Far More Wealth

I took an informal poll recently which asked people if they wanted to go to heaven when they died. As I expected, the majority answered yes. I am sure the responders had different ideas about what heaven is like or how you get there, but most of them agreed that they wanted to experience it. But I am certain there would have been fewer yes answers if I had asked, “Do you want to love and obey God now so you can live with Him in heaven forever after you die?”

Sometimes what we want — in this example, to live in heaven — and what we are willing to do to get it — in this example, love and obey God — are incompatible. We find the same incompatibility in many areas of life. I want to be at my ideal weight but am not willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Some people want to get out of debt but are unwilling to reduce their spending. Others want better relationships but are not willing to put in the required effort. Regardless of what we say, what we do reflects what we truly want.

The gospels tell the story of a man who also faced this dilemma:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

…Jesus answered, “You know the commandments…”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-22, NIV)

This man is just like us! We want to have everything we want…but on our terms. We want treasure, influence, and significance in this life AND we want eternal life. It is tempting to think having the best of earth and the best of heaven is far more life. But it is not.

Jesus was not giving the man in this story a to do list that would lead to salvation. Based on other Scripture passages, we know that selling all we possess is not how we gain eternal life (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Ephesians 2:8). Instead, Jesus gave this answer to draw out the true desires of this man’s heart, to reveal what he truly loved. Jesus had explained the principle at work in an earlier teaching:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

The man was doing many good things but had given his heart to his wealth. He treasured his possessions and lifestyle. He wanted the benefits God offered but was not willing to give up the benefits his wealth provided.

Throughout human history people have wanted to do their own thing but still receive God’s blessing. God made this statement to the Israelites around 1300 years before Jesus walked the earth:

You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6, NIV)

Humans want the freedom to make other things, people, or pursuits more important than God, but we also want Him to shower us with good gifts. However, this verse draws a sharp line: we either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground in our relationship with Him or His response to us. A similar warning is found in Revelation:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17, NIV)

Do you notice the different “riches” that are referenced in these verses? It is tempting for us to place value on material possessions, status, or physical comfort. But God’s riches are spiritual in nature. In fact, he warns us:

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36, NIV)

Far more life desires and pursues the spiritual riches that God offers. It seeks to give and receive forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, unity, generosity, and hope. It is grounded in faith. It sees this life — with its struggles, temptations, and successes — in light of eternity. Far more life is centered on God rather than self. It strives to understand and obey Him more rather than cling to comfortable attitudes and actions. Far more life may look poor to the world but it leads to the greatest and best wealth possible!

Sisters,
What do you desire in life? Are your actions compatible with that desire?
How would you describe the best earth has to offer? The best heaven has to offer?
What is your reaction to the statement, “We either love God and receive His love or we hate Him and receive His punishment. There is no middle ground.” What Bible verses support or negate this strong stand?
If you love God, what spiritual riches have you already gained?
Thank God that the riches of far more life start now and last forever!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Set Your Heart

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:1-3, NIV)

You may read this verse and think, “But earthly things need our attention!” We need to eat and sleep. Many of us need to go to work to earn money. If we have children, we need to meet their physical, emotional, and mental needs. Other relationships need attention, too. We may need to mow the yard, shovel the walk, and tend our gardens. Appliances break. Our vehicles need maintenance. Our living space needs to be cleaned. We need to replenish our resources. We must think about these things and many more; they cannot be ignored while we think about “things above” and hope God sends angels to do the actual work for us.

But this passage is not telling us to ignore our responsibilities or the necessities of life. Rather it gives instruction about our heart, which is our command center. Biblically speaking, our heart is the source of our will, intellect and feelings. It determines our values, motivation, and mindset. It tells us to know what is most important, which then shapes our goals, dreams, decisions, and priorities. These verses are challenging us to think about the big picture — the foundation on which our lives are built — not just the needs and challenges of today. That is essential for far more life.

Here is a sampling of Bible verses that provide specific instruction about our hearts:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:111, NIV)

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NIV)

We are born with a heart of stone that is spiritually hardened and lifeless (Ezekiel 36:26). It is set on earthly things and does not know or desire God. But God offers us a new, soft heart that is set on heavenly things and eternally connected to Him. But even with our new heart, our mind is still full of the old thoughts, plans, and feelings. We will spend the rest of our lives uncovering the damage done by our old heart and experiencing the healing available through our new heart. We cannot change our old heart and its desires; instead we must learn to let our new heart control more areas of our mind, intellect, and feelings. That is how set our heart on heavenly things.

We can test our heart to determine whether we are listening to the part set on earthly things or the part set on heavenly things. One question that tests this is, “Whose kingdom am I building: my own or God’s?” At the times our desire is to acquire all the wealth, possessions, status, power, experiences, and pleasure we can, we are listening to our old heart and focused on earthly things. But when our desire is to use the things of this life — our wealth, possessions, status, power, experiences, and pleasure — to know God better and introduce others to Him, we know we are being ruled by our new hearts and are focused on heavenly things.

It is not what we are doing that reveals our heart, but why we are doing it. Two people can perform the same action but be building different kingdoms. We can do anything — even spiritual activities — with a focus on ourselves or a focus on God. For this reason, God’s Word contains other verses that help us determine where our heart is set:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV)

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25, NIV)

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  (I John 2:17, NIV)

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25, NIV)

When our heart is set on heavenly things, our life is not about ourselves. We can definitely appreciate our blessings and enjoy God’s creation, but we are not focused on acquiring more toys, experiences, recognition. We see the world as our mission field rather than our playground. We think about the eternal impact of what we do rather than the short-term benefit. We recognize physical death is the gateway to our eternal home rather than the end of our existence. We accept that things do not always make sense because we do not have access to every detail of the master plan. We trust God’s character and His Word as our guidance rather than our own understanding and experiences. Focusing on heavenly things brings us peace, hope, joy, and purpose. It brings us far more life!

Sisters,
What earthly things compete with God for your heart’s attention?
In what areas of life is your new heart in control? In which areas does your mind revert to old heart patterns?
What helps you recognize when you are building your own kingdom instead of God’s?
Thank God for faithfully giving you far more life, no matter how many times you have to reset your heart on heavenly things.
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso