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Intersection of Life and Faith

More Precious Than Silver or Gold

  • Erich Bridges Baptist Press
  • 2008 10 Oct
  • COMMENTS
More Precious Than Silver or Gold
EDITOR'S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available here.

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Stock markets are tanking. Banks are struggling to survive. Credit has all but dried up. A worldwide recession looms as overseas economies react to the U.S. financial mess.

Whether the $700 billion bailout plan passed by Congress works or not, some tough days lie ahead -- regardless of who wins the presidential election.

That business or personal loan you applied for may not come through. Your job might be on the line if your employer can't meet expenses. Retirement? Don't even look at what's happening to your 401(k).

So what do you do now? Put your savings in a mattress -- if you have any savings left? Most cool-headed financial advisors recommend sitting tight and riding out the storm. That's usually good advice. We can only hope it works this time, and that the market implosion doesn't drag down the economy itself.

But there's no guarantee.

In the meantime, I've got an investment tip that can't miss. It doesn't come from a stock trader or a financial insider. It comes from a Gospel singer: George Beverly Shea.

If you watched or attended almost any Billy Graham crusade service since 1947, you know "Bev" Shea, now age 99. For some 60 years, he always sang just before Graham began preaching.

"When (Shea) finishes singing, I never feel like applauding," Graham once said. "I feel like bowing my head in prayer."

As a kid, I thought Shea was square when my grandmother made me watch Graham crusade broadcasts. No more. Not after I heard his voice -- deep and wide as an ocean -- sing these words:

"I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold;

"I'd rather be His than have riches untold;

"I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands;

"I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

"Than to be the king of a vast domain,

"Or be held in sin's dread sway;

"I'd rather have Jesus than anything

"This world affords today."

This humble, heartfelt declaration inspired me and countless other listeners more than all the thousand-voice choirs and popular Christian bands that shared crusade stages with Shea over the years.

I was reminded in church recently that Shea set "I'd Rather Have Jesus" to music after his mother put the poem on the family piano one day. At 23, in the depths of the Great Depression, Shea was considering a career in popular music -- and the money it offered. He was sorely tempted to pursue it, but a persistent inner voice whispered about a greater purpose. The answer to his struggle came when he read the words to the poem.

He chose Jesus rather than silver or gold.

That's the most reliable investment advice you will find anywhere, whether the economy is up or down. Markets fluctuate based on confidence, fear, news, rumors and any number of other factors -- some rational, some irrational. But Christ is a solid rock.

Now is a time to remember why we are here -- not just to get and spend on ourselves, but to give ourselves and our possessions to God. That's more valuable than anything this world affords.

"I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause;

"I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;

"I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;

"I'd rather be true to His holy name."

Christ's "dear cause" is the spreading of His name to every tribe and nation. George Beverly Shea has stayed faithful to the cause for a long and fruitful lifetime, glorifying God in song before millions in scores of countries. Southern Baptists, too, have long been faithful to give their time and money to help accomplish the worldwide missionary task.

How can we stay faithful in a time of deep economic uncertainty? As a season of international mission giving approaches, what would we rather have?
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Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board. Visit "WorldView Conversation," the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/.