debt pictureSo last week we started phase two of the summer series talking about “Your Money.”  I always think this is an interesting topic at church because many people walk in here under the assumption that we want your money and when you aren’t looking we are going to send someone through the crowd to get your money while Ken or myself keep you busy looking the other direction from the stage.  Well, that just isn’t true at all.

Last week I thought Ken did a great job of really getting right to the center of the issue of our money. This issue of our finances really lands in a very spiritual place in our lives.  The condition of your finances can tell you a lot about you and your heart.  Many people assume that having money or having wealth is a bad thing.  That isn’t it.  Many people assume that talking about money in church is either a conflict of interest or something that isn’t spiritual at all, and should be left for banking…and that isn’t it either.  That is why Ken went right after your hearts last week and asked you the question “Are you having an affair?”  Doesn’t that question just hit every nerve inside you?  Well the reality is that many of us, here in the United States of an America are having an affair with money.  Jesus said it so well…

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. NIV

So Ken came up here last week and got under our skin a little bit didn’t he?  I mean how dare he ask us if we are having an affair with money…well, he dare because Jesus asked you the same question.  Jesus wanted to know which God you served because you can’t serve both God and Money.

So I was thinking, how does this affair happen?  I mean I don’t think people are waking up in the morning and saying to themselves…”Self, today I would like to have an affair on God, with my Money.”  I don’t think that is the goal of the day so how does it happen?  Well let me tell you, here in the culture that we live in, it is very, very easy.  I think it starts when our eyes, our focus, and our physical location just isn’t where it should be!

This affair can start by simply watching TV, and seeing the next great something on TV that you just have to have.  It can start by pulling into the parking lot at church and seeing your buddy driving that vehicle that you just have to have, or you see her wearing those clothes, or texting on the next great phone.  It starts when our eyes wander into the neighbor’s yard and he is there putting the gazebo in, or driving his huge new lawnmower, it simply starts when our focus wanders to what others have that we don’t have and then it happens.  We see what they have and we want it and we say “it.” We say the phrase that we just can’t say.  “It must be nice.”

That my friends is how the affair starts, it starts with a case of the “It must be nices.” 

Say that phrase with me today.  Has this ever came out of your mouth or have you at least thought it?  Once you get a case of the “It must be nices” you will begin to justify almost anything.  Because hey let’s face it…you work harder than everyone else don’t you?  You are up earlier, and doing more, and dog gone it, you deserve more than them don’t you?  Once you start down this road of justification, no amount of debt, no threat of credit card debt is going to stand in your way of owning that next great something…because frankly you need that thing now don’t you?  What is really interesting is you don’t know, and frankly don’t care how they ended up in the spot they were in…you just want it too.  So maybe your neighbor spent years saving up for that new car…he didn’t go on vacations, he sacrificed and worked for years…and you see it, and you need it too!  Because hey, it must be nice right?

The problem with the “It must be nices” is that once you have them you don’t want to hear anything about debt.  You don’t want to hear anything about interest rates on your credit card, and you certainly aren’t thinking about the stress and pain that debt can put on you and your marriage or your family because at this point the material possession has become something that in your brain you just have to have.  Now you can justify the purchase in many different ways.  It will make things more convenient.  It will make your life so easy…or maybe and this one is my favorite…maybe you have to buy it because you are afflicted with this terrible curse.  You may have the terrible, terrible curse of “I just like nice things.”  You see it isn’t your fault, you have been cursed, it’s an affliction.  Some of us struggle with alcohol and drugs…some of us struggle with pornography addictions, or physical diseases…but poor you, you are stuck with the terrible curse of “I just like nice things.”  You know, because the rest of us we like to own really crappy things.

Once your eyes wander and you say or think it, you are in big trouble because you are heading into the affair and it all started with a wandering eye and one little phrase.  “It must be nice.”

Paul’s two letters to his young apprentice Timothy are a really big deal to me, and Paul talks to Timothy about contentment.  That is really where my heart is for today’s talk, and it’s the section of scripture that  I would like to break down with you today…

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 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. 10 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.  11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.   12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  NIV

Paul tells Timothy a couple of things that I want you to see today:

1. (v 6)  Godliness with contentment is great gain. 

