(The following is a transcript of Bill Hybel’s message “A Game-Changing Chapter,” from our Game Changers series. The video is also available to you.)
Hey, everybody, as you notice, I’m sitting on a chair, and it will become very obvious why I’m doing this in just a few moments.
This is the final installment of our Game Changers series. Which Steve has done an incredible job leading us the last several weeks. And he’s asked me, he said, “Would you be willing to point to some part of Scripture that was a game changer in your life?”
And I thought about it for a little while. And I thought well, I certainly can think of one part of Scripture that had a huge impact on my life maybe seven or eight years ago. But I wanna begin by saying... I’m sitting on a chair. And you know that, since the early days of the church, we have urged every one of you to find a chair... and to read God’s Word for fifteen minutes a day. Because we believe, and we know from the Scriptures and from our own experience, if you do this... it’s not gonna be like the clouds are gonna part, you’re gonna hear an audible voice. But... God will speak to you... quite regularly... through the pages of this book.
Fifteen minutes. Your favorite chair. Have a cup of coffee or whatever. And see what happens. Okay?
So I think the first time I taught and challenged the church to do this was in 1977. We were still in the movie theater. So I’ve been at this pretty much my whole life, urging people to do this. Well, I came to a point, after having done this for decades... where it got a little stale for me.
And the general rule of thumb is, whenever you have a spiritual practice that isn’t working for you anymore... change it up. Experiment with a different practice. Try something new. Don’t keep doing practices that don’t connect you to God. Cause there’s nothing meritorious about just the method. The whole idea is that we do spiritual practices so that we can connect with the God we love.
So, anyway, I started to get a little worried. I’d done this fifteen-minute thing for decades. And... then a thought occurred to me. When I read through the Bible in fifteen-minute increments, I don’t actually get a saturation knowledge or impact of God’s Word. I keep getting overviews of hundreds of different texts.
And I thought, what would happen if I would choose one chapter... and stay in it for a really long time?
Well, my favorite chapter in the Bible is Romans chapter 12. And so, I said, “I’m gonna read Romans 12. It has twenty-one verses in it. I’m gonna read Romans chapter 12, once a day. Each day in my chair time. And I’m gonna read it until it stops having impact on my life.”
So, after about a week, I thought, man, I’ve never done this before, you know? Read the same passage of Scripture every single day for a week. It was still having impact. And by the time I hit thirty days, I was getting into this. And by the time I hit six months, I was starting to look at the world through the eyes of this tremendous chapter.
Long story short, I read Romans chapter 12 every single day for twelve months. Just the whole year. Then I thought it was getting into the addictive state, so I bailed.
I’ve only done this kind of thing one other time. I read Romans chapter 8... which is my second-favorite chapter... I read that for eight straight months. Every day for eight months. The, what I’m telling you here is... I had to change out of a practice that was getting stale... and, I just, I’d never heard anyone else talk about this saturation-Bible-study method. But it has worked for me twice in very dramatic ways. And what I’m gonna do, if you can believe this... I’m gonna rapidly talk you through all twenty-one verses of Romans chapter 12 so that you can get an idea of how beautiful this chapter is. And so that I can make some comments on how certain verses took me months to understand... and sometimes many months to apply to my life. And I’ve learned some things. And you might learn some things, too.
So here we go. You’re gonna see it on the screens. We’re gonna walk through twenty-one verses. So did you bring a pillow?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
I might... I might want to show you this. When you read a single page from the Bible for a year, look what it does to your page. So. I’m having a little trouble around some of these sections here.
But here’s how Paul starts this thing. He goes, “I want, I want to urge you to do something.” And then he uses a kind of imagery that seems weird to us. Cause we don’t practice any of this stuff in our day. Back in the ancient world, animal sacrifices were common-day experiences. If someone was really grateful for what, for God providing them with something, what they would do is they’d go out into their herd, they would find their best lamb—the one that would bring the highest cost at the auction—the thing that was most valuable to them. They would build an altar. And they would kill this lamb and burn it. And the idea was it was a sacrifice of something valuable given from the heart of someone who... just loved the God who had provided the blessing that sort of started the idea of doing this sacrifice.
