Monday, February 3, 2014

"Death, The Last Defeat": In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956 - Feb. 3, 2009)




“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58, NKJV).

Today at Men and Women in the Church, I’d like to honor the woman that was my mother, a godly example, who showed me what a selfless, sacrificing, Christ-like life should be; a woman who still continues to touch and influence my life, five years to the day since the Lord took her from this life; a woman whose integrity was seen by all those around her who knew her, worked with her, attended church with her, and loved her. This woman, whose life is a testimony in and of itself, is my mother, Teressa Ann Alston Richardson.

I could not let the day pass without taking time to honor the godly mother the Lord placed into my life. Without mom’s influence, I can’t imagine what my life would be like, nor where I would have gone in these past 29 years. It was because my mother did the work of the Lord in raising me “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” that I am what I am in the Lord today. She took her parenting ministry seriously, and is an example for all of us in how we raise our children (whether in the present or in the future). Mom, I love you dearly and miss you constantly.

If she were here, she’d want the Word to be emphasized – so I won’t take another minute to commend her. Let’s get to what excited her most, the living, breathing, miracle-working Word of God.

If you read the context of 1 Corinthians 15, the issue at hand concerned the resurrection. There were some who were saying that there was no resurrection, which prompted the Apostle Paul’s question, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12)

It seems that the gospel, preached among the Corinthians, was being denied by false doctrine. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to consider two positions: (1) that the Lord was not raised from the dead, and (2) that Christ was raised from the dead. He says, if you believe Christ was raised, but He didn’t really rise, then your faith is “worthless” or “in vain,” “useless.” In short, believing means little if Christ did not rise from the dead. Mere faith is not enough to make something true, unless it is already true in origin.

In verse 20, Paul testifies boldly that “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20-21).

Paul makes it clear here that the “Man” (capital “M,” referring to the man Christ Jesus) brought forth the resurrection. Remember the requirement: since the wage of sin is death (cf. Romans 6:23), man who committed the sin had to die. So, Christ was the solution: a man who could die for the sins of the world but could also return from the dead. He was the perfect choice, the perfect Lamb of God who was sacrified for the sins of the world (John 1:29).

The message is clear: Christ died for the sins of the world and rose for our justification, so that we could be justified by our faith in the work of Christ on the Cross. He wasn’t hanging there for Himself, but was “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5-6). He died for our sins. We owe a debt we can never repay. The least we can do is offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2).

Now, as Christ has died and was raised from the dead, so too will we – those who believe in the Lord, that is. Those who accept Christ as both Lord and Savior (not either/or, but both/and) will rise as Christ rose from the dead. However, we cannot enter heaven in our current, mortal state.

Mother could not enter heaven with her earthly body.

Why? Because it’s wracked with sin, and stained with ungodliness. If you don’t believe this to be true, ask yourself: why did Paul tell the Roman church “do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom. 6:12)? And we, being sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, struggle with sin as did they, as did the men and women of Scripture, as did the earliest churches of the New Testament. Each person born of Adamite blood struggles with sin. “There is none righteous, no not one,” Paul states clearly (Romans 3:10).

So, how then, can we enter heaven? Paul states it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:50ff: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” In order for us to inherit the kingdom, we have to put on not only faith, but immortality. And we can only get that by dying a mortal death.

I cringe whenever I read the Lord’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” These words haunt me in the strangest way, seeing that I, too, realize my mortality. Although I am 29 and feel as if I’m in the prime of my life, I too, fall under the Lord’s death sentence to humanity. It is something that, in light of my mother’s early death at 52 years old, is always at the forefront of my mind.

And yet, death is the last enemy to be defeated. Death is the last mountain we have to climb, the last river we have to swim, the last boundary we have to pass through, the last obstacle we have to encounter. Despite all of our blessings here, this present world is not our home; we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:35-36,

“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” Interestingly enough, Jesus said similar words in John 12:24 (“unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain”). In order for us to put on immortality, we must drop this mortal flesh that is stained with sin.

It is in verse 51 that Paul says, “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” The word “sleep” here is a euphemism for the word “died,” so Paul is saying, in essence, that there will be many who will be alive when the Lord returns. Not all will die, but all who believe in the Lord (whether dead or alive) will put on immortality, an everlasting body that cannot hunger, thirst, tire, grow old, or die. I like the sound of this!

