By Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Jeremiah 20:7-10, “O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.”
Let me share with you the events surrounding and causing my text this morning. It was Jeremiah who said, “O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.” And then he said a couple of verses later, “I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.” I want to speak this morning on two words, “don't run.” Just don't run. Now I spoke the other day on, keep on running. I changed my mind. But I want to speak on the subject, don't run. Please listen to this story.
Jeremiah is one of the most pathetic (and I don't mean a pathetic person), but he lived in the most pathetic circumstances. Jeremiah had to face some of the most difficult days that anybody in the Bible had ever faced. In fact, nobody in the Bible was as much like Jesus in my opinion as Jeremiah (a wonderful Old Testament type of our Saviour).
Now Jeremiah was called of God to preach and to warn the people, even though they would not listen. Now look right this way now, everybody listening. He was called of God to preach to the people and warn the people, and was told that they would not listen. The Babylonian captivity, the 70 year period of captivity when the Jews were away from the land of Canaan was imminent, and by the way, inescapable. The prophets like Isaiah and others had warned the Jews to come back to God and repent, and they could escape the judgment of God. But now in this case of Jeremiah, his was not a message to tell them that there was hope. His was a message of lamentation. It was inevitable.
God had already withdraw His mercy from Israel. And He had already decided that they needed to go into captivity for these 70 years. So Jeremiah's was a hopeless ministry. I cannot even comprehend it. He knew that they would not listen. Also, he knew that in his lifetime the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar would come and conquer Canaan and the beloved city of Jerusalem. He also knew that the walls would be leveled. He knew that the temple would be destroyed. He knew that their houses would be destroyed. It was such an awful time that you've heard me say before, that even the women had to decide which child's life to take, so the other children could live by eating the flesh of the child that the mother had taken. There homes were gone. All hope was gone. And Jeremiah, are you listening, he knew that he had to endure that, and he knew that God had called him to be a comfort and a strength and a consolation to God's people during this awful, awful time.
Likewise, he knew something else; he knew that he was not one of those that was going to go into the land of Babylon. He knew that he had to stay there. In some ways the people who went into captivity were the fortunate ones. For the one's who stayed had to go through this awful time when the city, the temple, their houses and everything precious was destroyed. But Jeremiah knew all this. (I hope you'll not leave me now) Jeremiah knew all this was going to happen. He knew that he had to endure. Likewise, he had been told by God, that some of the people would have to flee into Egypt, and then he would have to go to Egypt and there, no doubt, be with them. Now Jeremiah didn't want to face the reality of all this. It was inevitable. It was inescapable. He had to be there. He had to be a part of the suffering of the destroyed city. He had to hear the stomping of the feet of the Babylon armies, and he had to be there. Now Jeremiah didn't want to face it. So, the Bible says, he ran.
He went out to a place, perhaps in a mountain somewhere, and got a little place (like where the artist would go to paint the beautiful scenery). And he went out there alone and said, “I'm not going to preach anymore. There's no need. Nobodies listening to me anyway. And destructions going to come anyway. Why do they need a preacher?” I'll tell you what, everybody needs a preacher! I don't care who you are, you need a preacher! You need somebody who studies this Book a little more than you do, to bring to you what the message of this Book is. But Jeremiah said, “They don't need a preacher.” (Listen to me young folks. listen to me. Hey, young folks, hey, young people over here, listen to me! I'm preaching to you, sit still! You're not sanctified yet, you may need a little help!) So Jeremiah said, I can't face reality!
And by the way, I'm talking to a lot of people this morning, you can't face reality either. There's something inevitable that's going to happen, or is happening in your life. There's nothing you can do about it. It is your lot in life. It is the seat in which you have to sit, and you like Jeremiah don't want to face it. But Jeremiah did finally gather his wits about him and he said, “The Word of God was burning like a fire in my bones and I could not contain myself.” He goes back and does the job that God has called him to do. Realizing they will not repent, realizing they have no hope, realizing that all he can do is stand before the people and lament the fact that destruction is inevitable, he faced the inevitables of life.
This morning I want you to look at your inevitables. I want you to look at your realities. And I want you to accept them. Any adult here this morning has some things about life that you'd like not to accept. And you like Jeremiah would like to run away.
Madame Curie faced the unexpected, accidental, death of her husband, and she said, “It is the end of everything!” And she decided that she would just move away and get alone somewhere and not face life without her husband. And then finally she decided (what I want you to decide)—she decided not to run. And she decided, she couldn't bring her husband back. He's gone. She decided to face the inevitabilities of life, and the things about which she has no control. And of course you know the great results that followed.
