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Whitewater Wisdom - In God We Trust

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Whitewater Wisdom
In God We Trust?
Life Journey Christian Church
David Limiero, Lead Pastor
October 19, 2008

Whitewater!

My whitewater rafting experience:

  • Cache le Poudre river in Colorado
  • Singles group from church
  • Two kinds of whitewater rafts
    • Oars– steered exclusively by the whitewater guide – like a rowboat with one oar on each side
    • Paddles –
  • Guide at the back with one oar (like an airplane rudder).
  • People in the boats all have paddles – assist in the steering by either forward-paddling or back-paddling
  • Goal is to navigate down the river through what’s called “whitewater” – the effect you get when the water is rushing over and around the rocks in the river.
  • Not like taking a canoe or a boat out on a lake, or even a smooth-flowing river like the Mississippi. That’s the point – going over the rapids is what makes the journey fun.
    • Not all rapids the same. Actually ranked, from Class 1 to Class 6
    • Class 1: Very small rough areas, requires no maneuvering. (Skill Level: None)
    • Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, small drops, might require maneuvering. (Skill Level: Basic Paddling Skill)
    • Class 3: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe a 3-5 ft drop, but not much considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill Level: Experienced paddling skills)
    • Class 4: Whitewater, large waves, rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed. (Skill Level: Whitewater Experience)
    • Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, large rocks and hazards, maybe a large drop, precise maneuvering (Skill Level: Advanced Whitewater Experience)
    • Class 6: Whitewater, typically with huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, huge drops, but sometimes labeled thusly due to largely invisible dangers…Class 6 rapids are considered hazardous even for expert paddlers using state-of-the-art equipment, and come with the warning "danger to life or limb." (Skill Level: Expert)
  • Our river had Class 3 and Class 4 rapids, so we were given extensive safety instructions
    • Life vest (Type V). Head float on the back (in case you hit your head on a rock and become unconscious)
    • “Whitewater swimming position” – feet first
  • All got into the raft and headed downstream
  • I was on right side of the raft – at the very front. My friend Lynn McQueen on the left side of the raft at the very front. The guide had the two of us – both men – in these positions because we were the strongest in the group.
  • How you sit – feet inside the boat, sitting up on the edge of the inflated part. One foot slips into a vinyl pocket, so that, when you lean back and back-paddle, you’ve got some leverage.
    • Going down the river, hitting some Class 4 rapids, guide yelled out “Back paddle!”
    • I grabbed my paddle with both hands, leaned way back to get leverage, and put my full weight into back-paddling – at which point my foot slipped out of that little vinyl pocket, and I flipped backwards over the side of the raft and into the water.
  • This was the point at which I was supposed to assume the “whitewater swimming position”, allow the river to carry me downstream, and eventually catch up to the raft.
  • But instead, as I came back up out of the icy-cold water, I managed to grab onto the raft with one hand (and was still hanging on the paddle with my right hand).
  • So here we were, the raft shooting through the rapids, with me desperately hanging on for dear life.
  • That’s when my friend Lynn suddenly appeared, reached over the side, grabbed my life jacket with both hands, and pulled so hard he literally threw me back into the boat.

That happened almost twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I can still picture myself hanging on desperately to the edge of the raft, praying that I wouldn’t lose my grip.

While I was in the water, it seemed like forever. I remember praying that my body wouldn’t get smashed against the rocks before we got out of the whitewater.

But later on I realized I wasn’t in the water for very long – 10-15 seconds at most – before my friend pulled me to safety. What seemed like an eternity was merely a small blip in that day, much less in my life.

Whitewater Times

I’ve been thinking about that whitewater experience a lot these past few weeks as we’ve been going through this economic crisis in our country.

You all know what I’m talking about – first the housing crisis, then the credit crisis, then the stock market crisis and now the banking crisis. Some people are saying that we’re going through the worst financial crisis in American history since the Great Depression.

Whether you believe that or not, it’s fair to say that our current economic times are definitely a whitewater experience. Nobody knows for sure how bad the rapids will be, but there’s no doubt that we’re living in turbulent times.

As I have been praying and reflecting on what’s going on in our world right now, one word comes to mind – fear. Read the newspapers, watch the television news, look at the blogs and you’ll see that our nation right now is captivated by fear – fear that things will keep on getting worse; fear that the government’s “solution” to the economic crisis hasn’t made things any better yet. Fear that our jobs may disappear, the value of our homes will keep declining, even fears that the economy itself will collapse.

And the temptation in times like this is to do what I did when I fell out of the whitewater raft – to forget everything our guide has told us about what to do and cling desperately to the side of the boat, wondering whether our finances are going to get smashed against the rocks.

