$UCCE$$ --What happens after we have it all?
What Happens After We Have It All?
Author's Note: The revelation that you are about to read can be compared to standing atop a beautiful mountain and looking at the glory of an unmatched sunset as it drapes behind the sequence of snow covered peaks in the distant sky. The only thing that would make this scenario better would be sharing it with someone else. I want to yell at the top of my lungs all that I have discovered from my days, weeks and months of studying this subject and my discovery of true success-and yes, you will be able to purchase the CD or attend the upcoming seminar for a nominal fee. Just kidding. But I do pray that you take this subject to heart and begin to examine your own idea of success as you read this short writing. You owe it to yourself to see this through. Remember, any writing is only as effective as the person that is willing to read it.
The World Book Dictionary defines success as: the gaining of wealth, position or other advantage. But what is true success? Is the dictionary definition all that we could ever hope for?
When can someone finally say that they have "made it" in life?
What is the ultimate dream, aspiration, objective, desire or ambition for humans on this earth?
I know that I personally have dreams; I won't be one of those super religious people who say they never dream beyond what they are "supposed" to have, whatever that means. I believe that everyone, deep down, has dreams, and that they are based on two things: age and circumstance. For instance, when I was seven or eight I probably had a greater infatuation with being a super hero than I did with having abundant money, cars or houses. But as I grew up, and as my environment manipulated my worldview, I came to realize the world's aspiration of success.
But recently I have struggled with the idea of success. I started my journey with one question: What is my idea of success? Then I branched out a little and started asking some other people their ideas of success. Below is a list of some of the responses that I obtained. I realize that by putting these responses on paper that I am trying to persuade any potential readers to try and place themselves within the answers that are given below and that it will be a monumental task. I appreciate this because everyone wants to be an individual and that will mean that everyone's dreams will be slightly different. Some will recoil by insinuating that their dream is not even remotely similar to the ones that I will mention. But I believe that these scenarios have many of the same components, and that any reader should be able to partially see some element of their own personal dream.
In a few cases, some dream just to survive another day to make it out of their dangerous, drug-infested, and prostitute-ridden impoverished inner city ‘hood.'
Others want to impress mommy and daddy by going off to some Ivy League, East Coast College to gain strategy over their rich, privileged, upper-class friends and colleagues (Yeah, I know, some just want to get into college period.)
Then there are those who want to make it "rap star" big. They are the idealists infatuated with the blistering bright bling; that polished, multi-faceted diamond that hangs around their neck weighing more than they do. Those whose ultimate adrenaline rush is a four-story crib, several phat rimmed out rigs, and sipping Margaritas with one of their many barely bikini babes, chillin' jobless on the sands of their beach house.
Still others want a normal life. They simply desire a good job with a respectable title, a loving spouse, 21/2 children, and a three-bedroom house in suburbia encompassed by a white picket fence.
Finally, there are those who say that they have no real dreams. They claim that they do not want their own business. They don't want the pride of attending the most elite colleges. They don't even dream of having that all-elusive celebrity body to show off as eye-candy to the rest of the world. No, these all require ambition and hard work. Yes, contrary to popular belief, dreams-even the partial fulfillment of them-require a lot of work.
Those who say that they do not dream are comparable to empty logs floating down stream with the current. They have no vision or purpose so they cannot even begin to relay any type of dream. They are the ones that seem content blending in, not making any waves, and working long hours for minimal pay. These people are comfortable to just sit back and let chance, or even what they say is God's providence (or will) maneuver their life. They do not know how to make anything happen for their self. Many are so oppressed by low self-esteem that even when they do dream it becomes masqueraded by a muddy mess as soon as reality comes into focus. Yes, they say that they do not dream, but they actually do. Their dreams are simply buried beneath the scarring from other unfulfilled stillborn dreams of years past.
The only thing that these people might convey is that they would like a nice sum of money to live comfortably. But they would never admit to wanting more than just enough; they do not want to come off as greedy. They just want enough money to be "set," which I guess means to never have to be dependant upon anyone or to answer to an authority figure ever again. They simply want enough money to have peace, love and happiness in their life-even though they have no clue what this means or how to attain it.
So, what are your own dreams? No really, just be honest with yourself for a moment. I must admit that during the writing of this article I had to take an inventory of my own life and dreams. I know first hand that sometimes we even lie to ourselves when we are faced with questions that make us think-and questions that move us from a position of comfort. I realize that some people are so religious that they could never be real and say that they wanted some type of material possession-this, of course, would be vain, possibly even sinful. They answer such questions with the typical, "I just want to serve the Lord and love all people" response to get the focus off of them and to keep from answering candidly. But that is just one facet of religion that is employed to disguise the real person. It keeps other people out by putting up a front. It even keeps God out. But that is for another writing.
