Hoping in God and Keeping Jesus Central (Sermon)
1 Timothy 6:17-21
"The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat," the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. "Mr. Mueller," he said, "last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in." Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.
George Mueller was a native German (a Prussian). He was born on September 27, 1805. He died March 10, 1898 at the age of 92. He spent most of his life in Bristol, England and pastored the same church there for over 66 years. In 1834 (when he was 28) he founded The Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad. Five branches of this Institute developed: 1) Schools for children and adults to teach Bible knowledge, 2) Bible distribution, 3) missionary support, 4) tract and book distribution, and 5) orphan ministry.
The accomplishments of all five branches were significant, but the one he was known for around the world in his own lifetime, and still today, was the orphan ministry. He built five large orphan houses and cared for over 10,000 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England. One of the great effects of Mueller's ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”
He did all this while he was preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898. And when he turned 70 he fulfilled a life-long dream of missionary work for the next 17 years until he was 87. He traveled to 42 countries, including the United States, India, and Australia. He preached on average once a day, and addressing some three million people.
From the end of his travels in 1892 (when he was 87) until his death in March of 1898 he preached in his church and worked for the Scripture Knowledge Institute. At age 92, not long before he died, he wrote, “I have been able, every day and all the day to work, and that with ease, as seventy years since.” He led a prayer meeting at his church on the evening of Wednesday, March 9, 1898. The next day a cup of tea was taken to him at seven in the morning but no answer came to the knock on the door. He was found dead on the floor beside his bed.
The funeral was held the following Monday in Bristol, where he had served for sixty-six years. “Tens of thousands of people reverently stood along the route of the simple procession; men left their workshops and offices, women left their elegant homes or humble kitchens, all seeking to pay a last token of respect.” A thousand children gathered for a service at the Orphan House No. 3. It was said that they had now “for a second time lost a ‘father'.”
George had read his Bible from end to end almost 200 times. He had prayed in millions of dollars for the orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry, but trusted God to put in people's hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan or went into debt. And neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry.
Mueller's faith that his prayers for money would be answered was rooted in the sovereignty of God. When faced with a crisis in having the means to pay a bill he would say, “How the means are to come, I know not; but I know that God is almighty, that the hearts of all are in His hands, and that, if He pleaseth to influence persons, they will send help.” As John Piper writes, “That is the root of George Müller’s confidence: God is almighty, the hearts of all men are in his hands, and when God chooses to influence their hearts they will give."
Mueller’s trust in God seems quite radical to us today. In a world of iPhones, mounted TV’s, and Pokemon we do not really get the nature of the faith of a guy like Mueller. Yet, the type of life Mueller lived is an example of the type of life Paul expected from Timothy and his other fellow believers. He expected an unwavering hope in God.
The aged apostle Paul writes a letter to young Timothy, a leader in the Ephesian church, to encourage him and steer him toward faithfulness to the gospel. At the end of his letter, he has two final exhortations. Hope in God, and keep the gospel central.
1 Timothy 6:17-21 (ESV)—As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.
Hope in God, the Provider and Giver of good gifts (vv. 17–19)
Paul makes it clear that our hope is found in God alone, which means our hope cannot be in anything else. Look at verse 17:
Don’t put hope in yourself. Paul says to avoid being haughty. Each of us have a tendency to go on a self-salvation project, but Paul makes it clear that will get us nowhere. When we trust in ourselves, we either 1) mess things up more or 2) begin to think we are god because of how good we are. The Bible says: you’re broken, not fixable on your own…you need a Savior.
Don’t hope in your possessions. Paul says to avoid setting our hope in the uncertainty of riches. In the end, it is not bad to have money and stuff, but where is your hope? If your hope is in your money, what happens when you no longer have any? If your hope is in your 401k, what happens which the market crashes and you lose your retirement savings? If you hope in your abilities God has blessed you with, what happens when they’re taken away. There are stories upon stories of athletes who lost it all right when they were on top. Our money, our possessions, etc. are fleeting…here today and gone tomorrow. Paul says, you’re wasting your time hoping in something that won’t last.
Instead, hope in God. He is unchangeable. He keeps his promises. George Mueller trusted God’s promises and depended upon him, and though he never became a rich man with great popularity, the Lord took care of him. He alone is our anchor. Because…
God is the Provider. Ultimately everything we have is own loan from God. He owns it all, and he has given it to you. He has provided for you. We often spend more time complaining and thinking about what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have. In this moment God has provided you with air to breathe. He has given you lung capacity to hold and filter the air. He’s given you the ability to see or hear, and you can follow along in the text and listen to the preached Word. God provides, nothing else. We have to hope in him alone.
