Luke 12:29–34 (NIV)
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Introduction. On Monday, players, staff and management of the New England Patriots woke up to find they were champions of the Super Bowl LI and they had the trophy to prove it. This significant accomplishment, though, was not the product of what took place on the day before when they had an amazing comeback against the Falcons. It was something the organization had poured its life and soul into quite some time.
You see, more than a year before coaches, management and scouts began looking at position needs for them to be champions and those who would likely be in the draft or could be traded for. As last season came to a close, the coaches began devising new plays for the coming season which would help them win. Players not long after the last season ended started hitting the weight room and gym. Hours and hours of film were watched. Playbooks were studied. Then practice began and the preseason and 16 regular season games and two playoff games. For months, the organization poured its energy and soul to reach its goal of being world champions of football. Deep in their heart throughout the process, they were saying in their heart, they were headed to the Super Bowl.
By the way, where are you headed?
Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at the cornerstones set of beliefs and assumptions which shape our worldview – the lens through which we see our world and the filter for making decisions, adopting our attitudes about matters and acting in our world. The first three questions have been: “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” “What is right and wrong?” I attempted to share a biblical perspective in answering these. Today, we will be taking on the final question, “Where am I headed?” This final question like the others, will heavily influence how we see the world and the decisions we make to get there.
Perhaps you have encountered someone who was out on a stroll and you ask, “Where are headed?” The person responds, “Nowhere in particular.” Probably most of us have been the person strolling with that nowhere destination.
Unfortunately, many people have little sense of where they are headed. Their lives seem lack direction and purpose. There is no real goal. They merely get up one day after the next and do what has to be done with little or no thought of the future. They merely meander through life. “Que sera sera” (Whatever will be, will be).
A few verses preceeding our scripture lesson, Jesus told a story of a wealthy farmer who had a tremendous harvest. It was so big his present storage facilities were inadequate. So he made a plan. He decided to tear down his old barns and build new ones. He said, “Now I have it made. I can take it easy and enjoy life.” He felt he had arrived at his goal – to be comfortable.
Jesus said this man was foolish because death was coming his way and he would not be able to enjoy what he had gained. His goal was inadequate for this life.
It seems many focus their attention in this direction of coming to a place where they are comfortable and are secure. They want to live a comfortable life and rest secure in what they have around them. Now I believe we should plan for our future and prepare for lies ahead. But when that becomes our primary goal, something is lacking.
Another group of people, who often have what feels like a very religious orientation, want to escape this troubled world and arrive safely in the next. People of various religious stripes hold to this basic goal – Life are hard and I just want to make it to the other side.
For me a song that epitomizes this was a theme song of the movie, “Brother, Where Art Thou” Do you remember these words as performed by the Union Station Band
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBVnKYOvWcs 0:01-0.:20. The song tells about his lack of friends and failed love. Listen to its ending – 3:00-3:27. While I like the music, I really want a bit of different answer to that question for me.
A biblical answer.
Jesus had a strong sense of the importance of the question of where we are headed the answer would shape a person’s life. So in preaching a sermon to a large group of thousands of people, he took on the issue. He knew many people set their sights of fulfilling their fundamental needs and living a comfortable life.
It seems clear he was not opposed to people having what they needed for the “good life.” As a matter of fact, he seemed to be in favor of people having enough. While he gave hope of another world where people would “escape” the suffering of this world, he clearly communicated there was more to the answer.
He the destination of our life was God’s kingdom – Seek the kingdom. Let the kingdom be your goal in life, the place you are headed. If it is your goal you genuinely seek, then God will take care of the stuff you need.
It is clear from Jesus’ words here that the kingdom has an “other” world component. It is the place of heaven where the forces which steal our stuff are not allowed access. There they can do us no harm.
