If I Were Rich...

“If I Were Rich...”
--from November 19th  --
Days 1-2 written by Connie Staley, Days 2-4 written by Lane Cummings

Day 1

James 4:13-17 / Proverbs 3:5-7 / Proverbs 16:3

Do you consider yourself to be a good planner?  Many job interviews I’ve attended included a form of this question, “Are you more of a pro-active leader or re-active in a work environment?” Most management & leadership training courses include the teaching of setting goals, establishing tasks and “planning” out the priorities before beginning a work-day.   Many support groups and coach mentors will ask you to set short term goals, five-year goals and longer-term goals. So, with all that established direction; what is James even talking about here in this passage that we are arrogant if we plan out the future?  He goes on to say, all such boasting of our plans are “evil” and that if we don’t do what we know we ought, then we are choosing sin.  This sounds like pretty strong direction.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT.  Be not wise in your own eyes.”  I recall a time in my life when I was confident of God’s love and protection.  However, I would go about my day and in ministry work taking unnecessary risks and making plans all the while I was praying and inviting His favor and provision over them.  My error was in that I was making ALL the plans, and I was asking Him to “follow me” and be “with me” instead of walking beside Him or even behind His leading.  In actuality, I was “confident in my wisdom” I was “wise in my own eyes” as it says in Proverbs and I was focused on my agenda (although the plans appeared to be good, they were not necessarily what God had planned), they were what I had planned, and I invited Him to come along.  

Because He desires to be our companion and wants to be intimately involved in everything that concerns us; he says to “trust in Him with all our hearts in ALL our ways.” We do this through communicating in prayer.  Our prayers must not only include our side of the conversation but also listening for His response.  We may find it easier to pray about the big decisions like moving, new jobs, marriage, but the word says. in “ALL” our ways, this includes the mundane and the daily as well.  When we don’t pray, we are missing the opportunity to invite an all knowing / all-powerful God into the midst of our lives.  Psalms 37:23 says, “the Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives.” When He directs our steps, we can place our confidence in the outcome of every situation.  Proverbs 16:3 says “whatever you do, He will establish”

  1. Let’s ask ourselves, are we allowing God to direct our steps and establish our plans or are we taking steps and asking Him to “keep up”?  
  2. Think of the last decision you made. small or large, and ask at what point in the process was God involved?  Was it when the first thought occurred? Was it when the plans were arranged?  Was it when the pros and cons were being weighed? Was it at the final hour? OR Was He even part of that decision?

Day 2

James 4:13-17 / Colossians 3:1-3

We see the question here in verse 14 say “What is your life? You are a mist, a vapor.  That really appears to be the core question here James is asking.  What is your life? Is it about your comfort, your plans or is it a life surrendered to following Christ and revealing His Glory? 

Let us recall that earlier in James 4, in verse 3, it says we ask and do not receive because we ask with wrong motives.  When we make our plans are we focused on our will or are we focused on God’s will?  Let’s not forget what the word reveals in that God is the one whose work is eternal.  Is what we are devoting ourselves to having a temporary and meaningless impact or a Kingdom impact? He compares our life to a mist or a vapor.  

As Christ followers Paul tells us that our life is supposed to be surrendered as it says in Colossians 3:1-3 “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  If we are living for Christ, dying is gain Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  Do we trust God to help us, and are we willing to make our plans while considering His will?  Are the plans we are making inviting Him to write the story?  Are we considering our lives as vessels to glorify God or are we stuck in survival mode?

Life is full of decisions, some smaller than others but daily we encounter opportunities to make them.  What might God be speaking to you about today?

Is He asking you to do something like in He did in the biblical account of Jonah and you’ve come up with excuses not to obey? If so, would James consider that to be sin?  

What is your life? The culture of today will tell us things like, “My life is mine, my body is mine, my kids are mine, and I can do with them as I please!” Don’t tell me how to live my life.  Yet, we believe that He is the life giver that He has strengthened and upheld our bodies, and He has given the children as gifts and NOT as possessions.  

Be encouraged Psalms 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down.  For the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.  If we allow Him to order our lives then even if something appears as failure or we fall it is HIS hand that will uphold us.  That is something that should bring us great confidence!
Is there any area of your life that you are saying “mine, mine, mine?” 
Is He asking you to let go of the steering wheel in some area in order that your life would make a Kingdom, eternal impact?

Day 3

Well, we finally made it. We’ve worked hard, learned a lot, earned a lot, and finally have put back some money in our 401k or bank account. Are we doing okay? Compared to most of the world, most of us are doing pretty good – we have all we need for today and then some. Most people of the world would call us “rich” and we would take pride in that. And as we sit here and congratulate each other for a successful career or job, and along comes James and kicks the hornet’s nest. He tells us “Come now,  you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you”.
So what did we miss in this picture? Aren’t we supposed to work and strive and succeed, the American Dream we so proudly proclaim? Could it even be possible that we’re chasing after the wrong dream?

