Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Letting God Set Your Priorities

Leslie Basham: A popular slogan of past decades really captured the priorities of Arthur DeMoss. Here’s his daughter, Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: "Jesus First" was not just for him a lapel pin that you saw back some years ago. It was a way of life because he believed the greatest wealth in all the world was knowing God and being right with God. So he lived out this “Jesus first” thing in every area of his life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, August 31.

Nancy: One of the most significant events in my life took place 30 years ago tomorrow on September the 1st, 1979, when my dad died suddenly of a heart attack on the weekend of my 21st birthday—by far the greatest influence in my life has been that of my dad.

So this week I’m doing a lot of reflecting, thinking about his life and the legacy that he has left for me. Some of the things he taught me that have been foundational throughout my adult life—simple lessons really. Things like:

  • Take God seriously.
  • Start your day with God. 
  • Little things matter a lot.
  • The choices you make today will have consequences.
  • Then, I can hear him reminding us over and over again that the wise person asks for advice and listens to godly counsel.
  • He encouraged us to guard our hearts and to be intentional about the influences that we would allow to come into our minds and hearts.
  • And then, in so many different ways, he challenged my six brothers and sisters and me not just to spend our lives, but to invest them.
  • He reminded us that one day we will give account for how we’ve managed the resources that God has entrusted to us—our time, our talent, and our treasure.

And then, I suppose if there is one area where my life has been most profoundly touched by my dad’s teaching and example, it would be in the matter of giving.

Several years ago when I was asked to speak on the subject of giving at a conference called Generous Giving, my mind raced immediately to my dad. I felt it would be fitting that night to talk about my dad and to share what I learned from him about establishing godly priorities and about God’s perspective in material prosperity and on the whole subject of giving.

Today and tomorrow on the broadcast, as we mark this 30th anniversary of my dad’s homegoing, I want to share this message that I gave several years ago.

My prayer is that it will help you think throught the legacy that you are leaving for your children, for your grandchildren, and for others who are following in your steps.

Nancy (conference): We’re talking about a subject this weekend that I am passionate about, and it’s because it’s a subject that God is passionate about—giving. It’s the heart of God!

You think about how generous God is and how central giving is to God’s great and grand redemptive purposes in this world. It’s all about giving.

We are never more like Jesus than when we’re giving. As the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “It’s the style of our giving that proves the sincerity, the genuineness of the love we profess for Christ and for others.”

I do want tonight to share another testimony with you—not so much my own—as the one that has most shaped my own life and testimony, and that is something of the story of my dad, Art DeMoss, who is probably my greatest personal hero.

Although, I have to say, one of my new greatest, or newest greatest heroes is George Mueller. I have just finished reading—it took me most of last year—the 700 page, little tiny print, newly reprinted after 100 years out of print, autobiography of George Mueller. What a blessing it has been, not only in faith and prayer and believing God in the ministry, but his example of generous giving.

It just all goes together. In fact, I had actually planned to speak on George Mueller tonight and then changed the direction. So I’m going to speak about a modern day George Mueller, a man of faith, my dad Art DeMoss, who went to be with the Lord in 1979.

Some of you have asked about my background, and I think after I share tonight some snapshots out of his life, you will understand me better and what drives my life is so much the fruit of what drove his life.

I appreciated the three words that Darrell opened with last night: purpose, legacy, and eternity. I thought, those are the words that describe Art DeMoss:

  • a man of purpose driven by a purpose far different than that of most businessmen that I’ve known
  • a man who longed to live a legacy and to leave a legacy that was far greater than the insurance empire that he amassed in his 20-some years in the business world before he went to be with the Lord
  • a man who lived his life day in and day out in the light of eternity.

I’m particularly burdened to share with you tonight from a daughter’s heart. I’m thinking of many of you who have children. Some of you have grown sons and daughters and grandchildren, some of you your children are younger.

My prayer for you would be that your sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be able one day to say of you the kinds of things that I’d like to share with you tonight about my dad.

I know that you want to leave a mark on your children, and you want your children to have a heart for God. I think if you’ll just listen to this glimpse out of this man’s life, you’ll see how that really can be true.