Before I move on I want to share a few more of the responses that I received:
One man said that his craving was to have a future 20-room mansion premiered on the new season of MTV's cribs.
Another person dreamt of being chauffeured around like Mrs. Daisy, having multiple servants to do every tedious task.
I asked several who dream of being a medal winning sports athlete or a top official that is honored and respected in front of millions on television.
Some wanted a multi-million dollar career with several books to their credit.
A few of those who were surveyed simply lusted after money-and a lot of it (by the way, there is a thin line between dreaming and lusting).
One person said that they would be content with several thousands and a midnight blue Porsche.
Several teenagers said it would be cool to have their name in lights with idol-worshipers screaming for them to autograph their latest CD cover in front of national media outlets.
The last person I surveyed, and I had to draw a line here, said he aspired to be a recognized televangelist. Would it be wrong to say that anyone who is willing to use God's name to manipulate people into giving into a warped desire is a twisted and demented entrepreneur at best? (No, I am not saying that all televangelists are warped and twisted).
What if I said that someone actually lived out all of these dreams (and more) and came to despise what he had-all the vehicles, money, women and anything else?
What if I said that he lived in Bible times? Oh, now I did it. I mentioned the "B" word. This is just one of several "Christian" words that have been demonized and deemed culturally incorrect in recent decades. Surely, this writing will be filed away in the nearest trash receptacle, or maybe not. Maybe curiosity will run the gamut. Maybe there is a greater desire for the truth. What if, after all, every scheme of success, every whim and desire according to the world's standards is simply a waste of time? What if all that everyone says to live for is actually a mirage-something that is just an illusion in a parched desert? Aside from everything that the world is dreaming for, what if the Bible actually contains the real truth? What if even preachers have missed it? Oh boy, I am in trouble now.
I want to stress right from the onset that I am not promoting religion. In fact, I despise religion and the charades that it creates. It is dangerous to live for the world's idea of success. It is even more dangerous to live for the church's idea of success-and that is exactly what religion is; it is man-made ideas promoted by a church, or organization, in an attempt to please God through something that man can do or accomplish. It is, however, far from pleasant to God. God desires a true relationship from the heart, not an outward show of piety to get the attention of the religious and those who think they are righteous. Religion has its own ideas about success, and they are damning. Some religions, like Islam, actually promote the gratification of the flesh-selfishly attaining 72 virgins if they submit to their god, killing themselves and other non-believers through suicide in an act that they say is pleasing to Allah. But this is not what the God of the Bible ever required or even insinuated. Jehovah God, the God revealed as Father in the New Testament, calls believers to love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love their neighbor (Muslims, gentiles, and everyone else) as they would their self. The Bible is very clear in this (Mark 12:30-31). Followers of these commands will not be religious but will have an authentic relationship with their Creator.
Because my claim to the answer of the question of success is taken from the Bible, and because many people have issues with the legitimacy of God's inerrant Word, I wanted to provide a mini-section that will hopefully place support beams under anyone's concerns of the Bible's accuracy. Even those who believe the Bible is truly God's Word will be encouraged by this information.
The Bible actually mentions many technical truths that even the smartest scientists have only understood in the past few centuries, and the Bible was written 2,500 to 3,500 years ago. For example, did you know that the Bible declares the world to be round (Isaiah 40:22)? How is it that opponents of Christopher Columbus' journey in 1492 (a little more than 500 years ago) to find other lands and shipping routes claimed that he would sail off the end of the world because it was flat? Had his critics read the Bible they would have not been ridiculed a few years later for their illegitimate theory of a flat earth.
Even more recent, in 1845, a doctor became increasingly alarmed at the thirty-percent death rate of women who were giving birth in the hospitals of Vienna. He concluded that the reason for the astronomical number of deaths were due to doctors who did not wash their hands between patients, or doctors who washed their hands in a simple bowl of stagnant water-common practice for doctors for hundreds of years. This physician had discovered that the doctors needed to wash their hands each time under running water, which drastically decreased the death rate. If these doctors would have had a levitical Bible course in medical school they would have read this command and saved countless patients, "When he that has an issue (disease)...he shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water" (Lev. 14:13).
