daily Broadcast

When Success Doesn't Satisfy, Part 1

From the series Jesus Offers Hope

It's probably safe to say that we all believe life could get better than it is today. It may be that relationships could be better, or your financial portfolio could be better, or your job could be better. The question is, what if actually getting those things would have the opposite effect? What if those things didn't satisfy but just made you want more? Chip looks at what happens when success doesn’t satisfy.

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Message Transcript

If you wanted to draw a little picture on your notes, you could put, a “U” shaped picture of a big vat, and a stick person that would be you.

If you can imagine being in this thing that represents your resources.  It is your time, your energy, your money, your gifts, and your talents.

In other words, it’s your capacity.  What I want you to know is that all of us have this capacity and then there’s, sort of, rainbows that go out from this.  And rainbows are the promises that we believe and what they’ll deliver.

Remember the old picture of the rainbows and there’s a little pot of gold? What I believe is that we all have, and have been taught, either consciously or unconsciously, what I call “the empty bucket syndrome.”

And so, for some, you don’t even realize you do it.  You take your energy and your time and your talents and your gifts and down deep, and you follow the rainbow: If I can be beautiful – and it’s all about my looks. And for someone else: If I could get this kind of education, or if all my kids could get this kind of education. And for others, it’s: The day that I’m famous – then, I’ll be fulfilled. And for others, it’s power. And for others, it’s all kinds of different things: success – here’s how it goes – When I get, or accomplish, you fill it in, then I’ll be happy…fulfilled. Beauty, fame, wealth, power… for some, it’s a little bit more: When I get that man, or When I get that woman. Or for some that are couples: When we finally have a child. Or for others, it’s: When I am the best.

And I remember the very first time I heard a layman, a guy shared a story about empty buckets, and it was a different era.  And his whole message was empty buckets.  And it was an era, for some of you who are a little bit older, he said, Mohammed Ali wanted to be the best.  And he became the best and things didn’t change and he had an experience where he took his gold medal and he actually threw it in a creek.

Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful of her era and she took her own life.  And he went through power, wealth - Howard Hughes was the richest man in the world at the time and he died as a recluse with fingernails this long, completely paranoid of everything around him.

And he just walked through the empty buckets. And I remember listening to that and thinking: I wonder what empty buckets am I running after that’ll never satisfy?

Jesus offers hope when success doesn’t satisfy. And sometimes we learn that when we hit rock bottom, sometimes we learn it when we achieve what we thought we would never achieve and it’s empty.

Unfortunately, the most dangerous place is when you’re on the journey and you still believe the: When [this or that] comes, then you’ll be happy. Because as long as you believe the lie – Success, in and of itself, wonderful. Something that can fill your heart? – absolutely not.

If you’ll open your notes, Jesus is going to address very directly how to find hope - I mean, real hope, purpose, love - when success doesn’t satisfy. And we pick up the story in Mark chapter 10, if you dig in with me, but I want you to open to Mark, chapter 10, and as you open, let me give you a little bit of the context.

This is what’s happening in Jesus’ ministry. Imagine if you will, He’s becoming more and more and more popular. Crowds are swelling. He’s fed four thousand. He’s fed five thousand. Some people have been raised from the dead. Miracles are happening. Everywhere He goes now there’s crowds.

And we’ll see as we pick up the text that now there’s two groups in these crowds. One is people that think He’s, like, a rock star. They want to hear His words. They’re hoping to get a meal. Maybe I’ll get in on a miracle. And they’re following Him and listening.

There’s another group called the religious leaders or Pharisees. And they’re being threatened by their position and the more and more popular He gets the more and more they feel like they have to discredit Him.

If you would scan--you can do this because you can listen to me and read at the same time – if you would scan through the beginning verses, some of the Pharisees come to test Jesus.  And the way they test Him is they ask Him what they hope will be a divisive question: Is it right for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?

