It’s not just starting well in the Christian life that counts, but finishing well. We all have the experience of starting something but not finishing. With God, it’s not making the decision that counts; it is seeing it through. This series has been about what has to be true of you if you are going to have staying faith.
Matthew 25:14-30 For (the coming of the kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
When I was a kid, and I saw it said ”He gave to one 5 talents,” I thought talent meant playing the piano or the ability to juggle. Talent was a unit of money, and a rather large one. It was about 6,000 denarii. Average wage back then was about 300 denarii a year. So, one talent is 20 years wages. Think ”$500,000.”1 One commentator says you could really translate that as ”bags of gold.”
Each servant was given a different amount. They had no say in what they got; they were only responsible to steward and invest to the fullest whatever they had received. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ”Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.” In his statement (and I think this is important), you hear excitement; a sense of eager anticipation. He is glad to see his master; he’s been looking forward to his return.
21His master said to him, ”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Because of his faithfulness with these 5 bags of gold, he was made ruler over more.
22And he also who had the two talents come forward, saying, ”Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.” 23His master said to him, ”Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Same exact statement! He made less than the other guy, but he started out with less, so he got the same commendation.
24But he who had received the one talent came forward, saying, [and listen to the difference in tone in how he thinks about the master] ”Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and his your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” Now, he didn’t steal his master’s money or try to run away with it-he didn’t give him a briefcase full of IOU’s.
He didn’t blow it on drugs or partying or prostitutes or gambling; he gave the master back 100% of what he had been given. 26But his master answered him, ”You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This servant was condemned (no other word for it) not for what he had done; but for what he had not done.? I say that because most of us tend to think about wickedness as breaking the commandments.
But here, you see that ”wicked” can apply as much to a failure to invest your life to the fullest potential as it can to the most egregious violation of the laws of God.
Richard Baxter, the Puritan, says, ”Rocks don’t break the commandments of God, but rocks are not held up as the standard for servants of God.”
Max the dog: Why do you negatively compare a dog to a Christian? Why not a cat? No way a cat could be a Christian.
Let’s ask a few questions: ? Why didn’t this 3rd servant invest his bag of gold? ? I’m sure it felt risky. When you invest it, you run the risk of losing it altogether.
You lose control of it. What happens if things go bad and you end ?up with nothing?
So maybe it’s a better idea to cling to what you got it; hold it ?tightly; enjoy it for yourself. ?
This parable shows you that such a mentality is wicked. To be obedient is to risk what you have for the kingdom of God. John Piper, who preached here earlier this year, wrote a book called Risk Is Right in which he explains that throughout the Bible most believers were called upon to take risks for the kingdom of God. David and Goliath: David had no guarantee that God would smite Goliath. Secret huddle.
Another story in Samuel: Jonathan and his armor bearer: First Samuel records the heroic story of Jonathan and his armor bearer taking on an entire garrison of Philistine soldiers (14:1-6). Most intriguing is how Jonathan invited his armor bearer to join him: ”Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6, NIV). Perhaps? If I were the armor bearer, I’d probably have said, ”Uhh, I’m sorry, bro, I’m going to need more than your ‘perhaps.’ If we are taking on an entire, fortified garrison of trained Philistine soldiers.” But God was in it, and God gave to Jonathan and his armor bearer a great victory on that day (1 Samuel 14:11-15).
Esther: When Queen Esther went before the king to plead for the lives of her people-putting her own life at great risk. She had no idea of what her outcome would be; no special revelation from God.2 ”If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:15-16). Paul’s entire life was one risk after another. (Acts 20: 23; 2 Cor. 11:24-28) Piper says, ”Paul never knew where the next blow would come from. Every day he risked his life for the cause of God. The roads weren’t safe. The rivers weren’t safe. His own people, the Jews, weren’t safe. The Gentiles weren’t safe. The cities weren’t safe. The wilderness wasn’t safe. The sea wasn’t safe. Even the so-called Christian brothers weren’t safe. Safety was a mirage. It simply didn’t exist for the apostle Paul.”3 The entire early church is an example of a generation who risked. They had no right to exist! Every time they preached or made a convert or had a prayer meeting or performed a miracle they were in danger of being hauled before the authorities and put out of existence. Piper concludes: ”The Christian life is a call to risk. You either live with risk or waste your life.” You say, ”But I want some kind of guarantee.” God rarely gives his people one.
Piper: ”It is the will of God that we be uncertain about how life ?on earth will turn out for us, and . . . that we take risks for the cause of God.”4 ?
Piper asks: What happens when you don’t take risks? The nation of Israel is an example. 10 spies: ”There are giants, ?and we are like grasshoppers!” 2 spies: Yes, but we believe God wants us to go take the land.” Israel said, ”Nope, too risky. Let’s stay and wait for a more opportune time. Build up our reserves a little bit.” God’s verdict was ”wrong decision.” What is interesting to me is that God calls the report of the 10 ”evil” (Numbers 13:32). Evil. Every word was true. But it was evil because they refused to see it with the eyes of faith and take the risk. God struck the 10 spies dead with a plague and Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until an entire generation had died!5
Risking is dangerous; not risking is more dangerous.