There is even a scripture that speaks of the science of the study of oceans, called Oceanography. The Bible mentions a scripture about the paths of the sea (Psalm 8:8). Believe it or not, Matthew Maury (1806-1873), the famed "Father of Oceanography" read this scripture and had never heard of the ocean having "paths.' Nevertheless, Mr. Maury had faith in God's word. He understood that if the Bible declared that the ocean had paths that he was going to try to discover them. He eventually revealed this truth to the masses through empirical evidence and brought the scientific field understanding of the oceans continental currents. Moreover, he authored a book on oceanography that is still used in universities as a basic textbook to this day.
I could go on with many other examples of the Bibles genuineness, but that would deviate from the main premise of this article. I simply wanted to show the veracity and accuracy of the Bible and how science is constantly theorizing and researching, spending countless dollars to come to the same conclusions-conclusions that were etched in stone or inscribed on parchment thousands of years ago.
I want to get back to the main subject of this article.
There is a man in the Bible who has lived out just about every dream imaginable. He had it all-position, money, ultimate material possessions, and servants to do every chore.
Here is a brief profile of this person. I will call this his Bible Space-kind of like a My Space personal.
NAME: Solomon (Son of David)
POSITION: King (c.967 B.C.)
LOCATION: Jerusalem, Israel
NET WORTH: Richest man ever
FAVORITE QUOTE: "All Is Vanity"
FAVORITE SONG: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Heterosexual. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1000 total). He had enough women that he could go on a date every day for two years and would never see the same woman twice.
He had the highest position and title of men on the earth.
He was the highest paid person on earth.
He had a Ph.D. equivalent in all subjects (Wisest person ever).
He was the owner of several mansions.
He was the owner of several wineries and produced the best wine.
He was the possessor of 1,400 personal vehicles.
He was the possessor of 40,000 garages for his vehicles.
He had 183,300 personal servants and soldiers under his authority (this is a considerable amount since the largest city in the kingdom had approximately 5,000 people).
He was the master architect of at least four entire cities and several ships.
He was the builder of the Temple of God.
He was the author of at least three of the books of the Bible.
He has the longest running streak on the Best Seller List (2,975 years and counting-the Bible is the best selling book ever).
People came from other continents & the entire earth just to hear him speak.
He was the most notorious person of wealth ever to live.
Several movies and books have been created about him.
His palace was more grand than the Temple of God.
Even Jesus mentioned his wealth.
He was the preacher of preachers (he would be envied by many churches as the Lord personally appeared to him twice.)
He was Solomon, Son of David.
(References for the above content can be found in 1 Kings 4, 9, 10, and Matthew 6:29)
Solomon had it all! He was the wisest, richest man on the planet. He was the ultimate hip-hop star, pro-athlete, and American Idol of his era. Undoubtedly, if there were a top reality TV show during his time it would have been named "Solomon Idol." There was nothing that was out of his reach-well, almost nothing. When it came to money and the things that were available to buy with money, he possessed or could have possessed it all. He had the bling of all bling. If he were living today and wanted a top-of-the-line 100" HDTV he could have purchased 100,000 without thinking twice. Put another way, he could have given every person in Jerusalem (est. pop. 5,000 during his reign) a million dollars and he still would have had more than anyone else on the earth at that time. HE WAS THE MAN!
But he also denounced it all. He said all of his possessions were nothing. In fact, he came to despise his collection of things. What would cause someone to hate their own wealth? I want to show you what he said in his own words. This is from the book of Ecclesiastes:
I said of...pleasure, what does it accomplish? I searched in my mind how to cheer my body with wine--yet at the same time having my mind hold its course and guide me with [human] wisdom...I made great works; I built myself houses, I planted vineyards. I made for myself gardens and orchards...I made for myself pools of water...I bought menservants and maidservants...also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces. I got for myself men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men--concubines very many. So I became great and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem...And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor... Then I looked on all that my hands had done and the labor I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind and a feeding on it, and there was no profit [in it] under the sun (Eccl. 2:2-11 AMP).
Take notice of the underlined portion of the above passage. Solomon said that all of his money, women, servants, houses, pools, gardens, etc. were vanity. Vanity is a word that means futile-or nothingness. All of his possessions had meant absolutely nothing to him. Although they had great value in the world's eyes, to him they were valueless, empty tokens of years gone by.
Why is it so hard to understand Solomon's revelation about all his possessions and agree with him that all these things are futile-that they really are of no value?