God gives good gifts for our enjoyment. God has created everything for our enjoyment. He is not some kindof killjoy who seeks to make you miserable. He gives you life to enjoy. Don’t feel guilty for eating a nice meal; enjoy it to the glory of God. Don’t feel guilty for the opportunity to provide well for your family; enjoy to the glory of God. Just make sure those things do not because your saviors, because then you will find yourself worshiping God’s stuff he gives you and not God.
When we put our hope in God, it frees us. Look at verse 18. We are free to:
Be rich in good works
We realize God has provided everything we have for our enjoyment. He didn’t hold it from us; he gave it to us. Now, we can freely use what we have for his glory and the good of others. Rather than seeking becoming rich in money, we seek being rich in good works. We give God’s money that he provided us away freely. We don’t own it, so we give it away. We share with others, because everything we have we simply stewards.
Even the gospel is a stewardship issue. You’ve been given the gospel, the good news of God’s salvation of sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You did not earn your salvation. You did not work to get the gospel. God gave it to you, and now you’re free to share it.
We are free to do good, be generous, etc. so that…
We store up treasure for the future. The unbeliever says “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The unbeliever says, “You only live once; yolo!” But the Christian realizes we are working toward a future. The kingdom to come is the kingdom we long for. We don’t care about establishing riches here, because they will fade away. But treasures we store up for the future will never fade away. In the Scriptures God gives many motivations for obedience, and one motivation is the treasure to come. Do you view your money, possessions, and even the gospel as something you need to hide away from a rainy day? Or do you give all you have away, hoping in God alone, knowing that you are storing up treasure in the kingdom to come?
We take hold of true life. Eternal life is not something in the future. It is here and now if we have believed the gospel. The “you only live once” life is not real life. The true life that we are all created to live is life in Christ, hoping in God.
George Müller understood it is worth denying our passions now for the hope of the future, knowing that true life is not found in indulgence now but in preparing for the life to come. He wrote about self-denial: “Self-denial is not so much an impoverishment as a postponement: we make a sacrifice of a present good for the sake of a future and greater good.”
Keep the gospel central (vv. 20–21)
In many ways, Paul concludes with the theme of the entire letter: Keep the gospel central. He’s covered so many topics in his letter: combatting false doctrine, appointing faithful elders and deacons, keeping watch over yourself, fighting the good fight of faith…in the primary theme of ever subject has been to keep the gospel central. Paul concludes with telling Timothy how to keep the gospel central.
Guard the gospel. Paul began his letter with the call to guard the gospel. Again, the gospel is a stewardship issue. It has been entrusted to Timothy, look at v. 20, and it has been entrusted to us. We must guard it. To guard the gospel we must:
Know the gospel extensively. We won’t guard something we do not know well and love passionately.
Protect the gospel carefully. All throughout the letter Paul has cautioned Timothy concerning the teaching of proper doctrine. He calls the elders of the church to protect the teaching of the church, and in so doing they protect the gospel. Avoiding moralism, legalism, etc. in order to make certain the true gospel is at the center.
Share the gospel boldly. The gospel has been given to us to give away. A church that does not share the gospel is not guarding the gospel. It is a privilege to commend Christ to others. We must pray and seek opportunities.
Avoid distractions. Paul says to avoid irrelevant babble and false knowledge because it will lead you, individually, and us, as a church, astray. Anything that takes our focus away from the riches of the gospel is a distraction and must be avoided. This is on a personal level, but it is also on a corporate church level. We must always evaluate our ministries to make sure we haven’t fallen into distractions and replaced the gospel.
So, Paul is clear as he closes his letter. We need to find our hope in God alone and keep the gospel central, but to do that we need grace. Notice Paul says “Grace to you” but the “you” here is plural. It would be better translated “Grace to you all.” Paul is writing a personal letter to Timothy, but it has implications for us all.
Christian, in order to live a life of hoping in God and keeping the gospel central, you do not possess that ability on your own. You need God’s grace, his unmerited favor. You need God to shepherd you and lead you to place your full hope/trust/dependence on him. Avail yourself of the means of grace. How does God shower us with his grace? He does it through his Word. At the end of his life Muller wrote about the faith and dependence he had on God, and then he said why. He had read through the Bible 200 times in his Christian life, turning to the Bible daily for God’s grace.
Unbeliever, you need God’s grace in order to quit hoping in yourself and the things of this world, and God has given you his grace in the person of Jesus. Jesus died in your place, though you did not deserve it. He now offers his grace to you.