3. Because we do not yet see all things under the feet of our Mediator (Hebrews 2:8), even though everything is under the sovereign plan of God (Ephesians 1:11), life in this world is often marked by futility and frustration. Heaven and the return of Christ are where we will experience things the way they should be in keeping with our inheritance. We see that in 2 Corinthians 12, as quoted in Part 1, but it is profoundly expressed in Ecclesiastes and in one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 73. The Psalmist is quite overwhelmed with his own trials and this situation is exacerbated as he observes how well off the God-hating, immoral people around him are:
"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Psalm 73:2, 3).
Trying to understanding life from the perspective of "under the Sun" (Ecclesiastes) leads us to false conclusions; it is only when we factor in the unseen world and the future beyond that we can make sense of things: "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny" (Psalm 73:16, 17).
Even though it is a cliché‚ and often mocked, we do live for our "pie in the sky," because our "pie in the sky" is being in the presence of Jesus now and perfectly so in the future. "Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. . . But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds" (Psalm 73:23-28).
4. Psalm 73:23-28 underscores the heart of the matter: it isn't gold, not even the streets of gold in the new Jerusalem, that brings true joy and fulfillment; it is knowing and loving our blessed, Triune God, and living for his glory, set to the purpose of his kingdom . . .
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (Matthew 13:44).
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:45, 46).
To a real Christian, Christ is the Treasure hidden in the field, our Pearl of great price. For him we give up everything and count it but skybalon (Philippians 3:8). Yet, wonder of wonders, we are Christ's treasure, too, his pearl of great price. For us, he gave up the joy and glory of heaven. He who is and always remains fully God in every way, became a real human being, just like you and me in every way, except he did not have a sinful nature and he never sinned. For us, he endured the shameful, agonizing death of the cross.
A focus on material wealth in preaching, then, is wicked. Our focus must be the glory of God and people coming to enjoy him. We are to seek the Lord and his righteousness and leave to him to order the things in our lives for our good and his glory in the advancement of his kingdom. To be sure, God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17), but these things add nothing to our lives apart from our loving the Lord Jesus and delighting in him. Indeed, apart from a life lived in devotion to the Lord, these things become sinful snares and deadly poisons, as our Lord warned: "The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke (the Word), making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).
Finally, health and wealth are never ends in themselves, they are means to an end: the advancement of God's kingdom. A kingdom centered approach sees material wealth as a trust from God to be used to advance his kingdom in the lives of others -- the same goes for good health. I do not believe in the private ownership of property, a damnable lie; the Bible teaches the private stewardship of property. All that I am, all that I have, be it time, energy, spouse, children, parents, money, houses, lands, rights, respect, or what have you -- it all belongs to God, and I am called to use it for his glory and the good of others, as he directs by his Word and Spirit in his good providence. That is the happy life. That is the free life. That is the true Christian life.
Vincent Family AlbumHere are a few photographs of our family and friends.