30 Days To Live - Week 2: Eternal Perspectives
This week we are concluding a short two-part sermon series entitled 30 Days To Live. The basic premise behind this series is to come face-to-face with what it means to live a full and purposeful life. The fact that we couched it in kind of morbid terms doesn't mean it's meant to be depressing, however.
I am sure that some of you came in here today kind of dreading what we were going to talk about. I hope that if you were here last week, though, that you would kind of give those who weren't an encouraging nod. Let them know that it's all right. They need to be filled with confidence that they won't walk out of here feeling blue.
BUT... we do want to wrestle with a fairly serious question. What WOULD you do if you were told you only had 30 days to live? Would you live with more intensity? Would you be intentional with every moment that you had? Of course you would.
So why is it that we are so afraid to live like we are dying? We know that we are all going to die one day, right? So what is it about us that our fear of that moment keeps us from being aware of it? I know I don't like thinking about dying AT ALL.
But if I am being honest, the thought that my days are truly numbered is one that makes me want to do something MORE with them.
On the other hand, if you don't really think at all about the fact that your days are numbered it gets really, really hard to spend your time focused on things that matter. You get distracted. You start living like you actually do get to take your stuff, your money, your house, car, clothes, prestige, career, etc. with you when you die.
Newsflash: You can't take it with you.
I heard this story of a guy who was so greedy, so bent on making sure that no one else benefited that he told his wife when he died he wanted her to bury him with all of his money. He even put it in his will.
So when the greedy bugger finally died, the wife took out her checkbook, and wrote in the amount that was in their bank account, savings, investments, etc. Then she put it in the guys' coffin right before it was lowered into the ground. Her friend asked her why in the world she had done that, and she related the story about the will.
"I buried the old so and so with his money," she said. Then she said, "If somehow he cashes that check, I've got bigger problems than not having any money."
She was a good wife, though... kept her word.
Did you know that Jesus taught about money more than he taught about any other topic except the kingdom of God? It's true. More than heaven and hell even. It's like---it's like Jesus knew that his followers were going to have a hard time figuring out how to manage following him and dealing with money.
Jesus also questioned his followers about what they treasured, and where that treasure could be found---here in our culture's economy or God's economy. As Pastor Craig Groeschel writes, "It's not wrong to have things, it's just wrong to seek things first."
In fact, if you want to live a life worth living--seek first what lasts forever.
I want to share a video interview with you, if I may. You will be meeting Larry, who was diagnosed with ALS. His life changed forever. All of the things he thought mattered suddenly mattered a lot less when he discovered he was going to die--that his days were numbered.
In Matthew 6:19-21 we have these words from Jesus on the topic:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.The word for "treasure" here is thesauros, which means a deposit or wealth. Jesus is asking his followers, "Where is your treasure, where are you making deposits, really? Are you throwing everything you can at the things of "earth," thing that are going to fade away? Or are you seeking first the things that matter most, the things that have eternal implications.
I can't tell you how many people I counsel after the death of a loved one, and one of the most overwhelming things that they deal with in addition to their grief is what to do with all of the stuff their loved one left behind.
Because so many of us spend so much time, energy, money, resources and time pursuing the acquisition of more things, more stuff, more money, power, prestige, control and so much more. Things that are meaningless when our life is over.
And far too few of us realize that if you want to live a life worth living, you have to seek first what lasts for ever.
Seek first what will last forever.
What does this even mean? How do we accomplish this--it's obviously very important to Jesus, right?
I see three ways that we can zero in on a life lived with an eternal perspective. We have to guard against materialism, we have to be generous and we have to focus on what really matters.
First, we have to guard against materialism. Jesus issued a warning to his followers--more than one actually, but this one was pretty good. He said: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15). He was concerned his followers would become caught up in the Roman way of life--a way of life obsessed with abundance and greed.
So many of us still cling to the notion of the American Dream--the idea that true happiness comes from "making it," or "puling yourselves up by your bootstraps." or finding success, making a name for yourself somehow. But what we are all starting to figure out the hard way is that what we were told was the American Dream was just a lie.
Our need for security, however, keeps us from truly seeing this. We worry about our future. We want to make sure that we are taken care of so we collect, scratch, acquire in order to ensure that whatever we have can be ours. Jesus knew that if we fell into this trap we could easily be consumed.
Second, not only do we have to guard against materialism, we also have to intentionally be generous with our whole life. In Matthew chapter 20 Jesus teaches his followers that even a cup of cold water given in his name to the least of these--the poor, the needy the forgotten--was a cup of cold water given to him.
The easiest way to describe this is by saying, "When you serve others, you serve Jesus." No matter who you are serving. When you serve you family, you serve Jesus. When you serve your friends, you serve Jesus. When you give of yourself, your time, talent and your treasure in any kind of service to the world, the church, your community, you serve Jesus.
Jesus wanted his followers to look out at the world with eyes that were full of light--which was a very Hebrew way of describing a way of seeing the world as God sees it. As followers of Christ we should be looking out at the world to see all of the ways that we can be generous to those who are our brothers and sisters, who share our common DNA with God, our true humanity.
If you live with a closed fist, holding on to your stuff, your time, your talent... you can't receive anything, can you? You can't truly live a generous life.
Finally, in order to seek first what lasts forever, we need to focus on what matters. In Philippians chapter 3, the Apostle Paul seems like he's bragging. He talks about his pedigree as a really, really good Jew. He goes on about how his family was from the best tribe, and how he studied under the best teachers.
And then he says all of that is skubalon---dog poop. Seriously. Dog poop.
Paul had been brought to believe that your class, your race, your gender, your beliefs... all of those things mattered more than anything. But Paul rejected all of that, called it dog poop and then said the ONLY thing that mattered was Jesus, and what Jesus did to rescue us from ourselves.
St. Augustine famously said, "Love God and do what you want." There's a lot of controversy surrounding that saying, to be sure. More conservative Christians feel their spine begin to stiffen when they hear it. But what it actually means is this. When you seek first what lasts forever, you change your life. If you love God enough, you want to do what God wants. So what you want becomes what God wants.
Let's take a look at Larry's story once again and hear from him what all this meant to him.
So good, so good.
Sisters and brothers, I don't think I need to say any more, to be honest. If you want to life a life worth living--turn your when into now, your intentions into actions and your heart toward Jesus. If you want to live a life worth living--listen--seek first what lasts forever.