane and knocks their car off the road, and both of them are killed. Well, there’s no question in our minds about this one. We know that would be bad.
Now, all of these incidents are true. We have read stories about people who have won large sums of money, whether through the Sweepstakes or the Lottery or whatever. Yet, when people unexpectedly receive large amounts of money they’re often not sure how best to deal with their new circumstances.
Suddenly they’re celebrities, and so many people are calling them asking for handouts or trying to get them to invest in something, that they end up having to get an unlisted telephone number. And other problems arise, too. Oftentimes they discover that after their windfall, they’re less happy than they were before. And what appeared to be so good seems to be turning out bad for them.
Or you may have recognized that the second story is a slightly altered and embellished rendition of the story of Joseph in the O.T. Remember, he had 10 older brothers, all very jealous of him. In fact, one day, after he had received a coat of many colors, Joseph’s brothers beat him up and threw him in a well. Then they sold him into slavery, and he was taken to Egypt.
But years later, at the end of the story in the Book of Genesis, as his brothers stand before him, Joseph makes this interesting statement, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done" [Genesis 50:20]. That which appeared to be so bad actually turned out good.
The last story was in Guidepost Magazine a few years ago a story about a young couple in Ft. Worth going home after church one evening. The driver of the truck did not see them, and he pulled over and hit their car, throwing them from the wreckage. The young wife died instantly, and her husband lived only a little while longer.
The church where they attended mourned their death. But a few weeks after the accident, a man showed up in church, and at the time of invitation came forward to be baptized and be added to the Lord’s church.
When asked why, he said, "I witnessed an accident on the highway a few weeks ago, and I stopped to see if there was anything I could do. I went first to the young lady and it was obvious she was dead. But I could hear sounds from the young man. So I turned to see if there was anything I could do to help him."
"As he looked up at me through eyes of terrible pain, he asked me a question, 'Are you a Christian? I’m going to meet Jesus and My Maker soon. If you were in my place, would you be going to meet Jesus?’"
With tears in his eyes the man went on, "Since that night those words have never left me, and that is why I’m here today, to tell all of you that I believe that Jesus is the True Son of God and that I want to baptized for the Remission of my sins."
What was really and truly bad,
and there’s no question about that,
resulted in that man’s salvation, and that is good.
So it is hard to know sometimes what is really good and what is really bad.
If you’re thrown in prison and you haven’t committed a crime, that’s bad.
If you lose a child, that’s bad.
If you lose your job, and the bank is foreclosing on your mortgage, that’s bad.
If your child is hooked on drugs, that’s bad. If there is cancer, that is bad.
There are some things that appear to be bad that really are bad.
But here is the promise of Scripture. "In all things, both good and bad things,
God works for the good of those who love Him." The question is, "How? How does that happen?" I’ve jotted down some answers - not all the answers, just some.
#1 is, "The way you endure suffering can stimulate interest in Christ." Paul says, "Here I am in prison, and what’s happened? It has served to advance the gospel." Paul is not complaining. Rather, he is rejoicing and sharing his faith with others.
I can just see Paul sitting in his prison cell chained to a Roman soldier. Every 8 hours the shift changes and he gets a new guard. For 8 hours this soldier will be attached to Paul by just a few feet of chain. And for 8 hours Paul literally has a captive audience.
He tells him about Jesus and His miracles and parables and teachings. He tells him the difference Jesus has made in his life, and what Jesus can do for the soldier, too. I’m confident that, after spending 8 hours with the apostle Paul, no soldier could ever be quite the same again.
What a wonderful way to handle difficulties in life. And what a wonderful way to turn those difficulties into something positive.
There have been times that we’ve visited church members in the hospital, and have had nurses and doctors tell us, "I’m amazed at how well this patient is doing. There has to be some reason why this patient seems to be handling the pain so much better than others who have gone through the same thing."
I think I know the reason. Our faith in Christ makes a difference. And oftentimes the way we endure suffering can be a tremendous testimony to others.
Secondly, I think that the way you remain true authenticates your witness. Our world is hungry for that which is genuine. There is so much phoniness around us that it is really hard to know, isn’t it, who is telling the truth and who isn’t?
We go through political campaigns where phony promises are made. We have salesmen who lie to us. We live in a world where it is hard to find something real and authentic. We are constantly on the alert against identity theft or scam artists. I also recently saw where some businesses in Texas and Florida were charging $45 for a case of water during the disasters that hit those areas. They were more interested in making a profit then helping their fellow man!
The world is hungry for someone who will stand up for truth, even if it’s unpopular truth, and say, "I will not compromise what I believe because I stand for those things that are right."
That’s genuineness. And when you are an authentic person then your witness is strengthened.
One of my great concerns about our present time is that many moral issues have become political issues. And we have them confused. We think they are political, when in reality they are moral.
Abortion has become a political issue, and lines have been drawn. The media has decided that if you’re a Democrat you’re for it, and if you’re a Republican you’re against it. But abortion is not Republican or Democrat. Abortion is a moral issue, and God ruled on it centuries ago, and His law has not changed. It is not political. It is moral.
Homosexuality has been made into a political issue. The media says if you’re a Republican you’re against it, and if you’re a Democrat you’re for it. No! Homosexuality is a moral issue.
And because it’s a moral issue and God has ruled, then as Christians, regardless of our politics, we must stand opposed to endorsing those things which are immoral.
And that gives authenticity to our faith. Are you an authentic Christian? Or are you out there like a reed, being blown to and fro by the wind?
Finally, I think that the way you live can encourage others for Christ. There are few things in this world that are really worth dying for. But when you see something worth dying for, and others being willing to give up their lives for it, that is a tremendous witness and encouragement.
