Investing For The Future
Easter 4/10/98 Eccl: 11:7-10 Rev. 20:7-15 Text Luke 16:19-32
I’m asking you the question, "What do you want in life?" Your answer to the question today is going to determine what your future is going to be. Right now
the stock market has gone wild. But I don’t keep up with the Dow Jones Record
for the same reason most of you don’t. I didn’t invest in any stocks back when it
was low, so I haven’t made any money from it rising real high. But if I had of
invested, I would be happy to see some money in my bank account now.
There is no use praying to have something better tomorrow if you’re not willing to make some investments today. If you’re praying for better children, what investment are your putting into them. If you’re praying to get a husband or a wife, what investments are your making. If you’re praying for a better job, what investments are you making. If you’re praying for a better wife or a better husband, what investments are you making. If you’re praying to grow in God, what investments are your making.
Mary decided to become a better student in school so she gave her heart to the Lord. Mary was flunking Social Studies which she hated. Each night before the exam, Mary would pray, Lord help me get an A on the exam. She failed the first one. She got a D on the second one. and She got an F on the third one.
Mary went back to God and said "listen God, I spent an hour and a half praying for you to help me on the exam, and all I got was F, a D, and another F. How long do I have to pray to get an A." God says, "Mary your problem isn’t that you your prayers are not long enough, you’ve got to read the Social Studies book first and study it before I can help you remember what you studied. We can try to let prayer become a substitute for work ,but God doesn’t let us get away with it.
There are some people who intend to pray their way into heaven. They will say in a minute, "I know I don’t do this, and I should do that, but God knows my heart. And I do pray To God each night. Prayer does not make up for disobedience.
I want you to journey on a story with me for a moment. Let’s go back to the first century in Jerusalem. I want you meet da man. The brother who had made it big and had it all together. The brother had a house you wouldn’t believe. It looked like one of those huge mansions in Shaker Heights, with a fence around it only a little bigger. When the brother got dressed, he got dressed. He had to have on his Armoni suits just to walk in his flower garden, and he had a suit for each day of the week. His children had their Jordans delivered directly to their home before the new ones reached the stores.
He was a highly successful businessman. He occasionally went to church, but mainly for image purposes. He made donations to hospitals, political campaigns, and the like. People really liked him, because he knew how to throw a party. He had made some investments and they had truly paid off for him. Everybody wanted to be a friend of "the man".
One of his businesses included construction of new homes. One day he was surveying one of his new constructions and he didn’t like the way the weathervane on the top of the building looked so he told the foreman on the job, send one of the guys up on that roof to straighten the weather vane. The foreman, yelled hey Lazarus, go up there and straighten out the weather vane, but be careful.
Now Lazarus was just your honest laborer. He was barely making it from week to week. He had some losses in life, and was pretty much in the world on his own without a family. But one thing he did have was a relationship with God. God was real in his life. The name Lazarus meant "God is my helper."
In confidence Lazarus, went up to straighten the weathervane, but he was not as careful as he should have been, He lost his grip, and the next thing you heard was him screaming as he fell off one roof onto a lower one and then onto the ground. Now the Man saw what had happened, but he had to get to his next appointment. He gave the foreman some money to give to Lazarus to pay for his medical bills and as compensation for his injuries. You see there was no insurance or worker’s compensation back then.
Having done his business duty toward a worker as far as he was concerned, Da Man left. Turned out Lazarus suffered a spinal injury which left him unable to walk again. Infection set in from some of the cuts he suffered in the fall. He was really messed up. It wasn’t long before the money he received was taken by scrupulous individuals promising a cure.
When his money ran out, he was reduced to begging for food. In the midst of his struggles he prayed and he prayed, but the healing did not come. Where was he to go for food? Somebody said, "You know Lazarus, everybody says Da Man is a generous person. Why don’t we take you out and sit you in front of his house. He might feel sorry for you and do something else for you."
