February 15, 2019

Invested with God

I am convinced that God is interested in — and engaged in — all aspects of human life. From the grandest issues to the minutest superficial details, He truly leaves no stone unturned. God is an investor. His greatest investment is in us, and He seeks a return on His investment.

This is evidenced in His dealings with humanity throughout history. We find such statements as these: But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:7 NKJV).  . . . Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine (Isaiah 43:1b NKJV).


I recall how I felt after reading these texts, and others like them, when I began my journey with Jesus. I was just a teenager, a sort of ragamuffin teenager, at that. I didn’t have the upbringing that “church kids” enjoy. I didn’t know all the songs one learns from Cradle Roll onward. I was just your typical, secular, suburbanite kid. But when I read those words in Scripture and they began to sink in, it became evident that God places value on His creation, with a special emphasis on His greatest treasure — humanity. I realized I was one of those people the Scriptures talk about and, as such, there was much more to life than the mere surface vantage point with which I had grown up.


As the Lord continued to move on my heart, changing my life one small step at a time, I, too, started to become “invested.” Life, for me, was starting to take shape rather than continue to be a cycle of nebulous existence, having no real purpose. I began to understand that every choice, every decision I made, had an impact on me for eternity. And, whether directly or indirectly, my decisions had an impact on others as well. As I grew in my faith, it became my desire, more and more, to make choices that would bring honor to Jesus.


From the examples in many friends and family members I saw during my youth, it was clear that making flippant decisions seemed to be the easier road to travel, although that road often leads to destructive destinations. I saw many of my extended family members struggle to make ends meet, keep food on the table, or live within reasonable means. Through the transformation of becoming a follower of Jesus, it became clear to me that this was not the kind of life God desired for His people. I determined to take a different course.


 I praise God that I came to know Jesus at an early age! Not only did I come to know Him, but He became the center of my life. I was deeply moved when I studied these words, . . . I have come that they [His sheep — us] may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly . . . I am the good shepherd” (John 10:10b‒11a NKJV).


A shepherd is one who guards, protects and provides for the sheep under his care. And Jesus is saying that He isn’t just a hired watchman — He is the Good Shepherd. This is the same Shepherd that David wrote about in Psalm 23 that fills our cups to overflowing, carries us through dark valleys, and provides us the way to life everlasting. The Good Shepherd wants a “good” life for His sheep now, not just for eternity!


Now, I don’t want to be mistaken for a “Prosperity Gospel” preacher. I do not buy into the school of thought that the only way to be blessed is to obtain endless worldly riches and success. Sure, God can provide us with that if He so desires, but to say that prosperity is the only evidence of His blessing is much too superficial. Our God is dealing with us on a much deeper level.


In the greatest sermon ever preached (Sermon on the Mount  see Matthew 6:25-34), Jesus declared that we should not worry and fret over things which are superficial — like what we will wear or what we will eat. Instead, we are to focus on the most valuable aspect of our existence — that is, our relationship with God. When we do this, we develop trust in the only One who can truly provide for us. This leads us then to make wiser decisions, which then leads to that more abundant life that Jesus promised. It is abundant because we open ourselves up to having our needs met by the One who provides “light” and “life” and “all good gifts…”


As I grew in my understanding of this reality, those things upon which I placed value began to reorder themselves in my list of priorities. I noticed that as my priorities became more in harmony with God’s will, my joy increased, my worry decreased and my life found balance.


In God’s master plan of life, He has laid out principles that, when followed properly, lead to success, not only from a spiritual perspective, but from a material one as well. A major part of this plan is how we are to treat the resources that God entrusts to us. We must remember that everything to which we lay claim is available to us only by God’s providence. It is tempting to boast when we receive that promotion we’ve hoped for, or when we get to enjoy the fruit of abundance in any area of our lives. However, thanks be to God for enabling us to enjoy such blessings.


After studying Theology at Southern Adventist University, I did not have an immediate opportunity for full-time ministry. Instead, I had the privilege of ministering in the private sector as a bank manager for five-and-a-half years. In this position, I was challenged with guiding my clients to make sound decisions which would lead to stronger financial stability. One of my responsibilities was to encourage my clients to consider the future in terms of what legacy they wanted to establish.


I was amazed at how often I was able to work my faith into my job and, in an indirect, non-threatening way, encourage many clients to establish a plan to support the Lord’s work through faithful stewardship of the means God had entrusted to them. I saw many of my clients, from varied backgrounds, establish plans of systematic benevolence for the cause of Christ.  In many ways, I was able to “pay it forward” and invest in my clients as God had invested in me earlier in my life.  Even though I felt called to be a pastor, this banking “opportunity” prepared me for pastoral ministry much like Moses’ years in the wilderness.


Ever since God called me out of banking and into full-time pastoral ministry, that part of my life has continued to enrich and help develop my skills as I now invest in my church members. I have had the privilege of counseling many members (as well as current colleagues) in the area of sound financial stewardship and faithful investing with God in His work. My prayer is that, as we realize how deeply God has invested in us, we return to Him the highest dividend — unwavering faithfulness and trust in every aspect of our lives.


Cory Herthel has been serving as a pastor in the Michigan Conference since 2012. Prior to his tenure there, he served as branch manager and licensed banker for Regions Bank in Chattanooga, Tenn. He is currently pursuing an M.A. degree in Pastoral Ministry at the Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University.