A Light Grasp

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 12:32-34

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:32-34 RSV

Friends, I’m thankful, more than I can say it, for the privilege of bringing God’s message to you. It seems to me the most wonderful opportunity that could ever be given to a human being – to tell the world the best news there ever was. Maybe it’s my advancing age – because the years are dwindling down when I’ll be able to do this – that makes me prize the opportunity so much. That’s part of it, I’m sure. But most of all, it’s because of what we preachers have to share. It’s because the gospel is the truth and because it brings such blessing to those who receive it. That’s why I love to preach.

Today I’m excited again. All the other times when I could bring the Word to others are behind me now, and this is the moment to which my whole life has led up. Now is my chance to tell you the good news of God, to celebrate with you what He’s done, what He offers, what He can mean and be for you. And what a text I’ve got! Listen. I’m reading from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 12, verse 32. Jesus is speaking.

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Here are three thoughts that leap out for me from these words, three steps that will change your life marvelously for the better. Here they are. I pray God’s Spirit will make them real in your life and mine. Number 1: trusting God’s love for you. Number 2: letting things go for others, Number 3: setting your heart on heaven. That, friends, is a sure formula for abundant living.

TRUSTING GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU

The first part is basic to everything else: trusting God’s love for you. That seems to me crucially important. I would to God that every person on earth might come to do this. And especially I hope that you, listening to me now, may have that trust. And because I know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the message of Christ, I feel full of hope as I bring you His great promise: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

God wants to give you something. He’s been thinking about it, looking forward to it. The very thought of providing this for you gives Him pleasure. You see, that’s what He is like. He is the giving God. That’s His nature, to spend Himself, to lavish gifts, to impart blessings. The most profound thing we ever say about God is that He loves so much that He gives. Count on that, won’t you? James, the brother of Jesus, sings about it like this: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

What does God want to give you? “The kingdom,” Jesus says, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. That, you remember, was the main theme of Jesus’ message. He came preaching the gospel of the kingdom. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near.” His miracles were signs of the kingdom, the inbreaking of God’s rule into human history. God was coming to His people to save and to reign. The kingdom of God, the rule of God in our hearts and lives means the forgiveness of sins. All the stains washed away; all the marks against us blotted out, pardon and peace with God.

The kingdom means new life. We die with Christ. We are raised again with Him. We are born anew. We have a fresh beginning. We are new creatures in Jesus Christ. The kingdom means that God’s own Spirit comes to live within our lives, making our bodies to be the very temples of God. The kingdom means that we are bound to Christ and to each other in one body, a new humanity for God’s praise. The kingdom means joy unspeakable and full of glory. It means a new strength to love, a new power to serve, something to live for and a hope that makes any kind of suffering endurable. All of that, friends, God wants to give you. That’s His kingdom. That’s what it’s like to welcome Him as your king.

“But wait a minute!” you say. “How do I know He wants to give me all that? Jesus says it’s for His little flock. How do I know I’m a part of that? He says, `Your Father wants to give you the kingdom.’ How do I know God is my Father?”

The answer to both of those questions is Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, but He doesn’t want to keep that relationship with the Father all to Himself. He wants to share it with people like you and me. Anyone who will trust in Jesus, anyone who will invite Jesus into his or her life can say with assurance, “God is my heavenly Father.” That’s the way the Gospel of John puts it: “As many as received him [that is, Jesus, the Word], to them he gave power to become the children of God, even to them who believe in his name” (John 1:12).

That’s how you get to be part of the “little flock.” The flock, of course, belongs to a shepherd. We call Him “the Good Shepherd,” the One who gives His life for the sheep. When you welcome Jesus into your life, when you commit yourself entirely to Him, you can say, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

It was still a little flock when Jesus first spoke these words, but it was never meant to be exclusive. Jesus said, even in those days, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring” (John 10:16). You’re one of those, one of those other sheep. He wants to bring you. And when you follow Him into the fold, you can be absolutely sure that God is your Father and that He rejoices at the thought of giving you His kingdom.

LETTING THINGS GO FOR OTHERS

Now the part about letting things go for others. After the word about the Father’s giving heart, Jesus says to His followers: “Sell your possessions, and give alms” (that is, contributions). Remember how He had urged at the start, “Fear not”? Knowing God’s love for us goes a long way toward freeing us from fears. Often it’s fear that keeps us back from giving, from sharing. We’re afraid that our meager provisions may run out, that we won’t have enough. So we hold back on giving; it seems too much of a risk. But the love of God frees us to let go.

