Life that is Truly Life
Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting
Pastor Bob Henry
April 7, 2019
I Timothy 6:6-19 (MSG)
6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.
9-10 But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. 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.
11-12 But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.
13-16 I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.
17-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
For those unfamiliar with Paul’s first letter to Timothy which was just read, it took place during what we call Paul’s fourth missionary journey. He had instructed Timothy to care for the church at Ephesus while he went on to Macedonia. When Paul realized that he might not return to Ephesus in the near future, he wrote this letter to Timothy as a charge to his young assistant. The charge was a resistance to false leaders and teachers as well as a directive to live by example the true life (what I like to call “the resurrected life) amongst the growing Ephesian church and ultimately the world.
I believe Paul’s charge to true life is a perfect place to begin our transition to the Easter season, which is all about LIFE! Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and what many Christians recognize as the beginning of Holy Week. Even though many pause to remember Jesus’ death and all the activities that led up to his execution, as people of hope, we continue to seek life and resurrected living. I imagine if Paul was here with us today, he would have some queries for us – and I am sure Paul would have a charge for us as well. So, let me begin by asking some queries that I think Paul might have wanted to explore (I have put these on the back of your bulletin for this morning).
· How many of you are content with yourself and your life? How content are you?
· Are you being yourself before God and before others?
· Are you one person here this morning and another as you walk out the doors?
Regarding your beliefs:
· Do you believe things that others don’t even know you believe?
· Do you withhold your beliefs because of what others may think of you?
· Inside are you greedy? ...lusting? ...jealous? …materialistic? …simply wanting more?
Take a moment to sit with those and mind the Light… [Pause]
Those are not queries we often ponder, nor are they easy queries to contemplate. Rarely do we take the time for this type of reflection, but I think more and more it is needed if we are going to be effective in in making a difference in our lives and world.
William Barclay picked up on this in his commentary on the text for this morning. He says,
“The word here used for contentment is autarkeia… By it they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things.” – William Barclay
But doesn’t our world tell us that happiness comes from having the most toys? Or the best job? Or the best education? Or the newest car, house, tv, computer, etc.? the best __________ fill in the blank?
The commercials we watch or hear are all about outward things fulfilling us and making us content. The reality is – none of these things fully bring true contentment or life.
I have become aware over my years in ministry and especially working in a college setting that people today connect contentment with being successful. If I am successful, then I am content. Or that is some way success creates contentment – but does it really?
My friend and fellow Quaker minister, Philip Gulley says,
“We have become so accustomed to defining success in material terms that we have failed to appreciate the other facets of life that enrich and sustain us. Think for a moment how we venerate material wealth and those who hold it. Why is a person who accumulates pets considered mentally ill, while a person who accumulates money is seen as a role model? The first person is diagnosed with compulsive hoarding syndrome and treated with therapy and drugs, while the wealthy person is lauded for his or her skills in investing and viewed as a success.” (Living the Quaker Way)
This is exactly what I believe Paul was trying to engrain in Timothy’s heart and mind in the text for today.
Now, taking this one step further and specifically looking at this through our Quaker faith, I have come to realize that our contentment in life is directly related to our “integrity.” Integrity is one of our Quaker SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, INTEGRITY, Community, Equality, and Stewardship).
In the book, “Living the Quaker Way” which I have used often to help teach Quaker principles to those seeking a new way, Phil Gulley points this out about integrity…
“Integrity does not present one face in public and another in private.
It delights in transparency, having nothing to hide.”
Take a moment and ask yourself: Am I being my true self before God? Or am I hiding my true self from God…from my neighbor?...even myself?
Why we often hide is because of the lusts of our heart. As our scripture text read, lust for these other things (money, material things, successes, etc.) “bring trouble and nothing but trouble.”
Those who desire these things: significantly, the desire for money is far more dangerous than the money itself – and it isn’t only the poor who desire to have money or be rich, it is also the rich who want more riches.
Desires stem from the inner life – from what is brewing inside our minds and hearts. Thus, the reason, we need to continually be reflecting on and being aware of what is going on inside ourselves – because soon it could become action, or words, or literally part of our outward life. It almost can’t be containing. It begins bringing trouble and often does not stop. We can become obsessed, gripped, consumed by our inner desires and lusts – and that is before we ever act outwardly on them.
Our text goes on to say that this could lead to “losing your footing in the faith completely and living to regret it bitterly ever after.” It can eat us alive – stealing life and leaving us regretting our life. Why is that?
Because the desire within us – changes us. It causes us to hide from who we really are. It splits our life in two and slowly sucks the happiness right out of us. No longer ca you be satisfied, instead you need something more…and more…and more…just like an addict who needs another hit, and alcoholic who needs another drink, a hoarder who needs another material thing…
Now, Paul knew that Timothy (as well as you and me) needed some reassurance and help. Thankfully he had more to say to young Timothy (and us) in our text:
First, he warned about lustful leaders desiring money…and then he turns quickly to give us the opposite perspective. Paul tells Timothy to turn 180 degrees and flee the proud arguments of those who misuse scripture and who suppose that we should follow God just for what we can get out of it.
He says instead of this life of lustful desires, instead…
Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses. (vs. 11-12)
Paul was presenting Timothy (and us) – another way…a better way.
This life is not about personal gain, success, accruing material products, or even money…no this life is about so much more.
Its about becoming fully human and fully alive! I love the words Eugene Peterson uses to express this…
Wonder awe inspiring, astounding, or surprising.
Faith confident or unquestioning belief in the Truth
Love affection and concern toward another person.
Steadiness direct and unfaltering; sure.
Courtesy willingness or generosity in providing something needed.
These are the traits of people who are becoming fully human and fully alive! – but it doesn’t stop there.
Paul says to “seize the eternal life” – what I call the resurrected life – NOW! The life we are called to in this present moment. A way of living that brings people and situations back to life – that resurrects, that eternally changes, and breathes life back into the world around us.
And Paul emphasizes that Timothy will not do this alone. This life he embraced was surrounded by other “witnesses” to this same life.
We too are witnesses of this life – and that means we too must seize this resurrected life. We too are being changed as Timothy. Paul said,
“I charge you before the life-giving God….keep the command…don’t slack off...” Live like Jesus! This is why Paul wants us to know our inner life – it is where we meet the present Christ who has shown up in our lives, who gives us the LIGHT to share, who might not be physically seen, but is dwelling within each of us.
And Jesus’ life was the example for how to live this life. He stood up to leaders and false teachers of this world, he resisted the lustful desires for wealth, power, and success and sacrificed his own life to show us a better way, a resurrected life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, and courtesy.
After laying this foundation Paul says,
“Tell those rich in the world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves
and so, obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.”
Paul is reminding Timothy that if he wants to live this life that he has been called to, he must RESIST and “to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage.” And how does that happen? Paul again says the riches from God come when we…
· Do Good
· Be rich in helping others.
· Be extravagantly generous.
If we do these things, Paul says, “they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.”
One of the greatest things I have learned since becoming a Quaker is the importance of our connectedness and responsibility to others – or as Paul put it – doing good to others, helping others, and being extravagantly generous to others. It is more than me, myself, and I. This is part of our ongoing inner reflection and personal awareness. When we go inward to become aware it should affect our outward actions.
I like the definition in Living the Quaker Way:
“To be a Quaker is to always see oneself in relation with the world,
answerable not only to God but also to humanity and to history.”
May that be so for us this morning. Let us now join together in a time of waiting worship.