So they put Lazarus on a mat and took him to Da-Man’s house and set him in front of the gate. When Da Man came home, he saw Lazarus sitting by the gate and he recognized him. He knew he had done more for Lazarus than other bosses would have done, so there was no other debt owed by him to Lazarus, and no one would argue otherwise. Lazarus was now just a beggar, with sores on his body, unable to walk, trying to get a free meal.
Lazarus wasn’t sitting at the main entrance, he was more to a side gate, where the leftover food was thrown out of the house. You see back then, people who were really rich didn’t use paper towels to wipe off their fingers as they ate. The really rich would used chunks of bread. The bread chunks would have the flavor on them from whatever was eaten.
It was these bread chunks that Lazarus was hoping he would get to eat. Sometimes he would have to try to scare away the dogs to get to the bread as he dragged himself along. The Man never did try to force Lazarus to leave his property. After all, what could it hurt to have him eating the bread crumbs. It did show he had some humanity in him.
God was merciful to Lazarus, and didn’t allow him to live like than much longer. One day his friends came to pick him up, and he didn’t move. Somebody said, "it’s a shame he had to die out here all alone like a dog. Somebody probably looked out the house and said that beggar with sores is finally gone. I was getting tired of looking at his appearance.
Somebody else said, "that fellow had a miserable life, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. To think he was named meant God is my help. With that kind of help, I wouldn’t need God." There was no funeral procession. No beautiful casket. No eloquent words spoken. They just dug a hole, wrapped him in a cloth and threw him in it. After all, he was just a beggar.
Lazarus had just slipped out of the world unknown. But had he gone unnoticed? No for the bible tells me, the moment he died, God was ready. He gave the angels the command, "listen, Lazarus has about three breaths left, "I want you there just as the last one comes out and bring him straight into heaven." Lazarus closed his eyes, and because he had made an investment, he was there in heaven right alongside of Abraham long before anybody spotted his dead body.
The same day Da’Man came home, he went up to his room. While changing from one Armoni suit to his dinner time suit, he fell over on the bed. When he didn’t come down from dinner, his wife went to find out why. At first she thought he was sleeping from a hard day’s work. She called him, but no answer. She went to shake him, she screamed for he was dead of a heart attack.
It was the biggest funeral you ever seen in your life. The casket itself cost enough to buy a house. The governor, the mayor, and all the important people wanted to speak something on his behalf. The preacher who hadn’t seen him but twice a year in church, talked about his contributions to the church and the new wing he had financed.
People talked about all the good things he had done and how he loved everybody. You would have thought Da’man had been a saint. They built a monument for his grave with marble angels protecting it on both sides. They wrote on the tombstone, Da Man, Family Man, Faithful Friend, Outstanding Citizen, Servant Of God. You see while he was alive, Da-Man had made some investments, and now they were paying off.
He left this world with a bang and a tremendous send off, but it didn’t trouble God, and it didn’t trouble the angels. For when he died, before the first flower for the funeral was purchased, the devil was saying, "that one there is one of mine." Now while all the funeral service was going on, the Bible says in Luke 16:23, in hell, where he was in torment he looked up.
Now it didn’t matter that the governor, the mayor, the preacher, and the people put him in heaven, the bible says, in hell, where he was in torment he looked up. There was no bright light leading through a tunnel, with music playing and beautiful flowers all around as they imagined he was experiencing. The bible says "in hell where he was in torment Da Man looked up."
You see the Man, had invested in the future, but he had not planned on the future being as long as it was. He was one of those people who believed, enjoy life now, because when its over its over. His life was like a person on the Titanic going from room to room finding the doors unlocked saying, oh here is some money somebody left, here are some jewels somebody left, oh look at this diamond necklace. The person is stuffing his pockets with all these goodies, not knowing the ship is sinking. While others are above trying to find a way to get off the ship, the person is delighting in knowing he’s accumulating wealth beyond his wildest dream. But in an hour or so, all his wealth will be useless down at the bottom of the ocean floor.
