How Do You Look?
Some people look at the same situation vastly differently from one another. Tammy believes that for one to be comfortable, the thermostat needs to be set at about 70 degrees, while I like it about 80. Tammy views chicken livers as a marvelous treat; I view them as the absolute rubbish they are.
Some people view things spiritually vastly differently as well. Tonight, we want to examine several ways that people look at spiritual matters.
Some Look Downward
Christian too often look downward; they dwell on the dreary side of life. They become pessimistic about the state of this world-every time we pick up the newspaper someone else has been murdered; every time we turn around another political leader has had a moral failure; the news shows the moral decline of this nation. They become pessimistic about the state of their lives—their spouses aren’t loving enough, their children aren’t appreciative enough, the job’s not satisfying enough, the bank account isn’t fat enough, the health isn’t good enough. They become pessimistic about the church—it isn’t growing fast enough, congregations are leaving the truth, young people are falling away.
Many biblical characters looked downward. Job cursed the day he was born (Job 3:1). When Jezebel threatened to kill him, Elijah said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life” (1 Ki 19:4). When surrounded by his enemies, David prayed, “I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with tears” (Ps 6:6).
Such downward looking causes us to be depressed. “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad” (Prov 12:25). Depression keeps us from doing God’s will, for when we are depressed we don’t want to do anything.
Some Look Upward
Instead of looking downward, we can look upward to God. God is not dead; he is in complete control.
We can look to God when things seem hopeless. “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 121:2). The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him” (Ps 28:7). “We may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:6).
If we turn to him in faith, God will help us. He’s not going to work some miracle, but God will work in this world to help us. If God will not help us, why pray?
Some Look Inward
Many people in this world are miserably unhappy because they are selfish, they look inward. Theodore Roosevelt always liked to be the center of attention. One of his children said, “Father always had to be the center of attention. When he went to a wedding, he wanted to be the bride. When he went to a funeral, he was sorry that he couldn’t be the corpse.” So many are like that, concerned only for themselves—when they attend a gathering, they come in last so that they can be seen; when they say something, they don’t care how it will affect others; they’re willing to stab a coworker in the back if they can get ahead.
Scripture warns us against being selfish. “Men will be lovers of themselves” (2 Tim 3:2). Haman was an extremely selfish man: “So Haman came in, and the king asked him, ‘What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?’ Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?’” (Est 6:6). Haman ended up being hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
Some Look Outward
Christians must look outward with compassion and concern for those who are hurting. Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that his people must care for those who are down and out (Lk 10). “Through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).
We have so many opportunities to care for those who hurt. So many are ill—we can provide a warm meal, run to the drugstore, wash laundry, or do a dozen other things we who are healthy take for granted. When a family loses a home to fire, we can provide them a place to stay and provide them with clothing. When a family loses a loved one, we can listen through the grief and provide a shoulder to cry on. We can share the Gospel of Jesus with those who have never heard it so that they can know the peace and joy we know.
Some Look Backward
So many Christians look backward to what once was. They remember all the failures in their lives, the time they didn’t do what they knew to be right and embarrassed themselves and others. They remember how the church used to be stronger than it is now, and they never expect it to be stronger than it is now. “The church is really going downhill,” they’ll say. They remember how something in their lives used to be better—their health used to be better, they were more financially stable when they worked. Some remember how pleasurable a certain sin used to be.
Scripture encourages us not to look back at what once was. The Israelites complained against Moses, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex 16:3). Speaking of his former life in Judaism, Paul wrote, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil 3:13). Paul could have sat around and lamented his loss of status in the Jewish community. But he forgot about that, he did not look back.
Are we looking backward to the past, or, like Paul, do we forget those things which are behind?
Some Look Forward
For the Christian, the best things are yet to come. Our home in heaven will far outweigh what we have on this earth—we will never be ill, we will never lose a loved one, we will never endure financial difficulties, we will never have a crisis in our lives. We Christians ought to look forward to that day—that day we will be with the redeemed of all the ages and be with God himself.
God wants us to look forward to that glorious day. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). Doesn’t it sound as though God wants us to anticipate heaven?
What about you? Can you honestly say that you are going to that mansion in the skies? Do you need to respond to Jesus this night so that you can look forward to that mansion in the skies?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.