- Overcoming Apathy
- Luke 10:25-37
- Lyndol Loyd September 1, 2019
All of us face moments in life when we have to confront obstacles that could slow us down, trip us up, and seek to knock us out of the race. In moments like these, we are faced with a couple of options. We can overcome by finding God’s power for life’s challenges, or we can passively allow life to overwhelm us and take us out.
Such moments come in a whole variety of scenarios:
– It is receiving an unfortunate medical diagnosis that causes your heart to sink.
– It is when your child pushes back against you harder than ever before.
– It is the flashback of your past brought into your present-day in living color.
– It is coming face to face with someone else’s great need and having to decide what are you going to do about it.
Facing obstacles in everyday life isn’t unique to any one of us. Obstacles are no respecter of persons. Obstacles come into our lives irrespective of age, race, or net worth. In moments like these, we must realize there is a way to overcome our troubles and meet adversity with courage instead of being ruled by our difficult or challenging circumstances.
Let’s be perfectly clear about something, Jesus said that we would face trouble in this life, but that was not the end of the story. He finished by saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We don’t have to cave in. We don’t have to give up. Jesus wants us to know that He has overcome the adversities of this world and that He can teach us to become overcomers as well. He offers hope, help, and strength to overcome whatever we might be facing today. That is exactly why we have been spending time in our current message series, “Overcome.”
We have looked at topics such as overcoming adversity, overcoming sorrow, and overcoming fear. Today we wrap up with “Overcoming Apathy.”
Back when I was a college student, I remember hearing a story about a 10-year-old little boy who went to the beach the morning after a huge tropical storm had passed through. There were thousands upon thousands of starfish lying on the shore, dying. This little kid felt bad for the helpless starfish lying on the shore so one by one, he was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean.
A practical, cynical older gentleman came along and saw this little guy doing all he could to save a few starfish. He said to the boy, “Do you really think you are going to make a difference with all of these thousands, upon thousands of starfish? Do you really think you are going to make a difference at all?”
The little kid happened to be holding a starfish at that moment. He held it up and responded, “Well, I’m pretty sure I am making a difference for this one.” With that, he hurled the starfish back into the safety of the water. The old man began to join him in his efforts.
Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation to the old man? Perhaps you’ve wondered to yourself, “What difference could my simple contribution make? Does it really matter if I do anything or not? What difference could one person possibly make?”
This morning we want to focus our attention upon the idea of overcoming apathy in our lives. We might not want to admit it, but this is a topic that impacts all of us. In our society, there is an internal pull toward a self-centered, apathetic, unconcerned lifestyle that touches all of us.
Jesus once told a story that goes right toward this internal struggle that so many of us deal with; it is found in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus answers a question that one of the religious leaders of His day posed to Him and then He goes one step further by offering a story that makes the point about why we have to overcome apathy in our lives.
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’”
In this story of the Good Samaritan, we see two veteran religious leaders walk past a person in obvious need. They seem to have cold hearts, cloudy minds, and a frightening ability to keep their hands in their pockets. Jesus reminds us that it is quite possible to be very religious and yet be devoid of even normal levels of human compassion.
Jesus pulls back the veil on a dirty little secret that a lot of people don’t want to discuss. Here it is: Much that goes on in the name of Jesus Christ has little to do with Him at all.
- Some people do things for self-righteous reasons.
- Some people do religion for power and control reasons.
- Some people do religion out of an attempt to get rid of guilt and shame.
The point Jesus is making, as He tells the story of the Good Samaritan, is that for a heart to be deeply touched by human suffering, it must first be opened up and filled with the love of Christ. When this takes place, that is when the frost of apathy begins to melt for us.
Think about this story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told for just a moment. It is a story of a Jewish traveler who is traveling inside Jewish territory when he gets mugged, beaten, robbed, and left half-dead along the side of a well-traveled road.
A religious leader is about a half-mile away, walking toward the beaten and bloodied traveler. This would seem like good news, help is on the way. But we know what happens next. The prominent religious leader veers off the path so he doesn’t have to get too close to the wounded traveler. With an apathetic heart, he walks around the accident scene and keeps moving down the road.
