- Adam Schell
As our time together last Sunday came to an end, I told you that it wouldn’t be long before Easter Sunday was over. I told you that it wouldn’t be long until our worship service came to an end. I told you that it wouldn’t be long before we put up our fancy Easter clothes and took down our Easter decorations. And I told you that when that happened we’d all be left with one big question: What day are you living in?
What day are you living in?
And I told you that you get to decide if you’re going to live in a Good Friday kind of world. You get to decide if you’re going to live in a world where violence and hatred always seem to win. You get to decide if you’re going to live in a world where innocent people seem to suffer for no good reason. You get to decide if you’re going to live in a world where the problems are just too big to solve. You get to decide if you’re going to live in a world where you’re overwhelmed by sorrow and despair.
But I also told you that there was another world that we could live in. I told you that we could live in an Easter Sunday kind of world. I told you that we could live in a world where God is at work, and a world where God is working to make sure that everything that is wrong with this world won’t always be wrong with this world. And I told you that you can decide to live in a world where God invites you to help him as he works to fix everything that’s broken in our world. You can help to fix the hatred that’s in this world by loving your neighbor. You can help to fix the chaos in this world by being a presence of peace. You can work to fix the sorrow in this world by sharing joy. You can work to fix the despair in this world by offering hope.
And when our time together last Sunday came to an end, I challenged you to live in a Sunday kind of world…but then Monday came. And at 8:38 AM on Monday morning, a gunman entered Old National Bank on E. Main Street right here in Louisville. He opened fire and ultimately killed five people and wounded nine others.
And it all happened about ten miles from where we’re worshiping in person right now. It happened just blocks away from where people who are a part of our church family go to work every day. It happened at Slugger Field — one of the most popular places in this city, a place that almost every one of us has visited at one point or another.
And I have to tell you that when I heard what happened Monday morning, I was heartbroken about the loss of five innocent people. I was furious that another mass shooting had taken place, and that it happened in this city that we all love. I was disillusioned by the way that I knew politicians would be quick to offer up their “thoughts and prayers” after another one of these senseless tragedies while they continued to do absolutely nothing to stop the next one.
But most of all, I felt like I was back in a Friday kind of world all over again. And it felt like nothing could change that. It felt like violence and hatred would always win. It felt like innocent people were always going to suffer. It felt like our world is always going to be filled with problems that are too big for us to solve. It felt like we’re always going to be overwhelmed by sorrow and despair.
And, sadly, this is far from the first time I’ve felt this way. I felt this same way just a few weeks ago after the Covenant School shooting. I felt this same way less than a year ago after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I felt the same way after Sandy Hook and San Bernardino, after Charleston and Charlottesville, after Virginia Tech and Las Vegas.
And I began to feel myself resigning to this reality. Now, being resigned means that realize that the negative situation that is happening will continue to happen and that you can’t do anything to stop it. And I think that it’s safe to say that’s how a lot of us feel about the epidemic of gun violence in our country — it’s going to keep on happening and we can’t do anything to stop it. But I have another way to define what it means to feel resigned to a situation. When you’re resigned to a situation it means that you’re ready to give up.
And let’s just be honest here, we’ve all had times when we’ve been ready to give up.
We’ve all had times when we’ve been ready to give up.
We’ve felt it after national tragedies and personal tragedies. We’ve felt it when we’ve gone through a tough time at home or work. We’ve felt this in just about every area and aspect of our lives — from our personal finances to our personal relationships. But we’ve all had times when we’ve been ready to give up.
And because we have all had times when we’ve been ready to give up, I was already planning to start a new series of sermons this week called “Before You Give Up.” And throughout this series, I want to talk about how we can keep going when we’re ready to quit. And I have to tell you that after the tragic event that took place on Monday morning, this series and today’s sermon feel even more important.
Because right now, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we’re feeling worn down by everything that is happening in the world around us. We’re tired of working hard to do what we can to make this world feel a little more like an Easter Sunday only to get drug right back into a Good Friday kind of world. We’re ready to throw our hands up and give up, and accept that some things will never change.
But that’s not how we’re supposed to feel. And this is something that the apostle Paul — who was the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century — makes clear to us in a letter that he writes to some of the first people to follow Jesus living in a place called Galatia.
And Galatia was a place Paul knew well. Galatia was a Roman province located in the central part of Asia Minor and, according to the book of Acts, Paul traveled through this promise on each of the three journeys he made to share the good news of Jesus. And during one of these trips, Paul got sick so he stopped in Galatia to recuperate from his illness. And while he was there, Paul told the people that were taking care of him about Jesus and he lead them to faith.
But, Paul knew his calling wasn’t to settle down in any one area. So he would eventually leave Galatia and continue his work of spreading the good news of Jesus wherever he could. But just because Paul left Galatia that doesn’t mean that he left the church in Galatia behind. Paul continued to stay in contact with them through letters, and Paul was always there to offer advice whenever they had a problem.
And, as Paul writes his letter to the Galatians, they’re facing a pretty big problem. There are people who have come to the city of Galatia that Paul calls “agitators.” And these agitators were going around telling the church in Galatia that they weren’t really following Jesus. These agitators were saying that if the church in Galatia really wanted to follow Jesus, then they had to follow all of the Jewish law. But this is not only the complete opposite of what Paul had been telling the church in Galatia, and it’s also the complete opposite of the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior is the only requirement there is to truly follow Jesus.
