Treasures in Heaven

I was reading an article that said the 5 wealthiest men in the world have a combined net worth of over $429 billion.  The poorest country in the world, Tuvalu, has a GDP of just over $38 million, which means the 5 wealthiest men in the world have almost 11,300 times as much money as the entire GDP of a single country.  Now, I admit that I had to look up where Tuvalu even is.  Turns out, it’s a Polynesian island located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, somewhere in the South Pacific.  It has a population of just over 11,000 people located over a 10 square mile radius.  The wealthiest man in the world, Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), is worth $112 billion, which is just short of 3,000 times the GDP of that tiny island.  That means that he makes over $213,000 a minute.  Comparatively, Tuvalu’s GDP comes out to roughly $72 per minute.  The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are the poorest in yearly earnings, make on average under $400 a year, which is less than most of us make in a single week.  Now, this is in no way a message bashing the wealthy people in this world, or to make you feel bad about how much money you make.  I just thought these were some interesting facts, considering what we will be talking about today.

Luke 12:34 (NIV) says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I actually really like the way The Message paraphrases this verse.  It says, “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”  Let me ask you this; if you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be?  Where did your mind go when I asked that question?  Was it to a white sand beach with palm trees and a cold drink?  Was it somewhere in the mountains?  Was it an African safari, or was it your own home with your family?  I’ve always been kind of a beach bum, so I always thought that my ideal place would be somewhere with a cool breeze and the constant sound of waves crashing against the shore.  That’s changed a little over the course of the last year.  I never could have imagined that my idea of paradise would change so much, but it’s gone from a beach with white sand and palm trees to a house in a small town with 5 kids all going crazy, constant episodes of How To Train Your Dragon or Pokemon, endless stories and talk about Skylanders, and lots of love and laughter.

It’s amazing how priorities and desires change over the years.  We start out our lives with these wild ambitions.  We want to be rock stars, actors or actresses, astronauts, or president.  As we get older, reality starts to set in, and we realize that what we dreamed of being as kids isn’t always feasible, so we start to dream things that are a little more realistic.  Some of us actually go on to live out the dreams that we had as kids.  For me, I wanted to be the next Eddie Van Halen, and I worked hard to be the best guitarist I could be.  I would come home from school and go right to playing guitar.  There were hours and hours that I would sit in my room with my guitar and play, oftentimes until my fingers bled.  I wrote song after song, and most of them were terrible, but it taught me how to better myself and my craft.  I never got to be the next Eddie Van Halen, but I did enjoy playing.  These days, I don’t really play anywhere except home and church, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world, but it was in no way how I envisioned my life going when I was a kid.

Paul D Tripp says “Little Kingdom living is an endless search for earthly treasure and unending focus on personal need; Grace calls you to a bigger kingdom.”  Jesus talks about money more than any other subject in His time on earth, and that is because He knew that money had the potential to take His place as the main focus of our lives.  Today, we have only one main point, but we will lay out two ways to live out our one point, as well as three things that happen when we begin to live it out, and we will break each of them down.  Our text today is in Matthew 6:19-24 (NIV).  We will go through the entire text by the end of this message, but for now, we are going to start with verses 19-21, which says “Do not store up for yourself 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.”  Here is the main point I would like to make in this message;

1. Your Eternal Perspective Affects Your Earthly Priorities

Several years ago, I had my identity stolen.  To be fair, I didn’t have much money to begin with, but whoever stole my identity took over $1500, and spend it in some very angering ways.  Over $500 was given to an organization that gave their money to a particular political candidate I was not fond of.  Some of the money was spent buying electronics, and the rest was miscellaneous other stuff.  I ended up getting all of the money refunded to me, but it was an experience I will never forget.  You see, it wasn’t really the money being stolen that bothered me the most.  I didn’t actually even have that much money in my account, so it was rather amusing that someone would take what wasn’t actually there.  What bothered me was the fact that someone felt they needed things so bad that they were willing to steal from someone else to get them.  Our number one commandment on this earth is not to gain as much stuff as we can.  It’s not even to give away as much stuff as we can.  Our single greatest commandment is to love one another.  When we focus on loving one another, our priorities change.  Just like our dreams change as we get older, our priorities shift as we put our focus on loving people instead of things.  There’s a quote that says “People were created to be loved.  Things were created to be used.  The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”  If our focus is on eternity, it becomes a lot harder for the trials and struggles of this world to get us down.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) says “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  We will never be able to see all of God’s plan, but we can still spend every day living with eternity in mind.  There a couple of ways we can do this, and then we will go over some things that happen when we live with eternity in mind.  The first way we can do this is:

