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What God Wants You to Remember in 2017
1 Timothy 6:17-19
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17 to 19).
A young Connecticut man arrived in New York City in August at the age of 18 to pastor a church. By December, it was in the midst of a split that had been brewing before he arrived. As he wandered the city, watched his Jewish neighbor read and pray, and pastored the church, the man began to write down some thoughts–some resolutions.
“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
“Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
“Resolved, to maintain strict self-control when eating and drinking.”
It was somewhat typical of men his age to do this–but he took it seriously and when the church split in December, he had more than thirty already.
“Resolved, in narrating the past, never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth.
“Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.”
The man making these resolutions was Jonathan Edwards. It was the early 1700’s, before the Great Awakening, before the sermons he would become known for, before he had written much. Over his lifetime, he wrote out and strove to live by 70 resolutions in total. They are marked by a serious attention to his own spiritual walk.
There are times in our lives when we think about our lives. We consider what should change. We think about what we could do better. For Beth and I, we have this conversation at our anniversary each year. We set aside time while we’re away to review the last year. I tell her at least three ways I’ve seen her grow and mature in the last year. And then I suggest one area for her to work on in the coming year–and she has the same conversation with me.
We have a little notebook we keep track of it all in, to review, and we also write down our anniversary memories in there. Some people might think that would ruin an anniversary, but when you know it’s coming and that the other person has been thinking and praying about it, then you know the heart is from love rather than something said in the heat of the moment.
But most people make resolutions right now, at the start of the New Year. Can you guess the top three most popular resolutions for the New Year? 1) Exercise–how many of you are thinking of this for 2017? 2) Lose weight, and 3) Spend Less, Save More. It is normal at the turn of the year to do a bit of reflection and looking ahead–to think how the year went and what we want to change in the coming year.
At the very end of 1 Timothy, Paul gives Timothy a final encouragement for the Ephesian church. Timothy was serving as the pastor of the church in Ephesus and Paul calls the church there to be resolved to live in a certain way. And what’s interesting about that is that the Ephesian church mirrors us in many ways.
You may not know it, but Ephesus was a rich town. It was the capitol of the region. It had a natural harbor, which made it a thriving trade center and port of call. For 1,000 years before Paul, Ephesus had been home to the worship of the goddess, Diana (Artemis). The temple was the largest building in the Roman world–made completely of marble as a sign of wealth. It was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It was a big city. Next door to the shopping area was a theatre called the Agora. It could seat 24,000 people on three levels–that’s twice the capacity of Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. It’s where Paul was brought when harassed by the crowds.
It was a wealthy city, used to leisure and entertainment. Many upper-class and upper-middle-class people lived there. They lived in multi-story homes. Many had running water, with hot and cold. This is 2,000 years ago! America didn’t get this till less than 200 years ago. Archaeologists have found multiple homes with heated bathrooms. This was a rich city that Timothy was ministering in. It’s not too unlike where we live. We have big shopping areas. We have theatres and sports areas that hold thousands. Many of us live in multi-story homes, complete with running water and heated bathrooms.
And regardless of who’s President which year, I am genuinely thankful to live in a place with clean water, heat and air conditioning. I’ve been to places that don’t have them and I believe we live in an amazing nation. Globally, about 80% of people today live on less than $10 per day. Globally, extreme poverty is defined as $1.25 per day and more typical poverty is $2.50 per day.
While the cost of living varies, the bottom 5% of the US makes on average the same as India’s richest 5%. We are wealthy–there’s no other word for it. I don’t say that to make you feel guilty. Our God has sovereignly given you what you have and however much you make. Whether you are receiving unemployment, living paycheck to paycheck,
receiving Social Security, making six figures or living in your car, you are wealthy in God’s eyes and in comparison to the rest of the world.
You probably don’t feel rich–people rarely do. You probably wouldn’t call yourself that. Even in our valley, you may not be regarded as wealthy. But in the global scheme, you are the 1%. You are wealthy. You are rich. You just might not have known it. Economists agree that your income over all of life is mainly determined by where you live. And God has appointed that you would live here. He has given you all that you have and enjoy. And He did not intend for you to feel guilty about what He has given to you. What parent gives gifts to their kids at Christmas while making them feel guilty for receiving them? God does not lavishly provide for you in order to make you feel guilty.
