Sermon by Nnorom Azuonye
We make decisions about situations in our lives every day. Sometimes we make these decisions on our own. Sometimes we seek advice from people we trust their judgement to help us along, and sometimes advice can come unsolicited. The first recorded advice in the Bible was from Satan himself, the serpent, to Eve in the garden of Eden. That advice was intended to deceive her and to make her disobedient to God. She listened to it, ate the forbidden fruit, and fell out of favour with God.
There has never been a time in our lives that we had more sources of advice than we have now. From medical, legal, personal hygiene, career, relationship issues, spiritual advice amongst others, the Internet and social media offer unlimited, mostly free advice to us. If you join a group on Facebook or WhatsApp, you will receive daily unsolicited advice arriving the way of ‘Forwards’. I once received one of these forwards last year, it stressed that I must not drink coke if I have had Vitamin C supplement within six hours, otherwise I risked heart attack. This advice was supposedly based on research by heart surgeons from the University of Michigan, USA. I was particularly curious because I take daily Vitamin C supplements, and I like my diet coke. I was relieved the research was a lie. Personally, I really don’t like those ‘forwards’ especially because majority of them are false and do not add value to any of our lives. Those who concoct these lies use everything they can to make them appear authentic, such as, ‘please this is true, it was on BBC last night’ etc. Spend the rest of that day searching the BBC website and you won’t find it. Lies!
These types of false, misleading pieces of advice can lead us into trouble. Any advice based on worldly values is not of God. Before you offer advice to a friend or family member, make sure that it comes from the domain of God; that it is true, and it is genuinely intended to add value to the person who receives it, and not to cause problems for the person and separate them from both man and God. On the flipside, if people offer you advice, don’t just take everything they tell you as gospel, their motivations may not be for your good. It is important that the advice you receive is a fruit from a garden of sound and dependable knowledge and that it comes forth from a spring of love.
A good example of the consequence of horrible advice was one that happened in Kaduna, Nigeria to a young couple I knew very well many years ago. Let’s call them Kunle and Maria. They were both churchgoers. From what I know now, I hesitate to call them Christians. They were living together without being married. One day, Kunle encountered God during a trip to Lagos and became a born-again Christian. On his return to Kaduna, he informed Maria that he could no longer engage in sexual activities with her until they got married, and he hoped to get the approval and acceptance of her parents and to proceed with the marriage in approximately one year’s time. Maria was not happy that Kunle met God and without talking to her, decided to remove sex from their relationship, but she raised no objections in his presence, instead she discussed it with some of her close friends. Maria’s friends told her that Kunle was lying and was trying to find a way out of the relationship. They suggested that he might even have met another girl in Lagos. Their advice to her was to have a fling with another man and make sure Kunle found out. They told Maria “if Kunle really loves you, he will fight for you and speed up the marriage.” This was clearly a very idiotic advice coming from the house of Satan. You would think that anybody with common sense would reject that kind of advice, but no, not Maria, she listened to this evil advice and did exactly what her friends suggested. What did Kunle do? He ended the relationship and walked out of her life for good. Maria tried to save the relationship and asked Kunle to forgive her. He assured her of his forgiveness but regretted that he could not take her back or trust in her faithfulness. Maria then played the blackmail card saying, “you call yourself a Christian and you cannot forgive and forget?”. To this, Kunle reminded her that in the scriptures, the only basis Jesus said a man could end his relationship with his woman was infidelity. That was the end of the road for that relationship.
Psalm 1 we read today tells us exactly what to expect when we listen to evil advice and also what would happen if we lived by the law of God, hence taking our counsel from the domain of our Lord.
In King James Version (I like King James Version – the poetry comes out more) Psalm 1:1 says:
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”.
Our church bible, Good News Translation of the same verse says:
“Happy are those
who reject the advice of evil people,
who do not follow the example of sinners
or join those who have no use for God.”
They read slightly differently to me, but I think the principle is the same. King James version talks about ‘the man’, Good News translation talks about ‘those’. Some people prefer the use of ‘those’ instead of ‘the man’ which may appear not to include women and children, but it does, remember the scripture says “He made them male and female and called them man,” everyone is included and the message is clear;
– We must verify the source of our advice.
