May 4, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But I have everything I need and am amply supplied.”
Philippians 4: 18
“Who has not known men and women who, when they arrive at seasons of gloom and solitude, put on strength and hopefulness like a robe? You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut up their treasure with them. You cannot shut it out. You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut it out. You may make their material lot a desert, but ‘the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.’”
J. H. Jowett
Today’s Study Text:
“Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ and the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another. “Then who can be save?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Mark 10: 17-22
“Behold The Man” – Part 14
“Possessions – Reward or Stumbling Block”
“It is easier to renounce worldly possessions than it is to renounce the love of them.”
What do I think the word “possession” means?
In what ways do “possessions” have the ability to “possess” me?
“I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.”
Dr. David Livingstone
“And (Jesus) said to them, ‘Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a (person’s) life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above (their) needs.’”
Luke 12: 15
When this week began, I told you we would cover one story a day from Jesus’ life. Well sometimes, my good intentions don’t play out exactly as I intended and with good reason. One thing about deep, thoughtful Bible study is that you just never know when you’ll uncover a pearl of great price or a diamond of rare value – and this is what “Beholding The Man” is all about, for the closer we get to Jesus, the more we uncover in the words He left us in Scripture, the more we find out hearts stirred. What’s more, our longing to be like Jesus grows in ways we can’t ever begin to imagine.
This is the reason the story of the rich young ruler went from a one day study to a three day study. Yesterday, we looked at a young man’s desire to obtain or inherit eternal life. We found that Jesus clearly and kindly replied there were two specific acts that He asked of this searching soul. First, the wealthy young man needed to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Second, he was invited to, “Follow Me.”
Sadly, the cost was so high that the young man turned and walked away – grieving, I might add. To better understand this response I felt it wise to take a look at the word “possessions” for both Matthew and Mark use the phrase: “for he had great possessions.” In the Greek, the word “possessions” means acquirements or estate. In the dictionary, the English word “acquirements” means to gain control of possessions.
I want to share with you the words penned many years ago by the Bible commentator, Matthew Henry on the specific text in Mark 10: 22, where a grieving man walked away from Jesus. “It is a sorrowful parting between Christ and this young man…it would appear he sincerely wanted eternal life and press towards it. He seemed to have a heart much set upon eternity.” And then Henry states that Jesus brought the young man to a “touchstone” – a place we call a measure or point which proves worth or genuineness. In other words, Jesus’ request of this young man was the ideal model.
The fact is that of all the people in the crowd that day, including Jesus’ disciples, Jesus was the only person who really understood what the path going forward would be like. Before Jesus loomed the vision of the cross and He understood that those who came to His side and followed Him needed to have a singular focus as well as an undivided heart.
As I studied this passage, along with the comments Biblical scholars have penned regarding Jesus’ words, it became clear to me that the hurtle that was too high for this young man to clear had a great deal to do with a word we call the “future.” What about tomorrow? Just put yourself in the place of this young man. He had acted with responsibility his entire life. He acknowledged to Jesus that he had done what was right and we find Jesus didn’t argue that point with him. In fact, Mark is clear, Jesus loved this young man and I have to tell you, I hope and pray that Jesus loves me, too, enough to say, “Dorothy, follow Me,” just like He did to this man.
But there was this big problem. It was the things that this man held on to all because he mistakenly thought they protected him against future problems. Everything he had saved for – gone if he followed Jesus. Everything he had worked to earn – gone if he followed Jesus. Everything he had enjoyed in his free-time – gone if he followed Jesus. And for this wealthy young man, he couldn’t leave the future in Jesus’ hands. He had done such a good job of taking care of his life and his possessions up to this point in time and who knows, maybe he had been taking care of other people in his life too, and now Jesus said, “Leave the future to Me – follow Me.” Professor James Thompson asks this probing question, “Why must this man give up his riches in order to follow Jesus? What will he get in return? A standard answer is that there is nothing wrong with wealth itself. The problem is not wealth per se but our attitude toward it. As we accumulate riches, we are tempted to trust in our possessions and our powers of acquiring them, rather than in God, for our ultimate security and comfort. Even honestly acquired and generously shared wealth can thus lead to pride.” The Professor Thompson makes this heart-stirring comment: “Jesus’ summons requires total transformation and commitment.” The question for us today is this hurtle too high?
Let us never forget, Jesus loved this young man. I believe He wanted this young man to follow Him and become a disciple for Jesus’ call to him was really the same as His call to Peter and Andrew to leave their nets and follow Jesus. As Charles Campbell, a professor at Duke Divinity School, in his commentary on this story notes that Jesus did not “view this man as intentionally evil. Indeed, the man appears to be faithful in many ways, having kept the commandments from his youth. Rather than condemning the ‘sin’ of the rich man, Jesus confronts the man with his weakness, his captivity to possessions that prevents him from living into the full life of the kingdom Jesus here names the ‘power’ that holds the man captive and invites the man to step into freedom.”
For each of us, in very different ways, we find that there are “things” in our lives that have a “power” which is exerted over our lives in one way or another. For the young man, it was the “power” of what he had acquired that he could not release for he just couldn’t trust his future to Jesus. He’d done such a good job taking care of everything in his life up to that point. A total release of all he treasured was just a hurtle too high.