1a. Avoid Obsessive Accumulation

Have you ever been to a funeral or memorial service?  The last time you saw the body of your friend/loved one, did the casket have all of his or her prized possessions in it?  There’s an old saying that says “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”  All the things that we spend our lives accumulating won’t go with us when we die.  While it’s not a bad thing to enjoy things, we should not make such a big deal out of what we own, or even what we desire.  At the end of the day, what is more important to the people around you?  Is it what kind of house you live in, or the car you drive?  Maybe it’s the suits you wear, the places you’ve traveled to.  What about the toys you have?  At what point do you give up time with your family and friends to gain what you consider success, and what does it do for you, in the long run?  There’s a Casting Crowns song called American Dream that illustrates my point beautifully.  There’s a certain part of the song that really stuck out to me, and I wanted to share the lyrics with you.

He used to say, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”
But if he loses his soul, what has he gained in the end

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV) says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”  Now, please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that people who work hard or are successful are bad people, or a bad parents or spouses.  I’m not even saying that being successful is a sin.  I have many friends who have been incredibly successful in their lives, and are wonderful parents and spouses.  There is nothing wrong with having success, or with working hard, but the Bible warns us often of putting money and work ahead of not only God, but also family.

A few weeks ago, I spent the day out on the lake with my best friend.  His boss had let him spend the weekend out at his lake house, which was an amazing place.  Every bedroom had it’s own kitchen, complete with it’s own refrigerator, which was something even I’ve never seen.  I’ve had the privilege of being around a lot of very successful people in my life, and I’m always amazed at the things money can buy.  I’ve even been guilty many times of being jealous of those things, and being willing to sacrifice time with family and friends to have those things.  My favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote “It’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”  Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the things that make me happy are not things that money can buy, but making memories with the people I love.  Tolkien also wrote, in the final book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”  When our time on earth is done, how do you want to be remembered?  Do you want your friends and family to say that you were a hard worker, but that you were never around, or would you rather them tell stories of all the wonderful memories they have with you?  The second thing you can do is this:

1b. Stockpile What is Valuable in Heaven

I said in an earlier message that how you treat people matters, but so is how you love people.  Matthew 23:27 (NIV) says “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like white – washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  What Jesus is saying is that we need to be more concerned with showing people the love of Christ than with keeping up appearances.  The religious leaders of His time were more concerned with what everyone thought of them.  They often looked down on people who they considered unclean or unholy, but Jesus scorned them.  He called them hypocrites, because their appearance on the outside did not match their hearts on the inside.  They neglected the greatest commandment, which is to love the Lord and to love others as yourself.  If we focus on showing people the love of Christ, we invest in their future.  Serving is a great way to do this.  When we give back to others, we give two of the most valuable things we have; time and love.

As a parent, I have learned that the most important thing that you can give to your kids is your time.  It also seems like it is the hardest thing to give, because it’s the one thing you never seem to have enough of.  For me, my day seems to go by way too fast.  So many things take up my focus, and it’s sometimes hard to manage my time so that I have enough of it to give to all the things and people that require it.  If I’m being honest, this is not something that I’ve always been successful at.  It’s very easy for me to get caught up in my work and neglect other things around me.  Psalm 127:2 (NIV) says “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.”  A study in 1999 found that marriages where at least one partner is a workaholic are twice as likely to end up in divorce.  Workaholism has also been linked to things like alcoholism, sleep problems, heart disease, depression and anxiety, weight gain, higher blood pressure, and even premature death, according to a2014 Huffington Post article.

