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How To Get Rich

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TITLE:  How to Get Rich                 SCRIPTURE:  Mark 1:14-20

Today, we are going to take a look at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, as related in the Gospel of Mark.  John the Baptist had just been arrested.  King Herod had married his brother's wife, and John had rebuked him for it.  That's the reason John was in prison.  He was just doing his job -- being a prophet -- speaking for God -- telling the truth.  In that time and place, telling the truth could get you in a lot of trouble.  That is still true today.

John's arrest brought an end to his public ministry.  He had occupied God's center state for quite some time, but he always emphasized that his real job was to point to the one who was to come -- meaning Jesus.  So God allowed Herod to sweep John off the stage to make room for Jesus' entrance.  That's what we have in our scripture today -- Jesus' walking onto center stage.

Once onstage, Jesus didn't waste any time.  He preached this sermon:

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news" (v. 15).

That's it!  That was his whole sermon.  Don't you wish I would preach a 10-second sermon!  Jesus packed a lot into that short sermon.  He said, "The time is fulfilled" -- meaning, your waiting is over.  They had been waiting for the messiah, and now Jesus had come.

And then Jesus said, "the kingdom of God has come near."  The kingdom of God is the place where God is king.  If you have allowed God to become king in your heart, you are part of the kingdom of God.  When Jesus said, "the kingdom of God has come near," he was saying, "God's kingdom hasn't fully arrived yet, but the seed has been planted.  Get ready -- it's coming!"

And then Jesus said, "Repent, and believe the good news."  Repentance didn't just mean feeling guilty.  Repentance meant turning to go in a new direction.  Jesus was calling these people to quit despairing -- to quit worrying.  He had come to bring good news -- the good news that "the kingdom of God has come near."

That might not sound like terrific news to you, but it should.  In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).  When God's kingdom comes fully -- when God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven -- you won't need locks on your doors anymore.  You will be able to walk the darkest street without worrying about muggers.  When God's kingdom comes fully, we won't need armies anymore, except perhaps to provide disaster relief.  We won't need police anymore, except perhaps to assist people in need. 

Think about that when you pray the Lord's Prayer next time.  "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done!"  Yes!  Please, Lord!

After Jesus preached that short sermon, he moved on.  He was walking by the Sea of Galilee when he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, casting a net into the sea.  Jesus said:

"Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  Mark reports:

      "And immediately they left their nets and followed him" (v. 18).

Mark doesn't tell us why Jesus chose those two men -- just that he did.  Nor does he tell us why they responded so readily -- just that they did.

And then Jesus went a little further and spotted two more men -- James and John -- also fishermen.  They were mending their nets.  Jesus called them, and they got up, left their father in the boat, and followed Jesus.

Once again, Mark fails to tell us why Jesus called these particular men -- just that he did.  Nor does he tell us why they responded so readily to his call -- just that they did.

There was nothing remarkable about these four men -- Simon, Andrew, James, and John.  They were ordinary fishermen.  Except for Simon, who later became known as Peter, they remained pretty ordinary.

But they were extraordinary in this sense.  Three of them -- Peter, James, and John -- became Jesus' inner circle.  Jesus would eventually have twelve apostles, but he would turn to these three in the key moments of his life.  He would invite them to witness the Transfiguration.  They would be with him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But those four ordinary men -- along with the other eight apostles -- turned the world upside down.  They didn't do it alone.  They did it by the grace of God.  But they did it!  Today their names are known all over the world -- not because they are great but because the Lord whom they served is great!

I would like for you to take a moment to consider this question:  What has the Lord called you to do?

Let me be clear about something.  Some people can only imagine the Lord calling a person to a religious vocation -- being a pastor or a youth leader or some such thing.  But the Lord calls people to many different callings.  Luther said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God."  That was his way of saying that the Lord can call us to any number of callings. The Lord can call us to be a butcher or baker or candlestick maker -- as long as we understand our work as a means of giving God glory.

A mother once said that her calling was to raise her children.  That was how she understood her calling.  On more than one occasion, she was heard to say, "I just ask for enough time to raise you and your brother."  She didn't care how long she lived as long as she knew that we were all right.  She didn't live to an old age, but she did live long enough to see her children launched.  She saw her calling fulfilled.

I have no doubt that the Lord called a man named Percival Bryan to be a cab driver in Washington, D.C.  Bryan died in 1996 after driving a cab in our nation's capitol for more than half a century.  He became quite well-known.  He always carried a guest book in his cab, and he asked his passengers to sign it.  Over the years, he collected signatures of senators, jazz greats -- and even a president or two, I am told.  Over his career, he accumulated a collection of 312 guest books filled with signatures -- mostly the signatures of ordinary people.

But Bryan didn't treat people as ordinary.  If he saw that you were feeling down, he would try to cheer you up.  He would talk to you and try to coax a smile.  He told of two passengers --two young men-- who robbed him one night.  But he started a conversation with them and, before the ride was over, they gave him back his money -- and signed his guest book. 

Journalist Skip Thurman asked Bryan what kept him going.  Listen to Bryan's reply.  He said that what kept him going was:

      "My priorities, friends, God.  

He said:

"Every morning I get down on my knees and I have my little prayers. I ask God to go with me, protect me, ride with me, and take my eyesight, my nose, my mouth -- especially my mouth -- and share him with others.

He went on to say:

"And I tell you, sometimes I feel very rich. Don't have nothin', not much money in my pocket, but inside I feel like I have done my best and God has given me the wisdom and the strength to keep going?"

Did the Lord call Percival Bryan to drive a cab?  I think he did.  And Bryan drove that cab for half a century to the glory of God.

There's another little piece of that story that I need to share with you.  Do you know what happened to Bryan's guest books?  He gave them to the Smithsonian -- the great museum -- and they put them on display.  Can you imagine that!  A cab driver's guest books on display in the Smithsonian!  It happened!  Great things can happen when we fulfill our calling.  We might not make it into the Smithsonian, but we can make a difference.

Let me tell you another story.  When Eric Ritz was a college student, the professor gave his class an assignment.  They were supposed to write their response to the word "waitress" -- nothing fancy -- just their first thoughts.  What does "waitress" mean to you?  The students wrote their responses. Then they read them aloud.  One student said, "Always looking for a tip."  Another student said, "Tough!"  Another said, "Airhead!"  Another said, "Forgetful!" 

After all the students had read their responses, the professor said, "My mother was a waitress. She worked as a waitress and paid my way through college."

Did the Lord call that woman to be a waitress?  Maybe.  I believe that God called her to help her son, and she did her best. She fulfilled her calling.  I don't know if she would have put it this way, but there is a sense in which she lived her life to the glory of God.

So let me ask the question one more time:  What has God called you to do?  I would like for you to consider that question this week.  Think about it.  Pray about it.  You might even find it helpful to get a piece of paper and make notes of the thoughts that come to your mind.  This could be the most important thing you will do this year.  It might cause you to take your life in a totally new direction.

It doesn't matter if you are fifteen or fifty -- or even sixty or seventy or eighty or more.  You have some time left, whether a little or a lot.  What has the Lord called you to do with it?  How can you live your remaining days to the glory of God?

I promise you this.  If you will listen for the Lord's call and follow where he leads, the Lord will do something important with your life -- just as the Lord did something important with that mother's life -- and Percival Bryan's life -- and the waitress-mother's life. 

You might not become wealthy, but I'll guarantee that, like Percival Bryan, you will feel very rich.

Will You Come and Follow Me TFWS #2130

Where He Leads Me UMH # 338

I Am Thine, O Lord  UMH #419

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