Today Super Bowl Sunday.
There will be 22 players on the field who desperately need rest... being watched by about 100 million people who could use some exercise.
It's okay that most of us aren't playing that game... we aren't fit for it. But the tragedy is that it can reflect the way we relate to life with God... a few participating but most of us can get sidelined... watching, discussing, criticizing... but not actually playing.
Today we are going to conclude our series... "Joining God in the Present."
God is always at work...engaged in this world...the question is "are we?"
There is a life that is in front of you. Too often we are so focused on the past it's like trying to drive a car using the rear view mirror.... it serve a purpose at times but the windshield is where life is. Sometimes we may not know what is way ahead over the horizon so we pull over and park.
But there is one force at work that will steal as much as any of these...it will tell you that driving is stupid...and you might as well never go anywhere.
It often begins in a difficult disappointment...that wants to detach...and finds comfort in what we know as "cynicism."
If we were to make a list of prevalent attitudes that are destructive to our faith and our joy, somewhere near the top of the list has to be cynicism.
Cynicism can be defined this way:
Cynicism is the loss of trust and support of goodness. Cynicism is the loss of faith in the possibility to change, improve or move forward. Cynicism is the loss of hope.
It is an enemy of life...because it becomes an enemy of life with God. The writer of the Psalms describes this in the very first Psalm.
Psalm 1:1-3 (GW)
Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. 2 Rather, he delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside streams— a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. He succeeds in everything he does.
Blessed means supremely happy or fulfilled.
He begins to flow with the style of Hebrew poetry of contrasting two ways
... capturing two paths that diverge. 
In this first part of he Psalm he is declaring what the blessed life leads to... a fruitful tree.
It describes the man who delights in the law of God and draws his spiritual nourishment from it as a tree that draws its nourishment from an abundantly flowing stream. The land might be quite dry and barren. The winds might be hot. But if the tree is planted by the stream, so that it can sink its roots down and draw nourishment, it will prosper and yield fruit.
But there is a contrast...the one who blessed is the one who does not end up in the place of mockers...in the seat of scoffers.
He describes a progression... beginning with taking advice... being influenced by the attitudes of this world....then joining the path (waits to meet up with them)...then becomes fully given to the position... he becomes one of them... "joins the company of the mockers"....or (as some translations state)... they are "sitting in the seat of scoffers."
Our culture begs such a path.
Most people find that they are more cynical as they get older...more cynical than when they were young.
Now I know that the term "mockers...or scoffers" may seem so strong as to be hard to identify with...but it captures the work of cynicism that can effect us all.
Cynicism is something that we are all vulnerable to.
Have you been affected by the culture of cynicism? If you answer “no’ to that question, I will do my best to believe you... and not be cynical, but I am not sure I’ll be able to pull it off.
• When anyone seems to be really nice...do you think they must be fake...or hiding something?
• When anything becomes popular...do you feel it needs to be criticized?
How many of us may have said:
• "That's just stupid...it can never work."
• "You can NEVER trust a _____ (lawyer, salesman, pastor)."
• “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
• “Life sucks, and then you die.”
• "That's just the way it is." (No. It's not !)
• The world is going to hell." (No it's not ! God is redeeming this world !)
Cynicism is like the cool acceptable cultural drug of choice.... 'everyone's doing it'...and while it seems a little negative... we may feel like fools if we don't try it...and besides maybe we can try it but never really inhale.
What we don't realize is that it's barbiturate of the soul... a depressant... and it will kill the soul over time.
As one author, Scott Sernau, writes:
"Cynicism kills in the manner of frostbite: the only symptom is a deadening numbness. And even Christians are often tinged with this frostbite. Callousness and doubt numb us to life and joy." 
Lets recognize a few marks of cynicism.
1. Cynicism is fundamentally different than basic "doubt."
Critical thinking and questioning is actually part of healthy human development. 
There is a very reasonable dimension to caution, suspicion, and uncertainty.
But that is where cynicism is notably different.... it is not simply rooted in rational.
It is rooted in the heart. You will not find a correlation between intelligence and a cynical spirit.
A critical mind...or critical thinking is NOT the same as a critical spirit or cynical spirit.
Doubt is a matter of understanding. Cynicism is a matter of one's spirit.
The same Psalmist declares their doubts freely... but they do not presume to understand...
Psalm 22:1-4 (NIV)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. 3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. 4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
Normal doubt that reflects the human finiteness...and faith that connects to God.
Doubt is potentially open and seeking. Cynicism is closed and resistant.
You may recall how a man brought his tormented son to Jesus.