So very often in the bible, the Lord shows us that what we are after is NOT what he’s after. He’s after our hearts - he appreciates when we use our money to help the church and community, but in the end, He is allowing us to participate – he’ll accomplish his Kingdom even if we don’t come along and contribute what’s in our wallets. What he DOES want is for our hearts to be generous with whatever we have, be it a little or a lot.

We’re told in Matthew 6:19-21, 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The key is in the condition of our hearts and not in the condition of our bank accounts. The first disciples included some of the poorest members of society, fishermen. But when Jesus called them to be his disciples, he didn’t have them bring all their nets and boats, but to lay down all their earthly things, and just follow him. He provided all they would need past that; he just wanted them- the very same thing he wants of us. He doesn’t want our stuff, just our love for Him and one another. With that, he will build a kingdom!

This week, think over what’s standing between you and fully following Him. Are you too busy working to follow Him down whatever path he might lay out before you? What if it’s inconvenient or you have to give up something precious to you to follow him?  

Remember Matthew 16:26 – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Think hard about what’s really important, and I know you’ll realize it’s not what’s in your wallet.

Day 4

Read James 5:4-6

In yesterday’s devotion, we talked about “the miseries that are coming upon you” for the rich. Why are the prosperous going to come to misery? What about having wealth will cause us trouble? It’s not really the wealth that’s the issue, it’s the greed that it drives in us – any amount of wealth is never enough.

Once we have the nice stuff, we seem to want more and more, never satisfied. Jeremiah 6:13 tells us “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” It seems that greed for obtaining - and keeping - is one of the hallmarks of being human.
An emphasis on accumulating worldly goods always crowds out room for God in our lives. We concentrate on the chase for it all, which eats up not just our time but our hearts, and causes us to treat others poorly for our own benefit.

James 5:4-6 talks about the ways we treat others who work for and with us, in this particular set of verses. The main issue is the greed which causes us to want it all for ourselves, not sharing even with those that helped us obtain what we have.
Instead of striving for more and centering our lives around the chase for wealth, the apostle Paul urges us in Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” What is this contentment? It’s not in acquiring more and more but in having a personal relationship with the Lord. Everything else material we will ever have will fade away, in the end only the Kingdom He establishes will remain. A relationship with Him is a true treasure, it won’t fade, rot, or ever fail. Seek the real treasure, which lies beyond this world. 
Think about your relationships this week, and how they are affected by our jobs and hobbies.

 What stands between us and a right relationship with God, and with everyone around us? It’s okay to have a good work ethic, but understand what the definition of real treasure is.

Day 5

Read Matthew 16:24-28

The subject that we have been working through this week is so simple, but yet it seems so difficult.  James has zeroed in on what faith is and he is hitting some points really close to home.  If you feel they are probably a little too close to home, welcome to James’ teachings!  For me, growing up, I don’t know that this idea was taught correctly to me.  Or maybe it was my young brain that didn’t seem to get it processed right.  For me, if I was called to something, it meant I was to give up everything but that.  As I shared in the sermon, for me to be called to ministry meant that I was called away from being artistic.  I don’t really recall how I exactly got there, but for some reason that exchange happened in my head.  For me, the idea of being a pastor was so opposite of what I saw and so far from who I was, I landed in the place of thinking I had to quit being me and be a different person altogether.  That is why it took me so long to get to that place of surrender.  
Maybe you are experiencing the same thing?  Maybe the reason you do not want to go all in on following Jesus is because you have the idea in your mind that God will take it all from you.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  If I wave the white flag, that means I quit being what I am and become whatever nation made me wave the white flag. That word “surrender” has so much of that military connotation in our minds.  

And yes, that is true, but understand the character of who it is that you are surrendering to!  This is Yahweh, the God of the Bible!  He does not NEED your life and therefore He doesn’t have to take it from you.  So why does He ask for the surrender of your life?  Here it goes!  This is the extreme beauty I missed in the Gospel and growing up:  because He wants to GIVE you your life!  It is only in surrendering your life that you get the fullest version of the very thing that you desperately desired to hang on to.  

Read it again:  “'For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

Do you see this struggle in your understanding of the gospel, the idea that to surrender means to totally quit being who you are (not talking about sin and things the Bible says we are enslaved to)?

Why is this idea of the Gospel of Jesus so appealing to you?

Why not take a few minutes and write some thoughts on the devotional message thread in the Keystone app about this?

Who around you right now needs to hear this side of the Gospel story and how can you share it with them?

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