Dear Friend in Christ:
Recently, I was having lunch with a close Pastor friend in another city. We were talking about another brother in the Lord, and what a tremendous blessing that brother is to so many people. This pastor friend shared how, more than 25 years ago, the Lord led him to invest time and pastoral care in that brother and his family. I knew this was true, and I have always marveled at how the pastor’s investment has resulted in multiplied fruit in and through this brother’s life.
You have heard that our global economy is going through a very difficult time. Most of us are experiencing this. Some advisors tell us this is a bad time to be making investments. I’m here to tell you that these advisors aren’t telling you the whole story. This is an excellent time to invest! We need to ask the Lord for wisdom on where and how to invest, but I can promise you that an investment in His Kingdom purpose will produce a great harvest that will bless many.
Knowing where to sow our time, energy, and resources is vital information. Furthermore, our perspective on our resources and the circumstances will help us better understand where and how to sow. Thanksgiving to God clears our vision and reminds us that all of our resources come from Him and belong to Him, and that our circumstances are in His hands.
YET I WILL REJOICE
The prophet Habakkuk reminds us of a time when circumstances were very difficult in Israel. In the book, Habakkuk and God have had a dialog about more trouble to come, and Habakkuk doesn’t like the news. However, he expresses his faith in the Lord and rejoices in the Lord, even in trials.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, though I have to admit, one time when I preached out of Habakkuk 3, I misquoted verse 19: “And He will make me walk on my high heels!” The congregation found my gaffe so amusing, it pretty much ended the sermon for that day. However, this passage remains precious to me because it is so relevant for our times.
Habakkuk understands that worship and faith are not rooted in circumstances, but in God’s covenant faithfulness. Our hope is not based on what we see or feel in the moment. It is rooted in the eternal faithfulness of God and His proven Word. Habakkuk says that no matter how difficult things get, I will rejoice in the Lord. In fact, he says, I will “joy” in the God of my salvation. He uses “joy” as a verb.., the word here means “to jump and dance” because of our joy and confidence in God’s salvation.
The prophet declares that though our eyes may not yet see it, we can rejoice, because in eternity—in God’s Sovereign plan—it is already done. This kind of confidence cannot be faked or worked up or hyped up. It is the flowering of faith which bursts forth in the midst of the most adverse trials. We rejoice, even in the midst of our difficulties, because our confidence in God will be vindicated.
James, the brother of our Lord, put it this way: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:2-6).
We rejoice, not in the pain, but in the gain that we know is coming. When I’m on the bench press and don’t have enough strength to lift the bar off of my chest, it doesn’t make me happy. When my arms are burning and shaking like a leaf, I’m not arrogant. What makes me rejoice is that I know that muscle is being built, fat is being burned, and strength is growing that will serve me well in the long-term.
The Apostle Paul, no stranger to difficulty himself, reminds us: “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Jesus endured the Cross, according to Hebrews 12, because of the joy that was set before Him. God didn’t call me to preach a theology of cheap grace, sloppy salvation, following fads, or glib bumper stickerisms. We declare a theology of joy that is rooted in God’s Covenant Word, ratified in the blood of Jesus on the Cross and in His glorious Resurrection, and His promised Return. We rest in the knowledge that even now, Jesus sits at the Right Hand of the Father praying for us. Our theology instructs us to take up our cross and follow Jesus … that whosoever would save their life must first lose it for His sake. It is a theology that is built for storms and earthquakes. Covenant is not made for times of ease. Wedding vows are made for better or worse … richer or poorer … whether worthy or unworthy. God’s covenant faithfulness to us in Christ, working through us, will carry us “through fiercest drought and storm.”
It is not because we enjoy pain, but that we hold to a truth that transcends and overcomes pain. By faith, we can see a redemptive purpose in pain and rejoice in God’s faithfulness always. God has made covenant with us, and we with Him … but it is His Covenant that holds us … His faithfulness empowers us to be faithful.
NOTHING IS TOO DIFFICULT FOR GOD
Jeremiah lived in the darkest days of Israel as the nation was disintegrating. He and the other faithful prophets of God had warned the people, but few received him, and they were angry at his words. Finally, Jerusalem came under siege from the massive Babylonian army. Defeat was imminent, starvation was reality, and captivity and slavery loomed large for the people trapped behind the walls.
Not only was Jeremiah stuck in Jerusalem, but he was even under arrest for speaking God’s Word. In the middle of this awful situation, his cousin showed up, offering to sell land to Jeremiah. The land was likely already under Babylonian control and seemed worthless. Silver was in very short supply, and Jeremiah was not a rich man. It didn’t seem to be a good deal at all.
But the Lord told Jeremiah to buy the land. Jeremiah did exactly as the Lord said, paid the money, and signed the deed. Then he told his assistant Baruch to seal the deeds in clay jars and preserve them. Jerusalem was about to fall, Babylon was about to take over, bad things were happening … and Jeremiah was investing in land that seemed worthless! But it was a prophetic sign to the people … one day, the land would be redeemed. Houses would once more be built, grain would grow again in the fields, vineyards would be planted and bring forth fruit. Jeremiah had prophesied judgment and destruction, but now he prophesied hope, and beyond hope, he offered worship:
“Now when I had delivered the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:16-17).
We serve a God Who routinely makes the impossible … possible. Sarah laughed when the angel of the Lord told her she would have a son in her old age. The angel asked, “Is anything too hard for God?” Not only did she have a son, but she named him Isaac, which means “laughter.” The angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive a Son by the Holy Spirit. She said, “Be it unto me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with God!
If we only act in accordance with the things we see with our natural eyes and hear with our natural ears, we will miss out on the most fundamental reality of all. We will squander unprecedented opportunity, not even realizing it exists, and our opportunity will be given to others. God’s purpose in the earth will be fulfilled; do we want to be a part of His plan?
True vision is the ability to see above and beyond limited sightlines. It is to transcend space and time, to see that which is ahead, just around the bend. When asked about the secret of his Hall of Fame Hockey skills, “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky quoted his father and coach, who said: “Go to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.”
In Matthew 6, The Greatest One, Jesus Christ, gave us this advice when considering our own investments of time, energy, and money: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
A GRAIN OF WHEAT
In a day when everything that can be shaken will be shaken, we do not want to invest in that which can be easily destroyed. Too often, we fall prey to the urgent demands of the temporal without listening to the voice of the Spirit and looking at His eternal Kingdom.
Wise investment is costly. It not only requires money, but also time, energy, and prayer. This is especially true when we invest in the lives of others. But, remember the testimony I shared at the beginning of this letter? When we give ourselves to relationships and causes where the Spirit of God has directed us, our “seed” is multiplied. The resources we invest in His Kingdom grow, not diminish. Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24).
In this time of shaking, many may be tempted to retreat, or to merely hoard our seed. But God is calling us to step out in faith, to invest where He is investing, and so enjoy the harvest that is to come. Whether you are sharing the Gospel, mentoring a young person, tithing to your local church, giving to a ministry, or serving your community, when we do it all “as unto the Lord,” He is pleased, and He supplies our needs.
Thank you for standing with us in your prayers and in your giving. Thank you for your friendship and fellowship. We would humbly ask you to seek the Lord regarding how best to stand with CSM this month. We are sowing our seed into lives and ministries worldwide. Please let us know how we can serve you in ministry, whether in travel or in prayer. We love you and thank God for you!
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.