Life is busy, there always seem to be so much to accomplish in any give time, and we never seem to have enough of it, working for ourselves to survive, and all too often, slip into the rhythm of everything for ourselves. Perhaps it may be well for us to lift our heads up from the work overload and analyse what we have achieved after all that work!
Are we blessed with what God has given us? Pretty much all of us would have to say yes to that question, especially in the western countries, where Protestantism has been laid down as the bedrock of society. So if God has been so good to us, then it may do well to ask ourselves the question, “What am I giving back? What place does He occupy in my life?”
So often God opens the windows of heaven upon our lives, and in return many of us return to Him just the scraps of our abilities. Really, is this any different to the unbeliever living next door? Actually it is worse, because we know better.
Christ our Example
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” ~ Philippians 2:7,8
In this verse, Jesus emptied Himself so we could be saved, but do we hold back and give our best to what we call our own important activities leaving Jesus completely out? I would estimate that every one of us could list a number of things that we put first and give God the leftovers. Let’s take a look at just three items and take an honesty check — The three T’s.
First T: Talents
Talents are the capacity and the abilities that God has given to each one of us. Where most of us put our best is into our employment. We may well say, “that’s natural, of course we will dedicate most of our time to work. We have to live, the Lord wants us to work.” True, but do we put our work ‘first’? Does it become all consuming and take priority in our lives, to the point of crowding God out, or at least down to a minimum?
Or perhaps in our retirement when employment is not our all absorbing interest, we devote the best of our God-given abilities to social life? And again while interaction with friends is important, does this become our priority and become first in our lives for our own entertainment and satisfaction, only to override putting God first and ministering out to others in need?
Or perhaps we may devote the best of our God-given abilities to our pleasures, whether spending means on ourselves or our families unnecessarily — buying our family’s love instead of giving some precious time — or upgrading material goods where not really essential, at the expense of someone else going without while struggling to survive?
How much do we give our God-given abilities to our God? Always remember that it is He who has given to us every one of our talents – whatever those abilities may be, even the most humble.
Parable Of The Talents
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” ~ Matthew 25:14,15
So if that is the case, what are we meant to do with those talents gifted to us?
“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.” ~ Matthew 25:16,17
The results of these servants multiplying their talents is clearly stated. “After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” ~ Matthew 25:19-23
But those who get busy, exercising even their one talent to support their own requirements, are not left in doubt as to the results. In verse fifteen, they receive their talent from the hand of God, “But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.”
The results were not so promising. “Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents... And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ” ~ Matthew 25:24-30
I Can’t Do It!
Some people may well say, “I don’t have the abilities that others do.” That cannot be denied. In the parable not all the servants were given two or five talents. They were given “to every man according to his several ability.” But if we use the talents that are given to us for just ourselves, they will be unprofitable to others, and also to ourselves. If we develop our one precious talent loaned to us to the service of God and others, we may just surprise ourselves how our abilities increase. Usually the reason we don’t increase our talents is because we don’t develop them!
Two men were talking together. One was well built, the other was small. The small man said, “If I was big like you, I would go out and kill the biggest bear and lion in the woods.”
“The big man responded and said, “there are some little bears and lions in the woods too.”
“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” ~ 1 Samuel 17:34,35
But in those younger years, what sort of a man was David?
“And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is.” ~ 1 Samuel 17: 55,56
Stripling – just a strip, lean, slender, a youth not yet filled out. The issue is not how big or small we, or our talent is, or whether we have one or many talents, Jesus told the parable of the talents to awaken us to the fact that we are held accountable for what we do have, also to push at the doors to find out how many hidden gifts we can develop. One day soon, we will have to stand before our God to answer for how much of ourselves we have used for him, whether little or much.
Second T: Time
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” ~ Mark 13:32,33
Time is a most valuable commodity; it is more important than money. Any one of us can always make more money, but no one can make more time. So remember when you kill time, it has no resurrection.
Let us look at how much time we are spending with our God. This estimate came into my hands recently and is profound. Let’s take an example that we will live 70 years; Here is a projected probable use of time in an average life.
Of that 70 years;
We will spend 24 years sleeping at 8 hours per day.
We will spend 16 years working at 8 hours a day, 5 days per week.
We will spend 4 years for amusement and recreation, at 10 hours per week.
We will spend 6 years dining, 2 hours a day to eat. (3 meals).