So Paul wants wealthy people like us to know why God gave you what you have. And because Timothy’s church was similar to us, 1 Timothy is the perfect place to find out why. Paul ends his letter with an encouragement to the rich. He tells us how to use and enjoy what God has blessed us with. Take this as God’s challenge for you in 2017. This is what God wants you to remember in 2017. These are the priorities that Paul had for the wealthy believers in Ephesus. These are the right priorities for every believer at Faith Bible Church. There’s three of them. And he says each one twice.
1) Live Dependently
2) Serve Others Regularly
3) Give Stuff Away/Invest Wisely
You’ll find them at 1 Timothy 6:17 to 19, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” The first charge he gives us is . . .
1. Live Dependently Verse 17
You could add “on God” to the end. He’s not saying to become dependent on your parents, or on the government–but to live dependently on God rather than trusting in yourself. Proverbs 30:8 to 9 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ 9 or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
Living in America leads us to the daily temptation of forgetting God. We can be tempted to rely on our wealth rather than depend on God–in the same way that a teenage boy’s sex drive is God-given but quite dangerous when misdirected. The money which you earn is God-given, but possibly even more dangerous.
So Paul warns us at the very beginning of the dangers of wealth. He says, 1) Don’t be conceited. 2) Don’t fix your hope on the uncertainty of riches. In other words, money can make you proud. Money can make you trust in the wrong things. Either you or your income begin to take the place of God. When you’ve got the money that you have, it is easy to put yourself on the throne. It is easy to crave more.
JP Rockefeller lived 100 years ago in America. His net worth was four times what Bill Gates has. He owned Standard Oil, which was eventually split into what are now known as Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, Conoco, and many others. Rockefeller was once asked, “How much money is enough money?” To which he replied, “Just a little bit more.” And that sums up our heart pretty well.
It is easy to become dependent on the money in your bank account or your retirement account. It is easy to depend on your ability to provide for yourself and earn what you need. To which Paul says, 1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” The first resolution you need to make in 2017 is to live dependent on God. Similar to Edwards, we should declare, “Resolved, I will seek to crush pride in my life and act in such ways that force me to depend on God.”
There was a man who came to Jesus and said, “Tell my brother to divide his inheritance with me!” The man wasn’t happy with what he had received when his parents passed. The firstborn would’ve received the majority and he wanted more, so he appealed to Jesus. Maybe the man thought that because he was following Jesus, the rabbi would back his claim. Maybe he had mentally planned to give a portion of what he received to Jesus to support his ministry. But here’s how Jesus responded, Luke 12:15, “Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’”
And he told the parable of the man who builds even bigger barns to store his growing wealth, only to be confronted with the reality that none of it would pass into eternity. Do you look at money as the fix for your problems? You say to yourself, “If I had this much more each month, I would not be so stressed out.” You think, “If I could only afford that purchase, then life would be so much easier.” You look at your business and you wish you didn’t run so tight month-to-month. Your heart feels jealous of people who have stuff you do not. These are all indicators that your confidence is in the wrong thing.
Wealth is as dangerous as a mirage in the desert. Just as the sun produces an illusion and hope of water in a barren land, in the same way wealth looks like it will satisfy all our needs without any help from God. So you depend on your bank account and your credit card. And you cease to pray, and you cease to trust. You depend on your ability to go out and make some sales. Your dependence on God moves to a dependence on your wealth and on yourself.
The solution is to return to God, to stop trusting in your wealth which can disappear quicker than you think–to stop trusting in your ability to earn, which can evaporate in a moment’s time. This is the same charge that we read in Hebrews 12:1 to 2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This is what it means to live dependently. You fix your eyes on Jesus. You fight to be free of sin. You confess to God when you have ceased to fight. You plead with Him, acknowledging how much you need Him for everything and then you keep pushing towards eternity. You live dependently.
It is the great desire of every parent to see their grown boys out of the house, living on their own, providing for themselves. Daniel and Susanna Arn have their two boys, David and Ruben. They have zero desire to see their boys grow up, get married, then move back home and ask their parents to buy them food, give them gas money and maybe an allowance of sorts. No parent wants that—except our heavenly Father.
He wants us to live dependently, to ask for His help rather than to just make our own way. Do we still work hard? Yes. But we also pray, trust and hope in Him. And we see the sweet evidence of His great love visible at the end of verse 17. God richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. God wants you to enjoy what He has given–the same way a parent does on Christmas. But He wants your joy in Him to be greater than your joy in the gift.
