Aren’t we glad our Lord is living? fa la la la la la la la la
But the question we must ask... fa la la la la la la la la
Is are we equal to the task? fa la la la la la la la la
Wait, what? If something is a gift, then why should we worry about if we are worthy of the gift? Fair question. But this is something we worry about. As the giver we ask questions such as, “Will I get them the right gift?” “Can I afford to give what I want to give?” And as the receiver, we may say, “This gift is really beyond what I deserve.”
So, rightly or wrongly, we are in the middle of that season where we hope to be considered good enough to receive gifts (lists being made and then checked twice for those who were naughty and nice). And we hope to be properly thanked for getting good enough gifts.
So, let me ask, have you ever received or seen someone else receive the perfect gift? How do they react? How does the giver respond? That moment, if/when it happens, is truly a blessing for all involved.
With that in mind, here is an important thought. If you are a follower of Christ, then you have already received the perfect gift? Of course, that is Jesus. But even beyond the gift of Jesus (which we will discuss in two weeks), God has gifted YOU perfectly to serve Him.
Last week, we began this short series by reviewing some of what God has given us. This week, we will go a little deeper with the idea of three particular gifts God has given to all people, but particularly to those who call Him Father.
God Gave Us Time
God is an eternal God. Therefore, time is a part of Creation. God doesn’t need time, we do. When the Bible says, in the beginning God created...well, He also created time. He created the concept of “beginning.” Because God existed before the beginning and will exist after the end – of time, that is. That is why He is called the Alpha and Omega. These are two letters of the Greek alphabet, where alpha is the first letter and omega is the last. For us it would be like saying God is the A and Z.
And because God is eternal, the writer of Ecclesiastes says that He put eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3.11). We are created to be beings that will live beyond this life (that is, for eternity from here forward), but we are bound by time at this point. So, the question is: What do we do with this gift of time?
- We must realize our time is limited. (Psalm 90.12)
We only have so many days on this earth and therefore we must make them count.
- We must make time count. (John 9.4)
He continued by saying that He was the light of the world. And in Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. How can this be true? Listen to verse 5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Is Jesus still in the world? Yes, through you and me. And thus, if His light shines it shine through us, but it only shines when we make time count. Therefore,
- We must redeem the time. (Ephesians 5.16)
To redeem something, is to buy it back or recover it. Of course, we call Jesus our Redeemer because He bought us back. That is, Jesus purchased us instead of letting us die and be separated from God. Paul writes that the days are evil. Thus, we need to buy them back. We need to make the best use of the time that God has given us. We need to be intentional. We need to be focused. We need to be committed. Do you know what happens if we are not intentional, focused, and committed? Nothing. Nothing good happens. We say things like, “I can’t believe I just wasted a whole hour (or day)” doing whatever it is we do when we are not redeeming the time.
The problem is that too many people waste too many days and when their life is about to end they realize just how limited their time is, they regret what they haven’t done. I don’t want that to be me, and I pray you don’t want that to be you. And, in the coming year, we are going to have the opportunity to be much more intentional, more focused, and more committed to doing all that God wants from each of us. I can ask if you are ready now, but those are just words. As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. Well, get ready for 2019, because the pudding is about to be served!
God Gave Us Treasure
Now, we come to the topic everyone dreads hearing about during a sermon. But the reality is that God has given you finances. And God offers you the opportunity to return some of that portion to Him. As I mentioned last week, God is a giving God and His generosity far exceeds His “expected” return. He wants a cheerful giver, but 10% should be a minimal goal for us. Maybe we can’t give 10% now; maybe only 2% or 5% is possible. But if you get a 2% increase, why not give 1% extra to God. In a few years, you can be giving 10% or more. 10% is, after all, the full tithe. And the only place in the Bible where God asks for us to test Him is in regard to giving Him the tithe.
- Our lack of blessing may be from our lack of giving. (Malachi 3.10)
Just before this verse, God asks, “Will man rob God?” The idea is that we often withhold from God in order to meet our own desires. But God says, if you give to me, I will give abundantly to you.
- Our lack of giving may reveal our lack of faith. (Philippians 4.19)
Do you believe that promise? God will supply all your needs. He will, and that need includes giving back to Him. Why does it include giving? Because we are made in the image of God and this entire series is about the fact that our God is a giving God. Thus, if He gave and still gives, then we should be giving as well. And, if we are not giving, then perhaps, that is because we do not trust Him to provide for us. Of course, some are able to give more than others, but it is not the amount we give it is the sacrifice we are willing to make. Compare the story of the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19 who had much but was unwilling to part with it (Matthew 19.16-22) compared to the widow who gave all she had (Mark 12.41-44). Which person truly had faith?
