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Reaching Our Full Potential / Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 25:14-30

His 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.

A young man was seen pedaling around a college campus with a T-shirt reading, I’m going to be a doctor. A sign on the back of his bicycle proclaimed: I’m going to be a Mercedes.

An Australian man suffered a concussion while serving with the armed forces in Korea. At the time of his injury the young man was 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall. The blow started strange reactions within this soldier’s body so that he began to grow. Today he stands 6 feet 3 ½ inches high! The case of the Australian soldier is very strange, but there are many instances of people who never grow to reach their full intellectual and spiritual stature until after they suffer some terrible blow.

Here’s the question for the day: Are you reaching your full potential as a follower of Jesus Christ? Whether you’re growing because of some blow you have suffered or simply because you long in your heart to be more like Jesus, are you moving forward in your spiritual life?

In Matthew 25, Jesus warns His followers that the kingdom of heaven, the fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity, will come upon them suddenly, at a time when they least expect it. And then He gives them a number of parables of what this kingdom of heaven will be like.

In Matthew 25: 14-30, Jesus says, What will the kingdom of heaven be like? A man going on a journey who leaves his servants in charge of his property. To the first, he gives five talents, to the next two talents, and to the next servant he gives one talent–each according to his ability. Then he leaves. The servant with five talents “goes at once” and puts his money to work, doubling it. The servant with two talents invests his and earns two talents more. The servant with one talent digs a hole in the ground and hides his master’s money. The master returns after a long time. He asks the servants to give an account of their stewardship. He’s pleased with the first servant. Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! The man with the two talents receives the same response.

But the man with one talent makes excuses, accusing the master of being a hard and unpredictable man. Out of fear, he hid his one talent and did not multiply it. Instead of moving toward his potential, he cowers in the shadows.

This makes him angry. He takes this man’s one talent away and gives it to the servant who has ten talents. And he throws the lazy servant out into the darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

What is Jesus saying? How can we to apply this parable to our lives today? A catchy little poem perfectly captures our first point for today.

Life is just a minute Only sixty seconds in it,

Forced upon you, can’t refuse it.

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to you to use it.

You must suffer if you lose it,

Give an account if you abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it.

According to Jesus’ parable of the kingdom, we will be held accountable for our “stewardship” of our lives. When most of us hear the word “stewardship” we think it means to be wise of our money or our time. But God has blessed us with infinitely more resources than just our time and money. We’re called to be wise and generous stewards of our health, our intellect, our compassion, our wisdom and life experience, our influence, our relationships. In this parable, we’re called to invest our lives in such a way that we see a rich return.

Jesus is encouraging us to dream great dreams, to make our lives count for something.

Some of us would prefer not to have great dreams. A man once said, it is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by the cultivation of an insignificant life.

And that’s true. You can escape pain and trouble if you never take a risk, never give of yourself freely, never step out in faith. But you’ll be missing so much of the abundant life that Jesus promises to His followers. Are you developing an insignificant life? The best way to answer that question is to examine your motives.

Are you working at your job to bring glory to God, or to get a paycheck? Are you using your paycheck in a wise and generous manner, taking care of your family and contributing to the Lord’s work? Or are you using your money to indulge in more stuff or more status symbols to impress your neighbors?

How do you use your time? Do you submit your time to God first, before you ever fill out your calendar? What about your relationships? Do you work to build others up, or tear others down? Must your needs always come first? Do you care about others for themselves, or for what they can do for you? Do you take more than you give? Do you look for the opportunity to share your faith with others?

Many of you will Mickey Mantle, he died at age sixty-three of alcohol-related liver disease. Not long before his death, Mantle said to someone, you want to talk about a role model? This is a role model: Don’t be like me . . . God gave me the ability to play baseball and I wasted it. I was given so much, and I blew it. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make it up. I want to start giving something back.

How sad it is to discover at the end of your days that you’ve had an insignificant life! No amount of money or fame or status can make up for a life that was spent in self-centeredness and vanity.

The second point of this parable is that our view of God affects our stewardship of our life. The first and second servants trusted their master’s commands. Even when he was gone, they proved trustworthy and wise in their handling of the master’s property. And in the end, they earned the master’s trust and fellowship. But the third servant viewed his master as a hard, unpredictable man and acted accordingly.

How do you view God? Do you see God as an absentee parent, a vague abstraction, a cosmic police officer? Do you see God as a hard-to-please taskmaster who piles on more expectations than you can possibly fulfill? Do you skip over those verses that speak of God as kind, gentle, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love? It’s important to look at your view of God, because your view of God will affect your ability to step out in faith.

A man used to play an unusual game of hide-and-seek with his two young sons. He would hide while his sons looked for him. Just moments before the boys found him, he would jump out of his hiding place with a loud shout. Naturally, his two boys would run off screaming in the other direction.

But one time, the boys did something different. Just as he popped out of his hiding place, the older boy announced, Hey! He isn’t a monster. It’s our dad! Attack! And the two boys pounced on their father with giggles and hugs.

This is just like the moment when we come face to face with God, our Heavenly Father. At first, we may feel immobilizing fear. At the same time, we can’t help but acknowledge that this incredible Presence is also our loving Father.

When you trust God’s leading, you’ll be able to follow. When you trust God’s provision, you can give of your resources generously. When you trust God’s love and mercy, you can share that love and mercy with others. Everything starts with your view of God.

And finally, Jesus is teaching us through this parable that what we do here in life has eternal significance. Our influence stretches on for many generations, long after we are gone. One life has an immeasurable impact on this world. And when we invest our lives in glorifying God, God will honor that investment by multiplying it far beyond anything we could do with simple human effort.

There is a beautiful prayer that expresses the desire to let God work through us for His glory. I encourage you to pray this every day, Lord, let me make a difference for You that is utterly unequal to who I am.

God is no Fool, God gave us a priceless gift, the capacity for love. We should be grateful and humble, and we value this as an extraordinary thing that has happened to us. We carry this capacity for love like a jewel and we walk tall and with purpose.

From time to time, we must show this gift to others, and they will smile. Some people however, think it would get dirty if we used it for others, and we hide this jewel from everyone.  And think, this was no way to treat such a precious thing, so you build a box to protect this jewel. And we decided to show it only to those who would treat it with respect and meet it with a reverent love of their own.

Even that didn’t work, for some tried to break into the box. So, we build a bigger, stronger box, one that no one could get into, and we feel good. At last, the jewel is protected as it should be.

Upon occasion, when we decide that someone had earned the right to see it, we’d show it proudly. But sometimes they would refuse, or maybe they’d smudge it, or just look at it disinterestedly.

As time marches, and then only once in a while, someone would pass by you’d pat his box and say, I have the loveliest of gift in here. Once or twice, we’d open the box and say, look and see. I want you to see this precious jewel. And the passerby would look and look, and look. And then he would back away, shaking their heads.

Then the day comes when we die, and stand before God, and you say, God, You gave me a precious gift many years ago, and I’ve kept it safe, and it’s as lovely as the day You gave it to me. And you open the box and held it out to God. God glanced in the box, and in it was a lizard, an ugly, laughing lizard. And God walks away from you too.

Love guarded and unexposed. A jewel turned into an ugly lizard. A servant cast into the outer darkness. Life isn’t to be hoarded. It’s to be lived fully, abundantly, without reservation. It’s to be invested in love, in hope, in faith so that a wonderful harvest of lasting influence will be reaped. So, how about it? Are you reaching your full potential as a follower of Jesus Christ? When you face the Lord, will you have the joy of hearing these words, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!?