Thursday, March 12, 2009

Terry Sedlacek and Bernie Madoff, Meet Fred Winters

We have seen so much evil this past week. On Sunday, March 8, Terry Sedlacek walked into the early worship service at First Baptist Church, Maryville, Illinois, and shot to death pastor Fred Winters while Winters was preaching. Police later found that Sedlacek had written on his daily planner that Sunday was “death day.”

On Tuesday, March 10, Michael McClendon, 28, went on a shooting rampage and killed 10 people, including his own mother.

On Wednesday, March 11, Tim Kretschner, 17, shot and killed 15 people, mostly high school students in Winnenden, Germany and then shot himself.

On Thursday, March 12, financial schemer Bernard Madoff was sentenced to life in prison for the largest Ponzi scheme in history, as he cheated thousands of investors out of $65 billion.

How are we to respond to these things?

Psalm 37:1 says, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong.” The Psalmist is not denying the reality of evil; in fact, he admits that evil men may even succeed in their schemes (v. 7), use violence against good people (v. 14), and borrow money without repaying it (v. 21).

Their end, however, will eventually come. Verse 35 says, "I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil." If he stopped there, the psalmist would seem to be saying that the wicked get away with murder. But verse 36 goes on to say, "But he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found." In fact, five times in the psalm he says the wicked will be "cut off," literally "rooted out." (See v. 8, 22, 28, 34, 38.)

Jesus Himself quoted Psalm 37:11, which reminds us that in the end, "the meek will inherit the earth." (See Matthew 5:5).

So how are godly people to respond to evil?

Refrain from fretting. "Do not fret because of evil men... Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-- it only leads to evil." (Psalm 37:1, 8)

Rejoice in fellowship. "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4). If you delight yourself in the things of the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart. This does not mean that you will get anything you ask for selfishly. It means that as you delight in the Lord, your desires become God’s desires.

Rest in the Lord. "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." (Psalm 37:7).

Last Sunday, when Terry Sedlacek entered First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois, he met Pastor Fred Winters face to face as he walked down the aisle, armed with enough ammunition to kill 30 people.

According to observers, Pastor Fred greeted Sedlacek, saying, “Good morning.”

How sad that Sedlacek did not really get to know Pastor Fred. Fred Winters faithfully served that same church for 22 years. He went to Maryville in 1987, when the church only averaged 32 people in attendance. When he died, the church was averaging 1,200 in attendance.

Christians all over the nation are still in shock at the news of this pastor’s murder. We search for words to express our feelings. We wonder how to respond. But in Psalm 37 we find our answer again.

Do not fret or respond in anger over evil. Evil men may seem to win now, but in the end, they will lose!

Delight yourself in the things of the Lord. That is why Fred Winters did all of his life. He spent his life touching others for Jesus Christ. What the world needs is for people like Terry Sedlacek and Bernie Madoff to meet people like Fred Winters now.

You and I cannot change what evil has happened in the past. But we can be a lighthouse for Christ in an evil world today and in the future. We can live faithfully for Christ like Fred Winters did, so that when we meet others, they will see Christ in us.

Trust in the Lord. Rest in God, and know that God will make all things right in the end.

Isn’t that the message of the cross? God took an evil event, the murder of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross, and turned it into payment for our sin.

If God can do that with the evil committed against His own Son, then God can bring good out of the evil that we face in our own time. In fact, God did that last Sunday. You see, Terry Sedlacek had enough ammunition to kill 30 people, but after he shot Fred Winters, his gun jammed, and two members of the church subdued him. Was that an accident that his gun jammed? I don't think so. It's just another reminder that when evil seems to prevail, God is at work. And ultimately, He will make all things right. Trust in the Lord.

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