U GOT GAME
October 15, 2000
A close friend of my family married into an extremely wealthy family. In fact, if I call this wealthy family’s name out, pretty much everyone in this place would recognize it just like that. Several years after my friend had married into this prestigious family, the old man who had amassed this great fortune died. After the funeral, while my friend and his wife were making their way to the limousine, one of the old man’s friends whispered to him, “Hey, how much did he leave?” My friend said, “He left everything. He left everything.” This man had amassed a great net worth on this side of the grave, but he was bankrupt on the other—a penetrating story painted against the backdrop of these two sections of scripture.
1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.” Jesus added in Matthew 6:20-21, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” This pretty much says we can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead. I’m going to revolve my comments this weekend around this question: Where are you building your net worth?
People love to talk about net worth these days. Business periodicals crank out lists about who has the most stuff, who has stacked up the most material possessions, the most cash. And it’s kind of a benchmark; it’s kind of a competition to see how much people are worth. Turn to your neighbor, and just glance at them. I’m talking about the person on your right and your left. Chances are you’re looking at someone who is loaded. You might be saying, “Now, Ed, come on. I know what he’s worth. He’s not loaded.” Don’t speak too soon because if you have more than a couple of changes of clothes, you are wealthy against the backdrop of the world.
This past Thursday morning, I put my wife and four children on a plane to Columbia, South Carolina. They’re in that great state visiting some family and friends. As I was leading them into the airport, walking down the concourse early in the morning, trying to dodge people, I heard that familiar droning sound, that beep, beep, beep of that golf-cart-type thing that’s moving the elderly and physically challenged. The thing about those golf cart people-movers is that they’re not going to stop. They are coming through. And when they come through the concourse, people have a decision to make. They either go to the right or to the left, and the decisions are quick.
In a real way, during this message, God is driving a golf cart kind of a people-mover through Fellowship church. And you can hear that droning, that beep, beep, beep of the golf cart, because we have a choice to make. We’ve got to go to the right or to the left because He’s asking us one question through this text: Where are you building your net worth? Could it be that you’re worried about your wealth on the wrong side of life? Could it be that you’re putting too much stock in your stock, in your stuff? Could it be?
Before I go any further, I want to slap a big warning label over today’s message. WARNING: The Contents Of This Talk Could Be Hazardous To Your Worldly Wealth. And if it gets too intense in here, this warning sign will come back on. If it really gets hot, be ready.
I do want to talk to you, though, about your net worth. People are worth a lot of money these days. I watched a show several nights ago, and a real estate broker in Aspen was saying, “You know, the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires in Aspen. They’re the ones who are buying the multi-million dollar estates these days.”
We’re going to pick up right now a running dialogue between the Apostle Paul and his young leader, Timothy. Timothy was a true difference-maker, a leader in the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus had a lot of people who had a lot of money, and Paul was giving instructions to Timothy. He was telling Timothy what to do, what to say to people about their true net worth—words that we need understand in today’s culture. I think we’ll all be surprised at this whole thing about wealth. Right up front, Paul talks to Timothy about something that I refer to as “industrial strength contentment.”
Let’s pick up in 1 Timothy 6:7, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Contentment is not measured by what you have in your portfolio. It’s not measured by what you have in your house or in your car or in your wardrobe. True contentment comes from what you have in your heart. If you have made that defining-moment decision to receive Christ into your life, from Christ being in your heart should flow contentment. That is what the Apostle Paul was after. That is what he was communicating to Timothy.
Well, then he goes on. Let’s pick up in 1 Timothy 9:6, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men”—this word “plunge” literally means drown—“into ruin and destruction.” Look at that phrase “those who want to get rich.” I wrote a book several months ago called “Fatal Distractions,” and in one of the chapters, I talk about this whole mentality of people wanting to get rich. I call it the “desire to acquire that’s gone haywire.”
A lot of us want to get rich. We think the more stuff we acquire and accrue and hoard and stack up will equate to happiness. And we get enveloped by what I refer to as the More Monster. “More,” he envelopes our lives. “More,” he whispers to us. “More, more, more.” And when we get more, there’s always more. We’re always one deal away, one car away, one house away, one outfit away, one piece of jewelry away from nirvana. Yet, we never get it. We’re chasing infinity. As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “We’re chasing after the wind.” We can’t grab it.
Now, a lot of us on the exterior say, “Hey, man, I don’t want to get rich. I don’t have this desire to acquire gone haywire. The More Monster’s not on my back. But if we peeled away all of the façade, all the exterior, we would see a little Mick-Jagger-type figure saying, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” A lot of us are looking for satisfaction in the wrong place. We’re wanting to get rich.
