I was wondering about the things that really matter in life. I’d like to do all that I can to please Jesus. I know that you must have thought a lot about this and so I would like to ask your opinion. What are the things that really matter?
You’ve thrown me an easy, “softball” question.” Soon after we were married Julie and I heard a sermon by Larry Lea. He entitled it, “Four Things That Really Matter.” I remember him saying, “If these things occur in my life, I will have had a successful and fulfilled life.”
Julie and I use those four things as a model for lives. As far as we‘re concerned, Larry leads insights are right on target
I’d like to share Larry’s conclusion about the four things that really matter. I’ll illustrate and add some observations as we go along.
Let me begin to answer your question with a story.
A number of years ago the phone rang: "My name is Jim. You don't know me. I visited your church once. I'm out at Tucson Medical Center, and the doctors tell me that I'm dying. And I need to talk to you right now."
So I drove over. I recognized the name; he was the golf professional at a local Country Club.
He was weeping. He said, "I've got to get healed. The doctor tells me I have liver cancer.” He spoke in a rapid-fire succession. “I have six months to live. But, I'm going to beat this thing. I'm not going to die. I'm going to think positive about it. I'm not going to die. I'm going to get healed. I want you to help me."
I wanted to ascertain whether or not Jim was a Christian. I mean, after all, if you're going to ask God to heal you, you could at least start the process by committing your life to Christ as your Lord and Savior. It was soon obvious that Jim had never received Christ. It was difficult for me to pray for God to heal him and make him all well when he had no relationship with Jesus. On the way to the car I prayed for God to give to me just the right gospel moment.
I'll never forget the words he spoke through his tears as I left.
"Roger, if I only had these fifty-three years to live over again, there are a lot of things I'd do differently."
It's amazing when a person faces death how the things that really matter come to the forefront.
Now, let me share the four things that really matter.
1. THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST REALLY MATTERS.
PHILIPPIANS 3:8-10: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him….”
Why would Paul make his relationship to Jesus Christ his highest priority? Because Jesus Christ is the most important thing in life.
I’ve performed over 300 weddings. Again and again I watch the couple’s eyes as they gaze at each other as they take their vows. I know they are thinking how much they are in love; but they really don’t anything about love, not at nineteen and twenty-one years old.
Show me one of those couples who’ve made their marriage work for thirty or forty years, who’ve raised their children, struggled through loss of job, and sickness and suffering and have come through it all, with their marriage intact, and I’ll show you a couple knows about love.
We want to come to the end of our lives and say, “Thank God. I know and love Jesus Christ a lot more deeply now than I knew Him when I started.
The person of Jesus Christ really matters because one day, as we transition into eternity, Jesus is going to ask one question. It’s the only one that really matters. "Why should I let you into My Heaven and not send you to Hell?” Only one answer is correct: “Because You forgave my sins on the cross and I surrendered my life totally to You as my personal Savior and Lord."
2. THE PEOPLE GOD HAS PLACED AROUND US REALLY MATTER.
GENESIS 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a partner just for him.”
Often I stand in a hospital room and Daddy’s dying, and Mom’s weeping. The wife is weeping. And the grown children stand there; some grandchildren are there when the doctor says, “He won't last until dinner time tonight.” And everybody breaks into tears.
I've watched grown men, brothers who haven't hugged one another in ten years, fall weeping into one another's arms. People matter.
Many of us go through life looking for gold mines almost every sort. Many of us will find a few handfuls.
However, I hope that while we go seeking after the gold mines in somebody else's yard we won't miss the most important gold mine God has put right in our own backyards—the people God has placed around us. They matter.
I’d like to say a word to parents regarding their children. Multiple research studies show that the best guarantee of keeping your children away from drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex is a mom and dad who spends time with their children.
The people that God has placed around us need our lives, our time, our commitment, and our investment. They really matter.
Thomas Carlisle was a brilliant Scottish essayist, historian. Born in 1795. Died in 1881. When Carlisle was 3l years old he married a brilliant woman named Jane Welch. She helped him in his work. She became his secretary. They worked well together.
Not long into their marriage, she became ill. He was so busy in his work that he hardly noticed. Unfortunately, her illness progressed; she went home to bed to die. She spent the last days of her life in an upstairs bedroom.
Carlisle tried to spend time with her; but he was so busy with his work. That's the way it is when life goes on, and incomes must be made, and there is history to write, and essays to be penned.
The day of the funeral was a miserable, rainy and muddy day. After the funeral he returned to the now empty house, went up the steps to her bedroom, sat down in a little chair, and began to think of all the times they’d had together.
He noticed a book over on the bed stand he hadn't seen before. It was her diary. He didn't know that she kept one.
