WHAT IS YOUR REAL WEALTH?

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WHAT IS YOUR REAL WEALTH?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

10 APRIL 1988

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

1 Kings 11:1-8
2 Chronicles 1:10-12
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11
Ephesians 4:17-32
James 1:2-8
        5:3
1 John 2:15-16

The Preparation: (James 5:3)

Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

This week and for the next several weeks we are going to be taking a look at what it means to “walk with God.”

We have touched on this subject, in some way, almost every week; but we haven't pointed directly at it, as we will be doing now.

The people who are recorded in the Bible give us some good insight as to what it means to “walk with God,” and what it means to not walk with God.

Some of these examples are those we should follow, and others are the ones we should not follow.

Last week we took a brief look at one of these people and how he came to begin his “walk with God.” It was Nicodemus, who was a teacher and leader of the Jewish people.

As you will probably remember, Nicodemus had a slight crack in his stone heart. This led him to come to Jesus and question Him.

From this conversation and what we know about him, he had a life changing, born again experience that began his “walk with God.”

This week we are going to take a brief look at part of the life of Solomon, the son of David; and we are going to view it and his walk in the light of today’s sermon: “What Is Your Real Wealth?”

After Solomon was made King of Israel, God appeared to him at night and asked him what He should give him.

Solomon's prayer to God and God's answer are recorded by Ezra in 2 Chronicles 1:10-12.

10. "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?"

11. And God said to Solomon. "Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king,

12. wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you."

Solomon's prayer appears to be one of humility and righteousness. But somewhere in the recesses of Solomon’s heart God saw something that wasn’t just right.

Perhaps the reason that Solomon prayed the way he did was because he also knew his own problem: that riches, wealth and honor could cause him to stumble. Thus he did not pray for them.

God doesn’t just want us to cover up our problems. He wants us to be master over them. So God tests us.

Note what it says in James 1:2-8.

2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

3. knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Perhaps this was something that Solomon just didn’t want to face. He may have felt that he was better off leaving everything as it was, like so many of us, when it comes to resolving those secret problems in our lives. But this is not the way God wants it.

5. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

6. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

7. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,

8. being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

I am not sure how double-minded or unstable Solomon was when he prayed to God, and I don't believe it is proper to speculate on that.

But anyone who would accumulate 700 wives and princesses and 300 concubines could very likely become unstable and be more than double-minded, as we are told in 1 Kings 11:1-6.

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,

2 from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods." Solomon held fast to these in love.

3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.

4 For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.

6 And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.

7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.

8 Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
NAS

And if any of you men here this morning think you have a problem with your wife, it is absolutely nothing compared to what Solomon must have been going through.

So stay home and solve your problems together in Godly love, for looking elsewhere will rarely make things better.

Solomon failed the test of God. Why? Note 1 John 2:15-16.

15. Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

With all of the enticements of the gifts that God gave him, he could not keep his eyes on the Lord, for he cared more about the people, particularly females, and things of the world, than about God.

It wasn’t until many years later that Solomon appears to have come to his senses and perhaps from a state of depression as well, when he wrote Ecclesiastes, and in particular the verses read this morning: 2:1-11.

Let’s take another look at these verses in the light of the things we have been talking about.

1. I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility.

Solomon knew the Law, and what God required of him; yet here in this verse he says that he considered himself above all that and could even test himself with the sins of the world.

What happened to the wisdom and knowledge that God had given him – his real wealth?

His pride got the best of him, and he elevated the physical things in life to a position above that of God. Thus he served his pride and his lusts, for he did not apply his God-given wisdom and knowledge to himself.

In verses 2-10, we see Solomon testing himself in every way: by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. He built many things and accumulated more material wealth than anyone before him.

2 I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?"

3 I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.

4 I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself;

5 I made gardens and parks for myself, and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees;

6 I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees.

7 I bought male and female slaves, and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.

8 Also, I collected for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men-- many concubines.

9 Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me.

10 And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.
NAS

And what was the reward for all this?

What did it accomplish?

Note verse 11.

11. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

We also saw in verse 7 that this wealth had hardened Solomon's heart, for he had no empathy for the slaves he bought, or the families he destroyed.

And most often, this hardening of our hearts begins with our loss of empathy for the suffering of animals, who have been turned into nothing more than a human commodity instead of the living souls God created them to be.

Solomon was trying to build his wealth in all of the wrong areas. And it took him many years to find out the errors of his ways.

Furthermore, he failed all of the tests he set for himself, as well as those that God posed for him.

It is not the quantity of someone’s wealth that determines if they are rich.

If people are satisfied and thankful for what they have, then they will also find that they are indeed wealthy.

A person who is grateful for even the little things in life also seems to get more.

One who always begrudges what he has, and is jealous of what others have, seems to lose even what he does have.

Now let’s take a look at both Solomon’s and our own life in relation to what we are told in our New Testament lesson today, Ephesians 4:17-32.

17. This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,

We see here a basic framework of the difference between a “walk with God” and one that is without God.

Solomon turned from a “walk with God” to a walk in the world. He did this in the futility of his mind, a state which he later acknowledged.

Note how the next two verses explain what went on in Solomon's mind and actions.

18. being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

19. and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like what happened to Solomon?

And why did it happen?

We saw the answer to this in the first 8 verses of 1 Kings 11.

Solomon loved many foreign women “who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods,” and they turned his head and heart away from the Lord.

Where do we seek our wealth?

In the world as Solomon did?

Or are we seeking our true wealth with God?

If we are truly born again, then we will seek the Lord, and thus find the riches of His kingdom.

But there are some who falsely believe that you can have both God and the things of the world.

Note Paul's response to this, as we continue with our Ephesians verses:

20. But you did not learn Christ in this way,

21. if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

22. that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23. and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24. and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

What Paul is telling us here is the same thing that James was telling us. If we are in Christ Jesus, we cannot also be double-minded

What are we to do then? Note verse 25 and following:

25. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

26. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27. and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Here is another key to our "walking with God." When our hearts and minds are God-centered, the devil has no opportunity. But when we are worldly-minded, we give the devil opportunity.

Again, how do we do this? Note the following verses:

28. Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.

29. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

31. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

32. and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

So, what is my real wealth?

It is no longer my life in the world or its physical treasures. It is my life with Jesus Christ.

No matter what the world promises, it will never last forever; and it cannot be carried over into the kingdom of heaven.

But the treasures we store up in Christ Jesus will last forever, and they will make us wealthy both here in the world as well as in the kingdom.

If any of us have been living in the world, and have heard God’s Word speaking to you in a personal way this morning, then commit your life to Him.

Ask Him to forgive you and to set your life in order, so that you may experience the true wealth of everlasting life.

If you mean it, God is faithful to hear you and answer you.

I pray you have chosen Jesus Christ over the world, for He loves you so much that He died to give you this opportunity.

Amen.