Sunday, January 29, 2017

Don't Worry, Invest!

From a sermon given on January 29, 2017 at Providence Church.

Jesus said some difficult things. Among the most difficult for us Americans is what he said regarding the desire for stuff and wealth“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). If taken seriously, these words (at least) cause us to reflect. But we have to eat, right? And we need clothes and a roof over our heads. All that costs money and most of us can’t walk to work! 

Jesus continues with this theme.

Luke 12:
22And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

Wow. It’s almost like he’s speaking across the centuries directly to us! We obsess over food and clothing! Not like many in Jesus' day who worried where their next meal would come from, or who owned perhaps two or three sets of clothing and one pair of sandals. But we can’t get enough! We have walk-in closets full of clothes we hardly ever wear. How many pairs of shoes do you own? And food? We have hundreds of choices of stores and restaurants; we struggle with obesity, not starvation. Just think of the amount of money we spend on food and clothing. I won’t even mention other external appearance concerns we have, unimagined by those in Jesus’ day: plastic and enhancement surgery, cosmetic dental work, hair implants, makeup, skin-care products, gym memberships, and trips to the salon! Jesus continues:

24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. 

Our familiar member of the raven family is the crow. Like sparrows, they seem to be everywhere. They definitely eat corn and stuff in our gardens (scarecrow), Just this morning I saw a murder of them (yeah, that's the right term for a "flock" of crows) eating roadkill. Point is, few crows ever starve. They have a veritable smorgasbord spread out below their wings. 

24...Of how much more value are you than the birds! 

God cares so much more about you…he knows what you need and will provide. 

25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 

There are so many people I’ve known who were extremely health-conscious who nevertheless died young. And some, like my 100-year-old grandmother, who ate high-cholesterol foods, smoked much of her life, and never exercised, lived long lives! I’m not negating the value of good health and wise habits, but when it’s your time, it’s your time! In fact, studies show that anxiety is as big a life-shortening factor as diet and exercise! Despite all our science and medicine, life expectancy is still between 70-80 years. Funny, Psalm 90:10 says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” That was written 3000 years ago! 

Jesus continues:

26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 

You can’t control when you die, so why worry about all life’s necessities?! Let God worry about that!

27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 

Did you see that? Wow. Seek his kingdom and the rest will take care of itself. What does "seek his kingdom" mean? It means long for the world to come. Jesus had been there—he knew heaven well. And he knew the great contrast and how temporary and minor-league this world is by comparison. Do you remember how petty the middle school drama seemed when you got to high school? And how silly high school seemed when you were in college? And how ridiculous our college concerns seemed once you were married? Our fears and priorities here will be so laughably shallow when we're in heaven. Therefore, we are wise set our sights on the next world. Not this one.

32“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 

Heaven's going to be yours! And God can't wait to give it to you! Wow, that changes everything! 

So how do we live when dying is gain, when heaven will be ours?
According to Jesus, here's how:

33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 

It is so counterintuitive to us, isn’t it? We almost can’t believe our ears (that Jesus would say such extreme things). But it’s not extreme at all…if heaven is real…if Jesus is telling the truth…if we really will live eternally, then this little time we will have spent on earth will become for us a tiny, distant memory! In view of heaven’s great riches and beauty and satisfaction and perfection, what will we think about our current obsession for earthly things?!  

I know the Bible says there will be no sadness there, but I sometimes wonder how we will not regret our present obsession with stuff. Especially when we will look back and remember all the needs around us—the people who lived in our world who through our generosity might have heard—better, might have seen—the Gospel lived out by people—Christians, us—who gladly gave up what we could not keep, to gain what we could not lose; and gave it so that others would gain it too.

There is one more verse. And it's a doozy.

34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I love this verse. Because it is a key that unlocks so much. To understand it, let’s get the images in two key words: “treasure” and “heart.”

The word, treasure, is the Greek word, th─ôsauros. It literally means a “place of treasure,” where one puts one's investments.

The word, heart, is the Greek word, kardia. (yes, like "cardio" and "cardiograph") It can mean the physical blood-pumping organ, but here "heart" is the symbolic “seat of the passions, desires, affections.” 

Now: notice the tenses of the verbs “to be”: “is” (present tense), “will be” (future tense).

So here’s what it’s saying:

Where you place your investments NOW, that’s where your affections WILL BE.

Jesus is conveying at least two ideas: 

First, you can tell what people really live for (their future aspirations) by observing what they invest in now.

Second, you can direct your investments in such a way that will influence what you love. And if you want to love God and his kingdom more, you should invest in that.

So what?

1. Find contentment by making Christ your satisfaction. He’s the only one who truly satisfies. You will not find it anywhere else. Surrender to him.

2. Find peace in trusting God to provide for your needs. If you are simply obedient to God regarding finances, for example, peace will result. That means following God's instructions for managing your money (like, live within your means and avoid debt, save, be thrifty, budget, and be generous). We offer Financial Peace University at Providence to help people find peace by being wise with money.

3. Find beauty by your faith in Christ. Not by external appearances. Things like what you wear or your hair or makeup or youth or stylishness. Real beauty is really is about what’s on the inside. We know that’s what matters to God—what he sees. But it’s true for others, too. Young women, focus on your character and wisdom and joy. 1Peter 3: 3Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. Guys, don’t focus on curls for girls. Focus on integrity, discipline, humility, and courage. Be a man of God. That’s attractive—especially to the kind of girl who will one day be a great wife, mother, and best friend for life. Impress her!

4. Know that God desires to give you much more than mere necessities. He can’t wait to give you his kingdom. Like parents look forward to Christmas more than kids, and loves the moment they come down the stairs to see the gifts, so God looks forward to giving you what he has planned from eternity.

5. Invest yourself in the kingdom. How? There are so many ways. Think about ways God wants you to offer your time, talents, energy, and money, and invest! 

Then your heart will love him and his kingdom even more.

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