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People God Can Count On
Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Track 3 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 27 minutes, 14 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, May 18, 2003
(1 Timothy 6:17-19)
C. Sackett

I don't own anything worth dying for. I made that discovery in December of 1985. My daughter woke up about 2 o'clock in the morning and started hacking and coughing and Gail went in to find out what was wrong, only to find her room full of smoke and our house was on fire. I discovered in a hurry what I really valued, my children and my wife and my life and out the door we went. Now it wasn't a horrid fire. We didn't lose a lot. I look back at that and it wasn't as traumatic as it could have been for many people, but I did make this amazing discovery. I just don't own anything worth dying for. I was not tempted to go back in the house for any of that stuff. It's just "STUFF". Not everybody has felt that way, in fact, I didn't always feel that way. I was absolutely certain there were things I would go back for until it actually happened.

In the 1950's Jacques Lowes became the Kennedy photographer. Over the years, after starting with Joseph Kennedy's family and working up through the John Kennedy family, he took somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 pictures of the Kennedy's. Only about three or four hundred of those ever got printed, but he guarded those with his life. They were his, in fact, livelihood. They were everything about him. He would personally print all of the pictures himself and then take the negatives back and put them in the vault.

They were actually stored in the vault at the J. P. Morgan Bank in downtown Manhattan, supposedly a fireproof vault. The word supposedly should be the dead giveaway here. There was this funny thing that happened (well I don't mean funny, as in humorous, I mean this ironic thing that happened) on September 11. Number 5 World Trade Center was one of the buildings in the cluster that was damaged when the other two buildings fell. It included the J. P. Morgan Bank, and when they went to the vault, all of those negatives were destroyed.

It's that sense ya know, that you can try as hard as you want to protect "stuff". In the end, it doesn't matter much, does it? It's that contrasting set of values that we all bring to the table in one form or another.

I'm sure this is a fanciful story, I don't know, maybe it's true, but, it seems a little far fetched. It's about the little boy that went to the soda fountain. The lady came up to wait on him. She was busy! Had other things to do. He's just this little boy. He wants to know how much it costs to buy an ice cream sundae. She told him 50 (that tells ya how long ago it was). He's counting out his coins. Pretty soon he says, well - how much would just a dish of ice cream be? Of course, she's growing impatient at how long this is taking and she says 35 and he recounts his money one more time and she's growing more impatient all the time. And he finally says, I'll take the ice cream but not the sundae. So she rather hurriedly gets him his ice cream. She slips it over there in front of him and she goes about to do her business. When she comes back to clean up the spot where the little boy was, a little indignant about the whole waste of time, she picked up the cup where the ice cream was and found the reason he didn't eat the sundae was so that he could leave her a 15 tip. He had enough, but he wanted to be generous.

It's that contrasting set of values between the little boy and the J. P. Morgan Bank. It's that sense of understanding where our values are and what really is important to us and maybe more importantly, what's important to the Lord.

I want to cluster three texts together before we land on the one in 1Timothy 6:17. We're going to start in 1Timothy 6 however, because it has this rather famous passage; 1Timothy 6:6-10. I want to just hold that for a second while we look at a second text over in Philippians 4, then we'll come back to this primary text in 1Timothy 6 again.

1Timothy 6, Verse 6 - After having talked about godliness and some people thinking that they can be godly and that will lead to some kind of financial gain, he says in Verse 6.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Now hold that and just slide back a couple of chapters to Philippians Chapter 4 - Paul in writing to the church, this church that so faithfully supported him in his missionary endeavors - in the last chapter where he's saying thank you for all the things that the Philippians have done for him - says in Chapter 4, Verse 10 these things.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

I love the context in which that verse occurs. I remember as a brand new Christian, having Philippians 4:13 as one of those early memory verses. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. And having it placed in this kind of broad context of that applies to absolutely everything, except that in the context in Philippians 4, it's very clearly tied to a person's contentment. I can learn, he says, to be content in any set of circumstances because of what Christ can do for me.

Well, back to 1Timothy 6 - the text I want for us to spend some time with this morning. Starting in Verse 17 he says -

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

I'd like to park for a minute here in this text and just spend some time. We're gonna wander to a couple other places but this will be the primary place of our focus and what I want to suggest to you this morning is that the people that God counts on possess a healthy perspective on their possessions. That the people that God can really rely on in this life, to be the people that he needs for us to be, are people who have learned to view what they have in a way that is healthy. It starts like this in Verse 17. We know the source of our supply. You notice that in Verse Number 17 - put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. One of the main things that you and I come to learn in our relationship with the Father is that he's the one who is the provider. It isn't about us! It isn't about what we can do! It's about what he has already given us and that includes he says, absolutely every arena of our life, that we've learned to understand where our "stuff" comes from. I want to just hold this text and ask you to look back at Deuteronomy Chapter 8.