Guys–you give your wife a beautiful dog for Christmas. She loves it. In fact, her love becomes progressively concerning. She washes it daily, but the laundry becomes neglected. She makes it custom meals in the kitchen, but you get cereal and leftovers. The dog lays on your bed at night and sleeps between the two of you. The dog gets little gifts through the year and she brings it along on your anniversary.
Do you display greater affection for God or His gifts? He wants you to enjoy them so that you trust in Him even more. All that you have is given so that you would depend on Him. And what you feel that you lack is also withheld so that you would depend on Him. Resolve to live dependently in 2017.
2. Serve Others Regularly
This is your second challenge for 2017. I know that many of you do serve faithfully in the church. But just see what he says here. First Timothy 6:17 to 18, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world … 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works.” The key word, “rich”, means to be abounding, overflowing in generosity. Paul is not talking about your money here. When Paul wrote the Corinthians, he said that God loves it when people give generously. But that is not his point here. Paul is saying that your actions should be generous. The way you care for people should be selfless.
All around us are selfish people. Selfish people run soup kitchens. Selfish people spend lots of money at Christmastime. Stingy people donate clothes to thrift stores. Their donations aren’t small. Their stuff isn’t trash. But their hearts remain selfish. Paul exhorts us to serve others so generously that it looks overly-generous to the world. How you sacrifice yourself for others should seem almost overdone, too extravagant–a bit crazy.
Peter says it this way in 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” In case you forgot, this is why God made us. He created you so that you could serve others.
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” He redeemed us so that we would be crazy passionate to do good to others.
Titus 2:14, “[Jesus] gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, [lukewarm] . . . for good deeds.” Is that what it says? What does it say? Yea! Are you zealous for good works?
Right now, my girls love a game called Prodigy. It’s a video game that has elements of Pokemon and Zelda mixed together. But every battle and every prize requires math. It all started at school in the classroom, but now . . . our girls love it. And I’ve seen other kids playing at the library, so it must be a thing right now.
But our girls ask to play in the morning. They ask in the evening. They talk about the characters and game strategy in the car. They literally stayed up late in their bunk bed talking about the game. They are zealous for Prodigy. How zealous are you for good works? Does my girls’ zeal for a math game outdo your zeal for serving others?
Our challenge this year as believers is to serve others. It is a tragic waste of life for you to come to church, listen to sermons and go home again without ever serving other people. This is what God made you for. Because God has richly loved you and supplied you with all things, out of love to Him you are to be rich in your good works towards others. You are to model to others the love that God has for you.
There are people who are evil, who are unkind, who are not lovely, and they need you! You were that kind of person—ungrateful, evil, and God was kind to you. When you hated Him, He loved you. He supplied you with more than you ever realized. He provided for your every need. And in His love, He loved you to the point of death.
Jesus calls us to mirror God’s care for us. That’s what Paul is saying. Those who know the love and the provision of God are to do good and be rich in good works. It’s not merely responding to needs that you are told about. He’s not simply calling you to respond when you hear of a need in the church. Think about this. God did not do good to you when you came asking Him for help, right? God does not only provide for you when you cry out to Him in need, right? He sought you out. He found opportunities to love you when you weren’t looking for it.
Awhile back, we were forced to do baptisms here at the school, and that means we rented a water trailer—basically, a big container on wheels to haul water in and out for baptisms. Well, we figured out what we needed and got the equipment and rented the trailer. I thought we were all set. About a year later, I learned that a man in our church spends about half of his Saturday scrubbing out the rental water trailer before baptisms. It’s a rental unit used by lots of people and he didn’t want us to be baptizing people in pesticides and fertilizers. I never even thought about it, but he saw the need and took care of it without saying anything.
This is what I’m talking about–you look for needs. You find ways to help even when its painful. You don’t advertise it. You don’t post it to Instagram. You just do it for the Lord. So this is God’s challenge for you in 2017. Don’t just sit there–serve others regularly. And remember, he’s not simply talking about giving money away–that is pretty easy. What he’s describing is using your time, talents and possessions to perform good works for the benefit of others. Maybe you need to find a place to serve in the church. There are needs in our church—children’s, greeters, set-up, AV, web, and more. Stop by the Visitor Table on your way out and they can help you find a place to serve.
Or maybe you need to meet your neighbors and have them over. You could begin to help your coworkers, even when it’s not your job. You could be a manager who cares about his employees outside of work. You could act like a teacher of the year, even if you’re not nominated. There are needs in our community–homeless people, teen moms, single parents, absentee parents, drug addicts, alcoholics, angry people, crazy people, all kinds of needs.
