The key to success in life is similar to the key to success in finance. It’s all about the ROI (return on investment) Can you find a good return on your investment? If you invested $1,000 in Apple at it’s low point (in 1997) you’d be a millionaire. That’s a good return on investment.
So how do you find that type of investment for your life? How do you know your investments will bring back returns that will set you up and apart from the average joe?
A father, two sons and investment
Let’s start by looking at one of the famous stories in the Bible – the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). It’s a simple story of a father, two sons, and investment. The older son is the typical older brother – doing everything right. He’s faithful to father, farm and family. The younger son is a malcontent. His goal is pleasure – only the best life has to offer.
In his quest for pleasure, the younger son goes all in. He demands his inheritance from his wealthy father. Receiving the portion of all that would eventually be his, he travelled to a far away land and invested in the high life. He bought into “can’t miss” business opportunities. The young man backed fast-talking mover and shaker “friends.” He invested into experiencing the best food, drink and women his wealth could afford.
He lived a life of ultimate pleasure. It’s a world most of us can’t imagine. He was Rachel from Crazy Rich Asians entering the world of insane wealth her boyfriend, Nick, grew up in. It’s people who literally have money to burn. We hear stories, but the reality is something most of us can’t comprehend. It’s a world we’ll never experience.
When light is darkness…
Human nature is to invest in pleasure. It is within you. It’s inside of me. Most of us aren’t as lucky as this young man. We don’t have a rich father. We don’t have a father willing to give us our share of inheritance long before it’s time. Yet we do our best to pour our all into a semblance of this world. We seek the best life has to offer – food, drink, fashion, sex. We all struggle with vice. It’s within you.
Here’s a question to ask yourself: Are you investing in pleasure, or are you looking for light? Jesus said, “Be sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.” (Luke 11:35) Your search for pleasure may feel like a quest for light. You feel if you just have that one thing, relationship, high, or experience, then the darkness you are in will awash in light. But is the pleasure you seek light, or is it actually darkness?
Ultimate pleasure is the return this young man thinks his investment has given him. He’s making money. He’s spending money. Life is good. No…life is great!
And then it’s not.
The market crashes. Famine sets in. Friends disappear. Money dries up. Food is scarce. Pleasure turns to disaster. His investment that once reaped a dream come true has now returned a living nightmare. The light is actually darkness. Alone in a foreign land and without a dollar to his name, the young man is forced back to the farm. He ends up doing the exact work he ran from but worse. He’s feeding pigs, but the return on this investment is the mere hope of eating leftover slop.
Hanging onto your soul…
Not long before telling this story, Jesus made a statement that applies to the situation the young man found himself in. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” (Luke 9:25; Matthew 16:26)The man lost everything he once held dear, but in that moment he managed to have a tenuous grasp on his soul.
Is your soul hanging on by a thread?
Humiliated, the young man makes the long journey back home. “At least my father’s servants receive three healthy meals a day,” he thinks. So, he travels home, hoping his father will receive him. Maybe his investment won’t return completely void. He begins the long journey of exiting darkness to find light and regain his soul.
The father sees him from a far way off and runs from the family porch to receive his son along the road. He calls for a robe, sandals and the family ring – a sign of full acceptance into the family. He instructs the servants to prepare the finest meal possible and call for the neighbors. It’s time to party!
In the midst of his father’s warm embrace, the son finds true pleasure. He’s traveled the world, he’s experienced the best (and worst) it has to offer. Yet in this backwoods estate, off-the-grid and out of fashion, the son realizes pleasure isn’t what he thought. He returned home and found true pleasure – acceptance, abundance, and identity.
This is what he wants to invest in. He now knows this will return to him what he wants most.
In doing so, he is embraced by the family he hated and rejected only months before. He finds true identity among his Father and family. He rests in the fact he is his Father’s son. This is pleasure. This is the light. Here he finds his soul.
What return are you finding in your life’s investments?
Here are three keys and questions to ask yourself to ensure your life investment will have return:
1. Investment in your identity.
It ended here for the young man in Jesus’ story, but it really is the beginning point. We live in a world obsessed with identity. So many of the problems we see both universally and personally begin with finding identity in the wrong place. Most people look for identity in success, family background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religious background or some other place. All of those things matter, but we know we are walking in the light when see ourselves in our Father God and His Son, Jesus. It begins with Him, and then everything else falls under.
Question 1: Where are you finding your identity?
2. Investment in True Light.
We know we are in the light when we listen to and follow the voice of the One we find our identity in. Not only do we know we are His child, but we do what He says. Hearing God’s voice can be tricky, but a great start is scripture. Walk as best you can by obeying God’s Word.
Question 2: Are you walking in the true light?
3. Investment in Your Soul.
We keep a grasp on our soul by living with integrity. Integrity is doing what we say we will do. We live by what we know to be right and wrong. We have integrity when our words, actions and deeds all match up as one. It is difficult to live this way on a daily, hourly basis, so a great way to ensure you are holding onto your soul is to include a circle of people in your world. Allow them to challenge you when you begin to slip. Give them access to your life.
Question 3: Do you still have a grasp on your soul?
This is just the beginning to find a return on your life’s investments that will be worth living as you age. But if you can continue to live these three – know your identity, walk in true light, keep a grasp on your soul – you will be well on your way toward finding that return.
May you find a return of true pleasure as you invest into walking in the light of being your Father’s child.