There are a few things that happen when our focus becomes eternal that go beyond just our earthly priorities.  The first one is this:

1. You Will Realize That Suffering On Earth Is Momentary

C.S. Lewis said “Tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”  The Greek word that’s used here for tribulation is the word thlipsis, which literally means anguish.  There are going to be sufferings in our lives.  If our focus is on the here and now, those suffering will be amplified, because we can only see what’s happening to us right in this moment.  2 Corinthians 4:17 – 18 (NLT) says “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  If our faith and our focus is on Jesus, the struggles we are facing at the moment will not be as big, because God is bigger than anything we have to deal with.  Earlier in the message, I quoted a Casting Crowns song, and I’m going to use another one now.  The song is Just Be Held, and the second chorus says

If your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still,

But if your eyes are on the cross, you know I always have and I always will.

Focusing on eternity helps us to understand just how small our problems are, and on how big our God is.  Colossians 3:2 (NLT) says “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”  That includes our struggles.  Focusing on the things we struggle with has a tendency to lead to doubting both the power and the grace of God, and both are necessary in overcoming our struggles.  The second thing that happens when our focus becomes eternal is this:

2. You Will Find It Easier To Love Others

1 John 4:7 – 8 (MSG) says “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God.  Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God.  The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love – so you can’t know him if you don’t love.”  I heard a friend of mine who is a pastor say that it’s hard to hate someone when you’re consistently praying for them.  I think that’s true, and I think that it is a very important part of living with eternity in mind.  You see, whatever someone did to offend or hurt you (and we ALL have those people in our lives), you have to ask yourself if it’s really going to matter in Heaven.  Is what that person said to you really going to make a difference when we are standing in front of Jesus?  In his book The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler says “But there is a beauty even in loving without response because that kind of love is truly selfless. When we love with no expectation or promise of reciprocity, we know what it means to sacrifice and deny ourselves in ways we wouldn’t otherwise.”  The person who hurt you may never say they’re sorry.  They may never even accept responsibility for what they did to you, but when you pray for them, you give up your need for that, and you allow the love of Christ to be the median between you.

1 John 4:19 (NLT) says “We love each other because he loved us first.”  When we focus on eternity, we realize how much Jesus loves us.  That has a tendency to change us.  When we realize how much Jesus loves us, we can then love others better.  Walter J. Chartay said “Not one man has ever sacrificed for his Lord without being richly repaid.  If the cross is only contrasted with earthly pleasures lost, it may seem hard and threatening.  But when the cross is weighed in the balances with the glorious treasures to be had through it, even the cross seems sweet.”  We never show the love of Christ to others without getting something in return, even if it isn’t clear what that is right away.  When we invest in others, there is always a payoff.  The last thing that happens when we focus on the eternal, there is one more thing that happens.

3. You Will Not Be Fearful

I’ve used a lot of quotes in this message, and I’m going to use at least one more.  Randy Alcorn said “He who lays up treasures in heaven look forward to eternity.”  When we are focused on the eternal, we have nothing to be afraid of.  We can trust in the perfect love of Jesus.  1 John 4:18 (NLT) says “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”  If we have accepted Christ, and are still afraid, it means that we do not trust that Christ is enough.  This may not be an easy thing to let go of, but it’s something we should all strive for.  We don’t even have to fear death.  1 Corinthians 15:55 – 57 (NLT) says “O death, where is our victory?  O death, where is your sting?  For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.  But thank God!  He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This means that, for those of us who are part of Christ’s family, our eternity is secure, and we have nothing to fear.  Christ has conquered the grave, and we have nothing to fear.  Let’s thank Him for that.

Father,

We thank You for being the treasure that we can all look forward to.  We are so grateful that we don’t have to fear death anymore, but that we can look forward to eternity with You.  Father, we pray that You would help us to stop seeking the things of this world, and put our focus solely on You.  It’s in Your Holy Name we pray

Amen

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