There are several illustrations that could be used to help understand where Solomon is coming from. The first is to imagine having the best job in the world. Imagine that for a moment. Think about the best job a person could ever have (one that actually requires work). Now picture being at a 20-year high school reunion where everyone sits around judging who has the best life and telling everyone about this awesome career. When the former classmates learn about this self-disclosed prominent position they are in awe-in fact, they might even ask for a job. But much to everyone's dismay you are not impressed by your own feats. You cannot even make an enthusiastic voice inflection to pretend that this is the job of all jobs. It is just the same old nine-to-five occupation with a lot more money. The fact is, it is still "work." You are living someone's ultimate dream and you cannot even appreciate it-not even a little. It is all about each individual's worldview. If a person lived in outer space and they stared at the stars and the circumference of the earth everyday it would become monotonous and bland. But someone positioned on the earth itself may dream of one day making it into outer space. The person who is on the inside (the possessor of the dream) thinks nothing of it-he has already gained it. He cannot go any higher. To the person on the outside, however, they have never lived that reality and could not say that it was futile if they wanted to. They have yet to experience it for themselves. This is one illustration.
I like this one a little better. I like to compare Solomon's understanding of his life of futility with that of a mountain. Life is NOT like a box of chocolates as much as it is like climbing a very tall mountain. It requires a lot of work, not just lifting the lid off the top of the box and reaching into a soft chocolaty mess to get your surprise. Life is full of treacheries, and there very few times that it is sweet and pleasurable. Yeah, it is more like climbing a tall mountain. And, of course, on tall mountains you never know what you might run into-from avalanches to dangerous animals and pretty flowers to those that are poisonous.
Life is the proverbial mountain that no one knows how to climb correctly. We have all been instructed on how to climb by parents, teachers, pastors and whoever else helped us formulate our worldview, but no one has had the definitive schooling to provide immaculate wisdom. Everyone has ideas on what is all-important, to at least reach the next plateau on the mountain with more riches, but the ones who devise their theories of success are not even sure that this is what everyone should be striving for. Why? Because they have never lived it out. They are still searching for the next level and training others to reach beyond what they have found-to keep going up the mountain of success like a pirate blindly searching for the all-elusive, unsubstantiated treasure that the map promises.
I've noticed that no one ever says what is at the apex of success on the mountain of life. What is at the top? Ask someone. They cannot say. Oh, they can do a very good job at surmising, even lying to themselves so delectably that they eventually view it as truth, but they cannot say for sure what is at the top of the grand ol' hill. They have never been there.
Solomon was there.
He glared out over the silhouettes that he had built and acquired. He peered out over his kingdom and saw all his mansions, women, gold, land, cattle, and vehicles. His eyes carried him as far as he could see, and he had obtained more than any other person that ever lived. He had it all. There was nothing that he laid his eyes upon that were not his. He looked down from atop the proverbial mountain and saw everyone climbing to get to the wonderment of the summit. He saw men and women fighting, even throwing others off their respective ledges just to get to their perceived position of prominence on the mountain. They were willing to do anything to get ahead. Some traded in criminal activity. Some found legal loopholes to cheat others out of their goods. Some even acted in God's name to get ahead of everyone else.
Solomon looked down from his perched point at all the foolishness of life. He looked behind him and he looked ahead. He had already come up the mountain from where the others were climbing and now he wondered what could be next. The peak was not fulfilling for Solomon. He had not achieved anything. In fact, standing at the top of the mountain he truly understood what was needed to get what he desired. He had to come down the other side. He had to humble his heart. He had found the safety deposit box that contained the last key to the door of true life-a life not based on fleeting moments of fanciful pleasure.
Question: if someone is trying to achieve a desired goal and there are 100 impenetrable doors standing in the way, but that person has 99 keys to 99 doors, should they have even started their mission? What good is it to have 99 keys if the person cannot open the final door? While every key is important, the 100th is vital to get what you desire. Solomon understood that the 100th key was not at the apex, but at the base of the mountain. He could, however, only understand this after reaching the climax of his journey. He began to humble his heart by admitting his deficiency. He began to do what even Jesus said must happen to have "life"(Matt. 6:25). He started the process, however minimal, of dying to himself. He started to lose the life that he had come to believe was success. It was only at the apex that he was able to reformulate his thinking, see the vanity, clear his mind, and move on to what really mattered.