In the Message version it reads this way:  A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.

How awesome is that, it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.  Isn’t that the secret to everything?  Learning to just be yourself?  I am 37 years old and I think to this day it is the challenge for each and every one of us, I know it still is for me at times.  Let’s face it, we live in a world of people who all seem to work to look the same, dress the same, talk the same, cut their hair the same but it’s not where it is…it’s about being content.  Doesn’t it sound so peaceful, restful, to just be ok with who you are and what you have?   I don’t know about you but this sounds pretty awesome, but it’s hard to achieve.  There isn’t much about our culture that screams for us to be ok with who we are, it is always about what we don’t have, or what we need now!  Contentment can only happen when we are focused on God, and  hear me now…your enemy knows it.

2. Paul warns Timothy that the enemy wants us focused on anything but God (v 9-10)

9 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. 10 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. 

Paul is letting Timothy and all of us know that this is an absolute trap.  It’s your enemy doing his best to get your focus on anything but God.  When our eyes wander to the material possessions of another, and that “It must be nice thing” hits us we are in big trouble and your enemy knows it.  Did you ever think that by simply chasing money, and stuff that you could end up wandering from your faith and get yourself into all kinds of grief?  Well it’s exactly what happens but in the moment of swiping the card, and the excitement of buying the next great something, you don’t think about the repercussions of the action you are taking.  Check out the same verse in the message version.

1 Timothy 6:10 Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. (MSG)

This is what debt does…it takes you out of the game.  It puts a weight on you that is hard to carry.  It takes away your options for being generous, and puts a huge strain on you, your marriage, and your family.   It takes your focus off of God, which is exactly where your enemy wants you to be.

So how in the world does this happen?  It happens when our eyes wander and we see others having stuff and we want it too!  It happens when we look at what they have and we say or think these words, “It must be nice.”

It happens when we decide that we need to get into the race for the nicest stuff, and we end up needing to win that race at all costs!  This is exactly where our enemy wants us.  Jumping into the race for nice stuff, because when we do that it is hard to get out.  We want to win!  The problem is that we are running hard towards becoming a slave to our money, we are running to our death and we don’t see it because along the way we feel good driving the nice new shiny thing…or using the lastest electronic device or whatever it may be…so what do we do?

  1. Paul tells us what to do in verses 11 and 12…stay focused on God

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.   12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  NIV

Listen to how this is written in the Message version:

But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life — a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. 12 Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

I seem to keep coming back to this lately…everything is about your focus.  Paul tells Timothy to run hard from this stuff…to flee from all this.  He literally is telling him to run for his life from this nonsense and to purse a righteous life.  He tells Timothy to take hold of the eternal things and stay away from this race for material things, this lust for money…because it only leads to death.

Think about this, Paul is writing this in a time when they didn’t have the material possessions of today.  Timothy is receiving this letter from Paul as someone walked it to him.  Timothy isn’t living in the culture we live in today.  He didn’t get this via email the moment Paul pushed send.  He wasn’t sitting there listening to music in his noise cancelling head phones, playing Candy Crush on his iphone, while reading this.  He lived in a much simpler time.  He lived in a time when having extra money, or food even wasn’t a common thing.  Yet the lust of money, the race for things was still a threat in Timothy’s day.  Today this is far more dangerous if you ask me.  We have more wealth to play with.  We have more toys to look at and buy.  We have more of everything and we multitask our way through life.  We have got to be very, very careful of our focus.  When it isn’t on God, it is on something else…and it doesn’t lead you to life.

Can I ask you something today, When you get to the finish line of your life and you look back over the race that you have run, what will you see?  Will you look back over your life and realize that you ran the race to collect the most stuff?  Really at the end of that race, what do you win?  You do realize at the finish line none of your material possessions will matter right?  That is not the time to realize you were having an affair, it is not the time to realize that you have been running the wrong race this whole time!

At the end of Paul’s life, he writes a second letter to Timothy.  He is in prison and he is about to die and he knows it.  Listen to what he says about the race that he has run…

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness NIV

What a powerful moment.  Paul has run his race, and he has run it well.  So let me ask you again.  What race are you running?  I would like to encourage you to do something today that may seem crazy.  If you are here today and you are realizing that you are having an affair.  If you are racing to see who can collect the most stuff, I want to ask you to do something.  Let the other guy win.

