LISTEN TO THE MUSIC VOL II SERMON SERIES
IN THE AIR TONIGHT
SEPTEMBER 26, 1999
The question. Who is that person in your life who is your number one adversary? I am talking about that individual who has sort of hurt you, that man or that woman who makes your blood boil just to look at them. You try to avoid them around the neighborhood, at the office, at the club or even at church. Do you have a picture of that person in your mind? It could be an ex-spouse who ran off with your friend. It could be a former business associate who took your client base and started a competitive company. It could be an ex-friend who has been trafficking confidential information about you. It could be a number of people in a number of situations. Maybe the love of your life who broke your heart.
Well, against the backdrop of that, our society screams, settle the score, make them pay. That is the genre of our day. Pull out all the stops to get that sweet revenge. I am amazed at how quickly revenge can be revved up in our lives. Case in point. This Thursday night Lisa and I were on our date night and I had just pulled into the parking lot at Grapevine Mills Mall. I was in my pickup truck. I needed to merge left to go around the mall in the parking lot to find the space I wanted. I put my blinker on. There was a motorcycle in the left lane. I had enough room to merge. But this guy revved up his bike and he wouldn’t let me over. And then he did a wheelie right by my truck and kind of looked at me and for a nanosecond I said to myself, “How would you like to taste a Ford F250 fender.” But a cooler head prevailed.
What happens when we have those revengeful moments, when we can feel it in the air tonight, when we want to settle the score, when we want to pay someone back? What plays out? Before we get into that, I think we need to understand the realities of revenge because this is a very complex and interesting thing that we face. A lot of people have different reactions to it. Maybe you are revolving your life around revenge and you don’t even realize it.
What if you were hurt as a young guy or young girl? Maybe you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps and tell yourself that you will prove them wrong. So you say to yourself that you will dive into your career and make a pile of money, live in a house with a certain amount of square footage, drive a particular car with a certain sticker price. You will get into the corner office, receive a special award, then you will pay them back. Then you will settle the score. Could that be you. Could you be revolving your life around revenge without even realizing it?
Others of us don’t do that. We just wait. We are the scorekeepers. We are predators, ready to pounce and when the right moment occurs, we are on the person exposing them, humiliating them, dissing them in front of everybody. Everyone can see we were done wrong and are having payback time. Revenge. Revenge is deceptive. It promises something that it does not deliver. It promises contentment. It promises peace of mind. But it never happens.
I was hurt deeply in high school by a coach. And I thought that when I signed a full scholarship at Florida State University to play basketball that I would settle the score. I thought I would put it in his face. I thought I would pay him back. It didn’t happen. A year and a half later when I worked my way into the starting lineup, I thought that would get back at him. Believe me, don’t go there. It is deceptive.
Also revenge is extremely destructive. I read this past week that the medical community has discovered a huge correlation between revengeful feelings, harbored hate and health problems. A lot of doctors these days are saying that it is better to smoke three packs a day and eat a high fat diet than to have frosty feelings toward another person, to want to get back. So in a way, you could plaster a huge sticker on top of this message. “Warning: Revenge is damaging and harmful to your physical health.”
It is also damaging to our psychological health. The Bible says in Proverbs, so a man or woman thinks, so is the way they are, the way they live. Our mentality and psyche are working in conjunction with each other and if we have this revenge stuff boiling over, it can mess up our mind. It can turn us into bitter people.
There is also a spiritual cost. Revenge can hurt and put a barrier in our fellowship with God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:15, “But if you do not forgive men….” In other words, if you keep those revengeful feelings and hate going on. “…Your Father will not forgive your sins.” Every time you hear an effective message, it should have two parts. Tell me something I need to know. And tell me something I need to do. If you hear any presentation in the business world, any lesson in the classroom, any formula in the locker room, it is what do I need to know and what do I need to do.
We talked about the know part already. Revenge. It is deceptive. It is damaging. It is something we all deal with. Now what do I do? I am going to spend the rest of the time talking about the do part of it. I want to share with you how to capture those revengeful moments.
I will begin talking about a character that we have portrayed here in this series several times, David. David is a huge personality in the Old Testament. David fought Goliath but he battled with revengeful feelings like few of us will ever face. Here is what happened. Psycho Saul had one mission in life, to take out David. It is one thing to have a contract out on you, but Saul, the most powerful man in the country, also hired 3,000 men to help him kill God’s man. It is amazing when you think about it because several years earlier, David had saved the day. He had taken out the behemoth and single-handedly saved the Israelites from their archenemies from the Philistines. He was the toast of the town, the man of the hour. Saul had promoted him to the top military position. Everything he touched turned to gold. Everybody liked him.
Saul, though, became jealous. Jealousy seguewayed into bitterness, bitterness into anger and anger into the motive for murder. Saul knocked out all the props in David’s life. He fired him. He took away his wife. He took away his relationship with his spiritual mentor, Samuel. His only son, Jonathan, was a devoted friend to David and Saul came between the two of them. You could write a country and western song about David’s life. In fact, if Shania Twain would read I Samuel 23 and 24, there is no telling what she could do.
Can you identify with David a little bit? Have you ever had the props knocked out? Have you ever lost a lot of your stuff? David turned into a fugitive. He was on the run. And the Bible says that he was hiding in a region known as En Gedi. We were there several months ago as a group from Fellowship Church. It is near the Dead Sea and filled with thousands of caves. David and his 400 renegade soldiers were hiding from Saul in a cave. Saul was in high-speed pursuit. Now I am going to read a verse of scripture for you that will shock you. Don’t ever say that the Bible is not real. Don’t ever say that it doesn’t deal with people and their problems and the everyday occurrences of life. I Samuel 24:3. “Saul went in to relieve himself.” Yes, he did what you are thinking. I am talking about a biblical rest stop here. And of all the caves in En Gedi, he entered the cave in which David and the 400 were hiding. I bet David’s men lost it. I bet they said, “Oh, David, we got him with his pants down now. You can take him out. It is pay back time, David. You can settle the score now.” And I am sure David was humming, “I can feel it coming in the air tonight…” With one thrust of the sword, David could become King of Israel. Like that. And this man, God’s man, who had been brought up in a revenge-centered culture, sneaked up on Saul and at the last moment he slithered back into the shadows. He had a revengeful moment, he had his enemy right where he wanted him but he pulled back.
What happens when your enemy, your Saul, is delivered to your cave? What happens? What do you do? What goes on? Do you pay them back? Do you settle the score? Or, do you do what God wants you to do?
I want to hit now the first thing we should do when we capture a revengeful moment. It centers on the word hit. We are to hit the deck. When a revengeful moment comes our way, we are to hit the deck, hit our knees in prayer. We are to pray, something that we are not wired up to do. God in His sovereignty knew and knows that we will be tethered to feelings of revenge. I want to read for you a text that is right out of the mouth of Jesus. It is a very, very hard saying of His. It is a toe jammer. Matthew 5:44. “Love your enemies…” Let me stop right there. Love your enemies. This word love is not some second hand emotion like Tina Turner sings about. This has to do with an attitude and an action and a frame of mine. “….and pray for those who persecute you.” Wow. And they say Christianity is reserved for those people who need a crutch. They say it is for the lightweights, for those who are not man enough or woman enough to do life without God. Hey, if anyone ever says that to you, just tell him or her that they don’t understand the deal. This is tough stuff. But it is rewarding stuff.
Well, how do I love my enemies? How do I pray for those who persecute me? We are to pray two rapid-fire prayers when we are hurt, dissed, taken advantage of. The first kind of prayer we are to pray is a self-centered prayer. If we don’t start with old number one, there is no way we can ever love and really pray for those who persecute us. We have got to pour out our feelings to God. We have got to pray for the capacity to love them, to have the right attitude and do the right actions.
