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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Life That Really Is Life

2016-09-25 1 Timothy 6:6-19 The Life That Really Is Life


"As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life." 




Last week I got asked if I was planning two sermons for today: one sermon if the Vols won; another if, you know. I thought this was a great idea. Except that would mean I had to write two sermons. AND I'd be basing them on college football instead of the Bible. I know, a lot of people would be just fine with thatBecause this IS the SEC. Where a couple of weeks ago, we played football on a NASCAR speedwayThat's a lot of people's vision of heaven. If only we had done it on Christmas, with the "eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus" in the end zone. A Holy Trinity. 

Here's the God's honest truth: I started this sermon before yesterday's game. I was very afraid it was going to be a losing sermon. But then I finished it last night after the game, when everybody in East Tennessee was praising the Lord. So, I guess it's a little of both. The fear of loss; the thrill of victory. Wins and losses. That's life. And for a lot of us, that's faith. 

Is your faith in God affected by wins and losses? Is your LIFE affected by wins and losses? Of course it is. But is that what you want? Is that the life that really is life? 




How's life? Well, Vol Nation, today it's pretty good. How's your mood today? Happy? Sad? Tired from staying up too late? Really, how's your mood? Do you choose your mood? Or do you let other things, other people, other forces, decide for you?  

So much of our mood, our days, and even self-worth is based on things over which we have no control. Like, sports. Football. Baseball. You can tell a Cubs fan. Cubs fans are the most optimistic people on earthWith actual reason this yearBut, as fans of politics remembereven a sure thing can be Gored up. In politics, at least you get a vote. But then, so do all the crazy people. You know who the crazy people are: the ones who disagree with you. No wonder everybody's yelling these days. Sports, politics, traffic, your bossyour beloved family: these things over which we have so little control – they have so much control over our moodour self-worth, our life. They get us all stirred up. They raise our blood pressureOr, they give us reason to cheerIs it a good day? Is it a bad day? Let's spin the big wheel and find out. 

It can start to feel very random, can't it? Spin, zip, click-click-click. "Today, he's going to be happy." "But tonight when she gets home, deeply depressed." Whose life is it, anyway? You wonder, sometimes, don't youBecause whatever else life is, it's rarely the life you planned. So maybe it's God's plan. Maybe it's somebody else's plan. Is your life ever really your life? 

"…take hold of the life that really is life." That's what the Bible says. Take hold of the life that really is life. Sign us up, Lord. Please. Show us the handholds. 




First Timothy tells us to take hold of a life that really is life. "Take hold." Interesting choice of words. How do you do that? How do you really take hold?  

When you think of taking hold of something, what pops into your mind? I think of taking hold of a handle. Like a refrigerator handle. That should tell you something about my life. You might think of digging into an ice chest and taking hold of a nice, refreshing beer. It's why tailgating is such a religious activity. You see your friends, you consume the elements, you sing the sacred Rocky Top hymn – it's a lot like church(Maybe we should try that: Tailgate Sunday.) 

The thing about the Bible's "life that really is life" is that it's always a moving target. I mean, look at the Bible: Jesus is always on the move. He moves from over here to over there, from this side to the other side. With Moses, God was the consuming pillar of flame that led the Israelites where it would. When I think of taking hold of things, I think of things that are handle-ableThat's not always so with God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, or life.  




We used to have a cat. His name was PouncerFor good reason. The thing Pouncer hated most in all the world, after me, was going to the vet. He knew. He could read minds. Have any of you tried to take hold of an angry cat that really, really doesn't want to be taken hold of? He needed the vet. We needed stitches. 

Everybody wants life to be handle-able. So, we imagine "life that really is life" should domesticated and still. Handle-ableObedient. Something that serves us. Something that serves our purposes. But life, indeed, the Holy Spirit, has teeth, and claws, and some days it's ready to pounce. 

Domesticated faith, stationary faith, obedient faith, de-clawed faith with handles -- is a luxury. Truly, it's a first-world luxury. It's the faith of choice, and mood, and relative wealth. And we've got a lot of all of those (choice, mood, and relative wealth, I mean)Nothing wrong with that. It's just that it's easier to take hold of our privilege than our life. It's easy to get the two confused. 

This part of this letter we read today is written to people who have the wealth to choose to let their faith be determined by their mood and their mood determined by their wealth. It says, 

"As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." 

I don't think "enjoyment" means "amusement." There's a difference. Walt Disney built an amusement park. The "Happiest Place on Earth"; God has built a place for enjoyment. There's a difference. 

We are "not to be haughty" or to set our "hopes (and hands) on the uncertainty of riches (or uncertainty of mood, or uncertainty of a win-loss record), but rather on God who richly provides" for us. 

How do we do that? How do we "take hold" of a God who has no handle? This God who won't stop moving? 




People say: "I'm just trying to get a handle on things." "I'm just trying to get a handle on this." This computer, this raising of children without killing them, this retirement without driving your spouse crazyGotta get a handle. That's the problem. There is no handle. But we're trying to stick one on. With determination, glue, or duct tape. 

God never promises to make life handle-able. You wanna take hold of life that really is life? The Bible says, 

we "are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for [ourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [we] may TAKE HOLD of (here it comes) the life that really is life." 

Good works. Generosity. Sharing. You probably guessed it already. We take hold of the life that really is life by letting go of the life that really isn't.  

Your wealth, your mood, your wins and your losses – of course they're important. To you. They make for a good life when they're going your way. But your good works, your generosity, and your sharing could be important to a whole lot more people. The Bible says they're essential to taking hold of real life, true life, eternal life that goes not your way, but God's way. 

Don't get handled by a false faith in your mood, your wealth, or your win-loss record. Take hold of the life that really is life. 




In the first half of yesterday's game, things were not going our way. But in the second half, Holy Smokes and Butch Jones forever. Life was worth living again. That's an overstatement. But that's how it felt. I literally had tears in my eyes as the crowd was swaying back and forth singing and I didn't even go to school here. But did you see who we play the next three weeks? Brace yourself for some serious mood swings. Ask your doctor which medication's right for you. 

The life that really is life doesn't depend on the next three weeks. It depends on the good works, the generosity, the sharing that you do, starting today and starting fresh every morning. Take hold of that real life. And let go of everything else.