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Do the things that make for peace not make folk feel turbulent and harassed and upset.

Scripture: Romans 14:20-21


Alright. Thank you very much and hello again, dear radio friend. How in the world are you? Well yes this is your friend, Dr. Cook, and I’m speaking with you as usual from the little room at the end of the hall on the second floor of the big white house. Campus is lovely just now. The trees have put on their new clothing and the flowers are out and the birds are singing and it’s just beautiful. I’m grateful for the privilege of living in a nice beautiful setting. Although I have lived in places where if you looked out the window you’d see a brick wall 12 inches away from you and you had to create the scenery that you needed in your own mind. You’re going to have peace and contentment no matter whether you’re looking at a beautiful tree or at a brick wall. You’re going to have peace and contentment in your heart. Many of you know that truth. I don’t have to tell you because the Lord Jesus makes all the difference doesn’t He? Oh yes He does. Yes He does.

I can remember looking out a grimy, smoke begrimed window of the little basement flat that we lived in in Cleveland, Ohio. As a boy of I would suppose maybe five or six around in there I’d look out at that kitchen window. My job was to do the dishes. Everybody had to work at our house and I had to do the dishes. I was too short at that time to reach the sink so I had a little box that I can stand upon and then I’d stand on that box and put the water in the sink and wash the dishes and scrub the pots and pans. The one job I hated was to scrub the oatmeal pan. It always stuck on the bottom and I just hated that with all my soul. Still do as a matter of fact but I remember looking out the window and seeing a tree. We call it the sumac tree. I don’t know if that’s the right name for it. It’s a tree that puts out tiny little fronds of branches with leaves on them and it turns bright red in the fall. Is that the right name for it?

In any case it’s a hardy tree that will grow anywhere and there was one such little tree that grew in the hard, gravelly, tin can-filled soil of the parking lot next door. There it had sprouted and it grew up just inches away from the window and I would look out and I’d see those leaves. I’d see that brave little tree and to my boy mind that was the prettiest thing in the world. I remember just pausing and looking out there and thinking to myself isn’t that pretty the way that little tree is there, the way those leaves are waving in the breeze and to me that was a pretty sight. Well it was an ugly sight actually. It was a city parking lot full of junk and there was a garage next door and all of their spare parts had been dumped out on the ground there and were lying about. As a matter of fact I’d played among them and got my liking for things mechanical, I suppose, at that point.

But that was beautiful. All of this to say if your heart is full of the joy of the Lord and full of love for Jesus it doesn’t matter what the scenery is as long as you’ve got the scenery of Heaven in your heart. Amen? Well that was four minutes of nostalgia but you don’t mind do you? I don’t anyway.

Look at Romans 14. We’ve been talking about the fact that some people are weak in the faith and need to be built up and Paul said “Follow, just pursue the things that will make for peace and the things that will build the other person up and encourage it.” Now he goes on in verse 20 to say, “For meat.” Now that word meat includes all of the things you do to please yourself. That’s food and beverage and rest and recreation and all the rest. It’s the things that are good and permissible but concerning which from time to time and in different cultures and countries there may be some question. You follow me?

For permissible things that you think you can do without feeling guilty you can put it that way for permissible things that you think you can do without feeling guilty; please, he says, “don’t destroy the work of God. All things indeed are pure but it is evil for the man who eateth with offense.” If you’ve got a conscience on it don’t touch it. If your conscience hurts you on something far better for you leave it alone. That’s what Paul is saying, “It is good.”

Now here’s the point. It is good neither to eat flesh nor drink wine or anything whereby thy brother stumbleth or is offended or is here’s the key to it or is made weak. Now remember the chapter started by saying him that is weak in the faith will receive ye. Open your heart to him. Don’t argue with it. Now he says “Don’t do anything that’s going to make a person weak.” What makes people weak, to stumble them or to offend them. How do you stumble a person? Anything whereby thy brother stumbleth. Well that means something that you and I may have said or done causes this person to stumble in his Christian life and fall into failure of some sort or other.