I have been reading the Psalms lately in my personal devotions. It is staggering to see how many times David poured out his heart to God, his feelings to God. Pray a prayer like, “God, I don’t even feel like praying for this jerk. I don’t feel like loving her, not even liking her.” Words like that, phrases like that. And then God will do some incredible things in your life. You have got to pray, though, a self-centered prayer. You have got to get right first and then follow that by another rapid prayer, an enemy driven prayer. Pray for the person who has messed you around. Pray for the person you want to settle the score with or you want to pay back. And I am here to tell you something. You start praying for your enemies, you can’t hate them for very long. You can’t. God will do a supernatural work in your life. He will help you walk in their shoes and see life from their perspective. Again, they don’t have to be our best friends. They don’t have to be people we hang with. But we are commanded to love them. Why? Because they matter to God.
You start doing this rapid prayer stuff and things will occur in your life and you will have an impact and influence beyond what you can even comprehend. It is that great. It is that incredible. God will allow your enemies to be delivered to the mouth of your cave. God will allow you to sneak up on them. And God will test you and test me with revenge.
There is a second thing we are to do. After we hit the deck, we are to watch the crowd. We are to watch the crowd. Last weekend I talked about the omnipresence of God. And before I talked about it we did a song by The Police called “Every Breath You Take”. How many did not attend last weekend? Please get the tape. But sadly the tape does not record one of the most powerful things that our programming team did. While we were talking about the whole issue of the omnipresence of God and while the band was playing “Every Breath You Take”, eyes on our telebeams were all over the worship center. Eyes everywhere. Big eyes. We did that to get you to think. Well, take those eyes and multiply them exponentially because you have got a lot of eyes watching you. I have got a lot of eyes watching me. And here I am talking to an exclusive group. I am talking to those of us who know Christ personally. If you are outside the family of God, you can’t do this stuff. You can’t muster it up. But if you are a believer, oh yes, we have the power source to do this.
Think about the 400 men in David’s cave. Don’t you believe that David’s attitude had them reeling? “Whoa, David. What’s up? You didn’t get revenge, man. I can’t believe it.” An impact. He did something God’s way. Hey, parents, you want to influence your children? They know when you are hurt. They know when you are down. Back off. Hit the deck. Watch the crowd. You will make an indelible impression on their lives. Who could be your 400? How about at work? They see a boss handle you in the wrong way. They see a manager or a co-worker treat your badly. People are watching. “Oh, he calls himself a Christian. She calls herself a Christ follower. Yeah, they go to the Fellowship Church. I am going to see if they are walk and talk are in sync.” How do you respond? How do I respond? Think about your 400.
Romans 12:17. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil….” What if God had repaid us evil for evil. We wouldn’t be here. One little curse word, one little bad mood, one little off day would be a sin and sin has to have punishment. And God, if He were to repay evil for evil would have just taken us out. What did God do? God responded to our evil with love by sending Christ. The reason Christ had to go to the cross and die for our sins was because sin has to have punishment. Christ felt the weight, the guilt and the remorse of every single shortcoming the world has ever or will ever see. He felt that.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” How can I share my faith with my friends? How can I share Jesus with others? Try this stuff, hitting the deck, watching the crowd. It will communicate volumes.
When they were torturing Jesus, when they were hammering the nails in His hands and feet, when the flesh was tearing, when He was gasping for breath, do you know what He said? He didn’t curse the Roman soldiers. He could have snapped His fingers and the heavenly hosts would have come down and taken care of the whole deal. He didn’t. He said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” And then the Bible says that when a hardened Roman soldier heard that, he hit the dirt and said, “Surly this must be the Son of God.” He didn’t read a theology book or go to a Bible conference. He saw this attitude modeled by our Savior. Watch. Watch the crowd. When I thought and prayed about this subject, I realized how many times I have blown it, how many times I have messed up. But God understands. God is going to continue to say to me and to you, “Hey, do it My way.”
Now the next thing we are to do to capture a revengeful moment is going to sound weird. We won’t pan the audience with the cameras but I want to ask you a question and be honest with me. How many here are lawyers? Raise your hands. OK, we’ve got some lawyers here. What we should do to capture a revengeful moment, is hire the lawyer.