He opened it up and read these words: "He spent an hour with me today. It was like heaven. I love him so much."
He turned the next page, and read: "I've waited all day long to hear his footsteps on the stairs, but it's getting late now. I guess he's not coming today."
Thomas Carlisle never wrote another thing. He died fifteen years later, a lonely recluse.
The people God has placed in our backyards really matter.
3. THE PURPOSE OF GOD FOR OUR LIVES REALLY MATTERS.
PSALM 139:13-16: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
David told us that while he was in his mother's womb, God saw his unformed body, and then fashioned and planned for him all the steps of his life. That was plan A for David.
God laid out his plan for David: Shepherd;, Goliath; marriage; children; kingship; build the temple; and then death. “He was known as “the man after God’s own heart.”
Unfortunately David got off track: Shepherd; Goliath; married the wrong girl; had too many wives; his children were a disaster—incest, murder, rape, rebellion; Bathsheba; a man of war so God refused to allow him the thrill of building the temple; finally, death.
God's will is Plan A for every one of us. We become a Christian at the right age. We live in the right city. We marry the right girl. We go to the right college. We get in the right line of work and on and on. Plan A, is just what God intended.
Of course, I don't know anybody on Plan A. Many of us married the wrong person. We went to the wrong college. We are in the wrong job, wrong profession.
I think there's a dimension in which we can get on plan B, C, and D, and God can still get us back to where He wanted us to be at the end of our lives.
Unfortunately, some make so many choices outside of God’s purpose that they are off on Plan X, triple prime someplace.
Fortunately, God has a marvelous way of picking up the pieces and helping us start over again.
JOEL 2:12-14, 25-26: What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten….
Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...
It is never too late to get back into the flow of His will and purpose for your life.
I like to think of God’s will as something flowing through our lives. I’m reminded of my wife Julie practicing for an orchestra concert. She lays out her musical scores, raises her hands, turns on the music and begins to practice conducting the orchestra. Invariably, I’ll come in and distract her, not intentional, of course. Now she’s lost her place. She doesn’t go back and start over, the music keeps going, she finds where she left off and picks up from there.
Every one of us slides out of the flow at one time or another. It's important for us, when we lose our places, to get back in the flow.
4. THE PRIZES OF GOD REALLY MATTER.
1 CORINTHIANS 3: 10-15: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
God is going to evaluate the profitability of our lives by fire. Those who built their houses out of gold, silver, and precious stones will see their houses stand and will receive great rewards. Those who have built their lives with unprofitable things like wood, hay, and stubble will watch what they’ve accomplished simply burn away and to ashes.. Notice that these people do not get rewards; instead, they suffer loss.
We don’t want to stand there and suffer loss; we want the prizes.
Paul says that there are five different crowns, or prizes that we can earn.
1. The Soul Winners Crown (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19) for leading people to Christ.
2. The Incorruptible Crown Of Self Denial (1 Corinthians 9:25) for sacrificing and training hard in order to follow Christ at any price.
3. The Crown Of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) for longing for the appearing of Christ at His second coming. Living in the light of the imminent return of Christ will dramatically affect our every thought and action!
4. The Crown Of Life (The Martyr’s Crown) (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) for suffering persecution even to the point of death for the sake of Christ.
5. The Crown of Glory (The Pastor’s Crown) for shepherding well the flock of God (1 Peter 5:4).
Note: All the crowns will one day be laid at the feet of Jesus (Revelation 4:10-11). All glory and honor and praise and riches and wisdom belong to Jesus Christ
If we look carefully, we will notice that Lea structured this sermon with intentionality.
If we do the first three, the prizes will come automatically.
If we're concerned about the person of Christ, and
about the people God has placed around us, and
about fulfilling God's purpose for our lives, then
the prizes will come automatically.
About four months after Jim became ill, I was visiting him at his house. Sitting in the chair beside his bed, one more time I explained very simply about Jesus Christ and how He forgives our sins and how He gave His life and we need to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
He finally got all settled down and said, "You know, I'd like to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord." He'd spent all these months saying, "I'm not going to die. I can't die. God's got to heal me. My positive thinking will keep me from dying. I know I'm not going to die. I'm not going to die. God's going to heal me."
He finally got real quiet and said, "Roger, I'd like to receive Jesus Christ. And if God chooses to heal me, that'll be all right. And if God chooses to let me die, then that'll be all right too."
As I turned to go, I got to the door, and I wish I'd had a tape recorder. He looked up at me and said, "Roger, if the whole purpose of this sickness was to bring me to Jesus, then it was worth it."
Crystal, I really appreciate your asking this question because these four things really do matter.