Imagine the effect of Solomon's writing that he had not found what he was looking for-not even in all of his wealth and accomplishments. That would be like Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and a hundred other extremely wealthy people co-authoring a book about how insane their life had been, and how much emptiness their money had brought them. Here was Solomon the most notorious king in the known world, and in one stroke of the pen and one stamp from his royal signet ring, he proclaimed that he had not made it like everyone may have thought. In fact, he called himself the preacher (Ecl. 1:1). How exactly was he a preacher? He was a preacher by example. There is an old quote that goes something like this: "Preach the gospel, speak if necessary." He was a living, breathing billboard of success...and failure. He lived everyone's dream and proclaimed that he had yet to find what he desired in all that he had accomplished and obtained. In the book of Ecclesiastes he draws the reader to examine at all he had collected, to study all the success he had by the world's standards and then to know that it was nothing-a futile attempt at life. He wanted to convey that he, in all of his perceived wealth, was just as poor as the man who did not have two pennies to rub together because he had not discovered the real key to success; that he had wasted so much time collecting things that did not matter.
Solomon didn't simply write a book about what he believed to be at the apex of the mountain-he wrote it standing from the top, and he was the only one qualified to write it. He had reached the pinnacle by amassing all that the world said was success, but it was entirely insignificant. He sat down on the tip of the mountain, still looking across the now dismal skies looming over all his great compilation of material possessions and penned just one word: VANITY!
In essence, he challenged humanity to leave behind all the vapor-like success of this world-including all of its misaligned ideology. He said to strive after and seek the only key that opens the door to a life of meaning and purpose. What was that key? Keep reading.
As I was writing this I thought of Jesus' wilderness temptation in Luke chapter four. In one of the three temptations, Satan actually took Jesus up to the pinnacle of a mountain and allowed Him to look out over every kingdom of the earth. Satan was then so bold as to offer it all to Jesus if He would simply bow and worship him. Silly devil. I guess Satan never read the part of the Bible that describes Jesus as creating all the kingdoms of the world (Gen. 1; John 1). They were His before the devil even had laid eyes on them, and they would be His again once He put the devil and sin in its place.
How do you tempt the one who owns everything? I understand that Satan was appealing to Jesus' humanity, but that was just ludicrous. If Solomon understood it to be worthless, and he possessed only a sliver of the earth, albeit more than any other human, surely God in the flesh could ponder its vain futility. My point is this, Solomon reached the top of the mountain, and after he was there for a while he discovered its worthlessness. Jesus was taken to the top of the mountain, having created the mountain and everything He could see, and He told Satan not to quit his day job. Satan didn't have the ability to impress the One who created that very word. Yes, Solomon was let in on a little secret-one given from above. That secret was penned in the book of Ecclesiastes.
The actual temptation for Christ was that the devil was offering the kingdoms of this world to Him at that very moment (Lk 4:5). That is the enticement of sin; it is selfish motivation for an instant gratification. Every opportunity of sin is based on something we want now. This is revealed in the opening chapters of the Bible. When Satan tempted Eve she looked at the fruit of the forbidden tree and saw that it was very appetizing NOW. She wanted something that probably would have been given to her at the proper time, but that would not be soon enough. She also wanted something that she had never worked for. Adam and Eve were to tend the garden even before sin ever entered into the picture. That was their job (Gen. 2:15). But they had never cultivated, pruned, or even laid a hand on this tree even in the slightest degree, yet they so greatly desired its fruit. (Why is it that we want the things that people and God say we should not have?) False success comes by taking things that we never worked for; and people have been duped into thinking that things that do not require work bind the definition of success. This is one foundation that must be understood. All real success has its share of work. A lot of people skip right over the plain scriptures that tell of Adam and Eve working in the garden before they sinned. There was work then and there will be work to do in eternity. Heaven is not one big retirement community (Rev. 22:3; Matt. 25:23).
Before this article is brought to a conclusion there is one other important element to what Solomon discovered. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon conveyed a deep truth about the end of all life, yet one that is blatantly simple. He realized that all of the items he had collected were eventually going to go to someone who had not labored for them (Eccl. 2:21). He understood that because he had never seen a hearse pulling a u-haul!
If they were to make a TV commercial about Solomon's wealth this is what it might say:
The cost of keeping 700 wives and 300 concubines per month: $1.5 million
The cost to detail and wax 1,400 vehicles per month: $180,000
Understanding that you cannot take possessions with you when you die: PRICELESS!
