Sermon delivered December 5, 1998

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

PIHSDRAWETS

I have a button here that says, "Jesus is coming. Look Busy." Could that be your theology? I would rather have a button that said, "Jesus is coming. I am busy." Busy going about His business. Busy being ready to meet Him!

Turn to Matthew 25:14. The previous chapter talks about signs of the end of time. The previous parables warn us to be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus. But the parable found in Matthew 25:14-30 actually tells us how to be ready. Beginning at Verse 14: "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them."

When you intrust something to another individual, that person becomes a steward. The ninth volume of the Testimonies states: "A steward identifies himself with his master. He accepts the responsibilities of a steward, and he must act in his master's stead, doing as his master would do were he presiding. His master's interests become his. The position of a steward is one of dignity, because his master trusts him." You may remember that Potifer had a young steward named Joseph.

Look at Verse 15: "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey." Notice, the master did not expect the same from each servant (or steward). He gave to each according to his ability. God doesn't expect the same results from everybody. Christians have varying levels of ability. However, it is not the amount of a person's ability that is evaluated in the judgment, but whether he or she has put to use the full range of abilities that God has given. People are not equal in ability, but they can be equal in effort. God expects good interest on His investments from each of us.

What are we stewards of? Many groan when they hear that it is Stewardship Sabbath. That is because we have stewardship backwards. Many think that it simply means that someone is after my money. That is why I gave this sermon the title that I did. Stewardship spelled backwards. We will also discover other ways we may have this important Biblical principle turned around in our thinking.

We are stewards of far more than our money! We are stewards of everything because nothing was ours to begin with. It has all been handed to us. When was the last time you saw a luggage rack in a delivery room? We bring nothing with us into this world. When was the last time you saw a hearse pulling a U-haul? We take nothing with us when we leave. The pharaohs of Egypt proved that. They tried to take everything with them only to have their pyramids plundered by thieves. We have been made stewards of the totality of our lives on this Earth.

This is the way that it was intended from the beginning. Look at Genesis chapter 1. God spends seven days creating this world and the first thing that He does is to intrust it to someone else. Look at Genesis 1:28-30: God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every luiving creature that moves on the ground." Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." and it was so.

Look also at chapter 2:15: The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Look around at the shape this world is in now. We have not been very good stewards!

Not only were we to be stewards of this Earth, we were to take care of ourselves. We just read what God intended for us to eat. We've come a long way from that original diet. We have greatly decreased from the great stature of Adam and Eve but have greatly increased in other directions, or as we should say in these "politically correct" days: Horizontally challenged! We are still stewards of our bodies. Or should I say: God's dwelling place.

We are also stewards of the Gifts of the Spirit. Look at I Corinthians 12:4-11: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledgeby means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the enterpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

What are you doing with the gift that the Spirit has given you. Last week, our church received at least 5 new Spiritual Gifts. Each person, as they entered the body of this church through baptism was given a gift from the Spirit to help the church. They may not know what that gift is yet, but they need to find out so that they can be good tewards of that gift. Do you know what Spiritual Gift you have been given? What talents and abilities has God given to you? Are you using them to edify the church. Are you cultivating your talents? Or are you sitting on them in silence? Are you misusing them to bring glory to self. You are stewards of God's gifts. What are you doing with them?

Yes, stewardship does include our money. Many places in the Scriptures can be found to illustrate financial stewardship. We will just look at one today. Turn with me to Mark 12. Here we find Jesus in the temple after a rough day of dealing with the various religio-political special interest groups. Look at Mark 12:41: Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.

Here we find Jesus sitting after His rough day, watching people. I can relate. Have you been in the mall lately? Look at the benches there. Those were made for men! We do not have the fortitude needed to shop. The phrase "Shop till you drop" means that men will drop much sooner than women. I've watched women carrying a babe in each arm and a stroller full of shopping bags looking full of life while I feel like taking a nap on one of those benches. I heard a report a few days ago about research that had been done on shoppers. The blood pressure of men was said to rise sharply while waiting in a checkout line while no difference was seen in most women.

Well, Jesus is resting on a bench in the temple watching the people give their offerings. This was no collection plate. These were large boxes (13 in number) with funnels for dropping in the coins. No privacy in giving here!

Verse 42: But one poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, woth only a fraction of a penny. Picture the scene of all these wealthy people giving vast amounts into the church treasury while this humble, almost non member of society, sneaks up to deposit the last of her goods into the coffers. She had no idea that I would be speaking of her today! She thought that she was insignificant. But Jesus always notices. Verses 43, 44 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on. She could have easily not given any thing and no one would have cared or even noticed. But she gave out of gratitude and love. She knew that she was nothing without God. She even knew that the church was corrupt. Jesus had just cleared the temple of money changers shortly before and the story had been widely told. But she knew that God wanted her to experience the blessing of giving. Jesus could have said "Lady, keep your coins. The temple system will be meaningless in just a few days when the true Lamb of God gives His life." But Jesus also wanted her to experience the full measure of God s blessings through giving. She gave everything. She showed a total trust in God to sustain her.

