The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:7,8)
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3)
“Be Thou My Vision (Or Rubbish/Treasure; or Counterfeit/Currency)” Isaiah 40:7,8; Phil. 3:7-9, 13-14 11/11/12
One of my favorite hymns is “BeThou My Vision.” It is an ancient irish tune that is found in almost every hymn book now. It speaks about keeping our eyes on Christ so much that He becomes our eyes- we see as He sees. It speaks of not letting riches or things
keep us from His vision. Having a vision is so important in life- especially when it seems our hopes are crushed
and we have to change direction-which is what many are having to do since the 2008 crash.
The tune name of this song is named for the Slane hill near where St. Patrick challenged the Druid priests and High King Loegaire. They had a fire festival and the idea was that all the fires would be put out, and then all other fires would be lit from the High King’s fire. But Patrick had a fire lit on the Slane Hilltop not far away. When the druids tried to put the fire out- they could not.
Patrick said it was because Jesus is the real High King. Because of this, he got an audience with the High King of Ireland who soon also acknowledged Jesus as the true High King. Paul would always have us remember who is the real King of Kings and Lord of lords. I think in our day where so much emphasis has been put on political power, and worldly distractions, we need to keep our focus on the King of kings.
1) Paul puts it like this: Keep your eyes on the prize; (14) The gains Paul had- his education, his Roman citizenship, his being a lead Pharisee either in line or actually on the Sanhedrin- he considers loss. Saul had the pedigree, the connections, the potential, the go-get-em for success. He was climbing the ladder and was ¾ of the way up- and it seemed the top of the Pharisee ladder was within his grasp. Then he encountered Jesus Christ. He encountered Christ on his way to let the Christians have it. It literally was a
blinding experience. Paul could literally and spiritually say he once was blind but now he saw. Paul believed in God, but he had made a counterfeit God- his success as a Pharisee. He was living for that God- pushing for success. He was blinded to Jesus in part because his friends, his colleagues, were all encouraging to worship this blind God. Today we have many counterfeit gods. They are idols that we make. They may be our jobs, our popularity, our success. These things can be good when held in balance with gratitude and generosity. But good things can also become our gods- our idols- that we cannot live without.
Some of us have spent our whole lives living for a false dream. Maybe our fondest dream. But there is no dream that can ever fulfill our need to give ourselves to God- the eternal one. If we are ultimately living for someone, some cause, or something besides God it will come back to bite us. Timothy Keller tells of a friend named Anna whose overpowering desire in her life was to have kids. The doctor told her she couldn’t have them. When she miraculously did, she pushed herself to give them the perfect life, until it became impossible for her to actually enjoy them. She became overprotective, anxious, controlling of every detail. The oldest became emotionally unstable with poor grades, while the younger child became angry.
In the 1980s Cynthia Heimel wrote, “The minute a person becomes a celebrity is the same minute he/she becomes a monster” She gave biographical information of three perfectly pleasant people who, when they became popular became demanding devas and extremely selfish. Their dream of popularity controlled them. Secondary and counterfeit goals- can keep us overly busy- so we forget why we are here. They can also keep us from seeing the obvious, and obvious opportunities. I am reminded of the two shoe
salesman sent to Haiti. One salesman emails back- “Coming home immediately, no one here wears shoes.” The second salesman emailed, “Send a boatload of shoes immediately. The possibilities for selling shoes here are endless.”
Paul could have easily have been discouraged. But instead in this book of Philippians- that he wrote from prison- he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always- I will say it again- rejoice!(4:4) We can look at our culture becoming secular, voting to legalize marijuana; suing our school district over a student approved and led prayer; growing number saying that they are not affiliated with any church- and we can say- I give up I am too discouraged. But whenever there is darkness- the possibility of people seeing the true light for the first
time is so much better. It is not time to turn your light off. It is time to turn it on! Keep your eyes on what is important.