We need Christians who are willing to serve on the school board, the city council, the parks department, the sheriff’s department, the state assembly and as business owners and gymnastics coaches. I am not saying we need to be political. We simply need to show the world what it looks like to care for others more than ourselves in every realm of life. I don’t know what that means for you, but I know that God’s challenge for you in 2017 is to find a way to make serving others a significant part of your life. Quit complaining. Quit procrastinating. Quit serving yourself. Take yourself off the throne.
- Live DEPENDENTLY
- Do GOOD works . . .
3. Give Stuff Away
I was going to make the main point “Invest Wisely”–but that doesn’t get at the idea here adequately. Usually when people hear, “Invest,” they think, “Save.” So if I tell you to invest wisely, you might think I’m saying, “Don’t spend it, but hold it for the future.” That is not what Paul tells us to do. First Timothy 6:18 to 19, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.”
My little boy, LJ, is three. He doesn’t know how to mask his selfishness yet. If he is playing with a ball and my daughter Abby asks him to throw her the ball, he says, “No!” As parents, we try to train our kids to share. But when we’re adults, we learn socially-acceptable ways of not sharing. We find excuses not to share with others. We say, “I gave at the office.” We say, “My insurance won’t cover you.” We assume that other people will take care of the need. We’ll give other people the chance to fill the need first. We’ll pray that God provides a scholarship for camp, without even considering what we could do to help. God wants you to be generous. He wants you to share what you have.
Paul is not talking about handing two bucks to the guy with the sign on the freeway onramp. And he is not talking about loaning your car to your teenager. This is the challenge. The money which you receive, whether from a job, a spouse, the government or an inheritance–it is God’s money, entrusted to you. He wants you to enjoy it and He wants you to spend it on the right things and the rest of the world is trying to get you to spend it on the wrong things.
In 1923, Alfred Sloan became President of GM and pushed the company into using colored paints. He believed that by changing the colors and the features of a car year-to-year, people would buy more of them. It worked and everyone emulated his model. So now we see and read about how everything is new and improved. The laundry soap got better, the pants are stretchier, the fabric is more stain-resistant, the TV is larger and more hi-def, the car drives itself, the house has more space. People around the world have jobs dedicated to separating you from the money God provides you. Their consistent message is that your life will be better with their product.
The Bible is saying something radically different. God is telling us that a life spent accumulating stuff is a bad decision. Paul says that your life will be better by spending God’s money on other people.
In northeastern India (Mizoram), there is a group of churches that began practicing this more than a hundred years ago. The Christians there were poor, but they would set aside a portion of rice at every meal for God. Then they would bring what they had collected that week to the church, who would sell it to generate income.
In 1914, they raised just a few dollars. More recently, they generate about $1.5 million each year to support 1,800 missionaries and the local ministry of the church. They now give rice, firewood, vegetables and many other things. One of the people interviewed described their heart this way, “As long as we have something to eat every day, we have something to give to God every day.”
That is the heart Paul is describing here. It is what the Church has been doing since it first began. Mid-300’s AD, the Roman Emperor Julian wrote a letter complaining, “The impious Christians support not only their own poor but ours as well. Everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.” He’s frustrated that the Church is outdoing the state in caring for people.
Are you ready to share with others? Can you do it in a way that will point people towards God? Now some people don’t understand the reason why we are called to be generous. The actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, has said, “Doing good for others, doing positive action, always comes back around and enriches your life. It’s the biggest gift you could ever give yourself.”
But that’s not what Paul is talking about. We don’t share with others so that we enjoy this life more. We aren’t called to be radically generous so that we can feel good about ourselves. Your best investment is not in 50 years of comfort and ease in California (or Texas)–not when eternity is ahead of you.
Luke 12:33 to 34, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We should give stuff away because Heaven awaits us. We don’t want to be tied to here. We don’t want to love it here. We don’t want to put our investments into things that will burn.
I know that some of you don’t feel rich. When you hear the command to be generous, you might even be a little scared. When I was in my early 20’s, I used to rationalize and think, “I’m broke–I give of my time.” But that is not what Paul has in view here. He is talking about money and possessions. And I did have some income–I just didn’t manage it well. And I did have some possessions–but I wasn’t generous with them. And even as a broke 20-year-old, I was counted rich in God’s eyes. The problem was that I was selfish–I wanted to spend it on myself. And I didn’t think much about how to provide for others.