And so all over the ancient Near East, you’d see altars, and every once in a while, someone who’d received a blessing, or someone who had been forgiven from something terrible, they would put their best lamb on that sacrificial altar, and then they would sacrifice it to God.
And Paul says something mind-blowing here. He says, “Here’s what I want you to do. No more animals. No more animals. I wanna take... I wanna present this idea to you. I wanna use the imagery of the animal sacrifices. I want you... to crawl up on the altar. And surrender... and tell God you wanna do His program. And tell God that you love Him. And tell Him you’re taking the most valuable thing you have... which is yourself... and you’re up on the altar saying, ‘I’m all Yours, God. I love You.’”
He said, “I want all of you to do that. Every day.” And he goes, “And I’m not just saying this cause, like, it’s meritorious.” He says, go to that, back one phrase. He says, “In view of God’s [mercies]” I want you to do this. What are God’s mercies? Let’s just chart—you’re in a church. On a Sunday. You’re all here. Which means, at some point in your life, God tapped you on the shoulder. I don’t know how old you were. God tapped you on the shoulder. And you met God through the work of Christ, His Son. And you began a relationship... a two-way, back-and-forth relationship with the Living God. And then, as a part of His love for you, the Scripture says, “His mercies are new for you every single morning.”
He’s given you the mercy of redemption... the mercy of adoption into His family. The mercy of answered prayer. The mercy of protection and provision. The mercy of guidance. The mercy of the Holy Spirit in your life. The mercy of heaven... in the afterlife. Paul says, “In view of this flood of mercies that God is pouring out on your life... every day, present yourself back to God, and say, “I love You, God. In view of your mercies toward me, I will give You my life. I will do Your will. I will follow Your path. And I worship You.”
It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? And from there, he says, “Now, here’s another thing I’m gonna ask.”
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
What’s the pattern of this world? I read a statistic this week that kids in junior high and high school spend about six hours a day in front of a screen of some sort. Six hours a day. Now just think real fast with me what’s coming over those screens. It’s not all bad. But it’s the value system of this world.
It’s: “Here’s how to be cool.”
It’s: “Here’s what to buy.”
“Here’s what to experience.”
“Here’s a thrill you can try on.”
“Here’s clothes that you can wear.”
It’s... it’s the culture’s value system that floods our minds every day. Every billboard. Every television channel. We’re assaulted by the values of the culture all day, every day.
Paul says, “You know what? I don’t want you to conform to the values of the culture. I want you to be transformed. I want you to live above the value of the culture. I want you to be transformed.” But how are you gonna do it? He says, “By the renewing of your mind.”
You will sink to the thoughts and the behaviors of this culture. You will. I can. Unless you’re putting something other than just cultural stuff into your mind. Which is another reason why we say get God’s Word into your mind. Get Christian music into your mind. Get Christian books into your mind. Have conversations with other Christ followers. And get their thoughts into your mind.
Because when you put a higher standard of quality of stuff into your mind... the better stuff you put into your mind, the more you can transform the value system of this culture. And he says, “When you do that—when your mind is renewed...”
Then [you’ll] be able to [figure out] and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.
As we say around here, “God’s writing a story for your future. You can join His story... for your future. If you do, it says right here, it’ll be “good.” It’ll be “pleasing”—to Him and to you. And it’ll feel like a “perfect” fit. If you get on His story.
Next he says:
By the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance [to] the measure of faith God has given you.
Look at any employment survey. What do workers detest about bosses? Arrogance. The air of superiority. What wrecks a lot of friendships?
“I’m better than you.”
“I fly straighter than you.”
“I’m smarter than you.”
This idea of conceit and superiority... Paul says, “This is a problem all over. People think more highly of themselves than they should.” And he says, “I don’t want you to think more lowly of yourself than you should. I’m asking for the standard of sober judgment.” Which is ironic to me because this was written two thousand years ago, and... the shelves are sagging in bookstores these days about, with books about the subject of self-awareness. This is the cutting edge of leadership stuff right now. Be self-aware. Understand what’s going on in you, the effect that you’re having on other people.