Because of the Babylonians badness toward Israel, God said these words to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 51:36. “I will be your lawyer. I will plead your case. I will avenge you.” We are talking pro bono. God doesn’t bill hourly. God is going to do the deal. Isn’t that incredible? What great news. Romans 12:19. “Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written, it is mine to avenge, I will repay says the Lord.” Now when I take revenge, I do it myself. But when I do the avenge thing and allow God room, God will take it up. God does it, God settles the score, God pays them back, and there will be a payback some day. It is going to happen. That is what David did. David just back up and he said in I Samuel 24 that the Lord would do his work for him. And sure enough, God took care of Saul. Just read it. He took care of him and He will take care of your adversary and your enemy and my adversary and my enemy.
Do you want to deepen your faith? Do you want to swim in that real, real cold water that is really deep? Well, just start to do this stuff. Start hitting the deck, watching the crowd, and hiring the lawyer because you can’t do this stuff just bouncing around in the baby pool spiritually. No, no, no. You have got to walk on the edge. You have got to pray like you have never prayed. You have got to read the Bible like you have never read it. You have got to worship like you have never worshipped. You have got to live the stuff out.
But I ask you. Who is going to break the cycle of relational hostility? Who? Our world is going nuts. Relationships start out with such promise. Then ego and anger and animosity and revenge get in the way. The guns come out, the knives are drawn. Or maybe in the suburbs we do it a little differently. We use attorneys to do our battles for us, don’t we? Who is going to break it? It has got to be you. It has got to me be. If we know Christ personally, we have the ultimate example. Jesus returned our evil with good. We must return other’s evil with good.
I think about the book of Genesis when I think about revenge, specifically a man named Joseph. He was born into the quintessential dysfunctional family. Don’t ever say that your family was dysfunctional until you have read about Joseph. He had lots of brothers. His father made the ultimate parental mistake by showing favoritism to Joe. He went to the local mall and bought him a Versace robe. His brothers hated his guts. One day the father was away on a business trip and they wanted to kill Joseph. But instead they decided to sell him into slavery and to tell their father that he had died.
So they did that. See ya, don’t want to be ya. He was gone. “Dad, you won’t believe what happened. This wild animal killed Joe. Here is part of his Versace robe. It was a bad deal.” Joseph is a young, single man away from everything that brought him security. He was forgotten by men, remembered by God. Joseph found himself working in Potifer’s household. He was an extremely talented young man. He was accused of a crime that he did not commit and thrown into prison. But he wasn’t singing Johnny Cash songs. He didn’t whine and complain. He didn’t say that he was going to settle the score. “I’m going north when I get out and I am going to bust my brothers up.” He didn’t say that.
While in prison he got to know his cellmate. His cellmate said, “Hey, Joe, when I get out I will help you get out because I know some big time people.” But his cellmate forgot about him. Then the King of Egypt had some weird dreams that no one could interpret. Joseph had the gift and did interpret the King’s dreams. He was promoted from that prison all the way to the pinnacle of leadership in Egypt. He was the number two guy.
Meanwhile, back at the Dysfunctional Ranch, Joe’s family thought that he was dead and gone. They were experiencing a famine in their land. They were hungry. Well, because Joe interpreted the dreams and literally saw the writing on the wall, Egypt had enough food. Joseph’s dysfunctional family had to swallow all of their pride and ego and trek south. Take a wild guess who they had to come before to get some food. Joseph. They didn’t recognize him. New wardrobe, new hairdo, new language. Joseph had them where he wanted them, right at the mouth of his cave. He could pay them back, settle the score. You could almost hear him singing, I can feel it coming in the air tonight.
Here is what he did. He locked eyes with them and he said these words. Genesis 50:20. “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Unbelievable. We can do what David did, what Jesus did, what Joseph did. We can do it. We can capture those revengeful moments when we hit the deck, watch the crowd and hire the lawyer. When we do those things, you will not believe what God can do through an ordinary you.
We have been ending every message with another song that answers the secular song. We opened up with a song sung by Phil Collins. We all recognized it. Well we are going to answer that song with a Christian contemporary song called “Remember Not”. I feel this song really wraps up the entire subject of revenge. So as we worship together, I pray that the words from this song are lived out in your life and in mine.