God Makes The Difference

1 Kings 16:29-34

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity;
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us
..."
- Charles Dickens

It was the best of times or, depending on your outlook -- the worst.
Israel's fortunes had seldom look better, and yet, the man at the head of the nation was Ahab.
He was childish and fiendish.
He was brilliant, daring, charming, and rich.
He was everything but true.

According to God's Word in 1 Kings 16:29-34, he did more evil in the sight of the Lord
than any other man, and he was also the pawn of his infamous, evil wife, Jezebel.

Jezebel was an unscrupulous woman who came from a long line of monstrous tyrants.
Her father, Ethbaal, had murdered his way to the throne of Sidon by assassinating his own brothers.
His name, "Eth-baal," really defines it.
His name means " I'm with Baal."
Jezebel was a consummate worship of Baal.
Ahab was utterly dominated by this evil, pagan woman.

Jezebel passionately promoted Baal.
She established a Baal sie at Jezreel which was Israel's summer capitol.
She supported 450 priests of Baal at her own expense.
She also induced her addle-brained husband to build a huge temple in Samaria,
large enough to accommodate great crowds of idol worshippers. (2 Kings 10:21)

Groves, shrines, and Temples of Baal began to rise up everywhere while God's altars or destroyed.
The land was filled with Jezebel's lascivious priests and the temple prostitutes
who plied their trade on every street in the nation.

Jezebel's reign was characterized by an overt and persuasive hatred of Israel's God.
She poisoned the minds of the people with lies and false teaching generated by her prophets.
Intoxicated with her power she began systematically " killing off the Lord's prophets." (1 Kings 18:4)
The prophets of God were hounded without mercy.
The schools of the prophets were boarded up.
Many perished.
Others hid " in caves and holes in the ground." (Hebrew 11:38)

Baalism became Israel's state religion.
It was such a degraded religious system that it was even considered to be evil by other pagans.
Baal worship went hand in hand with horrible violence.

Baal worshipers engaged in sexual deviancy, polygamy, prostitution, adultery, fornication, rape,
incest homosexual partnerships, and casual gay encounters and other types of sexual perversion.
Jezebel presided over this sin-sick culture.
She led Israel into the most corrupt idolatry and in morality, and the nation sank deeper
and deeper into the shadows and got nearer toward God's judgment.

"The nation sank deeper and deeper into the shadows and edged nearer and nearer judgment.
But God is never at a loss.
He provides for every eventuality.
When things look most dark and dangerous, when evil men and women have done their worst,
then God can begin.
And he usually begins in a very small place by preparing a very obscure person
."
-- David Roper

But God is never an a loss.
He provides for every eventuality.
When things look the most dark and dangerous, when evil men and women have done their worst,
God will show forth His power.
God has someone ready for the task.

Elijah was that person.
Elijah was God's solution to all the evil that Ahab and Jezebel had unleashed on the nation.

But what about the conditions of our day?
The same images that polluted Israel pollutes our land today.
We live in terrible times and in awful shame.
As Jeremiah said, " We've forgotten how to blush." (Jeremiah 6: 15)

And an article written by Professor Jeffrey Hart of Dartmouth that appeared in the
Wall Street Journal many years ago wrote:
" A great many things happen all the sudden in this country and the very recent past...
Within living memory, abortion was a felony in virtually every state in the nation.
Today, abortion is commonplace in America.

Within living memory, hard-core pornography was largely kept out of sight.
Now hardcore pornography is available in many stores and is seen on movies and on television.

Within living memory, school children recited the pledge of allegiance every morning,
and many schools had simple prayers.
At Christmas time, they sang Christmas carols.
Today, that is all politically incorrect, and missing from our society.

Within living memory, homosexuals were for the most part discreet.
Today, they demand publicly that they be legitimized of their sin that the Bible denounces.
They stage parades and demand representation in our governmental bodies, and they want to be legally married.

Is there any question that a revolution has in fact been imposed upon an unsuspecting nation
."

All a person has to do is to look around and realize that our culture is perishing.
Our traditions have been broken and so has our spiritual past history, and we find ourselves
being rushed into a new Dark Age of sin and shame.
There is a growing sense that nothing is true and everything is permitted.
Psalm 12:8: " The wicked freely struck about when what is vile is honored among men."

Evil, morbid influences have led us into an ever-deepening confusion,
and into a clutter of distortions, half-face lies and a tolerance that demands that we accept
everyone's version of truth.
And today, there is no final standard -- everything varies according to the weather.

G. K. Chesterton observed that morality, like art, consists of drawing a straight line.
Now no one knows where to draw the lines.
Once there were boundaries and absolutes.

Now, traditional concepts of human sexuality and public decency have warped our nation
so radically and thoroughly that no one knows what is fine, uplifting, and right.
Is teenage sex okay?
Are same sex marriages okay?
Is daddy's new roommate okay?

