His name was David Dugan. He was a construction contractor who lived life straight up and straight ahead. Dugan’s contact with Robert Fulghum eventually led to active involvement in the church. He was invited to serve on the church board, but his business travel prevented him from making the commitment. Nonetheless, when he was available, he would sit in on the meetings as a nonvoting spectator. Unbeknownst to the board, Dugan was bonded to carry up to $500,000 as certain jobs required easy access to large amounts of cash. In addition, he was registered to carry a gun to protect his money. He carried both the large sums of money and his gun in a briefcase. Dugan sat through long meetings where the board debated prices on paper towels and toilet paper. During this particular meeting, the church board was wrestling a more arduous problem concerning the front driveway. Smooth paving on one side allowed people to drive dangerously fast so they needed speed bumps and signs. The other side of the drive had large potholes and needed paving. After three hours they were nowhere closer to a resolution. From outside the main circle Dugan raised his hand with a suggestion. He counseled the board to leave the potholes on one side, dig potholes on the other side, spray the holes with tar and call them “speedholes.” He also offered to do the job for free.
The board then spent the next hour hankering over the proposal. Dugan’s fuse finally lit and he stood up. He threw his briefcase on the table and asked how much the church was worth, buildings, land, and everything. The treasurer said about $300,000. Dugan replied, “Great, I’m gonna buy it!” He took his gun out of the briefcase and then started throwing out bundles of $100 bills until the price was reached. He said, “Gimme the deed and it’s done.” From the stunned silence one of the board members asked, “What are you going to do with it?” Dugan explained how he would have his crew come over, level the place and haul it all to the dump before sundown. “And I’ll use the land for the cemetery you guys are headed toward in these meetings of the living dead.” Dugan continued to chew out the board for spending so much time on trivial business because he came to church for religion, not discounted paper plates. One anxious board member asked about Dugan’s gun. He answered, “I was thinking about putting every last one of you out of your misery. Too bad it’s against the law.” Dugan then packed up all of his money and told the board to let him know when they wanted to start getting serious about all the things the church ought to be doing in the world. As he walked out of that meeting he repeatedly said, “The offer still stands.” Dugan’s approach might lack a bit of tact but it’s filled with truth. People are literally dying while the church is grid-locked with trivial pursuits. Jesus has promised to make good on Dugan’s offer and turn churches into cemeteries if they don’t revive their passion for spiritual matters. (See Revelation 2–3.) Maybe (Maybe Not), Robert Fulghum, 1993, p. 133–138
The Internet has made millionaires of a lot of people very fast. If you had invested in a company called HotJobs.com you would have made a 217% return on your investment in three months.. Three months! If you had invested in a company called Net2Phone, you would have seen your investment go up 247% in one quarter. If you had invested in a company called Red Hat Inc., which is the Linux software operating system, your investment would have grown an astounding 585%. And if you would have invested in a company called Internet Capital group, your return on the investment would have been an astounding 632%.
Some of you are saying, “I’ve got the wrong broker!” or “I need to start buying some stocks.”
But today I don’t want to talk to you about financial investments. I want to talk to you about something far more important than that. That’s your life. You can do three things with your life. You can waste your life and there are many ways to do that. You can spend your life and the advertisers will give you many ways to do that. Or you can invest your life. And to invest your life means to use it in a way that outlasts it, to make a difference for eternity, to leave a legacy.
The Bible is very clear that you were created to make a contribution. You were not put on this earth just to be a consumer. You were put on this earth to be a contributor. That contribution that you make with your life, your talents, your abilities, the Bible calls your ministry.
Jesus says that one day we’re going to give an account for how we lived our lives and invested our lives. Matthew 25 tells us a story on how to prepare for the final exam of life when God evaluates how well you invested your life. Today I want to draw seven principles of life investment from this story.