So how do you get self-aware? How do you get this sober judgment?
Through self-reflection and through feedback from people who know you and love you. And so you ask some of your closest friends, “Do I come across as self-righteous? Do I over opinionate? Do I come across like I’m always right and stuff?” Self-reflection, feedback, you get to that point of sober judgment. When you develop sober judgment about yourself... you... people are attracted to you. They wanna be around sober-minded, sober-judgment-oriented people.
So then next he says:
Just as each of us has [a] body with many members [of the body], [the] members [of the body don’t]... have the same function...
You know, you got arms, legs, all that.
So [we who are] in Christ [and we’re many, we] form one body,
Get this next line here—it’s really important:
And each member belongs to all the others.
This word, belong, is a big one in the New Testament. Paul writes a lot about it. A sense of belonging. Here’s the big idea. The New Testament knows nothing about church people who church hop. You know, we just keep going from one church to the next. If they’ve got a hotter youth ministry or a louder worship band or whatever.
And there are a lot of people who just hop around, okay? Paul says, “No, no. If you understand the body of Christ, you understand that it’s, that you belong to each other in the community of that local church.” In fact, in another text, if you want your mind blown, Paul says, “Your spiritual gifts don’t actually belong to you... they belong to the community.” God gave you spiritual gifts for the common good of the community. So... these wonderful, talented musicians that we see up on stage—God gave them those gifts not for themselves. He gave them those gifts for a blessing of us who belong in this church.
And all of you who deploy your spiritual gifts, God gave them to you for the common good. So that the belonging church would be strong. It’s a beautiful concept.
Right after that, it says:
We all have different gifts, according to the grace given.
Some people have the gift of prophecy. And you should prophesy if you have it, it says right here. That does not mean the ability to foretell the future. What it really means is, sometime, when you’re reading the Bible—and I’m just using this as an example, and maybe the book of Ephesians where it says, “Don’t be drunk with wine,” and, you know, don’t get out of control with alcohol. Maybe you’re reading that. And your closest friend has a drinking problem, and he or she is on a road to self-destruction... and no one’s talking to them about it. No one’s willing to bring the subject matter up.
The gift of prophecy is you having the courage to draw principles from God’s Word and then, lovingly, with great humility, saying, “Hey, can I, can I give you a word from God? I’m concerned about your life. Concerned about your family. I’ll go to a twelve-step program with ya. We gotta turn this around. I have a word from God for you.”
I think my ministry has been saved several times by members of this congregation... who were reading their Scriptures, and they would stop me out of service or out in the community, and they’d say, “Bill, I’m a little worried... about you. In this way or that. Can I give you the word from God that God gave to me?”
And I’m like, “Hey. If God gave you a word to give to me, I want it. All of it.” And so some people have that gift. And if that’s you, he said, “Then you should prophesy.”
If you have the gift of serving, in another place it’s called the gift of helps, so that you should serve. Some of us don’t have... gifts of teaching or leadership or administration. We have willing hearts. And we can attach spiritual value... to physical labor. And when you leave the campus, you’re gonna see all these people in orange jackets directing traffic. That’s repetitive work. And in the winter, it’s terrible work. And every one of those volunteers—they’re using their gift of helps, their gift of serving. And they feel like they’re serving God and they’re belonging in our church. And deriving spiritual fulfillment from serving in that way. It’s a beautiful gift.
It says, if you have the gift of teaching... what do you think you ought to do if you have the gift of teaching? Take a wild guess. Teach. You should teach. Might be a Bible-study-scale gift. Might be a classroom-scale gift. It might be a little larger than that. But... the miraculous thing about the gift of teaching—I’m asked this on the road quite a bit: “What is the spiritual gift of teaching?”
And I summarize it this way: “You know you have the spiritual gift of teaching when while you’re reading the text, God illuminates something from a text that normal people wouldn’t probably see in the text. And, here’s the catch, while He’s illuminating one little part of the text, simultaneously He gives you an idea of how you could communicate that to other people.”
