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Living for What Matters Most

March 4, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 21:5-6 (NRSV)

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Focus

God made us with the ability to create and to appreciate things of beauty. But sometimes we can value things like physical appearance more than we should. By God’s grace, we need to learn to value things that really matter, things that will last. As you follow Jesus in this season of Lent, may you take time to examine your values and priorities. By God’s grace, may you learn to care most about the things that matter most.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

As Jesus was teaching in the temple during the last days of his life, he heard some people praising the physical beauty of the building, “how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God” (Luke 21:5). In response, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down” (Luke 21:6). In retrospect, we know that this very thing happened in A.D. 70, when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. (Today, in Jerusalem, some of the stones from the temple are still in the place they landed when they were thrown down by the Roman army.)

It’s easy to delight in and praise things of beauty. God made us with the ability to perceive beauty and to produce it. So there’s nothing wrong with taking joy in the physical beauty of a well-designed building. But we can go wrong if we pay so much attention to things like physical appearances that we fail to value things that will last forever.

The sanctuary of Irvine Presbyterian Church in 2007

I can understand the temptation to value things that won’t last, to tell you the truth. For sixteen years I was the senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Southern California. During my time there, the church built a new sanctuary and youth center. That was one of the most demanding and rewarding things I did as a pastor. My building committee and I worked tirelessly to design and build a worship space that was both reverent and welcoming, both economical and beautiful. The congregation was generous in their giving, enabling us to build and even to pay for the sanctuary.

Over the years we received dozens of compliments related to the sanctuary’s appearance. I was glad we could add such an impressive building to our neighborhood and that visitors would remark on the beauty of the interior. I took special pride in the work we had done and how it had turned out.

In retrospect, I’m still proud of the work we did building that sanctuary. And I’m glad that it continues to be used for the work of God’s kingdom, though the church I pastored has now been absorbed into another congregation, Shepherd’s Grove. Yet, as I look back on my time at that church, I rarely think about the appearance of our sanctuary. I do think often about what happened in that building, our corporate worship, baptisms, weddings, choral performances, and memorial services. I remember people who came to faith in Christ in that space. I think of those I had the privilege of helping to grow as disciples of Jesus through my preaching. And I remember how our sanctuary was a tool that helped us fulfill the mission God had given to us.

You don’t have to be a pastor to wrestle with valuing what really matters in life. You may, for example, have labored hard to make your home a place of architectural beauty. That’s great. But I expect you know that a gorgeous home is worth very little compared to a healthy, loving family living in it. We can live for so many things that, in the end, are like stones cast down: fame, fortune, popularity, physical appearance, and so forth. Yet, how much do we care about the things that really matter? Things like loving God and others, offering our lives in worship to God through everything we do, using our gifts to help the world be fruitful, seeking God’s justice for the oppressed and vulnerable, adding to the beauty of the world in a way that glorifies God, bearing witness to the good news of God’s grace in Christ, helping the body of Christ to be healthy and growing, etc.

As you follow Jesus in this season of Lent, may you take time to examine your values and priorities. By God’s grace, may you learn to care most about the things that matter most.

Reflect

When do you think it’s right to admire the physical beauty of something, and when is it not right? Why do you think so?

Are you tempted to value things that, in the end, really don’t matter? What are some of these things?

How are you living each day for the things that matter most of all?

Act

Set aside some time of quite to reflect on your values and priorities. See if you are giving undue attention or appreciation to things that don’t really matter. Ask the Lord for help as you do this, and then talk to him about what you discover.

Pray

Lord Jesus, thank you for the beautiful things that adorn our world. Thank you for creating us with the capacity to enjoy beauty, and even to make it.

But, Lord, help us not to over-value things that won’t last. May we invest our lives and our loves in things that really matter. Set us free from bondage to temporal delights, things like wealth, popularity, or our personal appeal. May we love most of all the things – and, indeed, the people – that you love. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

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