Art DeMoss was by no means a perfect man. As a man of God, as a husband, as a father, he had many flaws, and he would have been the first to acknowledge that. But one thing that stood out about this man to everyone who knew him—and several of you in this room did know or did have the privilege of knowing my dad. The thing that would stand out to anyone who knew him was that he was a man who was sold out to Christ 110%, a man of wholehearted devotion and passion for Christ, a man of one consuming passion, a man of one Lord.

His favorite hymn was “Jesus, I My Cross have Taken, All to Leave and Follow Thee.” And that just summed it up. He was not always a man with a heart for God.

In fact, in his teenage years and into his early twenties, he was a rascal, a wild man, a rebel, a gambler, a man always on search for thrills and excitement, rebellious against authority.

But on Friday, October the 13th, 1950, the Lord got him into a place where he heard the Gospel presented. In God’s providence, his eyes were opened, not searching for God, but God the hound of heaven searching for him, had pursued him, found him in this old-time Gospel evangelistic preaching meeting, and he came to faith.

He repented of his sins, came to faith in Christ. It was an utterly transforming experience for him. Now, I think that was the way it was intended to be for all of us when we come to faith in Christ, but he never looked back.

In fact, that old song describes his life: “I’ve decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.” And there was no turning back from that point on. He had a new life, served a new King, was under new ownership, had a new Lord, had a new mission, a new purpose in life.

Everything belonged to the Lord. All his rights, his future, everything, his life was under new ownership. As a young man in his late twenties, he’d always been interested in business and had many of these, illegal before he became a believer. He began to get into more respectable types of business.

He loved business, and he was good at it and was a marketing genius. He pioneered in the direct mail and mass-marketing of health and life insurance. Some of you are old enough to remember the Art Linkletter commercials for insurance from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

He was the first person who sold insurance without agents, which was quite controversial in those days, but he succeeded at it. He started the business in the late 1950s. It became very successful.

But in the process of building that business, he was a man of one purpose: to glorify God and to advance God’s kingdom here on earth. That is all that really, really mattered to him. That’s what got him up in the morning.

That’s what kept him in the business. That’s what kept him going. He was a man who lived in light of eternity, and he wanted to leave a legacy that was infinitely larger than National Industry Corporation that he knew would be long forgotten, but wanted to take and send ahead to heaven true spiritual riches.

I have in my hands a piece of paper—it’s actually a copy of a paper my dad wrote. It’s in his chicken scratching here. It’s dated April 4, 1977. At the top, he wrote, “What are my lifetime goals?”

He listed five. The first was a certain amount of money that he wanted to be able to give away. It’s a figure that would make even most successful businessmen gasp, but in God’s providence and as a result of some wise stewardship and planning, he will be able in the lifetime of his children, in fact now, has given far more than that and will be able to give much more than what he had originally could, significant as that initial figure was.

And then he wrote, “What are my goals for the next three years?” And interestingly this: “If I knew I were to die in six months?”

The three-year goals and the six-month thinking both centered around his goal to extricate himself from his business. He wanted to give that great amount of money, but he wanted to get out of the business so that he would have more time, even more time, to devote to the Lord’s work.

What he didn’t know when he wrote those notes was that within three years, he would be in the presence of the Lord. He didn’t have three years here left to fulfill those goals. He was 51 when he wrote those goals. At the age of 53, he went to be with the Lord.

He was a man who was on a pathway to fulfilling—and did fulfill in his lifetime—God’s purpose for his life.

I think to many of the valuable and powerful lessons that he taught us. I’m the first-born of seven children. He and my mom decided for their first five years of marriage, they wouldn’t have any children.

Within five years, they had six children! I had just turned five when number six was born, and you’ll try to figure out how this one was possible—I was one year old and the oldest of three with no twins, and life was, needless to say, exciting in those days.

Of course, that meant we had six teenagers at once, too. The older I get, the more I admire my mom and the role that she had as his helper and partner and lover and friend in so many ways.

But my dad was definitely the leader in our home, spiritually and in every way. He was such a living illustration of the principles that he taught us about money and possessions and values. I just want to highlight what some of those principles were that stick in my mind.

The first had to do with the fact that money cannot make you happy. He really believed that. I remember a Jewish business man who was a friend of my dad’s. He came to him one day and said, “You know, I would write a check for one million dollars [which this man could have done at the time] if I could just have the peace that you have.”

