The time we invest in others reaps eternal rewards
By Steve Sonderman
Gentleman, I want to ask you a simple question. Into whom or what are you investing your life? The stock market, your hobby, your favourite team, your work or something else? All you have to do is look at where you spend your time, treasure, and talents and you will have the answer. I want to suggest another option, and that is the investment you make in people.
For the past 35 years, my favourite ministry verse has been 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where Paul says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”The apostle Paul was not just interested in riding into a town and dropping some gospel bombs; what he really wanted to do was invest his life into the life of others.
As he worked alongside these people, took walks with them and had meals with them, he was making investments in eternity. He understood the principle that more time spent with fewer people results in greater impact for Christ.
The book that has influenced me the most over the years is The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. He writes, “One must decide where he wants his ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or the reproduction of his life in a few chosen men who will carry on his work after he is gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.” Every one of us has to decide in what and in whom we are going to invest. For Paul the answer was simple, it was people.
This is also the story of the Bible. For example:
- Moses investing in Joshua;
- Ezra investing in Nehemiah;
- Barnabas investing in Paul and Mark;
- Paul investing in Timothy.
The greatest example is Jesus investing in the 12 disciples. Two-thirds of His public ministry was with the 12. He called them to be with Him, and for three years He invested His life in them. He was not interested in programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.
Dietrich Bonheoffer, the great German theologian who spent much time in Nazi prison camp wrote these words: “The righteous person lives for the next generation.”
Each of us is going to die at some time, and when we do we will live on in two ways: First in eternity with Jesus, and second, in the men and women, boys and girls we influence for Jesus.
Each one of us must decide how we want our lives to count—is it for the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of your life in a few chosen people who will carry on His work after you are gone? Which generation are you living for—this or the next?
Almost 15 years ago, Dick, a pharmacist by trade, was invited by his college-age daughter to attend our Christmas Eve services. He was struck by the whole service and decided to come back a second and third time and eventually came to Christ.
Dick wanted to know what to do next. I told him he should get into our men’s discipleship course. He went through the first year with 10 other men and then the second year. At the completion of this training I encouraged him to lead a basic training group, which he did. This went on for several years with Dick leading multiple groups at a time.
Several years ago he called to tell me that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and the prognosis was not good. After one surgery and lots of therapy the doctors said there was not much more they could do, and Dick went downhill fairly quickly. In the final months I asked Dick if he would do something for me.
Each year we have an evangelistic breakfast that men can bring their friends to. At that event we give out a Service Award to the man we believe has served the men of our church in a big way the past year. I wanted to honour Dick for all he had done.
When the day came his family dressed him up and we wheeled him up onto the platform. I spoke about his ministry over the year and had a leading from the Spirit. There were about 550 men in the room. I asked everyone who had come to Christ through Dick or had been discipled by Dick to stand. I watched in amazement as one man after another stood all over the banquet hall. My eyes were too tearfilled to count them, but a couple of my leaders said there were more than 100 men standing in the room.
All because one man decided to invest his life in others.
Dick died just a couple of months later but he lives on in two ways, in eternity with Jesus and in the men in whom he invested his life. The question you have to ask yourself is this: Who are you investing your life into?
Steve Sonderman is Pastor at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin and founder of No Regrets Men’s Ministries. He consults widely with churches worldwide, sharing his passion for ministry to men in every local church. He makes his home in Borrokfield with his wife, Colleen.
THE ARTICLE ABOVE WAS FEATURED IN THE JULY 2013 ISSUE OF SEVEN MAGAZINE. GET SEVEN FREE