1. OWNERSHIP Everything I have really belongs to God.
God made it all and God owns it all. It was here before you got here. It’s going to be here after you leave this earth. A lot of times we think we own our things but we don’t really own anything. God owns it all. You just get to borrow it for 60 years, 70 years, 80, 90 years and then you return it. You brought nothing into this world when you were born and you’re taking nothing out of this world when you leave it. So everything you have – cars, homes, ambitions, everything you’ve got is really just on loan to you for the time that you’re alive.
The Bible tells us that God made human beings to manage His resources on earth. That’s why human beings are here. We’re here to manage the environment, manage the earth. The nice thing about it is while we’re managing it, we get to use it. We get to benefit from it. But we must never forget that we don’t own it.
Let’s say you had a beach house and one day you came and said, “Wes, I'm going on vacation for three months. I’d like to let you use my beach house. It’s got a beautiful view of the ocean and I’d like somebody to take care of it while I'm gone. While I'm gone I’d like you to do three things. I’d like you to water the plants, feed the puppy, pick up the mail. Just kind of manage the house while I'm gone. You can use it while I'm gone.” I say, “Great!”
So you go away and you come back in three months time and you’re ready to move back in and I'm not ready to move out. I say, “Oh, no. I happen to like my bed now … I park the car in my garage and I like the view from my living room window.” It would be quite presumptuous for me to act like an owner when you had just loaned it to me.
But we do this all the time with everything we’ve have. We act like it’s my career, it’s my family, it’s my assets, it’s my home, it’s my car and on and on, when in reality it all belongs to God. It’s just on loan to you while you are alive.
Jesus made this principle in Matthew 25:14. He tells the story and says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” Circle “his”. It’s not the servants’. It’s the master’s.
When you learn to accept this fact, this truth of life that everything you have belongs to God, not you, you’re going to worry a whole lot less. Your worry will rapidly be reduced. Why? Because you don’t worry about things that aren’t yours. When you get a ding in your car, you worry about it. Do you worry about the ding in your neighbor’s car? No. When somebody else is having problems and their clothes don’t fit you don’t worry about that. You just worry about your clothes that don’t fit. So if you realize this is all God’s anyway, He gave it to me and He can take it back in fact, He can replace it, then you worry a whole lot less because you’re not trying to preserve what you have.
2. ALLOCATION God has given me some unique talents.
In fact, the word “talents” in the English language comes from this Bible story. In the Bible, a talent was an amount of money. Specifically, it was about $1000. This master has doled out multiple talents to different people, a sizeable investment in those days. Today a talent simply means the natural ability and gifts that God has given to me.
Some of you have musical talents. Some of you have mathematical talents. Some of you have mechanical talents. Some of you have business talents. Some of you have leadership talents. Some of you are good with working with animals. Some of you are good at writing, or you’re good at speaking or you’re good at cooking. Scientists have discovered that there are anywhere between 600-800 different talents. You probably have at least 200 different talents. But the problem is you don’t recognize them because they come natural to you. But they are not natural to others. Some of you people can naturally organize things. That’s a talent. Some of you don't have that talent. You’re very unorganized. Some of you know how to make things neat quickly. Others of you it would take you all day to make a room neat. You don’t have that talent. You don’t realize many times the talents that you have.
Set up video: Just to give you an illustration that you can remember the creative worship design team suggested that I reveal a few of my unique talents. Take a look at this video!
In v. 15 it says “To one he [this represents God] gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent, each according to his ability.” First, the amount differs with each individual. Somebody gets one talent, somebody gets two talents, somebody gets five.
We have been taught all our lives that all men are created equal. That’s not true. We are created equal in our value to God and in our worth as human beings, but we are not equal in our talents and we’re certainly not equal in our opportunities and freedoms.
By the nature of the fact that you live in America you are miles ahead of the rest of the world. You are given some privileges, some abilities, some freedoms, some opportunities that the rest of the world doesn’t have and most of the world would die to have the opportunities you have. You’ve got a leg up on civilization. You didn’t ask for that. You didn’t deserve it. You certainly didn’t earn it. It’s simply a gift of God, an ability that God gave you.