Because what they knew was there was one very famous rabbi who had said “yes” to that, and one more conservative one, who said “no.” So, they wanted to get Him to say something that would divide His audience. As you would scan that, what He does is He talks about the importance of fidelity. He talks about the importance that women are not to be used and abused. A woman is not a sex object. He’s going to say, from the very beginning, there was a man and a woman and what God has put together, no one should pull apart.

And He would go on to say that unless there are biblical grounds, that He would talk about in a parallel passage, that when you divorce someone, or leave someone, or marry someone who’s divorced, you’ve committed adultery. And He says this marriage covenant is very, very important and it’s absolute.

And it was a radical statement because at that time the normal Roman person would often have 20 wives. In the Greek culture, you would have three different women in your life.

You would have a wife to raise your family; you would go to the prostitute, they had all kind of temple prostitutes, male and female – any time, any day – and then you would have a mistress on the side. That was just was just life. Men used women. The Jews would proclaim a different level of commitment but their practice wasn’t a whole lot different.

And so, Jesus is saying some things that are really counter cultural.  After that, the crowds are leaving and pretty soon some parents are bringing their little children and they want them to be blessed. And the disciples are going: Get those kids out of here! Kids aren’t important. Only important people. This is the rabbi. He does miracles.

Look in your text, just scan down, where it talks about the children. Notice the word, it says, Jesus is “indignant.” He says to the disciples: Stop it. You let those children come. And the children came and He prayed for them and He blessed them.  And then He makes this amazing statement. He said, “Unless you become like a little child, you’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven is synonymous, in this time, for eternal life, having a relationship with God, your sins forgiven – “…unless you become like a little child.” What does He mean by that? Little children are dependent. Little children are trusting. Little children are naïve and gullible.

You know, when their parents say, “We’re going to go out for ice cream.” They don’t think they’re going to take them in the back yard and whip them. “We’re going to go for ice cream.” Great! They just jump in the car. “We’re going to celebrate your birthday tomorrow.” Great! Kids just believe whatever you tell them.

And He says they also recognize that they’re dependent. Little kids come and ask. When they get hurt, they don’t go, “I can handle this myself.” They just run, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” Right? And He says, “Unless you become like a little child….” And what’s the emphasis? It’s humility. Children are humble, dependent, they recognize their need.

So, I want you to get the context. There are mushrooming crowds. He’s spoken about the fidelity and the importance of marriage and then He’s talked about humility.

And then, something happens. He’s ready to walk away and as He walks away, there’s  a very aristocratic, smart, educated, moral man who’s been listening. Now, we pick up the story. We pick up the story in verse 17 of Mark chapter [10].

Follow along with me. It says: As Jesus started on His way, so He’s ready to leave, a man ran up and fell on his knees before Him. Good Teacher, he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

He’s been listening and he says, how do you get in on what You’ve been talking about? Jesus says: Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

Now, very interesting point here. There are two words in Greek for “good.” One means intrinsically good or all-together good. It’s about the character or nature of someone.  The other good means it’s beautiful, it’s nice, and it’s winsome. He uses the first word. In essence, what he’s saying, he’s coming to Jesus after watching Him and saying: Now, the Scripture’s true - only God is good inherently, all-together good.

And Jesus is saying: So do you really believe that I’m the Messiah? So, you believe I’m God? You’re coming and… is that where you’re coming from? And then He says: Now, make sure – there is only One who is good – you’re clear on what you’re calling Me?

And then He goes on and gives him a little test. He says: You know the commandments. Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false testimony; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.

His response: Teacher! All of these I’ve kept since I was a boy. And then, if you have your Bible and you have a pen, underline this next line. Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Whatever He’s going to say, whatever He’s going to do, He’s motivated because He deeply loves this man. “One thing you lack, He said, go and sell all that you have and give to the poor.”

Why? “And you’ll have treasure in heaven.” And then the invitation. “Then come, follow Me.”

At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth. And then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said, notice, He’s back to children, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed and they said to each other, “Then who can be saved?” And Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible but not with God; with Him, all things are possible.”