When you see someone who has worked very hard on the spiritual gift of teaching, and... you’ve been in this room before. You’ve been in the rooms at our regional sites as well. When someone has been teaching and it seems like everything stops and it gets quiet... you can feel the Holy Spirit move in the crowd. And you know... cause I’m in the crowd sometimes when Steve or other people are teaching. And I say, “God’s changing the hearts right now. God’s moving.”
That’s why we gather for teaching. We ought to have our fifteen-minute chair times, but we gather for that special anointed kind of teaching. And if you have that gift, you need to use it.
And it says if you have the gift of encouragement, you should be an encouragement machine. Someone with the gift of encouragement is someone who has an antenna that can spot someone who’s having a bad day, and instead of walking by... you head over to them, and you say, “Hey, I’m not trying to interrupt here. You okay? You got a couple minutes? Can I pray for you about anything?”
Many of you have this gift. You’re not confident in the usage of it. So you think you’d be interrupting. Gang, if you do this... sensitively... people will be amazed that you noticed. And that you cared. It’s a beautiful gift. I wish more people would use it.
If you have the spiritual gift of “contributing”—another place, it’s called the gift of giving—then you should give generously. The spiritual gift of giving is the supernatural ability to earn lots of money and the wisdom to live well within your means, and here’s the big one, and the joy to capitalize Kingdom initiatives. You have the knack for earning, the wisdom to live within your means, and then it just gives you... untold amount of joy to underwrite exciting things that are happening in your church or other great NGOs or causes around the world.
We have many of you in this church. And you don’t actually do I really have that gift? If you were to come to clarity on that... and say, “Wait a minute, I think he’s talking about me right now.” Try this. Earn all you can earn. Work harder, even. Live on a little less even so that you have more resources to underwrite the purposes of God in the world. My dad had this gift. I watched him use it. It gave him untold amounts of joy. And you can have that joy, too, if you have this gift.
And it says... if you have the spiritual gift of leadership, you gotta lead diligently. This verse changed my life cause I never knew there was such a thing as the spiritual gift of leadership. All I knew was that people tended to wanna follow me. And when I started to realize, wait, there’s a spiritual gift here. And it involves vision casting and team building and motivating people and problem solving and establishing and enforcing values. And it involves raising up the next generation of leaders. That’s all this powerful thing called the leadership gift.
Every church I know asks me, you know, when I’m in there, they go, “How do you raise up leaders in a church?”
And I say, “You teach about the spiritual gift of leadership, and then you challenge people who think they have it to get in the game.”
But, man, there’s very little that’s more exciting than seeing something that needs to be fixed in the world. And if you have the spiritual gift of leadership, cast the vision about fixing it. Get a team around you. Inspire the team. Motivate the team. Get a strategy and fix something. That’s the joy that happens in the heart of a leader.
Okay, then it says... if you have the gift of showing mercy, then show it “cheerfully.” Person with a gift of mercy moves toward... suffering. In the early days of Willow, there was a businessman in our church. And he knew I didn’t have the gift of mercy. I don’t know how he comprehended that—how he was so, how he could see that as clearly as he could. But... he said, “Let me visit all the Willow Creek people who are hospitalized.” He would walk into hospital rooms, and he knew where to stand, what to hold, how to pray. He... was an amazing individual. And he helped suffering people. And he did it cheerfully.
Now listen to some straightforward shots from Paul. Here it goes, okay:
Love [has to] be sincere.
Now, again. Two thousand years ago, he writes about this. What’s the biggest beef in society today? Spin. Fake news. Social media that’s all tricked out and people presenting themselves as leading a better life than they really are.
Paul, if he were in the room today, he would say, “All that stuff’s gotta go. Let your love flow from a heart of sincerity. No spin.”
I like this next one:
Hate what is evil.
Hate it. It took me months to really understand what those—what that little phrase meant. I didn’t, I was just kind of naïve thinking we shouldn’t hate anything. Paul says, “I want you to hate something. And I want you to hate evil with a hatred so intense... that it might fire you up to get off the couch and do something about it.”
