#179 (01/05/05)
Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow - The God I Believe In

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

The world renowned Irish tenor, Ronan Tynan. Ronan was invited by Nancy Reagan to offer the consolation of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan where an international TV audience of more than thirty-five million people heard him sing “Amazing Grace,” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” If you’re a fan of the New York Yankees, you have heard him sing the unforgettable performances of “God Bless America.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Rejoice, The Lord is King "
"Christ Be Beside Me"

" Crown Him With Many Crowns "
“ Blessed are They ”

RONAN TYNAN - "How Great Thou Art"
RONAN TYNAN – “Amazing Grace”

The Message

This year is so unusual that it causes me to do some deeper thinking. On this 50th anniversary of the beginning of our ministry in Garden Grove, I find myself almost every night waking up about 2 or 3 o'clock and then spending an hour, at least, alone in quiet prayer. It is the most beautiful time to pray because I know I'm protected from uninvited pressure producing interruptions, and the telephone will not ring.

And one night, a few nights ago, I was praying for God to help me to understand myself so that I will use my strengths and improve upon my weaknesses so I will not do damage to the ministry God has given me. As I was praying, I was reminded of the first sermon I preached when I was a theological student over fifty-five years ago. It was assigned to me by the professor of homiletics, which is the teaching of preaching. He was a good teacher. (I don't blame him for my failures, but if I have strengths, he deserves the credit.) "Schuller, for your first sermon," he said, "I assign you to preach on Hebrews 11:6." Well, I opened my Bible to Hebrews 11, studied the chapter and I delivered my first sermon on The God I Believe In. For over fifty years, it has been coming back to me, unsolicited, from my memory system and I want to share that message with you today. St. Paul is believed to be the writer of these powerful words that have for so many years impacted my faith.

"Now faith is the substance of things
hoped for, the evidence

of things not seen ...(that means proof)
... Without faith, it is
impossible to please God ..."

(That・s what sin is. Sin is not trusting,
not believing in yourself, in others
and most importantly in God.) and ...
... For he who comes to God must believe that God is:
and that He is a rewarder of those who
diligently seek Him."

(Hebrews 11:1-6)

These words became the keystone of my ministry since that time when I was only twenty-three years old. Now, what does this church believe? What have we been focusing on in these fifty years in this place? What do you believe? I want to give you four statements to explain my own personal belief. It is my testimony.

I Believe:

(1) There is Something out there

There is Something out there. I received another note this week from Antony Flew, who is probably the most profound atheist in the world and whose books have been penetrating the hearts of professors of the universities at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale - you name them. He is the most prolific promoter of atheism in this century. And now, not long ago, he was converted to believe in a Creative Intelligence in the planning of the universe. I had sent him a copy of my book, "Don't Throw Away Tomorrow" which covers what I am speaking about today. I believe there is Something out there. There is a Supreme Intelligence. There is an intelligent design. Yes, it is from science that Antony Flew became a believer, not from scripture, not from the church, so last year he said publicly, "I have to say there is something out there, an Intelligent Designer."

I entered the ministry studying the science of psychology, the study of the human being. I believe there is something out there. I see it in science and I see it in the human spirit. You cannot explain the human personality and deny that there is a creative intelligence within you. And I see it in scripture. The Bible has been abused so much, misused, rejected, abandoned, or misinterpreted. It has become, for some, a tragic basis for superstition. What do I believe about the Bible? It is a historic context that tells the story of great people who believed and experienced God in their daily lives, two thousand years ago. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, because God speaks to us from this book and it tells the story of intelligent people who all came to the same conclusion: There is a God! Never before has a book been put together that tells the great stories of such faith. If you don・t believe in God, you would have to believe that all of these people fabricated their stories. And that would be a most irresponsible, negative judgment. Wow! There is something out there

I Believe:

(2) God is compassionate, kind and loving

What do I believe? That this Supreme Intelligence is a compassionate, kind and loving God. That comes through loud and clear. When you focus on the positive you see this kind of a God. If you look for the negative, you can build a case for a negative God and then you can easily become an agnostic or atheist, especially if you conclude that God plans the tsunamis and the horrible tragedies. If you judge the world・s catastrophes with a negative perspective, you'll say there cannot be a God when these bad things happen. The only way God could keep bad things from happening would be to turn every human being into a puppet with God pushing all the buttons. Then we are no longer human beings. Then we are glorified computers. We have no will. We have no choice. We can't make decisions. We cannot make mistakes. But then we are not people. But you say the church teaches that God is omnipotent, all powerful. If God is sovereign, then surely He can prevent tragedy. The only way God can prevent tragedy is to remove from us our freedom to think for ourselves. And then we become the kind of creatures that don・t bring much honor to Him.

If you have a son or a daughter and you were able to program that brain of your child so that they could never do anything but what you taught them, it would be a tragedy. There needs to be freedom of will. What then does "sovereign" and "omnipotent" mean? It means that God deals with us and when we sin, or we make mistakes, that is never the end. Omnipotence means that God will have the last word and it will be good. A lot of bad stuff will happen between the first word and the last word because we are humans and we are sinful. But the Good News is that God will have the last word and it will be good. Meanwhile ...

I Believe:

(3) God leads, guides and directs me

I had the privilege of being mentored in my lifetime by the greatest psychiatrist in history, Viktor Frankl. I saw him shortly before he died in Vienna at the age of 92. Through the years, he spent hours with me here in the Crystal Cathedral and in my office. Our last visit was three hours long, when we talked very deeply. He was a Jew by birth, a devout believer in God. I・ll never forget an experience he shared with me. He said Hitler was gathering all the Jews and putting them in concentration camps and in the ovens. His parents feared that would be their destiny. One day his father came to Viktor, who was a very successful psychiatrist, practicing with a couple of other doctors, and said, "I just heard Columbia University is looking for a professor of psychology. Viktor, you would qualify. Apply for it, if you are accepted you can get out of this country, and if you don't you probably won't live." Nobody could get out of Austria, but if Viktor got an invitation to teach at Columbia, in America, the officials might let him go.

So Viktor Frankl applied. Some time later he greeted his colleagues, the other doctors, and said, "I'm going to the post office to see if there is anything there." By then he was wearing the yellow star which Jews had to wear all the time in public so that everybody would know if you were a Jew. He walked to the post office and there was a letter from Columbia University. What would they say V rejection or acceptance? He tore it open and read it ... they accepted him, inviting him to come and teach at Columbia University in the United States of America at the height of the Holocaust! He was ecstatic, but before he reached his office, this is what went through his brain. What will I do about my father and my mother? Can I leave them here alone? What will happen to them if I・m not here? What should I do? The questions burned in his consciousness and then, in only a few steps, he was in his office and another colleague, a doctor, excitedly came to Viktor carrying something in his hands. He said, "Viktor, this morning, walking here to the office I passed the bombed out synagogue and I found this one piece of marble. Look, it is the capital letter of one of the commandments. It・s the capital letter of the commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.・" And he gave that broken piece of the commandment, etched in Hebrew. to Viktor and Viktor wept, "It was a hint from heaven," he said to me. God was answering his prayer. His father and mother and his family all were killed in the Holocaust. Viktor miraculously survived the concentration camp, but his wife and children also perished in the Holocaust.

(1) There is Something out there! The Bible calls this somebody God. Wow! What kind of a God do I believe in? (2) I believe that God is a kind, loving and compassionate God who listens to us. And (3) I believe that this God leads us, He guides us.

Yes, I believe that God guides us through intuition. In my book, "Don・t Throw Away Tomorrow" I share a powerful true story about the guidance of God through intuition.

