Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

August 7, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Luke 12:32-40

Luke 12:32-40

32 Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not become old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning. 36 Be like people waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the master will find watching when he comes. Amen I tell you: He will dress himself and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them. 38 Even if he comes in the second or third watch, they will be blessed if he finds them alert. 39 But know this: If the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you are not expecting him.”

It’s in the news again.  The Cowboys are a training camp and the Rangers are over 10 games under 500 so far this season.  Sports is in the news all the time whether it’s the Olympics, football, baseball, or even just High School or even kid’s sports like volleyball, soccer and baseball.  It is amazing that people give up so much time for pay attention to a bat & ball, a soccer or football, or even to compete in swimming.  And all of this for what?  A little metal disk hanging on a ribbon that you get to hang around your neck?  Well, for the professional sports people it’s more than that—like millions of dollars that they work for.  Some of them will get big money endorsing Nike or Adidas, or interviews on ESPN.  But, not most of them.  Most who play sports never get an interview, or even a gold metal, but all they have are the memories of playing the sport.  Is it all worth it?  While friends are working regular job and sleeping in on Saturday morning, sports athletes are up early, working their tails off at the gym and swimming pools for what?  The good memories?  No!  Many athletes set a goal and work incredibly hard to achieve that goal. The Keep Their Eyes on the Prize!

 Today Jesus wants us to have the same intensity when it comes to living what God has made us—Christians on our way to heaven.  Don’t you find it amazing that so many lose focus on this prize when you see their lives wasting away with the things of this life?  We struggle as well every day to Keep Our Eyes ON The Prize. For instance, how much thought have you put into your relationship with Jesus this week?  And if it is a priority, how many distractions tried to get you to think those things were so important, but really weren’t?  Honestly, am I the only one here today that wants to have lots of fun, earn lots of money and sleep in until noon?  I sure don’t want to sweat and strain and stretch like a full-time athlete to follow Jesus, listen to his Word, believe it and live my life according to it.  If Jesus was your personal trainer, would he be giving you high fives right now, or wondering how in the world he can get you off your spiritual couch?

Yes, Jesus knows all about us. We’re no different from the people Jesus was talking to in Luke 12.  We also need to hear the encouragements and promises of Jesus to

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

It’s too valuable to Exchange

When Jesus began his ministry he was the greatest things around.  We might call his first year the “honeymoon phase.”  He went to weddings and made wine, he feed thousands of people, healed the sick, was preaching and teaching like no one every done before.  The people loved Jesus.  But, in the second year the Jewish leaders were concerned for the popularity Jesus was having and went on the attack.  They questioned his teachings and the more opposition he faced, the more Jesus talked about how difficult it would be to follow him.  Satan was doing everything he could to try and get people to Exchange Jesus for something else.  Here comes the tough part—if you don’t make Jesus a priority in your life, that there is nothing in life more important than Jesus, then the devil is right there to grab you and try to make your Exchange Jesus for something else.   Remember the account Jesus told just before this of the rich fool.  His focus was on his many possessions and forgot all about his valuable God.  He woke up in hell!   Jesus said to the crowds,

21 That is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”

Luke 12:21

So, you can well imagine how everyone’s head was racing.  They could see how valuable Jesus was, but is it that easy to lose out on Jesus?  Are we in danger of doing the same?  Jesus knows their concerns and he knows the temptation we face in our life to exchange our Valuable Jesus for Something Else.  So Jesus said,

32 Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” 

Talk about love!  Jesus calls us his little flock.  He tells us that it was the Father’s will before the creation of the world to be part of God’s kingdom.  The Father knew what sin would do in your life—how it would destroy your relationship with God and put you under Satan’s control.  That’s why way back then the Father decided to send his Son to live a perfect life for you, sacrifice himself on the cross to pay the penalty of all your sins, and then offer his life to the Father on your behalf to open the gate of heaven for you.  This was Jesus’ Valuable Exchange for You.  And as God’s dearly loved children live under the control and power of Jesus.  Now Jesus is your King.  Jesus is your Savior.  Jesus is your Redeemer.  There is nothing more Valuable!

Hearing this, we breath a sigh of relief.  But, Jesus wasn’t finished talking.  He gave the following encouragement:

33 Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not become old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Do you get the point?  No, Jesus is not telling you to drain you bank account and sell all your possessions to give to the poor.  Remember, Jesus gives us our blessings and he want us to use them to support our families, the government and the gospel work of the church.  But, here is Jesus’ point: If we start to notice that our things—our good salary, savings accounts, nice home and cool vacations, our family and awesome vehicles become more important to us than following Jesus….then it’s time to remember that Jesus is Too Valuable to Exchange for Anything!

