Title: Experiencing More in Life
Scripture: Luke 19:1-10
by Lyle Pointer
Proposition or Theme Sentence: Accomplishment and success will only lead to despair unless one finds him/herself in a loving relationship with God.
Purpose: To convince "successful" people of their need for a loving relationship with God.
Introduction: My Story, Part I
1. Mark and I decided to join the basketball team.
a. We worked hard, learned basketball skills.
b. We both saw only a few minutes of playing time each game.
c. I realized that my skills did not match up to the other boys.
d. I only scored four points in the whole season.
2. Mark went to a different school for Junior High and I was alone.
a. I played basketball again, but only played a few minutes per game.
b. At the end of the season the coach promised us that we would start if we returned for the next season.
c. Before the next season a friend said to me, "You are not going to start. There is a new coach."
d. I knew what he meant-I wasn't good enough.
e. I gave up basketball.
3. Junior High was a difficult time.
a. I didn't have in-style clothes, or listen to the popular music, movies, etc.
b. I did not feel accepted or liked by my peers
c. I received my first report card and had earned all A's.
4. I gave myself to studying and making good grades.
a. I set a goal to be the Valedictorian of my graduation class.
b. I spent hours studying, writing papers, taking tests, earning every point of extra credit available.
c. I enrolled in every college-prep. class made available to me.
d. When I graduated I was Valedictorian.
e. I felt good, successful, and at the top of my game.
5. I continued my study habits in college
a. I pulled frequent all-nighters.
b. I spent so much time studying that I didn't make time for fun.
c. I was lonely.
d. I was fatigued.
e. My life was an emotional roller-coaster of due dates and test dates.
f. "I was at the top of my game, but I was tired, frustrated and lonely.
-Transition- "I share this because I feel that there might be others who are in similar circumstances and feel as I did. In fact, I think the Bible tells about a person who might have been feeling like I did."
The Story of Zacchaeus
1. We don't know much about Zacchaeus except that he was a tax collector.
a. I can imagine that at some point he decided he was going to be successful and/or rich.
b. A tax collector was like a modern collections agent.
i. The Roman government contracted the tax collections to individuals
ii. These individuals were allowed to collect extra money for profit.
iii. "Successful" tax collectors became rich by collecting exorbitant amounts of profit.
iv. Zacchaeus was a "chief" tax collector and had agents working for him.
v. We know that Zacchaeus was very successful at collecting taxes and was, therefore, very rich.
vi. In the eyes of many he was probably considered to be very successful.
c. I can imagine that Zacchaeus was also very lonely.
i. Tax collectors were hated by the people
d. I can imagine that Zaccheus was made fun of for being short.
e. I can imagine him thinking, "There must be more to life than this.
2. Then one day a popular religious teacher passed through his town.
a. Zacchaeus wanted to see him.
i. He may have been just curious.
ii. He may also have been hoping that Jesus might help him with his frustrations.
b. Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to be see Jesus.
c. Jesus approached Zacchaeus and told him to come down.
i. He invited himself to Zacchaeus' home.
ii. I believe God had been working on Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus was more than happy to have Jesus visit him.
iii. This was a significant act of love for Jesus to visit such a sinner.
3. Later that day Zacchaeus responded to Jesus' love.
a. He proclaimed that he will make restitution to everyone he has cheated.
b. Jesus filled the emptiness in his life and he no longer needed a large bank account to make him feel good.
Transition: Like Zacchaeus I was lonely.
Conclusion: My Story Part II
1. God began to show me how to accept his love.
a. I began to really know what it means to be loved by God.
b. I no longer needed the earn the best grades in order to feel good about myself.
c. I knew that God loved me and accepted me regardless of my grades or success.
2. I can imagine that there are others who can relate to our stories
a. Maybe you are like Zacchaeus- wealthy and successful.
b. Maybe you are like me- striving to be the best, to be on top- and you are lonely.
c. Maybe you are thinking, "There has to be more to life than this."
d. Maybe you love to play sports, but your body will not cooperate like it used to.
e. Maybe you have prided yourself on your children, but now that they are gone you don't know what to do.
f. God is reaching out to you, drawing you to him.
Is God saying to you, "You would really like to get to know me, wouldn't you?" God loves you and wants you to know and love him. Will you come in humility and brokenness and say, "God, come into my life. I need you."