I knew a young man who was going home late one night from his employment. He was walking home with a friend of his and this friend suggested that well let’s have some fun. Let’s just throw some stones. Now this is an insane suggestion as everyone recognizes but the young man went along with it and you guessed it. They both got into trouble.

Well you look back at it and you say “Oh for goodness sake. Now why did they do that?” Well I don’t know why but I do know that it was the suggestion of one person that led the other one to comply and also become a party to the action. Now that’s what I call stumbling a person. You follow me? Something I say helps to make another person comfortable in sin and failure. That is stumbling him. Well hey I want to keep away from that don’t you? I don’t want anything I say or do to make anybody feel any farther away from God and I most certainly don’t want anything that I say or do to cause anyone to move into any kind of wrong doing or grieving the spirit of God. Let’s you and I pray that we may be kept from stumbling other people.

Now that’s one thing that makes folks spiritually weak. What’s the other one? He says stumbling or is offended. It’s pretty hard to serve God if your heart is hurting and you’re angry and hurt at something that has been done by another Christian. So often in the years I was in the pastor people would say to me “Pastor you just don’t understand. If an unbeliever had done this to me I wouldn’t mind so much but this was a Christian.” I remember years ago someone was complaining about the fact that they’ve been cheated out of some thousands of dollars. I think it was something like ten or fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, whatever it was. It was a huge sum and always when the subject came up it would be the same litany of complaint. They’d tell the story and then they would finish up by saying “And you know pastor we wouldn’t mind so much being taken for the money because we’ll keep on living somehow but what we mind is that the person who did it professed to be a Christian.”

Well that’s the problem and you see it’s pretty hard to grow spiritually if you’re angered and hurt by something that was done by a person who claims to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s where it hurts. We expect people in the world to lie and to cheat and to be unfair or to be greedy or to be cruel or to be thoughtless or whatever. You expect those things to happen from time to time because the human race is a fallen, sinful human race and people are not sinners because they sin.

They sin because they’re sinners right? There’s something in the human heart that produces that and so you and I, we’re not all that surprised when those things happen as we say in the world. That is to say people who don’t really know the Lord do things that are wrong. But what really cuts you down and what really upsets you is to have someone who professes to know the Lord Jesus do something that hurts or that angers or that cheats you or that maligns you or that discourages you and you think to yourself “My, I didn’t expect that from him.”

Now you see that’s a tremendous challenge to all of us. It hits me of course and it hits you. Because we’re human we very frequently do and say thoughtless things and what we need I’m sure is constantly to be in a spirit of prayer and dependence upon God so that every time we open our mouth we’ll be trusting God to speak through us and to bless others through us. He said don’t do anything that stumbles a person, that is makes him feel more comfortable in sin or that offends a person, that is hurts him to the point where he can’t really see by faith see thorough to the Lord anymore.

Someone told me the other day of a young man who had been to Bible school and who served for a time as an assistant pastor somewhere and then something happened. We don’t really know what it was. No one seems to know what happened but something happened and he got deeply hurt in some way and all of a sudden resigned his work as an assistant in the church, found secular employment, stopped going to church, refused to speak about spiritual matters in other words, turned his back completely on the Lord.

Well thank God our Lord isn’t done with him yet. That’s one thing we can be sure of isn’t it? God isn’t done with the young man yet. God will pursue him and God will deal with him and God will bring him back to himself. This we know. But it’s a sad thing isn’t it that somebody did something. What it is we don’t know. Somebody did something that’s so hurt the young man, so offended him, so hurt him, so grieved his spirit that it turned him off of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh you say “he should’ve kept his eyes on Christ.” I agree but he didn’t and the same is true of many and other weak believer and that’s why Paul says “Watch out. Do the things that build people up not make them weaker. Do the things that encourage people, not stumbling them. Do the things that make for peace not make folk feel turbulent and harassed and upset.”

Oh I want that to be my biggest assignment the rest of my life. Don’t you? Let’s you and I be on the lookout for ways that we can encourage folk and help them and strengthen them and build them up in their spiritual life. God bless you. I want that to be true of me. I know that you want it to be true also of you.

Dear Father today make us encouragers would you please so that we’ll build other people up. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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