In verse 52, Paul says that this transformation will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” As fast as you can blink, the change will take place. Notice that there will be trumpets at this grand event. Since Paul mentions “the last trumpet” here, we can be assured that there will likely be more than one trumpet to announce the Lord’s return to earth. The last trumpet, however, is Paul’s focus: when the last trumpet sounds, the dead in Christ (those who died believing in the Lord) will be transformed, and those of us living on the earth will be transformed, too. Verse 53 reiterates Paul’s point earlier that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

In verses 54-57, we see Paul using theology to praise the Lord God, the one that “theo-logy” (the study of theos, God) is all about. After we are transformed and put on immortality, the words of the Old Testament will come to pass: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”



Currently, death is all around us. Any day of the week, one can take a look at the news, read the paper, or read on the Internet and find death is all around us. It places uncertainty in our hearts; as much as we like to think of life as being forever, the deaths of others are subtle reminders that one day, death will come to us all. In the midst of this sadness, however, we have hope in Christ Jesus. Death may reign in our lives now, our loved ones may die and leave us brokenhearted, but death is the last enemy to defeat. As verse 26 tells us, “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”

Did you read that? Death is the LAST enemy to be destroyed. Christ set the victory in place at Calvary, and this will be realized in our lives on an individual basis when we breathe our last. What power can death have, what sting, when death is defeated? What victory can the grave boast of when, having died and entered into it, we are then raised to live eternally? In the final analysis, the grave, sin, and death, three enemies in our mortal lives, will be conquered forever. We’ve always believed as Christians that “death has no more dominion over us”, but how apparent will it be in the Resurrection?

Have you ever seen C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the movies? I will never forget the last scene of it, in which Reepicheep asks Aslan whether or not he can enter his country. Aslan bids him permission, and Reepicheep (a fearless, warrior mouse, by the way) greets his friends before placing his sword in the sand to paddle to Aslan’s country. We all are like Reepicheep: as long as we’re in this world, we fight to survive, fight to defend and protect ourselves, to look out for our safety and protection. We fight against aging, medical conditions, medicine, doctors, bosses, companies, employment and unemployment, strained marriages, unhappy times in our marriages, and so on. It seems as if we fight all the time – and we get so consumed by the fight that we can’t believe it when the fight is over and we get to “cross over to Aslan’s Country,” that is, glory. Yet and still, the time comes when the Lord, who is faithful, grants His faithful ones eternal rest.

Yes, the last enemy to be defeated is death; and when it is, we will, like Reepicheep, put down our sword and cross over. Mother laid her sword down in the sand and crossed over to glory to study war no more. One day, that will be you. And one day, that will be me. While death is still a raging enemy, it won’t rage forever.

If mother were here today, she’d leave you with this message: the next time you’re staring death in the face, be it over a loved one in the nursing home or a loved one given less than 6 months to live in the hospital with a deadly cancer diagnosis, look death in the face and say, “you’re the last enemy to be defeated, and you won’t reign forever.” Death will only last for a short time. These words have comforted me every day for the past five years since my mother died. She had to pass through Death’s tunnel, but it’s not forever. One day, when the Lord cracks the clouds, mom will be raised to immortality. And, whether I’m alive or asleep, I too, will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Death wants us to focus on how our loved ones suffer here, but Death is only a tunnel to victory, the Resurrection, and eternal life for the believer. May God bless you all.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

“The Security of Trusting in the Lord”: In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956—February 3, 2009)




“The Security of Trusting in the Lord”: In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956—February 3, 2009)
   
                 Scripture: Psalm 91:1-4

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’ For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” (Psalm 91: 1-4, New King James Version).

I am honored and privileged by the Lord yet again to write these words for the people of God. Today marks the four-year anniversary of my mother’s death. Teressa Ann Alston Richardson was my mother and my best friend. She was my Bible teacher at home, my Sunday School teacher at church, and my encourager and prayer warrior, someone who prayed with me and for me through all the hard times in my life. She was one who found delight in meditating on the things of God, the Word of the Lord. After a three-year battle with breast, lung, and brain cancer, the Lord took His servant home to her eternal rest – where she is no longer in any pain, torment, or worry. She is in a place of peace and rest, looking forward to meeting her family and friends as we arrive in glory. Today, I take time at the blog to honor the woman who impacted my life in so many ways. If I have touched anyone’s life on this earth, it is because of the lifetime impact of my mother. You may have never met her, but to know me is to know her: I am like her in so many ways. I look like her, talk like her, and even have her laugh and mannerisms. She really left her “mark” on me!