Mark and I were going to be superstars! Mark and I were school friends and went over to each other's houses every so often and hung out. And we decided that we were going to go out for basketball together. Someone had just given him a nice pair of basketball shoes and he was ready to go. We were both somewhat nervous about playing basketball for the first time but having each other on the team was a bit comforting. We worked hard in basketball, learning how to do lay-ups, bounce passes, how to dribble without looking at the ball, and all the other skills necessary to be a successful fifth-grade basketball player. We suited up for our games every Saturday and saw a little bit of playing time, but I quickly realized that my skills did not match up to the other boys. In fact, in that first season I only scored four points. The next season was a little better. I scored six points in the first game and thought I was on fire! But my fire was quickly extinguished and I only scored a few more points during the rest of the season.
Then came Junior High. Mark went to another school and was no longer on my team. I was playing again with the other boys from my first year of ball. We never seemed to pull ahead of the other teams enough for the coach to put in the non-starting players. So I sat the bench and enjoyed about two minutes of action each game, with the same results-only a few points on the season. But I knew that next year would be different. For the coach promised us that those who played in 7th grade and came back the next year would be starters. I looked around and knew that I would at least get to start the games. The months passed and a new school year began. A classmate asked me if I planned on playing ball again. I said, "yes". "You're not going to start, you know," he said.
I retorted, "Yes I am. The Coach said that whoever played last year gets to start this year."
"There is a new coach this year, though. So you won't get to start," he replied. I knew what he meant. Everyone knew that I was not very good. Not good enough to start. Not good enough to score more than a few points on the season. So I gave up basketball.
Junior High was a very difficult time for me. I was growing faster than my parents' clothing budget could keep up and generally did not feel liked or accepted by my peers. I didn't listen to their music, I didn't watch their television shows, I wasn't invited to their parties and almost lived in a different world. Then at the end of the first semester I received my report card. To my amazement I had earned straight "A's". By some miracle I was able to participate in an advanced math class and then earned an "A." My English teacher moved me into the Advanced English class halfway through the first Semester and I somehow earned an "A" in the new class. And yes, even in physical education class I somehow managed to earn an "A." I realized that while I wasn't the best basketball player in the world, I was able to get good grades by sheer hard work. I had been to the graduation of one of my cousins and learned what a Valedictorian was. And I saw how they were honored and revered at the graduation ceremony. And I determined at the end of that semester that I would be the valedictorian of my class when graduation day came. So I worked and worked. I completed every assignment. I studied for every test. I earned every point of extra credit point possible. I enrolled in every college preparatory class that was offered. Every year I received certificates and awards for outstanding work and grades. My teachers liked me. My classmates cheated off by looking at my test answers. They asked me for help. On the night of the senior awards ceremony I was honored as the top student in both the math and science divisions. At home I had a letters from two private colleges offering me half-tuition scholarships to their schools. And on the night of graduation I got to give the speech and everyone knew that I was the Valedictorian. And I'm sure that no one else cared about it as much as I did, but I cared. It meant that I was actually good at something. I was at the top. I was successful. And while I was not proud or boastful, and I knew that it was only with God's help that I was able to accomplish this, I felt really good about myself. I was at the top of my game.
Then I went to college. And since college was more difficult than high school I had to step it up a notch. I pulled frequent all-nighters, studied late almost every night. I read as much as possible. And I was able to do well. I loathed the A-minuses that blemished my report cards and decreased my grade point average. But I was still relatively near the top. But I soon learned that the proverb is very true- "It is lonely at the top." I was lonely. I spent so much time studying that I didn't make time for fun. I didn't make very many friends in the dorm, except to study with them. I was successful, but I was lonely. People probably admired my academic ability, but I wished I had lots of friends to hang out with. But I couldn't slack off on my grades, for how could I feel good about myself? How could I like myself?
Not only was I lonely, I was fatigued and stressed out. My life felt like a roller-coaster as I rode the ups and downs of due dates and test dates. I was at the top of my game, but I was tired, frustrated, and lonely.
