Present Blessings, Plus PersecutionsMark 10:29-30Theme: Wealth in Christ.This week’s lessons teach us about the rewards that are ours when we deny ourselves. LessonAnother encouragement to serve God in Christ’s service is that blessings are certain. It is not only the greatness of the blessings promised by Jesus that encourages us in his service. Their security encourages us too. The young man turned away from Christ because he was unwilling to part with his possessions, but it is an irony of the story that he turned from possessions that were certain to possessions that were at best uncertain. Maybe he lost those possessions before the year was out. Maybe his gold was stolen. His lands could have been taken. As in the prodigal’s case, his friends could have grown cold and abandoned him.
This point can be made even stronger. God often allows the ungodly to amass great wealth – to their destruction. But if you are one with whom God is dealing and if you put the pursuit of riches (or anything else) before service to Christ, God will take away those riches (and other things) until you turn to him.
Some years ago Donald Grey Barnhouse was counseling a young woman on the sidewalk in front of Tenth Presbyterian Church following an evening service. She said she was a Christian and that she wanted to follow Christ. But she wanted to be famous too. She wanted to pursue a stage career in New York. “After I have made it in the theater, I’ll follow Christ completely,” she said.
Barnhouse took a key out of his pocket and scratched a mark on a postal box standing on the corner. “That is what God will let you do,” he said. “God will let you scratch the surface of success. He will let you get close enough to the top to know what it is, but he will never let you have it, because he will never let one of his children have anything rather than himself.”
Years later he met the girl again, and she confessed that this had indeed been her life story. She had dabbled in the stage. Once her picture had been in a national magazine. But she had never quite made it. She told Barnhouse, “I can’t tell you how many times in my discouragement I have closed my eyes and seen you scratching on that postal box with your key. God let me scratch the edges, but he gave me nothing in place of himself.”
How different for those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. Their path begins with denial but ends in fulfillment, and the blessings given cannot be snatched away. Christian homes are the best and most secure of all homes. Christian friends are true, faithful friends. Even the fields and other possessions are secure in Christ’s keeping and are multiplied to the extent that we use them properly in his service.
The third reason why the promise of Mark 10:29-30 encourages us to serve Christ is that our blessings are blessed by God. The blessings promised are themselves blessed by God in the sense that his favor rests on them and his power makes them supernaturally effective in assisting others.
This is evident in the blessings of the new family of God given to us as Christians. When I first preached the material appearing in the last week’s lesson and ended by asking, “Where in this great world in which we live can there be found a place for those who imitate the Lord Jesus Christ and thus, in their own persons, live out the Beatitudes?” and when I responded, “There is only one place: it is the place the great of the world assigned Christ – it is the cross,” some people said afterward that they were taken aback. They thought I was going to say, “It is the church. That is the one true place for those who live out the Beatitudes.” That was not the point I was making then but it is true, of course. The fellowship of those gathered around the cross is the fellowship of God’s family, and that fellowship and the realities of that collective and renewed life are the greatest of all possible blessings for us and this world.
Where else can you find the joy that Christians have together? Where else is there peace? Where else do you find love that loves the unlovely? Where else are there consistent examples of self-sacrifice? The presence of these things is itself the greatest of all possible blessings for this world.
What is true of all blessings that we receive from God?
What was ironic about the rich young man’s choice of his possessions over Christ?
What is dangerous about devoting our hearts to riches?
Why does God sometimes prevent us from reaching our goals?
How does God bless his blessings to us?
Why is the companionship of other believers so important?