What happens when we want to get rich is we fall into temptation, we fall into a trap; and we’re plunged, the Bible says, into destruction. Money, material goods, all the stuff we stack up—all this junk makes poor floatation devices. We’re going to sink. We’re going to drown. We’re going to go under.
Let me say something—Jesus nor the writers of Scripture, Jesus nor the writers of the New Testament, none of them are “anti-ownership” or “anti-money.” It’s an understood fact that we will have some things and manage some things. Some will have a big pile, some a small pile, some a medium-size pile. That’s understood. It’s when that desire to acquire that’s gone haywire takes us, when that little Mick Jagger figure says, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” when the More Monster says, “More and more and more.” That is when we fall into trouble. We set ourselves up for failure. God loves you and me too much, our hearts are too fragile, for us to chase all this stuff and one day figure out that it’s not the answer.
Verse 10—again this is summarized—“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” It doesn’t say that money is the root of all kinds of evil. No, it says, “For the love of money….” One of my favorite songs of all times was written by the OJ’s, “Money, money, money, money…Money.” Have you ever heard that song before? Lift your hands. Man, those of you who are not lifting your hands, just go to any music store, and buy this CD. It’s incredible. That song says, “For the love of money, people will laugh, they will cheat. For the love of money, a woman will sell her precious body. For the love of money….” It’s a great song. It talks about money and the power of it and the love of it and how it leads to all kinds of evil. The love of money. Do you love money? Do you love your possessions? If you love your possessions, they will possess you?
Now, let’s change gears a little bit because we are going to get into something that the Lord revealed to me over the last several days from this text in 1 Timothy 6. We’re going to get into something that I refer to as financial aerobics. Isn’t that cool? Financial aerobics. And after we get into financial aerobics, then I’m going to tell you what the Bible says concerning how to get rich. This is going to be fun. Financial aerobics.
Again, Paul is talking. Check out the power of these words. Here’s what he says beginning in Verse 11 of 1 Timothy 6, “But you, man of God….” (Remember he’s talking to Timothy.) Put your name in there—“You, woman of God,” “You, student of God….” “You, man of God, flee all of this.” Flee: that’s the first part of financial aerobics. Flee. This word “flee,” if you’re into the linguistic side of life, is a present imperative. It’s a continuous action. It doesn’t mean that I’ll just get away one time. It’s a continuous thing. I will flee. And it doesn’t mean running scared or going soft.
Christianity is not passive. Christianity is active. Christianity is staying hard. It’s being aggressive. It’s obeying. These are strong words. Flee—not running scared. It’s literally separating yourself from people, places, and things that rev up, that stoke those envy engines. Woo, it got quiet. “Did he say what I thought he said?” Yes, I’m talking about that person. I’m talking about that place or that thing that makes you say, “Oh, I’ve got to have that. I’ve got to own that. I’ve got to make that much money. I’ve got to be able to fly there, vacation there. Oh, I’ve got to have that.” And the More Monster goes, “More, more, more.” Mick Jagger says, “I can’t get no….” We’ve got to separate ourselves from that.
It does not mean that we’re to cloister ourselves away in this little monk-type existence and say, “Well, I’m just going to be here in this little island, this little hut; and I can’t do this, or I can’t do that, and I can’t live life.” No, it says we are to flee. But when we flee from all of this, we’ve got to go somewhere. What do we do? We follow. We simply follow.
I continue, “But you men of God, flee from all this and pursue….” That’s “follow.” What do we pursue? Here we go, “righteousness….” What does that mean? Integrity. The word “integrity” comes from the word “integer.” An integer is a whole number. Too many of us give out fractions, not a wholeness of ourselves. Pursue righteousness. Pursue godliness—that’s our conduct. Pursue faith—that’s dependability. Pursue love—that’s agape, self-sacrificing love. Pursue endurance—that’s crashing through quitting points. And pursue gentleness—that’s power under control.
Power under control would be like these lights. These lights are kind of diffused. The lights are not laser beams. But if you take these lights and make them into a laser beam, if you focus them, the laser can do some amazing stuff. I had Lasik surgery a while back—and I was blind as a bat—but once I came up off of the table—Wham!—I could see. Do you know what happened? A laser did it. God wants you and me to be laser-type believers. So, we’ve go to flee. It’s part of financial aerobics, and we’ve got to follow. We’ve got to pursue all of this stuff.
Also, we’ve got to fight. All of these are a continuous thing. Is it just a one-time skirmish? No. We’ve got to fight. The Bible says, 1 Timothy 6, Verse 12, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” The word “fight” means to strain. It’s a picture of an athlete straining for the mark, straining for the prize, straining in the event. If this is your first weekend here, you might be saying, “Man, what’s up with the stage decorations. Why the urban look? Why the street-ball look? Christianity is lived out on the field of faith, on the court of the church. It’s an intense game. It’s not for the weak-knee’d. It’s for those who say, “Man, I’m not passive, I’m aggressive.” I’m not going to sit there and say, “I’m just going to wait on God. No, no, no. I’m ready to stand up and do what God says.” That’s Christianity. It’s adventure. It’s excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s seeking God. That’s what it is.