John Wesley. John Wesley met a gal named Mary Basel I think it was, or Basil. He met this gal. Get this now, he married her 8 days after he met her, and then spent the rest of his life wishing he'd never met her. You know how he felt. I said, you know how he felt (joking). And ah, but anyway, the truth is, he had a bad marriage. Now, I read about John Wesley. He thought about divorcing her. But the truth is, he had said his vows. He had promised, “'Til death do us part.” He decided, even thought about quitting the ministry, and got so discouraged he thought about quitting the ministry; but John Wesley did what I want YOU to do this morning, to face that which is inevitable.
Jeremiah said, “It's got to happen. I'm going to run away from it!” But you can't run away. You go ahead and drink your liquor, but that problem's there when you sober up. You go ahead and go to your psychiatrist, but that problem is there when he's lost his mind. It's still there. You go ahead and run to your dope, but when you sober up from your dope and come back to reality, it's there. Now the best thing to do is do what Jeremiah ultimately decided to do. He faced the reality of it, and the inescapables of life.
It was George W. Truett. I mentioned him recently. George W. Truett was hunting with his best friend—accidentally killed him crawling through a fence—his gun went off—and he shot and killed his best friend. And he absolutely went away and decided to quit the ministry. But, it's reality. There's he can do about it. Hey, if you can change it, change it. If you can't change it, accept it. And so, he accepted it, and of course, built the great First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. For 40 years he pastored that church.
Charles Spurgeon's wife at the age of 34 was an invalid. And Charles Spurgeon thought how unfair it was, and she was an invalid, and the two of them decided just to go ahead and ditch everything. But the truth is, Spurgeon said to his wife, “Honey, you cannot help it. Your an invalid. You're in the wheel chair. There's nothing you can do. We've got to accept it. And accept it they did!”
Now look, there are things about my life I wish I could change. But if I can't change them, by cracky, I mean praise the Lord, I am going to accept them. And that's what I want you to do. Accept the inevitabilities of your life. And I'll get to that a little more after while.
It was Len G. Broughton. And you've heard me speak of him... pastored the great Metropolitan Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia for years. Len G. Broughton weighed less than 100 pounds and he felt so inferior because of his size. You know how he felt... when you get beside Keith McKinney (laughter [Keith McKinney is a large man in the church).
By the way, the other day... who was it that saw the picture of me? Jacqueline, your daughter? [granddaughter] She said, “Dad when did you have this picture made?” She thought it was her dad. So there's hope, you may look like this some day (laughter). But after seeing what I used to look like, I wonder why you married me (laughter). My money? That's it.
Len G. Broughton weighed less than 100 pounds. And the truth is he left for awhile, got alone, and said “I'm too embarrassed to stand behind the pulpit and stand on the platform and preach at my size.” But one day he faced the fact that he weighed 100 pounds. God wanted him to weight 100 pounds. If he was little... he couldn't add to his stature. And Len G. Broughton said, “I'll face it, I'll accept the inevitability, and I will be a preacher. And he did, and became one of the great preachers of his day!
The same thing happened to David. David ran! He said, “Whither shall I preach the Lord?” I think it's the 139th Psalm. And the same thing with Peter, who went back to fishing. And the same thing with Moses and Abraham. Martin Luther! Martin Luther time-and-time again in his life became so discouraged, he decided to quit because of the battle. But ladies and gentleman, when you get to a place where there's nothing you can do about it, look it square in the eyeball and say, “I'm not going to run from you, I'm going to face my inevitabilities, and that over which I have no control I accept it, and that's what Jeremiah did!”
Franklin Roosevelt, said (who was bound by a wheel chair). He said, “A man who is bound by a wheelchair cannot run a nation.” But he did. He did. Don't run to alcohol! Don't run to narcotics! Don't run to divorce court! Don't run to despair! Don't run to psychiatrists! Run and do what you're supposed to do, facing whatever you have no control over.
Someone asked me the other day, “What's your favorite sermon?” Of all the sermons you've preached (I've preached over 62,000 times). What is the favorite sermon you've ever preached? And I said, I can tell you right quickly. My favorite sermon is the one about seat 4A on the jet plane from San Francisco, California. That's my favorite sermon. I won't preach it to you this morning, except, I was sitting beside an old grouch. I had a four hour trip. And I said to this old grouch beside me, “sweetheart!” (laughter). And oh boy, I'll be in the homeless ministry tonight, I'll tell you for sure!
