The probability is very high that close to 100% of you came to this assembly this morning in a vehicle powered by gasoline. Probably, most of you are just like me. We put fuel in the tank, a key in the ignition, and expect our vehicle to go. For most of us, "driving" focuses on three things: the gas pedal, the brake, and the steering wheel. While we are "driving," several hundred other functions are occurring that we never think about--unless we must take our vehicle to a mechanic.

The probability is very high that each vehicle that we rode to this assembly has a timing belt. Though most of us rarely think about a timing belt, it is absolutely essential. If it breaks, a driver needs to get to the side of the road and turn the ignition off immediately. Without a timing belt, an engine literally cannot function. Without a timing belt, there can be no power to make the vehicle move.

What is a timing belt? In very simple language, that belt tells each cylinder when to ignite the gasoline. The power in each of our engines is produced by its cylinders. In our cars and trucks, each engine has several cylinders. Something has to inform each cylinder when to ignite its fuel so the cylinders can work together instead of haphazardly. Basically, that is what the timing belt does. It tells each cylinder when it is its turn to ignite the fuel.

For a timing belt to perform that function, it has to have just the right amount of tension on it. It always will be under tension. A timing belt with no tension on it is worthless.

This morning I want you to understand that tension serves an important purpose in seeking to be godly. I want you to understand the purpose of a godly life in this world is not to escape tension. It is to have the right kind of tension so that we can function in the ways God wants us to function.

I want to focus your attention on some statements Jesus made in a sermon.

Matthew 6:19-34 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  1. In this statement, Jesus dealt with this primary issue: "What is the basic purpose for my life?"
    1. Our answer to that question depends on our concept of life.
      1. Is life confined to a physical life time, so the only true issues of life involve "right now" and "this world"?
      2. Or, is what happens in this physical world only one part of life?
        1. Surely life is concerned about the physical, but the physical is not all of life.
        2. Life is also concerned about existence when we are no longer physical.
        3. In fact, there is more life to be lived when we are no longer physical than there is life to be lived while we are physical.
    2. One common answer that exists in every age no matter when and where a person lives is this: "The purpose of life is to gain wealth."
      1. "Wealth is pleasure!"
      2. "Wealth is the solution to all problems!"
      3. "Above all else, wealth is security!"

  2. Jesus said wealth is not life's purpose and wealth is not life's security.
    1. He gave several reasons that declared a person is foolish for making wealth the purpose of life.
      1. Wealth can be stolen or destroyed.
        1. If life's purpose is to acquire wealth, then life loses its purpose when wealth is stolen or destroyed.
        2. If we trust in wealth, we are pitiful when wealth is stolen or destroyed.
      2. Wealth distorts the way we see everything.
        1. When life is about wealth, we reduce everything we see to dollar signs.
        2. When we reduce everything to dollar signs, we are pitiful.
      3. When wealth controls us, it is the only thing that rules us.
        1. The person who is convinced that he or she can make both God and wealth equal controlling forces in his or her life is self-deceived.
        2. When we have deceived ourselves into believing that we can serve God and wealth equally, we are pitiful.
      4. When God controls us, He can do things for us wealth cannot do.
        1. Wealth controls through worry.
        2. God guides with comfort and strength.
        3. When God controls, there is peace.

  3. Jesus told people who declared for centuries that they were God's unique people not to reduce life to the level of people who do not belong to God.
    1. People who do not belong to God (always the major influencers) are consumed with the physical.
      1. They are the people who scream, "Wealth is the answer!"
      2. They are the people who scream, "Measure me by what I wear! Measure me by what I eat! Measure me by what I have! Measure me by where I live!"
      3. And they are among the people who are controlled by their anxieties.
    2. So Jesus asked, "Which is the greater? The Creator or the things He made?"
      1. "Put the Creator first."
      2. "Put His priorities first."
      3. "Before anything else, submit life to His rule and His objectives."
      4. "And do it with this understanding: if He is your first priority, He will take care of you."
    3. "Everyday has enough troubles of its own."
      1. "You do not need to borrow trouble from the future."
      2. "All you need to do is to use the day you have for God and His purposes."

  4. In that perspective from Jesus, there is tension.
    1. Every Christian man or woman who seeks to be a godly person knows and feels the tension.
      1. Society screams, "Possessions are everything;" the godly ask do I possess too much?
      2. Society screams, "Indulge yourself;" the godly ask, "Is indulging what I am doing?"
      3. Society screams, "Protect yourself with things;" the godly ask, "Do I look to God for my security?"
      4. Society screams, "Measure your life by what you have;" the godly ask, "Do I measure myself by my relationship with God?"
    2. May we aspire to be the godly, and may we never stop asking ourselves questions.
      1. For in those questions there is tension.
      2. In that tension is our focus.
      3. That tension allows God to let us move forward toward Him.
      4. In the tension there is the power to be a godly person.
      5. Without the tension there are no questions.
      6. Without the questions there can be no godliness.
      7. Only if we are personally concerned about the tension questions can we place God powerfully in control.
    3. The fact that we feel tension as we pursue a godly life does not prove we have left our salvation--it merely proves we are growing.

[Song of reflection, followed by one of the elders offering the invitation.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 January 2003

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