Neighborhood Watch: Long-Term Investments

Neighborhood Watch

Long-Term Investments

John 4:35-36

Pastor Adam Mallett, Jr.

Adapted from sermon by

Pastor Gary DarDar, Jr.

When you made your new year’s resolution, you had great intentions! You were going to exercise, lose weight, read a book every month, give up social media, and read the Bible twice this year. Which is what you said last year. The things you decided on were good things that maybe need to be done, but it is so hard to commit to radical things for a long-term basis. Even if it isn’t new year’s resolutions, commitment is hard for the long-term. Personally, I find it difficult to commit to anything at all on a long-term basis. God is helping to grow that vision and long-suffering in me, but it is not natural to me! I struggle to watch a whole basketball game or movie or sermon! My attention span is extremely limited! I remember before proposing to my wife, Ashton, I was visiting with a relative. He was only about a case of beer deep, but he asked, “When are you going to marry that girl?” I told him I didn’t feel ready, as it was such a huge decision! That decision was a commitment to change the rest of my life! His response was this: “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready.” And long before Shia LaBeouf’s infamous, viral video, I was told, “Just do it!” That was the best advice I had ever been given!

Spiritually, commitment is hard. However, when we receive salvation, we are making a decision that carries even more weight than marriage! I was scared to make a lifelong commitment at the age of eighteen, but I was not scared to make a lifelong commitment to God at an even younger age. Why is that? Having grown up in church, I was well versed in the blessings of the Christian life. If you grew up in church, you know all about the abundant life, heavenly home, and eternal glory with God! That commitment seems to be a no-brainer. Yet, when we are challenged by our pastor or other peers to bring that same gospel to our neighbors, we struggle to follow through. I am struggling with it, myself. I want to reach my neighbors with the gospel, but I don’t want to get shot! I want to build the Kingdom in my neighborhood, but I don’t want to be judged. I want to change the lives of the people I share a block with, but I don’t want to be inconvenienced. Ultimately, I want to do something that is good and that is commanded by God, but I don’t want to commit to doing it every day. Maybe I will bring food or something to my neighbor tomorrow, but what about next week? What about when this sermon series is over? The Great Commission is never over, even aeons after this sermon series is finished and passed from our minds!

Commitment is hard, but it is a command. And the commitment that we are called to have has been modeled for us in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, it continues to be modeled to us every single day. When I wake up in the morning, it is because of God’s commitment to me! I asked the students last night, “What’s something you do on Sunday mornings?” One student answered, “Wake up!” That’s true, but, presumably, you wake up every morning, or you wouldn’t be here! And the reason you wake up is because God put breath in your lungs again. Every single day, God continues to be faithful to me, in the hopes that I will catch on! Eventually, God is hoping that I recognize His commitment to me for what it is, and then follow suit. He has been investing in me for a long time! God’s investments are long-term, but I am so grateful that the abundance of His investments cause a short-term overflow!

As we study today, I want to share something that God spoke to me through the sermon Sunday, regarding His investment, both long and short-term, into my life, and I would like to challenge you to see His investment in your life. It gives a person a great sense of value to know that they are being invested into. You are not useless, you have purpose, you are not unnoticed, and you are very important! Or else God wouldn’t be investing into your life, for your good and His glory!

John 21 is a very familiar passage of scripture to me. Take a second to go read it, then come back… Jesus tells His disciples, while He is at the shore and they are in the boat, “Cast your net on the other side!” These men were fishermen with lots of experience, and Jesus was a carpenter. They had no reason to listen to Jesus’ fishing advice, yet, as soon as they were obedient, they saw a great catch! When I was younger, God used this passage of scripture to help me understand a very important distinction in life. There is a difference between what I want and think best, and what He wants and knows best! I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had experience working with animals, both pets and livestock. I had the desire and the passion for that kind of life, and I was prepared to commit to the necessary schooling required. Yet, one Sunday during mass at Our Lady of the Lake, I heard Father Thomas’ homily about this very passage of scripture. He pointed out that whatever we think we know falls flat in the face of what our omniscient God knows! The disciples may have looked at Jesus and thought they saw a carpenter turned preacher, but what they were really seeing was the Creator and Sustainer of this universe. He may not have ever cast a net, but that net was in their hands because of His work long before they were born! What you think is best for your life probably does not match up with what God knows is best. I thought I knew what side of the boat to cast the net on. The side with enough scholarships to pay my way through LSU and LSU SVM. The side with a successful career and enjoyable life doing what I love! The side that I had been looking at for a long, long time. I thought my net would work best on that side, but I was wrong. From that day, God began to work in my heart this calling to become a pastor. It took me years to come to a clear enough understanding of it, but I am so glad that He knows best.

