I found another OLD book on the shelf I thought I would excerpt for you. Again, this is a small book, insignificant, really, and old. Published in 1987 by Gospel Advocate Co., it has collected dust for many years on my shelf. But I never forget one little vignette in it that I will now reprint here for you. It is just the kind of sermon illustration I recall growing up with in the “good old days”, a kind I hear very little any more. Perhaps I am just old and old fashioned, but honestly I don’t think the book over all is really worth much.
The book is called Living in Two Worlds by Mike Cope. I am not recommending the book, but I think this tidbit from it will be worth your time.
From Page 54 and 55:
The kingdom of God, not things, should be central to our lives (1 Timothy 6:11-16). At the core of our lives should be found, not cars or homes or IRAs, but the kingdom of God. Jesus put it this way: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and then all the things you really need will be added to your lives.”
Tony Campolo tells of a Mennonite conference debating their historic position that a Christian shouldn’t fight in a war. A wealthy old Mennonite gentleman who wanted to be able to protect what he had if anyone invaded his property attacked the position. He was answered by a younger Mennonite. “It’s all right for you to talk in this lofty manner,” the old gentleman said, “but one of these days they’ll come and take everything you have.”
The young man responded, “This poses no problem for me. You see, Sir, when I became a Christian, I gave everything I had to Jesus. If they come, they can take from me what belongs to him, and that’s his problem.”
“All right,” the old man responded, “They can’t take what you have because you don’t have anything, but they can kill you.”
The young man answered, “No, they can’t. You see, Sir, I’m already dead. When I became a Christian, the life that belongs to this world came to an end, and the new life that I received in Christ can never be snuffed out.”
In frustration, the older man said, “They may not be able to take what you have and they may not be able to kill you, but they can make you suffer.”
Once again the young man answered, “When that day comes, I hope I will remember the words of Jesus, who said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ You see, Sir, there is not much you can do to somebody who doesn’t have anything, who’s already dead, and who rejoices in persecution.”
If the kingdom of God is at the heart of our lives, we can use the things we have to his glory. It’s not right or wrong to be rich or poor. But wherever God has placed you in this life, be sure that you possess your things as a steward of God and that they don’t possess you.
I wonder if, when Mike Cope wrote these words way back in 1987, he imagined all those Christian homes he was preaching to with their guest bedrooms going empty night after night being filled with the homeless. If he did, he did not tell us and we did not think it, but the implication certainly seethes beneath the surface of his words anyway.