Flee, follow, fight—financial aerobics. When we do all of that, then—here’s the kicker—we will take hold of the future. I love that. “Take hold,” if we fight the good fight, we will “take hold of the eternal to which you were called.” I’ll be able to take hold of it. I can have one eye on eternity. I will see this temporal stuff as stuff I can leverage for eternity. It seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? All of this stuff is external, is temporal; but God says that if we do it God’s way, we can leverage it for eternity. In other words, we can build a true net worth on the other side.
I’ve got to stop here and ask you something: If you were to die right now, what would you leave? Everything? Or would you say, “No, no, no, if I died right now, I would leave some stuff; but I have a serious net worth in heaven.” Oh, really. Are you sure about that? You see, wealth has a way of lying to us. This More Monster, this Mick Jagger-type mentality says, “Hey, you’re invincible. You the man. You the woman.” But little do we realize we’re one germ away from death, we’re one drunk driver away from death, one stray bullet away from death.
There’s a tissue-like veil that separates this life from the next. Every single time I talk about money, and we talk about material possessions, I think about something. I want to bring that something on stage right quick. This is one of our dogs, Sweetie. Now, as you know, Lisa and I have two other dogs—bull mastiffs with a combined weight of 300 pounds. Sweetie is a dog that we adopted about a year ago, and we were told she was about four years old. But we took her to our vet, and the vet said she’s about ten. So, anyway, Sweetie would have been taken out had we not adopted her.
Sweetie loves my wife Lisa. Oh, my goodness. I’m talking about real love here. And don’t let the name “Sweetie” fool you, because she can be a little bit ornery and a little bit mean now and then. A lot of us are like Sweetie when we hear about material possessions. Let me describe what I’m talking about. As I said, Lisa’s been out of town for the last several nights, and Sweetie oftentimes sleeps in our bed. Well, to keep Sweetie calm and all that, I thought, “Well, okay, I’m by myself. I’ll put Sweetie in the bed with me alone.” In the middle of the night, I’m rolling around, and Sweetie’s growling at me whenever I move around in the bed.
When I come home, she usually howls at me. Let me see if I can get her to howl. Watch this, Sweetie, Sweetie…. [Ed howling] She won’t do it. [Dog crying] She’s not doing it good. A lot of us are like this dog. When God starts moving and talking about material possessions, we start growling, and we start howling. Usually, when we howl and growl—when we do the Sweetie thing—it means we’ve got a problem with it. It means possessions have possessed us. It means we’re so tethered to the temporal that we miss the eternal stuff; we miss building a true net worth on the other side. I wish Sweetie would have howled. Man, she didn’t do it. One more time, Sweetie. [Ed howling] No? That’s Sweetie Young. Go ahead, Sweetie.
Now, I want to change gears a little bit. As I’ve studied this text, it’s almost like Paul wanted to get one last shot in. He’d been talking about fleeing; he’d been talking about following and fighting and pursuing all of this stuff, and taking hold of eternity and the future. But it’s almost like Paul was thinking, “Okay, I’ve been talking about fighting. I want to get a couple of last parting shots in.” Paul’s going to talk about here how to get rich. Paul’s going to tell Timothy, “Hey, it’s cool if you’ve got money, if you’ve been blessed in that way, if you’ve got a house here and a house there and whatever. “ “But,” he says, “here’s how to really build that true net worth. Here’s how to leverage the temporal for the eternal.”
Let’s jump into 1 Timothy 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.” That’s that false sense of assurance. Don’t you hate to be around people who are just snobs? I mean, that makes you ill. People who are arrogant and have a lot of money—first of all, they don’t understand themselves, and secondly, they don’t understand money. What should happen when we’re blessed financially or blessed in a materialistic way, we should say, “God, I’m humbled. God, I want to give you glory. It comes from you.” That’s what we should say.
“Command those in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth which is uncertain.” What did Jesus say? “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on this temporal side of the equation that can rot and rust and corrode and crater. Don’t do that.” We should stop there.
That’s the first way to build true net worth. It’s a hope thing. We can talk for days and days and days about fleeing, about following, about fighting, and about the future. You can try to do all that. You can try to muster up the octane to do it, but it’s not going to work for you until you bow the knee and until you say, “Hey, Lord, I want to do the hope thing.” You can’t just say, “Well, I’m just going to open up an account. I just kind of have an account on the other side.” No, no, no. “I’ll work my way into an account.” Nope. You’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to take a step. You’ve got to say, “Lord, I want to put my trust, my hope, in you.” That is how you open up an account.