If my mother could speak on earth this day, she would say that there is security in trusting in the Lord. One of her favorite passages of Scripture was Psalm 91, a passage that my deceased Pastor, Luther Alston Jr., also loved. The Lord has since taken my Pastor of 17 years home to be with Him as well. This morning, I heard my mother and my Pastor reading this passage in my thoughts. It was the Lord’s way of telling me that this Word needs to be said, it needs to be proclaimed.

We live in a world today that is concerned about security. We are told to buy car insurance so that we are “covered” in case of a car accident, health insurance so that we will be “covered” in the event of sickness, property insurance to “cover” us in the event that our property is damaged, burned down by fire, or destroyed by natural disaster. All these “insurances” are sold and purchased to “cover” us in case of a life disaster – whether to our selves or our property. Many consider that purchasing these things will make us “safe.”

But the “covering” the writer of Psalm 91 discusses today is not the covering of insurance regarding possessions: rather, it is the covering of your life, your protection, physically, emotionally, spiritually, from destruction, from the deception of Satan and the wicked man who dwells on the earth. Regardless of the number of those who oppose the people of God, Christians have a strength in the Lord that defeats them all.

In verse 1, the writer (presumed to be Moses, who wrote Psalm 90) uses an analogy that he will develop further into the Psalm: that is, that the Lord’s protection is similar to a mother bird who covers her children with her wings. Thus, he is saying that those who abide with the Lord, who stay with the Lord, will find a place of refuge, similar to the bird that finds protection by staying under its mother’s wings. Birds use their wings to protect their young; in a similar way, the Lord uses the union of Christ and Christian to protect His child (the believer) from all sorts of physical and spiritual harm. Paul writes to the Thessalonians of his desire to protect them when he says, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Both birds and humans care for their young. If they care for their young, and the Lord is greater than them all, does not the Lord care for His children?

In verse 1, Moses says that those who abide with the Lord, who trust in the Lord, will find the Lord’s protection. Trusting in the Lord is more than just a one-time trust, however: it is a daily trusting, a daily guidance and reliance upon the One who knows all things, who knows the future, who has laid out His plans for your life. It is a daily relinquishing of your own control and a turning to Him for direction.

In verse 2, the writer tells the Lord that the Lord is “my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust!”. Do you tell the Lord this on a daily basis? In the same way that the Lord wants us to pray and talk to Him, He wants to hear us call Him “my God,” “my refuge,” and “my fortress.” Why is the Lord a refuge? He is a place of escape when troubles come, He is a safe hiding place, a place of assurance and protection from the troubles of life. From the word “refuge” comes the word “refugee.” A refugee is one who has escaped famine and war in another country. A refugee is, in general, someone who escapes harsh conditions of any kind. Therefore, a Christian who abides with the Lord is one who can turn to the Lord of heaven and earth when the conditions of life take a turn for the worst. When life around us is harsh and cold and chaotic, we can turn to the Lord in whom we trust to find stability, comfort, peace, and joy – no matter how long the trials last.

Moses does not go without pointing the way to the Lord. In verse 3 he says, “for IT IS HE who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence.” It is the Lord who rescues us from all kinds of danger, whether the “trap” of a hunter or a deadly disease. By using the specific situations of a hunter and a disease, Moses is asserting that the Lord guards us against all kinds of traps that are set for us, whether by individuals or sickness and disease.

In verse 4, we read more of Moses’ analogy between the protection of the Lord and that of the mother bird: “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge.” The word “pinion” refers to the outer part of a bird’s wings, so the Lord will protect you from all outside harm – in the same way that a mother bird protects her young with the outside of her wings from outside danger.

“His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark” means that, as a shield protects a soldier from getting wounded, so does the Lord’s constant protection prevents believers from the death and destruction of Satan. Moses uses a simile here, a way to compare unrelated things (the Lord’s faithfulness, a shield, and a large structure). Since the Lord is faithful, you will have the protection that a bulwark provides. A bulwark is a large towering structure that was used in ancient days to keep enemies and invaders out of a territory or land. Whenever an enemy would invade a territory, the soldiers had to climb walls in order to invade. The wall was used to keep the enemy out. Although nations tried to prevent invasion, their walls were simply not strong enough. With the Lord, however, His faithfulness, His constant presence and strength, will protect you at all times. You need not worry about invasion or destruction by Satan and his agents when you have the Lord’s protection. His protection is fireproof and destruction-resistant!