Steve and I were interacting with each other over email when the mosque in Egypt had the horrible shootings. I’ve just come back from Cairo. And I knew that violence was festering. And... we were going back and forth. And I was like, “Steve, this is at a mosque—305 people.” And I wrote to him, in an email, I said, “Steve, I hate this stuff! And I hate it worse every time it happens.”
And I felt the freedom to do that because there are some things we should hate. I hated it this week when I read a news report of slave auctions that are happening in Libya. Did you see that? Yeah. They actually show human beings being auctioned off. One guy only got auctioned off for four hundred bucks. Another guy got sold for eight hundred dollars. This is happening in our world today. We should hate this stuff so badly... that we try to rectify it.
I had the unusual opportunity of spending some time with a US senator this week. And he’ll be leaving office soon. And I said, “Do you have your future sorted out?”
And he said, “Well, I’ll tell you one thing I’m gonna do. I’m gonna give massive amounts of my life toward ending human slavery. If it takes me to my dying breath,” he goes, “I’m gonna do this.” And... so I was thinking, you know, he hates it, and he hates it so much, it moves him to action.
So anyway. Hate what is evil. It’s okay. Hate it. Hate it more all the time. And then:
Cling to what is good.
Whatever is good. Whatever is beautiful. Cling to that.
Be devoted to one another [you know] in brotherly [sisterly] love.
Here’s another one:
Honor one another above yourselves.
You’re headed toward a doorway. You’re in a hurry. Who goes through the door first? Oh, I do, of course, because I wanna honor myself... above the other. Right?
I, at about the six-month period of reading this chapter every single day, I finally said, “I gotta come up with a definition of what that verse means. When it says, ‘Honor one another above yourselves.’” And for me, I finally decided, “I need to be way more courteous. In every social situation, I just need to be more... I need to actually think of others and honor others and open doors for others and serve others and get their overhead—their bag out of the overhead compartment. I gotta be more courteous.”
And... that changed in me. I’m not batting, you know, perfectly. But people who know me well would say, in most situations... I try to extend courtesies to other people in small ways because this verse wore me down. How courteous are you, really?
This next one, one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture. And I’ll bet you no one here has it memorized.
Never be lacking in zeal, but [you] keep your spiritual fervor [high, you keep it high], serving the Lord.
Okay? Whose job is it to keep you fired up spiritually? Is that my job? You want it to be. Cause then if you have a bad week, and I preach a bad sermon or something like that, you’re like, “Well, I’m gonna have another bad week. Cause, you know, Bill didn’t do his magic, you see? It’s his job to fire me up spiritually.”
Not. My job. It’s not your spouse’s job. It’s not your small-group leader’s job. It could not be said more clearly: “You keep your spiritual fervor... hot. You keep your zeal hot.” By what you read. By who you hang out with. By where you serve. By the experiences that you have. It’s your job... to keep yourself fired up spiritually.
And I find... yeah...
I got three relatives here today. And exactly when I told them to clap.
Everybody wants to blame everybody else for being in a spiritual slump. Paul says, “I’m taking all the guess work out of whose fault this is. Draw near to God, He will draw near to you. Keep your spiritual fervor high.” Okay?
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Just beautiful verses.
Last year, I went to Zimbabwe. Been reading about what’s going on there. They’ve had a dictator for thirty-seven years who has decimated one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. Used to be the bread basket of the entire continent. Zimbabwe was productive and rich and, again, fruitful in every way. Robert Mugabe does a coup, steps in... and has looted the country, corrupted all the departments. The schools are dysfunctional. The institutions are broken. The traffic lights don’t work. Currency is completely frozen.
So we have a Summit site there. And they begged me to come. The city is Harare—the capital. I could not believe my eyes. Just before I left to go to the next city, I met with some of the city fathers and business people, and they’re like, “Bill, we’re hopeless.”
And I said, “Well, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna pray... for your country. That God will supernaturally intervene somehow, someway.” I made a commitment. Gang, I’m not proud to admit this, but that commitment only lasted for about thirty days, and then I gave up because I thought, this guy’s gonna live till he’s a hundred. And he’s got himself so well protected, no one’s gonna take him out. So I gave up.
