This week brings a strange year to an end. In many ways it has been a good year with many blessings. For those of us who lived when every day was difficult and there seemed to be no future, this year's prosperity is nothing short of incredible.

Yet, even with all the good things, it has been a uncertain year. Those uncertainties are so powerful that the year ends in uncertainty.

  1. As this year ends, we have many questions and few answers.
    1. Where is the world's economy headed?
      1. Because we buy and sell to a world market, what happens in economies of the rest of the world powerfully affects what happens in our economy.
      2. If serious problems continue in major world markets in 1999, how will that affect our country? How will it affect our personal lives?
    2. What world consequences will be produced by national hatreds?
      1. When some nation's hatred becomes violent, that inevitably involves us.
      2. The hatreds in eastern Europe involve us. We have troops stationed there to keep the peace.
      3. The hatreds in the Middle East involve us. We have troops there ready for military action.
      4. The hatreds in Korea involve us. We have troops stationed there both to keep the peace and be on military alert.
      5. How will national hatreds in our 1999 world impact us?
    3. What will we experience because of the political crisis in Washington?
    4. Will we experience the year 2000 problem?
      1. Will it create chaos right here in our own country?
      2. Will we experience problems because the year 2000 problem creates major crises in other countries?
      3. Will there be no significant problem anywhere?
    5. Will the new millennium bring new problems, or will it just begin another decade?

  2. There are many ways to react to the possibilities.
    1. There is the "chicken little" reaction.
      1. We can run around screaming that the sky is falling.
      2. We can scare people to the point that we create unnecessary problems, or we can generate apathy.
    2. There is the "doom's day" reaction.
      1. We can become convinced that nothing can keep the worst from happening.
      2. We can believe that no matter what we do it will be awful.
    3. There is the "woe is me" reaction.
      1. "I don't know what will happen, but whatever it is, it will be bad."
      2. "And it will be worse for me than it will be for anyone else."
    4. There is the "quit exaggerating" reaction.
      1. "There are no real problems, only imaginary problems."
      2. "The worriers are using scare tactics."
      3. "Nothing really bad is going to happen."
    5. There is the "we will fix it and survive" reaction.
      1. "As a nation, we survived the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War."
      2. "We survived the great depression, the decline of the industrial age, and the onslaught of the technology."
      3. "With every major crisis, with every major change, we have people who see nothing but the worst happening."
      4. "But we always fixed it, and we always will fix it."

    I want to share some thoughts with you that are not intended to reflect a political view, or make a political statement, or teach a political lesson.

  3. For much of this year we watched an unfolding drama in Washington, D.C.
    1. It seems that "what happened" astounded everyone, regardless of his or her interpretation of the situation.
      1. How it was handled astounded a lot of people.
        1. How the President handled the situation astounded a lot of people.
        2. How it was investigated astounded a lot of people.
        3. How the House of Representatives handled the situation astounded a lot of people.
      2. Many are astounded and perplexed by the way the American public has reacted to the situation.
        1. Many of those who disapprove of what the President did more strongly disapprove of the investigation of the President.
        2. Though a majority think the President was dishonest, he is quite popular.
        3. Though at least fifty per cent of our citizens think that the President violated the law, a much higher percentage of our society approve of the job that he is doing.
      3. And, for America, this majority is behaving in an unusual manner.
        1. It is an aloof, unemotional majority that merely observes what happens and states an opinion.
        2. In the last half of this century, Americans have not reacted with unemotional apathy in times of crisis.

  4. Speaking to us as Christians, what do you think Christians ought to do?
    1. I realize that is a "loaded question."
      1. Even among us right here right now, there would be a strong difference of opinion about what Christians should do.
      2. Many of our suggestions would be reactionary and emotional.
    2. I call your attention to two statements written by Paul in the New Testament.
      Romans 13:1-7 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Paul gave these instructions to Christians who lived in the capital city of the Roman empire during the rule of Nero.
      2. Nero's mother married Claudius and convinced him to adopt her son Nero, which positioned Nero to be the next emperor.
        1. Nero's mother is thought to have poisoned Claudius so that she and Nero could rule the empire.
        2. Later, Nero had his mother murdered so that he would have sole power.
      3. He wanted to use a part of Rome for a spectacular building project, so it is thought that he set fire to that section of the city creating an enormous fire that burned in the city for several days.
        1. To deflect suspicion from himself, he blamed Christians for the fire; Christians were unpopular because they would not worship idols.
        2. The result was a severe local persecution of Christians that resulted in torture and execution.
      4. Tradition says that before Nero's reign ended, both Peter and Paul were killed.
      5. Nero was also extraordinarily immoral.
      6. Even with this ruler and his government, Paul wrote that Christians should be in subjection.
        1. Even of this man, Paul said that his position and power came from God.
        2. Even of this government, Paul said render to all what is due them.
    3. Later Paul wrote this statement to fellow Christian Timothy about what he was to teach the Christians in Ephesus.
      1 Timothy 2:1,2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Communities were expected to approach the gods on behalf of the emperor.
      2. In Ephesus, there were three temples dedicated to the Roman emperor.
      3. Good citizenship involved going to those temples and approaching the gods on behalf of the emperor.
        1. Christians could not do that.
        2. So they had a terrible image problem; believing in Christ was interpreted to mean that you were an enemy of the government.
      4. Paul said the Christian men in Ephesus needed to correct that impression.
        1. They needed to be seen and heard praying in public for the emperor.
        2. When Paul wrote this, the emperor was Nero.

  5. I call your attention to something you may have noticed.
    1. Regardless of your opinion about the happenings in Washington, polls identify a majority that does not think like many of us think.
      1. In fact, the thoughts of this majority is so unlike our thinking that we may be tempted to think that these people do not exist.
        1. But they do.
        2. And they do not look at things as many of us see them.
      2. That awareness is hard to accept--more people in this nation do not view life from a Christian perspective than do view life from a Christian perspective.
    2. Someone says, "That is unbelievably awful!"
      1. I guess that depends on how you look at the situation.
      2. In my early life, people who did not pretend to be Christians declared Christian values were the right values.
      3. Often the most obvious difference between the persons who were and were not Christians was this: the Christian went to church.
    3. Often today there is a distinct contrast between a genuine Christian life and a non-Christian life.
      1. That contrast provides us an enormous opportunity.
      2. Jesus said,
        Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. The greater the darkness, the more distinct the light.
      4. In our lifetimes, there has never been greater opportunity to be the light that "gives light to all who are in the house."
      5. We have never had greater opportunity to cause people to glorify our heavenly Father by devoting ourselves to good works.
      6. But if we are to seize the opportunity, it will cost us; we must be committed to reflecting Christ instead of behaving like the darkness.


Are you a Christian in claim or in reality? How do you plan on using life in 1999? Will your life give light in the darkness, light that moves people to glorify God? Or, will you be content to curse the darkness?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 December 1998

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