- Our lack of faith may reveal where we desire our treasure. (Matthew 6.19-24)
Please understand it is not wrong to have stuff. But nothing we have is truly ours. It is given by God for us to steward. It is ours in the sense that God has allowed us to have/use it, but ultimately, everything belongs to Him. As Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return” (Job 1.21). Job knew the truth because his faith was in the right place. Even though Job struggled and seemingly doubted, he knew that despite losing all he had, his true treasure was found in God. And, as you may recall, God restored to him even more than he lost.
As I say often, we are not to seek what God may give us, we are to seek God. If we seek stuff from God, we may receive it, but miss out on having God. But if we seek God, then we not only get God, but one day (in the next life) we will get everything that God can offer. Remember, God has set eternity in our hearts, so let us focus on where the true treasure lies.
God Gave Us Talent
This last point will spill over into next week, but it is important we see this truth today. Because like with time and treasure, God has given us the ability to do certain things. The question is: How do we use what God has given? Do we use it for ourselves, for others, or for God? Now, the reality is that all three of those aspects can be ok (which is why we need to spill over into next week), but to paraphrase Paul’s thought to a couple of different churches, all that we do should be done for Jesus and to glorify God (Colossians 3.17, 23; 1 Corinthians 10.31).
- God made us for good work. (Ephesians 2.10)
God knew what He needed, so He gave us the ability to do it. Notice, the verse says that He prepared these works beforehand so that we would walk in them. That is, we should be doing what God prepared for us to do. He didn’t just randomly make you or me. He made us on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose. And thus, He expects us to fulfill our purpose until we are no longer living.
- Our work may be different, but it is all for God. (1 Corinthians 12.4-7)
We looked at this passage recently on a Hub Sunday with the help of Mr. Potato Head. The truth is we need to be different and have different skills to accomplish different tasks to fulfill the overall mission that God has for us. That begins by each one of us doing our part, and it ends with God getting the glory for what we accomplish together. Thus, God made us all unique and, as such, we need one another to be complete.
- God made us different because of His grace. (Romans 12.3-8)
Notice verse 6 says that the different gifts we have received are because of His grace. This is stunning. Parents worry too much about being fair. If one child receives something the other child must as well. Now, when one child is having a birthday, some people give a gift to their siblings so they are not left out. That is their choice, but God isn’t worried about fairness, He is worried about getting things done. So, notice verse 6 ends with an exhortation from Paul – “let us use them.” That is, God has given us these gifts based upon what He thinks is best – so, let us use what has been given to us. How? For whom? Well, we will develop this thought more next week. For now, let us be about discovering our gift and using what we know we should be using.
Time. Treasure. Talent. These are all gifts from God to His people. The Bible speaks about time often. It speaks more about money and treasures than it does about heaven and hell. And all throughout the Bible we see people using or refusing their talents. The question for us is: How will we respond – as individuals and as a church?
I know that God has gifted me in many ways. However, to use the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, I feel like I am often returning three talents for the five I have been given. A 60% return may be great as an investment in the market, but is it enough for Jesus?
Well, Jesus was willing to receive at least interest from the third servant in Matthew 25. But in reality, 60% is not enough for all that Jesus did for me. He gave 100% of Himself to me so that I could give back to Him. But my failure is why He came. Your failure is why He came. We are just over two weeks from celebrating the birth of Jesus, but it is not just a baby we honor. It is the baby who became a man willing to die so that when we fail to live up to the expectations of God, we can be forgiven because of the sacrifice that man, the man named Jesus, made for you and me.
See, Jesus had a fixed amount of time on this earth. And Jesus had limited treasure. But Jesus also had a certain talent all of which were to fulfill His unique purpose. That is the gift we are ultimately about to celebrate. And that is why we must consider what, if anything, we will give back as our gift to Him. And that is why...
The JOURNEY letter for this week is: Y – YOU.
It is up to YOU. It is up to me. God has a purpose for each of us and thus He has given us gifts to accomplish that purpose. Ultimately, we are gifted so that God may be glorified, but that only happens if we live our lives in the manner for which He intended. We cannot change yesterday, but we can make a new future by our choices today.
PRINCIPLE: God gave us resources to be used for His glory not ours.
QUESTION: How can I better use what God has given me as an expression of thanksgiving to Him?
NEXT STEP(S): LIVE: Live what you know as you seek to improve yourself for Him. Don’t wait for tomorrow – make use of the time you have been given today to begin serving God with your time, your treasure, and your talents.