I know, I know, that will hurt your street cred a little bit but let them win.  Let them have the nicer car, home, or shirt and hold on to the things that matter.  What you are driving doesn’t matter.  What you are wearing doesn’t matter.  What they have doesn’t matter.  What matters is the things of eternity because none of your stuff is coming with you.

This is a huge scheme of your enemy.  He wants you focused on the things of this world.  He wants you worried about what your buddy has.  He wants you to focus on anything but God.

You are fighting a defeated opponent in Satan.  He has been beaten by Jesus and his amazing work on the cross that means that all he can do is resort to trickery and traps.  He isn’t going to square you up and try to fight you head on, he is much sneakier than that.  He knows he can’t beat you, so he tries to trick you.  The easiest way for him to do so is to get you to run the wrong race.  He wants you competing with each other and fighting for the nicest stuff because when you do you are focused on the things of today and not the things of eternity, and just so you know, eternity is a very long time!

Please let them win.  Let them have nicer things than you.  Jesus told you pretty clearly you can’t worship two gods, you are going to love on or the other.  Everything boils down to what you are focused on.  If your focus is on God you aren’t going to worry about who has what.  It is when your eyes wander that you get yourself into trouble.  It’s at that point of thinking, “It must be nice” for them to have what they have that we end up lured into the affair and I am here to ask you today to let them win.

You live in a world that says we should live for today.  Have a blast right now because you never know what could happen tomorrow.  Paul challenges us to live with a focus on where we are going, on eternal things, not the things of today!  This doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy life today, it actually means you can live in complete freedom and joy in this life, as we make our way through the race of life to the amazing finish line of eternity!

Let the other guy win the race to collect the most stuff and you run your race towards God.  When you are freed up from the pressure and focus on what others have you can begin to run the race that actually matters.  The one that ends with a crown of righteousness rather than a pile of rusted up junk that in the end doesn’t matter anyway.  Remember in the end it is the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.

This past year Mashawn and I took the Financial Peace University class with Curt and it has made a huge difference in our lives!  I know, the class cost a $100’s which is money you can’t ever spend.  It must be nice right?  You couldn’t take the class for that price because your money is an issue, so you laughed at it, then hit Baker’s, and Ruby Tuesday’s that week and spent the hundred bucks on two restaurants.  I get it, because that was me…just think for the cost of a couple cases of beer and a night eating out, you can have the tools and guide to financial freedom.  Notice I didn’t say you can have financial freedom, that isn’t given to you, that is something you have to work for!  If you are like me, you realize that you have $100 for whatever you really want to have it for, interestingly enough!  So while you text your friends from your I-phone, while sitting in Ruby Tuesdays mocking the price of the class.  I skipped the restaurants this year and took the class.  You see we used to get stuck with wandering eyes.  We would see people with more than us, and wish and wonder, and even get to the case of the “It Must Be Nices” at times and it all changed when we began to live by the principal that Dave Ramsey spoke of at the beginning of this talk.

“We will live like no one else now, so that we can live like no one else later.”  Dave Ramsey

This is how we get past the “it must be nice” disease…because we are heading somewhere!  We have goals that are bigger than today!  We will live like no one else now so that we can live like no one else later.  That means that I will sacrifice today, for a better tomorrow.  It means that I will work hard now, so that I can chill out later.  It means that I will stay focused on my race and not worry about who wins when it comes to stuff.  It means that I will be ok with what I have now, so that I can have more later!  What is really interesting is that by living like no one else now, I can live like no one else later and someday when my beautiful wife and I are sitting on a swing together in the Outer Banks debt free, I’m sure someone will be saying, “It must be nice to be them.”  You know what, it will be.

Look, no one is trying to have an affair.  No one is trying to destroy their lives…it starts very simply with a wandering eye.  Please ask yourself today, what race are you running?  Is it a race for more stuff or a race for the crown of righteousness?  Only one of these two races matters at the finish line.

Live like no one else now, so that you can live like no one else later…won’t that be nice?