I cannot do justice to this entire Psalm here, but I can say that Moses intended this passage to be an encouragement, a blessing to those who read its words. The passage mentions things like not getting sicknesses and diseases, and many Christians still battle these things. Yes, it is true that, as a result of the sin of man and the fall in Genesis 3, that even Christians battle sickness and disease. Yet and still, there are so many things that the Lord protects even the sick from, other things that would have come without the Lord’s protection. Even for those who are sick in body, this passage still rings true in so many ways that we cannot see. One day, we will get to ask the Lord, “What things did you prevent me from experiencing?”; and once we see those things, we will glorify the Lord all the more. One day, our faith in this passage will become sight.

Mother battled cancer for three years, and it could not have come to a more godly person than mom. Yet and still, she realized that trouble comes to us all. Trouble came to Job, and he was called “blameless and upright” by the Lord (Job 1:8). Trouble will come, but the Lord’s faithfulness, as Moses says, is a shield and bulwark. Mother, even facing cancer, found the Lord’s faithfulness to be her protection. If she were here today, she would quote the words of Psalm 91 and tell fellow saints to continue abiding under the Lord’s protection. Stay with the Lord, continue to trust Him and look to Him for all things, even your next breath and step. And when you don’t understand, ask the Lord to provide understanding. He will be faithful to you, no matter the situation or circumstance. Her life is a living testimony of that. God bless. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Soaring Like an Eagle": In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956-February 3, 2009)



“‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:25-31, New King James Version).


Today at both The Center for Theological Studies (CTS) and Men and Women in the Church (MWC), the blogs are dedicated to a woman who touched my life in manifold ways. I could write a book about her and still continue to write long after it. There are not enough books, chapters, or pages in the world to contain all that she meant to me within them. She was my mother, teacher, best friend, and biggest fan—
 Teressa A. Richardson.

Each year at this time, I give a short glimpse into life with my mother, my experiences with her, the kind of person she was, and the things she said and did. And it never grows old to think upon the things she taught me. I am blessed by God to provide yet another glimpse today into her life---and examine once more the lessons she taught me that it would do me good (and all believers) to never forget.

As a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, I often heard the questions in my apologetics classes regarding God and the existence of evil. “If God is a good God, how can evil and suffering occur in the world?” “If God is just, why has He done nothing about it?” “If God is good, why would He even allow it in the first place?” It seems that atheists never tire of posing questions that, in their minds, seem to be legitimate questions that supposedly “knock” God off His throne, put themselves in His place, and take His glory for their own.

This past summer 2011, I did some Internet evangelism at the Amazon chat room with atheists. The whole forum was titled “The Existence of God.” From the outside, it seemed as if there were a large number of Christians at the forum. When I entered, however, there were very few. Except for me, there was only one other person who, as a Christian, wanted to win these troubled souls to Christ.

I met a guy named Walter who, after a week of my witnessing attempts, disclosed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was in his 60s, and the doctors told him that he had (at most) 6 months to live. I got to share my mother’s story with him of how she battled breast, lung, and brain cancer for three years. He told me, “Your mother was a strong woman.” I responded, “No—it wasn’t her strength that saw her through; It was her God that saw her through.”

The Book of Isaiah was one of mom’s most beloved books of the Bible. She loved all of the Scriptures, but Isaiah’s words had special meaning to her in her life and life’s circumstances. Through her cancer, she clung to the words of Isaiah 40 and it is my prayer that her story and life would inspire you by God’s grace to continue on the path that is set before you.

In today’s text, the Lord asks Israel, “Why do you say, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’?” (Isaiah 40:27) Israel got to a place where the nation felt as if God was unjust to them. It seemed that the Lord no longer cared for the people “who were called by His Name,” that the ones He loved, the ones He delivered out of Egypt, He no longer had compassion for. It seemed to the nation of Israel that God was no longer just. This is why the Lord asks Israel’s question: “Why do you say... ‘my just claim is passed over by my God’?”