When I read about Corrie Ten Boom, and how she stood up for Jesus in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp,
During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis.
By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms' way of living out their Christian faith. When Casper was asked if he knew he could die for helping Jews, he replied, "It would be an honor to give my life for God's ancient people." Corrie and Betsie spent 10 months in three different prisons, the last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp located near Berlin, Germany. Life in the camp was almost unbearable, but Corrie and Betsie spent their time sharing Jesus' love with their fellow prisoners. Many women became Christians in that terrible place because of Corrie and Betsie's witness to them.
I’m deeply challenged and encouraged, aren’t you?
When I read the list of heroes in Hebrews 11, and realize that they never saw the result of their faith, but they kept on being faithful in spite of persecution and suffering, I’m encouraged to try to live a life of courage and faithfulness too.
And what an impact the way we live can have on others!
Jesus describes it in a number of ways: "Returning good for evil...turning the other cheek...going the extra mile...doing good to those who hate us...loving our enemies."
By living a life of real love we accomplish a two-fold objective:
#1, we put an end to bitterness,
and #2, we prove the truth of the age-old axiom, "Love conquers all."
There is story told of a man named Michael Weisser who lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. And for more than 3 years, a man named Larry Trapp, who was a self-proclaimed Nazi and Ku Klux Klansman, directed a torrent of hate-filled mailings and phone calls toward Weisser.
Trapp promoted white supremacy, and other messages of prejudice, declaring his apartment the KKK state headquarters and himself the grand dragon.
His whole purpose in life seemed to be to spew out hate-ridden racial slurs and obscene remarks against Weisser and all those like him.
At first, the Weissers were so afraid they locked their doors and worried themselves almost sick over the safety of their family. But one day Weisser found out that Trapp was a 42-year-old clinically blind, double amputee. And he became convinced that Trapp’s own physical helplessness was a source of the bitterness he expressed.
So Weisser decided to do the unexpected. He left a message on Trapp’s answering machine, telling him of another side of life...a life free of hatred and racism.
Weisser said, "I probably called 10 times and left messages before he finally picked up the phone and asked me why I was harassing him. I said that I’d like to help him. I offered him a ride to the grocery store or to the mall."
Trapp was stunned. Disarmed by the kindness and courtesy, he started thinking. He later admitted, through tears, that he heard in Weisser’s voice, "something I hadn’t experienced in years. It was a genuine concern and love for me."
Slowly the bitter man began to soften. One night he called the Weissers and said he wanted out, but didn’t know how. They grabbed a bucket of fried chicken and took him dinner. Before long they made a trade: in return for their love he gave them his swastika rings, hate tracts, and Klan robes.
That same day Trapp gave up his Ku Klux Klan recruiting job and dumped the rest of his propaganda in the trash. "They showed me so much love that I couldn’t help but love them back," he finally confessed.
Folks, if that could happen in Lincoln, Nebraska, what could happen here in our community, in our neighborhoods, if we truly began to live lives that showed the love of Jesus to those around us?
You see, there is a reward for faithfulness, and we need to encourage each other with that fact.
Lt. John Blanchard was stationed in Florida during WW2. One day he wandered into the base library and found a book to read. As he worked his way through the book he became impressed, not so much with the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The feminine handwriting showed insight and understanding as well as a bit of tenderness.
He flipped to the front of the book and found the name of the previous owner of the book, the one who had donated it to the USO. Her name was Miss Alice Minell. Blanchard made some inquiries and found her address in New York state. He wrote her a letter, and the following day as luck would have it, he was shipped overseas. But her answering letter found its way to him overseas.
For 13 months they corresponded. They opened their hearts to each other and realized that they were on the verge of falling in love. In one of his letters he requested her picture, but she refused by saying, "If you really love me it won’t make any difference what I look like."
Finally he was shipped back to the states, and they made plans to meet. The place would be Grand Central Station, and the time was to be 7 p.m. She would carry a rose. He would be in uniform, carrying a copy of the book that started the whole thing.
Finally it was 1 minute to 7:00. He straightened his uniform, his heart pumping anxiously.
From here on I’m going to let Blanchard tell it in his own words.
"A young woman came toward me. Her figure was long and slim. Her hair was blond with curls. You could see a glimpse of her delicate ears, and her eyes were bluish black. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and she wore a pale green suit. She looked like spring come alive.
"I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not carrying a rose. As she passed me, a small provocative smile curled on her lips and she said, 'Going my way, soldier?’ Almost uncontrollably I made a step in her direction, and then I saw the woman with a rose.
"There she stood, past 40, gray hair tucked under a worn hat, more than plump. Her thick ankles were thrust deep into low heeled shoes. But she had a rose. The girl in the green suit walked on quickly, and I felt like I was going to split in two. I had a keen desire to follow that beautiful woman who had just passed. But I also had a deep longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me in her letters during the war.
"There she stood. Her pale plump face was gentle, sensible. Her gray eyes were warm and had a twinkle. I did not hesitate any longer. My fingers gripped the small worn book that was to identify me. I thought, 'This may not be love, but it will be something precious.’
"I squared my shoulders, held out the book to the woman and said, 'I’m Lt. John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Minell. I’m so glad finally to meet you. May I take you to dinner?’
"The woman’s face broadened in a smile. She said, 'I don’t know what this is all about, soldier. But that young lady in green who just went by begged me to carry this rose. She said that if you were to ask me out to dinner, that I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the restaurant across the street.’ Then she asked, 'Is this some kind of a test?’"
Lt. Blanchard passed the test. Will you?
Jesus said, "Be thou faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
by Melvin Newland
Where and when we meet
Chardon, Ohio 44024