My dad knew from a lot of the acquaintances that he had and from his background before Christ that there’s no amount of money in the world that can make you happy if you don’t have the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ.

He believed that money can’t buy the most important things in life. Money can buy houses and land and cars and expensive vacations and designer clothes and condos, but money can’t buy a clear conscience.

It can’t buy right relationships in your family. It can’t buy peace. It can’t buy the ability to sleep at night. He knew those things come from the Lord and are a gift from God.

He also believed that wealth can be a curse, and he spent a lot of time trying to educate us as his children on the potential pitfalls of prosperity. For example, the Scripture teaches that money can actually keep a man out of heaven, as it did with some that Jesus spoke with.

First Timothy chapter 6 talks about the curse of loving money. Those who will be rich, who are driven to be rich, "fall into temptation and a snare and to many foolish and hurtful lusts and drown men in destruction and perdition" (verse 9, NKJV)

We grew us hearing scripture like that read in our home. Proverbs 11: “He who trusts in his riches shall fall” (vers 28). It’s axiomatic. You try to trust in your riches, you’re going to be insecure. You will fall.

My dad taught us those things. He taught us Luke chapter 8 that talks about how the cares and the riches and pleasures of this life can choke out the Word of God in our lives and cause us to become unfruitful (see verses 4-15).

I can still, in my mind’s eye, see and hear him reading to us that passage from Deuteronomy chapter 8, as the Children of Israel were getting ready to go into the promised land, and God warned them to be careful when they would experience the blessings of God—careful lest they would forget to thank God (see verses 11-20).

Their hearts would become lifted up, and they would become proud and forget God. I can hear my dad reading that passage to us and challenging us not to forget God in the midst of His blessings.

The potential pitfalls of prosperity, the danger of bitterness in the face of loss. It makes so much sense. He taught us the more you have, the more things you can lose, and the more you love those things, the more it hurts to lose them; so the greater the potential for bitterness, the greater the danger of working all your life to accumulate material goods in this life and then ending up in the next life with nothing of value to show for your years here on earth.

And the morning of September 1, 1979, my dad would have been in the eyes of many, a fabulously wealthy man. But mid-afternoon that day, as he had a heart attack and was instantly in the presence of the Lord, he didn’t take any of it with him.

All he took was the souls, the lives, the treasure that he had sent on ahead from investing in the Kingdom of God. And let me just say by the way, my dad believed so strongly in the potential pitfalls of prosperity that he taught us and then put into practice that he did not believe that parents should leave a massive financial inheritance to their children.

He believed they should leave a massive spiritual inheritance, and he tended to that and was very intentional about it. He made it clear that his intent was not to leave massive amounts of money to his children.

He knew it could and had wrecked many young people’s lives and second generation, third generation of accumulated wealth.

Now, he believed that wealth doesn’t have to be a curse, that it can be a blessing. As I’ve looked at my dad’s life, I’ve asked myself what accounts for God’s great blessing in his life? Let me just share several things that come to mind.

The first and obvious quality is that he put God in everything. "Jesus First" was not just for him a lapel pin that you saw back some years ago. It was a way of life, because he believed that the greatest wealth in all the world was knowing God and being right with God.

So he lived out this Jesus first thing in every area of his life. He believed in giving to God the first part of every day. In the first year of his Christian life, someone challenged him to begin giving to God the first hour of every day in the Word and in prayer.

He took that challenge. From that day until the day he went to heaven 28 years later, he never missed one single day—not one of giving to God the first hour of every day in the Word and in prayer.

They travelled a lot. He was extremely busy. But it didn’t matter who he had to meet, where he’d been the night before, where he had to go that day, the number one priority in his day was seeking God first.

Can I just say to you dads, there is nothing that will make an impact on the lives of your children and your grandchildren (and by the way, it’s not too late to start) than your kids having that image of a dad on his knees.

I don’t know how many kneeling pads he wore out over the years. You know what? I don’t know anything about business. I know less about insurance, but I know something about God.

I love God’s Kingdom, and I love His ways, and it’s because of a dad who put God first. And I’ll tell you what. When I wake up in the morning and I am tempted, as I am most days, to hit the day running with my to-do list, I’ve got an indelible impression in my mind of a dad who put God first in his day.

