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Better Days

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                                                             Better Days 

                                       adapted from a sermon by Steve Shepherd
Psalms 34:12-16
   How do you recognize when you’re going to have a bad day?

     You turn on the news to see a map showing emergency routes out of the city.

   The bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.

   Your income tax check bounces.

  You put both contact lenses in the same eye.

  You wake up in a hospital in a body cast and your insurance agent tells you your policy covers falling off the roof, but not hitting the ground. [i]

    Your wife says, “Good morning, Bill,” and your name is George. [ii]

You can often tell when you’re headed into a bad day. But let me ask you this question: how do you know when you’re going to have a good day? What if I could show you a way to have better days every day? I’m not talking about a promise of sunshine every day, of everything always going your way. There are no guarantees of sunshine or laughter in this life. But are there some things you can do to make every day- even bad days- better? The Bible says there is—the prescription is found in Psalms 34:12-16 expressed this way in the NIV translation:

Psalm 34:12 Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days…?

     Since I assume that includes of us, then I invite you to look with me at God’s prescription for better days, which includes 3 things:

1- Control your tongue               2- Turn from evil and do good      3- Seek peace and pursue it

PRAYER

If you want to have better days
I. WATCH YOUR MOUTH! (v. 13)

  Once the great Methodist minister John Wesley was preaching.  He was wearing a new bow tie with two streamers hanging down from it.  There was a sister in the meeting who didn't hear a word about Jesus, but sat with a long face and saw nothing but those two streamers.  When the service was over she went up and said, “Pardon me, Mr. Wesley, but your bow tie is too long and it is an offense to me.”

  He handed her a pair of scissors and invited her to clip the tie down to the length she thought best. Then he said, “Is that all right now?”

  “Yes, that is much better.”

  Then he replied, “Now, my dear sister, let me deal with your offense to me. Would you please hand me those scissors, and stick out your tongue?”

The place to begin to have better days is in your mouth, or more specifically, with the words that come out of your mouth. This is where most of us cause the most trouble not just for others, but for ourselves. How many times has your mouth got you in trouble with your boss, your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your friends and enemies?

This verse mentions two of the worst kinds of words you and I must not speak if we want to have better days: evil words= harmful or wicked words and  deceitful words= lying. The NT puts this command in positive terms when it commands us to

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

     No evil words—words that wound, words that are wicked- don’t speak these words, don’t use them as weapons to hurt others. No deceitful words—don’t use your speech to lie, to lead others to believe what isn’t true. Instead use words that edify—words that heal, words that build up, words that show off God’s grace. Speak the truth, as Eph. 4:15 says in love- to help others. That’s easy to say, but not so easy to do. Even the Bible says in

James 3:7-8 7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

That doesn’t sound promising, does it? No human being can take their own tongue. So Who can? The Lord. The Lord can help you control your tongue, if you ask for His help. Sometimes we just need to pray, “Lord, help me to keep my mouth shut.” Or “Lord, help me to speak only words that heal and bless and encourage and help.” He’ll help you do that, and help you develop the habit of using your words wisely. He won’t do it for you, but if you make the effort, He will give you the power to control your tongue.

Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.

Pr 10:19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

Pr 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

     Over and over the Bible stresses the importance of watching your words. If you want to have  bad day, just say whatever is on your mind, whatever is on the tip of your tongue. But if you want to have better days, you must learn to control your tongue!

The little boy greeted his grandmother with a hug and said, "I'm so happy to see you grandma. Now maybe daddy will do the trick he has been promising us." The grandmother was curious. "What trick is that my dear," she asked. The little boy replied, "I heard daddy tell mommy that he’d climb the walls if you came to visit us again."

Watch your mouth—it’s one of the keys to having a better day! Another important key to a better day is

II. TURN FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD (v. 14a)

Cartoons picture characters making choices with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other shoulder.

Go ahead! Do it! You know you want to! Eat that big scrumptious piece of chocolate cake!

No! No! Remember your diet? Remember what your doctor/wife said? Go get you a big bowl of salad instead!

The voice of temptation is real. Every day you and I face choices between doing right, or doing wrong. Once in awhile there might be some gray areas (such as whether or not to eat chocolate cake!) But most of us know the difference between wrong and right. It’s wrong to disobey the Lord, wrong to steal, it’s wrong to hate, it’s wrong to cheat and hate your neighbor. You know that. You know it’s right to love the Lord, to love others, love your enemies, stand up for what’s right. And countless times each day, you make decisions about whether you will turn from evil to do good, or turn from good to do evil. Thos choices affect your days. Or as Bro. Eddie Payne once put it: Life is about making choices, and then living with the consequences of the choices you make. Make bad choices, you live with bad days; make good choices, you live with better days. The Bible puts it this way:

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

     Many times we make the mistake of believing that we can do wrong and get by. Nobody knows, nobody was hurt, I got away with it. But the choices you make today will affect you tomorrow—and most likely affect you for a long time after that. Have you ever noticed the truth of that old saying what goes around comes around?