And then, Peter’s listening to this realizing: You know, we have done what You’ve asked. There’s almost this unspoken question, like: What’s in it for us? The price tag’s pretty high.

Peter said to Him, we’ve left everything to follow you. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one who’s left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields - and then you might underline this, because we want to skip this one – along with them, persecutions and in the age to come, eternal life.”

“But many who are first - many who have big standing in this life and in this day, who are like the rich young ruler, will be last.  And many who are last - who don’t have the standing - will be first.

Jesus offers hope. I want you to notice that when we look at those three stories, the issue with divorce, the issue with the children, and the issue now is idolatry.

The Bible is never negative about people that have money. The Bible never speaks negatively about someone who happens to be rich. But the Bible is very clear that money and stuff has the propensity to take root in our heart in the place of God.

And so, the story is present in all three synoptics, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And success in the world’s value system happens three ways: sex, power, and money.

When He talked about divorce what it was really addressing, He said it positively - fidelity.  But why were people divorcing and remarrying, divorcing and remarrying because of sex. When He talked about humility, what He was talking about was the opposite of power. And when He talked about idolatry, the idol was money.

Sometimes, when this story is told of this rich young ruler, I think he gets a little bit of a bad rap. Jesus offers hope to a man.

His bio, he’s wealthy, successful, moral, powerful, sincere, and intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind that bio for me. Would you?  What if someone said, “Tell me a little bit about your wife, or about your best friend…” – that happened to be you – And they said, “Oh, well, he’s wealthy, intelligent,” or she, “successful, moral, self-aware.” I mean, he was listening to Jesus teach. He watched Him with the children and he was aware: Something’s missing! Something’s missing. It’s not money. I’ve got money. It’s not religion. I’ve kept it from my youth. But something’s missing. 

And then he had the self-awareness and the humility: You know what? He just got done teaching. He just blessed the children.  Jesus is walking away.

This man in his Armani suit, with all these peasants, runs after Jesus, slides in, falls at His feet, humbles himself in front of all these peasants and says – what? “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”

It says he ran. He fell at His feet. You know, we read that over real quickly. This is a guy who’s not embarrassed. This a guy who says: This Jesus has something that I need. Something’s missing and it’s not religion; and it’s not money; and it’s not intelligence; and it’s not power; and it’s not wealth. But He’s got something I need.

But he recognizes his success has left him empty.

Anybody here feel a little bit that way?

Let’s take a deeper look. Let’s look at the passage a little more carefully and see what was behind this. The successful man’s question reveals his perceived need when he asked the question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

As I studied this passage, I noticed there’s a couple of assumptions that this young, rich, intelligent, moral man had.

Assumption number one: he realizes something’s missing. Assumption number two: the means to achieve it was something you do.

I got to do more. I’ve got to perform – any of us, in this area, buy into that? The way you get ahead, the way you get anything from anyone—even God—is you got to do something.

And so, Jesus gave a little test – didn’t He?

And He begins to help him understand: Relationships aren’t about doing. They’re about being and loving that flow out into doing.

And so, Jesus’ answer reveals his need, in verses 18-21. First, it’s with a question: “Why do you call Me good? There’s only One who is good.”

Remember when Moses said: Show me Your glory. I want to see who You really are. And God says: No one can see My glory and live. But, Moses, I’ll tell you what, there’s a place in this rock, you get in that and then I’ll pass by you and I’ll let you get a glimpse of my back…

And then as he did that, He declared who He was.

This is the LORD who is good, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness. When God uses one word to describe Himself, His “all-together,” it is was: He’s gracious, generous, good. And so this man says: Good teacher. And Jesus says:

In the true sense of the word there’s only One who is good. And now’s He’s testing: Is that who you believe I am? Is this a declaration? You’ve humbled yourself in front of these people. You’re a wealthy, intelligent, rich man who’s self-aware, who doesn’t mind being embarrassed, who thinks I have the answer.  Are you really saying I’m the Messiah?

He’s going to get more than he bargains for. And so, then He takes him to the law.

