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May 16, 1999

1 PETER 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Most of the time, why questions don't get us anywhere. Haven't we had enough discussion on why the two young men shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado? Magazines, talk shows, TV commentators, newspaper columnists, e-mail, preachers-- all trying to answer the why question when why is really unanswerable. Who knows why?

Why we probably ask why questions is to find someone or something to blame. As a society, we are heavy into blame. If we can find someone to blame, then we can relax, and pawn off the responsibility to someone else, anyone but ourselves, or our comfort zone, or our style of life. If we can blame the Littleton tragedy on their parents, or TV and movies, or video games, then we don't have to assume responsibility for our nation's morals and values.

On a personal level, if we can find someone to blame, we can shirk personal responsibility. Blame mother for alcoholism, blame the teacher for poor grades, blame Clinton for immorality, then we don't have to accept responsibility. Why quickly turns into whine. Why did my parents divorce? Why was I abused? Why am I ill? Why am I suffering? Why did God let this happen to me? Why is God punishing me? Poor little old me!

I have an alternative suggestion. When mother says it's time to go to bed, rather than ask "Why?" or whine ("I don't want to"), say, "Yes, Mommy. Thank you, Mommy, for calling the time to my attention. I do need my rest." Would you like to see your mother surprised and speechless? Try it!

When the boss says, "Sweep over there," rather than ask "Why?", or whine (Why me? Why is he always picking on me? Don't I have enough to do?) say, "Yes, sir. Thank you for calling it to my attention." Talk about improving employee-employer relations!

Rather than why, blame, and whine, follow the admonitions listed in the Scripture lesson read this morning.

1) 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves." Stop feeling sorry for yourself, as if you have a right to something different. Humbly accept what you have been given. Play the hand you have been dealt. You only have one life, live it. Accept the struggles.

This weekend we are hosting a Boys' Chrysalis. Over a period of 72 hours, the boys hopefully emerge from caterpillars to butterflies where they fly with Christ, soar with the Lord. A man watched a small opening appear in a cocoon. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours

as it struggled to force its body through the little hole, without making much progress. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly. The man in his kindness and haste did not understand that the struggle of the butterfly to get through the tiny opening is God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it can fly.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we never faced obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as we might have been. And we will never fly. To fly with Christ, to soar with the Lord, humble yourself. Accept struggles, problems, setbacks, as learning and growing experiences.

Some parents, in the name of love, try to save their children from struggle, but the children are often crippled.

2) 1 Peter 5:8, "Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour." The Littleton tragedy is a terrifying example of evil. Rather than blame God or ask why God allows bad things to happen, keep alert. Discipline yourself. Be strong. Dress in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17), "the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Discipline yourself, and help children dress in God's armor. Realize that parents cannot do the job alone. Children and youth desperately need the reinforcement of the church. They need to be here every Sunday for Sunday School, CATCH on Tuesdays (resuming in September). Youth need the fellowship and ministry of our youth groups. It is not easy for them to live in this world, for the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. The devil goes for the lonely, the vulnerable. When a child is baptized, the congregation promises to surround the child with a community of love and forgiveness. How important for us to be alert for the lonely, isolated, vulnerable youth.

3) 1 Peter 5:9, "Resist him." Not only discipline and protect yourself from the forces of evil, but resist the devil. Speaking of baptism, last Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing my youngest granddaughter in her home church. The Mother's Day service was inspiring, the sermon was beautiful. I was interested to observe that the first question asked of the parents in the baptism service was omitted. "Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?" Do modern, educated, sophisticated Christians not want to be reminded of or confronted with the reality of the spiritual forces of wickedness, the evil powers of this world?

When we don't want to be reminded, when we are offended, the devil has a field day! Oh, how he loves it when we don't believe in him!

Have you ever been to New Zealand? All over New Zealand you will see statues called tikis. They resemble human persons, and most of them are sticking out their tongues! Maori dancers, not only stick out their tongues as far as they will go, but rattle them as well. The warrior tiki

stick out their tongues in defiance of the enemy. Whether they actually went into battle with their tongues hanging out, I don't know, but the gesture demonstrates the attitude: I defy you. You cannot intimidate me. You cannot defeat me. I am not afraid.

Let's practice! Stick out your tongue. Stick out your tongue in defiance of your inner enemies. When Old Doubt tries to spoil your success; when Old Negative whispers, "If anything can go wrong, it will;" when Jealousy, Resentment, Anger, Bitterness and Hatred try to destroy your joy, enthusiasm, and confidence, stick out your tongue. I defy you. You cannot intimidate me. You can't defeat me.

Stick out your tongue in defiance of the evil spirits. The Maori believed there is a supernatural world stocked with spirits, many of them their dead ancestors. These spirits are easily offended and can bring trouble on the Maori. The Maori, however, refuse to be intimidated. They stick out

their tongues. When the devil comes around like a roaring lion, trying to frighten you, trying to tempt you, trying to devour you, stick out your tongue! I defy you. You cannot intimidate me. You can't defeat me.

Last Wednesday, Lloyd Hall was in the barbershop. The Jerry Springer Show, an insult to civilization, was on TV. There were two men watching the show and obviously enjoying the decadence, when a mother came in with two children. Lloyd sat there for awhile, agitated and concerned, when he felt the Lord nudge him and say, "Do something." So Lloyd spoke up. In his inimitable style, and

gentle (?) voice, Lloyd hollered, "Joe, can't you find some sports on that TV? There are children in here!" Joe replied, "It's not my TV." Lloyd shouted, "You're the owner of this shop. Change the channel or turn it off." Joe changed the channel. Figuratively speaking, Lloyd stuck out his

tongue. He defied the devil. He took responsibility. He spoke out. And he succeeded. The devil's show was turned off! The children were protected.

When good people do nothing, evil triumphs. How often we Christians think it is not our business, not our right; or we don't have the courage to speak out and to stand up for what is right. Let's get those tongues active. We don't need to stick them out literally, but we do need to resist!

Resist the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

4) 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." The Lord is not off in the distance watching us struggle. God is in the midst. God gives us the strength and courage to stand up for him, to take on the struggles. And, God will take all your anxiety, all your worries, all your doubts. Jesus took your burdens to the cross with him. Give them to him, and leave them there. Don't take them back. "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you," and leave them there with him.

Rather than why, blame, and whine; humble yourself, discipline yourself, keep alert, resist evil, and cast all your anxiety on Jesus.

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© 1999 Douglas I. Norris