I said, listen, this guy... I never sat beside anybody like this in my life. And I asked the little stewardess if I could change seats. And she went back and found the entire plane was filled. And I said, “Stewardess, put me on the wing, anywhere to get away from this guy, I can't stand this guy!” And that stewardess stood in the isle and preached to me a sermon. I hate women preachers (laughter). She preached me a sermon. She said, “Mr. Hyles, seat 4A is your assigned seat. Now you've got one of two choices: you can sit there and gripe for four hours, and have a miserable trip; or she said you can accept the fact that you've got to seat in seat 4A, and you've got to sit beside this fella here, and you can accept that and have a nice trip.” And I did by the way, and had a nice trip (though I was happy to get away from the old grouch). But I had a nice trip.
Now, look, God's given you a seat in which to sit. And you may not like the seat. You may not like the fella who's traveling beside you. You may not like it. But I'm trying to say, if there's nothing you can do about it, look it square in the eye and say “It's not gonna ruin my life!” Jeremiah did that.
Now three things:
Accept yourself. Accept your size. Accept your looks. Accept your weaknesses. Accept your ailments. Do what Don Boyd has done. Don Boyd has one eye. He was reading stuff he shouldn't have read and God took one of his eyes (laughter). But he has one eye. Now look, we forget that he just has one eye. Why? Because he's accepted. He had to sit down one day in his seat 4A and he had to say, “I can't help it. I had cancer in the eye. I lost one of my eyes. I only have one eye. And I'm going to accept it.” Now ladies and gentleman, quit running with Jeremiah and quit trying to flee from the reality of your life, and accept yourself and the way you are, and do not complain about it, and don't let it wreck your life.
Dan Wolfe back there. Dan has one arm. When he hugs his wife she gets cold (laughter). But, he accepted it. Make peace with your physical limitations. I'm old. I'm 73 years old. And on my last leg. But wait a minute, wait a minute, I didn't want to get old. I didn't want to, but I did, and I can't do anything about it. Now, I don't know how many days I've got left, but I'll tell you one thing, I'm going to enjoy all of 'em. And I'm going to stay busy in all of 'em. And I made peace one day with the fact that I am old. I mean, I am. You're not, but I am!
I sat down the other day and had a little talk with Miss Hyles. She doesn't want to get old. She's the prettiest thing in the world, though she's 71 years old (a week from tomorrow I think it is). And, it's not bad being 73, but living with a 71 year old woman is tough I'll tell you for sure (laughter). But wait a minute, I said, “Sweetheart, we can't do anything about it.” Let me tell you what I've done. I've decided that I have today and I am going to squeeze everything I can out of today. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know I hold today. And I'm going to accept it. Ok, and so I am going to be the happiest old man you've ever seen in your life. I'm a 73 year old preacher, but I've never enjoyed preaching as much as I enjoy it right now. I love it! I love it!
Now, why, because I have looked square in the eyeball at the inevitable inevitability. I'm 73. I can't help it. And bless God, I think the best looking men in the world are 73 years old. I know the best looking woman is almost 71. But, now, look, ok, so accept it! Accept your physical... your size, your looks, your weaknesses, your ailments... accept them!
I was looking in the mirror the other day. I don't like to look at me from the side... get that chicken neck hangs down there (laughter). I was looking in the mirror the other day. And, I got on the elevator down in Winston Salem, where I was preaching. And every single side of the elevator is a mirror. I hate those things with a passion. I looked at me from the back. I hadn't seen me from the back for a long time. I thought, “Goodnight, God bless that poor choir!” (laughter). Well thank God your behind me too, so I don't have to look at you at all.
But now I got to thinking, that chicken-neck down there. Like that! I stopped the elevator between floors. I kept looking at me. And I said, “Boy, that's the prettiest chicken-neck I've ever seen in my life.” Shoot! I wish I could reach out and grab you, and cause you to make peace with the circumstances of your life. I mean, accept yourself. Ok, you're small, you're skinny, you're Keith (laughter). Ok, accept the fact, bless God! I think the best weight in the world is what I am. I used to be five, eleven and three-quarters (5' 11.75"); I've shrunk to five, ten and a half (5' 10.5"). So I'm not really getting fat, I'm just compressed (laughter). I am Jack Hyles. I weigh 194 lbs (this morning). I'm five-foot, ten and a half inches tall now. I'm 73 years old. I like my weight. I like my height. I like my looks. I like my age. I like my life. Why? Because it's mine! You sit down in your seat this morning that God's assigned you to. And if there's nothing you can do about it, then accept it. Accept yourself!
