Big Investments

One of the great opportunities with this new world of “social networking” is the re-connecting that takes place with friends and family. I am still amazed at my excitement when I come across a friend from 10, 20 or 30 years ago . . . I know, that’s a long time!  These last few days, I have reconnected with some mentors and friends from the early to mid ’70’s. Wow . . . it has brought back a collection of memories . . . and you know all about memories . . . they are only good!

My family had always been involved in church. During my early years in Michigan, we were actively involved in a small church that had an active youth program. It was during those years that I learned the importance of reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word.  I will always appreciate Phil and Didi Hardley for encouraging me in that particular discipline.

During the early 70’s my family relocated to Clearwater, Florida.  While searching for a local church, we attended Trinity Baptist in Clearwater.  As we were leaving an evening service, the pastor came out to our car, introduced himself and asked if he could visit.  The following Tuesday evening, Pastor Kline and George Stepan, the church’s youth pastor, came to our home.  I really can’t remember if I was impressed or not . . . I don’t think I remember George as being “cool” or a “Rock Star” . . . he was a big guy, big hair, with a big smile and a commanding, yet inviting voice.

We began going to church and I began meeting other kids.  We all went to different public schools so we learned to connect, support and encourage each other.  George’s wife, Kathee was great.  George taught the Word and Kathee led us in worship . . . what a great combination.  I sat under George and Kathee’s ministry for about 5 years.  During that time, I was encouraged to not only read and study the Word of God . . . but to analyze it, prove it, by faith believe it, and to live it.  There were times of all night prayer meetings (where my mom would call her 18 year old son and wonder what he was doing), convicting times in the Word, strategic discussions, iron sharpening questions, and encouraging and loving support.

Before I understood any principles of leadership . . . before I knew about the concept of mentoring  . . . or before I valued investing in the life of another . . . I had been shaped, touched and molded by George and Kathee.  As a high school junior, I began getting up an hour early to study the Word . . . I began to journal . . . I committed myself to prayer . . . and I committed to walk as a Christ-follower.

Now before you think this was a youth group from children of the corn or that we were getting ready to drink the kool-aid . . . let me assure you . . . this was an impacting youth group.  We specialized in activities like war games, capture the flag, wilderness camping in the Rockies, Jamborees, mission trips . . . We played hard . . . and we prayed hard.

It changed my life.

Recently, I had dinner with them and here’s the best part . . . they are still doing it.  They are still investing in the lives of people.  They are still shaping people’s lives.  They are still living a love for Christ and a love for His people.

Today, we hear about “mentoring” or “coaching” . . . it all comes down to sharing the life God has created in you with someone else.  It’s helping someone see that God is working in them . . . “to will and to do His good pleasure”. (Phil 2:13)  It focuses on the potential that God begins the work of shaping our lives and He will complete it. (Phil 1:6)  It is encouraging others to ignite the gift that God has given to each of us. (II Tim 1:6)

So, what are some take aways from investing in others?  Here are a few thoughts . . .

1.  We invest based on potential.  As with any financial decision or opportunity, we are expected to do our “due diligence”.  We study a portfolio, look at past returns, evaluate performance.  If it all looks okay . . . we invest on the potential that we see.  Ever wondered what Jesus saw in fishermen . . . a tax collector . . . sons of a carpenter?   Not many world changers in that group . . . NOT!  God’s Son was able to see potential that others overlooked . . . and when He did, He was moved with compassion and made an investment.  (Mark 1:41)  I am thankful that someone saw potential in me and made the investment of time, energy, love and encouragement.

2.  We invest based on personality.  Some of you are risk takers . . . and that is evident in the type of investments you make.  Some of you are quite conservative . . . only invest in the sure thing.  High Risk . . . High Reward, Low Risk . . . Low Reward.  We often risk a great deal when we invest in people.  We risk being misunderstood.  We risk our motives being questioned.  We risk failure.  We risk acceptance.   Have you ever thought how much Jesus risked when He called His disciples?  “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  (Mark 1:17)  He took great risk to invest in those who became the foundation of His church!

3.  We invest with patience.  How many investors pull out before an investment reaches it prime payout?  When we invest in something, it requires us to be patient and let the investment run its course.  Market conditions often motivate us to abandon our investment before it reaches maturity.  The wise investor patiently waits for maturity to take place.

4.  We invest with passion.  Invest in what you love.  God loves us . . . He loves people . . . we love Him because He first loved us . . . we love others, also.  (I John 4:7-11)  And, love what you invest!

5.  We invest our principal.  We invest our wealth and that which is valuable to us.  Have you ever seen anyone take a pile of trash to the bank?  One man’s trash is not another man’s treasure . . . trash is trash and treasure is treasure!  God valued us enough that he “gave” His one and only Son. (John 3:16)  That is a valuable investment.  Sharing your life with others is the greatest of all values!

6.  We invest on principle.  Paul encouraged the church of Corinth to follow him . . . just as he was following Christ.  (I Cor 11:1)  Apart from Christ in me, I am not worthy enough to have you follow me . . . I am mentor with no meaning . . . I am a coach with no conviction.  Christ in me is my only hope in glory. (Col 1:27).

To George and Kathee . . . and countless others . . . thank you for making the investment in my life.  I trust your return will bring your great rewards!

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