We will spend 3 years for travel at 1½ half hours a day 5 days a week.
We will spend 15 years on education at 5-6 hours a day (3 years for degree).
We will spend 3 years on incidentals that crop up, at one hour per day.
Then if we take time to watch television or computer 3 hours per day, for 60 years (starting at the age of 10), that is another 6 years.
If we calculate all that, we will be left with 5 years.
What are we going to do with those 5 years?
If we take one hour per day for time with God;
3 hours on the Sabbath day to worship God. (This is a good Christian).
Out of that 70 years, we will be giving 5 years.
Do you think that’s a priority?
Answer it for yourselves, but there’s a lot to think about in this calculation.
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” ~ Ephesians 5:16
We have already mentioned that we cannot make more time, but this text says to redeem time? As already mentioned, we cannot make time, so we obviously can’t redeem time either. The text continues that the days are evil. So the next question is, are the days still evil? The answer to this question is obvious. From this moment onwards, we need to dedicate all that we possibly can to save that which is lost. With so much evil in our world at present, that tells us clearly there is very little time left and we are to use what we have wisely.
The enemy, Satan, wants to steal our time. He wants us to be caught up in temporary things of little significance, so we will fail to maximise eternal things of supreme importance. Remember we are dealing with things eternal. So every one of us has to decide what we really want? Do we want things temporary, or do we want things eternal?
You see its a matter of priorities. If we really believe there is a life after this one; if we really believe God wants to give us eternity, then we should be taking time to prepare for it. Everyday, our time is precious, use it well.
Now coming back to our illustration, this person who lives for 70 years, calculates 1 hour per day to spiritual things, be it devotion, study of the Bible or spiritual reading or listening.
Think about it, how many of us are dedicating at least one hour per day to deal with things that relate to eternity?
Out of 24 hours God gave us, how many of us are dedicating at least one hour?
It is a very serious question.
What about the Sabbath?
The calculation was three hours for Sabbath.
How many of us dedicate three hours to the Lord on the Sabbath day?
How many of us just attend church for the sermon?
How many of us don’t come to study the Bible in the Sabbath School?
How many of us if we don’t attend either, spend that time in study?
So many don’t even dedicate three hours to spiritual conversation and conduct, in fact many don’t have any spiritual activity beyond that on Sabbath.
How many take Sabbath as a day of rest because they haven’t slept sufficiently during the working week? And yet it goes without saying to get up early to go to work. That would be a priority. If there is a need to go to work at 4 or 5 in the morning, it will happen, because the boss won’t wait.
If there is a need to catch a plane at 5 or 6 in the morning, it will happen. Of course we will be there, because the plane won’t wait.
But let us start worship at 4 or 5 in the morning and see how many turn up!
We really need to have a look at our lives to see if we are honestly acting any different to infidels. All to often, we call the heathen lost when our own lives are not much different.
One Sabbath morning a minister who desperately needed funds for his struggling church, stood up in his pulpit and announced, “brothers and sisters, I have before me this morning three sermons. “The first one is a one thousand dollar sermon – it lasts fifteen minutes. “The second one is a five hundred dollar sermon – it will last for one hour. The third one is a two hundred dollar sermon that will last for two hours. We will now take the offering and the amount received will determine the sermon preached.”
He had no more financial problems in the church. They got the fifteen minute version. In this illustration the church received the gifts, but people lost the full impact of the message. Sometimes its easier to hand over a few dollars but to the cost of our spiritual wellbeing.
Noah spent 120 years talking, preaching and telling the people that time would finish and they needed to get ready for what was coming upon them now and for eternity. How many were the wise? Only eight.
The Bible tells us that Noah preached as he worked, however people didn’t listen, and when the door was shut and the rain began to fall, they found out that their time was up and there was no redeeming the time at that point. They had squandered their time. And too late they realised they should have used their time better than they did.
Unfortunately in our day, there are going to be people who find out too late that they have not used their time wisely. It’s a sad thing but very soon the door will be shut – time no more.
I had a neighbour not long ago in his retirement say to me, “I’ve wasted a lot of my time”. Many of us could look over our shoulder and say the same. Perhaps we should be taking more time with the Lord. As we get closer to the end, we need to realise more and more the need of our God.
The so called heathen even now realise there is something wrong when their homes are being swept away, shaken down, blown to pieces, burnt to the ground, finances taken, family members taken.