Mother could have easily arrived at this same place. She was a woman who loved the Lord, served Him fervently, and raised her children to do the same. She had every reason (on the surface at least) to point her finger to heaven at God and say, “Lord, you no longer hear my cry. You no longer care for your servant. I have done everything to walk godly before you, and you no longer care about me or my condition.”

But that’s not what she did. No---mom didn’t do what many have done (and many contemplate doing). Instead, she simply quoted the words, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” It is because of her faith in the Lord that she continued to pray to God, even when she didn’t understand all the answers.

Someone reading this post today feels like the nation of Israel in Isaiah 40. Wherever you are at this moment in your life, you thought you would be somewhere else. Maybe you thought you would be married, or at another job, or promoted in your current job, or in the prime of your life instead of struggling with a life-threatening illness. Perhaps you have been given those three words that could forever change your life: “It is cancer.” If this is where you are today, do not despair; God has not forgotten about you.

What did the Lord tell Israel? “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary...He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isa. 40:28-29). The same God that gave strength to the nation of Israel is the same God that gave my mother strength during her battle with cancer. And the same God that gave her strength is no respecter of persons---He will give you strength as well.

How did Mom renew her strength? She went to God in prayer, she talked to the Lord when it seemed as though God had deserted her. She always told me and my sister Danielle, “When you cannot see His hand, always trust His heart.” If she were here, she would say the same thing to you: When you cannot see His hand, always trust His heart. Trust Him and know that those who wait upon Him will see their strength renewed; they will soar like eagles. They will run and not be weary, and they will walk, and not faint. God bless.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Rich Toward God": In Memory of My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956--Feb. 3, 2009)


“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: the ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21, NKJV).

 Today at the Center for Theological Studies as well as Men and Women in the Church, I give tribute to the woman who gave birth to me back on August 21, 1984, at a hospital in Durham, North Carolina. I pay tribute to a woman who loved me from the first moment she laid eyes on me, and gave me a Christian upbringing, with all the love, encouragement, prayers, and shoulder to cry on she could ever have given me. This same woman raised me to be godly, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind...and to let nothing come between me and my God. She taught my Sunday school class when my twin sister (Danielle) and I were younger, cooked Sunday meals, worked 40-60 hours a week, managed the church finances, sung in the choir, and worked hard, as they say, to “bring home the bacon.” She was a loving and wonderful daughter to her parents, a great sister, and an amazing friend to me and all those who knew her. Yes, folks---this woman is still the queen of my heart after all this time. Her name is Teressa A. Richardson.

On February 3, 2009, mom went home to be with the Lord after having battled breast cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer for a span of three years. I have cried so many tears since she left me; and I’ve cried a lot of them lately. For those who may not know, I graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC on May 20, 2011, where I received my Master of Divinity degree in Christian Apologetics...and I missed her so much that day. I cried all during the service, and I’ve been crying every day since.

Today at the blog is set aside to honor this amazing woman of God, a warrior who has fought the good fight, finished her course, and kept the faith. As I began to think on what I would say about mom, I remembered a favorite passage of hers that she always discussed with her children, parents, and church members. That passage today will be the above quoted passage: Luke 12:16-21.

The context of the passage involves the story of two brothers, one who wanted the Lord to make the other divide the inheritance with him. Jesus tells them that life is about more than possessions. And the parable quoted above fits in at this ideal moment.

There was a rich man who had so much wealth that he just didn’t know what to do with it. Now, it’s no secret that he was blessed. The text tells us that his “ground” (or field) “yielded plentifully.” This means that everything grew. All of his crops that he planted prospered. For most farmers, to have everything sprout and grow would be a miracle indeed, considering the weather that we’ve been having in North Carolina all summer so far! The rich man had “the Midas touch”; everything he planted prospered. As mom used to say about her parents (my grandparents), “they have green thumbs.” The rich man had a “green thumb.” Nothing but prosperity, wealth, and blessing was in sight.

Now, you would think that at this moment, the man would decide to perform some act of kindness, some act of consideration for someone else other than himself. I’ve read this passage and stopped at this point to say, “Come on, rich man; stop and think. Think about all the poor people that needed food, clothing, shelter, etc. Think about those that needed some wood to warm the fire, or some food to carry them over until their next paycheck, or someone who needed a place to stay.” If his crops were doing that well, then surely, he had money to provide necessities for those who were less fortunate without asking for anything in return. Since the Lord had blessed his crops, you would think that the rich man would’ve gone and blessed someone else.