Let’s take a little assessment quiz right now, because I know we all have our own little treasures that tempt us to exchange Jesus for their value. 

  1. It’s time to read the Bible, or pray, or come to Bible Class to learn as much as we can about Jesus’ love for us.  Do you Exchange your time in place of the valuable thing Jesus wants us to do? 
  2. It’s time to do some good for someone in your life.  Do you Exchange Convenience in place of the valuable thing Jesus wants us to do? 
  3. It’s time to talk to your friend or family member about what it means to be a Christian.  Do you Exchange your friendship in place of the valuable thing Jesus wants us to do?

Now we can all hang our heads and put on that sad face.  Good.  Let us repent of our sin of Exchanging the Value of Jesus and failing To Keep Our Eyes on The Prize. Jesus wants us to know this is serious stuff.  We deserve nothing, but Jesus graciously gives us so many blessings. He protects us from our enemies.  He forgives all your sins.  He gives us strength to live through his Word and Sacraments. He promises to take us to heaven one day.  This is all yours through Jesus Christ.  Don’t ever Exchange the Value of Jesus and Take Your Eyes Off the Prize. Keep your eyes on God’s Kingdom and God will help you Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.  But, Jesus isn’t done.  He not only wants us to rest secure in his Value, but he also wants us to be ready when he comes to Give Us The Prize.  Yes, 

It’s Too Close To Ignore

When God’s Word is spoken to a group of people there are always some who will take is seriously and work hard, like an athlete preparing for some serious competition.  And there are others who may not prioritize their life accordingly.  And that’s exactly why Jesus had more to say.

35 “Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning. 36 Be like people waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the master will find watching when he comes. …… 38 Even if he comes in the second or third watch, they will be blessed if he finds them alert.” 

We get the point.  The servant doesn’t go to bed until the Master gets home.  He will want to get into his house (in those days there was probably a timber that locked the door).  He’d want some water to wash his feet (they wore sandals).  He’d want an oil lamp to find his way to his bedroom (no electricity).  He might even want a midnight snack or a glass of wine to help him sleep. Any servant who wanted to keep his job was going to be ready, for the Master was Too Close To Ignore.

Jesus urges us to imitate these servants and made his point even clearer:  

39 But know this: If the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you are not expecting him.”

Here is Jesus’ point.  If we get our priorities mixed up, we don’t know if we’ll have a chance to straighten them out because we don’t know when Jesus returns, or if he should call us home. Most of us here can tell stories about people we know who had a sudden end to their life such as a car accident or a heart attack.  I thought about this the other night when I was suddenly awakened by a Charlie horse in my leg.  I wondered if that is what a heart attack feels like? It is sudden and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. We never know when the Lord is going to end our time on earth, do we? And for all we know, Jesus may very well return in all his glory right now!!!  It simply doesn’t work to ignore it.  Jesus might return today, not tomorrow.  That means now is the time for us all to prioritize Jesus. Jesus may return now.  It’s Too Close To Ignore.

It is also good for us to remember that when Jesus returns it is not to serve us.  He did that already.  Jesus already came to serve as our Redeemer and Savior.  The work is done and the benefits all belong to us now.  Jesus said,

37 Blessed are those servants, whom the master will find watching when he comes. Amen I tell you: He will dress himself and have them recline at the table, and he will come and serve them.” 

Jesus came to our world to prepare an eternal banquet for us.  Now, we are reclining at his table through faith and enjoying the salads and hors d’oeuvres of being a redeemed child of God—baptized into his family.  Yes, Jesus is saving the entrée and dessert for the heavenly banquet that is Too Valuable to Exchange and Too Close to Ignore.

So, you can prepare yourself for many events during your life.  Maybe it’s a great sporting event and you’re training for it.  Or maybe you are ending the training and competitive part of your life.  You remember the Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps.  He won lots of gold medals.  After years of eating healthy and working out he told a reporter, “It’s almost time for McDonald’s.”  Today we thank the Lord that by his grace he made us heirs of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.  Today, we are also reminded that it is hard work to remain living as a Christian. It is a constant struggle to prioritize our lives, fight against the devil’s temptations and Keep Our Eyes On the Prize.  But, it’s worth it.  It’s close.  So, as Jesus told St John in the Book of Revelation, “Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life!”  Yes, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!  Amen! 

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