When Jesus was telling this story in Luke chapter 16, he never once said what the rich man’s name was. Why? Because his name was not written in the Book of Life, so he had no value in heaven. He was not investing in heaven for the future, so they didn’t even bother to open an account in his name. Friends if your name is not in the Book of Life, your investments are going to come up short. The only way to get your name recorded is to admit, I have not lived for God and other things mean more to me than God ever will. I have done wrong things, and I know I need God’s forgiveness. You can’t pay for the wrong you have done, only Jesus Christ can do that.
Jesus Christ came into the world to die for everyone of us. He had to die in order for God to forgive us for our sin. But after three days he came back to life again to give us the power to live changed lives forever, and so we could truly have an investment in the future. Nobody goes to heaven, simply by wanting to go. You go to heaven by choosing to accept the only way God has provided to get there. That way is Jesus Christ.
You may live a pretty good life. You may be a pretty good person. You may go to church every now and then. You may have lots of people who will say how you help them and how you try to love everybody. But you know deep inside, that you are not nearly as good in your heart as others think you are. You know the evil thoughts which come into your heart. You know God is not first in your life and you do not seek to obey Him. You know The Man could say all of these things about himself, but when he died, the Bible says, "in hell where he was in torment.
I want you to notice something about hell. First it is a real place, where real people go. Jesus himself went into hell during the three days he was dead. So when he says there is a hell, he knows what He’s talking about. Jesus spoke more about hell than other person in the New Testament. Have you ever heard people say, "I don’t mind going to hell because that’s where all my friends are going to be."
It doesn’t say anything in the Bible about people getting together in hell. As a matter of fact, hell is going to be a place of great loneliness and isolation. The only people you will see will be those who are in heaven. Hell is a place of great suffering and pain. Just as Christians receive a new body which will not be destroyed, so will those who go to hell also receive a body which will not be destroyed. Jesus described hell as a great fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It sounds like a terrible investment in which to plan one’s future.
The bible says "in hell where he was in torment, the Man looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side." So we know, you can see out of hell into heaven even though you can’t see what’s around you in hell. We also know that heaven and hell is a long ways from each other, but with your supernatural body, your eyes will be able to see great distances. Then we learn, the man called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame."
We know that in hell you remember what your previous life was like. The man recognized Abraham, who was one of the first great biblical leaders. So the man had some religious training and knew some religious facts, but knowing facts about the Bible did not keep him out of hell. He also recognized Lazarus as being in heaven with Abraham. The man remembered Lazarus had been a servant in the other life. We also see that you still have your basic personality in hell.
The Man had been proud and self centered before, and he still was in hell. Now he admitted the flames was causing him great agony. Yet he wanted Lazarus to risk pain from those same flames to come and give up him a drink of water for his comfort. You know a day earlier in time, he wouldn’t have traded investments with Lazarus for anything in the world, yet now he would gladly surrender all he ever had to invest, in the things Lazarus had invested in. He was not aware of his great miscalculation about the purpose of life until it was too late. While he was investing in things, Lazarus was investing in God.
You may be winning for a little while in life, but what does a matter to be ahead 11 to nothing from the top of the first inning to the bottom of the ninth if the game goes into extra innings and you lose 12 to 11. Death is just another means of going into extra innings or into overtime.
Even though he begged with great anguish in his voice, Abraham denied his request. He said, well you’ve gotten what you deserved based on your life, and Lazarus has gotten what he deserved based on his. He had a real relationship with God and you didn’t and that’s the bottom line. Look, even if I wanted to send someone to you I couldn’t. There is a great space between you and me which cannot be crossed because its been fixed. You can’t leave where you are to come to us, and we can’t leave where we are to come to you.
The Man realized his situation was hopeless. He was stuck with his decision forever. Then it dawned on him, well maybe I can’t do anything for myself, but maybe I can help my family. I want you to realize this was a good man in hell. He wasn’t in hell for being a bad person, he was there because He didn’t make the decision to give his life to God until it was too late.