We were talking here at Words of Hope this week about our friend Irene. She and her husband help us in cleaning our building. They haven’t much money, and now Irene is facing possible surgery for which they have no insurance and no provision. But she just made another generous contribution to Words of Hope! And she seems so happy to do it, so free from anxiety! It’s God’s love, you see, that makes the difference. She’s learned the secret of letting things go, holding them with a light grasp. The way we clutch things really loosens up when we know that our Father has decided to give us the kingdom.

In our life as a family, we’ve known what it is at times to be near the poverty level. In recent years, on the other hand, we have been relatively prosperous. Those changes in our financial situation haven’t had any measurable effect on our happiness. But we have noticed one freedom that comes from greater abundance: it’s an enlarged capacity to give. It’s a good feeling to be able at times to pick up a check for others after a dinner, to send funds to a relative in need, to sponsor a student on a mission trip. These increases in our personal income can expand our freedom to give. Now think of what it does for us when we know that we are heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ and that He wants to give us all things!

Remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus one day? The Lord gave Him this radical challenge: “Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor, come and follow me, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21). The young man was stunned. He had great possessions. For him, there was a tremendous amount to sell and give away. This was going to be a costly undertaking. And he didn’t have the courage to let things go.

Apparently, He hadn’t heard the last thing Jesus had said: “and you will have treasure in heaven.” There’s the promise of the kingdom. If he had really believed it, this man – that God had something infinitely more valuable for him out ahead – he wouldn’t have held on so tightly, would he? He wouldn’t have gone away, as he did, sorrowful.

Faith in the Lord’s promise sets us free. Now we can make our possessions available for the needs of others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll give everything away, but we will hold everything with a looser grasp. Our fears have gone away. We don’t have to clutch our wealth; we can share it. We don’t have to save our lives; we can spend them for the sake of others. Trust in God’s fatherly goodness opens our hands and our hearts to share.

SETTING YOUR HEART ON HEAVEN

What about the third one: setting your heart on heaven? That’s what Jesus is talking about in these words, “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” We commonly think of “treasure” as a lot of money, a fortune in gold and silver, a pearl of great price. But those things are not treasures to some people because they don’t put a high value on them. You know how we say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? That is, we all have our own ideas about what’s beautiful. In a similar way, treasure is in the heart of the treasurer. What I value most, whatever it may mean to someone else, is my treasure. Think of the mother who points to her little ones with an overflowing heart and says, “These are my treasures,” and she means it. They may not seem important to others, but she wouldn’t trade them for all the wealth in the world.

The problem with treasures like money, fine clothing, or expensive rugs, is that they get old and wear out. We can lose them. They can be eaten away or stolen. Then where are we? We’ve lost our treasure.

Because, you see, hearts and treasures are inseparable. We say sometimes that we “have our heart set” on something. We mean that we really want to have that. We feel we can hardly live without it. We’ve become attached to it. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we invest ourselves in some treasure then that doesn’t last, we lose ourselves in the process. When the treasure perishes, we go down with it.

But there’s a prize, says Jesus, that doesn’t grow old. There’s a treasure in the heavens that won’t fail. Nothing can spoil it. No one can take it. It’s safe. We can never lose this. Best of all, when our hearts are set on what’s in heaven, we’ll surely be there at the last. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Remember how the apostle Paul wrote to his Christian friends in Colossae? “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). In other words, since you’ve been raised again in Christ to a new life, make the things that concern Christ your treasure. “When Christ who is our life appears,” Paul continues, “then you also will appear with him in glory” (v. 2). Make Christ your treasure and nothing will ever tear you away from His love.

One of our staff was asking the other day what heaven is really like. She noted that many people who write to us seem to want to know about that. We agreed together that it’s really very simple. Heaven is being with Jesus Christ. All the other breathtaking descriptions of the life to come are so many inadequate metaphors for that, to be with the Lord. If you treasure belonging to Christ now, living for Him and sharing His love for the world, you’re tasting heaven already right here. You’ve got your heart in the right place. So friends, let’s relax our grasp today on everything else, and hold fast to Christ!