Well, I want to start our little journey out together, if you will, with a hypothetical, but morbid set of questions. How is that? All right? It’s hypothetical, but these are morbid questions.
The hypothetical situation is this but I want you to really do it with me. I don’t want you to lean back and go, Well, it’s hypothetical. I want you to engage and say to yourself, here is the hypothetical situation: if you knew, with absolute certainty, that you would die exactly three hundred and sixty-five days from today. Okay, have you got it?
Exactly three hundred and sixty-five days from now, to the minute, you would have a massive, not painful, heart attack, and you would be dead and you would be translated, if you’re a follower of Jesus, into the very presence of God. With that as the hypothetical situation, I have three questions.
Question number one: who are the top five people you feel most responsible to prepare for your passing? Just quickly in your mind. Who are the top five people you know, three hundred and sixty-five days from now, you are going to be gone. So who are the top five people that you need to prepare for your passing? Kids? Grandkids? Friends? People you’re discipling? Co-workers? Who would it be? You got it?
Question number two: what would you want to pass on to them in the next three hundred and sixty-five days to bless and promote their success after you’re gone? So we are going to walk out of here and you have exactly three hundred and sixty-five days to bless them, to help them, to prepare them. What do you want to pass on?
Wealth? Wisdom? Heirlooms? A business? An education? Who are they and you have three hundred and sixty-five days. What do you want them to get that when you’re dead you can say, Well, hey, you know? At least I gave them this. What is “this?”
You ready for question number three? It gets more morbid. When you make them up yourself, you can make them as morbid as you want. Question number three: if you died exactly twenty-four hours from now, instead of one year from now, what would you most regret that you did not pass on to those you love?
You got to thinking about who they are, you got to thinking about what you really want to pass on, but then what if all the rules quickly changed? And instead of a year from now, twenty-four hours from now, you find yourself in Jesus’ presence. That’s the good news.
But then when you look back and you said, “When I think of my kids, when I think of this friend, when I think of this grandchild, when I think of this young man or this young woman I was discipling, when I think of this group of men that I was in an accountability group with, when I was thinking about this women’s fellowship I was in, you know, my biggest regret was I didn’t pass on…” What would it be? What would it be?
Here’s the fact. The fact is, you and I are passing on who we are, and what we value, and what we possess every single day. For some people, this is a highly strategic, very intentional game plan that you are fulfilling. You know who the people are, you know what you want to pass on, you have a plan to pass it on, and you look at your calendar and your day timer, and you are very strategically passing on the things that matter most to you.
For most of the rest of us, it’s sort of a haphazard, hoping for the best highway of sorts, that you’re kind of passing some stuff on but you’re not really sure what you’re passing on. And it’s filled with lots of good intentions and you’re going to get really clear about it and more serious about it later, and unconsciously you think you’re going to live a lot longer than you are.
And the average person will fail to pass on the things that matter most to the people they love the most.
In reality, most followers of Christ have given far more thought and energy into developing a game plan to transfer their wealth than they have their faith or their values.
I am guessing, I won’t ask you to raise your hand, I’m guessing most people have a will. I’m guessing most people have some sort of an estate plan. Why? Because you realize there are “x” amount of dollars and there are taxes and there are issues and you want to pass on some of that wealth to a friend or an organization or your kids or your grandkids.
And so you have thought, How much, to whom, and why? And isn’t it interesting that we are really concerned about who gets money, but how concerned are we that they get our faith? And that they get our values? And they get the kind of stuff that money can’t buy?
Yet the apostle Paul commands his son in the faith, Timothy, to do just that. To pass on what matters most. Notice what he says in II Timothy 2:2. “The things you have heard from me,” Timothy, you have heard it in small group talk. Timothy, you have heard me preach it. Timothy, you have heard me face-to-face when I have had to say hard things to you. Timothy, you have heard it in Ephesus. Timothy, you have heard it after I got up, when I was beaten.
“Timothy, the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust,” or “pass on these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” He was talking about the principle of transfer. He was talking, in our day, about syncing something. He was talking about, Look, Timothy, let me give you the picture. God has uploaded the truth of His Spirit and these values in my life, in my relationship with Christ, and the application to every area in every relationship, and it’s been uploaded, supernaturally, by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and the community of the saints, I have a responsibility and, Timothy, the reason I asked you to hang out with me, I am downloading into you in your soul.
I want you, now, to upload it, to get it practical, and I want you to download it to others. But not just anybody, but to others who are faithful, so that they will do – what? They will download it to others. Transfer. Transfer. Transfer.