This, I think, needs such little elaboration. I don't intend to say a lot about it. It just strikes me as one of the fundamental principles of all of Christian experiences that we recognize where it is that God fits in us and with us. And that he is the one who supplies everything and yet the temptation is in life, especially when life is good, when life is at least reasonably comfortable, the temptation is to forget where it comes from. We don't forget when times are hard, because when times are hard, we're constantly talking to God about making them not so hard. But when they're comfortable, when they're easy, like they are for many of us on an every day basis, we sometimes lapse into forgetfulness.

Deuteronomy 8, not to sound terribly trite, comes after Deuteronomy 5. Deuteronomy 5 is the giving of the ten words - The Ten Commandments. We're ready to talk about a relationship with God. And having laid out all of the things that God has in mind in the covenant relationship, you come to Chapter 8 and Verse 10. He says, in light of going into the land and inheriting the land and having God as their guide he says,

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and decrees that I am giving you this day.

Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and your flocks grow large and 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, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

Now I've underlined Verses 17 and 18 in my Bible. You don't have to do that. They just struck me as being so profound.

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

See. The people that God counts on understand this one fundamental principle. God is the source of my supply. He not only gives me the "Stuff" that I have, this text reminds me that the very abilities that I have to produce that wealth, whether it be working with my hands, or my feet, or my mouth, or my mind, or my heart, or whatever it is, those all come from HIM. And the reminder is - don't forget the source. Don't go get so enamored with what you're able to do that you forget that all of that comes from HIM and belongs to HIM - and it's a gift to you! See. The people that God counts on possess a healthy perspective about their own possessions and they understand that God is the source of that. God is the supply.

Verse 18 tells us this, that we know the purpose of our possessions. Back in 1Timothy 6, Verse 18.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. Do you hear the reason behind what you have? See. The people that God counts on understand - they - they understand the purpose for why God gave them the "Stuff" that he gave and that's so that it can be useful - so that something good can come out of it.

I'm not a huge basketball fan - I suppose I'm not a huge sports fan, but one of my favorite characters in professional basketball has been David Robinson, because he is a professed Christian and has, I think, demonstrated that kind of Christian character. Here's a comment that he made.

By the way, he has established a foundation called "Feed My Sheep" that takes care of the homeless. He gets needy families diapers and baby food through a charity that he's started called the "Ruth Project" and here's what he says.

"These aren't sacrifices. If I'm clutching onto my money with both hands, how am I gonna be free to hug my wife and my kids." I just love the perspective, that he understands that what he has, he has not to be held on to but to be turned loose, so that it can accomplish that for which God gave it in the first place.

You see, we've been given in order to give.

Back in the days of the Wesley's, in some of Wesley's writings, in his rules of conduct, John Wesley made this comment: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can as long as you ever can." It's a perspective isn't it? - that understands that we have what we have for a reason.

Jesus would put it this way in Luke 12 - Whatever you do, don't fail to be rich toward God. Did you hear that contrast? Here's the contrast between Verse 17 - those who are rich in this world and Verse 18 - those who are rich in good deeds.

We're going to give you that opportunity, by the way, to do that - ah, those of you who can. Tomorrow - there will be a gathering here at the church building to go over to the Westoffs (??) on the Missouri side of the river and take some trucks and some gloves and some bags and just walk the field and see if you can figure out where all that farm went. 'Cause it's just missing, and they need to clean things up. It's an opportunity, simply to demonstrate that you are rich in good deeds. If you have the time and are capable, you are invited to come. There will be more information available to you just a bit later.

To be rich toward God - just the practical things that we can do with the things that we have.

The book that you're reading - at least I trust that you're reading. You were to have read the third chapter for this week where Kregg Hood talks about some, just really practical advice and here's what I would say is a summary of what I consider to be very good, very practical advice. He says, for example; Give to the Lord now - just don't put it off. If you sit around and wait, you're never going to get there. You just have to start somewhere and he says, start NOW.

You know, that's just plain ole good advice about life. My daughter wants to run a marathon. You know what she's going to have to start doing if she's ever gonna get there? What we did Saturday - she's gonna have to put her shoes on and we're gonna have to go run. 'Cause you just don't wake up one day - well, some of you might - but I just cannot wake up on Saturday morning and say I think I wanna run 26 miles - you gotta start somewhere - AND if you're ever going to do it, you've got to start NOW!

So Hood says, be intentional. Make up your mind that you're gonna start TODAY! Then he says it this way - Give regularly - just make it a habit to give consistently with regularity. His suggestion is that you give every week. We give you - if you want them - offering envelopes that are weekly envelopes. Some of you don't give weekly because you get paid once a month or twice a month. And if that's how you do it, that's certainly okay as long as you can keep that all in order. Personally, it's very helpful for me to give every week, and so, that's what we do. We try to use all 52 of those offering envelopes and every once in awhile - I hate to confess it in front of God and everybody - but once in awhile I go to that offering envelope and I realize - oops! - somehow in the busy week I forgot! Well, that's pretty easy to do. So he just says, do it systematically. Do it regularly. Just get in the habit of every, well whatever, every week, every other week, every month - whatever it is that you do, but do it with consistency. He says that's how you develop what you're going to do.

