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Where is Our Hope?
Her hands were full of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains and other treasures. Torrents of lava were erupting and pouring down from Mount Vesuvius. As she fled, this woman was not prepared to leave behind her valuable jewels. Encumbered by her treasures, she was overwhelmed by the rain of ashes from the volcano and was buried under it.
During the course of modern building operations, her petrified body was found outside the area of the buried city of Pompeii, an ancient Roman port. Her body was unearthed in a sea of jewels. As she fled, in 79 AD, she lost her life in an attempt to save her treasures.
Jesus warned us that ultimately we have to choose between money and God (Matthew 6:24). In the New Testament, there is no ban on private property or making money, or even enjoying the good things in life. The command to the rich, however, is that they do not ‘put their hope in wealth’ (1 Timothy 6:17). A selfish accumulation of wealth and an unhealthy obsession with material things leads us away from God. What promises security leads to perpetual insecurity.
I remember hearing a millionaire called Victor Matthews being interviewed on the radio. He had been brought up in the 1930s in the Great Depression and felt the need for security. He made a lot of money. He was asked what the effect was. He replied, ‘For the first six weeks I woke up feeling secure. Then I started to worry about how I was going to hang on to all the money I had made’. He concluded by saying that he had never felt security.
Ultimately, security only comes from putting our hope in God. The promise of God’s word is that those who ‘put their hope in God’ (1 Timothy 6:17) find ‘a firm foundation’ and ‘take hold of the life that is truly life’ (v.19).
1. Hope in God’s word and invest your time in itPsalm 119:73-80
Time is our most valuable possession. You can get more money but you cannot get more time. How we spend our time is evidence of where our hope is. If our hope is in God and his word then we will invest time in them.
The psalmist places his hope firmly in God’s word. ‘For I have put my hope in your word’ (v.74b). What does this mean in practice?
We need, like the psalmist, to spend time seeking to understand God’s word (v.73, 79), to meditate on it (v.78), to delight in it (v.77) and to learn it off by heart (v.73).
In spite of the difficult times he is going through, he continues to trust God’s word: ‘Your testing has taught me what’s true and right’ (v.75, MSG). He trusts in God’s faithfulness, ‘unfailing love’ (v.76) and ‘compassion’ (v.77).
Spending time with God is the way in which God breathes his wisdom into us (v.73, MSG). He comforts us so that we can live, ‘really live … live whole and holy, soul and body’ (vv.77,80a, MSG), and always walk with our heads held high (v.80b, MSG).
If we live like this, it will encourage others to do the same. ‘May those who fear you rejoice when they see me’ (v.74a). Likewise, it is encouraging for us to see other people who are hoping in God’s word.
Lord, may our confidence and hope be in your word today. May we be an encouragement to others: ‘May those who fear you rejoice when they see me’ (v.74a) as we rejoice when we see others who put their hope in your word.
2. Hope in God and not in wealth1 Timothy 6:3-21
The apostle Paul begins the passage for today by warning against unhealthy interest in controversies. We are to keep the main thing the main thing and not get caught up in endless controversies and quarrels about secondary issues and semantics (v.4).
He also warns against ‘people of corrupt minds, who have been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain’ (v.5).
Paul’s words about wealth in this passage apply to everyone – especially to those of us who live in the West, where we are rich in comparison to so much of the world. Paul writes, ‘Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’ (v.17).
Have you ever been tempted to think you would be more content if you had more money? Paul encourages us to be content with what we have materially. ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that’ (vv.6–8).
Contentment is worth more than all the wealth we could possibly accumulate. As Joyce Meyer points out, the secret is to say to God: ‘Lord, I only want what you want me to have.’
Paul warns that people who want to get rich ‘fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (v.9).
He famously writes, ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’ (v.10a). This is often misquoted as ‘Money is the root of all evil’. What Paul actually says is, ‘the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’. Money can do a lot of good. But the love of money is extremely dangerous and a root of all kinds of evil. ‘Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after’ (v.10, MSG).
The opposite of this kind of greed and love of money is the attitude that Paul urges Timothy to have. Instead of loving and pursuing money, Paul lists some of the things we should love and pursue: ‘Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy’ (v.11, MSG). He urges him to ‘fight the good fight of the faith’ (v.12a). The ‘fight’ starts with our hearts and minds focused on Jesus (vv.13–14) and all the things which Paul urges us to love and pursue.
He does not command them to give all their money away. But he tells them not to put their hope in it. If you get your attitude towards money sorted out, it will help sort out almost every other area of your life. Paul gives five ways to sort out our attitude to money (vv.17–18):
- Don’t be full of yourself
One of the dangers attached to wealth is arrogance. ‘Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves’ (v.17, MSG).
- Don’t put your security in wealth
‘We enter the world penniless and we will leave it penniless’ (v.7, MSG). Wealth provides only a false security. ‘Quit … being so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow’ (v.17, MSG). The real measure of our wealth is how much we’d be worth if we lost all our money.
- Put God first
Put your hope in God, who richly provides you with everything for your enjoyment (v.17). There is nothing wrong with enjoying the good things of life. God provides all good things for our enjoyment. But we need to recognise that it all comes from him and it all belongs to him.
- Do all the good you can
Paul urges the wealthy to ‘do good’ and to ‘be rich in helping others’ (v.18, MSG). This should be the focus for all of us – not how much money we can make, but how much good we can do. It is possible to be materially rich but spiritually poor. Equally it is possible to be materially poor but ‘rich in good deeds’ (v.18).
- Share your resources
Generosity is the way to break the hold of money in our lives. John Wesley said, ‘When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.’ ‘Be extravagantly generous’ (v.18, MSG).
Everything we own ultimately comes from God. Therefore we should be willing to share it with others. Francis Bacon said, ‘Money is like manure. It’s not good unless it is spread around.’
Lord, help us not to be arrogant nor to put our hope in wealth, but to put our hope in you. Thank you that you richly provide everything for our enjoyment. Help us to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.
3. Hope in the Lord and not in powerful peopleJeremiah 46:1–47:7
Some people put their hope in riches, as we have seen and as we will see again tomorrow. This is what the Moabites and Ammonites did (48:7, 49:4). Others put their hope in powerful people – as the Egyptians did.
The prophet Jeremiah realised that the Lord (Yahweh) was not just the national God of Israel but was Lord over all the nations of the world. He was given a message by the Lord for Egypt and the other nations.
He warned against relying on Pharaoh in spite of the fact that he was one of the most powerful people in the world. Those who trust in ‘Pharaoh’ are heading for trouble (46:25).
By contrast he promises those who serve him: ‘But you … my servant, you have nothing to fear … there’s no need to worry … Depend on it, I’m on your side … I’m not finished with you yet’ (v.27–28, MSG).
Ultimately, it is the Lord alone who is our hope. As Pope John Paul II put it, ‘Christ is the source of hope for the whole world ... Jesus Christ is our hope’.
Lord, help us always to put our hope in you and serve you only. May our trust never be in money, powerful people or anything else, but rather, may our trust always be in you. Thank you that you promise to be with us and to give us peace and security.
‘May those who fear you turn to me’.
There are so many things I am tempted to fear in life, but the only right fear is of the Lord.