If you had $100 Billion
When the gavel hit the podium, the crowd erupted into applause. Wall Street had just closed and, astonishingly, the Dow Jones Average had broken another record. As the stock prices climbed that day in July of 1997, Bill Gates became $3 billion richer. Gates, corporate and computer genius, was reported to be worth $41 billion. The success of Microsoft’s cofounder has been a source of both envy and admiration.
I find Bill Gates intriguing because we share some similarities. Unfortunately, being a billionaire isn’t one of them. We both have a passion to utilize the power of computers to meet specific needs around the world. We are both visionaries. And last, but not least, if you were to look at pictures from our early teens, you might think we were the same person.
Although the world has seen thousands of millionaires, there have only been a handful of people who have ever been worth more than $10 billion. As far as I know, no one has ever come close to Bill’s current $41 billion record.
I find his life intriguing for another reason. Bill Gates has the possibility of doing something that would have been deemed impossible even a year ago. If things progress the way they have been, he could eventually be worth over $100 billion. (Editor’s note: On July 1999, two years after I wrote this, Bill Gates’ personal wealth exceeded $100 billion. The "Bill Gates Personal Wealth Clock" provides a rough daily estimate of his current wealth. This can be found at http://www.webho.com/WealthClock.)
The reason I find this fascinating is because several years ago I embarked on a unique spiritual exercise. I asked myself the ludicrous question, "What would I do if I had $100 billion? How would I invest it so it would have eternal value?" More important, I asked myself, "How would I use these resources to bring Christ to a lost world?"
My question to you is how would you try to bring Christ to a lost world if you had $100 billion? You may ask, "Why should I waste my time imagining the impossible? Wouldn’t this be an exercise in futility? Shouldn’t we spend our time on more productive and useful preparations?" While at first glance this exercise may seem like daydreaming, it is actually very productive. It will focus your spiritual vision, and more important, it will help you obtain a better understanding of what is the true source of spiritual power.
This was one of the most challenging and exciting spiritual exercises I have ever undertaken. I have learned a great deal about the power of God, the world, and myself. I have found many of my ideas about how God works were incorrect. I have found myself reevaluating and readjusting my priorities.
The most important thing I learned was money, in and of itself, has little value. The bottleneck to world evangelism is not the lack of money, but rather, it is a lack of obedient believers, void of their own ambitions and full of the Holy Spirit. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He created all of the gold that everyone in this world seems to value so highly. Money is not a limiting factor to God. He spoke billions of galaxies into instant existence. It would be a simple thing for God to provide someone with $100 billion to do mission work. It appears, however, God views other factors in our lives as more useful and desirable.
Spiritual power and usefulness comes from the Spirit of God, not from our human strengths and abilities. It is the Spirit of God being allowed to flow through a believer that produces eternal fruit. This is the reason you’ll find two people with identical messages and methods producing vastly different results. With one believer the message and method are the primary focus. With the other believer the primary focus is God and His power. The messages and methods are secondary.
Throughout the years people have tried to copy other successful Christians. Although they preach the identical sermons that have once produced great revivals, the results are rarely the same. They failed to realize it was mainly the Spirit of God who produced the eternal fruit, not the actual words of the sermon. The words of a sermon, of course, are important, but its importance diminishes greatly in comparison to the working of the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Cor. 1:27-37, God says He will use the weak and foolish to confound the strong and the wise. He does this so no one will be able to boast about their own accomplishments. He wants all the glory and honor to go to Himself, the rightful owner. This doesn’t mean God won’t just as readily use the strong and intelligent. It simply means the strength and wisdom that produce eternal results comes from God and not man. 1 Cor. 12:9 (NIV) says, "…my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul recognized this when he said in verse 10, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." The Bible is full of such examples and so are the history books.
Psalm 127:1 says, "Except the Lord builds the house, its builder labors in vain." If you, instead of God, are building a ministry, you will see little eternal fruit. You may have a large "ministry;" but the true eternal fruits will be minimal. If, however, you allow God to build His ministry through you, your life will have a tremendous eternal impact. In fact, your output will be far greater than your input.
Jesus demonstrated this when He fed the five thousand with a few fish. The widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 filled many large jars with oil from a single small jar. The widow in 1 Kings 17:14-16 had a jar of oil that didn’t run out. If we are following God’s leading and are drawing our power from the Spirit, God will multiply the little we have to meet our true needs.
Often people are tempted not to tithe or send money to assist certain ministries. Sometimes it is because they are greedy and do not want to follow God’s commands on tithing. Other times it is because a person feels their contributions will not make much of a difference. If you study the scriptures, I think you’ll find the regular giving of the believers has met the needs of most ministries. We should support these ministries because God has instituted this as the method to finance ministries. How then, do we reconcile this mandatory giving with the fact God often performs great miracles to meet needs? If God does perform miracles to supply needed resources, where does my giving fit in? What then, is the value of money in respect to Christian ministries?