Many here have a lot of stuff on this side, but on the other side you’re bankrupt. And you’re facing—right now—an eternal hell, a forever existence away from the presence of God. It does not have to be that way. You can make the call right now to say, “I want to open up an account right now on the other side.” Here’s how you do it. You simply believe that God sent Christ to die on the cross in your place, to take all of that sin, and to rise again; that God sent Christ to do that. Then you’ve got to accept that; you’ve got to receive that. The moment you receive that, here’s what happens. You open up an account in eternity. That’s how you do the hope thing.
Everything starts there. It’s not a deal where you say, “Well, I’ll just kind of pray this little prayer, ‘Lord, come into my life,’ and boom I’ve got an account, and now I can live any way I want to live. I can have sex with this person and that person. I can just freak out, get wasted all the time.” No, no, no, no. Christianity is a decision followed by a process.
Once I bow the knee to the Lord, once I open up this account on the other side, then I can flee, then I can follow, then I can fight, and then I can understand what it means to take hold of eternity. Don’t let another moment go by until you’ve made this choice. It’s a hope thing.
Also, it’s a deed thing. Let me go on and keep going. “We should put our hope in God who richly provides everything for our enjoyment.” God wants us to enjoy blessings. Do you have a bunch of stuff? Enjoy it for the glory of God, but use it for the glory of God. I know someone in this church right now who has several homes. This person uses those homes for the glory of God. God smiles on that. If you have an apartment or ten homes, use it for the glory of God. It’s a deed thing.
Verse 18, “Command them to do good to be”—here we go—“rich,” loaded, “in good deeds.” Let me stop, “rich in good deeds.” Last weekend I talked about ministry. The word “try” is on the end of it. “Okay, I’ve done the hope thing. I’ve opened up the account, now how do I build my bank on the other side? How do I increase my net worth?” It’s a deed thing.
“Ed, what in the world are you talking about? A deed thing?” I’ll tell you. Every time you choose, for example, honesty over dishonesty, you’re building your net worth on the other side. Every time you choose purity over impurity, you’re building your net worth on the other side. Every time you exhibit a controlled temper, a controlled self, instead of raging on someone—your spouse or your children or coworkers—you’ve built your net worth, you’ve increased it on the other side. Every character test, every time we step up, every time we glorify God, every time we know we’re doing acts of worship before Him, we’re increasing our net worth on the other side.
It’s a hope thing. It’s a deed thing. Also, it’s a treasure thing. It says we’re to be “generous and willing to share.” Verse 19, “In this way they will lay up for themselves treasures as a firm foundation for the coming age”—that’s eternity—“so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” We’ve got to be generous and willing to share. We’ve got to leverage our resources for eternity.
We can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead. How do we send it on ahead? We send it on ahead by investing our funds in people who are going there. Where is that taking place? The local church. The local church, that’s it. So often, we have opportunity after opportunity to leverage our good works, our deeds, to leverage our resources to the local church and to build our bank in eternity, but we don’t do it. Why? Well, basically, because a lot of us are not willing.
Many times, I’m not willing to share. I’m not willing, sometimes, to share with Fellowship Church—to give to Fellowship Church of my talents, of my treasure. Here’s what God’s taught me, “Ed, when you feel that selfishness coming on, pray this simple prayer: ‘God I’m not willing, but you make me willing.’” Are you ready to pray that prayer? Are you bold enough to say, “Hey, I’m going to step up and say, ‘God, you make me willing.’”
Folks, we have an opportunity to do something for the glory of God that has rarely been done anywhere. Anywhere. I don’t know why God’s doing it here. I have no rationale or reasoning behind it. God has just anointed this church in a supernatural way. The church is the only entity that is involved in people coming to Christ and having their eternity secure. Nothing else does it. Nothing else compares to it. Nothing else is even in the same ballpark. Nothing.
So when are you going to say, “God, I’m going to be your man for this situation?” How about you? I’m talking about eternity. I’m talking about true net worth. God has driven this golf cart, hasn’t he, right down the center of Fellowship Church. We’ve made choices. We’ve moved to the right, to the left, during this message. And He’s asked us, over and over, “Hey, where is your real net worth? Where is it? Have you trusted me? Have you put your hope in me? Have you?” God says, “How about your deeds, how about your good works? How about it? How about your treasure? How about that?”
So, what are you going to do? I’ll ask you one more time, if you were to die right now—the funeral would probably be, what, Tuesday—and there were people walking away from the gravesite, and someone turned to your close family member and asked, “Hey, how much did he leave? How much did she leave?” Would your family member say, “Well, everything.” Or would they say, “They left some things. But let me tell you something, their true net worth was on the other side.” When it’s on the other side, you’ve got game.