Regardless of the stature or status of a man they all eventually die-and all will go into eternity without their possessions (Eccl. 2:16; 3:19). Solomon came to recognize that there has always been one statistic that affects all people-death. Ten out of ten people will die. That means you, me and everyone else reading this paper, and even all those who do not, will die. All will eventually pass from this life to eternity. All wealth and possessions will either be passed on to the next generation or it will end up in the trash heap at the local dump. In all of Solomon's wealth, architecture, and discoveries nothing would keep him from becoming another statistic of death. This revelation was so profound that he decided to pen his thoughts on the subject for the entire world to see-and people are still reading it. It may seem like common sense, and it is, but most of us truly have not had a life-altering understanding about death and what follows. Moreover, no one can purchase an extra hundred years of life with any amount of wealth. This truth is also illustrated in the New Testament. In Luke 12, Jesus tells of a man who has so much that he just wanted to spend more to build bigger buildings to store all of his goods. Now that is brilliant thinking, isn't it? He wanted to spend treasures to house treasure. But what he failed to see coming was the Death Angel, someone he could not buy off, and he came for him the same evening he decided to build his architectural blunder. Read how Jesus summed up the end of this parable and way of thinking, "So is he who lays up wealth for himself and is not rich toward God."
Here is a recap of the most important revelations of wisdom found in the book of Ecclesiastes:
- Every thing we do in life is worthless, save one facet.
- All will die.
That is pretty simple, isn't it?
If everything in life is worthless, why do we have this masterminded plan of procedures that we will use to obtain our desires? If everything is futile, and we come to understand that it is futile, why would we allow the world (society) to continue to tell us what measures we must take and what items we must attain to achieve the label of "successful?"
If we all die why do we work so hard during our choicest years of life to obtain things that must be passed on to someone else, someone who may even auction them off the day after our funeral? That seems very depressing.
Solomon understood. Do you? Do I?
There is a beautiful scripture that Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that will bring clarity to the dilemma of understanding true success. In this one scripture was penned all of Solomon's investigative research:
God has placed eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11).
Here was the key to all of Solomon's woes. That was it. I'm sure several people reading this are wondering how this scripture could help clear away the confusion of any issue, but stay with me.
It seems so simple, yet it is very profound.
The reason all of Solomon's seeming success seeped into a rant about it being absolutely nothing was due to the fact of eternity. Since I know that eternity is a tough concept I will try to define it. There is only one satisfactory definition for something so incomprehensible: eternity is! That is all that can be said about it. It has no definite beginning or end; and nothing, save the love and relationship that we have for God through His Son Jesus Christ, can be stowed in carry on luggage for the flight to our eternal destination when we die. (By the way, when someone dies they will all spend eternity in one of two places: heaven or hell. Heaven is eternal life with God filled with glories we cannot even comprehend. Hell is eternity without God and it is filled with the worst pain and horrors imaginable. Where a person spends eternity rests on decisions based in this life.)
Eternity is the measuring rod by which all other things should be measured against. Think about this: if someone had a cumulative 80 percentile grade point average in college, or a 3.0, anyone would say that the person did a good job. But what if there was no understanding of 80 percent or 3.0? In order to understand 80 we must know the limit is 100. In order to know that a 3.0 GPA is good we must know that 4.0 (as standard) is the best it can be. So how do we measure life? How do we measure success? I guess collecting things is good if the best it can get is to have an ultimate collection of things. But paralleled next to eternity all collections are absolutely nothing. What is an 80 if the limit is unspecified? Absolutely nothing. That is hard to wrap finite minds around nevertheless it is true.
This world is temporary and everything that is in it. Again, it will all "things" eventually end up in a huge trash heap. Some reading this might proclaim, "I just don't believe that." But no opinion will stop reality. A person could jump from a plane from 10,000 feet and yell, "I don't believe in gravity" but that will not lessen their soon demise. The question that should be asked is this: "what if..." What if what the Bible says is true? What if our final eternal destination is solidified by the choices that we make in this life? What if when we die we will face God on a day of judgment and will give an account for all that we have done on this earth (Rom. 2:6)? What if?
Regardless of what people say, the reason humans collect possessions and live for this life is because they truly do not believe in an after life-or what I call the "Real Life." But what if these people are wrong? What if everything in this world is part of an intelligent maker? After all, astronomers have admitted that they have only scratched the surface even in our own galaxy, and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in space. Like that old pastor used to say, "Eternity is a long time to be wrong."
Let me put it into another perspective. Because people tend to learn by analogies, I think that this will help illustrate a spiritual truth-one that must be understood.
Imagine for a moment that a person is on a cruise liner in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. They are already having so much fun that anything more would just add more icing to the cake of their illustrious vacation.