I tell about a doctor, Dr. Bingham, who walked through her hospital corridor one day and saw a lady on a gurney who was not her patient. But Dr. Bingham stopped, looked at her carefully, then she looked at the chart to see what procedure was going to be performed. It was for some minor surgery, but there was going to be anesthesia. Suddenly she had an impulse. The impulse was to check her for a very unusual disease. In a quick examination, she diagnosed the patient as having a heart condition that could cause serious complications if the person was anesthetized. Bingham alerted the surgeon who canceled the operation to further evaluate the patient. Tests confirmed that the patient did, in fact, have the dangerous condition. The amazed surgeon asked Dr. Bingham why she had suspected that disorder. The family practitioner said, "It was just a hunch, just a hunch." Wow! Dr. Bingham, also a teacher in medical school, today teaches her students, "If you have a hunch, don・t ignore it. If you have an inexplicable intuition, pay attention to it." It could be "a hint from heaven."

That・s the kind of God I believe in. And this God has given me hints and hunches and, I・m sure that you, also, have had similar experiences. Yes. God is merciful, loving, sovereign and omnipotent.

I Believe:

(4) Jesus makes God real to me

Question, how does Jesus fit in the whole picture? When people find it difficult to keep their faith in God alive and have so many questions which they don・t know how to handle, I tell them to focus on Jesus. That・s what I do. I focus on Jesus. No human being ever had the perceptive insight into human personality like Jesus did. No person ever lived out the God within, like Jesus did. He was part of the Holy Trinity. He was God coming to earth to show us what God is like. Don・t be confused about teachings about God. Just focus on Jesus. What a difference He can make in your life.

My grandson, Scott, send me this wonderful little story the other day. I believe he read it in a newspaper. A little boy in Florida jumped in a pond near his home to go swimming. When his father came out, he saw that the little boy unknowingly was swimming right into the path of a huge alligator. The father yelled at his son, "There is an alligator, come back!" The son heard his dad, turned around and quickly swam back to the shore where his father was waiting, but not in time. Just as the father reached out, grabbed the arms of his son, the alligator grabbed hold of the boy・s legs in his jaws. The father pulled the boy with all his might while the alligator was pulling him by the legs. It was a bloody scene. Finally, the alligator let go and the boy was rushed to the hospital. He spent a long time recovering there. Later, a newspaper reporter came to do a special story on him. The reporter asked, "Can I see your scars? What kind of scars does an alligator leave?" And the little boy said, "Sure," and he lifted the bed sheet and his legs were all scared. The reporter was consoling him, when the little boy said, "But I got other scars too. You should see them too." And he pulled his arms from underneath the blanket and his arms were also scarred. He said, "My daddy gave these to me. He pulled so hard that his fingernails cut deep into my skin. These are the scars from my daddy. He would not let go of me!"

That・s the kind of God I believe in.

God will not let go!

We get into accidents, injuries, struggles, but God grabs hold and He will not let go. How can I believe in that kind of a God? Because of Jesus, He made it happen. Now some of you have never even met Jesus Christ. You don・t really know much about him. Not too long ago, I went into a TCBY store. A nice high school senior was serving me and I ordered a cone (non-fat, low calorie). I don・t know how it happened, but I dropped the name Billy Graham and he said to me, "Who・s that?"

I said, "You never heard of Billy Graham?"

He said, "No, I heard of Billy Crystal."

I couldn・t believe it. I said, "Have you ever heard of the Pope?"

"Yeah, I・ve heard of the Pope. Is his name Billy Graham?"

"No ... so have you ever heard of Jesus?"

He said, "No, who・s Jesus?"

Here is a high school senior who had no idea who Jesus Christ was. This young man is a senior in a great school here in Orange County, California, in this century. Many young people today are not taught about Jesus. They might pick up a book that fictionalizes something about Jesus that they believe is true, but it・s not true at all. It does great damage, giving false pathetic impressions.

Meet Jesus Christ in the Bible. Go to a Bible study group. Go to a church and meet people who believe in Jesus. When you meet Jesus Christ, He will grab hold of you and He will never let you go.

When you meet Jesus, You will look at Him and say, "Jesus, You had me when You said, hello.・"

Let us pray: Thank you God, this is Your church, these are Your people. This is Your work. You are telling the world that You are there and that You love us, You guide us, You are omnipotent. Thank you for sending Jesus, Your Son, into the world to save us. O God, what a difference You make in our life. Amen.

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