There’s an old story that goes something like this: referring to a deceased man’s last will and testament, someone asked, “How much did he leave?” The answer? “All of it!” The wise person will take into account that none of our possessions and material resources will follow us after death, as the Scripture clearly states: “As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15, ESV).
Jesus issued this stark warning against a life focused on gaining the things of the world. Such an ill-spent, wasted life greatly increases the likelihood of “losing his own soul.” I once heard of a middle-aged man who was already worth $200 million. But his life was thoroughly dedicated to increasing his net worth further. Why? To what end? What effect might that have had on his spiritual life?
In the years when I taught the Pastoral Epistles in bible college, my all-time favorite exam question was: “What is the ‘root of all evil’?” (1 Timothy 6:10, KJV). I had covered this topic extensively in class, yet there were always some students who would wrongly answer “money.” Of course, the correct answer is “the love of money is the root of all evil” (KJV). The verse goes on to say about the love of money: “…which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” The dedicated pursuit of wealth is often accompanied by a steady drift from the faith and from your walk with God.
The rich man “lived in luxury” (16) in his earthly lifetime. He enjoyed his “good things … comforts and delights” (25, Amplified). But he had no time for serving God or his neighbor (Lazarus) and ended up in hell for eternity. Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments were (1) to love God and (2) to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). I encourage you to stop reading right here and ask yourself if those are your top two priorities in life. If not, then Jesus is warning you that you are pursuing goals and values of lesser significance than the ones He lists as most important.
Sadly, the rich man chose to serve his riches and possessions rather than to serve God and his fellow man. To his own great loss, he chose poorly in the God-or-mammon issue. Jesus used the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to illustrate an underlying principle with eternal consequences: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13).
Are you squandering your precious time on earth pursuing things that will not count for anything in eternity? Remember, we will leave this life naked, as we entered it, taking with us nothing of our money, our possessions, or our earthly status in the eyes of others.
The self-centered, self-indulgent rich man Jesus spoke of was the worst-case scenario. He ended up in hell’s fire for eternity. Let’s consider now the case of a sincere believer in the Lord who can still allow things to creep in that lead to a life poorly spent on this earth.
It is possible to genuinely believe in Jesus Christ, come to Him in faith and repentance, and still live out our entire lives and “not mature” in our spiritual walk and in our relationship with the Lord. As the Amplified Bible says in this verse: “they bring no fruit to maturity.”
What can cause this sad situation, this unfruitful life? Jesus mentions three things that can “choke” us from maturing and bearing fruit in our lives: (1) worries, (2) riches, and (3) pleasures.
Worries — Cares, concerns, and anxieties about life’s events can be destructive to a fruitful walk with the Lord. The apostle Paul counsels us to take an aggressive, positive approach to this problem: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Riches — We’ve already read that the love of money is greatly harmful. Some people don’t go that far but just fall into the trap of dwelling on money issues and fretting about them. This too can choke our lives from bearing good fruit. We are better off simply determining to serve God, to be willing and diligent workers, and to believe God for His promises to provide for our needs (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:31-33).
Pleasures — There are many legitimate pleasures in this life on earth. For example, as grandparents of 22 grandkids, my wife and I derive much enjoyment from such things as attending their sports events and cheering them on. Vacationing in our camp trailer alongside a lovely river or lake was another enjoyable and wholesome pleasure. But even such “good” things can become problematical if they consume our time and affections to the detriment of our walk with the Lord. As a 17-year adult resident of Alaska I saw this frequently. The short summer season would arrive, and Christians would spend weekend after weekend out of town fishing, camping, etc., and would go long periods of time away from church services and from ongoing fellowship with other believers.
In sum, worries, riches, and pleasures can divert our focus from God onto secular things. The result is often a life that loses its vital touch with the Lord in corporate worship, in prayer, and in the Word of God.
There are three key principles mentioned here for a life that is pleasing to God:
1) We must sincerely believe in God (“that he exists”). The walk with the Lord is a walk of faith, not of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7, KJV).
2) We must believe that God rewards His people. He is a good God, a generous God, a loving God, who is blessed when His people walk in faith towards Him.
3) We must “earnestly seek Him.” This speaks of time spent worshiping Him, time in prayer with Him, time in His Word the Bible. The God-pleasing Christian is one who devotes his or her life to an earnest desire to know, love, and serve the Lord.
The destiny of those who have resisted the call of Christ’s Gospel is a fearful thing to behold: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, KJV).
Sadly, this is the destination and the eternal condemnation of those who waste their earthly lives serving their own desires and ignore God and the gracious salvation offered by His Son Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, God is calling each of us into His family. He loves you so much that He sent Jesus His Son to die for your sins and rise again from the dead, so that you can receive Him as Lord and Savior and be born again and become sons and daughters of God. That is the single greatest decision you can ever make, and it will open up for you the doors into eternal life with God. If you feel God calling you today to come to Him, please allow evangelist Billy Graham to help you make that life-changing decision for Jesus Christ.
At God’s right hand in heaven are unimaginable pleasures for evermore. Entirely wholesome pleasures, of course, consistent with God’s magnificent holiness.
Do you feel you’ve been wasting your life on earth up to the present? God offers a solution to that problem, and it will alter your life for time and eternity. Come to Jesus personally as your Lord and Savior if you have not yet done this. He will receive you, forgive you, and make you a child of God and an heir of eternal life with Him.
If you’re already a Christian, but feel you’ve frittered away a good portion of your life in pursuits other than the Lord, for you too there is a simple solution. Ask His forgiveness for having set Him aside from the mainstream of your life. And ask Him to help you redirect your focus into a fruitful, rewarding life of loving and serving God and your fellow man, and into a renewed and improved dedication to worship, prayer, and studying His word.
Your life will immediately take on greater meaning to you now, right here on earth. And your reward in eternity will be great from the God who is very pleased when in this life you “earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Don’t waste your life! Make whatever changes are needed, so that you become a God-pleasing, earnest seeker of the Lord.
Check out our related sermon: What Are Your Plans for 100 Years from Now?
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©2017, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.