Calvary Road Baptist Church




There are times in the lives of Christians when we feel sorry for ourselves, when we gaze down at that which is directly in front of us, and take no thought of that which lies before us over the horizon. Discouragement, despondency, call it what you will. It happens to every one of us from time to time.

Though he was a wonderful president, and our nation does surely miss him, there is no hard evidence that Ronald Reagan had any more than a passing acquaintance with Christianity. That said, his unbridled optimism in the face of great challenges frequently put many Christians to shame. Where did his bright outlook on the future come from? Whether his optimism came from the Bible or he simply used the Bible to justify his personal choice to be hopeful, he frequently cited Psalm 121.1, one of those many verses in God’s Word which so wonderfully lifts the spirits of God’s children: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” That is the way Christians ought to think.

Is it not a great irony, perhaps proving that God does have a wonderful sense of humor after all, to note that though Christians have hope and the unsaved have none, it frequently seems that the wicked are happy and the saints are sad? Things get turned completely around from the way they ought to be, with lost people actually thinking they are better off and many professing Christians imagining that they are worse off. Romans 8.28 speaks of God’s providence on our behalf, does it not? “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Contrarily, there is nothing in God’s Word that guarantees that all things, much less anything, works together to accomplish any good for those who refuse God’s Son and reject the gospel. After all, Psalm 103.19 declares about Jehovah that, “his kingdom ruleth over all.” This, of course, speaks of God’s providence, which I define as the unseen hand of the invisible God that works behind the scenes in the affairs of men to accomplish His will.

Thus, the events that take place in this world are not governed by the counsels of men, much less by the stars and the planets (to the chagrin of astrologers), but by divine providence. Puritan Thomas Watson, who has greatly blessed me in this regard, writes that “there are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, God’s determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events.”[2] Therefore, that which some people believe to be coincidence, and others think are the workings of chance or probability, are nothing else but the result of God’s providence. What does that mean for the Christian? It means that God rules over all and always has in mind the best end for His children.

Consider this with respect to the afflictions of life, which are meaningless and irrational occurrences to the unsaved, but have profound significance for the child of God. What a marvelous situation the Christian always finds himself in. Take, for instance, when the believer dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything works together for his good. Every affliction serves the Christian well in some way. After all, what hurt does the fire to gold? It only purifies it. What hurt does the fan to the wheat or barley? It only separates it from the chaff. As well, consider that God only uses His staff to beat out the dust.

Affliction is useful to God in doing for the believer what the Word of God many times does not do, it opens the Christian’s ear to discipline, and it commands us to return from iniquity.[3] After all, it is when God puts a man on his back that he is most inclined to look toward heaven, and when He drives a man to his knees that he is most likely to pray. One metaphor for affliction likens us to that which sends forth our sweetest smell when we are pounded and broken by afflictions sent by God. Another metaphor likens us to a piece of iron that must plunged into the fire to be softened, then hammered by the blacksmith to be formed, before being plunged into the fire again to begin the cycle anew. This affliction and hammering work is to soften us, and then to shape us for usefulness. As well, it is the hammering during the affliction that makes the iron stronger and more durable.

I could go on and on with more illustrations of the profound benefit of affliction. However, I think God is sending our nation through a time when the affliction brought on by economic hardships will not only prove beneficial for God’s people, but will also humble some unsaved to make them more receptive to the gospel. Such is not the case with the wicked, however. All things do not work together for good for those who hate God, for those who refuse Christ, and for those who reject the notion that they submit to their Creator. They want to go their own way, to forge their own path, to exercise their autonomy.

If things work together for good to them who love God, have you noticed how even good things work together for hurt to them who are wicked? Riches and prosperity are not benefits to them, but snares. They do not grow more humble with material goods, but more haughty and arrogant in their feelings of self-sufficiency. Paul reminded Timothy of it in First Timothy 6.9-10: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Oh, the miserable condition of wicked men. However, their misery is not only the result of the hurt brought on by material things. Even spiritual good things work for hurt to the wicked.

Consider these four spiritual blessings to Christians which are hurtful to the wicked:




The same wind that blows one ship to the safe haven, blows another ship upon a rock. The same breath in the ministry that blows a godly man to heaven, blows a profane sinner to Hell. They who come preaching the Word of life in their mouths to the elect, are to those who are not elect only men announcing judgment and condemnation.

Remember what God said to Isaiah, in the year that King Uzziah died, when he saw the LORD high and lifted up, and when God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” and he responded by saying, “Here am I; send me.”[4] God then said, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”[5]

Don’t you see? Isaiah was sent to preach his nation’s funeral sermon. Thereby, we see that wicked men are worse for preaching. “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly,” Amos 5.10. Sinners only grow more resolved in their sin when they hear strong preaching. Let God say what He will through God’s man, they will still do what they want to do.

Consider Jeremiah’s experience: “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.”[6] No matter that he spoke to them in the name of the LORD. They knew that, but they still refused to hearken to the words he preached. God have mercy on those who stay as far away from the preacher as they can, and stop their ears from hearing what he declares from God’s Word.

First Kings 22.7-8 is yet another example that illustrates this principle:


7      And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?

8      And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.


The Word preached to the wicked is not healing, but hardening. When Peter preached a Spirit-filled sermon on the Day of Pentecost, 3000 were saved. However, when Stephen preached a Spirit-filled sermon in Acts chapter 7, his audience was filled with indignation and stoned him to death. How dreadful it is for men to be sunk to Hell with sermons, which same thing God uses to save the souls of those who believe.[7]




“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight,” Proverbs 15.8. The poetic parallelism of the Hebrew language shows us that the sacrifice of the wicked, in this verse, is a reference to their prayers, the sacrifice of prayer. Thus, if a wicked man prays he sins, but if he does not pray he also sins.

Psalm 109.2 shows that this psalm of David concerns the words of wicked men: “For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me.” Yet, when the wicked man with the same mouth turns his words toward God, David pleads in verse 7, “let his prayer become sin.”

That prayer, which should do the wicked man good, works instead for his hurt. When he refuses to pray he sins against God by refusing to bow before Him and worship His glorious majesty. Yet when he does pray, his prayers are uttered from a profane mouth, with the evil motives of a man whose deeds are tainted by the defilement of atheism at worst, or hypocrisy at best. God abhors such praying. The best prayers of a wicked man are the filthy rags God condemned in Isaiah.[8]




Despite the best efforts of God’s people to guard the ordinances of the church, there are times when the wicked do succeed in their pretense of being Christians and are baptized. It happened with John the Baptist, it happened in Samaria with the deacon named Philip, it happened in Corinth, and it has happened on numerous occasions here at Calvary Road Baptist Church.

Notice what happened in Corinth when the wicked in that congregation tried to live as though you can have it all, tried to live as though choices do not have to be made, as though a turning away from sinful practices is not an integral part of turning to Jesus Christ in faith believing. First Corinthians 10.20-22:


20     But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

21     Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

22     Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?


Some false professors continued to keep their idol-feasts, yet would also come to the Lord’s table. The apostle says. “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” Profane persons sin with their feasts; yet will come to feast at the Lord’s Table. This is to provoke God. To a sinner there is death in that cup. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,” First Corinthians 11.29. Thus, the Lord’s Supper can easily work for hurt to impenitent sinners.

It is for this reason that it is a great evil that congregations over the last three centuries have abandoned the age old practice of closing communion to all but those who profess Christ. For even then the false professors can wreak great havoc upon their own souls, as we see in Paul’s first Corinthian letter. Indeed, it was when Jonathan Edwards attempted to end the terrible practice instituted by his grandfather, of allowing the lost to take communion with the saints, that he was overwhelmingly dismissed by the congregation he had faithfully served for so long. His attempt to shepherd his flock was thwarted and he was gone from them forever, the brightest light ever lit by God in North America.

The wicked are faced with a dilemma, for failure to observe the communion of the Lord’s Supper is a great sin, with improper observance of the Lord’s Supper being an even greater sin. That which the Savior instituted to be a blessing to His followers is a source of misery to those who deny Him.




Consider First Peter 2.8, where He is described as, “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” He is so, through the depravity of men’s hearts. Wicked men, instead of believing in Him, are offended at Him. He is like the sun, in that though it is beneficial and necessary in its nature, it can also severely damage the eyes of the foolish.

How right old Simeon was when he told Mary shortly after the Christ child’s birth, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.”[9] That old prophet knew well that wicked men would stumble at the Savior, and that they would also pluck death from the tree of life.

You see, the wicked are just contrary to their own best interests. They are like patients who react only to the side effects of good medicine, and receive no healing benefit. So, for them, the blood of Jesus Christ condemns them because they despise it and tread upon it, while the repentant are cleansed by that same blood and saved from their sins.


How miserable are the wicked, immune to every benefit provided by God for their salvation, with Jesus becoming their Judge when He would have preferred to be their Savior.

While the child of God loves the minister of the gospel, is blessed by the ministry of preaching, and delights that the Lord Jesus Christ is the focus of Bible preaching, the wicked shrink back from the minister of the gospel who holds up the Savior in his preaching, resists his exhortations and finds his helpful rebukes offensive, and vainly pretends to love the Savior that minister serves.

Then there is the ministry of prayer. The wicked will pray, but greatly sins against God when he does so. As well, when he avoids the prayer meeting, and when he refuses to bend his knee and bow his head and confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father, do not think that, too, will not be held against him come judgment day.

Third, there is communion. If he does not seize upon the opportunities to remember the Lord Jesus Christ’s death until He comes again, he is only repudiating the Savior. Yet, if he does participate in the communion of the Lord’s Supper, not having turned away from the wickedness of this idolatrous world, he sins even more.

Finally, the Savior. Given by God the Father to be the Savior of sinful men’s souls, the wicked do not believe in Him and therefore perish; they refuse His command to come to Him and therefore will be damned.

This, then, is the unparalleled misery of such as live and dies in sin. The best things work for their hurt. Be it preaching and the preacher, be it praying or not praying, be it communion or not taking communion, or be it Jesus Christ, the Savior to some and the Rock of offense to the wicked.

“Pastor, it seems like there are no choices for the lost. It seems as though to pray is wrong and to not pray is more wrong. As well, to take communion is wrong, but to not take communion is more wrong, and we cannot even take communion at this church if we are not members. It seems there is no way to win.”

The remedy for your ills is to come to Christ. If you come to Christ, His blood will cleanse your sins. If you come to Christ, the ministry of the Word becomes suddenly sweet, and the preacher is your good friend. You can pray in Christ’s name, and you are qualified to be baptized and then celebrate the communion of the Lord’s Supper. But best of all, the Lord Jesus Christ is your beloved, rather than being despised and rejected.

All things do work together for good to them that love God, but the condition of wicked men is most miserable.

[1] This sermon strongly influenced by Thomas Watson, All Things For Good, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986), pages 55-60.

[2] Ibid., page 56.

[3] Job 36.10

[4] Isaiah 6.8

[5] Isaiah 6.9-10

[6] Jeremiah 44.16

[7] 1 Corinthians 1.21

[8] Isaiah 64.6

[9] Luke 2.34

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