Putting Your Hope in God

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1 Timothy 6:17-21

INTRODUCTION: Please take your Bibles and open with me to the book of 1 Timothy. Our message series is called Doing Church Together, and today is the last message in the series. We have invested the past fifteen weeks together studying the book of 1 Timothy and learning God’s instructions for Doing Church Together. We now come to the closing verses where Paul instructs Timothy and the church to put their hope in God.

1 Timothy 6:17-21 – 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you. (NIV)

What are you hoping for this morning? What do you hope to finish before summer is over? What do you hope for your job or education? What do you hope for the Red Sox or Yankees? What do you hope for your family, your marriage, your children?

We are always hoping for a lot of things. And that is good. It is good to be hopeful. Hope keeps us looking and moving forward. It has been said, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” I think that works in reverse as well. “Where’s there’s hope, there’s life.” When you lose your hope, when your hopes are disappointed, when there is nothing left to hold on to, that is when it is hard to keep going.

Of course, the harsh reality is that many of our hopes in life are often disappointed. Our marriages and our children do not always turn out the way we hoped they would. The new job or new relationship or new home is not everything we hoped it would be. The grass is always greener on the other side, but, remember, the dirt is just as dirty!

Let’s face it, we are not even the people we hoped to be. We set high goals for ourselves that we rarely achieve. Our hopes are so often disappointed.

That’s why I think Paul’s closing words to Timothy are so important here. There is only one place where you can put your hope and it will never be disappointed, and that is when you put your hope in God. If you put your hope in people, people will disappoint you. If you put your hope in the church, the church will disappoint you. If you put your hope in the Red Sox or Yankees . . . say no more. (Anyone here ever been disappointed by the Red Sox or Yankees?) But God will never disappoint you. We need to learn to put our hope in God.

I. Put your hope in God not wealth (verse 17)

Paul begins this section by addressing those who are rich. One of the temptations for those who are rich is to put their hope in their wealth instead of in God. In verse 17 Paul tells us why this is backwards, and why you should put your hope in God, not wealth.

    A. Don’t measure your value by your wealth.

First of all he says, “Don’t measure your value by your wealth.” Look at verse 17: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.”

The command is directed to “those who are rich in this present world.” “This present world” refers to the present age, this time that we live in, the history of the whole world. The Bible speaks of two different ages. There is the present age in which we live, and the coming age when Christ will return. The present age is marred by sin. The coming age will be marked by perfection. The present age is temporary. The coming age is eternal. The present age is lived out here on earth. The coming age will be lived out in God’s presence in heaven.

Those who are rich in this present world are those who have an abundance of resources relating to this physical world. They have all that they need and more. They have plenty for today and plenty stored away for tomorrow. They are often envied by those who do not have the same abundance of resources.

Paul says to those who are rich in this present world, “Do not be arrogant.” The word literally means, “high-minded,” to think that you are somehow above other people because you have more. It is the mistake of measuring your self-worth by your net-worth. You are not more valuable than other people because you have more. You are not less valuable than other people because you have less.

We are so used to measuring things by money. God says, “Don’t do it. You are not valuable because of what you have. You are valuable because I made you and because I love you.” Don’t measure your value by your wealth.

    B. Don’t measure your security by your wealth.

Secondly, don’t measure your security by your wealth. We all tend to do this. The more money we have socked away, the more secure we feel. The less money we have, the less secure we feel. But look at how God describes wealth in verse 17. He says, “Don’t put your hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.”

Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever considered that wealth is uncertain? We hardly ever do until the wealth is suddenly gone. The lottery winner, the successful stock investor, the Enron employee – all of these feel secure in their wealth until the lottery winnings are quickly spent, the stock market takes a dive, or the retirement plan goes bust. Proverbs 23:5 says, “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Money talks. I heard it once. You know what it says? It says, “Goodbye!”

It is foolish to base your security on your wealth. Only the person who puts their hope in God is truly secure. Proverbs 3:25-26 says this of the person who hopes in God: “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” Put your hope in God not wealth. Wealth is so uncertain.

    C. Don’t expect enjoyment in life to come from wealth.

Thirdly, don’t expect enjoyment in life to come from wealth. More money never made anyone happy. If you don’t believe me, go talk to a rich person. Money can buy you lots of things, but it cannot buy you happiness, and it cannot buy you love. Look at the end of verse 17: “Don’t put your put hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

All that you have comes from God, but you can only enjoy it when you receive it as a gift from God. Listen to these wise words from Ecclesiastes 5:19-20: “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”

But then Ecclesiastes 6:1-3 goes on to say this: “I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them, and a stranger enjoys them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”

You see, enjoyment comes from God. Enjoyment does not come from wealth, possession, or honor, but rather enjoyment in life is a gift from God. It is God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. God gives us so many things to enjoy: family, people, church, relationships, a beautiful creation, prayer, God’s Word, time spent in God’s presence. Don’t expect enjoyment in life to come from wealth. Put your hope in God.