This last week, he was deposed, as you read. The entire country, sixteen million people, are in a state of euphoria now. And it wasn’t... and it wasn’t because of my faithfulness in prayer. And it really stung me.
Who have you given up praying for? What have you given up praying for? When you write down your prayers, keep some kind of prayer journal, you remind yourself, pray every day. Even if it looks like a long shot, pray every day for something. Be faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
You do great at that. I don’t need to... you know, say anything more about that.
Now, here’s one:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and... not curse.
And let’s just change one word. To bring it into modern day. “Bless those who criticize you.” I’ve been a fairly public person for the last couple decades. I know the sting... of criticism. And... much of it I create and I deserve, so I’m not, you know, playing a violin here. But some of it feels unfair to me. And even untrue. And if you knew my reflex reaction of wanting to... curse those people. Wanting to... damage their reputation. Want terrible things to befall them.
At about the nine-month time of reading Romans 12, I realized, I gotta stop that. Paul was serious. No more cursing people who criticize you. Discover if there’s a kernel of truth in it. And... bless them. Bless them. Let it go. Unbelievable.
Now here’s, this should be framed, this is one of the best short definitions of friendship I’ve ever seen:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
I meet with people all the time. They say, “I don’t have any friends.” And I go, “Well, start with having several acquaintances. And then, if anything good happens to any of your acquaintances, be the first one there to celebrate with them. You buy the flowers. You buy the gift. You show up and just say, ‘I’m so happy for you! Because this good thing happened to you!’” And that person will become a friend.
And if something horrible happens to an acquaintance, be the first person at the wake or the visitation or the funeral. Send the flowers. Show up.
I’ve had a lot of deaths in our Hybels extended family. Six or seven uncles and aunts and cousins and... both my mom and my dad. I’ve been around death... more than I wish I had been. And I can still remember the people from this church that drove 180 miles to Kalamazoo to stand with me at my dad’s funeral when I was still in my twenties. And I can remember the group of people who went over to stand with me at my mom’s funeral. You never forget people who mourn with you. So rejoice with people who are rejoicing.
And speed kills the beauty of all this. If your life’s going so fast, you don’t have time to rejoice or you don’t have time to mourn. And that causes friendships to break up. This is a wonderful reminder for me. Maybe for you, too.
Live in harmony with one another.
There’s two kinds of people in life. Harmonizers and agitators. Be a harmonizer.
How about this one?
Do not be proud... be willing to associate with [the lowly].
...And he says, again, do I have to say this again? “Don’t be conceited.”
Alright, we’re getting close to the end now:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
I’m gonna... there’s another verse coming up that I’ll elucidate on that a little bit.
...Do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
This next one says:If it is [at all] possible, as far as it depends [upon] you, live at peace with everyone.
A month or so, maybe two months ago, Steve or Heather—I forget which—asked how many of you have a relationship that is under pressure, tension, fracture in some way. As I recall, about half the hands in the place went up.
Now, Jesus said broken relationships are... are taxing. They’re sad. They take so much out of you. So Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “You go”—doesn’t matter who caused the problem—“You go, in private”—don’t tell ten other people about it—“You go, in private, not to accuse, you go with a reconciling sprit. And then you seek to fix the relationship. You go. In private. With a reconciling spirit.”
Might take several attempts. And you might even have to... have a spiritual director try to help you a little bit. That will solve most of these things. But, in my experience, after being a part of many of these over the years, some people don’t want to be resolved with me. They want me to know that they’re still ticked. Even though I’ve apologized a whole bunch. They wanna hold power over me. And... you see?
I love this verse. It took me many months to fully understand it. What Paul is saying is... if you’ve done your level best to reconcile a broken relationship, if you’ve gone, in private, sought to reconcile, engaged a counselor or spiritual advisor... if you’ve kind of exhausted your part in this deal, then he says, “Hey... this verse is for you. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you”—and it looks like you’ve taken as far as you can—“live at peace with everyone.” You can just... you can let it go now.