Whitewater Wisdom

So today we’re starting a brand-new message series about thriving in turbulent times. It’s called “Whitewater Wisdom” because I believe that we need the wisdom of an experienced guide now more than ever.

It is my firm belief that God is our guide, and that God’s principles for dealing with money are more relevant now than ever. And that now is not a time for great fear; instead, it’s a time for great faith.

You’ve heard me say this many times before, but I want to remind you that God has a lot to say about money and possessions:

  • Jesus said more about money than heaven or hell combined. 16 of Jesus’ 38 parables deal with handling money and possessions.
  • 1 out of 10 verses in the Gospels (288 total) deal directly with the subject of money.
  • The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

God has a lot to say about money. But on the flip side, did you realize that money has a lot to say about God?

ILL: Take some money out of your wallet right now (bills, not coins). If you have more than one denomination (1, 5, 10, 20, 50 – even a 100) take out one of each. Now, look at those bills carefully and see what they tell us about God.

Shout it out if you know the answer: [“In God We Trust”]

Those words first appeared on a US coin in 1856, and that phrase “In God We Trust” became the national motto exactly 100 years later, in1956.

See if you can find that phrase on the money that you’re holding in your hand. Everybody find it?

Now – one more thing – don’t put your money away. I’ve asked the ushers to come forward so that you can take that money and put it right into the offering plate (Kidding!).

I’d revise the national motto – just add one character to the end –

“In God We Trust?

It’s when times are tough that our faith is tested. When the whitewater is raging and we get thrown from the boat – those are the times when we find out whether what we say we believe is what we really believe. Do we really trust in God? Or do we just say that we trust in God.

This morning I’d like to talk to you about that word trust.

And I want to share a passage from the Bible, which, although it doesn’t use that exact word, has a lot to tell us about trust:

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)

Those words from the Bible were written by Paul, a seasoned follower of Jesus in his later years of life, to a young man named Timothy, whom Paul had sent to the church in a city called Ephesus to give them further instruction to strengthen their faith in Jesus.

Look back at that first verse. I want you to notice the audience -- these words are written to “those who are rich in this present world” – the people who had some measure of money and possessions.

Right off the bat, some of you are already thinking that this doesn’t apply to you – that, because you’re not “rich in this present world,” you don’t have to pay attention to what comes next. But nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, compared to the rest of the world, every person sitting in this room is “rich in this present world.” Around the world today there are literally billions of people who are barely surviving. They live in countries marked by famine and starvation. They literally have no idea where their next meal is going to come from. Every year, more than 10 million people in the world die from starvation. And 85% of those who die will be children under the age of 5.

(See http:www.starvation.net)

I don’t want to minimize the poverty here in our country, because it’s very real, but it’s nothing compared to what’s going on in other places. All of us here are among those who are “rich in this present world.”

And think about this. The only real difference between people who are poor and people who are rich is that poor people still think that money will buy them happiness. Let me repeat that: the only real difference between people who are poor and people who are rich is that poor people still think that money will buy them happiness. Lots of people who are rich have discovered that money was not the secret to happiness. Those who aren’t rich would at least like to have the opportunity to find out for themselves!

Think back to our icebreaker question from earlier this morning. Most of us pretty quickly realized that, during the happiest times in our life, we probably had less money than we have now.

The real meat of this passage isn’t in the audience. It’s in the set of instructions that follows. In that first section, there are three specific commands.

I want to skip over that first command – don’t be arrogant – and focus on the other two.

The first command is a negative command. Negative commands tell us what not to do. Do you see it? _______ Don’t put your hope in wealth. [HIGHLIGHT: "not…to put their hope in wealth]. And do you see why this command is given? [HIGHLIGHT: "which is so uncertain…”]. It’s because wealth is so uncertain.

  • If you have money in the stock market, you know just how uncertain wealth is. Literally billion of dollars of wealth has disappeared in the last few weeks.
  • And if your wealth was tied into the value of your home, you also know how uncertain that wealth is. Many, many people who had tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in home equity two years ago have seen all of that money disappear.
  • Still others had “wealth” that was tied up in their ability to borrow. People, businesses, banks – even state governments – who relied on easy access to debt and credit have seen that, because they can no longer borrow, they have lost that source of wealth as well.

That’s why this command – to not put youu hope in wealth – is so strong. Wealth was uncertain then, and it’s uncertain now.

So that’s the negative command – don’t put your hope in wealth. Why? Because it’s so uncertain.

But this command from the Bible has a flip side. There’s also a positive commandment. Negative commandments tell us what not to do; positive commandments tell us what to do.

Do you see the positive commandment? [HIGHLIGHT: "to put their hope in God”] Again, there’s a reason given [HIGHLIGHT: “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”]

One thing that really hit me this week was the reason we should put our trust in God. Many of you know that I’m a big fan of the Lord’s Prayer, especially the part where it says to “give us this day our daily bread.” It’s a reminder that God is my provider.

