“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:26-30, NIV).
Living to God by Christ means living by faith. Living by faith means both living in total dependence on God and exercising our wisdom, talents, and abilities to accomplish His work.
The normal way God works is through the actions of His people. Sometimes God works in miraculous ways, but we should not expect God to just do everything for us, especially the things we normally do for ourselves. My mentor Steve Poole gold me once told me about an evangelist that was going all over the country preaching the gospel. He paid all his expenses with what he called “faith checks.” He expected that since he was evangelizing, God would deposit money in his account to cover his checks. Needless to say, it didn’t work out so well. We need to remember that Jesus said in Luke 14:28 (NIV), Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? There are times when God miraculously provides. It is a great privilege and blessing when He does. But we should not forget that God expects us to have a part in His work. Many of God’s greatest blessings came at the expense of great effort by His people.
- Did God deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt? Yes. But Moses still had to go and get them.
- Did God deliver them from Pharaoh’s armies? Yes. But they still had to cross the Red Sea.
- Did God not provide manna for them in the wilderness? Yes. But they still had to collect it.
- Did God give Israel the Promised Land? Yes. But they still had to fight for it.
- Did God deliver Goliath into David’s hands? Yes. But he still had to kill him himself.
Someone might well object saying, “I get that Pastor Dan, but isn’t what you are suggesting opening a big door for people to advance their own personal agendas, or pursue worldly goals?” We do need to guard against using faith as an excuse to advance our own agendas. That is true. Living by faith does not mean we can do or act or work at whatever we want. Living by faith means being faithful to God and His agenda. His agenda is that our life be a reflection of the life of the Almighty.
To do that we need to be working to remove the things that hinder us from loving God and one another, the things that keep us from praying, the things that keep us from discipling and being discipled. The way to avoid the pitfall of exchanging our agenda for God’s agenda is by personally pursuing the imago dei, the image of God. The closer you know someone the more you know what is in their heart. The closer you are to God, the more you will know His heart. That will guide your thoughts and actions.
If we are honest, I think more often than not the root of that thought, not wanting to plan, to work, to tackle sin, or make disciples is one of two things. The first is fear. We are afraid that we will mess up. We are afraid that we will fail. We are afraid that when things become hard or are not working out the way we thought they would, that we have sinned, or gone in the wrong direction, or messed up God’s plans for us and for His Church.
Let me give you some good news. God’s sovereignty includes all the grace and mercy necessary to cover our missteps. We don’t have to be afraid of failure. In fact, difficulty and failure are not necessarily proof we are on the wrong track. Jeremiah had little success from almost any point of view. Was he a failure? At the end of Paul’s life he had been deserted by everyone but Luke. Does that mean he failed? Before Joseph was raised up by Pharaoh he was beaten, betrayed, sold into slavery, accused of rape, and thrown in prison. Was he on the wrong track? After David was anointed by Samuel to be King, he spent years hiding from Saul in a cave. Should he have just given up? No. Our job is to work and leave the results to God.
The second root cause of that objection is complacency. When you think you have everything you need, why should you work to produce more? Very often when a person works hard and becomes financially successful, the wealth they built or the business they built dies once it passes into the hands of their children. Why? Because, the lessons of hard work, sacrifice, delayed gratification, and leadership that the person who did the work learned along the way are not passed on with it.
Israel enjoyed much success and blessing from the fruit of Moses’ and Joshua’s leadership, but the author of Judges says in Judges 2:10 (NIV) After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. The blessings that they had enjoyed were not the result of a nation living by faith, but the result of only of a few living by faith.
This parable of the Three Servants has prompted questions I believe God wants us thinking about. They are tough questions. They are soul searching questions. They are not questions I can answer for you. But they are questions that God has laid on my heart; and questions I believe He has told me to share with you.
Are you investing and working to increase the bags of gold that God has given to you? Are you bearing fruit? When we look around at the work our church is doing in the Kingdom of God, we each need to ask ourselves, “What of this fruit is the result of my work?”
Ask yourself, “Have I embraced the wisdom, talents, and abilities, God created me with? Am I using them along with the resources He has blessed me with to, as Paul says in Romans 7:4, bear fruit for God? Or have I settled for enjoying the fruit of other people’s work? Am I so caught up in the enjoyment of the fruit of God’s blessings, that I have not felt I needed to work intentionally to produce fruit of my own?”
If we don’t like the answer to those questions, could it be that, without knowing it, many of us have, like that third servant, buried our gold? Are we enjoying the fact that we were given gold, instead of committing to go to work, and invest it so that when our Master returns we will return it with interest?
I know those are tough questions. And only you and God can answer them for yourself. But I can tell you this. We can’t hope to get a positive answer to those questions unless we live to God by Christ with a faith that is totally dependent on God and exercises our wisdom, talents, and abilities to accomplish His work. It is not either or, but both and.