Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.Proverbs 8:33 NIV
Your Spiritual Portfolio
Finding Spiritual Peace In Difficult Times
In these difficult times of trying to figure how best to live with Covid-19, which is still taking too many lives, and with the growing unrest across our beautiful land, I can think of no better words to open my testimony up with than the Apostle Paul’s greeting. “Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you have God’s grace and peace, you are rich beyond measure. Eternity with Him is in your sights, people can see His light shine through you, and you are making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. In the vernacular of investment terminology, your spiritual portfolio is maxed out. If you are like I use to be, your financial portfolio is much more important than anything spiritual. I have since come to realize I had it reversed: My spiritual portfolio should have come first!
You might say, “wait a minute, Al, I’m not a Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, or one of the great saints, I’m just an ordinary person.” If you know your Bible, you will know that the great saints were just ordinary people like us who allowed God to work in their lives through their faith. They were carpenters like Noah, shepherd boys like David, tax collectors like Matthew, fishermen like John and Peter, barren wives like Sarah, widows like Ruth and Naomi, etc. Except for a few (Luke the surgeon and Saul (Paul), the great Jewish leader who persecuted Christians,) they too were men and women of humble means whom God touched to do His will. When God saved me, he knew why. At that time, I did not. I was just overly thankful that I had found His peace. While I will never reach the great saints’ faith and servant’s status, I know through the Holy Spirit He is working in my life to fulfill the mission He had in mind for me.
Ten years ago, when I always leaned totally on my own understanding, I would not have had a clue what I am talking about. Now that I am filled with “the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:13) nothing could be clearer. I have learned that I need to be about “investing in His Kingdom” rather than investing in self-serving worldly things. Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) drove this home to me. Most know the story he told of a man going on a journey, and he entrusted his property to his servants. One received five talents, another received two, and the third received one, all according to their abilities. A talent was an amount of money worth about 20 years of wages for a laborer. A long time later, when the master returned to settle accounts, the first two servants had doubled what had been given them, but the third only had the original one. The master praised the two who had invested wisely, saying they were good and faithful servants and would earn a well-deserved reward. The third servant failed to invest his talent and buried it out of sight, out of mind. That wicked and lazy servant would be cast into darkness.
Now that might be just an interesting little story that one might feel has no relevance today. Once you become saved, you learn nothing could be further from the truth. It is totally relevant, yesterday, today, and every tomorrow. Jesus used stories because the gist or intent of a story is easier to remember, and I believe they are as relatable today as they were when He told them. While this story is about money that the servants were given to invest, it has meaning for us. Jesus is clearly the master in the story, and He entrusted something of value to His servants, knowing He would come back one day to check their financial portfolio. Similarly, He has entrusted us with gifts such as time, abilities, or talents, and the privilege of participating in His ministry, i.e., “the good works He prepared for us to accomplish.”
A Godly Mission With Unique Gifts
God has a specific mission for us all to accomplish. We each have been given unique gifts to fulfill that mission. Like the servants in the story, we have been given borrowed treasures to invest. This is an incredible responsibility that I did not realize right away. Although I instantly became a new creation, I was very immature in my faith when I was saved. But I did learn back then, it did not mean a soft, easy life. There was this “pick up your cross thing” I needed to understand. How was I going to figure that out? I chose to join a Christian men’s group to learn from those more mature in their faith. I chose to start going to various denominational services. I needed to hear the word from multiple perspectives. I began gathering devotionals that helped me dig into scripture better. I currently have five that I use. I couple all of this with prayer to help me hear how He wants me to invest my time and abilities. Before being saved, I viewed everything through my own worldly understanding glasses and focused on serving me. There was no investing in the Kingdom in those days.
I quickly learned that my transformation to become an investor in His Kingdom required “growing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) I now know that my growth comes from the scriptures. No one says it clearer than Paul in 2 Timothy 15-17, which I will paraphrase: all scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, only by knowing them will you become wise. For a Christian to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work, he or she must be inspired by God through His Word. Every day, I try to better understand God’s Word, not impress people by how many Bible verses I know, but to be better prepared to invest in my spiritual portfolio.
Using Best Practices For Success
Knowing this, my next task was to figure out where I should be investing my time and gifts. I am what is called a “best practices nut.” I learned early on that if you want to succeed in anything, you better fully understand the business you are in and emulate those who have been successful in it, i.e., what practices made them the best. This approach served me well, not only in my career but also in my hobbies. For example, I earned a master gardener certificate to enhance my gardening abilities, and I learned my photography skills from some of the top photographers. So, I asked myself the question, “How can I become the Christian that God wants me to be?” It made sense to me to apply the best practices approach that has worked so well in the past.
The first principle I always applied to myself and to those who worked for me was, “You are either all the way in or all the way out!” There is no straddling the fence. Fully surrendering to Jesus took care of that requirement. No more one toe in and nine out. Both feet are now firmly standing on solid rock. Next, how am I going to figure out those best Christian practices? I just covered that in the previous paragraphs; they are in the Holy Scriptures. With the help of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I started to grasp them. What did I learn that I should be doing? Let me tell you, it was a surprise.
Hidden In Plain Site
I learned what I had been told since I was a child, but I did not hear. It was right there in plain sight, but I could not see it. It was in my head, but not in my heart. How many times had I heard James 1:22, “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.” How many times have I sung “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.” Love comes from the heart. My Christianity was in my head but not my heart. I knew about Jesus, but I did not know Him. Only with the “fullness of Christ in my heart” did I understand that I was to totally invest my time in what Jesus called and what we know as the Greatest Commandment. It was like, bam! Listen Al, “LOVE GOD–LOVE OTHERS. Do you hear me? LOVE GOD–LOVE OTHERS.” Pay attention, there is no self here!
The Key To Kingdom Investment
The Greatest Commandment has become my investment focus. It is the key to investing in the Kingdom. While Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each spell it out in their Gospels, I like Luke’s version best because Jesus says clearly, “do this (LOVE GOD–LOVE OTHERS) and you will live.” Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 further amplify on loving others. We know it as the Golden Rule. John then quotes Jesus in 13:34-35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love others.”
So those are the best practices, LOVE GOD–LOVE OTHERS. That is my focus now. Before being saved, I wanted to go to heaven. But God knew I did not love Him with my whole heart, soul, and mind. My Bible that collected so much dust was indicative of my lack of interest in knowing Him. That Bible is now worn, tabbed, and scribbled all over with notes. I love how He speaks to me. Also, while I love corporate worship, I know it means nothing if I do not live His love. His Word is crystal clear that loving others is not optional, but imperative, especially if we are to be a witness of that love.
Put your hand over your heart, feel it beating. If the Holy Spirit resides there, you have God’s greatest gift ever, and you have also been entrusted to invest your time and abilities in His Kingdom. All you have to do is LOVE GOD–LOVE OTHERS every day. Do so, and your spiritual portfolio will show you are rich beyond measure. I am building my spiritual portfolio around it. I do not want to be like that lazy servant in the Parable of the Talents. I constantly pray that He will show me where to invest my time and abilities so I can try to emulate Erma Bombeck’s hope: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
If you do not know Jesus, whether you are a regular churchgoer or not, tell God right now that you believe Jesus came into this world to bear your sins and invite Him into your heart. Then find a pastor or someone you know that knows the Lord and seek their guidance. It will be the greatest gift you can give yourself. Until next time, God Bless you.
Feature Image: Bickle Knob, Randolph County @Backyard Photography, Alan Tucker