Good, Bad, and Ugly

This weekend at Blogging Domino, I’ll post my review of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It’s a really long movie from 1966 with memorable music and extreme close ups. When I think of the movie’s title, I think of three people in the Bible.

Matthew chapter 8 tells the story of when Jesus went to Capernaum and a centurion told Jesus his servant was suffering. When Jesus offered to go heal the servant, the centurion said to him, “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:10 tells us, “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” The centurion showed the kind of faith Jesus was looking for in his own followers. Can you imagine having the kind of faith that would astonish Jesus?

At the crucifixion of Jesus, two robbers hung on crosses beside him, one on his right and one on his left. In Luke 23:39 we read, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” The second criminal fussed at the first and reminded him that, unlike them, Jesus had done nothing wrong. The second criminal believed what he’d heard about Jesus. The first spent his last hours hanging next to the Savior who would receive all who believed in him, but the criminal insulted him and passed up his last chance to change his mind. Can you imagine seeing Jesus face to face while he’s taking on the sins of the world – and saying no to him?

Jesus met a demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs. The man had been chained, but was too strong for anyone to keep him bound. So he went among the tombs and hills crying out and cutting himself. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he knew immediately who Jesus was. The demons spoke through the man and begged Jesus not to make them leave the area. At the command of Jesus, the demons left the man and entered a herd of pigs until they drowned in the lake. The man wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Mark 5:20 tells us, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

What did these three have in common? They each saw Jesus and had the opportunity to speak to and receive from the one who was God in human form. But they all responded to him differently.

I don’t want to ask whether you are good, bad, or ugly. However, I do want to ask a more important question.

How are you responding to God?

A Time To Hate

Ecclesiastes 3:8
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

There is a time for everything. A specific time. We teach our kids to love and not hate, but the Bible clearly shows us that there is a time for hate.

The wrong time to hate is when God has given direction and we want to do something else. Psalm 50:17 “You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.” We need to find a way to love God’s instruction and change our selfish priorities. When we hear God’s correction either through the Holy Spirit or through a loving person who sees that we need to be redirected, we should thank them for correcting our steps so we don’t fall. Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

Those who refuse to accept instruction and correction may turn a whim into a firm habit of sin. Firm habits are ruts, and ruts are hard to get out of. We make excuses for ourselves. We rationalize and justify our sin until it becomes hard for us to see. We become so blind to it, it’s hard for us to admit it was ever sin. Psalm 36:2 “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”

We should remind ourselves everyday that we are not perfect, but God is. We should keep our ears ready for God’s correction so that we don’t end up blind to sin and hating God and all who love Him. Psalm 81:15 “Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.”

The time to hate is when we are tempted to sin. If we would allow ourselves to hate the sin every time the sin invites our participation, we would dig a rut of righteousness by standing firm and not following after sin.

In Romans 12:9, we are told plainly, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

The Desert

Exodus 16:3
The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

The Bible never tells us how many times Moses rolled his eyes at those he was supposed to lead. Their grumbling, disobedience, and lack of faith tested the patience of both Moses and God.

Moses was different and surprisingly bold, and he was familiar with his enemy. A triple threat. He knew what God wanted him to do and say, so he obeyed God. The miracles he performed didn’t go to his head. He knew without God’s hand on him, he wasn’t able to impress anyone. Not the way he needed to impress the Hebrew people. God gave him a way to lead those people out of Egypt, even though they later complained that they at least were able to eat while in Egypt.

When Pharaoh ceased being the enemy, the people became their own worst enemy. They caused problems for themselves in the wilderness. But God kept his hand on them and helped them defeat the armies that came against them.

Are we still grumbling against God? Are we still trying to justify our disobedience today?

And yet, God has helped us too.

Rebuilding

Nehemiah 2:17
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."

When something important to you is damaged, you find the energy to rebuild. You find the materials and the creativity to put things back the way they’re supposed to be. You find the determination to complete the project.

What you don’t do is give up. Ever.

God gave Nehemiah the energy, supplies, and determination to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. They had to fight off the temptation to quit. They fought distractions, but couldn’t quit until the walls were complete. They knew God was with them, and He knew what the enemy was up to.

I keep thinking that our God-given jobs and gifts and talents should make it easy for us to be successful. Could it be that God allows us to fight for the right to complete what he told us to do?

If someone mocks you while you exhaust yourself in the process of rebuilding, what is your response? Does the command of God to do the work fill you with a powerful peace that comes with the knowledge that God is with you?

Nehemiah went through a lot to complete the project. You might have to put up with a lot, but that doesn’t mean God’s not in it.

Even in the hard times, God is with you. So don’t quit.