IN THE ZONE
December 4-5, 2004
[An oval carpet is in the middle of the stage. In the middle of the oval are the words “In The Zone,” and the graphics for the series surround those words. In effect, there is a “zone” in the middle of the carpet.]
Materialism begins where your income ends. Think about it. Materialism begins where your income and my income ends. What is materialism anyway? Materialism is a preoccupation with things. Materialism, though—and this has blown me away as I have talked about and studied it over the last several weeks—materialism is not a tangible commodity. It’s an intangible condition of the heart. In other words, where does materialism begin and where does it end? If you make $30,000 a year, you don’t think the other people who make $30,000 a year are materialistic. No, no, no. You think the person that makes $60,000 a year is materialistic. If you make a million dollars a year, you don’t think that other people that make a million dollars a year are materialistic. No. You think people who make five million dollars a year are. You say, “They are materialistic.”
I ask you, where is the ceiling, where is the area, where is the zone that causes someone to be materialistic? What size home, what type of watch, what kind of car, what label, what size portfolio, what kind of vacation destination constitutes materialism? I don’t know and you don’t know.
How can I call you materialistic when I don’t know your heart and your life, when I don’t know your relationship between yourself and God? How can you call me materialistic if you don’t know my heart and my life and my connection with God? We don’t know. It’s not tangible. It’s intangible.
And that thought, that vibe, that concept has blown me away. Because for far too long I would point to people and go, “Oh, she’s materialistic. He’s materialistic. They’re materialistic because they have more than I have, and I think I deserve what they have. I’ve worked as hard as they’ve worked. And I’ve done the deal like she’s done the deal, so I deserve it.”
If you think about materialism—and remember, materialism begins where our income ends—if you really think about it, it’s like a huge plane. Think about a plane. Let’s say the plane is the plane of materialism. In fact, I love to draw. And I’m going to sketch a plane for you right quick, because I’m kind of a frustrated artist and I just like to draw. Let’s say this is the plane right here, okay? The wings, okay? All right. There’s where the pilots sit, whatever. This is materialism. One big, honkin’ engine and the other big, honkin’ engine actually empower materialism: envy and greed. Those are the two things in our lives that empower materialism.
Well to understand this concept let me take a step back. I’m in a series called “In the Zone.” See the God cam up there? In the zone, this is the area that God wants us to reside. He wants us to reside in the zone. God is for us. He wants to bless our lives. He is our perfectly beautiful and generous parent. He loves us. He wants to bless us occupationally, relationally, and he even blesses us financially. Because the blessings of God don’t just cover the intangibles. They don’t just cover peace, joy, and patience and tranquility of the soul. They also cover the tangibles—matter, stuff—because in God’s economy matter matters. He created it. He thought it up. He made it. And matter matters. God blesses us intangibly and also tangibly. He wants us to live in the zone, the sweet spot of his success.
The zone is a place that is distinguished from the rest. Let’s say this is the zone. [Over the next several minutes, Ed draws a diagram on a Plexiglas board with glow in the dark markers to illustrate the idea of living in the zone.] God is the Blessor. If we’re in the zone, we are blessed. And because we’re blessed, we can turn around and become blessings. If we’re in the zone, we realize God owns it all. We don’t own it all, God owns it all. We’re just managers. We’re managers of the stuff God has given us.
What kind of stuff has God given us? He’s given us abilities and aptitudes and talents and he has also given us a certain amount of stuff. Some have a big pile of stuff here. Others have a medium pile of stuff. Others have a small, little-bitty pile of stuff. We’re to manage it and to become stewards of the stuff. We don’t own the stuff. How do we live in the zone? We live in the zone by being good stewards of the stuff, by enjoying the stuff (I’ll talk about enjoying the stuff next week), by saving some stuff (I’ll talk about saving next week), by dealing with debt (I’ll talk about debt next week). Also, we enjoy the stuff by bringing the tithe into the storehouse, the local church. And we enjoy the stuff by living a life of generosity. We’re in the sweet spot of God’s success. We are blessed. We’re blessable, positionally.
But some people live in The Land of Ing. You know what The Land of Ing is? The land of Ing is not the blessed place. The land of Ing is a place outside the zone. It’s walking around the edge and the ledge of the zone. It’s missing the best that God has for a person’s life. People who live in The Land of Ing are into own-ing, earn-ing, cloth-ing, hous-ing, bling-bling, and as Vanessa just sang about, ca-ching, ca-ching! People who are zoned out in The Land of Ing think they have their stuff. They think they have done it, they think they are ruling over the universe of themselves. That’s not the place God wants us to live.
Money is wild, money is wacky, money is powerful. It’s mesmerizing. Jesus talked about money a lot. He talked about money more than He talked about heaven or hell or faith or even prayer. Jesus did. Why? Because money is so personal. We spend so much time and effort and energy trying to make it and save it and invest it and hopefully, bring it and give it. It represents who we are.
It is interesting to watch people’s reaction when I talk about money, because people have the same reaction as when I talk about sex. We get a little bit nervous. There are some kind of tense moments. People kind of, “Ha, ha, ha,” laugh, and no one really looks around. They kind of just stare at me like a deer in the headlights. “He’s talking about money!” I understand. It is personal…very, very, very, very personal.
Money is powerful stuff. It has the potential to be used for greatness. Isn’t that good? God wants us to leverage money, to use money for greatness. On the other hand, it has great potential to be used for some bad stuff. God knows if we live in the sweet spot of his success, if we’re zoned in, we can enjoy our stuff and save some stuff and give some stuff and bring some stuff to the storehouse. By doing so, we’ll influence others, we’ll build the greatest thing out there, the local church, and we will have a blast in this life. We will live a blessed life. Not a perfect life, not a life without problems, but a life the way we’re wired to live it. Money is a test. Also, when someone else gets money and gets stuff, it’s also a test to see how we will treat them when they are blessed.
Jesus said this in the gospel of Matthew 6:24, He says, “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.”
I’ve heard people say erroneously, “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s bogus, incorrect. That does not hold biblical water. First Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” If I love money, it will lead me. If I lead money, it will serve me. Well, how do I lead money? How can I lead money? It goes back to living in the zone. When I understand that God owns it all, when I get this back that I am a manager, then I have the opportunity to lead money and money can serve me. But ultimately, it’s not serving me. It’s serving God, because I’m in the zone.
Well, why do we struggle with money so much? Have you ever struggled with money? I do. We all do. Let’s be honest, man. This is church. Why do we get so messed up with money? I’m talking to people right now in the zone. Some of us who are in the zone get all mesmerized and freaked out about money. Why do we do it? Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s the enemy. The evil one knows that if he can get us all sideways and all messed up about money, if he can get us to be materialistic and greedy and envious, he knows he can take us out of the zone, out of the sweet spot that God has for our lives.
Have you guys seen any of the road construction around the Dallas/Fort Worth area lately? Unbelievable! The High 5, the George Bush [Tollway]? You know I-45? I think they’ve been working on I-45 for like a couple centuries. It’s unbelievable! The evil one is in the road construction business. Did you know that? Here’s what he does, and he’s done this in all of our lives. He comes right to the edge of the zone—he can’t get into the zone, obviously; but he comes right to the edge of the zone—and he attacks you and me in regards to our money, our stuff.
THE RIDE OF PRIDE
The first freeway he builds is the pride trip. It’s his freeway and he wants us to take a pride trip. He says, “Come on, come on. You’re the man! You made it.” “Girl, you’re unbelievable! It’s your creativity, it’s your innovation, it’s your vision, and it’s your leadership. You’re it. You’re it!”
Those of us in the zone, we manage the God stuff for awhile. But suddenly, as we travel down this freeway, management turns into ownership. We think it’s ours. We think we did it, and we become prideful. When we’re prideful, we want people to think we paid more for our stuff than we actually did. “Hey Ed, I like that cool shirt.” “Thank you. It’s Prada.”
You pull up to an intersection in your car and pride says, “Oh, man, look at my car! Look at that piece of junk next to me. Oh!” The ride of pride.
Pride will mess you up. It messes us up. Yet, if we remain in the zone, if we understand constantly that God is the Blessor, that everything comes from him; if we understand we’re managers and stewards of the stuff; if we’re enjoying the stuff and saving the stuff and bringing the stuff to the storehouse, we’re not going to take the pride trip. But so many of us move outside the zone because of the pride trip.
THE GUILT TRIP
There is another freeway that the evil one builds, and this freeway comes from the opposite end of spectrum, yet it still is about the same thing. You’ll love this one. The evil one comes up, and this attacks a lot of Christians, okay? He comes up to the edge and he builds another freeway, and this one is called—oh, you’ll love it—the guilt trip. Pride wants others to think that you paid more for stuff. Guilt wants others to think you paid less. “Ed, I like your shirt.” “Oh, this thing? I got in on clearance at Old Navy.”
We feel guilty because God has blessed us. Is that nuts? Is that ironic? Here we have God who wants to bless. And God has blessed us in so many different ways, many times in ways that money can’t even touch. Yet so often, Christians walk around and they’re embarrassed over the blessings of God. It’s unbelievable! And I understand this because I’ve grown up in the ministry and now I’m a pastor. And everybody knows that preachers are supposed to be poor.
