As the years go on (and especially as tax time nears), we are encouraged to ensure that we have sufficient investments to enable us to retire in the manner in which we have become accustomed. After all, the financial professionals remind us, we want not only to be able to live well in retirement, but to be able to leave something for our loved ones when we die.
While I don’t disagree with this statement (I’m working toward the ‘Freedom 95’ plan myself…), I think there are other investments that matter even more than the financial ones.
In some ways, I see myself as an investment professional. I don’t know much about life insurance policies or mutual funds, but this much I do know: investing in people is immensely important.
Consider the prophet Elijah. He was God’s servant for a time – for a very influential time – and he spoke the Word of the Lord with power under an oppressive regime (about which you can read in 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 2 in the Old Testament). Elijah did many great things for the Lord in his ministry. (My personal favourite is his showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.) But it might be suggested that those great things would not have had the same impact had Elijah not done one other important thing: he invested in others, specifically in his apprentice, Elisha. When he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, Elijah was gone. But he left his apprentice behind, and Elisha took up the mantle – literally! – of his mentor. And the work of the Lord continued.
It’s likely that if you’re in a leadership position of some sort, at least one person in your past invested in you – probably heavily. When I think back to my days as a student, freshly called by God to ministry, having little idea as to what that meant, there were several people who invested themselves in me to help me become the leader God is making me to be. (Notice I didn’t say that God had finished making me into that leader yet – it’s a lifelong process of discipleship and discipline!)
Here’s the question: are you doing the same for others? Are you investing in future leaders? As a mentor, you can help people who show an interest in your ministry to do the task you do in the life of the church, so that when you sense God calling you to something else, you can hand over that ministry to another, who will be equipped for the task. But there’s more to it than that.
Part of investing in others is helping them to grow in Christ. If you’re mentoring someone, you can not only share the nuts-and-bolts of a task to that person, you can help them know Jesus the way you do – maybe even go beyond where you are. One of the most satisfying things about mentoring others comes when we see them start to ‘fly’ faster than us. Some get jealous about that, but there’s no reason to be jealous and every reason to praise God for the person whose walk with God is growing exponentially.
Whatever ministry you have, the model Elijah gives you is to find your replacement, work yourself out of a job, and hand it on and see the kingdom of God continue to grow.
Elisha “picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over” (2 Kings 2.13-14, NIV).
Take a moment to think about the people who invested in you, and thank God for them. As I think of the many people who have invested in me, I am incredibly grateful. Some of these people have gone on to be with the Lord, others are still alive and serving. I think of three different Franks. Bud. Don. Lloyd. Stan. Das. Ray. Ken. Ralph. Jack. There are others. Thank you, Lord, for people who invested in me. Help me to invest in others!
P.S.: My parents were married 50 years ago today. I am incredibly thankful for them, and for the many investments they have made in me! Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!!