It’s like a tether to my life, calling me to put God first in my life. There’s nothing like it in the lives of your children.

Nancy (live): We’ve just been listening to the first part of a message that I shared years ago at a Generous Giving conference where I talked about the legacy that my dad gave to me and to my six brothers and sisters.

Since tomorrow commemorates the 30th anniversary of my dad’s homegoing, I thought it would be fitting to share that message on Revive Our Hearts this week.

In just a few days, I’ll be turning 51. As I think about the fact that my dad was just 53 years of age when the Lord chose to suddenly take him home to heaven, it’s a powerful reminder that we don’t know how much time we have left.

We don’t know how many days or months or years the Lord may give us to serve Him and to impact the lives of those around us.

So as I’ve listened to this message again, I’ve been challenged to consider, “What am I putting first in my life?” And let me ask you that question.

  • What are you putting first in your life? 
  • And maybe more importantly, what would your children say really matters to you? Is it your work? Making money? Hobbies? Friendships? What do they think really matters to you?

If the Lord were to take you home today or next week or next month, what kind of impact would be left on the lives of those who know and love you? Those in your immediate family, the people you go to church with, the people you work with and so on.

What is your purpose for living, and have you settled the issue that your life exists for the sake of the glory and the Kingdom of God? That nothing else really matters?

I’m so glad to have that piece on paper on which my dad took time to write out his goals for the next three years and to answer that question, “If I knew I were to die in the next six months, what would I want to do?”

That piece of paper has been a powerful tool in my own life as I’ve considered the shortness of life and the importance of not wasting it, but investing in a way that will count for eternity.

And so, again let me ask you: What are your goals for the next three years? Maybe you haven’t thought a lot about that recently. But now would be a good time, whether you’re 18 or 28 or 58 or 78, Just ask the Lord what are the goals that are on His heart for you in this season of life and perhaps to answer that question: “If I knew I were to die in six months, what would I want to do differently?”

Now, I’m not suggesting that we ought to live obsessed with thinking about death or the end of our lives, but I do think it’s a helpful exercise every once in a while to stop and take stock about how short life is and how little time we have.

In fact, shortly after my dad’s death, my mom discovered in his nightstand, a little piece of paper on which he had written a verse from Psalm 90:12, the prayer of Moses, that says, “Teach us, Lord, to number our days" and to realize how few they are, and help us to spend them as we should.”

And Lord, that is my prayer as I reflect on the life of my dad. I thank You for the legacy, the example of his life and how it’s not only impacted me but so many thousands of others as well. Only eternity will show the extent and the impact of that legacy.

Lord, I pray You would help me to live in a way that recognizes how short time really is, that our life is just a breath and that all that really matters is that we spend our lives pleasing You, serving You, furthering Your Kingdom.

I pray for our listeners. I ask, O Lord, that You would use this testimony of a man of faith, a man of God, Art DeMoss; that You’d use it to spur on and challenge and encourage men and women and teenagers and older people and even children who may be listening today to think about how they want their lives to count in the light of eternity. I pray in Jesus name, amen.

Tomorrow we’re going to share the second part of the message that I gave about my dad and the Generous Giving conference several years ago.

It occurs to me that you might like to have a copy of that message to share with someone else, perhaps a grown son or daughter, a dad, or a businessman that you know. We’d be glad to send that CD to you when you send a donation of any amount to us here at Revive Our Hearts.

When you send that gift, we’ll not only send you the CD of A Father’s Legacy, but we’ll also send a booklet I’ve compiled called, “A Legacy of Giving.”

In this booklet I share insights that I’ve gleaned from my father’s life on the subject of priorities and prosperity and Christian stewardship.

As you give to support this ministry, let me just remind you that you’ll be leaving a mark, a legacy, in the lives that will be touched, perhaps for generations to come, as we continue calling women to experience freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: Ask for the CD and the booklet, “A Legacy of Giving,” when you call to donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate online, and you’ll get the CD and booklet, as well. Our site is ReviveOurHearts.com.

Like Nancy said, we’ll hear more on Arthur DeMoss’ legacy tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Versioni unless otherwise noted.

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