Summary: Noah demonstrates the faith of someone willing to stand for God even it means standing alone.
Standing Alone for God
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Nobody likes to be the only one! No one wants to be different. Teenagers don’t! Senior citizens don’t! I am sure Noah didn’t.
Psychology books are filled with studies that demonstrate the power of peer pressure. One classic study involved a classroom of teenagers. On the board in the front of the class were three charts with a series of lines of varying lengths on each. The teacher instructed the students to each raise his or her hand when he pointed to the longest line on each chart. What one student didn’t know was that the other nine had been instructed ahead of time to raise their hands for the next to the longest line. When the teacher pointed to the shorter line and nine students raised their hands choosing it as the longest line, the lone student would glance around, put his or her head down, and most of the time reluctantly raise his hand, even though it was obviously the wrong choice. The same result happened about seventy-five percent of the time. It was the same with young children or other teenagers.
Nobody wants to be the only one! Parents have all heard their teenagers say, “But every body’s doing it?” And we’ve said back, “I don’t care if everyone is doing it. You’re not.” Or the ultimate come back, “If everybody was jumping off a cliff, would you?” Advertising, media fads, fashion—all count on the fact that everybody wants to fit in. No one wants to stand alone.
None of us are exceptions. We like to think peer pressure only affects the young. We know better. How many times have some of us been in a restaurant with a group? Our normal pattern is to pray before meals. When the food comes, we look around to see what everyone else is doing. Everybody else digs right in. So we do too.
The conversation at work turns to a subject you are uncomfortable with. Perhaps an off-color joke, maybe just a bit of salacious gossip or a topic with some moral or spiritual undertones. You don’t like it. You couldn’t disagree more. Or an opportunity to talk about your faith develops. The door is wide open. You know you should speak up. Standing against the odds is never easy.
When we think of Noah, our mind quickly jumps to images of the flood, a ship packed with animals, or the rainbow of promise. Actually about right now, forty days and forty nights of rain doesn’t sound half bad. But there is more to the story of Noah. The biggest lesson comes at the beginning story—the lessons of a man who stood alone for God.
Noah lived in dark times. That’s the whole point of the beginning of Genesis 6. Wickedness had grown to the point of no return. Every inclination of men’s hearts was toward ever increasing violence and injustice. A plague of evil spread from home to home and heart to heart.
It is not easy to hold your ground when everyone around you is drifting with the tide. It wasn’t for Noah. The pressure of popular opinion has a downward pull on our convictions and values. It is like the dangerous rip tides along the ocean that life guards warn against. An invisible undercurrent can pull even the best of swimmers farther and farther from shore before they even realize what’s happening.
The old illustration still pictures it best. Supposedly (I have never tried it, mind you), you can take a frog, drop it into a pan of hot water, and it will immediately react to the liquid and jump out. But you can take that same frog, drop it into a pan of tepid water, gradually turn up the heat, and the frog will sit there. In theory at least, you can boil the frog alive if you turn the heat up gradually enough. It slowly adapts and accepts the temperature change until it’s too late.
That’s what has happened to many of us, isn’t it? Those of you who are over 50, think of all the changes that you have experienced in your lifetimes. Take something as obvious as television programming or movies. Who would have imagined that the standards could have changed as much in the last thirty or forty years as they have? If it had happened all at once, most folk would have screamed bloody murder. You would have been shocked and offended beyond measure. And rightfully so! Many of you would have permanently turned off the television and never went to a movie again. But it didn’t change all at once. It just seems like it now. Gradually, bit by bit, the level of decency and morality eroded. Sometimes we noticed. Often we didn’t! Because it happened so slowly, we conformed. Now many of us accept and watch things that would have once angered us without even blushing.