That understanding has been in my mind and heart for a while now, but as I listened to the sermon Sunday, God taught me something new about that net, and about life. He knows which side of the boat to cast the net on, but He created that net, too. He put it in my hands. He created the boat that I am standing in. He orchestrated the events of my life in such a way as to bring me here! I thought I understood how best to use the net God had given me in life, but, looking back, I realized that though I might have been able to make it work, this net in my hands was designed for this side of the boat! It would have been a different life if I had lived by what I knew instead of what the Creator knew! As I began to see the investment that God had been making into my life through the picture of the net, it made me feel so much more special, purposeful, and important. God didn’t just create me and give me a to-do list. He handcrafted a net and a boat for me to use to accomplish the plans that He has set before me. All my life, I had been casting my God-given net on the left side of the boat, and things were going okay. But then Christ came along. At first He seemed far off. At first I didn’t really recognize Him for who He was. At first the advice that echoed into my ears, from across the waters of my efforts and struggles, seemed confusing and irrelevant to my circumstance. But praise God I cast my net on the right side of the boat! For a brief moment it seemed as though I was losing everything by casting onto the other side! As soon as my net hit the water on the right side of the boat, God began to see a return on His investment! And I began to reap the benefits of seeds He had planted long ago! You have a net that God has crafted especially for you! You might think you know how to use it, but stop and listen to Christ’s instructions on how to use your net! Don’t waste His investment! When we begin to use the investments of God into our lives, what He has invested long-term begins to help us short-term.

When we think of investing long-term, we think commitment and patience and short-term loss. And that may be the case. You might minister to your neighbors for months and see nothing but what seems like loss. Spent money, spent time, and nothing to show for it. But you treated God the same way that your neighbors are maybe treating you. I know I did. I took and took without ever giving back or making my own investment. God is calling us to make that kind of long-term investment, but I believe that if we are faithful to commit to investing in our neighbors on a long-term basis, we will also see short-term returns! God will bless us in response to being faithful and obedient to Him! Maybe that blessing will come in the form of financial increase to supplement what we have used to invest in our neighbors. Or maybe it will come in the form of quieter streets so that continuing to invest is a little safer for us. Whatever the case, it is a biblical principle! But we must remember that the results we expect to see may still take time. Jesus invested into the disciples for over three years, and they weren’t a whole lot better at His ascension then they were at His birth. God gave me my net, knowing that He had created me to pastor, write, and make music for His Kingdom. Yet, it took me until I was almost an adult to realize the true purpose and potential of the net I had been carrying around all those years! If you walk across the street to evangelize your neighbor, they may not accept Christ right then. Even if they accept Christ the first time you share the gospel with them, they may still act a little worldly for a time. How long have you been saved? And how often do you still say things you shouldn’t say or think things you shouldn’t think? Investments take time to come to fruition! However, God is faithful, and our obedience to the gospel does not go unnoticed! When we commit to the long-term investment of giving our lives to build the Kingdom of God, we will find ourselves stumbling over all the short-term blessings that God sends our way!

Wherever you are investing today, remember that God has been investing into your life for a very long time. How have you handled that? How patient has God had to be while He waited for the return on His investment in your life? We often struggle with long-term commitment, preferring the immediacy of short-term investments. However, I would like to challenge you today with two quotes. One from Jesus and one from my favorite author, C. S. Lewis.

Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things will be added to you as well. – Jesus

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – Lewis

If you will invest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 6 says that God will bless you while you are still on earth. Lewis, in his understanding of that principle, says that when we invest in the things of the world, hoping to get something now, we end up with nothing. Investing in the world is like storing your money in a furnace. As you love your neighbors today, remember that it is a long-term investment. Remember that you may not see any positive results today, or tomorrow, or even any time this year! Yet, God’s Word tells us that we will be blessed in response to our long-term commitment to holiness, and our net will be exactly as it should be. Remember, the disciples’ nets did not break when they cast on the other side of the boat. They had to make a conscious decision to invest differently than they had been, and it was a risk! But the net didn’t break, the catch was huge, and God was glorified! They also came to a better knowledge of the Savior. That’s pretty important! God’s investment into your life will come to fruition more and more every day as you continue to invest into His Kingdom, trusting that He will continue to invest into your life!

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