Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2009
KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE IN KNOWING WHAT IS TRULY VALUABLE AND WHAT IS NOT
We all invest; that is we exchange current resources for a future hope. We delay an immediate pleasure in order to receive a greater long term benefit. We may invest in education, business, stocks, or mere intangible possibilities, such as church, family, or some charitable activity. But we do invest.
Wrong investing – sacrificing now based upon a false hope – can bring disillusionment and disaster. When the “bubble bursts,” the consequence is bad. Such has been the case for many in the current world economy, leaving them with seemingly little to invest in the future. But as long as we live, we invest time and energy into the future.
Many people have become cynical about investing, and increasingly employ resources for immediate pleasure, investing in sensual stimulation, or temporary excitement. But such “investing” brings momentary results, followed by long term emptiness.
The Bible is the “ultimate handbook” on investing. It not only gives advice; it gives examples of those who invested these lives the right way or the wrong way. It points us to the blessings of sound, even eternal investing. I will give three examples of those who sacrificed immediate results for long-term blessings blessings that others would enjoy. That is the ultimate long-term investing. Indeed, these are blessings that we continue to enjoy today. If our descendants are to enjoy the blessings of God, then we must regain that mentality.
Joseph, son of Jacob, was a dreamer. Investors are dreamers. Good investors dream the right dreams, as did Joseph. He had a God-given dream that he would rule. This dream was a repeated, consistent, and determining factor in his life. As is often the case, that dream was not appreciated by his peers or parents. So he was hated, sold into slavery, imprisoned, and forgotten. But he never forgot his dream and kept a right attitude through it all. He had long-term confidence in God.
In the end, Joseph’s dream came to pass in unimaginable ways. He was promoted to Prime Minister in a foreign land, Egypt. He saved Egypt’s economy and his own family.
When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers became very concerned that Joseph would turn against them.
Since they had so mistreated him and now he was very powerful, that would be disastrous for them. But Joseph was not vengeful. In his success, he was gracious, even humble, because he understood God’s purpose in it all.
I will paraphrase four statements from Genesis 50 that Joseph made to his brothers that reflect his attitude toward them, toward God, and toward investing in life. We do well to heed his thoughts.
• I am not God-it is not my job to judge you.
• You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
• I will continue to be generous toward you and yours.
• God will visit us again after I am gone-take my bones with you (that is long term investing).
Books could be written on those statements and reveal why Joseph was a great leader-it was all about the God-dream, not about him. Great leaders are trustworthy in nature, decisive in action, visionary in purpose, wise in counsel, and humble in achievement. That describes Joseph.
Jeremiah is another classic example of someone whose hope was in a long-term outcome, even beyond his own lifespan. He foresaw devastating events and told them to his own hurt. Like most really good investors, he went against the grain of current thought. When others were buying, he sold. When others were selling, he bought.
Jeremiah saw that Babylon would destroy Jerusalem. He was called “the weeping prophet “. For his truth telling, he was imprisoned and cast into a pit. He may have ultimately been killed-we are not told. Nevertheless, he encouraged those who would hear, that the Lord would restore Jerusalem and that even in captivity they should invest in the future (Jeremiah 29:10-14).
But Jeremiah did more than telling others to invest; he also invested as well. The Lord told Jeremiah that he would have the opportunity to buy his uncle’s field, and that opportunity came. So, Jeremiah, in spite of his knowledge of short-term disaster, invested in long-term hope (see Jeremiah 32:1-15).
It is generally believed that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations. Recently, a friend called my attention to Lamentations chapter 3. Jeremiah was heartbroken over the immediate tragedies that would come both to Judah and to himself. He understood the justice of God and reason for it. But, he also understood the redemptive nature of God’s purpose. And he refers to both in detail.
In chapter 3, he reveals his ultimate confidence in God and makes statements that should comfort us in temporary trial.
•“His compassions do not fail” (verse 22).
•“Great is your faithfulness” (verse 23).
•“The Lord is my portion” (verse 24).
•“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (verse 25).
•“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (verse 26).
•“Let us lift our hearts and our hands to God in heaven” (verse 41).
In sorrow, Jeremiah maintains perspective. In that regard, he demonstrates long-term investment wisdom. Investors are prophets; some are true prophets, others are false prophets. True prophets and true investors do not allow their perspectives to bounce with the daily market, or situation. They maintain a God-view that allows them to see beyond current crisis; they buy while others sell.
