Even When You Look Like a Fool….

From first through fifth grade, I grew up in Upstate New York. My father was the senior minister of the Cortland Valley Church of Christ, a church plant in the center of a town of 30,000 people, in the center of apple country, in the geographical center of the state of New York. As a young kid in the Northeast, I experienced a lot of things that kids in the Midwest and Southeast of the US wouldn’t for several years to come. By the time I hit 5th grade, I had met prostitutes and drug dealers, and several of the kids I went to school with were atheists. I knew every curse word on the planet in great detail and how to use them with pinpoint accuracy when needed. I had been in my fair share of fights on the playground and learned not to back down from confrontations. For a kid in the early 80s, I had seen a lot already. Through all of it, though, I never lost my faith in God. I questioned it at times, but I never lost it.

One day on the playground, my friend Jamie and I got into a conversation about where you go when you die. Of course, I said that people who follow Jesus will go to Heaven, and people who don’t will go to hell. Every good Christian kid would say that. What I wasn’t ready for was Jamie’s response. He simply looked at me and said, “When you die, you don’t go anywhere. Your body rots in the ground. There is no God.” At that point, my other friends who were standing there nodded in agreement. Suddenly, I was the minority. I didn’t back down from my beliefs, but the rest of the kids thought I was stupid for believing what I did. The world I was living in was depraved, and that depravity was due to a lack of God’s influence in the lives of the people… including the children. I looked like a fool to them. 

My story isn’t entirely different than that of Noah. 

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Genesis 6:5–8

The earth still wasn’t very old, but man had already messed up what God had created for perfection. Sin had become the norm and celebrated. All forms of corruption had made its way into the hearts of man. The earth desperately needed a reboot. This is where Noah comes in. 

Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
Genesis 6:9

While the rest of the world was falling apart, there was Noah. Noah lived differently. He raised his children differently. He didn’t fall for Satan’s schemes and just do whatever his sinful nature wanted. He walked with God. He lived a life that was counter-cultural and only longed to please God, not man. He lived a life of faith. What happened next helped define that faith.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female.
Genesis 6:14–19

At this point, to our knowledge, we don’t know if it had ever rained on the earth. God was telling Noah that He was going to send rain, not just a thunderstorm, but 40 straight days of releasing the heavens onto the earth and flooding the entire planet. Everything and everyone would die unless they were on Noah’s ark. Imagine being a bystander and seeing some guy building a 440-foot boat with only one door in the middle of dry ground. That’s a ship more than half the length of the Titanic and larger than a Boeing 747. This wasn’t some fishing boat. People had to wonder if Noah had lost it, and he was building this at the ripe, young age of 600! Imagine the conversations people were having at the time about “Crazy Old Noah” and his boat of impending doom. This didn’t deter Noah, though. 

In spite of the criticism he most definitely would’ve been receiving, Noah continued on. God had told him to build it, so he built it, and his faith was rewarded.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
Genesis 7:11–12

You have to wonder what it was like for Noah to have to listen to the ridicule of the people around him, the mocking that was sure to take place as he did what his God called him to do. He wasn’t deterred, and his faith saved him. How many of us, when confronted with spiritual opposition, crumble into silence? How many of us decide it’s better to “not rock the boat” instead of standing up for what we believe? If there’s one thing we can gain from the story of Moses, I hope we can understand that God rewards the faithful… even when you look like a fool. 

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