- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Harold B. Hayes Jr. at New Liberation AME Church in Landover, Md.

Often it is more difficult to be a believer during good times than in bad times. Tough times push us toward God. When we are going through it, we can get real religious. Something happens, though, when everything is hunky-dory.

It's when you are going through good times that you have to guard your relationship to God. Why, you just can't stop folks from coming to church when the boss is on their nerves, or the children are swinging from the chandeliers. But in good times, where do they go? … It is the good times that we must get ready for.

We as a people must welcome and embrace good times. We've known hard times, and how to turn to God. But how do you handle times that are good? What do you do when everything is going right? My father said, "Harold, if the enemy can't get you with your vices, he'll get you with your virtues." …

The temptation is to become self-sufficient and self-satisfied, and then to leave God. When your children are scared, they stay close to you. When everything is fine, they're down the street, around the corner. You can't find them. In good times, we start reading more of Essence and Ebony and Jet, and less of the word of God.

Today we are blessed with this story of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon [2 Chronicles 11]. We can learn what not to do in good and prosperous times… . Because of Solomon's sin, the kingdom was split, and Rehoboam had an opportunity to unite Israel if he followed the elder's advice be kind to the people. But he followed his cocky young advisers, and his harshness split the kingdom. Two of the 12 tribes came under Rehoboam.

Now, Rehoboam finally obeyed God. He did not attack the 10 tribes but stayed in Jerusalem and fortified the city. And Judah began to prosper, financially and spiritually. But then it says, "When Rehoboam was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord."

It's a horrible thing when you pray to God for a car or a spouse, and He blesses you, then you don't pray to God anymore. God blesses you with a job or family. Then you forget about God. He strengthens us and fortifies us, and then we abandon the Lord… . When the good times roll, we forget the God that gave them. We worship the enjoyment itself. But I tell you, the good times come and go. They allow you to be productive, but also can leave you in a pit. Good times or bad times, you have to be the kind of person that people want to be around.

The book of 2 Chronicles is a story about a people trying to be totally devoted to God. It was written to show wholehearted devotion to God no matter what is happening in your life. The last people to be dictated to by good times is the African-American people. What happened after the civil rights movement? Doors opened. Hallelujah. We were let into colleges, got jobs and entered corporations.

But when we got all this, we left the very strength and backbone that gave us our hope, the word of God. Now, on the Lord's day, you have folks washing their new cars. On the Lord's day, folks are sitting in front of 50-inch TVs with their feet propped up, acting like God owed them something.

Rehoboam, you should know better. With just two tribes, God made you the most prosperous, and you turn away. God blessed you, and then you stop worshipping God… . The only independent institution is the black church, but after the civil rights movement there was a mass exodus. Oh, good God, help us.

The well-to-do are not necessarily prospering psychologically, not having good times socially and relationally. They say, "I don't know what happened." Let me tell you what happened. You abandoned the Lord… . When we abandon God, the wall that fortified us begins to crumble… .

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Herschel Carlson at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Va.

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