You... a person doesn’t have to have power over you. You’ve done everything you could. Live in peace. Okay?
Do not take revenge, my friends...
I like this little phrase:
Leave room for God’s wrath.
You don’t have to even... you don’t have to even every score! Am I reading straight from the Bible? What he’s saying here is, sometimes, we feel like we have to get even when we’ve been wronged. And Paul says, “You don’t have to even every score. Give God a chance! Cause He might even the score in a very creative way. So give Him an opportunity, okay?”
And then there’s this famous final two verses.
If your enemy is hungry...
Now, your enemy, he’s talking about... are we clear?
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him... to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
I’ll explain that in a second.
Do not be overcome by evil... overcome evil with
What? Say it?
Overcome evil... with good. Final story. Random text in the Old Testament. I’ll bet most of you’ve never read it. Now, there’s the prophet named Elisha. And he walks so closely with God, that God whispers to him where this archenemy nation is going to try to ambush the Israelites next time. God gives him that secret information.
So this powerful king of a neighboring nation, he’s gonna come and try to... kill all the Israelites, and he’s gonna set up an ambush by this river, and God says to Elisha, “Put a bunch of soldiers by the river, and it’ll foil their attempt of an ambush.” Well, this happens again and again and again. Finally, the king of this enemy state just goes, “This is driving me crazy. Who is this spy? Who’s reading my mail?”
And one of his counselors says, “It’s the prophet Elisha. And he gets the word from God.”
So this enemy king goes, “Then everybody saddle up. We’re gonna go kill that guy.”
So they find Elisha and his servant in a little city called Dothan. They surprise—they surprise this little city. And Elisha’s servant guy gets up, pokes Elisha, and goes, “Even I know we’re going to have a bad day today.” You know, it’s like ten thousand to one.
And so, Elisha says, “I can handle this.” He goes, “Dear God. Strike them all with blindness.”
I’m sure the servant’s going, “Is that all you got?” You know? “You think that’s going to happen?”
And they were all struck with temporary blindness. So Elisha goes to the head commander, and he goes, “I think I know the guy you’re looking for. Follow me.” So everyone follows him, and he takes them to a powerful Israelite city called Samaria. And all of the troops come in. They shut the walls. So they’re now inside an Israelite town, surrounded on all sides by Israelite soldiers. And then Elisha says, “Hey, God, restore their sight.”
So God restores their sight. And, all of a sudden, all of these soldiers are like, “We’re gonna die. It’s done.” And the king of Israel says to Elisha, “Let the slaughter begin! Right? They were doing evil toward us. We are gonna do evil back! Right?”
And Elisha says, “No. Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna let ‘em all get cleaned up. And then we are gonna serve them dinner. We’re gonna serve them good food, good drink.” The text says “a feast.” “We’re gonna put on a huge feast.”
Which, they do. The next morning, it says they open the gates to the city, and that whole, all those troops, go all the way back to the king. And the king says, “They did what? They fed you? You were trying to kill them, they could’ve killed you, you were sitting ducks, they fed you and sent you home?”
And here’s how the text ends: so the king, that enemy-state king, decided to never attack Israel anymore.
That is one of the sweetest... one of the sweetest metaphors, if you will, of that final verse. Stop trying to overcome evil with evil. Gang, we’re in a world where the violence is spinning out of control, and I hear people every day say, “Well, we’re gonna cure violence with more violence. And then we’re gonna respond to their violence with more violence.” And it’s this ever-escalating cycle of insanity.
And the apostle Paul says, “You know what you ought to do sometimes? You ought to overcome evil and violence... with good.”
This chapter, over the course of a year, changed my life. It was a game changer. I’m not expecting all of you to choose a chapter and to read it for a year. But I do think there’s the general point... the general point I’m making is true. If things in your prayer life get a little stale, try a different way of praying. If things in your Bible reading get a little stale, try something else. And maybe, someday, try this saturation approach. Because when this stuff gets in your head... it’s a powerful, powerful thing. Yes?