Now let us look to the Ultimate Investor, Jesus Christ our Lord. His long-term view is unparalleled! Jesus also lived in difficult times: Roman rule, poverty, religious hypocrisy, and a litany of misery. Yet, He understood the Father’s purpose to use difficulty to break us out into the entire world.
Though He foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem, persecution, and sorrows, He saw beyond all of that to the redemption of multitudes beyond the city walls. The “walls” had to fall in order for God’s purpose to be fulfilled. He said harsh things to those who only invested in present personal interests, but said good things to those who would invest in the Father’s long-term plan.
Then, of course, came the Cross, the ultimate investment. He literally endured the curse of the Cross in order to bless us with salvation. He endured death to give us life. He endured humiliation for our exaltation. He endured pain for our healing and torture for our peace. He did all of this because He believed that deferring immediate rewards would lead to eternal blessings. He believed in the Father’s eternal purpose, mercy, and grace. He was and is the “Ultimate Investor”.
Jesus understood that the greatest investment is the kingdom of God. In Matthew 13, He gives several Kingdom parables-stories about the Kingdom. In them, He tells us a lot about the government of God:
• The seed of the Kingdom is the Word of God
• The soil of the Kingdom is the human heart
• The field for the Kingdom is the entire world
• The purpose of the Kingdom is to bring us to spiritual maturity that glorifies God. To this end, He gave His life.
Recently while riding in an airplane, I had a conversation with a young person who wanted to spend her life helping others. A good investment.
“What will you tell them?” I asked. The young person was unsure, and that led to a conversation about Jesus. This young lady knew very little about Jesus but had rejected religion. We discussed how Jesus also came to help people and what He did to help them. He invested the truth in them.
Anything less than the truth leads to a bad investment – even if it is well motivated.
We live in a season where the truth is elusive. So many have given themselves to things, thoughts, and pursuits that proved not to be true. The way to discern truth is to see what endures,
and to invest in that. The truth endures to all generations-including ours. It is beyond long term; it is eternal and produces eternal life. It is worth living and dying for.
Conditions and circumstances are no gauge for truth (see Joseph, Jeremiah, and Jesus). Temporary circumstance offers no long-term indications for investing. The truth is the best and only lasting investment. Proverbs 23:23 says, “Buy the truth and do not sell it.”
So, what is the truth? That is what Pilate asked Jesus (John 18:38). “What is truth?” Jesus did not answer because Pilate wasn’t seeking the truth; he only wanted to please the public. Sound familiar? But Jesus had already defined the truth. “I am the truth,” He had said (John 14:6). And John the disciple tells us that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The truth is not a situation; it is a person. In Him we find the truth-the truth that sets us free from situations and circumstance. The truth is our salvation and our eternal investment.
ONE LIFE TO INVEST
We only have one life to invest; we do not get to practice. The greatest tragedy is to invest one’s only life in a lie, and there are many alluring lies. Sensuality, riches, selfishness, vengefulness, tale-bearing, and pride are all lies-to name only a few. Yet tragically, so many invest so much in those endeavors.
I could not close this treatise without asking: where is your investment taking you? I do not mean, “Do you believe in Jesus?” I mean, do you believe in Jesus sufficiently to invest your life in His will for you? Have you heeded His word, “Seek first the Kingdom of God-and other things will be added?”
Can you look beyond the present and see His will at work? Do you believe that whatever you give up now will pay off later-a hundred-fold (see Luke 18:28-30)? Whatever we have today is because some thought that way: prophets, soldiers, missionaries, and servants of God of all kinds. Whatever future generations will have depends upon how we think today. The gospel of “cheap grace” is not good news. A crossless gospel is not good news. “Entertainment value” is not very valuable. Image is not substance. “Spellbinding oration” may just cast a spell, and waking up may be a nightmare.
The best investment advice that I know is this: give your life to Jesus Christ and His will; be filled with His Spirit and faithful to His call. Sacrifice with joy or tears, but do so unto Him, for He is good and true. Read Romans 5:1-5 again, and invest in a hope that will not disappoint.
Scripture Reference: Genesis 50; Jeremiah 29:10-14; Jeremiah 32:1-15; Lamentations 3; Matthew 13; Proverbs 23:23; John 18:38; John 14:6; John 1:14; Luke 18:28-30; Romans 5:1-5