     The person you spoke ugly to in the store the other day shows up at church next Sunday, looking for a nice friendly place to worship the Lord.

     That fellow employee that you did wrong gets a promotion and becomes your new boss.

     The same face of the woman you cut off in traffic shows up as the principal who calls you about your son’s misbehavior.

In traffic court of a large city, a young lady was brought before the judge for driving through a red light. She explained to the judge that she was a schoolteacher and was trying to hurry to her class. A wild gleam came into the judge’s eye and he said, “You’re a school teacher! Madam, I shall finally realize my lifelong ambition. I’ve waited for years to have a schoolteacher in this court. I want you to sit at that table and write ‘I will not run a red light’ 500 times!”

But now let’s be realistic: it’s not always easy to say no to evil and yes to good. Sometimes it seems impossible to do right instead of wrong. I’m too weak to do the right thing. But God has made a promise to you and I who are too weak to withstand temptation:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

     Just as you and I need to ask God’s help with our words, so also we need His help to do right. He won’t make your choices or decisions for you, but He will help you do good, and not evil, if you will ask for His help. You can do right, and have better days. Another way to do this:

III. SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT (v. 14b)
     Sometimes trouble just has a way of finding you.  

After 411 gave a young lady here boyfriend's new telephone number, she dialed—an a woman answered. "Is Mike there?" She asks. "He's in the shower.” "Please tell him his girlfriend called," I said and hung up.  When he didn't return the call, she dialed again. This time a man answered. "This is Mike," he said. "You're not my boyfriend!" she exclaimed. "I know," he replied. "That's what I've been trying to tell my wife for the past 30 minutes!"

I imagine it took some time and effort to calm things back down in that home, don’t you? Peace isn’t always easy to find. That’s why the psalmist recommends if you want better days, you must seek peace and pursue it. The problem is we have wars within which spill over into war without. James explains like this:

James 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

     James says war and peace don’t begin on the outside, but on the inside. Trace every fuss and fight, whether it’s between husband and wife, parent and child, or church members—trace it to its source, and you will find its seeds in the heart that has no peace. If you and I want to have better days, we must seek peace and pursue it. How do you do that? By pursuing peace in our hearts in two areas:

Peace with God. Doesn’t everybody have peace with God? Nope. Some of us are angry at God because of something He’s done or not done. The Bible says you and I are sinners, on opposite ends of the battlefield, at odds and at war with a holy God. But God offers a way for you to be at peace with Him: surrender. Lay down your weapons, come to Christ, bow down and be forgiven and at peace with Him. This is how you seek peace and pursue it with God—this is the only place you will find peace with God.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

     But if you want to see better days, you also need

Peace with everybody else.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

     Sometimes that takes a lot of  “seeking and pursuing”- especially with difficult people? Jesus once said

Matthew 5:40-41 40If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

     He didn’t say give up your underwear if somebody asks for it; He didn’t say to go a hundred miles for one that asks you to walk one.

His point is to be willing to go a little farther than necessary to seek peace and pursue it. Forgive, give the benefit of the doubt, cut some slack. Don’t be so touchy, don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder. There’s a point where you have to stand up and speak up, but be willing to go a little farther off for the sake of peace. It’s not always easy, but if you want better days, it’s a good idea to seek peace and pursue it with both God and other people.  

With God’s help, you can have peace with God and peace with everybody else- definitely part of the recipe for better days.

An older member of our church taught me a beautiful lesson one day when I casually wished him a good day. He remarked, "They're all good days. It's what we put in them that makes the difference.” [iii]

What can you put into your days to make them better?

More money. More time. A spouse, or kids—less spouse, less kids. Graduation. A better job. A healthier body. You could come up with a long list of things you think could make your life better.

But the Bible offers some suggestions that really work. Watch your mouth—turn from evil and do good---seek peace and pursue it. Where do you begin? I urge you to start by seeking peace with God. If you don’t have peace with Him, none of the other things work. When you have peace with God through Jesus Christ, your worst day will be better than one day without Him. There’s an old song I used to love to sing:

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

Every day with Jesus I learn to love Him more.

Jesus saves and keeps me, and He’s the One I’m longing for!

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

     Do you have peace with God this morning? Is everything right between you and Him? Maybe that’s why your days have been so rotten lately—He’s been trying to get your attention. He’s trying to remind you that life doesn’t work without Him. He’s inviting you to lay down your pride, and bow the Lord Jesus Christ, and commit all the days of your life to Him. Won’t you do that this morning? Won’t you come and let Jesus give you better days?   


----

[i] James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 15.

[ii]10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).

[iii] James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 280.

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