At times, I wish I didn’t have a Pastor’s heart and that I didn’t care so much. Sometimes I think that would be so much easier on me and you. When I start thinking about some of the things that are happening to people, something rises up on the inside of me and when that happens, I stop being the kind of “mild mannered” person that people think a Minister ought to be. Sometimes, I get scared for my people and I can sense in my spirit the pains, trials and hurts they’re going through. I can also “pick-up” on the plans of the enemy to try to bring even more misery, pain and suffering. That’s why I get so intense and get accused of having an “up in your face” kind of ministry, because I’m so passionate for people and the things they’re going through. I care a lot about you and I want so much to have you do well on the Day when you stand before the Lord.
Like you, I have to be obedient to God and I can’t preach what I like but what He says. Some of it’s pretty difficult on me to preach just like it may be extremely difficult for you all to listen. My flesh hates some of it but my spirit loves and needs it. Like this message about prosperity, possessions and putting God first. Let’s take a typical situation shall we. With “John and Mary Christian.” John and Mary are nice, good people and they love their family and the Lord. Then, something happens. Here’s how it starts. John and Mary come to church and are amazed to learn about how God wants to promote and bless His people. They discover the secrets for activating the promises of God in their lives and their new life of faith becomes an adventure with Jesus at the helm. They start reading the Word, Mary gets invited to teach a Sunday School class. John becomes an usher and a Deacon, he’s active in the Men’s Fellowship and shares his testimony when the men. John likes the verse where Jesus says in Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison, and ye came to me.”
On the job, John and Mary are doing better than ever before and their enthusiasm and faithfulness is being rewarded. Raises come, promotions and then eventually, they’re able to buy some of the luxuries for their family that they’ve been wanting for years. God is truly prospering John and Mary in all they do. Even at home, the blessing of God is evident. There’s a new closeness between family members and now, the Christian family can afford to take vacations and they’ll all want to be together. In the evenings, they’ll sit on the new couch and watch their new big screen TV, with surround sound, or they’ll gather around the family multi-media computer and spend exciting hours on the information highway. Saturdays used to be a day where everyone kind of went their own direction, but not anymore. God’s been prospering the Christian family so much; they can’t decide which of the fun things they’ll do next.
Decisions. Then there’s always Sundays. Another hard choice. Church or take a ride to visit relatives, now that they’ve been blessed with a new car and have grown to appreciate family times more. But then, they might miss the game where the kids are on the team and having being able to move to an upscale neighborhood, maybe John and Mary had better spend Sunday evening having a BBQ with the new neighbors, after all, it could be counted as “pre-evangelism!” Ok, so they’re not rich. God’s just prospered them in things and in goods and in substance. Now, they’ve got to PAY for all that stuff and John and Mary’s credit cards are loaded and they can’t afford to wreck their credit and that’s why John started working a second job and Mary’s taking all the overtime she can get.
We call it prosperity and it’s the reason why John can’t work Children’s Church and why Mary no longer has time to prepare for Sunday School and also why John can’t find the time to share a little bit of his faith with the boys in the Men’s Outreach. It’s the reason neither John or Mary participate in the Body of Christ like they used to or have the heart for God like they had when they were poor and barely making it. It’s also why they don’t have the energy to win the lost and their personal devotional life is in shambles and neither of them have time to just sit and worship God anymore. Who pays for all this “prosperity”? First of all, the rest of the Body of Christ. We’ve lost so many of what used to be faithful people to “prosperity”. Faithful Children’s workers and they’re out there playing, working overtime and then trying to sleep it off while the work of God is left undone.
The church says unfinished, and dilapidated. Like God laments in Haggai 1:4, “Is it time for you, OH YE! to dwell in ceiled houses, and this house lie in waste?” What had happened back in Haggai’s day? God’s people had been prospered with nice homes and they spent their time enjoying and working on their own homes and left God’s house unfinished. Secondly, the Lost pay for it. Instead of the saints praying and fasting, they’re playing and feasting, having a BBQ on John and Mary’s new deck and the lost stay lost. John and Mary are both so busy enjoying God’s blessings, that they don’t have the heart to witness to the lost anymore. In fact, earth has gotten to be so fun, they don’t really have the yearning for heaven that used to fill their hearts. That makes it a little harder to get all worked up about people being lost. Could it be that John and Mary have fallen to the state where this can be said of them:Philippians 2:21, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christs?”
Thirdly, God pays for it and he honored His Word. He blesse d the works of John and Mary, he honored the faith they got from spending time in the Scriptures, for Romans 10:17, “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Now, what does He get in return? Half hearted efforts from overly blessed and worn out Christians who’ve become so earthly minded they’re no heavenly good. God loses praise and He loses worship from the heart. He loses the honor that’s due His Name, loses times of fellowship with both John and Mary, He loses laborers in His vineyard and they’d rather go enjoy their possessions than to be faithful to Him. After receiving the blessing of God, they spend more time with the gifts from God than they do with the Giver. Romans 1:25, “…who served the creature more than the Creator.” Last, John and Mary pay. Mark 8:36, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul?” What will they do then? What CAN a person do? What will happen if you love your things more than you love God? If you love your friends and family more than you love God? What if you join that class of people in the last days who are 2 Timothy 3:4, “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” This is true of too many Christians who’ve “prospered”. Psalms 106:15, “God gave them their request but sent leanness to their soul.” They got what they wanted, but they lost out with God.
We’re now rushing into the perils of the last days. Times which will try people’s soul like never before. That’s what’s happening to John and Mary. They’re being tried. How will it be for you? Will you pass through these days in the drunken stupor of an overstuffed glutton…eyes bulging with desire and yet so full of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that the Word in you becomes choked? Mark 4:19. The heart of the true Christian aches, longs for and yearns for peace with God. Jesus is crying out, Rev 3:4-5, “Return to thy first love! Remember…from whence thou art fallen and do the first works!” Don’t let your blessings keep you from obedience to God! Luke 12:15, “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.” We all have to examine our hearts, to check how we’re doing and to take stock of our prosperity, our possessions and whether we’re still putting God first! Find yourself in the House of God this Sunday.
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