So let me ask you: what are you going to leave your kids? What are you going to leave your friends? What are you going to leave the people that you disciple? What are you going to leave your grandkids? What are you going to leave your spiritual children? What are you going to leave your church? And will it make them? Or break them? Will it give them what they need to make the kind of choices and the kind of decisions that will allow them to be God’s man, God’s woman in their generation?
Will they have the values and the perspective and the faith and the regard and the view for God that will sustain them through a world that keeps getting crazier and crazier and crazier and more carnal?
Or will they sit in the little room and have someone pull out a little will and they will read a few little lines and find out they got the grandfather clock, they got the earrings, they got eleven point five percent of the estate, but they never really knew your heart.
They never knew your passion for the Word of God. They never knew the secrets you learned in your marriage. They never knew the forgiveness that you received after your abortion. They never knew what it was like to grow in Christ and what it was like to live with an ailing mate and to serve them and love them for years and where you got the strength. See, that is the stuff that will sustain [them] that you pass on.
The apostle Paul talks a lot about life as a race. In I Corinthians 9, he talks about running a race and not wanting to be disqualified. When he gets to the very end of his life, II Corinthians chapter 4, he says, “I have run the race, I have fought the fight,” and this picture of a race is not only just finishing well, but Paul sees life as a relay race.
And he sees that, in the relay race, the truth and the life of Christ deposited in him are like a baton that he has to pass on to the next runner. And if you’re a sports [fan], especially track and field, you realize that we, as Americans, in the last Olympics and in the last World Cup, in terms of track and field, world nationals, we have had the fastest team twice. And we have dropped the baton in the Olympics in the four-by. And then two years later, they dropped the baton again!
And see, that’s where failure in the race usually occurs. It’s in the exchange. And what we are going to talk about in our time together, is, What is it that really needs to be passed on? And how practically do you pass it on to those that you love the most?
And you’ll see here, it says: “Five core values that we must pass on to the next generation.” And I remember a very sobering moment. It was a number of years ago and some of you remember the Columbine shootings.
And I was pastoring a church at the time in California. It was growing very rapidly and lots of people were coming and I had kids at all different age levels. And I remember thinking, because of the nature of the people who committed those crimes and what happened, I remember asking myself, What is it that I want to pass on to my kids and what is it that I want to pass on to the church that money could never buy?
And I began to think and pray and by that time, I had been a Christian quite a few years and a pastor for a number of years. And I realized, You know what? At the end of the day, it’s not all these little rules or it’s not how often they do this. And it’s not this external behavior. And it’s not how often they go to church, it’s not that they just read their Bible here, or if they do this, or if they learn to give off the top. All those are practical things.
But what I realized is, there are values. And if there were some core values that you could upload, in your heart, from God – and download into their hearts, and they were really a part of who they were, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything else.
And as I began to pray and ponder that, I realized what I really wanted to pass on to my kids, my grandkids, my friends, and the disciples in the church, I wanted them to learn to suffer well. I want them to learn to work unto the Lord. I want them to learn to manage their wealth wisely. I wanted to teach them to make wise decisions. And I wanted to have them learn to live grace-filled lives.
And I just can’t wait to share those five things in our time. And just not what they are, but how do you pass them on?
And so let’s start with, it says, “Radical, sustained change always begins with our thinking, not our behavior.” And I really want to emphasize this. In our day and especially among Christians, I think we have overemphasized behavior. And out of our fears, we want our kids or the person we are discipling or our grandkids or our friends or the people in the women’s group or the men’s accountability group: their behavior, their behavior, what are they doing? What are they doing? What are they doing? What are they doing?
And somehow we get to thinking if we can just get them reading the Bible, and praying, and giving, and going to things, and maybe even a short-term missions trip… and we focus on this exterior.
And, by the way, no problem. All those things, when done for the right reason, are very, very, very wonderful conduits of grace.
Lasting change always starts with your thinking, not your behavior. When the apostle Paul wanted to teach about how lasting, supernatural change occurs, after eleven chapters of truth, he opens up Romans chapter 12 and says, “It begins with offering yourself as a living sacrifice.” And then he says, “Don’t be conformed any longer to this world, but be transformed,” it doesn’t say, “by going to church more often.” It doesn’t say, “By trying harder.” It doesn’t say, “By cleaning up your externals.”
