Billionaires of Faith
When I was a teenager, the man I refer to as my step-father, Daniel, told me that if I were to put away 25% of every dollar I earned, that by the time I was 40 or so I would have enough money saved not to work again. During that time of my life, I had the idea to be just like Alex P Keaton (character of Family Ties). You know, making money left and right; watching the stocks and making the trades. The problem I had wasn't in understanding the process, but I was too undisciplined to follow through. There was always a reason to spend my money and always a reason to put it off saving for another time. I was reactive and ruled by whim --- truth be told. But I always recognized the wisdom of what Daniel told me, even if I just plain did not have the restraint to abide by it.
Trent has been giving an analogy the past couple of weeks based on the very same principle, but substituting money with investing in a relationship with God. Now that investment comes in many forms: Prayer, studying His word, actually doing His word and the like. It's been such a great analogy, I have found myself using it when counseling people on the Ministry phone-line. His conclusion was simple and concise: If you're only putting in once on Sundays, or here and there 'cause you need something, well, why are you surprised when you go to make that withdrawal and there's not enough in the account? If we're dead honest with ourselves, we find ourselves in a crisis of faith when tough circumstances arise because we haven't been making the investment over time.
I heard a statistic not long ago which stated the mean yearly savings of the average household during the decade of the 90's was 0% or less. In other words, most households were putting nothing annually in their savings accounts, if not spending more than they earned. This is the same time period where credit was so prevalent that, as I saw it put in one article, "you could get a loan for any reason or no reason at all". Given the things that are said to me when I counsel people, it sounds like the same financial practice was applied to their spiritual life: "Hey God, lend me this much now and I'll pay you back later. Thanks, God. Cheers!"
Yes, well... the results of that approach (financially and spiritually) don't need to be pointed out anymore than what's apparent.
What got me thinking though, was this: If God honors our financial giving to the tune of 7 times greater than what we give, how much more the interest we accrue when we make spiritual investments? Really? How much more interest is given on that one simple prayer? And what then do you have when you make those prayers daily; when you search the scriptures daily; when you apply his Word in your life daily; when you seek His face daily? Imagine the interest amassed on that investment. After enough years, you're living off the interest alone ... not even spending the principle.
That has become my goal.
There are plenty of people wanting to be billionaires in finances. I even heard a ridiculous song about it while resetting the Best Buy stores. But imagine being a billionaire in faith. Having so much accrued that you can call fire down from the sky, without a nanosecond of doubt if it were possible as Elijah did (routinely, I might add). Or to be like Abraham who had enough in his account to know Issac was coming back, even though the LORD told Abraham to sacrifice him. Look at Abraham's words,
Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you." (Gen 22:5 NASB)
He knew Issac was coming back. He may not of known how, but he knew. That's amazing.
And then I think about Enoch, having 300 years of investing in God. If you know me, you know he and Elijah are my "heroes". They had so much in their account that God Himself determined they belonged at a different point in time altogether and they simply vanished from the planet right then and there. They're not dead. They'll be back.
Billionaires of the faith.
For whatever reason, I think for our first several hundred looks at the scriptures we just assume that God randomly bestowed these things on a few special individuals who were otherwise minding their own business. And then because God gave them these things they became faithful afterward. A closer look at the scriptures seems to reveal something quite different to that notion: What made them special to that degree was the investments they were making far in excess of anyone else. It was because they were so highly invested first, that God gave them those things afterwards.
For myself, I know I was quite surprised at how much I had stored up when the time came to say goodbye to someone very important to me, not long ago. If such a thing had happened when I was spiritually bankrupt, I would have been mad at God, wonder why this was happening to me, feared the future and doubted everything I believe. I know that would have been my reaction because that was my reaction over far lesser things. And I'll be honest, after the shock of it wore off, there was a moment of ... exasperation, honestly. I was tired and didn't want to do it anymore. But after that, in a reaction that surprised even myself, I found that I could praise God for their place in my life and all the things He'd taught me because of it. I praised Him for all the ways He changed me. I praised Him, sincerely and honestly, even though I had tears in my eyes. I still had thankfulness and gratitude even though I had no idea what would happen from then on. Having that reserve when I needed it made the investment worth it...and it turns out I had more stored up then I was aware of.