Everybody gets something but our talents differ. Some of you are one talent people, some of you are five, some of you are ten, twenty, or more. But everybody gets something. There are no no-talent people. You say, “I don’t have any talents.” Yes, you do. You just haven’t uncovered them yet.
In Romans 12:6 it says, “We have different gifts according to the grace given to us.” Circle “grace”. A talent is something you don’t deserve. You can’t brag about it because you didn’t earn it, you didn’t work for it. You might develop it but it’s simply a gift of God’s grace.
3. ACCOUNTABILITY God expects me to use my talents.
He gave them to us for a purpose. He wants us to make the most of the abilities He’s given into our lives. It’s as if God looked at us and said, “I'm going to make an investment in them.” Just like you would look for a financial investment – “Here’s something that’s worth investing my hard earned money in.” He looked at you and said, “You are a person who’s worth investing in.” When you make an investment, what do you do? Sit back and excitedly watch for the return on that investment. And God does the same thing in our lives. He invests in our lives and then watches it. Romans 14:12 says “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Everyday we get to choose how we’re going to live our lives. Every one of us, we get to make that choice. But there will come a day in all of our lives when we explain to God the choices we’ve made about how we live our lives.
Jesus reminded us in this story, v 19, “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled the accounts.” Someday we’re going to be audited by God, audited about how you lived your life. If you think you’re nervous about an audit with the IRS, how about an audit with GOD. That’s a scary kind of audit to think about. It’s our job, the job of any church, to get you ready for that final exam of life that we talked about earlier. When you have a final exam isn’t it nice to know the questions in advance?
I’ll give you the question in advance. Once you’ve settled the question of your relationship with Christ which is the most important question in life that you’ve trusted Him with your life, the final exam question is, ‘What did you do with what you were given?’ And our goal is to prepare you to answer that question so you can stand before God and say, “I used my talents. I used them in a way that helped others. I used them in a way that made an impact on the world.”
4. UTILIZATION It is wrong for me to bury what God gave me.
One of the reasons we don’t use our talents is the principle of utilization. It is wrong for me to bury what God gave me, to take what God has given and not use it for Him. In this story, the first person doubled his talent. The second person doubled their talent. The third man buried his talent. He took them and hid them. He was cautious, conservative. He said, “I'm going to play it safe.” He was the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” kind of a person. He sat on it.
The master’s reaction was, “You wicked, lazy servant.” Do you think he was a little upset with him? He looked at the servant and said, “You are wicked! You should have at least put it in the bank and it could have gotten the interest. Most of us when we hear the word “wicked” think “murder” or “rape” or “abuse”. But look at what God calls wicked in this story. He says it’s wicked to not use the talent that you were given to make a difference in this world, to never make a contribution, to bury it, to put it out of sight and pretend it’s not there.
There’s a couple of insights in this part of the passage. First, you can’t please God by playing it safe. To use your talent you have to risk. “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God,” the Bible says. And to take my talent and do nothing with it because I'm afraid to risk it in any way is inexcusable.
The second insight is God would rather have you try to serve Him, make an attempt at least and fail and fall flat on your face than do nothing at all. He calls this servant wicked not because he lost the money but because he was afraid to do anything at all with the money.
Some of you, you look at your life and you have no joy in life. There’s no spark. There’s no enthusiasm that you would really like to have there. Why? One of the reasons that happened to our lives is that we start to play it safe and sit on the sidelines of life and become spectators, afraid to contribute, not using our talents the way God intended, living for ourselves, not involved in service to others. And the truth of the matter is, we’re bored with life. It’s time to get back in the game. It’s time to move in ministry.
Why is it that sometimes we find ourselves sitting on the sidelines? That's the next principle.
5. MOTIVATION It is fear that keeps me from using my talent.
In verse 25 the man who buried his talent said “I was afraid and I went out and hid your talent in the ground.” Circle “afraid” and “hid” and draw a line between them because they always go together. What keeps you from developing your full potential? Fear. What keeps you from becoming all God wants you to be? Fear. What keeps you from building in your life a legacy that will last into eternity? Fear.