So, my daughter says, now, can I just keep running three miles every day? Yep! As long as you do it every day - well - within reason.

The third thing that Hood says is, Give to the Lord abundantly, be generous, stretch yourself.

See. We did this long five mile run on Saturday. That's the longest my daughter has ever run. But if we run five miles every other Saturday from now until kingdom come, we will never get 26 miles. See. In two weeks it will be six and then two weeks later it will be seven and two weeks later it will be eight and two weeks later it will be ten and then twelve - because if you don't ever stretch yourself, you'll never get any further. That's true in our giving as well. It's one thing to give now and intentionally and it's another thing to give regularly, but it's also another thing to stretch yourself to give abundantly, generously. That requires a little work.

Well, the people that God counts on possess this healthy perspective about their possessions. They know the source of their supply and they know the purpose of their possessions. Verse 19 says that we also know the result of our response. See. All of us make some kind of response. Verse 19 says, 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. Paul understands that there are consequences to all of the decisions that we make in our life and that includes stewardship decisions. And what people understand, who are healthy in their perspective, is that there are consequences and that there is an impact to their decisions and it affects their life.

I ran into this story this week - it just struck me - maybe in part because it's so - well the end of the story is just too true. Mark Buchanan is a preacher who had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa. He says it was about seven years ago. . . . . by rock something, something - can't make it out!!

Every Sunday evening about a hundred Christians from the neighboring area gather to worship. They meet under a tin roof lean-to that was set up at the edge of the corn field. They sit, he says, when they do sit, on rough wooden benches. The floor is dirt. The instruments are old. Some of the guitars don't have all the strings but could they worship! They made HELL run for shelter when they got loose! I love that line! That is just a great line. There was one guy with us, a real stiff-backed, button-down white boy who liked his worship stayed and orderly and brief. And even he couldn't stand still! He was jumping and clapping and yelling out his hallelujah's. One Sunday evening the preacher asked us if anyone had anything to share. A tall willowy woman came to the front. She was plain, but beautiful. Oh brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much. Tell us, sister, tell us they shouted back. Oh I love him so much, I don't know where to begin to tell you how good he is. Well begin there, sister, begin right there. He's so good to me, I praise him all the time for how good he is to me. For three months I prayed to the Lord for shoes and look - the woman held up one foot and we could see one very ordinary shoe. He gave me shoes! Hallelujah, he's so good and all these Ugandans clapped and yelled back their hallelujahs. I didn't! I was devastated! I sat there, hollowed out, hammered down. In all my life I had not once prayed for shoes and in all of my life I had never once thanked him for the many, many pairs I already have.

See. There's a consequence to the decisions that we make about the things that we have. It impacts even the very way that we worship, whether or not we come with this perspective that God is the source of our supply and they've been given to us for a good reason. So the challenge becomes then - is it going to be greed or generosity? Is our focus going to be on the present life or is our focus going to be on the coming age? That's 17 and 19. 17 is the rich in this world. 19 is they're laying up treasures in heaven. Chapter 6 in Matthew. You remember what Jesus says. Don't collect stuff down here where rust and moss corrupt, but lay up treasure in heaven. I don't know how all that works but I have a pretty clear understanding that it has something to do with being generous with what I have and not trying to hoard it in this life, because frankly, it's not going with me. And he says, what the end result will be is you will have REAL life.

The end of Verse 19 is a powerful verse. To take hold of life that is really life. See, if you don't own anything that's worth dying for, then you're not going to worry too much about what's in the back seat of your car while you're off at the store.

And if you're like my friend, sitting in the - well the equivalent of a Wal-Mart parking lot, when a guy walked up and stuck a gun in his face and said give me your wallet, you're going to come to the same realization he did. I don't have anything worth dying for and so he just handed it over.

I don't! I don't own a single thing that's worth dying for. But I am owned by one who is worth giving to. And the reason is because he saw me as valuable enough that he would die for me. Now - he owns things worth dying for. They are all in this room and out there on those streets. And that one who owns you is worth giving to. What's stewardship about? It's really simple. It's just having a very healthy perspective on the stuff that he's already given you. Remembering where it's from and what it's for and that there are consequences to the way you use it.

We're inviting you to this one who loves you enough that he can't live without you. He just can't live without you, and so, he was willing to die so he could live with you and if you don't know Jesus, this ONE - we invite you to get to know him. To place your confidence and your trust in HIM, to obey HIM, to walk with HIM - if you're ready to do that today, this is a great time to make that choice. If you don't know what to do, I'll tell you one more time, come and ask. Don't go out of here not knowing how to walk with Jesus.

Let's stand. Let this song voice your heart.