Just when they think it can't possibly get any better the captain comes on the intercom and relays some breathtaking news. He says that on the next island, where you will have a three-day layover, there is tax-free shopping on all items and everything is a fraction of the normal cost. Excitement energizes their mind of all the items they could purchase.
After embarking on their shop-till-they-drop expedition they come back to the vessel and see a whole line of people arguing with the ship's crewmembers. Unbelievably, no one is allowed to get on the ship with anything that they bought from their shopping trip. Everyone immediately blames the captain for misleading them. But he never gave faulty information; he simply stated a fact. The ship's itinerary and policy manual in every room clearly exemplified that no items could be brought on board the ship from foreign entities. This illustration is full of spiritual truth.
Every human is living on an extended layover on this earth. Some will have a shorter time than others. Our mission in this life is not to collect worthless items that will not transfer into eternity. If that cruising vacationer knew that they could not bring anything back on the boat they probably would not go overboard buying up every thing that pleased their eyes. If people knew that they would die next week or even next year they would live differently-even if they hesitate to admit it. The truth is, and it is not sad, that this life is like a vapor and anything we can collect will go up like a vapor as well-all in their due time (Jas. 4:14). That is only sad for those who have no understanding of the life that awaits them if they chose to make Jesus the Lord of their life instead of living for this world.
Now, certainly, no one is saying that people should not enjoy this life, and the natural fruits of it. It does mean, however, that we should not "live" for this life. There are some who might read this and take my inferences to an absolute extreme. Some religious groups, those who say that they have the monopoly on the way God operates, teaching that anyone wanting to go to paradise should be baptized into their ordnung, take many viewpoints to unhealthy extremes. Some would even take this to mean that Christians should not have or use telephones, televisions, or even have a bank account. Their church, of course, handles all the money so their parishioners do not get tempted. The goal of this writing is to point out a faulty mentality that persuades people to live a selfish BET or MTV prompted, hedonistic lifestyle. The lifestyle that promotes having abundant earthly wealth, model-like images, fancy homes, cars and the latest technology-essentially a demented view of true success, and a way of living that pulls us away from God.
If we exalt anything above God, whether it is a figment of our imagination or something tangible, like a house, job, ministry, dream, person, etc. then that can become an idol. God is jealous for us. He wants us to place everything else below Him (Exo. 20:4-5). What is it that we spend our time doing? Do we spend more time making money, fixing up the investments, working for that promotion, ministering in the name of God, than we do honestly seeking after God Himself? God wants to be on the pedestal of our heart. He wants us to give Him the majority or our time, talent and treasure in honor of Him. After all, what we place an emphasis upon demonstrates the condition of our heart. If we spend all of our money, energy and time on cars, hobbies, business or even and other person that shows where God is on our list of importance.
This life and all its fleeting moments of sin are temporary and unsatisfying compared to the things of God. Would anyone in their right mind deck out a miniature tricycle, or child's tree house, spending hundreds of thousands on gold plating, diamond spokes, marble counters or elaborate floors knowing that in five years they would not fit on that bike or inside that tree house any longer? Of course not. How silly. But that is how billions of people are conducting their life. That is exactly how God sees them. They are building a miniature empire for nothing. They are putting everything into something that will be gone in a few years or decades. It will be over before you know it. What will happen then? If you have vested everything here what will you do in eternity? I'm asking myself these same questions.
Just recently I had a conversation with a gentleman who was disgruntled with the prosperity rhetoric that is propagated from the pulpits of many of America's churches. He was upset that he became a Christian and that his life, in his own words, "became worse." He told me that these ministers made Christianity out to be the end of all of his troubles and worries in life. I believe that many people have been hurt by the church's misrepresentation (not the true Body of Christ) of God and their manipulative desires to pad their pocketbook. Although it may not be the minister's intention, preaching an imbalanced view of wealth and riches can be detrimental to Christians.
The Body of Christ must maintain a solid foundation for followers of Christ to stand upon. Having a sure foundation will enable Christians to recognize and strike down the manifold erroneous beliefs that proliferate throughout the church. The reason most churches do not place a high emphasis on foundational teachings is because it is often viewed as drab and boring-it lacks the pizzazz and glamour that attracts people into its doors. As with any foundation, doctrinal footings are not decorated with ear-filled frills and trimmings for everyone's listening pleasure. Just look at the foundation of any building. It is ugly, usually gray, and it lacks luster. People don't pay it any attention. They don't buy a house because they just adore the foundation. They buy a house because they like the interior and exterior of what stands on the foundation. But if that foundation is dilapidated, it does not matter how beautiful the house is; it will soon need repair. The same is true with the American Church and the more-than-fractured foundations that flourish within it. Having a sure doctrinal foundation will eliminate some of the flawed teachings within, as my old pastor used to say, the "blab it and grab it" theology.