I must be honest with you as I always have been. I understand this young man for he is me. I’ve walked in his shoes. Nearly 30 years ago when my precious dad dropped dead, he had few plans in place to take care of the future if something catastrophic happened to him. He just always said, “God will take care of everything.” There were several problems with that logic if you had asked me at the time. My mother was left with no income and worse yet, no medical insurance and her pre-existing medical problems made single-payer insurance totally unaffordable. Thankfully, Jim and I owned a company. Mother went on our payroll and medical policy. But in my eyes, this wasn’t “God taking care of the future.” The fact that my mother had an income and insurance was good planning and hard work on the part of Jim and Dorothy. And for 30 years – yes, a long time, Jim and I employed our family members; kept everybody insured; and looked-out for, at least that’s how I viewed the situation. And even ten years ago when Transformation Garden began, Jim and I carried the financial load – all alone. Having our commercial company proved, in my eyes, to be a real blessing for I thought that’s the way God’s work got done – by my own hand. And then, three years ago, the unthinkable happened when without any warning we lost a client who we had worked for nearly 18 years. It was a blow that our company could hardly handle. We survived – but barely. Month-after-month, I had no idea how we would ever keep Transformation Garden going. The future, in my eyes was grim. And what’s more, “Mrs. I’m-In-Control” wasn’t in control anymore. I couldn’t prop everything up. I apologize to all of you who may think I’m a “power-lifter” in the faith department, but this crisis stretched me beyond my limit and when I’d be interceding in prayer on behalf of one of you whose financial world was collapsing, I’d be weeping for you because, believe me, I felt your pain. You see, I just could not trust God with the future. I was upset that He hadn’t, in my opinion, done such a great job with today, as Jim and I tried, through the pain and illness of the wreck to take on the stress and burdens caused by “possessions”.
But something truly wonderful has happened. In fact, Jesus told his disciples, who came to the conclusion that it would be impossible for a wealthy person to enter God’s kingdom, that what with men and women think is ‘impossible, all things are possible with God” (Mark 10: 27). This doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you that I won the lottery or that I’ve been healed of all my pain and so has Jim. No, in our life God has chosen to work differently for He needed to open the eyes of His daughter Dorothy and show her that during those 30 years, it was God who gave us power to do all that was necessary to take care of the people He put on our path. He was there even when I was taking credit for keeping everything in control. And when all the blocks I’d so carefully set in place began to tumble down, He just wanted me to see more clearly how very capable He is at handling my chaotic world (and yours, too!)! Everyday, over the last few months, I’ve begun my day with this statement, “What are you going to surprise me with today, dear Jesus!” Some weeks, things just roll along and seem to go fine. And then, like two weeks ago, as it got closer to the end of the month and all the vendors who help with the Garden needed to be paid, the bank account was on $35.00. Now let me be clear, all of us are volunteers. We have no building costs. I work in my closet and dear Karen and Pat and my mom work out of their houses as volunteers. The bottom line was that I needed about $950.00. Not a lot from “Someone” who has told me in His word that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. I have to tell you, I was frantic. I didn’t say a word to anyone. No one – except my heavenly Father. And while I know I don’t have to tell you the rest of the story I am going to because I want to glorify my Father in heaven who is trustworthy enough for us to leave our future in His hands. He’s trustworthy enough for us to give Him all we have if that happens to be what He asks us to do. And what’s more, He’s trustworthy enough for us to follow Him, when He calls us.
You see, I know, for just one week before the end of the month, a check came for $1,000.00. Someone who did not know how critical their gift was at that very moment in time to a ministry called Transformation Garden.
In the book of Job we find these words spoken, “If I rejoiced because my wealth was great and because my powerful hand alone had gotten much…I would have denied and been false to the God who is above” (Job 31: 25,28, Amplified Bible.) No matter how much we have or how little we have in the way of earthly possessions, the things of this world will never compare to our “riches of the glory…which is Christ within, our Hope” (Colossians 1: 27, Amplified Bible). AMEN!
“Christianity teacheth me that what I charitably give alive, I carry with me dead; and experience teacheth me that what I leave behind, I lose. I will carry that treasure with me by giving it, which the worldling loseth by keeping it; so, while their corpse shall carry nothing but a winding cloth to their grave, I shall be richer under the earth than I was above it.”
“With what difficulties will those who possess wealth and keep on holding it enter the kingdom of God…Children, how hard it is for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety) in riches to enter the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10: 23, 24
You have sown the seed of love in my heart but I have not watered it with my tears- Lord, forgive.
You have shown me hungry children and I have fed only my friends – Lord, forgive.
You have shown me the homeless and I have cared only for my own home – Lord, forgive.
Your have shown me the naked but I have only clothed myself – Lord, forgive.
You have shown me the wounded and I have been only concerned with my own pain – Lord, forgive.
You have shown me the bereaved and I have sought out others to comfort me – Lord forgive.
You have shown me those who do not know Your love and I have failed to share that which You have given me -
Lord, forgive and help me to obey.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.