Accept your circumstances. You had dreams of marriage. You had dreams of a shower, a wedding gown, attendance, the bridal march, processional, the reception, a little cottage, a husband that loved you. You had dreams of those things. But Bill Graham won't do it! (laughter). But you had dreams of those things. And the truth is, now you're getting to the place where you wonder if it's ever going to happen. Now the truth is, that, if it's inevitable that you're going to be single for the rest of your life, then you accept it and decide that you're going to be the happiest single woman that ever lived.
I mean, sit down in your seat 4A. If there's something you can do about it, do it! But if there's nothing you can do about it, accept it as inevitable. You had dreams of having a baby. It hasn't worked that way. You dreamed of giving birth to a child, but looks like you're not going to have one. You're 73 years old now. Chances are waning. Sarah's your favorite Bible character. But the honest simple truth is, you're not going to have a child. Now don't sit there and spend your life lamenting the fact, your circumstances. Hey, there are people in the world dying of cancer. There are people in the world starving to death. There are people in the world sitting in a lot worse seat than you are.
So you just sit down in your seat of inevitabilities and inescapabilities and say, “I am going to get me a Sunday School class, or I'll get me a bus route, and I'll influence somebody else's child. But I'm not going to let it wreck and ruin my life.” Like Jeremiah, Martin Luther, David even., Abraham, Madame Curie, Mrs. Charles Spurgeon, George W. Truett, Len G. Broughton and others, who came to the place in their lives where they said, “I wish I didn't have to sit here. I wish this were not my seat to sit in, but I have to sit here, so I've got one choice of two: gripe all the way to Heaven or shout all the way to Heaven.” I've chosen to shout instead of pout!
You had dreams of a normal child, but your child was not normal. God bless the Moffit family, they have Roy (laughter). They had hopes that they'd have a normal child, but look what they had. But now wait a minute, wait a minute, you had dreams of a child in school and normal classroom. And you had dreams of a child who could run and play. But it hasn't worked out that way. Now, if there's something that can better, do everything that you can do. Go to every doctor you can. Let me anoint the child with oil. Let's pray for God to do something. But if it comes to reality it is nothing I can do about it, accept the blessing of being the father or mother of a child like you have.
Your child has broken your heart. Your middle years are senior saint now. That child has broken your heart. Accept it, don't let it wreck your life.
Not long ago, don't miss this. A fella said to me, “Brother Hyles, I'm going to divorce my wife.” He said, “I am married to the wrong woman.” Listen carefully, don't miss this. Nobody is married to the wrong woman! Nobody! You may should not have married her, but you are not married to the wrong woman, for when you took those vows she became the right woman for you. Are you listening to me? This fellow said, “I am married to the wrong woman. I married the wrong woman! What can I do?” And I said, “You can do what God commanded you to do, you can love her like Jesus loved the Church.” That's what you can do. So you're stuck. Think what a mess she's in (laughter).
All I'm saying is this, the great Jeremiah faced something that nobody in the Bible ever faced before or since. Now Isaiah got to the place to where he joined Jeremiah in his lamentation, but there was a time in his ministry when there was hopes for the people of God, and he was preaching for them to get right with God so deliverance could come; but Jeremiah, not so, he was not going to pastor the largest church in the world, he was not going to preach to a great crowd of people saying “amen,” nobody was going to give him a 40th anniversary celebration, nobody's going to say “I love you preacher,” no notes under the door, no birthday celebration. He was going to have to preach to a people who would not listen. And Jeremiah said, “I'm gonna quit preaching! I'm not going to mention His name anymore!” And then Jeremiah got out there in the woods and he said, “I may as well face it, this is what I've got to face in life. It's not going to wreck my life. I'm facing it. It's inescapable!”
Accept your failures. You can't run away from 'em. Accept the suffering that you're having to endure because of your failures and your sins. Accept it! Accept the punishment that you're enduring. The inevitable punishment of mistakes that you've made in the past. Accept it! You can't do anything about it! You can't undo yesterday. You can't relive yesterday. But bless God you can live today.
Don't despair. So you messed up! I wish you hadn't of. So you didn't listen to the preacher when he stood up here waving his hands and warned you... don't do it! Don't do it! Don't do it it! But you did it! Divorce has come. Unwanted maybe. Your life is all mixed up. You're not one of those young people or adults that grew up in this church and became exactly what we had in mind. Ok, so you've messed up. So you've been on the bottle. And so you've rustled unholy skirts. So you have. Look it square in the eyeball and say, “I can't undo it. Here I am. And it's not going to wreck the rest of my life.”