Today, our society has no standard and no absolute.
Once, we believed in civility and courtesy and compassion.
Now we live in an age of cold brutality and out of control sexuality where anything goes.
We have lost those values and virtues that once prevented us from surrendering to our darker instincts.

Hate and brutality proliferate.
Degraded images and fantasies are pumped into our homes.
Fowl-mouthed "gansta" rappers talk about dismembering women and killing cops.

A writer from Time magazine observed,
" Hypocrisy, betrayal, and greed have unsettled our nation's soul."
Traditional values such as valor, and duty, compassion, responsibility, and integrity
are not in vogue today.

A writer for the Washington Post noted: " We have reached a state where common decency
is no longer common.
We have pushed ourselves to new levels of personal and social wickedness.
All our doing without God has finally undone
us."

We are living in what many have described as a post-Christian era.
That doesn't mean there are no longer many Christians around.
In fact, there may be more true believers than ever before.
Post-Christian means that Christian faith no longer plays a role in shaping public opinion and policy.
Christian assumptions and commitments once widely held, no longer have the presence and impact
that they once had.

We are living in an age where anything goes, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
This is indicated when you hear things like:
" Go ahead and try it -- there are no rules -- everything goes."
" There are no consequences, so go for it."
"You deserve a little pleasure."
" If it feels good, do it."
" You only go around once..."
" You should look out for number one."

I repeat that God is not at a loss.
When things look almost impossible, God is preparing for His solution.
You and I are part of that solution.
We are to be the light of the world.
We are to be the salt of the earth.

Though you are only one of millions and millions on this earth, and though you might believe
that you do not count, God's says, " You matter, and you can make a difference."
So, you're not a prominent person.
So, you have no power or political clout.
So, you are not a Christian quarterback, a converted rock star, a multi-media personality
or a multi-millionaire.

You can make a difference!
You can be a catalyst for change!
You can be used to stop the spread of corruption in your community.
You can be a source of light in your dark part
of the world.

We are all set aside to be used of God.
He planned for our usefulness before the world began.
Paul declared in Ephesians 2: 10: " We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus
to do good works, prepared in advance for us to do
."

You may have a highly visible role, but more than likely, it will be concealed and hidden.
It might be that your entire life will find its meaning in one person whom God wants you
to touch in some significant way.
We do not know what God will do with with us, but we know that when we stand before our Lord,
we will then know that our lives have not been without meaning.

John Ruskin said, " No one is without a divinely appointed task, and the divine means
for getting it done
."

Today the Christian world is fascinated with politics, marketing, management, psychology,
and other earthly endeavors.
All of these have their proper time and space, but all of which can be nothing more than
substitutes for doing things God's way.

In Ephesians 6:12 Paul wrote that " Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms
."
Our struggle is not against other human beings, but against the spiritual powers that control them.

God has equipped us with the means to get behind the scenes and the schemes.
These are not the schemes of human endeavor, but they are the infinitely more powerful strategies
of faith, such as prayer, proclamation, and personal righteousness...
Christ in us -- that is the difference.

These are the worst of times and the best of times.
And Paul said: " [Make] the most of every opportunity because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15)
Paul plainly says that evil days are days of opportunity.
The more evil our world becomes, the more opportunities we have as people of God.

When Paul was debating the Athenian philosophers, he said in Acts 17: 26-28:
" From one man he [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that man would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him,
though he is not far from each one of us.
For in Him we live and move and have our being
."

God controls human history.
God permits the rise of nations.
God determines their geographical boundaries and orchestrates their fall in order that
men and women may " reach out for God."
Truly, history is His story.

And you are God's people, and God will use you to make a difference.
Even the forces of evil is used in a way "that all kingdoms on earth may know that
you alone O Lord, are God
." (Isaiah 37:20)

God reins in His power for a time, allowing evil tyrants to make their play, upsetting men
and women's well-ordered lives, presenting them with problems that are beyond
their ability to solve.
He will shake what can be shaken so that men and women will "seek Him and reach out
for Him and find Him
."
Evil brings pain, but it is the genius and power of God to bring good out of evil.
For the Christian,God works everything together for our good. (Romans 8:28)

So perilous times are times of unparalleled opportunity.
Christians, we know God, and we must not fear those terrible times.
We should " make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil."

The Latin poet, Horace, wrote: "Cut back long hopes.
Even as we speak, envious time flees; and seize the day, trust little in tomorrow
."
Horace was advising a friend not to run out and try to conquer the world,
but to do the small, yet truly significant things that need to be done every day
-- " the duty of the present moment."

You might be asking how you will know when your moment has come.
You might be deciding how you can focus on that one duty that God has for you to do today.
The world has a thousand necessities.
Many issues clamor for our attention every day.
What will keep us from being manipulated by every cause and craze?

God will let us know!

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White