Mom, when teaching Sunday school, would say, “I just get tired of driving down the road every day, to and from work, and seeing all these beautiful two-story homes with nobody to live in them. Does it make sense to buy a two-story home if you’re the only person living in it? And what about the homeless who walk the streets everyday with no clothes, shoes, or food? Why is it that they have to walk by the rich person’s house everyday and see a reminder that the rich person has so much, but gives so little?” She always thought about helping others. When mom died, my twin and I discovered that she had been donating money to St. Jude children’s hospital to help them find cures for child illnesses. She never told us she was doing it; we never talked about it all that much. She just had St. Jude’s receive a portion of her check every month, automatic draft. The money would go to the less fortunate, and she didn’t mind it. She was blessed to have a Batchelor of Arts degree in Accounting and Economics from Duke University (class of 1978), and she was a senior accountant at the corporate plant she worked for. Mom had a job with great benefits and great pay. She wasn’t concerned about the money that was leaving. It was a small price to pay to be a blessing to children who really needed it more than Danielle and me.

But the rich man did not think about it. For him, any amount was too high to pay to bless someone else. He was only concerned about blessing himself. Do you know that so many church members do the same thing today, when they refuse to tithe a percentage of their earnings to the Lord, when they refuse to give God the firstfruits of their financial increase? Do you realize that, when we do not give to God’s church, we are robbing God? Do you not understand that, when we refuse to give financially, we are starving the poor, making the naked go without clothing, the sick children without medicine, the homeless without a home, etc.? Do you understand that, when we refuse to give financially (not just to the church but to the needy and less fortunate), we are acting just like the rich man---as if we could care less?

Well, he couldn’t care less, really...so he decided to do what all greedy people do: instead of thinking “go smaller,” he decided, “I know what I’ll do; I’ll do it bigger this time!” So he decided to tear down the barns he had (which were overflowing) and build bigger ones. I think that he should’ve looked at the bigger barns and gotten the hint. But greediness clouds sound judgment...and when someone is greedy through and through, there’s nothing anyone can do to turn them around.

But little did he know that, although he would plan to build those bigger barns, he would not get to enjoy them. The very night he intended to lay down, eat, drink, and be merry, the Lord required him to stand before Him and be judged for what he had done with his life. Isn’t that interesting? Instead of spending his last moments making a difference, he decided to spend his last moments on earth thinking about himself. He had studied “ME-ology” way too much!!!

How many times have we heard of stories of individuals doing the same things? How many times have we heard of people making plans to do much of nothing...and then, dying the very night the plans are made? One of my mother’s coworkers had planned to move to the company headquarters. He and his wife had gotten the UHaul, packed it, and were driving to Indiana where he was scheduled to get a bigger job with better benefits. He was not saved though, and all that week leading up to his departure, the Lord sent men and women to witness to him about the Lord, His gospel, and the need for this man to be saved and turn from sin to salvation. The man would listen to the pleas, but he did not respond. The last day at work, the women in the finance department (where my mother worked) witnessed to him again, but no response. Finally, it was after he and his wife got to Indiana that he died. He stepped out of the truck, pulled down the back of the truck to begin unpacking, and fell dead right on the grass with a heart attack. He had been planning to enjoy the new job, new promotion, and new home...but he did not get one hour to enjoy it!!

And this is what happens to folks when they are rich in material possessions, and not rich where it counts---toward God. Mom was rich toward God. She loved the Lord with all her heart, served Him with all of her strength, and put Him before everyone else in her life. I sure hate that each and every one of you never got the chance to know her here. She had a relationship with the Lord that just made you envy her walk with God. I’ve been around a lot of people in my life...but very few have ever made me jealous of their walk with the Lord. Mom was one of those people.

If she could talk to us today, if she could speak a word to those who are reading, she would say, “Be rich toward God. Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Be busy doing the work of the Lord. Serve Him fervently, and put Him before all things. Acknowledge His goodness and share His gospel with the lost of the world. And one day, when the Lord returns for you, you will hear the words, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.’” My prayer for us all is that we will be busy doing the Lord’s work, always abounding in the work of the Lord...in this way our labor will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). God bless.