There are three kinds of fear that will keep you from developing your talents.
1. Self doubt is the fear that keeps most people locked in a prison and keeps them from developing their potential. They say, “I could never do that. I'm just not qualified.” They have all these doubts about their talent. Honestly it is the fear of failure. I'm afraid if I try to use my talent I’ll fail and then I’ll be embarrassed. Do you remember when you were in school and the teacher would ask a question and you would want to raise your hand but you were afraid to raise your hand because it might be the wrong thing. I have learned that failure is not fatal. It is never fatal. In fact, the fear of failure is far worse than failure itself. Fear of failure limits you. Failure is actually a good thing. Failure is how you learn what doesn’t work. The only way you’re ever going to become a success in life is through failure. That’s how you learn, how you grow. It is an education. “I want every staff member at this church to make at least one major failure a week.” If you’re not failing you’re not trying anything new and if you’re not trying anything new, you’re not growing.
I don’t want them making the same failure every week. That means they’re not learning, they’re not growing. But the only way you grow is through failure. So right now as your pastor I'm telling you this next week I want you to go out and fail! Fail as a parent. Fail as a partner. Fail as a professional. Because the next week you’ll be a better parent, a better partner, a better professional. It’s learning through the failure.
Don’t let self-doubt keep you down. I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail, than attempt to do nothing and succeed.
2. Self-consciousness it the second fear. Really behind that fear is worrying, “What will other people think?” If you worry about what other people think in life you might as well go ahead and dig your grave right now, get in it and cover up. You’re already dead. You’re going to learn real soon in life that you can’t please everybody. You can’t worry about what other people think.
The Bible says in Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man is a snare.” It’s a trap. It’s what keeps you from developing because you wonder, “What will other people think.” The moment you put out your shingle, somebody’s going to throw rocks at it. The moment you attempt anything in life, somebody’s going to criticize it.
If you worry about what other people are going to think, nothing will ever get done in your life. You just have to do what God tells you to do. That’s all you’re accountable for. You’re not accountable to please everybody else. That is not your goal in life. Your goal is to do what God tells you to do. Don’t get self-conscious about it.
We often excuse ourselves by pointing at other people as saying, “She’s got more talent… if I had her talent of course I could become a great person… if I could close deals like he does… if I could make sales like she does… if I had the leadership ability like he does, then….”
Just because you can’t be a superstar, does not excuse you to do nothing. Just because you can’t be the best at what you’re talented at does not allow you to sit by and be a spectator, a passive watcher of life rather than actually a participator in life. If you’ve got only one talent (of course you’ve got more than that) you better use it to the fullest extent in your life. You’re not called to be the best in the world. You’re called to be the best that God made you to be.
3. The third one (and this is the greatest fear of all) is self-pity. Self-pity is “I’ve failed in the past so I'm afraid I’ll fail again so I'm never going to try.” Some of you have allowed your past to keep you from being used by God. You think, “I could never be used by God like that. You don’t know my checkered past. I’ve had some major failures. I’ve had some moral failures. I’ve had some relational failures. I’ve had some financial failures. I’ve really blown it in life. So I'm sure I'm on God’s B” team or “C” team. He could never use me.”
You’re wrong. You’re just having a pity party because God has never said that. God has never said, “You can’t be used because of your past.”
There were two disciples that had spectacular failures – two of the twelve that followed Jesus. One was named Peter and the other was named Judas. They both committed the exact same sin. They both denied Jesus in the crunch. When it was in the clutch time, right before the cross, both of them did the exact same thing. They betrayed Jesus. They denied Him. But they responded to their failure in very different ways.
Judas went out and had a pity party and hung himself. He committed suicide. That was the end of his life.