I share this because I have this funny feeling that there may be others who feel like this. There have probably been people feeling like this for centuries. In fact, I think the Bible talks about a person who might have been feeling like this. His name was Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus lived about two thousand years ago somewhere in the area of what is now the country of Israel. We don't know anything about Zacchaeus' childhood, but I can imagine that at some point he decided he was going to be successful. Or maybe he didn't decide to be successful, but decided that he wanted to be rich. So he got a job as a collections agent. Well, they didn't really call it that back then, but the concept is largely the same. His official title was a "tax collector". His job was to collect taxes for the Roman government. Unfortunately the IRS of the Roman Government didn't have the conveniences of paper forms or electronic filing. They had to collect taxes in person. So they contracted their services to individuals who would collect the taxes for them. And Zacchaeus probably began his career like this. One day when he was young he probably did his calculations and put in a bid for the taxes of a certain area. The standard practice was for persons to offer their services in collecting taxes. They knew how much they had to collect for the government and in exchange for their services they were allowed to cover their own expenses and make a comfortable living. When taxes were due, the collectors were responsible for presenting the taxes they had collected. If they failed to collect enough, they had to make up the difference from personal funds. And if they were good at collecting, they were able to collect a lot more than they needed and were able to live very comfortably. Zacchaeus was probably one of these people. He knew how to get people to pay. And through the years he moved up the ranks and eventually became the "chief" tax collector, with many tax collectors under him doing his work for him. And as a result, he became very rich. We know this because the Bible tells us that he was very wealthy. And he was successful. He was good at his job, he had amassed a large amount of money, and was able to live comfortably. He was at the top of his game. But I can also imagine that he was lonely. As you can probably imagine, tax collectors were not liked very well. In fact, they were hated. And in the ancient Jewish culture they were considered the lowest of sinners. The people loathed the tax collectors. They saw them as thieves and extortioners-and indeed some of them were, maybe even Zacchaeus. Therefore they would not associate with them. So you can imagine Zacchaeus, successful, wealthy, and lonely. Not only was he lonely, we also know that he was short. Maybe that is what drove him to success. Maybe somewhere in his youth he read the statistic that short men tend to get paid less and promoted slower than tall men and determined to beat the odds. But even if he didn't, his shortness was probably an opportunity for many people to make fun of him. Maybe he was called "shorty" all the time. And I can imagine him thinking to himself, "There must be more to life than this."
Then one day a recently popularized religious teacher comes to town. Zacchaeus has heard reports about this man, how he heals people from all kinds of sicknesses and diseases. He has heard about how this man is able to teach with authority, yet he is so easy to understand and his stories are so thought-provoking. So Zacchaeus wants to see him. And at first we might think that Zacchaeus was merely curios. He wanted to see this man. But I tend to think that Zacchaeus was more than merely curios. Maybe he had a glimmer of hope that somehow this man might be able to help him, might have some good advice, some kind of answer. And the reason I think this is because of what Zacchaeus did in order to see Jesus. You see, because he was short he could not see over the crowds of people that had also come to see Jesus. So he ran ahead of the crowd to a place where it looked like Jesus was headed and he climbed up a small tree so that when Jesus passed by he could get a good glimpse of him. He really wanted to see Jesus.
And then something truly amazing happened. When Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was, he stopped, looked up at Zacchaeus in the tree and said, "Zacchaeus, come down. It is necessary for me to go to your house today." Now I don't think Jesus was giving him an order, but I think was saying, "Zacchaeus, you would like to come over today wouldn't you?" I believe Jesus knew that Zaccheus was lonely and searching for answers. I believe God had been working on Zacchaeus for some time and now Jesus wanted to spend time with him. And this is even more significant when we understand the culture. Back then, to go to someone's house, and share a meal with them was a sign of love and acceptance and friendship. So Zacchaeus came down and Jesus went to his house for the day.
And I can imagine Zacchaeus later in the day, after talking with Jesus, thinking to himself, "This man who claims to be God's Son loves me, a tax collector, and wants to get to know me? And in all humility Zacchaeus says to Jesus, "Lord, you don't know how wonderful this is. In fact this is better than all the money in the world, much of which is in my bank account-oh-which reminds me-I have cheated a lot of people all these years trying to get ahead and you have been so loving to me, I want to make up for it. So, I'll give half my money to the poor and repay with interest anyone whom I have cheated." For Zacchaeus met Jesus and Jesus filled the emptiness in his life, and he no longer needed a large bank account to make him feel good.
Like Zacchaeus I was lonely. And God began to show me that he loved me and wanted to get to know me. And I began to really know what it means to be loved by God. And I no longer needed the best grades to feel good about myself. For I knew that God loved me and accepted me regardless of my grades or my success.
I can only imagine that there others who can relate to our stories. Maybe you are like Zacchaeus and are wealthy and successful, but lonely. Maybe you are like I was-striving to the best, to be on top, but you are lonely, thinking that there has to be more to life than this. Maybe playing sports is your thing, but now your body won't cooperate like it used to, and you have aches and pains. Maybe you have prided yourself on your children, but now that they are gone you just don't know what to do with yourself. God is reaching out to you, drawing you to himself. Is he saying to you, "You would really like to get to know me wouldn't you?"
God loves you and wants to you to know and love him. Will you come in humility and brokenness and say, "God, come into my life. I need you."