One of the great hopes we have as followers of Jesus Christ is there is life beyond this life, life beyond the grave. We share a living expectation that when this life ends, we enter into God’s presence and experience Him in a new way (2 Cor. 5:8). In this new order, old things that held us back and afflicted us are destroyed and things are made new (Rev. 21:4-5) – no more death, no more pain and no more tears. In this new dimension we are given full understanding and a full knowledge of one another (1 Cor. 13:12). It will be a place where God will give us the fullness of all we need without any corrupting forces being present. There will be no evil, sin or destruction. There will be no prejudice or injustice. God will gather all his own from all nations of the earth. It will be the place of paradise. You think Disney World is great, just wait!
I grew up on a steady diet of gospel music. Most of what I heard had a strong theme of our life beyond this life. The music spoke of Beulah Land, crossing over Jordan, entering into the City Four Square, walking on golden streets and being with Jesus. The music anticipated the eminent return of Jesus and our going to be with Him. While that music is not my favorite genre, I do occasionally like to hear the songs because of the splendor it foreshadows.
Jesus’ language about our destination is moving – “seek the kingdom.” Paul uses the same verb in a similar way when he wrote to the Colossians: If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (3:1). Does that feel like a similar instruction? (Seek the kingdom – seek things above.) He goes on: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. We are to orient our thinking to correspond to the God dimension. Focus on the things Jesus would focus on.
So in answer to the question, Where are you headed, we who are in Christ can respond – I am headed to heaven, going to the place above and seeking God’s divine kingdom. While this is a wonderful and excellent answer, to me it just does not quite feel complete. Is there something more?
When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, he had in mind a new reality which has both a present and a future dimension. Yes, it was a reality beyond the bounds of this earthly existence but it was also a reality which was invading this earthly existence. In his words, God has already given us the kingdom. It is present now.
Go back with me to my illustration about the Patriots. Their journey to be the LI Super Bowl Champions was fulfilled when the final horn sounded on Sunday evening. But they had been living the journey of champions for months. With each season victory, they had a taste of what lay ahead.
The passage I shared from Colossians is intriguing. After his opening exhortation to seek and to think about what is above, he offers practical words of what that looks like. He tells his readers to put away earthly actions and behaviors such as immorality, greed, malice, anger, lust and slander. These are not the things of above, the things of heaven. These will not be present in the heavenly kingdom. Paul calls us to stop practicing these now.
Then he turns to actions which are part of the above. He writes put on a new set of clothing instead – humility, compassion, patience – forgive each other, tolerate one another and love one another. These are to be the practices of our lives now. These are kingdom behaviors. We start living like kingdom people (champions) long before we hear the final horn of the game. Living in this way and enjoying this new dimension of the kingdom we begin to experience God in an increasingly personal and intimate fashion. Our lives are transformed and renewed. We experience grace upon grace.
Jesus was a master of telling stories with a strong punchline. After he shared about seeking the kingdom, he told a couple of stories about readiness. I want to make one of these a bit more contemporary.
Imagine the Gunbarrel Chick Fil A franchise owner was planning an extended trip. The owner would go to the head manager and share his plans. He would tell her she would be fully in charge of the store during his absence and have full control of the decisions and management. What would the owner expect of her?
What if during the owner’s trip, he called the manager and said, “My plans have changed. My trip must be extended and I am not sure when I will return.” Maybe by this point the manager is a bit tired because of the responsibility. She gathers the employees and says, “The boss is not coming back soon. So let’s have a good time. If a few things slide, it doesn’t matter that much. I will not fuss.” What if the owner returned unexpectedly while the employees were in their “fun, letting things slide mode”?
Jesus wanted to insure people were living in the “ready” mode. He wanted us to live as though He and his kingdom are present now. Yes, heaven is headed our way but heaven is with us in the here and now. The present heaven we chose daily whether to live it or not.
“Where are you headed?” Along your journey, you may have heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come join me on this journey to the kingdom. Walk with me.”
To have the kingdom as you destination requires you begin the journey with Jesus. Have you said, “Yes, Jesus I want to walk with you.” That decision is essential. Jesus will not drag you down the path but he is inviting you – “Come join me.” Today is a great time to make that decision.
Perhaps you were walking with him, but life and self-happened. You took a side path and are no longer on the journey. Jesus is offering for you to come back to him.