Former First-Class Quitter
I was a first class quitter. Honestly. Over the years, I've had many ideas and interests --- as have we all. Every now and again, something will come along that I am very passionate about, and the Enemy knows that if I am passionate about it, then he can (very easily) knock me off track by making it difficult. I'm prone to becoming disillusioned when the circumstances begin to stray away from the way I felt it should happen. Once the Enemy had me disillusioned, then he had me beaten, because I quit. As the LORD recalls to me the events of my life, He shows me this is a consistent pattern in every area of my life: work, friendships, relationships & goals.
In part, I believe western culture feeds the fleshly tendency for immediate gratification, even more so than it did in the past. Today, our culture is all about convenience: it's the number one selling point of any product. For instance, the popular Burger King® slogan, "Your way, right away." My personal favorite is a television commercial from a pharmaceutical company promoting a new way of testing blood sugar for diabetes. The ad leads off with a healthy looking, adult male saying, "Why should I have to stop my life, just to test my blood sugar?" It made me laugh when I saw it, because I thought to myself, if that man fell over on the spot and went into seizures, he'd have his answer as to why he should stop his life to test his blood sugar, wouldn't he? How is it that we don't realize that just being able to test blood sugar and have insulin to deter those seizures is a major blessing that others in history did not have? Even if it takes one hour out of your day to test your blood sugar, that is one hour you would not have on this Earth otherwise. But we speak of it as if it's a major inconvenience to "stop our life" to do something that saves our life.
My LORD, what a planet we live on.
Convenience has always been a weakness of the flesh that the Enemy knows he can successfully exploit. Despite miracle upon miracle the LORD provided: Fresh water from a spring that was bitter (Exodus 15:22-25); bread that appeared in the middle of the desert (Exodus 16:4); fresh water from solid stone (Exodus 17:1-8); the Hebrews consistently complained to Moses and the LORD about how much better they had it in Egypt ---- where they had been enslaved, ironically. In other words, the LORD's way to the promised land just wasn't convenient enough for them.
Unfortunately for me, somehow, I'd fallen right into the same stronghold.
It seems that the LORD has grown tired of that tendency in me, because some time ago, He anchored a belief deep in my heart that I have not shaken since. I've tried to quit many times, but it doesn't let loose. I want to quit, because it certainly has not been convenient and it doesn't seem like "the way it should be", even though, my basis of how things should be is nothing more than "as quick and as trouble-free as possible".
Yet, I know the LORD's way rarely amounts to quick and trouble-free. More often than not, the LORD's way borders on completely impossible and absolutely absurd for any reasonable person to even consider. Sincerely take the time to think about the situation Moses was in. He was an 80 year old man (Exodus 7:7) who had been a fugitive from the law for murder (Exodus 2:11-15) when the LORD asked him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10).
First of all, the very idea of an old man who has no position of authority, asking two million people to pack up their belongings and take a walk out into the desert is ridiculous! If we're honest with ourselves, we know that if an old man came knocking on our door, telling us to pack up and walk to Texas, we'd call the nearest insane asylum and have him removed from our doorstep (at least those of us who aren't rude enough to outright slam the door in his face). What the LORD asked of Moses wasn't just impossible, it was completely unthinkable.
This theme happens consistently in the Bible with every patriarch the LORD favored. If we are to follow Him, then why would He treat us any differently. The Enemy would like us to only focus on how hard it can be, how long it can seem, how much pain there may be to face. However, the end results is always even more unimaginable then path to getting there. Moses died at 120 years old, not as a weak and feeble old man, but as much (if not more) strength and vigor than young men (Deuteronomy 34:7). Moses had such a relationship with the LORD, that he is the only person referred to as "the man whom the LORD knew face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10), the only man to be personally buried by the hand of the LORD, Himself (Deuteronomy 34:6). You see, the task may have been impossible, but the reward was invaluable.
As each day goes on, I find that, to outward eyes and my own flesh, what the LORD has set on my heart is increasingly more impossible to achieve. That is one of the ways that I know it is Him who has set it on my heart and not a desire of my flesh. Because my flesh didn't want it this way, but an easier way. But I am going forward, leaving behind the attitude of quitter, leaving behind a wish for something easy and trouble-free. I am going forward knowing that this may take many more years before the LORD fulfills the belief He's put into my heart, however, that thought is losing it's power to disillusion me daily. All praise to Him.