When I was a kid, you know, in cartoons, I always thought the Ten Commandments, there were like five on one and five on the other – like, the two tablets. There are four on the first one and six on the other. The first tablet is about your relationship with God that’s vertical.

And the first one is: Have no other gods besides Me - the issue is idolatry.  The next one is you can’t have any graven images. In other words, you can’t worship anything visible that reduces God.  And then: You don’t take the name of the Lord in vain.  So, the first four are all about your relationship with Him.

The next six are all about the relationships with people. If you study this carefully, Jesus rattles off all six of the second tablet:

How are you doing when it comes to relating to people?

And the guy says, basically: Hey, if You’re giving out As, I’m an A student on the second tablet.  I’ve done all those.

Then He goes from there, what’s He do? He looks at his heart.

And please don’t miss this. Everything He asked him to do from this point on - He loves this man. If you were a teacher, and you saw someone with that – he wasn’t proud. He wasn’t like: I don’t need anybody. He wasn’t - He didn’t think he trusted in his wealth. But Jesus saw his heart. And so, Jesus says to him, here’s the challenge: Sell everything that you have. If I’m really good and I’m the Messiah then let’s test this. Sell everything that you have. Let go of what you’re hanging on to. Then, notice: Give to the poor.

He wanted him to experience joy. Have you ever given to the poor?  Have you ever given - maybe a single mom, she can’t pay her rent and you secretly pay for it, and you experience this joy. Or, you’ve been in a situation where maybe you’ve been on a mission trip and you’ve been able to give some money to someone and it just changes the course of their life.

I remember going on one mission trip in the Philippines. And it was only $70-$80 bucks and we, over there, could buy enough penicillin - we saved six kids’ lives. It was like, “Whoa! For 70 bucks?!”

When people learn to give, you start learning to give? Jesus wanted him to understand: It’s not religion and it’s not about all the things you don’t do.

Then and now so many people think following God is: I don’t do this; I don’t do this; I don’t do this; and I don’t do this.  I got news for you. People that are dead don’t do that either.

A lot of it is what you do do. It’s loving and caring.  Jesus wanted him to experience what it’s like to release what holds you in and bring life to other people and the joy that would swell his heart.

And then He said – what? That this is for your benefit. See, we tend to think that life is this little tiny thing called time, and Jesus gave him an assignment that would change all of his eternity.

He said when you sell and when you give, you’ll have – who’s He looking out for? What’s it say? Look in your Bibles. You’ll have what in heaven? Treasure! This is real stuff. This is real reward. This is something that would pay out for him forever and ever and ever.

And then he gets this personal, amazing invitation: … and then come. There are crowds!

This guy is getting a personal invitation: You know these twelve guys that hang with Me? You want in on the inner circle? I don’t see a lot of this. I want you to come. I want to be close to you. I want to do life with you. I want to bless you. But, there’s this obstacle. You can’t see it. But the fact that you could sense that something is missing; the fact that you responded to My teaching; the fact that you saw how I treated children; the fact that you know better than using women; the fact was you were getting it. Now, let’s do some spiritual surgery so you can get the life that’s really life. Let go of the idol in your heart. Great act of love.

The rich man’s response revealed the condition. The true condition of his heart and the god that he served. His face fell.

It was like: I want help I want help, I want help, show me what I need to do! …. I don’t want that much help. My security is my money. My god is my money. Money defines my success.

This is a guy that made the list on the front of Forbes. This is a guy that people knew who he was when he walked in the room because of how many zeroes behind his portfolio.  He goes: Wait a second. I want what You have, but…

See that sex, money, power mantra. He said, I can’t give up what I can see for what I can’t see. So, his face fell and he went away sad.

Jesus was testing him. God has unlimited resources. He could have given his money back to him the next day or the next week or the next year. What we know for sure is that he would have had joy that his money could never bring. He would have security that his money could never bring. He would have a relationship with God and peace and rest in his soul that his money could never bring. Isn’t that why he was running over and saying: “Jesus…” See, his money revealed his heart. Your money reveals your heart.