Peter, on the other hand, went out, wept bitterly over it, grieved about it, repented, asked God to forgive him, picked himself up, dusted himself off and went back to serving God. Peter, the man who denied Jesus three times, was the same guy out of all the disciples that Jesus decided to choose forty days later to speak to the whole city of Jerusalem on a day called Pentecost and three thousand people became believers and the church was born. Of all the people God could have used to start the church, He uses the guy with the biggest failure.
I like that! That means there’s room for me in the family of God. That means there’s room for you in the family of God. God loves to use failures.
When are you going to stop making excuses for why God can’t use you? Your original value to God is still there. It has not changed. It doesn’t matter if you’re all crumpled up or if you’re creased real nice, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve gotten dirty or whether you’re really clean, God can clean you up and He can straighten you out and your value is still the same. Stop having a pity party about your past. Start letting God use you in the present and develop your talent. Because one day you will give an account of the way you invested your life. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. What matters is the direction your feet are headed today. That’s your choice.
Matthew 25:24, “Then the man who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” He’s blaming his boss! He’s justifying himself. He’s saying, “It’s your fault, sir, that I failed. You’re a hard man and I knew it so I hid it in the ground. It’s your fault. The reason I failed is because you were so unreasonable.”
Question: Who are you blaming for your lack of serving God? Who are you blaming for your unhappiness? Who are you blaming for not being in the center of God’s will? “If I had just married somebody else, I could have been a great Christian!… If I could have just gotten married, I’d really have gone far in this world… If I had had different parents, then I really would have amounted to something in my life…. If I hadn’t gone through that divorce… If I had had a different brother and sister… If I had had different children than the ones that I’ve got, then maybe I would have made something of my life.”
Quit blaming other people. You are as close to God as you choose to be. No more and no less. You are as spiritual as you want to be. You can’t blame anybody else. If you’re close to God it’s because you’ve chosen to be close to God. If you’re far it’s because you have moved. God hasn’t. Stop blaming other people.
It is fear that always causes me to make excuses for why I haven’t done more with my life and it is fear that causes me to blame other people for the problems in my life and why I can’t do more than what I'm doing with my life.
You must move against your fear. You must do the thing you fear the most. Satan wants to keep you from using your talent and making the contribution that God put you on this earth to fulfill and if you don’t do it, you’re going to report to God one day why you let fear keep you in a box. You must move against your fear and you must make a contribution helping others with the talents God gave you.
6. APPLICATION If I don’t use it I lose it.
Verse 28 “The master says, ‘Take the talent from him who didn’t use it and give it to the one who has ten talents.’” Have you ever noticed this in life? The people who are more talented seem to get more talented? And people who don’t really have a whole lot going for them seem to oftentimes get less? That doesn’t sound too fair. Why is it that sometimes the person who’s got one talent all of a sudden doesn’t have any talent? Because they didn’t use the one that God gave them.
This is a universal principle. God has the right to take away anything in your life that you don’t invest for Him. God has the right to take away anything in your life that you don’t use correctly and for His glory. Why should He let you have it?
This principle of use it or lose it is a universal principle. It’s true with muscles. If I don’t use my muscles, I lose my muscles. That’s why doctors want to get you out of bed real quick after surgery. They don’t want you lying flat. If you don’t use it, you lose it. If you don’t exercise, your muscles get smaller. Your money: If you don’t invest it, you’re going to lose it. Your mind: If you don’t learn to think, if you don’t use your mind, you’ll lose your mind. You’ll get duller and duller as you get older because your mind is a muscle. You must keep it exercised and growing. If you have a talent and you refuse to practice, you’ll lose that talent.
The opposite is also true. If you do use it, you get even more of it. So if you use your muscles, they get bigger. If you take a little bit of money and invest it, it gets bigger. That’s true with any area of life. When you do use it, it multiplies.
Hebrews 13:21. God says “I will equip you with all you need for doing My will.” That’s a promise.
Here’s the question: What do you need more of? Is there anybody who needs more energy in your life? Is there anybody who needs more time in your life? How about money? How about talent?