He thought about his family. He said, "Look, I know I’ve blown it, but I’ve got five brothers, please send Lazarus to them and let Lazarus give them a warning. If Lazarus tells them I am in hell, in great suffering ,and torment, then they will change their lifestyles and invest in the right things and they won’t end up in this place." You know if we could spend just ten seconds in hell, God would never have to worry about us investing in sin. He wouldn’t have to worry about us misplacing our priorities.
He wouldn’t have to worry about us telling our family members and our friends, and everybody else about the need to get right with God before it is too late. We would have a profound urgency with the first line of our purpose which is to bring people into a right relationship with God. When we know a building is on fire, everyone of us would try to warn people who didn’t know it to get out of the building. It wouldn’t matter if we knew them or not, if they were rich or poor, or what they looked like. We would tell them building is on fire, if you want to invest in your future, get out of here now.
Abraham told the man, "Look they have Moses and the Prophets, the Old Testament is written plainly. It tells you that God is going to judge us for our actions. It tells you of the need to have a personal relationship with God. If they read it, they will be warned sufficiently."
But the man knew, that he too had part of the Bible when he was alive, but rarely read it. He repeatedly, read his one favorite passage and neglected all the rest of it. He knew his brothers would scorn the word of God just like he did. Short of a miracle, they too would end up in hell.
He told Abraham, "You don’t understand my brothers. You see ,they think the Bible is just another book, made up of stories some of which are true and some which are not. We laughed about going to hell together because we thought it was all a joke. But you see, if someone from the dead goes back and talk to them, they will change their ways and repent."
So many people think God owes them a miracle before they will believe. We celebrate Easter because the greatest miracle of all occurred. After Jesus was crucified and voluntarily gave up his life for us, he was put into a tomb. The tomb was sealed and Roman guards were posted to make sure that no one entered the tomb because Jesus had predicted in three days he would rise from the dead. While they were guarding the tomb on the outside, on the inside God had raised Jesus from the dead. A powerful angel came from heaven and threw away the stone which was blocking the entrance to the tomb, not to let Jesus out, but to let the people in so they could see for themselves that Jesus had been raised up from the dead."
Jesus is in a class all by himself. He appeared to the women, the disciples, and to hundreds of people after his resurrection. He was on earth for forty more days before He finally went to heaven for good until He comes back to judge the angels. Jesus is an authority on death because He experienced it for three days. Death no longer has a claim on His life. He’s the only miracle God is going to give you to let you know the truth about dying.
Abraham told the man, look if they do not believe what is already written in the Scriptures, neither will they believe if someone rises from the dead. Heaven and hell are not dependent upon on our belief in them. God simply says they exist. Each one will serve a purposed. Hell was originally created for the devil and his angels. In the Bible reading, we saw where Satan and his angels were cast into the lake of fire. But it also said, there was going to be a judgment of all people. Anyone’s name which was not written in the Book of Life was cast with them into the lake of fire.
Have you made an investment in getting your name in the book of Life? The only way to get it recorded is by giving your life to Jesus Christ. You are going to have an Easter experience of your own. When you die, you will start to live as you’ve never lived before, either for good or for bad. God has voted for you to join him, Satan has voted against you. You hold the deciding vote for eternity. God has done all He’s going to do. For it says in the Bible
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 [NIV]
I realize that some of you have never invited Jesus Christ to come into your life. If you haven’t you are like I was at one time. I needed a Savior and there is only one. Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus died for your sins, and He rose again to prove his word. We will pray and I want you to agree with Jesus Christ that He is the Son of God and That He has died for your sins. Pray. If you just confessed Jesus Christ for the first time, the first thing you need to do is to tell the world you have switched sides. Would you raise your hand if you’ve just become a child of God? If you’d like us to pray with you for strength on your journey you may do so now.