Mark Twain once went to call on Harriet Beecher Stowe, writer of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Usually careless about his dress, Twain forgot about his necktie that day. When he returned home, Mrs. Clemons called his attention to this social blunder. A little later, Mrs. Stowe opened the door to find a messenger with a small package. Opening the package, Harriet Beecher Stowe found inside a black silk necktie and a note: “Here is a necktie. Take it out and look at it. I stayed half an hour this morning without this necktie. At the end of that time, will you kindly return it, as it is the only one I have? MARK TWAIN.”
I imagine we can all relate to Mark Twain quite well. If you’re anything like I am, you do well to remember where you put your car keys and wallet, and you occasionally get up, go in the other room and can’t remember for the life of you what you needed. One day after Albert Einstein had moved to his home at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the telephone rang in the office of the Dean of the Princeton Graduate School. The voice at the other end inquired: “May I speak with Dean Einstein, please.” Advised that the dean was not in, the voice continued: “Perhaps then you will tell me where Dr. Einstein lives.” The secretary replied that she could not do this, since Dr. Einstein wished to have his privacy respected. The voice on the telephone dropped to a near whisper: “Please do not tell anybody, but I am Dr. Einstein. I am on my way home, and have forgotten where my house is!”
This is a holiday weekend. Tomorrow, all across our land, services will be held in cemeteries to remember those who gave their lives to defend this nation. The President and the Secretary of Defense will give speeches recalling the heroic sacrifices so many have made in this nation’s history. Loved ones will go to cemeteries and place flowers on the graces of family members who have departed this life. It’s both right and good that we remember our departed loved ones. We occasionally sing, “Precious Memories,” and I’m certain that song causes each of us to recall very precious memories from earlier years.
Yet, I fear that we all too often forget God, and we do so with absolutely disastrous consequences. Notice what happened when the Israelites forgot God: “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers” (Judg 2:11-12). Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrews were admonished to remember the Lord. This evening, we want to explore those admonitions to remember God.
We Need to Remember God When We Are Opposed
In Nehemiah 4, we read about opposition to the Jews faced when they were rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity. Sanballat became angry and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish–stones that are burned?” (v 2). Then, we read that Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod planned to come fight the Israelites (v 7). Those enemies of the Jews were saying, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease” (v 11). Obviously the Jews were frightened when they heard this and said to Nehemiah, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us” (v 12). Nehemiah stationed men with swords, spears and bows around Jerusalem, and he told the Israelites, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (v 14). Nothing ever came of the threats made against the Israelites: “And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (v 15).
When we are opposed for doing right, we would do well to remember the Lord. We’re going to face opposition if we strive to do right. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). You know that if we strive to do the right thing, we’re going to be persecuted. A few years ago, I helped baptized a young man who was terminally ill with cancer–he died about a week after his baptism. The interesting thing, though, was that his father was adamant that this gentleman could not be baptized; the father feared that the young man’s baptism would speed up his death. An elder, a fellow preacher, and I went and baptized him at his home in a feed trough while his dad wasn’t around. And, his father made the last days of his life miserable.
When we are opposed–persecuted for doing right–we need to remember God. We need to remember that the Son of God faced much more persecution than we shall ever face, and He endured in spite of persecution: “When He was reviled, [Jesus] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). We need to remember that Jesus has made great promises to those who endure persecution: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
Let us remember God in times of opposition!
We Need to Remember God in Our Early Life
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl 12:1). If you keep this passage in context, it becomes quite obvious why Solomon encouraged his readers to remember God when they were young–the readers are going to grow old and die. Notice what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12:1-7. The picture he paints is not a pretty one:
- “The sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are . . . darkened” (v 2): sight begins to fade as we grow older.
- “The strong men bow down” (v 3): as we grow older, osteoporosis, in both men and women, prevents many from standing as tall as they once did.
- “The grinders cease because they are few” (v 3): many people lose their teeth as they grow older–we have dentures now, but Solomon had nothing comparable.
- “The doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low” (v 4): as we grow older, our hearing fades.
- “The dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (v 7): we’re going to die.
What’s easier–to go through the aging process–which eventually leads to death–with a life centered on God or a life centered elsewhere?
Youth can do so much if they remember God. You can be a shining light for Jesus at school–You never know whom you may reach with the Gospel! You can be training now for a life of future service in the kingdom. Those of you who are males can wait on the table, read Scripture, and lead prayer. Those of you who are female can assist in classrooms and learn to teach–you guys can do that, too. You can go visit the sick and the shut-in–They absolutely love it when young people come around.
Will you remember God in your youth?
We Need to Remember God in Trouble
Jonah suffered much. God told him to go to Nineveh, but he refused to go; he found a ship headed for Spain, and he got on it. A great storm arose, and Jonah offered sacrificially to go into the sea to stop the storm. Jonah didn’t drown, but God prepared a large fish which swallowed him. While he was in the belly of the great fish, Jonah had a lot of time to think about whether or not he should really go to Nineveh. While thinking in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed, and he said in that prayer, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7).
When we face trouble, we need to remember God. I fear that many individuals only remember God when they face trouble. When the doctor comes from the operating room and says that things don’t look good, we pray. When our marriage is about to go south, we pray and remember God. I really think that Jonah was a person like that–God had to convince him to obey by extraordinary means, and when God saved Nineveh, Jonah became quite upset. Let us not be people who only remember God when the going gets tough; let us remember God always.
But, by the same token, we need to remember God in times of trouble. God has made great promises for those who are struggling.
- “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
- “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb 13:5-6).
When we face trials let us remember God, the God whose grace is sufficient for us, and the God who will neither leave nor forsake us.
We Need to Remember God in Time of Prosperity
“You say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut 8:17-18). The Israelites were about to enter Canaan, and God provides them a warning not to forget Him. They were going to have great prosperity, and God is warning them that in the face of their prosperity that they could not forget him.
There is a clear tendency for people to forget God in times of prosperity. That may very well be why Americans, by and large, have forgotten about God–we, as a society, have outgrown Him; we have some much wealth that we can provide for ourselves.
Scripture speaks of the tendency of people to forget God in times of prosperity. Luke 12:19-20. “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17).
We cannot forget that our prosperity comes from God, not from ourselves. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). Matthew 10:29-30. God is the One who ultimately provides us with everything we have: our talents which enable us to earn a living, the rain, the sun, and the animals which provide our food and clothing, the timber which provides our housing. When we have accumulated wealth in this world we dare not think that we have arrived. It is God who has provided for us. We need to remember Him, and thank Him!
We Need to Remember God in Time of Temptation
Deuteronomy 24:8-9. In Numbers 12:1-2 we learn that Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he had taken a Cushite wife. The Lord called Miriam and Aaron to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and descended upon them in a cloud. When the cloud lifted, “Miriam became leprous, as white as snow” (Num 12:10). Moses says in Deuteronomy, “You need to be very careful to do exactly what the Lord has said. Remember what happened to Miriam when she was disobedient.”
We need to remember what the Lord has done when we are tempted to be disobedient. When we are tempted to fudge the truth a little bit, we would do well to remember what God did with Ananias and Sapphira. When we are tempted to be disrespectful to our parents, we would do well to remember God’s strong words to the Israelites–if someone disrespected his parents, he was to be put to death. When we are tempted to turn back from Jesus, we would do well to remember what God did with Lot’s wife when she turned back. Let us remember the Lord in time of temptation that we might be better people!
Do you need to come forward this evening and begin remembering God?