Here’s the secret: Whatever you need more of, take the little that you’ve got and start using it in serving other people unselfishly and God will multiply it.
It’s kind of like the principle of tithing. The first ten percent of all I make goes back to God. Why? Because when I give that ten percent part back to God, God takes the other 90% and makes it stretch further than it would have if I kept 100% myself. That’s true with your time. That’s true with your talent. That’s true with anything in life. If you don’t use it, you lose it. The way you get more is you invest what little you’ve got. If you don’t have enough time in your life, you really need to start serving because you’re out of balance. It’s all take in, take in. Where in your life are you doing something totally unselfish that’s unrewarded that you don’t get any credit or money for? It’s just volunteer service. Is there any area of your life where you’re just volunteering service and getting nothing back for it? If not, you’re out of balance.
The way to invest my talents is through:
7. COMPENSATION If I use my talents, I will be rewarded.
Verse 23 says “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful with a few things, I’ll put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.’” This verse gives the three rewards that God gives when we use our talents in ministry, to serve others, to make a contribution in the world.
1. We get the affirmation of God. He says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The affirmation of God in your life is far more important than any other affirmation than you can get from anybody else.
2. God’s promotion. “You’ve been faithful with a few things. I’ll put you in charge of many things.” You get promoted. Did you know that in heaven, your responsibility that you’ll be given in eternity, is going to be based on your faithfulness here on this earth. If you mess up and don’t do anything with your life on earth why would God give you some major responsibility in eternity? If you are faithful with the few talents you have here on this earth, God is going to give you greater capacity and greater ability to serve Him for eternity in heaven. On the other hand, if you waste, spend, blow the few talents you have right here all on yourself, don’t expect God to give you the promotion in heaven for what you’re going to do the rest of eternity.
3. Celebration. “Come and share your master’s happiness.” God’s saying, “I'm smiling on you. It’s party time. Let’s celebrate.” And God knows how to throw a party!
Do you really want to be happy? Do you really want to raise your self-esteem? Do you want to feel like you’re making a significant difference with your life? Then you need to find a place and start making an unselfish contribution with your life on a volunteer basis. Use your talents to serve God by serving others. If you do that what happens? Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you.” All the other things that you’re worried about He’ll take care of them. It doesn’t says, “Seek second, third… fourth… fifth… finish your To Do list and then see if you’ve got anytime for ministry.” It doesn’t say, “Fill your schedule up and fulfill it and then see if you’ve got anytime for unselfish service” No, put it first. Think of somebody else first. And God says, “When you do that, I’ll take care of you.”
In 1988, Jack Canfield visited the most famous Buddhist temples in Bangkok, Thailand. One such holy place is called the Temple of the Golden Buddha. Inside this very small building is a solid gold statue of Buddha. It stands 10.5 feet tall, weighs over 2.5 tons, and is worth nearly $200 million. The history of this statue is fascinating. In 1957, a highway was slated to be built over the grounds of a monastery so the monks made preparations for their clay Buddha to be relocated. A crane was employed, but when the statue was being lifted it began to crack. The head monk was concerned about the damage and had the statue lowered back to the ground. When it rained they covered it with a tarp. That evening the monk took a flashlight to make certain the statue was staying dry under the tarp. When he shined his flashlight on the crack, it began to glisten. He took a closer look and then went for a hammer and chisel. He knocked off pieces of clay only to find a statue of solid gold. Historians believe the statue was covered with clay several centuries before when the Burmese army was about to invade Thailand. The monks were trying to protect their treasure but when the Burmese army attacked, all of those who knew the secret were killed. A similar secret exists today. Inside each of us is a largely unknown, yet valuable potential just waiting to be released. Don’t keep it covered with shards of clay. Chicken Soup For The Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, 1993, p. 69–71
Would you pray this prayer? “Father, I realize that You’ve placed me on this earth to make a contribution, not just to be a consumer. I don’t want to live a selfish, shallo