Mark 9:21-27 (NIV)
21 Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. 22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." 23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" - Mark 9:24
That is not the cry of cynicism... but of honest doubt that honestly desires to follow God
"I believe. Help me in my unbelief."
He was struggling with what he could not grasp and understand..."I can't grasp it but I want to."
Jesus could meet that heart.... because while God may be frustrated with our expectations to always understand...this man's hearts was open and responsive.
Difference between natural doubt and cynicism is that doubt itself does not reflect a desire not to believe and engage.
Doubt is a natural state of mind in understanding...cynicism is a state of the heart that makes doubt a way of life.
2. Cynicism reflects a false and arrogant position of omniscience
We equate cynicism with ‘being realistic.’ We have this thought that being cynical is what comes from knowing what’s “really going on.”
What it doesn't realize is that it must assume a posture that is arrogant...pride...."It will never work." that is the declaration of knowledge that is divine.
Cynicism basically says it can see through anything. That’s what makes the cynic. The cynic says, “I can see through so-and-so’s motives. She did that so that she could get this.”
Maybe someone comes up with a vision, a dream. And the cynic responds, “That will never work.” Or how about, “She’ll never change.” Really. Excuse me? I didn’t realize I was in the presence of the divine.
When we say that, we are evaluating someone’s actions and basing our evaluation of what the person is doing on the assumption we actually know the person’s motives! You know what you call that? Omniscience. The last time I looked, no one in this room fills the role of Omniscient One. That is the Lord and the Lord alone. So when we say, “Been there, done that,” it is actually an idolatrous statement because you are saying, “I know everything.”
Proverbs 21:24 (GW)
An arrogant, conceited person is called a mocker. His arrogance knows no limits.
Turn to someone next to you and tell them: "There is a God...and you are not them."
Now...this will take a little more challenge....say to yourself, "There is a God...and I am not Him."
3. Cynicism is detachment to avoid the risks of expectation and hope
Cynicism generally begins with disappointment / hurt...that unconsciously decides to check out of hope....hit the sidelines of expectations and care and participation.
False safely....for when the human heart detaches from life it is destined to die.
The sideline critic may seem smart...but they are never actually in the game.
We can hear such a cynical spirit when the 12 spies were sent to survey the promised land...10 said... are you kidding we are like grasshoppers....but 2 declared the promise of God...they were not fools...they were 2 fellow warriors....brave. They weren't stupid...or ignorant... they could count numbers and measure size. They simply were not going to be so quick to decide what was impossible.
> How many of us will never enter a land because we denounce it with a certainty that is rooted in fear... and refuses faith.
And just like the report of those spies...
4. Cynicism spreads; threatened by hope, it will seek to bring others down
Negative people affect the morale of any group...any work group or office... team... any family.
Unconsciously cynicism wants to bring everyone down. Cynics are only happy when everyone else is unhappy. The cynic in us can become irritated by those who are upbeat... even enraged. Cynics prefer that others join in their misery. Why suffer alone when you can get friends to join you? No one wants to be miserable alone.
Cynicism will set itself against those who call forth expectation. Feed some partial or potential truth with the power of exaggeration.
• "Management always lies."
• "The organization doesn't care about you."
• Church is just a bunch of hypocrites.
But God wants us to recognize that we have the power to bless and curse. 
We must let go of our cynicism and join God in hope and faith
Today...for those watching the Super Bowl...when half time comes...it's time to watch a little half-time show.... get some chips and dip....but for those actually playing....it will be a dynamic time in the locker room.
Coaches will give one of he most important half-time speeches of their lives. And especially if one speaking to a team that has had a hard first half...I know what will be central to that discouraged group: "Keep you head in the game. Keep your heart in the game." God knows we may need a halftime... where we stop....and grasp that we need to get our head and heart back in the game.
Faith and hope are not the words of the naive... but of abiding in God.
Remember that we began with the Psalm 1. It's a call for the soul to recognize that those who choose not to join that place of mocking....and abide in God....will be lives that produce fruit....whose leaves never wither.
The person who "delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night. ...is like a tree planted beside streams— a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither." - Psalm 1:2-3
Are we planted.... abiding in God....abiding in faith and hope.
Jesus...who came as the living Word...says this:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit." John 15:5 (ESV)
Where are you abiding?
If I'm not abiding in what God has said... and in the Living Word...Jesus, then where is it that I abide?
Have you found yourself dealing with disappointment by beginning to just invalidate what is good...or hopeful?
"It's never going to change. Who cares? Life is a joke." We may actually feel a little better... because we found a comforter... as we abide in the safe realm of cynicism...... we become checked out of a lot more than we think... we become checked out of life with God.