I recently heard of a pastor in Florida whose church was not known for faithful tithing. After much frustration with the situation, he offered a rather unorthodox proposal. He told his congregation that if they would give a tithe for one year, the money would be kept in a special account and not sent to the conference or be used in any way. If, at the end of the year, anyone felt that they had been hurt by this kind of giving, a full refund would be made. Most of the congregation took him up on his offer. At the end of the year, no one asked for their money back. Instead, they were praising God from whom all blessings flowed. The church has been revived!

What about time? Are you a good steward of your time? One of the Pathfinder units is studying stewardship. One assignment that they will get is to keep track of what they do with their time. I challenge each of us to do the same. I fear that many of us would not like the results. Look at Luke 10. This is the story of the Good Samaritan which most of us know quite well. Luke 10:30 In reply, Jesus said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. This story bothers me. A pastor leaves him lying their. I have to wonder why. Was he so busy doing good that he couldn't do good? Are we too busy to help people in need? I thought of this last week when I passed by a car on the side of the road. I wondered if they needed help, but I also wanted to be on time for the Bible study that I was on my way to. Are we so caught up in schedules and deadlines and our own agendas that we don t reach out to help others? Where are our priorities. What did God give us time for? I am not the best organizer of time. I'm always busy but do not get as much done as some I know that are better organized and prioritized.

Another thing that God has made us stewards of can be found in Matthew 28. In fact, everything that we have talked about so far has been to support this next point. Look at Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am withyou always, to the very end of the age."

When I was attending the North American Division Evangelism Institute in Chicago, I took a tour of the Moody Bible Institute with some friends. Even though the place was very impressive, I was more impressed by our tour guide, a young man who was a student there. One of my friends asked him, "Why did you come here to school?" To which he answered, "I wish to be a pilot so that I can get a call to fly in the mission field and teach others about God." Another friend followed with this question, "What if you don't get such a call? What will you do then?" To which our guide answered, "I will get a job in order to make enough money to sponsor someone else to be a missionary." WOW! I have always admired that young man and have wondered if he is in the mission field. The answer is yes. Whether he is in a foreign land or sitting at a desk in Chicago, he is a missionary. Are we as dedicated to spreading the Gospel? This man has the theology of stewardship down pat! His life goal was to support the spreading of the Good news.

In a Review and Herald article from 1884, Ellen White states: "Every man, of whatever trade or profession, should make the cause of God his first interest; he should not only exercise his talents to advance the Lord's work, but should cultivate his ability to this end."

Let's go back to our original text, Matthew 25. Let's continue with verse 16 The man who haed received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five talents more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two talents more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. To hide your money in a hole in the ground was not uncommon in those days. It gave a sense of security, if you could remember where you buried it.

Verse 19-21 "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accountswith them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See I have gained five more.' His master replied, '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!' Notice that the reward is not a raise or a big pension fund. Rather, he is given even greater responsibility. "I will put you in charge of many things."

Verse 22-27 "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

"Then the man that had received the onme talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 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.

The lesson is clear. Readiness for the return of Christ does not mean passively waiting for the event. Rather, readiness is responsible activity that produces results for the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 28-29 "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

If you don't use it, you loose it. It may be now or when He comes, but those that are not faithful stewards of what God has given them will lose it to someone else.

It's a choice we all make. And its a debt that we all owe, a debt of love. God's grace comes into our time and into our tired, sinful, and broken lives. He doesn't always shape life into our liking, cure all our cancers, transform all of our children into winners, or send us soaring into the upper regions of success and affluence. But his grace always enables us to look life squarely in the face, and in spite of what we may see, he makes us capable of praising and thanking Him - if we choose.

How can we ever pay it all back all that God has done for us? We can't. But we are committed to pay on it for as long as we live by the way we live. It is simply one of the ways that we choose to express our gratitude!

Let's not get stewardship backwards. Let's give God the best of all that we are and not the leftovers. I heard two ladies in the supermarket after Thanksgiving. One said, "If I see another Turkey sandwich, I'll grow tail feathers!" Leftovers are not a delight.

Leftovers are such humble things.
  We would not serve them to a guest.
    And yet we serve them to our Lord,
      Who deserves the very best.
We give Him leftover time,
  Stray minutes here and there.
    Left over cash we give to Him,
      Such few coins as we can spare.
We give our youth to the world,
  To hatred, lust, and strife;
    Then in declining years we give
      To Him the remnant of our Life.

I believe that the Master is about to come back from His journey. Will we be found more faithful than the stewards were before His first coming!

Opening Song: 119 - Angels from the Realms of Glory
Scripture: Luke 6:37-38
Closing Song: 121 - Go, Tell it on the Mountain

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