“IN GOOD TIME AND BAD TIME” By Pastor YAU
Text: Mark 10:17-23 September 19, 2010.
1) Perspective on money by a bank: A few years ago, the banking giant Citicorp ran a series of billboard commercial about money: “Money changes hands---just be sure it doesn’t change the rest of you!” and “If people say you’re made of money, you should work on your character!” These ads gave a refreshing new perspective on money and riches from the money men.
2) Perspective on money by God? God also has surprising spin on money. From God’s perspective, you can be “well off” when it comes to worldly wealth and yet in poverty in your soul. Or you can be poor in earthly treasures and be rich by God’s standard. We face distorted view on the power of money everyday. But Jesus offered a young and rich ruler a different perspective of wealth and eternal value of life.
TEACHING ON RICHES IN THE BIBLE:
1) Riches is God’s rewards: Mostly in the Old Testament, wealth or prosperity was seen as rewards of God to those who revered and followed Him. Abraham was a very rich man (he had a 600 men army) because of his faith in following God’s command. Job was a very rich man. He was seen as a man who honored God and won His praises. (Job 1:2-3, 8) King Solomon was a very rich king because God was pleased by his quest of wisdom instead of power to subdue his enemies. (1 Kings 3:7-13)
2) Riches as cause to fall: In pleading with the people of Israel on their duties to fear and obey God, Moses gave them this warning. “And when your herds and flocks grow large, your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God.... If you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” (Deut. 8:11-20) Riches may turn into pride and pride leads people to self-destruction. It was true in ancient times and is still true today.
3) Riches create illusion: “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself: You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:18-19)Of course God questions his self -indulged security: “But God said to him: You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (12:20) From ancient times to modern days, riches often is misused to foster false sense of security which is a major problem for the rich people.
4) Riches block eternal life: “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth. Jesus looked and said to his disciples: How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:22-23) This is part of the text for today’s message. The Bible says: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (10:21)But when Jesus gave him the answer to his question on what must he do to inherit eternal life (10:17), he turned away and left in sadness because of his great wealth. His stumbling block of entering into eternal life is nothing but his wealth. Many people still have the same problem facing them: wealth or eternal life, not both.
DO WELL IN GOOD TIMES: Do well when you are rich.
1) Give all credit to God: “You may say to yourself: ‘My power and strength of my hands produce this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God who give you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deut. 8:17-18) This is the first and the foremost all rich people need to pay attention to: “Never credit your success and wealth to your own ability in your heart, your attitude and in your words.” If you are rich, the first thing you need to do is to give all credit and glory to God who gives you the opportunity, ability and good health so you can work and produce wealth. Do not brag in thoughts or words about your success like the Babylonian king did (Daniel 4:28-33) when it is God you need to glorify.
2) Keep your devotion to God. “When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have this children purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their heart.’ This was Job’s regular custom.” (Job 1:5) It is not easy for the rich to be devoted to God and fear God the way Job did on a regular basis. But this is part of the reasons God was so pleased with him: he kept his devotion to God regardless of his earthly wealth. Job didn’t allow his riches to become a stumbling block in his close relationship with God.
3) Bring God your first fruits: “Three times a year (the times of harvesting), you are to celebrate a festival to me. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Celebrate the feast of Harvest with the first fruit of the crop you sow in your field.” (Exodus 23:14-15) This is very early in the Hebrews law that God asked His people to bring Him the first fruits of their harvests. This is to express their gratitude to God for His blessing on the fruits of their labor. God intended that His people did not give him anything that is leftover, but the very first of their harvest to demonstrate the primacy of God in all their fruits of labor.
4) Care for the poor and needy: “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” (Deut. 24:19-21) The next thing you can do when you are rich is to find ways to care for the poor, the needy and those who live in poverty. Sharing some of your wealth to meet the needs of the poor in our community is a way of love and kindness the Lord promises to bless your good deed.
DO WELL IN BAD TIMES:
1) Faith in God’s provision: “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Jesus told his audience on the provision God will do to care for the needs of His creation, birds and human. King David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) Faith in God’s love and provision is more important in bad times: God will never forsake those who live by His words. His faithfulness is new every morning.
2) Time to change priorities: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Most people seek what is in the world in good days until the bad days have come, then they realize the importance of seeking the kingdom of God. It is never too late to change our course in our search of meaning of life from things of temporary value to things of eternal value. Nothing we may gain in this world may be brought to heaven when we are on the way there.
3) Be content with little: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:8) News came on August 23 that about 33 miners were trapped in a shelter 2,000 feet below the surface. They kept themselves alive with the meager supplies in the shelter for about 3 weeks before the rescue team found them. When time is bad and material supply is little, we need to settle with the necessity, not the luxury. News also reports that over 50% of people go to dig from their retirement savings to maintain their life style when they lost their job and live on unemployment benefit. Economist calls this “financial suicide.” When time is bad, we live on less.
4) Do something far better. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” (Mark 10:21) How often you see Jesus looked at someone and loved him? Jesus offered him a better way to live: come and follow Him. When God allow you to live in bad time, you have little or nothing materially, it may be a good time for you to follow Jesus closer. I don’t mean that only when we have nothing then we need to follow Jesus. But you may be in an easier situation to follow Jesus when you have little or nothing to care about. See why this young man turned away sad? It is because he had great wealth that hindered him from following Jesus. His wealth became his prison that held him back from doing something better.
1) Are you in good times? Couple suggestions if you are in good times: a) Do something good to honor God and help the poor. Do it while you still have the ability. b) Do not live your life depends on what you have because money has wings, it is here today, may fly away tomorrow. So, keep walking close with God for He is the only security you may have for your life.
2) Are you in bad times? No need to panic, God will provide soon. He will never forsake you nor ignore your needs. Seek God’s direction of your life. He may have something better for you than before. Keep your heart open to His call to follow Him. It is a good time to follow God when you don’t have much worldly things to tangle you up.
3) Seek true security: Good times or bad times, no time is secured time. Everything will change in this world. But you can seek God and His kingdom that will never change. He is your eternal security no matter what time you may face. Ask Him to forgive your sins, to enter into your life and become the Lord of your future. You will have a life with meaning and purpose.