“But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It’s a change of perspective. It’s realizing God is on your team. It’s looking at sin differently. It’s realizing that the things the world offers are cheap and insignificant and won’t pay off and you agree with God about those things.
He changes how you think. And He says, “By the renewing of your mind, and then you will test,” literally: experience or approve, “what God’s will is – that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.”
And so what we are going to talk about, and I just want to get this on the table early is, this is not going to be a bunch of different things we can get people to start doing. Now, they will do things. But what you want to do is give them a new worldview. You want to give them a completely new perspective. You want them to think differently so it soaks from their head, in concept, about what the Scriptures teach and who God is and who they are and their identity and how they think about values and money and people and relationships and sex and priorities.
And what you want for them is to have a completely different worldview, and a set of values that plant in their heart so they begin to live out of this identity in Christ. And they own it for them versus external, religious activities of trying to somehow please God and get a couple of brownie points on that big refrigerator in the sky, wherever it is. And so that’s what we are going to talk about.
Transferable concept number one, and this may sound strange, but, “Teach them to suffer well.” You’re thinking, I’m going morbid all night, but I’m not. Teach them to suffer well.
We have raised a generation of people, when they think of suffering, the only concept they can think of is how to get out of it, how to limit it, and how to avoid it. And unfortunately, it’s not biblical and unfortunately, it sets them up with really bad expectations.
Let me give you a theology of suffering, if you will. I’ll go through it rather quickly and each time, I’ll give you the theology and then we will talk about the practice. But a theology of suffering goes something like this, from Scripture: Life is hard but God is good.
Okay? Life is hard. Your kids, your disciples, your grandkids, your friends, people in the ladies group, they come to Christ, something hard hits them – gosh, what is going on? And you can tell them, “Life is hard!”
The very last thing Jesus said, He could have said a lot of things, John 16:33, “In the world, you will have tribulation, trouble, difficulty, but I have overcome the world.”
We need to help people understand: life is going to be hard and filled with trouble. But God is good.
Jot, if you will, Psalm 84:11, next, in your notes, to, “God is good.” “The Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory. No, no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” He has a good plan for us, He loves us, He is for us, He delights to be generous to us. But it’s in the context of a difficult world.
Second, life is unjust, but God is sovereign. Sovereign is the key word. Life is not fair. Luke 13, you might jot down. A group of people came to Jesus and said, “Hey, what is going on here? Did you hear about this? The Tower of Siloam fell on this certain group of people.” And Jesus said, “Well, do you think they were more unrighteous than other people?” His point is, it’s a fallen world. Bad things, are you ready for this? Non-Christians get cancer. Are you ready for this? Christians get cancer.
Non-Christians get hit by drunk drivers. Are you ready? Christians get hit by drunk drivers. The economy caves in. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think, Was it isolated? Only non-believers’ 401-ks are now 101-ks. Right? It’s a fallen world.
But God is in control. Romans 8:28: He will work all things together for good,” – to whom? “to those that are called, to those that love Him.” But the good isn’t always external circumstances going your way. The ultimate good is He will use everything – what? To make you like His Son. Because God’s primary agenda is to make you holy, not happy. Now, there is a lot of happiness that comes with it.
Let me give you the Old Testament roots of this, it’s Genesis 37 through 50. It’s the story of Joseph. Now, think about this. There are fifty chapters in the book of Genesis. This is the most foundational book of all of Scripture. Almost every major doctrine is introduced in Genesis. It’s the book of beginnings. We get creation, we get Abraham, we get the entire line, we get Noah… you get all these thousands of years and, yet, thirteen chapters, that’s over twenty-five percent. It’s about twenty-eight-plus percent of the entire book about one man.
Why? What is the story about? It explains what happened between Genesis 1 and 2 and 3. In Genesis 1 and 2, we have a perfect world with a loving, perfect God, in a perfect environment, who wants His best for His people.
And then we have coup. And there is a rebellion. And this rebellion is, “God, I don’t want Your way,” and there is a willful sin and so sin enters in. “The fall,” is what theologians call it.
And so sin enters the human race and we have been a rebellious people ever since. But God is a redeeming God and so He takes Adam and Eve and gets them out of the garden and sets a guard so that they can’t eat from the tree of life and be in this state permanently.
But now God, in His sovereignty and in His love is going to orchestrate, even to the bad decisions, the ups and downs and the evil and the sin, He wants to work for man’s good. And the life of Joseph is the story of how God works good in us and through us in the midst of a fallen world, to bring about the highest and best for us and to accomplish His purposes.
