Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
TURNING LOSING INTO WINNING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
21 OCTOBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
36:1-3, 11-13, 18-22
37:1, 5-7, 14-20
1 Corinthians 2:15-16
Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 26:9)
At night my soul longs for Thee,
Indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently;
For when the earth experiences Thy judgments
The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
The election season is coming into high gear, and we are hearing candidates making all kinds of promises and lauding all that they have done.
What do you think of what they are saying, and how are you going to decide who to vote for?
How are you going to separate the truth from the lies, and the hype from the fact?
And once you vote for someone, and they are elected, will you support them or will you find fault with them?
Supporting does not always mean agreeing, but it doesn't allow for undermining, either.
Our Lord Jesus Christ wasn't running for any office.
He was already King.
But the religious leaders of His time here on earth considered Him a threat to their positions.
And instead of seeking God for their answers and direction, they tried to find ways to accuse Jesus and undermine His position.
One of these occurrences is recorded in Matthew 22:15-22. Let’s listen to what happened:
15. Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said.
Have you ever been involved in such a situation, where you have been part of a group such as the Pharisees?
Or, perhaps you may have been on the receiving end of such an attack, and you didn't deserve it. You had been doing everything in your power to do a good job and do what was right, and all you seemed to get was abuse for all your efforts.
And we certainly have felt these attacks for our trying to have animals receive the rights they disserve not to suffer at the hands of human beings.
And have you also noticed that the people who usually start such attacks often get someone else to confront the person they are against?
If you have ever been through such a situation, you can begin to empathize with what Jesus was feeling.
Let's continue with our reading:
16. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
17. "Tell us therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?"
Have you noticed that the under-miners also begin their attack like the supporters? They tell the truth, and they give compliments; but their compliments are tipped with poisonous venom.
Jesus recognizes the real truth, and begins to turn what could be a losing situation into a winning one. Listen to His answer:
18. But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, "Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?
19. "Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him a denarius.
20. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"
21. They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."
22. And hearing this, they marveled, and leaving Him, they went away.
Jesus turned the tables on them, didn't He?
He showed His disgust for what they were doing, but He never lost His cool.
Now you might be saying, "That’s all right for Him to do, for He's God. I can't be like that all the time."
And if that's the way you feel, you are already heading for a loss.
With Jesus, there should be no loss.
It all depends upon where our mind-set is.
Remember what Paul reminds us about in 1 Corinthians 2:15-16.
15. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.
16. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
I guess that all of us would agree that Moses was a spiritual person; and we have seen that he did reason with the Lord our God, and even caused the Lord to change His mind.
But this verse doesn't say that Moses and others in the past had that spiritual mind-set. It says that "we have the mind of Christ."
You and me!
We have the mind of Christ, if we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, and are willing to use it.
That's what it takes to turn a losing situation into a winning one.
Keep remembering this verse, and when things start getting tough, say to yourself, "Jesus is Lord! I believe in Him! I have the mind of Christ!"
Then use it!
And keep using it until you win.
Two thousand seven hundred years ago, King Hezekiah was facing an impossible situation by human standards. The largest army in the world, at that time, was coming up against him; and with the army that he had, there was no way that he could win.
Apparently, this story of turning a losing situation into winning is so important in the eyes of the Lord, that He has inspired its recording in three places in the Bible: 2 Kings, chapters 18 and 19; 2 Chronicles, chapter 32; and Isaiah, chapters 36 and 37.
Let's look at what took place, through the eyes of Isaiah. Please turn in your Bibles to Isaiah chapters 36 and 37.
Hezekiah was a God-fearing king. He sought to turn back the evil which the people had been doing, and he made every effort to make changes in Judah. But the northern tribes, known as Israel, had not repented; and in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign, the Lord allowed Israel to be taken captive by Assyria.
And now, just eight years later, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, comes up against Judah and Jerusalem.
Now remember that Hezekiah had been doing his best to reform what was left of the nation of Israel; yet because of their past sins, the Lord has allowed it to happen.
Listen to what we are told in Isaiah 36:1-3.
1. Now it came about in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.
2. And the king of Assyria sent Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem to King Hezekiah with a large army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway of the fuller's field.
3. Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to him.
Talk about a real horror story! This one is much more frightening than anything a Steven King could write about. This is real life and death – and death of the cruelest type. It is a time of real hair raising and knee knocking.
