Monthly Archives: May 2012

Investment Portfolio

As an economics professor, I get asked all the time for investment advice. Some ask me about gold. Others about stocks. Recently, everyone asks if they should invest in Facebook.

Do you know what I answer? There are just three things that will last forever: God, His Word, and the souls of people. That means that there are just three investments that we can make that we will never regret.

One is the time and effort that it takes to know God, through His Son Jesus. Another is the time and effort it takes to understand God’s revelation to us in His written word. The last is the time and effort it takes to help people come to know God and understand His revelation of Himself in Christ.

The apostle Paul knew that.

His priorities were based upon God, His word, and the spiritual maturity of believers in Christ. Those things made up his investment portfolio. He invested every penny (or denarius) he had in that nest-egg. He spent every waking hour enhancing that portfolio. He was so convinced of the return on those investments that he even poured his time and treasure into helping believers in Christ that he would never meet.

To the Christians in Colossae, whom he never met, he wrote (in Colossians 2:1)

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,

He agonized over the souls of the Colossians, the Laodiceans, the Hieropolitans, and many others who had come to faith in Christ, but whom he did not know personally. He knew that, by doing so, his effort would not be wasted. His investment would yield dividends that he might not see, but that he knew would be astounding.

He was engaged in a struggle for the faith of others. His desire was to see the bond of his work mature in their maturity in Christ. He struggled for others because he knew their gain, and his in Christ, would be secure from economic collapse, inflation, or depression. He invested in the people of the Kingdom of God, secure in knowing that rust could not tarnish and moth could not consume the treasure he put there.

All we who believe in Christ have a similar investment opportunity. We can help others grow in holiness as they grow in Christ. We can encourage them to know Christ more. We can exhort them to make Christ their true treasure. We can aid them to understand God’s written revelation of Himself. We can teach them how to rely upon Christ and His Word more and more. We can stir them up to love and good works. We can show them by our lives and example how not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

But often we don’t.

Why is that? Is it that we don’t care? Is it that the concerns of this world or the deceitfulness of worldly riches choke off the work of the word of God in our own lives? Instead of producing a great return on the investment we could be making by sharing the gospel with those we know and encouraging them to live by trust in Christ, are we focused on things that keep us from seeing a spiritual yield? Are we investing in the wrong place?

Paul was so confident in his investment strategy that he even invested in a “blind trust,” struggling for the enrichment in the faith of those he would never meet face to face. If he could do that, why can’t we find the time and resources to invest in helping to share the gospel of Christ’s death for sinners with those who have never heard it? Why can’t we invest in those Christian brothers and sisters in our own church, our own family, our own neighborhoods to help them grow in knowing Him and trusting in His word?

There is no other investment that will pay off as well. As Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)

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Power Struggle

Ever since the Fall, life has been a struggle. That may come as a shock to some pampered teenagers, a few public employees, and many who live in the entitlement age. It is true nonetheless. We live in a world of scarcity. We are not promised limitless time on this earth. We are not promised ease.

We are promised that, in this world, we will have to work, toil and struggle to gain the things of the world. (See Genesis 3:19)

But those who have trusted in Jesus Christ are promised spiritual rest. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (see Matthew 11:28-30) Christ has already done everything necessary to save us from the burden of sin and the work required to be right with God. He has carried the burden of doing all the good works that God requires, and our faith in Him brings an end to our toil and struggle for God’s approval. (See Isaiah 53:4-6)

Now, we who believe in Christ are called to a different work, a different struggle. It is the work of knowing Him. It is the struggle to “take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him.” It is the labor of gaining all the “riches of the glory of… Christ in us.” (See Colossians 1:27).

This is a challenge. It is work. It takes the effort of men who are willing to proclaim to us the truth of the good news of Christ’s work, to remind us of what Christ has done, to teach us who we are in Christ. It is the work of people like the apostle Paul, who said, “Him we proclaim, warning (reminding) everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (See Colossians 1:28). It is the work of becoming mature in Christ and helping others to become mature in Christ.

This work is a toil. It is a struggle. It is a challenge. It is work for the learner and the teacher alike. And we are all called to do it, by Christ, who commands us to “learn from Him.”

In describing it, Paul says this (in Colossians 1:29):

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Notice a few things about what Paul says:

First, Paul describes it as “toil.” The word Paul uses comes from the same root as is translated in Rev. 21:4 as “pain.” Helping others to fully live in Christ and to fully allow Him to live in us is hard work, but it is the one work that is truly worth doing.

Second, Paul describes it as “struggling.” The sense Paul gives there is that it is like an athletic contest. It is a challenging competition. Other priorities would distract us from this work or might compete for our effort and attention, but this is the most important pursuit in life.

As Paul says in Philippians 3:12-15, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

But, the third and most wonderful thing Paul says is that the strength to carry on this work is not our own. The power and energy to carry out this effort is the very power of God. It is the energy of the same God who created the world that energizes us as we embark upon this struggle. It is the immense and incalculable power of God that works in us to carry it out, as we strive to do what He calls us to do.

If you are a Christian who wants to see the power of God working in you, Colossians 1:29 tells you how to unleash the power of God. He supplies His power to those who proclaim Christ, who remind others of the work of Christ, who teach about Christ, and who strive to bring others to mature reliance upon Christ. When you do these things, you have the promise that God will work in and through you. You have the promise of Christ that, since He is doing all the work, this toil will, paradoxically, bring rest for your soul.

If you want to see this power at work, and you sense that you still have a lot to learn about Christ, seek out someone in your church or family who has been through the struggle. Ask them if they would have to desire to help you learn more from Christ.

If you want to see this power at work, and you believe that you gained some experience in learning from Christ, seek out someone in your church or family who might need and desire to learn more from Christ. Ask them if they would be willing to learn more about Christ with you.

Then, embark on the struggle, and together see the power of God at work in you!

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