But the Galatians found themselves stuck in the middle between what Paul was telling them and what the “agitators” were telling them. And it seems like some of them were ready to give up. So I want to share with you just a little bit of what Paul had to say to the Galatians.
In Galatians 6, Paul says:
9 Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. 10 So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.
Galatians 6:9-10 (Common English Bible)
Paul tells us that we should never get tired of doing what is good. And this is the first thing that we need to know if we want to be able to keep going when we’re ready to quit. So before you quit you need to know that there is always good you can do.
Before you quit you need to know that there is always good you can do.
And we see this reality play out in the story that I want us to take a closer look out throughout this entire series. Throughout this series, I want us to take a closer look at someone who seemed to have every reason to quit…but he never did. And this person’s name is Joseph and we find his story in the book of Genesis.
Now, we’re going to dig deeper into Joseph’s story over the next few weeks. So I just want to cover the things that you really need to know about Joseph right now. And the first thing you need to know about Joseph is that he has eleven brothers. But even though he has eleven brothers, there is no question that Joseph was his father’s favorite.
And because Joseph was his father’s favorite, the rest of his brothers didn’t like Joseph very much. As a matter of fact, the book of Genesis tells us that they hated Joseph…and that’s not an over-exaggeration. Joseph’s brothers hated him so much that they sold him into slavery the first chance they got.
Now, you want to talk about being in a hopeless situation? Well, it doesn’t get much more hopeless than that. But it actually gets worse for Joseph. Because after Joseph is enslaved for a few years he ends up being thrown into prison. And we’re not talking about a prison where everyone has their own private cell and gets three square meals a day. We’re talking about a prison where the king of Egypt — the Pharaoh — sent his enemies to die.
So Joseph has every reason to give up. He has every reason to quit doing good. But Joseph doesn’t. Let me show you what I mean, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Genesis 39. And when we pick up in Genesis 39, Joseph has not only been sold into slavery by his brothers, he’s already been resold to another master. But I want you to listen to what Joseph does for his new master. So let’s pick up in Genesis 39, and we’ll start reading in verse 2. It says:
2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and served in his Egyptian master’s household. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. 4 Potiphar thought highly of Joseph, and Joseph became his assistant; he appointed Joseph head of his household and put everything he had under Joseph’s supervision. 5 From the time he appointed Joseph head of his household and of everything he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph. The Lord blessed everything he had, both in the household and in the field.
Genesis 39:2-5 (Common English Bible)
So when Joseph is sold to a man named Potiphar, he doesn’t quit. Joseph continues to do good. He becomes successful and makes his master more successful. He does such good work that he gets put in charge of Potiphar’s entire household. And, even though the book of Genesis doesn’t say anything about it, I think it’s safe to assume that Joseph uses this position of power to do what he can to help Potiphar’s other slaves.
As the head of the entire household, Joseph could’ve made sure that all of the slaves were fed and treated well. And, sure, he wasn’t able to solve all of their problems, he wasn’t able to set them free, but he was able to make their lives better.
And when Joseph’s life gets worse, when he’s thrown into prison to die, he still doesn’t give up. He continues to do good. Let’s skip down to Genesis 39:20, and I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s what it says:
20…While he was in jail, 21 the Lord was with Joseph and remained loyal to him. He caused the jail’s commander to think highly of Joseph. 22 The jail’s commander put all of the prisoners in the jail under Joseph’s supervision, and he was the one who determined everything that happened there. 23 The jail’s commander paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s supervision, because the Lord was with him and made everything he did successful.
Genesis 39:20-23 (Common English Bible)
So once again, Joseph is in a situation where he has every reason to throw his hands up and quit. There is no reason why Joseph should care about what happens while he’s in prison — I mean, he’s been sent there to die, so the sooner that happens to him the better. But Joseph doesn’t quit. He continues to do good. And God blesses Joseph and allows him to become the prison supervisor. A role where he can once again help people who are hurting. And, yes, he can’t fix all of their problems, he cannot set them free. But he can make life a little better for them.
And we need to realize that God wants to use us to do the same thing. God wants to use us to make this world a better place. And, yes, when we think of everything that is wrong with our world, that can feel impossible. But it reminds me of a story about an old man who was once walking down the beach.
As this man was walking he noticed a young boy off in the distance. And as he kept walking the old man saw that from time to time the boy stopped to bend down and pick something up off the beach and throw it into the water.
When he got close enough, the man called out and asked the boy what he was doing. The young boy looked up and replied “The tide washed these starfish onto the shore. So I’m throwing them back into the ocean before they die.”
The old man replied, “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
So when the problems of this world feel overwhelming and they make you want to give up, find a way to make a difference to that one person. When it comes to gun violence you can make a difference by continuing to contact your elected officials to demand they come together to do something. You can teach your children that violence is never the answer. You can donate blood to help those who are injured in these tragic events.
And I know that may not seem like it makes a difference in this world, but it can make a world of difference in one person’s life. So don’t grow weary of doing good. Keep finding ways to live like Easter people in a world filled with Good Friday problems.