What are the risks God to which God may be calling you, this weekend? A new ministry God has put on your heart. Pursuing adoption. A divinely directed career change. Joining one of our mission teams overseas! (Every time your heart tugs).
Or maybe something a little closer at hand: Simply forgiving someone. You’re afraid: what will happen to my heart? Sharing Christ. Trying to reorder your marriage God’s way. Courageously waiting for God’s choice in your marriage, ?refusing to compromise. Obeying God in how you approach business: operating ?with integrity in fields where hardly anyone else shows integrity. It may be being obedient to God with your finances. ”God, if I ?give you the firstfruits of my income, how am I going to make it?” You have to take that risk.
Obedience always involves risk. Your choices: obedience and risk, or disobedience with the illusion of safety and the guaranteed anger of God.
Well, taking that risk produces fear, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what this servant in our parable said, vs. 25: ”I was afraid…?”
So how do you overcome that fear? The answer is revealed in the different attitudes these servants have toward their Master. The first two, I pointed out-the ones who invested their ?talents-are filled with eager anticipation. Like a dad returning! ?Adon. But the 3rd said: (1) ”I knew you were a hard man;”?(2) He’s even critical: ”You reap where you didn’t sow;” (3) ”I was afraid.” ?
There are 2 things the faithful servant had that the unfaithful servant did not: ?
Trust in the Master’s Goodness. ?
These first two servants had a sense that their master was good, and trustworthy. They felt a freedom and a confidence in risking. Last week on the video Herb described it like repelling where you lean your weight back on the rope were you know it hold you up! ?
In Romans, Paul explains why he was willing to take great risks:?31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-but more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38Because I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore, Paul, says, I will risk. Paul knew the character of God; therefore he felt great confidence in leaping out boldly, in great risk, in his name. If the cross reveals how God feels about me, why would I not feel safe jumping into his arms? If the cross reveals how God feels about the world, why would I not ask God for great things? Gospel prayer: As I pray, I’ll measure your compassion by the cross and your power by the resurrection!” What if you started to look at your world through that lens? Are we asking for things worthy of his sacrifice? Is what this church is dreaming of in line with the sacrifice he made?
Do the size of our prayers match the size of his sacrifice?
Our goals: ambitious? Presumptuous? D.L. Moody, ”If God be your partner, make large plans!” One thing I know: Jesus didn’t die so we could have comfortable little fellowship that makes little to no impact on the community. He died to make the nations worship. He died to create a multitude gathered around his throne proclaiming his praises so vast that no man could number.
He still resurrects from the dead. And our vision for our community and our world should reflect that. Anything less is unfaithfulness to our master, an insult to his goodness. Don’t insult his sacrifice through small dreams and weak plans. You, personally:? Is what are you doing with your life worthy of the price that he paid? Are you going to get to heaven and feel like, ”What I did with my life was worth the price he paid.”?
Is how you are leveraging your retirement worthy of the sacrifice he made?? It’s not if you are playing golf. Last 20 or 30 years?
Is what you are living for worth him dying for? It’s not a hero-complex, or a lust for adventure, or bravado, or the need to earn God’s good will, that compels us to take risks, but rather faith in the ever-loving, every faithful Son of God, Jesus Christ.6 These servants had (1) a trust in their master’s goodness. And… A Desire to Share in the Master’s Joy. The first two servants seem excited about the master’s return and eager to see his kingdom expand. And so they risked. So, the master, when he returns, gives them two things: greater responsibility-the one with 5 had 10, plus the 1 from the unfaithful-and a greater share of his joy (kara). Greater Responsibility: I will confess I don’t quite understand exactly what is meant by the increased responsibility. Will those people who have been faithful on earth oversee more universes, or companies of angels, than those who weren’t? I have to confess I don’t know. But this is taught in Scripture as clearly as anything-not just here but multiple places-those who are faithful in a little will be made stewards over much. Greater Joy: There was a joy that drove Jesus that is almost indescribable. Hebrews 12:2 tells us Jesus as he went to the cross, was filled with joy: ”who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despised its shame, and now enjoys the joys of his labor at the right hand of God.” ? That joy was for me. And when you get a sense of that, you long for others to share it, too. So your life begins to look different.
When I was a kid: Only one life to live, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.
I began to ask over everything: Does this have eternal value? Think about what you will wish in 100 years you had given your life to and begin to live that way, now! ?
Remember this statement from last week: ”Steward the temporal with gratitude; invest in the eternal with abandon.” Life here is just a vapor. It boggles my mind how some of you, since you were young-you’ve been wise about the last 20 years of your life, and so foolish about the next 20 billion!
Let me clear up something I said last week: ”God loves a cheerful giver.” But what about when you don’t give cheerfully? Sometimes you do it as an act of faith. ”I know that one day, when the master comes back (like this parable says he will), I’ll be glad I did.” And, your obedience is a cry to God to change your heart. So I ask you again, ”What opportunities for risk do you have?” In the Bible, opportunities varied: Rahab: Hide spies.? David: Fight a giant.? Disciples: Feed 5,000. All were different, but God puts his servants in various situations in which he expects them to risk for his kingdom.?What opportunity has God given you to risk?: Mission opportunities: Go! Share Christ! Adopt!
Where is God telling you to obey??We must risk. You must risk!