Third Priority


My first priority in preparing for the vagaries of the future is to invest in the totally portable facets of my life — spirit, soul and body, basically.

My second priority is to invest in things that are durable, such as building fortresses of righteousness in time and land that will significantly inconvenience the enemy should he become dominant, and will hugely empower the work of the King, should there be a new move.

Before I share the third priority in a bullet point, allow me to retell a story I read years ago.  My apologies to whoever copyrighted it originally.  I can’t remember where I read it.

The short version is that there was a storm at sea and a ship in distress.  The crew had made the decision to abandon ship.  A Navy ship was nearby, preparing to rescue them.

The rescue involved taking a small boat, coming alongside the crippled ship in a storm, offloading their crew into the small boat, and returning to the rescue vessel.

Clearly it was a high risk proposition.  It was not just a question of whether they could save the sailors in distress, but whether the rescue operation would cost the lives of the rescuers as well.

The captain called a lieutenant to head up the operation and gave him a choice of taking a motorboat or a crew that could row.

The junior officer thought for a bit.  Taking the powerboat minimized the number of lives that were put at risk.  However, mechanical failure would doom the operation.  He opted for taking the rowing team even though it jeopardized many more lives.  The captain acted surprised at his choice, but authorized the venture.

The rescue was successful, albeit fraught with risk and loaded with drama.  When everything was over and the lieutenant was pondering the situation, he realized what the captain had known all along.

A motor has a fixed capacity.  Even if it did not break down, it can only give X units of energy against the power of the wind and the waves.  Human beings have this mysterious capacity to exceed all normal parameters in times when heroic effort is called for.

He had made the only wise decision.  The risk to additional lives was offset by the capacity of his crew to do the impossible — which they did!

* * *

My third priority in planning for the future is to develop high potential resources which is a fancy term for pouring into people.  At the end of the day, the deposit of God in each human spirit is an incomparable treasure waiting to be unpacked by someone who has eyes to see.

However, humans are also the most fickle and undependable commodity on planet earth.  That is why they are in third place, not first.

In our American culture, talk is cheap and relationships are easily shattered.  This is a riddle I simply have never been able to solve.  I watch hard-charging, ideologically driven people commit to a community, whether it is a mentoring relationship or a business or ministry.  So often in just a few months or years there is a grand announcement of how flawed the others are and an explanation of the utter imperative of parting ways.

On the other hand, I watch the incredible durability of dysfunctional communities.  People routinely remain in toxic relationships for decades, no matter how they are counselled to leave.

I think of Solomon’s summary of romance in Proverbs 30:19.  The wisest man in the whole world just shrugged and said it is an insoluble mystery.  The man with 1,000 women had no clue what made the male/female relationship tick.

Likewise, I know a whole lot about what makes individuals tick, but I shrug and admit total powerlessness when it comes to handicapping the trait of loyalty in community.  I have no idea who will be there for you or for me three years from now, in any of our three scenarios.

So it is a paradox for me.  On the one hand, people are an enormously good investment.  There is no other investment that can give you a higher return.  And there is no other investment so high risk and prone to failure.

It can be quite crazy making at times, because the most natural context for investment is through community.  God designed the community of family to be the tightest community, with numbers of other community structures around that.  We invest the most when mutual love is involved.

Look at these four data points on a line.  Imagine investing in your own child whom you love, in a close friend, in a casual acquaintance, and in a total stranger.  The further away we go from the love-based community, the less sparkle there is in the idea of sacrificial investment.

Yet, the deeper the love is in community, the greater the pain when you do not get a return on investment.  When you consider the four people in the previous paragraph, and all of them turning away from both your spiritual resources and from their relationship with you, the ones you loved the most will hurt you the most.

Into this picture, we need to bring a larger world view and revert to focusing on THE King and His Kingdom, not our little world.  We must invest in others because of the Kingdom.

Here is a simple scenario from my life.  As a matter of ethics, we do not resell materials that have been returned to us.  We get a steady flow of returned products, whether it is a bad address or someone did not want to pay the taxes on the other end, or they just ordered the wrong thing and were not willing to own their own stuff.

Regardless, I think that by the time a product has been bounced around the postal service for a trip out and a trip back, it is not technically “new” and therefore should not be sold as new.  Those products go on a separate shelf, and whoever does shipping has the responsibility to listen to the Spirit and to put one of those products in a box along with a regular order, when the Spirit prompts them.

So we do.  Tens of thousands of dollars of products every year are given away to people who are essentially strangers — just a name on an invoice.

Out of that, we average three “thank yous” a year.  That means the gift of a resource did not generate any significant connection between us and that person.  We don’t have a loyal community where they will benefit me.

Test this against the three scenarios.  If I am in prison, in a really bad way, can I expect them to show their loyalty to me and invest sacrificially to help me?  The chances are substantially less than zero.

If we are doing business as usual, will that act of investing in them help the business?  Possibly.  They might say something good about me to their neighbor, but there is no guarantee.

If there is a massive God-explosion, will that investment in them benefit the King?  It is quite possible that it will.  It is possible (especially if they listened to it!) that they will be in a better place to serve the King because of that investment from me that did not generate community.

And this is the dynamic I embrace.  Frankly, loyalty to me or to Sapphire is a scarce commodity.  I am not complaining, nor do I teach people to be loyal to me.  I am simply stating that when hard times come, I know I can only bank 100% on the King.  I don’t invest in people in order to buy security for myself in the future, although investment is so much more fun when it is in the context of a loving community.

Once that issue is settled, then I am emotionally free to invest for the King, not simply to invest because I love someone.  Do I invest more in my love-based community.  Of course.  It is more fun.  But I am prepared to look at all sorts of people, to identify those who are possibly open to change, and to invest in them quite apart from any personal return on investment.

When things go really bad or really good, I think there will be some people out there who are of value to the King because I sowed something into their lives.  And there will probably be a lot of people who have been massively unchanged by anything I said or did for them.

That irony is immense.  People are the best possible investment you could make at any time.  And they are the worst.

Expecting people to be there for you as a result of your investment is an iffy proposition.  Investing in people in order to position them for the King, while you have no expectations for yourself, is a much better framework for the third priority in our strategy for the future.

Copyright April 2011 by Arthur Burk

On the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim

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17 Responses to Third Priority

  1. Lu-Ina says:

    Sir, at this point, I am leaking. The thought that your effort and love-gifts are not treasured as form the King himself is causing the leak. Sir, I really appreciate your honesty your passion your wisdom your relentless effort to help someone out there – any one. I manage to get hold of this help that it is transforming, healing, and helping me to unpack my potential. It actually introduced me to my King. I celebrate the fact that somebody scribble a website on a serviette in coffee shop that was and still is live changing not only to me but my family as well. I celebrate you Sir as a Noble subject of the King.

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  2. Bill Welch says:

    The Navy rescue reminded me of Lighthouses and Life Saving Along the Connecticut and Rhode Island Coast By James Claflin ( google books). There were a few of the Life Saving Stations in our local RI area. These heroic men were the predecessors to the US Coast Guard. Arthur I am sure a row boat will be sent out for you with a loyal crew if needed.

    Bill

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  3. Tara says:

    Wondering if I could be granted permission to post this piece in its entirety with a link back to your site?

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  4. Ann Patrick says:

    How interesting that you should be speaking these days on the subject of how to keep our priorities in a worst case, life in a different America, scenario. It has been the subject of conversation between my husband and I for several months now as we are settling down and asking what our lives should look like. This, on community and relationship is especially helpful as that is pretty challenging here. Our philosophy has been – just keep showing up. In other words keep a presence no matter what’s happening or not happening.

    Not only in this but through the Redemptive Gifts teaching and some others you have a great investment in this home and marriage. I appreciate so much the perspective that you are bringing to our conversation. Thank you so much for all you do and give.

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  5. Shirley Anne Stringfellow says:

    We pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. Arthur, you are advancing the Kingdom and equipping us to do the same. Bless you! SAS

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  6. Kerrie says:

    Dear Arthur,

    While we are talking about investing in people…
    My experience in street ministry is that 99.9% of the ones on the street addicted seem to have the gift of mercy and are just using to numb the pain. I am able to recognize that and share it with some from time to time on a one on one basis.
    Do you have any advice on the next step? How they overcome? I try to tell them to give their pain to Gd. I know there is a key some where in here…but am a little lost.
    Hopefully I am not being a dunder head and that there is an easy resouce on your site. I only have a Black Berry and have a little trouble finding things on the site. I also don’t have much extra for resouces…
    Thank you
    Kerrie

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    • Kerrie, for some reason God has never had us explore the issue of addictive behavior, although I know it is rampant, so I have no resources to offer you. However, this is not an original problem, so I suggest you read widely and see what is working in other ministries.

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  7. Deborah says:

    Excellent!!! So very true! Thank you, Arthur.

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  8. Joyful says:

    Eternal. That’s us humans.
    Yet, there is so much resistance to seeing others with the eyes of our King.

    Years ago I purchased the “Overcoming the Victim Spirit” tape and found it immensely helpful for me and my local community. So I bought more and passed them around.

    As is not surprising, one was returned that had been devoured by the tape player of the “victim” of much going wrong in their lives. Finding this amusing, I mailed it back to you Arthur, to share the chuckle.

    Ever ready to inflict additional causalities on all forces that would hold others captive to this victim spirit, you promptly sent me three more copies of the tape with instructions to place them where they would do the most “damage” to the darkness.

    I strongly suspect our King -l-o-v-e-s- your style Arthur.

    May your tribe increase beyond your wildest dreams!!!

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  9. Kunle says:

    Arthur,

    I agree with Roslyn. You don’t know how much you have impacted people. And you have no idea. You have impacted our family and alot of people in my cycle of influence and like Roslyn said, you are a very rich man in the kings economy.

    People may not say it, but because they did not say it, does not mean that you are not appreciated.

    When I came to the US(I am a citizen now) and taught some of the things you teach(on spiritual warfare to be precise), some people would look at me like I was crazy. But when I was able to get in contact with your materials, alot of the skeptics were able to see it more from YOUR analytical point and alot went to your website and bought your CD’s and ALOT have been changed forever.

    Ofcourse our loyalty must first be to God, but we have to appreciate people who teach us too and you are appreciated even if people do not tell you that.

    Thank you for all the hard work you do as a noble subject. There is a big army of noble subjects too that you don’t know about.

    Blessings,

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  10. Theresa Beck says:

    Arthur,your teachings are so transformational and I appreciate all you do for the King and for me.Thank you so much for sharing your ministry with me.You help me to boil things down to the most important thing for me to work on.I am in ministry with children and schools and see so much of why the kids act like they do .I use your blessings as much as I can….for me and them… Be Blessed Theresa

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  11. Donna says:

    Bless you Arthur again for such an honest, truthful explanation. Having been in a retail business many moons ago, I was always amazed at how the complaints came easier than the thanks and encouragements. Why does it seem to take eons to write and encouragement/thank you note but only milliseconds to voice a complaint/dissatisfaction.
    I agree with the above comments and this side of eternity I don’t think you will see the full impact of your ministry but our Heavenly Father has got it all recorded and it is going to be amazing when you get to see it.
    For me personally your teaching came at the right time and my generation line has been forever changed because of it and my father will be there waiting for me. Words can never fully expressed my gratitude. Keep moving forward…
    huge blessings on your day.
    PS I have a photography book to send to your daughter. Should I just use your business address?

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  12. Marlise Zuercher says:

    How very, very true! And how painful to learn!
    Thanks for the encouragement and let’s go forward!

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  13. Dave Brooks says:

    Arthur, that is pretty intense irony … but the most sane thing I’ve heard yet on investing and community.

    Thank you for investing in me and Susan! For what it’s worth you have honor in our local community.

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  14. Roslyn K. says:

    I know maybe a dozen people, and their families, whose lives are enriched, enlightened, impacted, altered and forever changed for the Kingdom because of teachings of yours that I have been able to pass on (not the materials, you are specific about that), embraced by them and celebrated via living differently. Some of them have returned to buy your products, most have not.

    However, in the Kings economy of reaping and sowing ~ you’re a very rich man, Arthur. I bet when you get to Heaven you will be amazed at the number of people who walk up to you with hugs, smiles, greetings of warm fellowship. “thank you, Arthur, for bringing me into greater fellowship with our King and helping me live a more noble life” While our thanks is dim in comparison to the Light and Glory of our Risen Lord, still hugs are fun. 🙂

    I sit with tears in my eyes and a big lump in my throat, again, after reading your blog. The whole thing.

    The part about deciding to not resell materials that have been returned and instead giving them away … in this crass, greedy, money-hungry, anything for a buck world, who does that? Only a Noble Subject.

    Maybe that’s the reason for the tears. Grasping to understand, my mind turns to Sodom and Gomorrah for some reason … “maybe, Lord, that’s why you said you would spare if 10 righteous were found” Maybe it deeply touches the heart of our Father when one of His subjects is able to rise above the culture and reflect His Way in every day, it counts all the time, life.

    Thanks for setting a high mark.

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