And then Rabshakeh takes up a discourse to intimidate those in Jerusalem to surrender. But the three men who went out from Jerusalem replied only once. Listen to verses 11-13.
11. Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to Rabshakeh, "Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean, in the hearing of the people who are on the wall."
12. But Rabshakeh said, "Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?"
13. Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, and said, "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.
And Rabshakeh speaks forth many deceiving words to entice them to surrender and to convince them that Hezekiah is the one who is deceiving them.
He wants to demoralize them.
He wants to set fear in their hearts.
This is the way of the enemies of God.
If we are going to lose, if in fact we would lose, isn't it better to lose on the side of God than to lose on the side of the enemy?
What Sennacherib, Rabshakeh, and all of the other enemies of God are offering is really only a lose/lose situation.
There is no way to win by doing what they say and do.
If we listen and observe carefully, the enemy will always reveal himself. Listen to what Rabshakeh says in verses 18-20:
18. 'Beware lest Hezekiah misleads you, saying, "The Lord will deliver us." Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?
19. 'Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? And when have they delivered Samaria from my hand?
20. 'Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?' "
Rabshakeh is saying that there is no difference between our God and the false gods whom we create.
But what Rabshakeh is saying has some truth in it: for no false god can do anything, good or bad. It is our willingness to listen to the demons that are behind these false gods, that leads us to destruction.
And if we are so weak in our faith, that we assume that there are other ways to God, we may even believe these kinds of lies.
Only the Lord our God can deliver us, and turn a losing situation into a winning one.
Listen to what happens, as we continue with our reading from 36:21 to 37:1.
21. But they were silent and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, "Do not answer him."
22. Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh.
1. And when King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the Lord.
All four of these leaders accepted the fact that this trial, this supposed losing situation, was coming upon them because of their past sins. Thus they humbled themselves before the Lord.
But Hezekiah brought the matter directly before the Lord, first, and not before a council of his fellow human beings.
And then Hezekiah sends his spiritual leaders to seek the help of Isaiah the prophet, not of himself, but his help in petitioning the Lord's help.
Note the results: (Isaiah 37:5-7)
5. So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.
6. And Isaiah said to them, "Thus you shall say to your master, 'Thus says the Lord, "Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.
7. "Behold, I will put a spirit in him so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land." ' "
And the word of the Lord began to come true, and Sennacherib did hear a
rumor, but in the process of preparing to leave, he sends a letter to Hezekiah.
And in that letter of intimidation to Hezekiah, he further blasphemes the Lord our God by comparing Him as being the same as false gods of the lands he overthrew.
Listen to how Hezekiah continues to turn this losing situation into a winning one: (Isaiah 37:14-20)
14. Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.
15. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord saying,
16. "O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who art enthroned above the cherubim, Thou art the God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. Thou hast made heaven and earth.
17. "Incline Thine ear, O Lord, and hear; open Thine eyes, O Lord, and see; and listen to all the words of Sennacherib, who sent them to reproach the living God.
18. "Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have devastated all the countries and their lands,
19. and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them.
20. "And now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou alone, Lord, art God."
Hezekiah has put things in proper perspective before the Lord, hasn't he?
Those who gave into the losing and false things of this world have been overthrown by the same evil forces that they coveted.
But Hezekiah humbled himself before the Lord and sought His help only, and God responded, for 185,000 of the Assyrian army died by their own hand or the hand of the Lord; and upon returning to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Sennacherib was killed by his own sons in the temple of his false god.
Many of us have losing situations in our own families, and the state of this church, based on the number of empty seats, is a losing situation; but we can turn all of them into winning situations.
We can start by humbling ourselves before the Lord and asking for forgiveness, not only for ourselves, but also for others.
We can pray those, who have walked away from the Lord and the Church, back into the Church.
We can put away the false gods in our possessions – those things that we put before God.
And these things can be anything: from our bad habits, to other people; and from our social clubs, to even family gatherings; if they come before our gathering together before the Lord our God.
Surely our social gatherings and meetings can be at other times than on Sunday mornings and early afternoon.
Surely we can separate the lies, that we allow ourselves to believe, from what we know in our hearts to be the truth in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Surely we can seek to be the loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God that we have been called to be for the benefit of the whole of God's creation.
Surely we can use the mind of Christ.
If we begin making a stand for the Lord our God, as Jesus and Hezekiah showed us, and we do it with prayer, then the Lord will defeat the enemy who entices us and leads away from us the weak ones, and He will lead them back.
But we must be willing to make a stand.
O Lord, please help us....