The situation is only compounded when another key religious leader from the community does the exact same thing as the first guy. The crowd listening to this story must have been absolutely amazed by what they were hearing. Is there no one who cares about this beaten traveler?
Jesus tells about one more traveler who approaches the scene. He is a bit of a long shot because he is the Samaritan. This was an ethnic group that was hated by the Jews. The Samaritans were half breeds. They had Jewish blood running through them, but it was considered tainted by intermarriage with people of pagan nations.
But the Samaritan stops, he helps, he offers his resources, and he models care and concern. He has discovered the antidote to apathy. This is a story that contrasts vivid pictures of apathy with those of compassion.
Some of us have hearts that are working fine, but we fall back into apathy once in a while because of the sheer magnitude of the problems in our world. The statistics short-circuit our brains. We look at pictures of millions of starving people and feel our measly twenty dollars of discretionary money won’t make a difference.
We need to let the Holy Spirit soften our heart and help us feel for the needs of others. This is the beginning of overcoming apathy.
Allowing your heart to be broken is the first step, but it’s not enough. If you stop there, you might feel badly or shed a few tears, but nothing happens. Next, you need to use your head to create a strategy for making a difference.
The Good Samaritan had a clear plan of action in mind that would help the injured man with his immediate and ongoing needs. The boy with a tender heart for starfish planned to throw as many back into the water as his little hands could carry. We need to make clear plans if we want to overcome apathy.
It takes mental discipline and intellectual tenacity to remember that assistance to one person can change the world for that one person. We must remind ourselves, “I don’t have to change the whole world, but I can help one person. I can have an impact on one situation. I can make a life-changing difference in one life at a time.”
When you allow yourself to get close to those who are hurting and suffering, your apathy begins to erode. Suddenly, your heart becomes tender, and you begin to feel, to hurt, and to care. Next, you use your head to strategize how you can make a difference. But tender hearts and good intentions aren’t enough. You need to move into action with your hands.
The Good Samaritan paid a price when he stopped to help a bloody, broken traveler on the road. It cost him time, energy, physical strength, and money out of his pocket.
He got his hands dirty and probably ended up with some blood on his robe. The little boy along the seashore threw starfish back into the ocean until his little fingers were raw and his arms were sore.
The final blow to apathy is always action. When our hands are busy helping heal the hurts of others, we no longer have time to be apathetic.
In the parable, the Good Samaritan did at least two things with his hands:
- He bandaged up the wounds of the victim and
- he wrote a blank check.
Both of these things were critically important.
When we get our hands dirty – when we are actually physically involved – we deal a death blow to apathy. It is difficult to remain hard-hearted when you are helping dig a hole, swinging a hammer, using a shovel, feeding the hungry, helping the hurting, bandaging someone’s wounds, using your financial means to assist, or living in the trenches with those in need. We have to consider our ability to see the needs of people who are around us.
If Jesus was here in the flesh today and we went with Him out into the community around Lubbock, I believe that he would look upon many people and see them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. I believe Jesus would look out upon the endless array of new rooftops that keep popping up and say, “The fields are white unto the harvest so pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers for the harvest.” I believe Jesus would challenge us to live as people who know what it is to experience the love of God and put that same love into action.
I have some questions for us this morning:
- How have you been giving God your heart, head, and hands this past week?
- Have you seen the needs of others around you?
- If so, have you crossed the road to help or have you walked on by?
Author, Max Lucado, in his very first book, On the Anvil, writes a brief chapter called the “Makings of a Movement.” I think it strikes at the heart of what a life of faithfulness, service, and courage is all about. It reads as the antithesis of apathy.
Each of us should lead a life stirring enough to start a movement. We should yearn to change the world. We should love unquenchably, dream unfalteringly and work unceasingly. We should close our ears to the manifold voices of compromise and perch ourselves on the branch of truth. We should champion the value of people, proclaim the forgiveness of God and claim the promise of heaven. And we should lead a life stirring enough to cause a movement.
I believe that is a picture of what it looks like to overcome apathy.
After Jesus finished telling the story of the Good Samaritan, He looked at the religious leader who had asked him a question, and He asked him a simple question in return, “‘36 Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ Jesus asked. 37 The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’”