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The Seventh-Day-Adventist ROI

A common question in life is, what’s in it for me? In other words, what is the return on my investment? We tend to evaluate our rewards before choosing to invest our resources such as our time, money and energy. In many ways, we apply this principle to our religion. What is the return on investment in me being a Seventh-day Adventist? Of course there is the hope of eternal life, but do we lack meaningful returns along the way that cause us to feel our life of faith is not worth the investment in time, money and energy?

As a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, I have often been troubled by the seeming lack of joy, fulfillment and meaning in our “religion” resulting in many leaving church and abandoning their faith. Even with those that have not left the faith, there is often the sense that they are just going through the motions out of duty or obligation because it is the right thing to do. I often hear people saying things like, I don’t get anything out of church, or religion just doesn’t do anything for me. Religion just doesn’t seem to meet the real needs of their life and the returns don’t seem worthy of the investment.

To many, life as a Seventh-day Adventist is a life of dos and don’ts. It often seems like we are required to give up all the “fun” things in life. Rather than a positive return, our life of faith appears to be a burden and hindrance to our success in this world. You can’t do this, You can’t eat that, You can’t drink this, You can’t go here, You can’t go there, You can’t watch this, You can’t listen to that, You can’t hang out with these friends, and the list goes on and on. Our “religious” life becomes more a drudgery devoid of joy and filled with stress rather than a life of joy, happiness and peace. What is the return on investment that Jesus offers us when we give everything up for Him?

The disciples asked this very same question. Peter asks, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Matthew 19:27. Peter has given up everything in this world Jesus and asks, what do I get in return? Interestingly, this question comes right after the story of the rich Young Ruler who walks away from Jesus because he couldn’t give up everything for Jesus. He did not see value in the return of giving up everything for Jesus. The rich Young Ruler wanted eternal life but did not value it enough to fully invest everything and eventually walked away from Jesus. If the Rich Young Ruler lived in our day, I suspect he would be a faithful Seventh-day Adventist. He would probably be attending church every Sabbath, faithfully paying tithe, teaching Sabbath School and perhaps even going on mission trips. However, would he find meaning in such a life of religion and be drawn to give up all rather than just much? What is our return for giving up everything for Jesus?

Ellen White describes the reward that Jesus offers during this encounter, “Christ looked upon the young man and longed after his soul. He longed to send him forth as a messenger of blessing to men. In the place of that which He called upon him to surrender, Christ offered him the privilege of companionship with Himself. “Follow Me.”’ COL 393.

In essence, Christ offered the rich Young Ruler a relationship with Him. A relationship that he could not experience while his heart was not fully surrendered. I remember I was at a church retreat and I asked the question to a small group, what do we get when we give up everything for Jesus? Without hesitation and with a chuckle, there were two pastors in the group who immediately responded, “Jesus”. Our return in our investment of giving up everything for Jesus, is Jesus!

The point of being a Seventh-day Adventist is not doctrines, lifestyles, diets, religious jargon or even rituals. These are all a means to an end and not the end itself. Everything that we do as Seventh-day Adventist Christians should lead us to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. The truth is not in the doctrines or practices. Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the Life. John 14:6. Jesus is the truth. It has been said that if you have everything, but Jesus, you have nothing. If you have nothing but Jesus, you have everything.

Charles Ahn serves as an elder at the Lombard Seventh-day Adventist Fellowship.  He is married with three sons and works as an ophthalmologist in the western suburbs of Chicago.

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