We must be careful not to put too much emphasis on money. On the other hand we should be careful not to ignore it either. Money should be viewed just like all of the other resources God has given us. We should put the same importance on our money as we put on our other resources, no greater or no less. Many Christians err by placing money and methods ahead of the Spirit of God. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. The cart is needed, but without the horse it is worthless.
Our money, skills, and abilities are needed, but only when used correctly. Once we have our priorities lined up correctly, we have the responsibility and obligation to use our resources to the fullest. Since we are to be good stewards of all the resources God has given us, we are to use our skills, abilities, common, and money sense as much as possible. Once we acknowledge God as the true source of power, God wants us to do our part. Granted, our part is very small and seemingly insignificant. It is, however, necessary. To the amount we stop doing our part, God will stop doing His.
It is like a person driving a car. He can either try pushing the car by his own strength or he can recognize the car is empowered by another source. Once a person acknowledges the car is empowered by a far superior source, he still has the obligation to do his part. If he doesn’t turn the key and press on the gas pedal, the car will not move. Likewise, in our spiritual walk, if we don’t do our small part, the great power of God will not be engaged. God does not like laziness or slothfulness and He wants us to do everything to the best of our ability.
The story of the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7) is an excellent example of how our human responsibility relates to the power of God. Elijah told the widow who was poverty stricken to go to all of her neighbors and find as many empty jars as possible. He specifically told her, "Don’t ask for just a few." She then took the little oil she had and started pouring it into the empty jars. The oil kept flowing and flowing. Finally, when she ran out of empty jars "the oil stopped flowing."
The miraculous power of the continuously flowing oil was not hers. The only impact she had on this miracle was the number of jars she brought. If she had brought only a few jars, the impact of her life in this area would be minimal. If she brought a large number of jars, her impact would be great. Likewise, when God asks us to do a specific task, our actions will determine how much God will use us. If we are lazy or neglectful, our impact will be minimal.
God, of course, has to first initiate the task. If God had told the widow to obtain exactly ten jars, she would have been wrong to collect thirty. If He told her to collect 100 jars, it would have been important for her to make sure she had 100 jars. We must follow God’s leading to the extent He has revealed it to us.
The need to fully follow God’s leading is demonstrated in Num. 20:8-12. Here God commanded Moses to provide water for the complaining Israelites by speaking to a rock. Instead of completely following God’s instruction, the angry Moses hit the rock with his rod. Although Moses was not completely faithful to God, water did flow from the rock. This lack of faithfulness, however, cost Moses greatly. He was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of this incident. There are several places in scriptures that show this was a source of great pain to Moses. Think about this; if God punished this great man of God so severely for disobedience, what do you think could happen to us if we disobey God?
In Luke 16:8, Jesus rebuked the believers because the people of the world were more shrewd and innovative than the believers. God wants us to develop our strengths, create sound methods, and get the most bang for our buck. Even if we had $100 billion, we should spend it wisely and frugally as though our funds were very limited. As long as our money and preparations are not a replacement for God’s power, and do not contradict His leading, we must use them to the fullest.
God expects us to use our common sense. There may be times, however, when God will lead you to alter your plans or to even do something that defies all common sense. In such cases, you should follow God’s leading. Otherwise, be a shrewd businessman with your time, money, and talents.
Being good stewards of our time involves an aspect many of us may not have considered. We are not being good stewards of our time when we do things that diminish the length of our lives. Many Christians have had premature deaths because of preventable illnesses. How is this waste of precious years any different than wasting several thousand hours being a couch potato?
Most Christians are conscious of the fact that smoking, drug abuse, and drinking will shorten a person’s life. Many Christians, however, fail to group these verses along with eating poorly. Heart disease, brought on by a diet rich in saturated fats and a lack of exercise, can cut a person’s life short by seven to ten years. As stewards of God’s time, we should be more careful in this area. I am not emphasizing a healthy diet because I am a health fanatic. Quite the contrary, I struggle with this issue as much as most of you.
Although we should try to stay healthy, there are occasions when God will direct someone to live sacrificially in a geographic area that exposes their body to parasites, diseases, and a poor diet. As long as they are following God’s leading, these exposures are going to be unavoidable. In fact, this sacrifice for the cause of Christ is precious in the sight of God. However, even in these situations, there are probably some preventable health problems that could, and should be, avoided.
Being good stewards of your resources does not mean your ministry will flourish and prosper. In fact, it may appear to others that your life is quite unfruitful. Recently, I was listening to a talk show on a Christian radio station, and I heard a young man express his anger and bitterness toward God. He wanted to be a Christian singer and travel around the world singing praises to God. Things did not work out for him and he was unable to break into this very competitive market. This young man was jealous of other successful singers and upset with God for not using him. God does not ask us to be "successful" in the eyes of others. He only asks us to follow His leading and be good stewards of the resources He has given us. Once a person understands this, he will save himself a lot of grief.
Working through the $100 billion spiritual exercise should produce profound changes in the life of the believer. This is especially true for the lay Christian. It may actually revolutionize the way you view God, money, eternity, and most important, your "usefulness.
Other Chapters in this Section
Copyright © 1987 -2004 Michael Bronson | Site Design by Imagination 2 Reality