2) Keeping our Eyes off things;- Paul says he considers the things of this world garbage- rubbish. – compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. The word “rubbish” there is skuballa which King James translates it as dung. Paul was saying all the worldly praise and success is not worth comparing to knowing Christ. Isaiah calls the things of this world “grass” and “flowers” that die- turn brown and fade away. The hymn says, “Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise, thou mine inheritance now and always.” Yet for many riches are the only reason to live. Fredrich Nietsche lived in the German culture before WWI when they
started forsaking the biblical idea of God. He believed that when God is gone we replace Him with money. That we are “urged
forward by greed and “impatience at seeing our wealth pile up too slowly.” He said what once was done for love of God is now done for love of money.” Tim Keller says “nobody thinks of themselves as greedy…this idol has a way of blinding us to its reality. He said he has had many sins confessed to him as pastor- but never the sin of greed. Part of the reason is we compare ourselves not to the rest of the world as Brian Stewart talked about last week. We put ourselves in neighborhoods where some have more than we have, and we see ourselves as not having enough. There is a development on the SC beach called Debordieu. I know a man who has a
$600,000 house, but he told me that his place was a shack because there are $1-$3 million homes there. So his illusion was that he didn’t have much to give. Paul says greed is idolatry. Jesus said to “be on your guard against all kinds of greed for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
There is a TV series on the History channel about the “Men who Built America.” The richest entrepreneurs in the history of the world. But listen to what they have said after they achieved the top of their game: W.H. Vanderbilt said, “The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.” J.J. Astor, though at one time the wealthiest man in the USA, said, “I am the
most miserable man on earth.” John D. Rockefeller said, “I have made millions, but they have brought me no
happiness.” Andrew Carnegie said, “Millionaires seldom smile.” [Some of us would like to test that out]. Henry Ford said, “I was happier doing a mechanic’s job.” As John Ortberg says, “when the game of life is over, it all goes back in the box.”
Do not gaze at riches- do not heed them.
3) Keeping our eyes on true victory; How? A. Count Them Rubbish (which we have already talked about). B. Press
on- Persevere, but also push/challenge yourself to grow. Like an athlete looking for that edge for victory- not to beat the other guy- but playing to a higher standard- how they can make themselves sharper, better.
C. See what is really important-Give toward that. It is not the grass or the flowers. It is what will last. There are many counterfeit distractions out there that never can fill the void of life without God. Some people are in frustrating marriages because they really want their spouse to fulfill all their hopes- but only God can do that. Some want their children to fulfill their hopes and dreams. That is a terrible burden for a child to bear. Paul’s passage reminds us to not only believe in God- but to love Him. You can tell it is love because He considers everything else is rubbish. Someone who is a real turkey hunter- when they are out in the field, is not going to shoot a rabbit when a turkey is around. He is after bigger game. Set your sites on God- and don’t be distracted by rabbit trails, rabbits, foxes, or anything else. Don’t starve your love for God by loving and giving more to something else. Paul considered everything
else rubbish. But we are grabbing rubbish and hugging it like it is worth something.
You can tell they are counterfeit- because when you hold them up to the light- when you hold them up to the light of Jesus- they look thin, unsophisticated, easily worn out, temporary and fake. Hold up what you love. If it does not last forever, remember there
is a difference between counterfeit and currency.
Randy Alcorn asks us to imagine going for a ride and lining up behind a few dozen pickup trucks. They are filled with old furniture, rusted refrigerators, and obsolete TVs, and velvet pictures of Elvis. One by one the driver gets out of the truck and throws their stuff over the cliff- and you see it’s a dump. It is not that such things are bad, but the illusion that such things give us lasting happiness keeps us from being what we could be. Living simpler is important. Being able to balance things by having gratitude and generosity are so important.
Hurricane Sandy will be one of the most expensive storms in our history. One minute you have a beautiful house- with beautiful furniture, the next minute it is swept to sea. I had many friends who lost magnificent homes in Hugo. Some fell apart, and some were
made stronger. If your possessions were taken away, would you survive, or could you thrive? The way we give to the Lord, reflects our ability to have a good perspective of our possessions- so that they do not possess us. We need to keep the true God as our vision.