I had credit card debt then–but I could have called and told them I needed the rate reduced. They do that, especially if you’ve never missed a payment–did you know that? I could have negotiated with my dentist and doctor to get a better deal on my bills. I could have figured out who had the cheapest gasoline rather than stopping wherever was closest. I could have made do with older clothes. I could have bought more used books.
All that stuff works to save money. But if I had done that in order to buy more stuff, I would have missed the point here. I am to save up God’s money in order to be generous. I know that a few families here budget money each month in order to give to people in need. This is on top of what they give to the church. Sometimes they save it up for a camp scholarship, or they use it to help a missionary with a special project.
If you don’t give anything to the church, that should be your starting point. It’s something commanded by God. But if you already do that in a substantial manner, then go support a missionary, or help send someone on a short-term team. Save it to help with FBC’s building project, or give to something else that has lasting value.
Too often we think of stewardship as saving. But stewardship is not about saving. It is about spending well, spending wisely. So often when we want to give to something, we simply look at our budgets and see if there’s money. But we can be way more creative than that. We could get creative. Maybe you need to skip Starbucks.
But if you want to support a missionary, maybe you should renegotiate your cell phone bill and then give them the monthly savings. If you have a Costco credit card, you could use the Citi Price Rewind feature, which gives you cash back on purchases where the price drops after you bought it, then give that money to the building fund or to your extended family who are really tight financially and would be shocked by you helping them.
Too often we think that only those in high income brackets can be generous. We don’t think about how to creatively find money that can be shared with others. So you don’t pay attention when your car insurance rates go up year-after-year and you never shop for a lower-priced replacement. You don’t pray and consider what God would have you do with the raise or bonus you receive
Almost all of us have money to be generous with–we just haven’t gone looking for it. You may have more clothes than you need spread through your house. You may have tools you never use. You may have boxes of toys that your kids don’t play with. Paul here literally tells you to be generous with that stuff and ready to share it.
Don’t just give it to Angelview or Salvation Army, but look for people you can bless with it. Even sell it on eBay or Craigslist and then use that money to bless others and magnify God’s name. The reason is that when you give stuff away, you store up treasure for eternity. That’s what Paul says here at the end.
For our 15-year wedding anniversary, I took Beth to Hawaii. Neither of us had ever been, and I saved up miles and hotel points and cash in order to go. We had an amazing time–it exceeded both of our expectations. What would it be like if I talked all about Hawaii and wanting to go there. If I set Beth’s expectations that we were going–but I entirely failed to save the money. Instead I spent it each week at McDonald’s. You would call me a fool. Why would I trade a week-long anniversary trip with Beth for some unhealthy meals from McDonald’s?
Paul wants you to know that the pleasures and charms of this world are temporary and pale. In contrast to the life this world offers, Paul says that you can use your wealth to lead you towards a more comfortable eternity. It will be richer, sweeter, more peaceful and luxurious than anything you can imagine.
Rather than wearing pearls, you will walk through a gate made of one. Rather than gold jewelry, you will see streets of gold. The diamond of your wedding ring will be like the gravel in the street. That is the promise of this passage. By living dependently, serving others regularly and giving stuff away, 1 Timothy 6:19, “so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
Have you ever had a frozen dairy dessert? It looks like ice cream, but is made by a company you’ve never heard of. The FDA won’t allow them to label it as ice cream, because it uses emulsifiers and other artificial things to imitate what ice cream actually is. You take a spoonful and it’s sweet but grainy, fluffy but not creamy. Compare that to real ice cream, which is a glorious, tasty delight. Smooth, creamy, rich in flavor. That is ice cream indeed.
And Paul is saying that the life you’re experiencing right now is like a frozen dairy dessert compared to the glorious beauty of Heaven, which is life indeed. What you do with your money will not buy your way into Heaven. Christ is the only one who can do that. But how you use your money is a great indicator of what you value most.
God has put you in America and given you money so that you would generously care for others and build up treasure for yourself in Heaven. Let me beg of you. Give stuff away. Don’t be attached to it. Be generous, ready to share what God has given to you with others. If He really is the one who gave it to you, then He has no problem providing more.
3. Give stuff away
2. Serve others regularly
1. Live Dependently
Those are the resolutions that our Lord would love to see you live by in 2017. Figure out how to adapt them to your life. Choose one to focus on and target for all of January in particular.
Luke 6:32 to 35, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”