And that is why, for those of you who are still in the “reading stories to your kids” stage, Joseph needs to be one of the most [important] heroes in your home. Or you grandparents? Or those of you who are doing Bible study? You need to, early on, get people identified with Joseph.
Because, guess what? They are going to be sold into slavery of some kind, they are going to get betrayed by someone, they are going to have someone slander them, they are going to be forgotten, right? Isn’t that all a part of life?
And do you remember the very end of the story? I call it “The Genesis 50:20” principle. Joseph is at the end. Remember, God exalts him? He becomes the ruler of all of Egypt. He saves the nation of Israel. He saves the chosen people. He actually saves Pharaoh and Egypt and all the rest.
And then when dad dies, his brothers still don’t get what is going on. And so when dad dies, they start making up little stories. This is a loose translation of the text. This is a little Ingram-ism here. So don’t read carefully tonight and go, Where did he get that? Basically, they are thinking, Joseph was really nice to us while dad was alive, but now he is gone. We betrayed him, we were thinking about killing him and we just sold him instead. We used him and abused him and I bet now he’s going to get back at us.
And I just have this picture of Joseph leaning on his staff and shaking his head and saying, “Guys, you still don’t get it, do you?” Genesis 50, verse 20, “As for you, you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result,” and I think he is looking over the land, “to preserve many people alive.”
See, you have to teach your Bible study friends, you have to teach you kids, you have to teach your grandkids, you have to teach them that, You know what? It’s a fallen world, life is hard, life is unfair, God is good, God is in control, and just like Joseph, He will actually use the most painful, difficult, sinful, injustice, betrayal – everything you go through – to fulfill His ultimate purposes if you, like Joseph, say, “I don’t always understand this, but I’m not bailing out. I’m going to trust God.”
And what would it be like, God gave him this dream. “This is what I’m going to do with you.” I’m just thinking when he’s in that cell. “Hey, God, where are You?” When he gets falsely accused of rape, “God, where are You?” When he gets forgotten by the guys after he interprets the dream, “God, where are you?”
But he doesn’t. “God, I don’t understand, but I am confident of this.” And he didn’t have this verse, but it was still true then, “That He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” And so we need to have a clear picture.
The other biblical profile is Jesus. And Peter gives us the explanation of Jesus’ role in teaching us about suffering. I Peter chapter 2, 21 to 23. It says, “To this you were called,” put a circle in your notes around the phrase, to this, because I want you to think about, What is the, “to this”? You are called to this, whatever it is.
Because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps. So circle the word, example, and now you’ve got the answer to the, “to this.”
You were called, I was called to – what? To suffer! What? I thought we were, if we believed in God and we loved Him and we gave off the top and read our Bible in the morning and prayed real hard and were nice to everybody and tried to be a good person, that God was going to make our lives work out and everything would be wonderful and we would never get sick and we would have more money and our kids would be upwardly mobile and someday, someway we would end up at Thanksgiving and sing Kumbaya with all the eleven grandkids. You mean that’s not the way it is? No!
Whatever part of that you get, praise the Lord. Press ahead. I’m glad for you. God didn’t promise it. Here’s what He promised: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should” – what? Observe it and wonder? What does it say? “That you should follow in His steps.”
And then, by the way, when you think it’s unfair, just so you get the story. “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.” What is the point? He is absolutely innocent. I’m not and you’re not.
A lot of the suffering, I get because I’m stupid and sinful. I have made dumb decisions and I have had sinful acts and that’s how I, He didn’t do anything wrong. I get upset when I feel like, Gosh, I’m really innocent. I’m getting a raw deal. Well, He did nothing wrong.
“When they hurled insults, injustice, He didn’t retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.” You do this, I’ll get you back. I have a couple legions of angels, guys, you just wait. That wasn’t it. Instead, listen to what He did. “He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
Here’s what you have to understand. The model was: it’s not fair, I’m being wronged, I am being betrayed, I have done nothing wrong, I am not going to retaliate, I’m following and blazing a trail that I want you, as My children, My followers to follow with Me. And when you don’t understand it and when it hurts and when it seems unbearable, you entrust your soul to a faithful Creator, a heavenly Father who is sovereign and good and all-wise and will bring about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time.
It’s a classic definition of the wisdom of God. And who longs to bless and is the most generous Being in the universe and who is going to orchestrate this present injustice suffering for your good and His purposes, as you entrust it to Him in the midst of your pain. That’s learning to suffer well.