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The Best Days Of 2000
What were your best days in the year 2000?
Let me guess!
I'd say the day that brought you great happiness was: the day you got married, or the day your child was born,
or the day you started a new job, or moved into a new house, or saw your child graduate from high school or college.
It could have been your vacation days.
Surely, those are the kinds of memories that determine whether 2000 was a good year.
As we come to the end of 2000, we do well to soak our souls in that sonorous psalm which faces up
- Would it shock you terribly, if I proposed that you evaluate the past 12 months -- not according to their pleasure,
but according to their afflictions?
- Would it sound dreadfully pious, if I suggested that the best days of the 2000 were not the ones of unbroken sunshine,
but dark days when trouble and disappointment clouded your sky?
to the littleness of time and the greatness of eternity.
In the midst of majestic phrases that reflect on the fleeting nature of our human life, the psalmist offers this remarkable prayer:
"Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us and the years wherein we have seen evil."
We can say that there were days that brought out some of the finest qualities in our character.
Subjected to pressure, we fumed and fretted and heated with anger -- maybe even went to pieces,
but a marvelous change took place, and we emerged from the refining process with a new realism, a new patience,
and a new courage.
To change the figure of speech, the human body has more muscles than most of us consciously use.
If you never walked from one place to another, if you never opened a door, if you never lifted a weighty object,
you would never develop the muscles in your legs and arms and stomach and back.
On the other hand, when you have done some heavy work or strenuous exercise you begin to feel muscles
that you never knew you had.
The soul has muscles also, more than most of us consciously use.
We don't need to use them on our good days.
It is the bad days that develop our moral muscles and make us strong in spirit.
Isn't it amazing how pain, hardship, sorrow, and disappointment bring out qualities of nobility and goodness
that we never knew were latent in our character?
Many of the world's great artists, poets, scientists, and musicians would be quick to tell us that their bad days
were the days of their most creative effort.
Our drug-oriented society would eliminate the thorns and anaesthetize us to a point where we would not feel them.
That may explain why some of the sterner qualities of character are lacking in our drug-oriented society.
A civilization does not refine its soul or develop its moral muscles or produce its sweetest music in conditions
of unbroken happiness.
The bad days were also the days that strengthened our ties with other people.
It is true that the bad days strengthened our ties with other people.
You have heard it said, jokingly, that misery likes company, but that is no joke.
Sometimes, we cannot have company until we, ourselves, have been made miserable.
There is a fraternity among people who suffer.
This is a fellowship more sincere and profound than that which exists within any other group.
It takes affliction to initiate us into that worldwide fraternity; and when we do become members,
we realize that we have actually joined the human race.
The bad days strengthened our human ties.
Insofar, as we shared them with other people, we experienced a communion that we could never have experienced
in a shared happiness...
A common sorrow draws people closer to one another.
Of course, there are exceptions when it drives them apart.
That's when they really discovered each other and realized how much they meant to each other,
- Marriages have broken down because the love that flourished like a flower in the sunshine could not stand
under freezing temperatures and driving rain storm.
- On the other hand, some marriages have been saved by a family tragedy in which husband and wife reached out
to each other as deep calling unto deep.
how much they loved each other, and how much they needed each other.
The bad days were also the days that brought us into closer touch with reality.
In our anxiety and pain, we took a long, hard look at life and reorganized some of our values.
The apostle Paul did that with his bad days, and he had plenty of them.
- We saw the things that matter, and we saw the things that don't matter.
- We loosened our grip on artificial supports and tightened our grip on spiritual realities.
For some reason, Paul flung a list of his sufferings in the face of the Christians at Corinth:
"We are afflicted in every way... perplexed... persecuted... struck down... always carrying in the body the death of Jesus."
Then he says, "But we do not lose heart."
Because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are not seen;
for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
That's how Paul reacted to his afflictions.
It is no mystery that our age is a secular age.
- He did not allow them to crush and embitter him.
- He looked beyond them to the things that really matter.
- He looked to those eternal and imperishable values of the spirit that the world cannot destroy
and that death cannot take away.
We are enjoying unprecedented affluence.
An age of affluence is never an age of faith.
Faith is never the child of our happier days.
We come closer to God in our suffering.
The great believers of history have always been the great sufferers.
The mightiest affirmation of faith ever spoken,
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,"came from the agony and pain of the cross.
Throughout history, we always hear those words spoken against the background of a cross.
Affliction is not a happy experience, but it can be a meeting place with God.
Perhaps, we shall meet God only in the days wherein we have been afflicted, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
Soon, we shall close your book forever and open a new one in which a single word has not yet been written.
- What will the record of 2001 be like?
- What will the new year have in store for us?
- We do not have to be reminded that there will be good days and bad days.
- We do have to be reminded that the bad days need not be all bad.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
- They could be our best days, if they bring out the finest qualities of our character.
- They could be our best days, if they strengthen our ties with other people.
- They could be our best days, if they bring us into closer touch with our eternal God.
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@AOL.com