II. Store up treasure in heaven not earth (verses 18-19)

Paul’s next instruction is found in verses 18-19. Store up treasure in heaven, not earth. How do you store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth?

    A. Be rich in good deeds.

First of all, be rich in good deeds. Look at verse 18 with me. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds.” Paul is still talking to the rich here, but these words apply to all of us. God says, don’t worry about whether you are rich in money. Are you rich in good deeds? Are you kind to other people? Do you look for ways to help other people? Do you put others first? Someone once described “joy” in life this way: joy means Jesus, Others, You. Do you put Christ first, then others, and then yourself? Is this evident by a life overflowing with good deeds?

Please understand, you are not saved by your good deeds. You are saved by God’s grace when you put your faith in Jesus Christ. But you are still called to good deeds and to serve others with your life. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world . . . Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) How do you store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth? Be rich in good deeds.

    B. Be generous and willing to share.

1 Timothy 6:18 goes on to say, “Be generous and willing to share.” Just as God is generous to us and richly provides all that we need for enjoyment in life, so God commands you also to be generous and giving. The more you have, the more you should be willing to share what you have with others, especially with those who are in need.

Notice that when you put both parts of verse 18 together, the instruction is to share both yourself and your resources. In other words, don’t just write a check but then fail to be personally involved in people’s lives. Or don’t be willing just to lend a hand but then be stingy with your money. Make yourself available to other people, and then take what God has given to you and make that available to others as well. Be rich in good deeds, and be generous and sharing.

    C. Build a firm foundation for the future.

Verse 19 tells us the result of all this. “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” When you store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth, you are building a firm foundation for the future.

Notice the future here is not just your retirement years, but verse 19 refers specifically to “the coming age.” Verse 17 started off by addressing those who are rich in the present age. When you are rich in good deeds and generous and willing to share, you are building a foundation for the coming age, when Christ returns and this present age is no more.

The goal here is to take hold of the life that is truly life, that is, life with God for all of eternity, abundant life with God right now. Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Life is found not in things but in God.

How do you store up treasure in heaven instead of on earth? Be rich in good deeds. Be generous and willing to share. Build a firm foundation for the future.

III. Hold on to the faith of the gospel (verses 20-21)

Finally Paul tells Timothy to hold on to the faith of the gospel. Look at verses 20-21. “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.”

    A. Guard what God has entrusted to you.

Guard what God has entrusted to you. Paul is talking here about the message of the gospel, the true teachings of Jesus in contrast to the message of the false teachers.

The phrase “guard what has been entrusted to you” was a common phrase in Paul’s day. “It was used in the ancient world of the high obligation of having in trust another person’s treasured possession, of keeping it safe, and of returning it as it was.” (George Knight; NIGTC; Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles) I like that. Can you imagine if you lent your brand new car to someone, and they returned it all dented and banged up without apology or explanation? No, when you entrust something valuable into someone’s care, you expect to get it back in the same condition in which you lent it.

The gospel is God’s treasured possession with the power to save everyone who believes. God has entrusted you with the gospel to keep it safe and to return it just as it was. Don’t replace it. Don’t change it. Don’t damage it in any way, especially by your own life’s testimony. Hold on to the faith of the gospel by guarding what God has entrusted to you.

    B. Turn away from empty discussions and false teaching.

The flip side of this is to turn away from empty discussions and false teaching. False teaching has been a theme all the way through the letter because this was a real problem at Timothy’s church in Ephesus. It is still a real problem today. There are many churches that do not preach the gospel of Christ. Whenever the church’s main emphasis becomes anything other than Jesus Christ and the faith of the gospel, it has become distracted and has turned away from God’s main focus.

Paul describes these distractions as “godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge.” We should turn away from anything that sets itself up against the gospel of Jesus Christ, how loudly it may chatter, no matter how attractive it may sound. There are plenty of teachings out there that present themselves as knowledge, but we need to be wise and discerning and rightly reject that which is falsely called knowledge.

Paul warns that “some have professed [these opposing ideas] and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” They have wandered from the true faith of the gospel and from their own personal faith in Jesus Christ through the gospel. Earlier in this letter Paul spoke of such people as having “shipwrecked their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19)

Guard what God has entrusted to you. Turn away from empty discussions and false teaching. Hold on to the faith of the gospel. Put your hope in God alone.

CONCLUSION: Finally, Paul closes out this letter with four simple words. “Grace be with you.” The “you” here is plural, “Grace be with you all,” showing that although Paul has written this letter personally to Timothy, the letter is actually written for the benefit of the whole church.

Paul ends all of his letters with a benediction of grace. For Paul, the grace of God in sending his Son Jesus Christ was central to salvation and to all of life. We are saved by God’s grace, we serve by God’s grace, and we stand by God’s grace.

And so as we end this series on doing church together, let us especially remember God’s grace. And as we practice doing church together, applying all that we have learned from 1 Timothy, let us do so in constant awareness of the amazing grace that God has given to us in Jesus Christ. That is the gospel. That is our calling as a church.

© Ray Fowler

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