Now, in the past I’ve thought of this as God providing my needs – just the basics. I mean, it says daily bread, not daily steak and lobster. But two things really stood out to me in this command to put my trust in God.

  • The first one is the word “richly.” God doesn’t just provide for our needs, he richly provides for our needs. He’s not stingy with us; he’s generous. He richly provides for our needs.
  • The second thing that stood out is the phrase “for our enjoyment.” God richly provides us with everything so that we can enjoy it.

There have been a number of times in my life when God has provided for my needs, particularly my financial needs. And I have to say that when I have allowed Him to do that – when I have allowed God to provide for my needs instead of letting Visa or MasterCard or American Express provide for my needs – I have really enjoyed it.

It’s not because of the money; it’s about how it makes me feel:

  • When my car breaks down and I use a credit card to pay for the repair, I’m not showing much trust. I usually feel stressed and I spend a lot of mental energy trying to figure out when and how I’m going to pay off that debt.
  • But when my car breaks down and God provides in some special way I feel completely different. Instead of feeling stress, I feel joy. When God provides in that way, I realize that I am loved. I realize that I have a Father in heaven who cares deeply for me and for my family. And I enjoy that feeling a whole lot more than the feelings that come when I trust in my wealth and not in my God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

That’ the positive command: put my hope in God.

But there’s more.

Not only is there a negative command -- don’t trust in wealth – and a positive command – trust in God – there’s also a series of commands that are attached to a promise.

Those commands are found in the next verses:

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NIV)

There are three very simple commands here:

  1. Do good
  2. Be rich in good deeds, and
  3. Be generous and willing to share

Pretty simple stuff. But those simple commands are followed by a promise. Do these things – do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share – and you will lay up treasure for yourself. And that treasure will be a firm foundation for the age to come.

Do these things – do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share – and you will “take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Let me share two brief examples of how this has worked in my life and the life of my family:

A couple of years ago Jan wrote a book and received a royalty check for her work. At the time there was a family here at Life Journey that was really struggling – not just financially, but with the discouragement that comes when you’re struggling financially.

Jan prayed, and she decided we should give the whole royalty check – 100% of it – to this family. So we invited them over and Jan presented them with that check and told them that it was a gift, with no expectation of repayment.

Jan was living out the command of this verse – to do good, be rich in good deeds, and be generous and willing to share.

It happened so long ago that I had all but forgotten it. But a few weeks ago this family showed up unexpectedly at our doorstep. They came to say thank you, not just for that gift, but for believing in them and encouraging them during a time of real need.

And I was completely surprised when they pulled out a check and gave it to Jan. They knew that Jan had given the original amount as a gift, but they also knew that we had a particular financial need (our air conditioner died and will cost $3000 to replace). So they decided to come by and bless us in the same way we had blessed them – by being generous and willing to share.

The second story is a lot like the first:

Years ago I was involved in a pastoral situation with a family that didn’t attend Life Journey. Their marriage was in crisis, and I poured hours of time and energy into trying to help them resolve the issues. I was literally meeting with the husband every-other day for a period of several months to hold him accountable for his behavior. It took a lot of time, prayer, and emotional energy on my part, and the couple ultimately ended up getting a divorce. But I was convinced that I had done the right thing – that I had done good, been rich in good deeds, and had been generous and willing to share my time and energy with them.

Fast forward to this summer, when the budget here at Life Journey was really tight. Payroll was due in the middle of the week, and the offerings from Sunday weren’t even close to covering the need. That’s when God showed up. Two days before payroll was due, we received a very large check from the woman – just enough to cover the payroll.

Those stories remind me of the truth of this verse – that when we do good, are rich in good deeds, and are generous and willing to share – then God will richly provide for our needs so that we can enjoy it. That, when we do those things, we are laying up treasures for the future, and, in the process, discovering the life that is truly life.

Conclusion

I am more convinced than ever that conventional financial wisdom won’t work in whitewater times. It’s ironic that, at the time when we’re experiencing the consequences of an economy built on debt and credit, when we’re experiencing the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, that the best advice our President can offer is to “have confidence in the economy.”

I respect our President and all that he and other leaders are doing to address this crisis, but I have to disagree when he tells me where to place my trust and confidence.

In whitewater times, I’m not putting my trust and confidence in the economy. I’m not putting my hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.

Instead, I’m choosing to put my trust in God, who richly provides everything for us to enjoy.

Instead, I’m choosing to do good. I’m choosing to be rich in good deeds. I’m choosing to be generous and willing to share.

I’m choosing to lay up treasure, not on this earth, but in heaven, as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that I may take hold of the life that is truly life.

And I hope and pray that each of you will do the same.

Let’s pray.


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[1] www.starvation.net

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