– We must stop and ask, where is God in what this person or that person is telling us?
– Is this advice designed to do me good or do me harm?
In the example we just heard, it is quite possible that the Maria’s friends knew or suspected that her Kunle would end the relationship, but they still gave it anyway. Why? Perhaps they were jealous of the relationship, or they were just being mischievous. By heeding that evil advice, Maria offended her fiancé deeply and offended God at the same time.
We can all have similar terrible outcomes if we listen to the wrong advice not just in personal relationships, but also in business, work, social associations, or even in the way we relate to our neighbours. We must be particularly careful in taking advice on how to raise our children. No two children are the same, even if they come from the same womb. If people tell you they got it right with their children by beating them into a pulp each time they misbehaved, don’t even think you will get it right with yours by beating them that way too. You could lose your kids.
Moving forward, Psalm 1:2 says of the man living in the way of our Lord:
“…his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” ((KJV) or “Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord, / and they study it day and night.” (GNT)
Friends, let us then find joy in meditating or studying the Law of God day and night.
But what is the Law of God? Some people will say it is specifically the Torah – the first five books of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) or it can mean the laws set out from the end of Genesis to Malachi. Some will say that the Law of God is ‘the 10 Commandments’ given through Moses.
Personally, I like to simplify it; I go with the response Jesus gave when he was asked about the greatest commandment, he said, “love your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as you love yourself” These two sum up all the laws in the Holy Bible.
If we love our neighbours as we love ourselves, we will not give them evil advice, we will not be envious of their successes or good fortunes, we will not hurt them or plot evil against them. We will rejoice in their moments of joy and mourn with them when they are bereaved as we pray for them to be comforted by our Lord.
When we make the law of God one with us, we set ourselves up to claim the promise in Psalm 1:3
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (KJV),
“They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.” (GNT)
Friends, this is it. This is the moment of the good news, and I speak the words of the Lord into your life and my life, that we are indeed like trees planted by rivers of water and we bear our fruit in our season, and we will succeed in whatever we do:
· In God’s appointed time find the partners he has made for us. If you are a man here and you have not yet been re-united with the woman that God made out of your rib, pray for this and I decree that you shall leave your father’s house as the bible says and cling to your wife and the two of you shall become one. This is His word. Sister, if you are believing God for a lifelong partner, don’t despair if it has not happened yet and don’t do desperate things and listen to evil advice, I promise you that in His appointed time He will honour you with the man of your dreams.
· In His appointed time, you will bear children, you will raise your children and be there for them when they need you. If you are yet to hear the cry of a baby in your home, do not stop believing God for a fruit of the womb. He will touch you with his miracle; that incompetent womb will become a fertile farmland, that fibroid will break up and flow out of you, and a little one will soon call you mummy.
· In His appointed time your talent will mature and bring you honour, respect and fortune whilst honouring the good name of our living God. If you are not sure what your talent is, pray for focus, it may be teaching, preaching, singing, painting, acting, nursing, piloting, footballing and so on, ask God to reveal your talent and give you the grace to harness it and show you how to use it to glorify His name.
· Whatever else you desire will be yours in the name of our Lord Jesus, according to his will. Don’t forget to always surrender to His will. Let His will be done in your life.
Do we need to bother talking about the bad news? Psalm 1: 4 & 6 say:
“The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away…For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
“But evil people are not like this at all;
they are like straw that the wind blows away.
The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord,
but the evil are on the way to their doom.”
Just to recap, there are two kinds of people and they can choose to follow one of two ways; one way is to take advice from evil people and live by the wrong principles which will lead them to doom, the other way is to find joy in the Law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night. Those who follow the Kingdom Principles will be blessed with happiness and success in whatever they do.
Let me leave you today with the word of the Lord from Deuteronomy 30:19
“I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life.”
This sermon was first preached at Trinity Methodist Church, Plumstead, London on Sunday 17th February 2019