Guilt trip. “Oh, man, I’m just barely getting by. I’m not sure if we can afford that.” And we poor boy our way out of the zone. When someone compliments you about something, whatever it is—your ability to lead, to speak, to sing, to counsel, your house, car, clothes—just say “Thank you. God’s really blessed my life.” Why should we be ashamed about what God’s doing? That’s just, that’s crazy. That’s from the enemy. That’s from the enemy. So, we see these trips: the pride trip and the guilt trip.
If you have your Bibles, turn to the book of John, Chapter 12. Because thinking about this thought, I thought about John, Chapter 12. You’ve got Mary—not the mother of Jesus, but Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet, check this out, with a priceless bottle of perfume. Mary has a heart of generosity. Whenever you have a heart of generosity, watch this now, you’ll always have a heart of selfishness and jealousy. Whenever you’ve got generosity, you always have selfishness. Because Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with this costly perfume, and you have her heart of generosity. But then, contrasting that, you have the heart of Judas, which is the heart of selfishness. You know what Judas said? Judas said, “Mary, what are you thinking? Why are you wasting perfume on that? That’s like a year’s salary!” Here we go. Judas said, “You could sell that and give the money to the poor.”
Is that hilarious? That is one of the biggest smoke and mirror deals known to man. We’re still doing that. Do you think Judas was concerned about the poor? No! You know what Judas was doing? He was embezzling money from Jesus. Jesus has this ministry box, people were giving money to his ministry, and Judas was skimming some off the top and putting it in his pocket. He wasn’t concerned about the poor. Judas was eaten up with envy and jealousy. He wanted the spotlight off of him and onto Mary. Do we do the same thing? We drive by someone’s house, “Wow, look at that house! Must be nice. If I had that kind of money, I would sell that house and give the money to Fellowship Church, and I would help the poor.”
No you wouldn’t. You know what that is? That is envy and jealousy in spiritual packaging. You’ve got a heart of Judas. So do I, when I say something like that. We’ve all said that before. “Oh, girl, what she paid for those earrings?! I mean, even if I had the money I wouldn’t buy earrings like that. I’d take that money, I would do something good with it.” All these people I’ve heard that have made those statements—and I’ve made some before—I’m not seeing any of those people selling their houses and giving their money to the poor or selling their jewelry. I haven’t seen that.
You’re not worried about the poor. I’m not worried about the poor. We’re worried about ourselves. You know what we think? “He doesn’t deserve that. He doesn’t deserve to live there, to drive that, to wear that, to travel there. He doesn’t. I deserve that more than him. She doesn’t deserve to look like that, to have that wardrobe, to shop there. I deserve it.” It’s envy and greed. It’s materialism, a preoccupation with things. And if we’re not careful, it can eat our lunch. We want to get the spotlight off of our stuff and onto other people’s stuff. We want to get it off of our selfish heart and onto the Marys we see.
When God blesses other people we should say “Yeah, God!” God is just blessing others. If we’re in the zone, we know it all comes from God anyway. “Good for you that you can lead. Good for you, you got the promotion. Good for you, you got the inheritance. Good for you, you’re making a lot of money. Good for you! Good for you. Yeah, God!” It’s from God. Because here’s the bottom line: Materialism begins where your income ends. I don’t know if you’re being materialistic, and you don’t know if I’m being materialistic because there are no limitations.
“Well, you mean God is, like, pro-vision and pro-goals and pro-ownership?” Yeah! He sure is. Some of the greatest men and women in the Bible were heavy hitters, high rollers. Now, there are also many other great men and women mentioned in the Bible who were middle class and some lower class. But you can’t say that poverty is next to godliness. That’s not in the Bible.
God is going to bless people. He’s especially going to bless people who are in the zone. God wants to bless us because he knows if he blesses us, we are going to bless the best thing out there, the local church. We’re going to bless other people’s lives. We’re going to be an example to people who don’t know Christ, about how we steward our stuff. And it’s going to be a “Yeah, God!” and a win-win deal for everyone. Materialism, greed, envy—God says, “Man, don’t go there. Life is too short to do that stuff.”
I grew up watching professional wrestling. It’s really called “rastlin” [phonetic]. You know? I’m talking about the old school stuff, you know? Chief Wahoo McDaniel, remember him? The Von Erichs, Rick “Nature Boy” Flair. We’re talking classics, man. My favorite wrestler is that blond-haired guy from Abilene, Texas: Dusty Rhodes. 287 pounds of sweet soul [said with a lisp]. I love Dusty Rhodes! Dusty Rhodes had this hold called the sleeper—some of you guys are familiar with this—and he put his opponents in the sleeper. And, man, once he got you in that grip you could not get out. It was, “Lights out! Over! Bing, bing, bing! The winner, the American Dream, Dusty Rhodes!” I mean, every time he’d win.