As one described:
"From this abiding place, I would feel free to use some soul cocaine watching a violent video with maybe a little sexual titillation thrown in, having more alcohol with a meal than I might normally drink things that would allow me to feel better for a little while. I had always thought of these things as just bad habits. I began to see they were much more; they were spiritual abiding places that were my comforters and friends in a very spiritual way."
Brent Curtis and John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997)
We were called to abide in hope...and faith.
Hope is what defines what we have been called into.
Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV)
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
We are called into hope...a living hope...to be a people of hope....because of what God has done.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that we do well to join the Psalmist by making this our creed:
Psalm 71:14 (NIV)
But as for me, I will always have hope.
Today I want to invite you to stop...realize that the game of life is not over.
Consider your life. Have disappointments led you to a loss of trust and support of goodness. Have to detached yourself from faith in the possibility to change, improve or move forward?
Closing Prayer / Ministry
Resources: Phil Strout on Cynicism (December 2012, at Pathway Vineyard Church); Grant MacDonald message "Mountain of Cynicism";
1. "The most striking feature of Hebrew poetry is what is known as parallelism, that is, saying the same thing or a variety of the same thing, in two linked lines. That is what we have here, only in this verse there are three linked lines and there are three parallel terms in each line: set 1, “walk, stand, sit”; set 2, “counsel, way, seat”; and set 3, “wicked, sinners, mockers.”
Because of this common feature of Hebrew poetry, a number of writers are reluctant to see any special progression in these terms. But it is hard to believe that the phrases are not saying that the way of the wicked is downhill and that sinners always go from bad to worse. Certainly Spurgeon thought so. He said, “When men are living in sin they go from bad to worse. At first they merely walk in the counsel of the careless and ungodly, who forget God—the evil is rather practical than habitual—but after that, they become habituated to evil, and they stand in the way of open sinners who willfully violate God’s commandments; and if let alone, they go one step further, and become themselves pestilent teachers and tempters of others, and thus they sit in the seat of the scornful. They have taken their degree in vice, and as true Doctors of Damnation they are installed.”
Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (15–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2. Scott Sernau, Please Don't Squeeze the Christian (InterVarsity Press, 1987), p. 109
3. Regarding the natural place of doubt
There is a fundamental type of doubt that reflects our finite nature. We cannot fully grasp and understand what is beyond us.
As Os Guiness describes,
"The person who has the courage to go back when necessary is the one who goes on in the end."
Going back and reexamining faith guards against coasting through life on the basis of a faith that, though once vital, has grown inauthentic due to it being taken for granted. When an inevitable crisis comes it fails, leaving one disillusioned and alone in the dark with all kinds of duplicitous thoughts. (God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt)
Certainty is an illusion... life will require choosing.
Your life is the ballot you cast.... for God or against him.
Your brain cannot provide the certainty that your betting my life on the truth. My mortality will not provide the luxury of waiting until I know for sure. Once we have been born, trying to put off deciding what to do about God is like jumping off a diving board and trying to put off actually entering the water. (Drawn from "Know Doubt" by John Ortberg, p. 30)
Theologian Leslie Newbigin writes that we live in an age that favors doubt over faith. We often speak of “blind faith” and “honest doubt.” Both faith and doubt can be honest or blind, but we rarely speak of “honest faith” and “blind doubt.” Both doubt and faith are needed, yet it is faith that is more fundamental. Even if I doubt something , I must believe that there are criteria by which it can be judged. I must believe something before I can doubt anything. Doubt is to belief what darkness is to light, what sickness is to health. It is an absence. Sickness may be the absence of health, but health s more than the absence of sickness. So it is with doubt an faith. Doubt is a good servant but a poor master. (Drawn from "Know Doubt" by John Ortberg, p. 31)
4. Regarding the power to bless or curse, note:
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
"The tongue has the power of life and death..."
James 3:10 (NLT)
"....blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth"
5. An additional potential on this theme lies in looking at how the writer of Hebrews calls us to look at the heroes of faith.... as we can imagine how much cynicism must have surrounded Noah, Abraham, and others...but they persevered in faith. It culminates in Jesus who "endured the cross, scorning its shame." (It was used to lead into taking the elements of communion.)
Hebrews 11:1,7-8, 11-12, 22-24,-12:29 (NIV)
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
11 By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
23 By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
6. Another potential part of our call to more faith and less cynicism can involve what we focus on as reflected in Philippians 4:8.
Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
7. Potential football related movie clip: Friday Night Lights" - Keeping Your Head in the Game which can be found at: