Long-Term Living: Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

Long-term thinking is out of style. “Acorn” thinking is so 1999. Planting a seed and watching it develop throughout the generations into a mighty oak is beyond most of us. We haven’t got the patience! Forget acorns and oak trees. Give us radishes! “Radish” thinking is in. You don’t have to wait long at all for a radish to grow.

People are getting less and less patient about waiting, for anything. The stoplight hasn’t turned green yet and the guy behind me is already on his horn. As I drive around town, I am bombarded with marketing that targets our inability to wait. Signs like “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days.” Really? Maybe it does work, but isn’t there something about the claim that rings hollow to you?

It is as if the ability to defer gratification – to think ahead, to plan for the future – is being replaced with a pathologically short attention span that thrives on politician sound bites, 30-second TV commercials, and YouTube video clips.

Did you know the City of Southlake is discussing the 2025 and 2030 master plans for development? Most citizens are at best vaguely aware that such a process even exists. Do we think the roads, parks, and schools just appear year after year by magic?

No, there’s a very involved process in planning community development, but we are more concerned about getting caught in a traffic jam because the road isn’t wide enough – or is being widened to add more lanes. I’m all for progress – as long as I’m not inconvenienced. Just give it to me quick!

Politicians clearly understand that, in the immediate, they have only to survive the next news cycle, because the American public doesn’t have the ability to sustain anger or delight for more than a fleeting moment.  When people ask, ‘What have you done for me lately?” they don’t mean over your three-year tenure in office; they mean over the past three news cycles!

The radish made it into my salad bowl 30 days after it was planted. All it did was make me happy for a moment. But the acorn screams, “Five hundred years later, my leaves will still give shade! My life will still matter!”

There is a level of long-term thinking that escapes even the most patient members of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It’s a kind of thinking the Bible describes – an eternal perspective.

Let’s contrast the three kinds of thinking – Short-Term, Long-Term, and Eternal:

WITH REGARD TO YOUR FUTURE

Short-term thinking: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
Long-term thinking: Prepare for retirement. You don’t want to live with your kids.
Eternal thinking: You are going to live forever somewhere. Life goes on after death.

WITH REGARD TO YOUR HEALTH

Short-term thinking: Lose 30 pounds in 30 days
Long-term thinking: Regular exercise, a sensible diet, and personal accountability will keep you healthy
Eternal thinking: I Timothy 4:8 – “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

WITH REGARD TO YOUR INVESTMENTS

Short-term thinking:  The stock market has dropped by 20%! Better sell my stocks and buy lottery tickets!
Long-term thinking: Great, the market has dropped by 20%! I’ll keep buying because cheaper is better. I can average 11% annual returns by buying low in the bad years.

Eternal Thinking: Matthew 6:19, 20 – “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Sometimes people believe long-term thinking takes away from the quality of today’s pleasures. But healthy long-term thinking gives meaning to the randomness of today’s changing circumstances. A goal in the future keeps us on track today and helps us make meaningful accomplishments. Without clear long-term plans, you will always be hostage to the circumstances of your life.

Long-term thinking diminishes the hard sacrifices required to get past obstacles. You don’t mind walking in the hot sun so much because you can see the cool shade of the oak tree ahead.

What looks today like a scrappy oak sapling is the beginning of a grand and glorious landscape that outlives us all. We should rejoice in scrappy oak saplings because they represent a certain hope for the future, a dedication to something greater and longer lasting than a fleeting moment.

When you read biographies of people who have achieved worthy endeavors, you are always struck how long-term thinking and planning have always been the correct and natural way of doing something worthwhile.

A few people invent something by accident that brings them to the forefront of the world. Even fewer people win the lottery. How is the lottery winner really doing five years later? How is the person who lost 30 pounds in 30 days doing a year later? Something inside of us tells us that radish thinking is fleeting. Some people stumble into fame with radish thinking. Cultivating radishes over the long-term is the only way radish thinking really gives you any permanence.

When you pursue the easy route by not thinking long term, you may not experience much pain in the beginning, but pain will start to accumulate over time – growing ever so slightly with each passing day until it has become unbearable.

Consider financial retirement, for example. Long-term thinkers will deposit a certain amount of their earnings into retirement accounts – a 401k, Roth IRA, mutual fund, etc. With a respectable average return rate on their investments each year, long-term thinkers will be sitting on a very nice nest egg when they reach retirement age.

People who don’t plan long-term for retirement look for massive returns on their money immediately. They wind up losing their money on silly schemes, investing in “hot” stock tips they heard at work, or wiring their savings to a certain “Nigerian prince” who recently contacted them via e-mail. Long-term thinking protects you from these kinds of losses because it filters out the dangers and scams and points you in the right direction.

On March 7 at 10 AM, Southlake Baptist Church will begin a sermon series called “Long-Term Living.”   This series promises to help the most seasoned Christian, as well as a person who has never been part of church, to focus on the long-term and its implications in our lives. The eight-week sermon series will cover the following topics:

Long-Term Perspective – March 7
We will examine how perspective will change your priorities. Moses had two choices. One involved fantastic short-term prospects with poor long-term implications. The other choice had a dismal immediate perspective with fantastic long-term implications. Moses made the right choice because he saw something that helped him endure the immediate pain.

Long-Term Parenting – March 14
Children are the ultimate long-term investment.

Long-Term Reaping – March 21
Farmers know the laws of reaping. They recognize the difference between weeds and wheat. Long-Term living, like farming, requires patience. In due season, we reap if we faint not.

Long-Term Marriage – March 28
Marriage is a garden that requires long-term commitment and an understanding of seasons.

Long-Term Loving – April 4
On Easter weekend, come see the power of long-term love. God in eternity past purposed to shower His love on us with the most amazing, unbelievable display of long-term love.

Long-Term Review – April 11
As employees, we are often subjected to performance reviews that determine ongoing employment and potential for financial gain and loss. As Christians, our lives will be individually evaluated by the CEO of the Universe.

Long-Term Investing – April 18
Many people have learned over the past couple of years that some “risk-free” investments were really very risky. As Christians, we have make investments that never go down in value and pay eternal dividends.

Long-Term Foundation – April 25
Scripture tells us about two guys who decided to build houses. From the outside, the houses seemed equally suitable. Both houses stood for a while, but the real test was when the flood came. The foundation of the house was what made the difference. What is our foundation as Christians?

We invite you to join us for a sermon series that will expand your thinking past natural short-term thinking, beyond the normal scope of long-term planning, and into something everlasting and eternal.