A number of years ago, I was invited to read some stories to a class of fourth-graders. I accepted with trepidation. I could not imagine holding the attention of 25 busy 9- and 10-year-olds. But to my delight, they listened with attentiveness and appreciation.
I love a well-told story, and I know I’m not alone. Perhaps that’s why Jesus used stories to describe his kingdom. Stories not only stir our imaginations; they also have a wonderful way of shaping and motivating us.
My own life has been shaped by stories—not only stories from the Bible, but stories of men and women of character, compassion, and courage. As a child these stories piqued my imagination and shaped the way I thought about life.
One such story is the legend of Johnny Appleseed. Perhaps you remember it. John Chapman was born in 1774, just as the American Revolution was beginning. In spite of significant hardships, he grew into a man of integrity, honesty, and generosity. He lived a simple life, traveling throughout North America planting apple seeds. His efforts became legendary: the landscape was altered through the efforts of one man and his vision for the future.
This story taught me the value of long-term investments, and it taught me about investing for the benefit of others.
Recently my wife, Linda, and I decided we needed to think about the future. What would happen if one or both of us were gone? How would our estate be handled? Who would take responsibility for our health and our affairs?
As we sat with a representative from the Barnabas Foundation, we counted our blessings. We were amazed by what we discovered. We realized how abundantly God has blessed us. We also became aware that with blessings come responsibilities. I remembered the words of Jesus, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). We also considered Jesus’ teaching on the talents: that good servants return two, five, and even ten times what their master has entrusted to them (Matt. 25:14-30).
After prayerful consideration, we decided to make an investment in the future of the Christian Reformed Church. We have both been part of the CRC all our lives. We’ve been shaped and molded by her customs, culture, and theology. Our children and their children have been touched by God through the church. As we look back, we see the hand of God in our lives and in the life of the CRC.
We realized that if the church is to continue in its calling to transform lives, it will need resources. It will need good, well-trained clergy. It will need men and women who are willing to give their lives for the gospel message. It will need people who are willing to invest in its future.
We chose to do that through the Christian Reformed Church Foundation; others make gifts directly to specific ministries and institutions. Regardless of how or how much one gives, such gifts are an investment in the future of the church. They are the seeds that will produce fruit in the future—treasures stored up in heaven.
I encourage you to think about planting seeds for that future. Prayerfully consider how much God has blessed you and what God is asking of you. How might the seeds you plant transform this world?
These are not easy questions. They require careful self-examination. But they are questions that God expects us to ask and wrestle with. Whether we have much or little, everything we have is a gift from God. I invite you to join me in investing in the future of God’s church and kingdom.
About the Author
Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian
Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.