Friday, January 29, 2010

Let's talk investment priorities

Good morning friends. As we finish up with 1 Timothy this morning I want you to keep in mind that Timothy was in Ephesus, a port city in the region of Asia-Minor. It was thought to be the capital city in the region and was large and wealthy due to the trade that occurred at her excellent port. This meant there would have been much wealth around the city as well as in the church of Ephesus. Perhaps this is the reason Paul put such an emphasis on warning Timothy about the distraction and pitfalls of wealth. In this mornings few verses we find Paul writing these words to Timothy:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)

In recent years the world has been reminded of just how uncertain wealth is. As the world plunged into recession, people lost their jobs, their homes, their entire life savings. All those years of hard work and saving proved to be of no value. Hopes were dashed as people tried to put their lives back together. It is amazing how many believers were found in this trap. Yet, I know other believers who have gone through similar times whose attitudes have been "its only stuff". Its easy to have that attitude when you are not facing losing your home, its another to have that attitude and the joy that goes with it as you see your entire life work being taken away. However, they are right, its only "stuff".

We know as believers that our hope, the only certain hope we have, is Jesus. The wording Paul uses is that he "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment". People may say, "Funny, it doesn't seem I have everything." No, I don't either but everything I do have I recognize comes from God's hand and I enjoy what I have. Some people look at "enjoyment" and read entertainment. I realize entertaining ourselves is high on our priority but it is not something God is concerned about. He is occupied with our salvation, wanting to see us grow into maturity, as any father desires for his children. This is simply a recognition on Paul's part that we enjoy the things God provides; a sunset, a child's laughter, close friends, a loving spouse, a good meal, work for our hands.When we accept these things as being from God and we receive them with joy we also feed into a thankful attitude which lends itself to worship.

Paul writes that there is something different about a wealthy Christian or that there is something more important than being wealthy:

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. v. 18

These are outward signs of our inward condition. If you want to know if salvation is authentic look for the fruits of the Spirit. It is true that this can be faked for a short period of time but a person cannot maintain for long the fruits of the Spirit  because the source of the fruit is not our determination or effort; the fruit is produced by the Spirit and we only bear them. These things should not be the mark of only a wealthy Christian but of every Christian.

One of the things that drives me nuts is when Christians invest in the world instead of in the Church and I don't mean just money. We take away time from the Kingdom and we invest it outside of the Kingdom. We invest our talents outside of the Kingdom as well as wealth. What was given as a gift for the Church people take and use in the world. It is a rather silly thing as well as sad but no one seems to be correcting it. Paul wrote:

In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. v. 19

Now understand what I mean. Any investment in a person or a ministry is an investment in the Kingdom. The person may not be saved but if your investment of time in that person is with the purpose of demonstrating the love of Christ then you are investing in the Kingdom. Take any activity that is based on self, personal gain, any form of selfishness and it is an investment outside of the Kingdom. Jesus told us:

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:28-33) 

He also taught us:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Consider for a moment then where you are investing yourself. Where are you putting most of your time, talents and money? Are you laying down a firm foundation for the age to come? Is Jesus pleased with your choices? What will be demanded of you when you are asked to give an account for the things God provided you with for the Kingdom? It is never too late to change your investment priorities.

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