Simple logical reasoning should clear away the fallacy that it is God's primary objective and will that humans possess abundant riches in material possessions, and the like. If material possessions and wealth help to contribute to an ever-deepening separation between God and us, why would He give us more of the very thing that keeps us away from Him? After all, that is why God gave specific requirements in the Old Testament not to stock pile wealth. If I was addicted to watching television, and all I ever did was come home and plop in front of the tube in my favorite chair, would my wife who is already jealous for my time buy me the latest and greatest big screen TV? Certainly not. So why do Christians believe that once they give their life to Christ that our every whim and desire will be handed to us on a silver platter surrounded by a bed of roses?
God never promised abundant monetary and material possessions. Not even human parents give their children everything they want-even if they can afford to give it to them. Why? Because that mountain of eye-pleasing candy will rot away their teeth; or worse, they might become spoiled and disrespectful. The parents must set limits so the child retains his instinct to trust, respect and communicate with his parents to become a productive member of society. Surely, at some point the child may think that his parents are being irrational, possibly even evil, for withholding something so great from him. But the parents are not concerned with their child's pre-adolescent or adolescent lifetime. They are not even bothered by the child being offended because he did not get his way. They are concerned with the big picture and whether or not their child will live a productive life when they come of age. God is the same with us.
It is not out of God's will to bless us with handling material possessions, unless of course the material possessions are handling us. It is to their shame that these sinister ministers have preached a spiritually unhealthy ideology from their elevated positions of trust.
Remember, Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulations, nevertheless I have overcome the world"(John 16:33). Christ did not promise Christians a pretty palace with a parade of material prosperity, but what He did say was that He has overcome he world (including all of our unrealistic dreams and false hopes for the world's definition of success). Every Christian will still struggle with the same temptations of worldly success, but Christ has promised us that when we overcome that He will store up for us treasures for life eternal-a life that does not perish and where the moth never destroys. At the end of this earthly life every thing will pass away; it will all burn up. Like that old hymn says, "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold...I'd rather have Jesus than anything!"
If you have Jesus you will be rich and God wants you to have this abundant wealth. But He does not want you to have possessions that take your focus off of Him.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. I Timothy 6:7-11
As Christians, and by Christian I mean those who have an authentic relationship with the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, we must stop prostituting ourselves with the world. When we die we all will stand before God and give an account for our actions (Heb. 9:27). Do we really expect God to let us into His house, His heaven, filled with blessings unimaginable if we did not so much as give Him the time of day and cheated on Him for ephemeral pleasures? Let me pose just one final question: If someone repeatedly cheated on their spouse, and their mate knew about it, could the adulterer come crawling back home anytime they chose? Would he/she even be allowed into the house if they had not repented from their adulterous actions? Comparatively, we cannot lie in bed with both the world and God and expect to have the "best" of both worlds. The Bible says, and I paraphrase slightly, "no man can serve two lovers. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other" (Matt. 6:24). How much will God, who is perfectly just and will serve justice on all lawbreakers, prevent those who turned their back on Him from entering His perfect heaven? If God is all loving, which almost every sinner will say that He is, then is it loving to let a dirty, sin-filled person into heaven to ruin it for those who did repent from their wrongdoing and came to love the Lord with all their heart? Every person has-at one time or another-turned their back on God. Every person has committed adultery against God for the momentary pleasures of this world. But thank God, He has given us His Son, whereby we are made clean, and invited back into the household of God IF we repent of our former lifestyle and come running to Jesus. We must embrace what He did on the cross, turn to Him, and live for Him all the days of our life. I love that song that says, "You can have all this world, but give me Jesus." Is that your prayer today?
Phil 3:8 (AMP) says this:
...I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly.] For this sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the anointed One).
Solomon summed up the book of Ecclesiastes by saying this:
All has been heard: the end of the matter is this: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man...
That is the final key; the only key that unlocks the door to true life and eternity with the Father in heaven. You now have the key, but having the key will do you no good unless you stick it into the lock and turn it. Do you want the Father more than this world? It probably wouldn't hurt to read this again, and of course, get in the Bible and start reading the book of John.
A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 28:20 (written by Solomon)
This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever. 1 John 2:17 NLT
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. John 3:36