Sometimes we get into the grip of greed, the grip of envy, the grip of materialism, especially during this time of year. Christmas in Dallas/Fort Worth? Come on. What do we do about it? How can we get out of the grip of greed? Well, I want to show you some things that God has shown me in my life over the years about this.
ADMIRE WITHOUT THE NEED TO ACQUIRE
Here’s the first thing that God has shown me. He showed me that I need to develop the ability to admire something without having to acquire it or to own it. Can you do that? “Hey, man, that’s a cool car, great house, phenomenal jet ski…whatever.” Compliment it. Say, “Yeah, God!” But say to yourself, “You know, I’m so glad I don’t have to own that, paint that, insure that, protect that, and freak out about that.” That’s a liberating thing. Man, just give somebody a high five, “Good for you! I’m glad you got that, man. Good. That’s great. That’s great. Good.”
In Philippians 4:11, the apostle Paul talked about this. He said, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I’ve learned,” this is a learned thing, “in whatever state I am, to be content.” When I’m not content with my contents, what do I do? I buy stuff with money I don’t have. I’m talking about with those plastic people eaters. I’ll talk about that next week, credit cards. Also, I’ve become materialistic when I buy something to keep up or to one up. “I’m buying this to keep up, or I’m buying this to one up. Top this!”
[Ed begins to sing the popular country song, “Luckenbach, Texas”] “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas, Waylon and Willie and the boys. The successful life we’re living’s got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys. We’ve been too busy keeping up with the Jones, four car garage and we’re still building on. Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.” Right? Yeah, that’s it! Great song, man. Hey, that’s a real song, because we have to get back to the basics.
What are the basics for you? I don’t know. I cannot put those parameters on your life. What are the basics for me? You don’t know. You can’t put that deal on me. But for some reason we look at other people and go, “I deserve that. I need what they have.” Envy and jealousy and materialism.
Just worry about you and your relationship with God. Here’s what I discovered: There’s only one person I’m accountable to when it comes to money. There’s only one person you’re accountable to when it comes to money. God. We are spending and saving and bringing and giving before an audience of one. That’s it.
James 3:16, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” You want to live in The Land of Ing. You’ve got confusion and every evil thing going on because erroneously you think you own it. So admire stuff without the need to acquire stuff.
DEVELOP AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
Here’s another thing that God has taught me: Develop this attitude of gratitude. As I said earlier, this “Yeah, God” mentality.
Romans 12:15, this is a life verse for me. I still struggle with it to deal with it. It says this, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” But we like to reverse it. We want to weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep. We’ve got to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Do a relational check. Who do you hang out with? Who do you rub shoulders with? The people who are on the guilt trip or pride trip? “Hey, this is Prada.” “Huh, this old thing? I got it on clearance at Old Navy.” “Must be nice. Someday….”
Those people will eat your lunch with envy and jealousy and materialism. And it’s a highly infectious disease. Run from people like that. Don’t associate with people like that, because the Bible tells me, “Do not be mislead.” It says, “Bad company,” 1 Corinthians 15:33, “corrupts good character.”
I decided a long time ago to hang out with people who are generous. Here’s what I found out. The people with the highest net worth are not necessarily the most generous people. They’re not. You should hang out with people who rejoice with you when you rejoice, who weep with you when you weep. That’s good. That’s living in the sweet spot of God’s success. An attitude of gratitude—because when we compare ourselves to God, we realize we have nothing to bring. Everything is about God, and we have to emerge with this spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. So develop an attitude of gratitude.
LEARN THE SECRET OF GENEROSITY
Here’s another thing. Learn the secret of generosity. 2 Corinthians 8:7 says, “Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” We’re not talking about tithing. Tithing is not giving. Tithing is bringing. We’re talking about a lifestyle of generosity, because there’s basically two types of getters. There’s the Velcro getter—stuff sticks to you like Velcro. You get to get. We should never get to get. People who get to get live in The Land of Ing. We need to be Teflon givers—we get to give. Get, give. Get, give. Get, give. It just slides off of us. It’s a lifestyle of generosity.
And here is something that I discovered that really helps me break the back of greed in my life. I regularly give stuff away. I’m not talking about broken down, mangy, sorry stuff here. I mean stuff I like. I do that regularly, “Here it is, I like this, and I can tell you like it. Just take it.” It helps me remember, “You know what? Everything you have, everything you are is all about God. You’re blessed. You’re on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. Be a blessing. Don’t be Velcro. Be a Teflon guy.”
James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” For God not to bless your life and mine in the zone would be for God to go contrary to his nature and character. Let’s worship God and thank God for his blessings—relationally, emotionally, financially, occupationally, whatever you can think. Let’s thank God for it. Materialism is not a tangible commodity. It’s an intangible condition of the heart. There’s no ceiling. There’s no benchmark. It’s a deal between you and God, and me and God. And that is what it means to really live life in the zone.