You've heard this old story. But it's such a good illustration of what I'm trying to say. I used to play golf. I quit playing golf in 1967. But I used to play golf. In Texas I played every Monday morning at 5 o'clock in the morning. I played every Monday morning. I was back in the office by nine. I shot in the seventies, sometimes the eighties. When it got past a hundred it was too hot to play and so I wouldn't play anymore (laughter). But I used to play golf. But here's my problem. When I'd have a bad hole I couldn't forget about it.
I was playing Tenison Park Golf Course in Dallas, Texas. And about 7 o'clock in the morning I was on about hole number nine. Now I was a bogey golfer, which means my average game was one over par on every hole. I shot about 90. My best score was 80. Twice I shots 80's (and I also shot 180). But uh, but I shot number nine. And then a good motto—nine on nine, par four hole, took a nine. I said some words, I don't know what I... I talked in tongues... dirty, bric-a-brac@#$%^&*%!!! I teed up for number ten. I was thinking about number nine. Why did I try to drive that creek? Why did I lay up on the other side of that creek? Why didn't I use an iron there instead of a tool? ... I can't unshoot that nine. So I took my club on number ten, thinking about number nine, and I missed the ball totally. Totally! It made me so mad, I took the club and hit the ball coming that way. It went a hundred yards that way (the wrong way). And there I was a hundred yards farther than I was... I was shootin' coo a hundred yards farther than I was.
And every golfer here knows what I'm talking about. Now the best thing to do is say, “I can't do a single thing about that number nine. I took a nine on nine, but I'll make a hole-in-one on ten!” Now, that's the trouble with your life. You are letting the inevitables of life destroy you. The inescapables of life are destroying you. And it almost destroyed poor Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. He said, “Why couldn't I have had results like others did? Why couldn't I have given people a hope in saying that if you get right with God, God will bless you and peace will come, and destruction will be avoided? Why couldn't I do that?”
Sorry Jeremiah, but God has raised you up for a particular purpose, and that purpose is to lament. And then these people when they're in suffering, they need a pastor to comfort them, and help them, and let them know that though they're suffering, there's still a God in Heaven, and that the suffering is only for a season, and that relief is on the way.” Jeremiah that's the job you have. Alright, you have one eye. You have Elaine (laughter). I'd rather have one eye myself. You have one arm. I'm 73. And everybody in this room would like to change seats if you could.
Let that little stewardess that preached to me, preach through me for a moment. You, like I was, on the flight from San Francisco to Chicago in seat 4A. You are there, and there's no other seat you can sit in. It's God's chosen seat for you from here-on-end. It may be that you messed up your life. Ok, forget it. Hey, I've got news for you, God's forgotten it. Forget your sins, and don't remind God of them, He's forgotten 'em. Accept your allotted seat. Accept the portion that you have to take. And accept the inevitabilities of your life.
Look, he left you. He's married to somebody else. Don't let that ruin your life. Look at it square in the eyeball and say, “Goodnight, bad-rubbish, good-riddins!” I'm accepting it. My little mother had to accept the fact that she had two children to rear alone. She had to accept the fact that her first two children were buried side-by-side in the same cemetery. She had to accept the fact that her husband was gone and that he's an alcoholic. And she was left to rear her kids. Accept it! Make peace with your self. Make peace with your circumstances. And make peace with your past sins and your failures. Realize that if you took a nine on hole number nine (a par four hole). Don't let it ruin hole number 10. And don't let yesterday's sins and failures and mistakes, and don't let the circumstances you'd like to change, don't let them wreck your life.
This morning, in closing, right where you are, you just look at the thing in your life that you can't change—that's causing you to fret, worry and stew—and listen to the sermon of a little, white, little stewardess who said, “Mr. Hyles, you've got one choice of two: you've got to sit in seat 4A. You can sit there and complain and gripe, and have a miserable trip; or you can accept the fact that you've got to sit there and enjoy your trip.” I'll never forget it. I got off the airplane, Brother Jack, and I gave her a $5 bill. She said, “Mr. Hyles what's that for?” I said, “We always take offerings at preaching” (laughter). And I thanked her for ther sermon. You'll thank me some day for this one, if you'll do what Jeremiah did. It's not wrong to be tempted to run, but it's wrong not to sooner or later face the fact that this is your seat, and this is your lot in life, and you've got to make the best of it.
Would you bow your heads please.
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