Third T: Treasures
God wants His followers to establish a partnership with Him. That is the real secret of success. When we are in company with God, we are in the company of the unlimited, just as God is unlimited. There is tremendous potential for all of us when we partner with God.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” ~ Matthew 6:33
This is the principle of our partnership; in this partnership with the Lord, He is the first part. Whatever He gives to us, He requests a tithe; one tenth of all our increase. In this, we should feel it our privilege to give back to Him. The tithe is God’s part of the partnership – it is His. He adds to His request that we should bring our thanksgiving offerings. No definite amounts are given, but the offerings are our part of the partnership, left for us to decide.
The devil whispers that what we have is ours – that we owe God nothing. But no, we owe God everything. Knowing, believing and doing are three different things.
Every time we receive our income, God speaks to us. He wants us willingly to give His due, but what are the voices we hear when we receive our income? Does the list start with our wants, then our needs, with our God at the end of the line? Oh yes, the world is full of items desirable, but do we really need them?
Advertising has its influence and hold over the mind. Companies have put millions of dollars into research and they use it, because it works. When was the last time we wore some of our clothes? Do we really need new ones? There is nothing wrong with a wardrobe of clothes, but it is when we spend in excess that brings these questions to mind.
Many suffer from obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases because they ‘want’ foods they don’t need and they force their bodies to accept and process the excess – at the cost of health and even life. Somebody convinced them these foods were necessary; yes advertising works.
Love of Things
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” ~ 1 John 2:15,16
The love of things has taken over. Once the wants and the needs are satisfied, there’s so often not enough left for God.
Now there are those who believe in God and they think about God, but they still put their own priorities first.
After they have satisfied themselves, they say “I am warm, I am well fed, I have got everything I need. Oh, there’s something left over here, I’d better give some thing to God.” This is not the way the Lord wants us to work in partnership with Him, we need to take a good look at our own accounting in heavens bank.
The Scriptures tell us that God must take first place in all our planning. He wants us to respond to that still small voice with our income. First comes tithe, second offerings. Our own needs can then be looked after. Then there are always the needs of others that they may not be able to cover. A generous hand to a fellow friend goes a long way and is sweet as honey. Most Christian families receive rich blessings when they follow God’s principles.
Many years ago, there was a programme called “Family Time” within the church. As the income came into the family, Father, Mother and all the children would sit around the table together. Then father would write down the amount of income and would put it in the centre of the table. He would then explain to his family that the whole income was what the Lord had blessed the family with.
The first thing he did was to help the children understand that all came from God and they would firstly separate what He requested from us; so ten percent was placed aside. Then he would write a cheque or note the amount to later forward to God.
Then he would give some to each child and tell them that they had received a portion and they in turn needed to return a tenth to God. The father would then write down the amount for every child, then explain that the Lord had been so good. He gave all the things they had around them, their house, their food to eat, etc.
Secondly, there would be thank offerings. Jesus came and died for us. God gave Himself for us. It cost Him the life of Jesus to save us, so this family felt the least they could do was to give thanks.
The first one was part of our partnership, an obligation, the way we operate in the company of God — His tithe. The second one was our thankfulness — our offerings.
After that, he gave them all an envelope to put their tithe and offerings in and taught them how to fill out the envelope. They would then thank God in prayer for the time they had together. That was family time, it may have taken half an hour, but it was a time when they came together to allow the Lord to speak to them about their income, through the treasure they had received from the Lord.
The 12 year old son said to his father, “Dad, I didn’t know it cost so much to keep the family. I want to give the part of my allowance that you gave to me, back to you. Then the father explained that he should keep his allowance because it was all planned this way, but the boy insisted “but Dad you have to work hard, won’t you let me help you care for the family.”
If every Christian would listen to God speaking to them about their income, he would be led to say similar words to this 12 year old, “Father, I didn’t realise how much it cost you to care for the family, in the gift of your dear Son, Jesus.”
All Of Us Accountable
Every one of us are accountable for our talents, our time, and our treasure.
“Satan will introduce every form of error in an effort to lead souls away from the work to be accomplished in these last days. There needs to be a decided awakening, in accordance with the importance of the subjects we are presenting. The conversion of souls is now to be our one object. Every facility for the advancement of God's cause is to be put into use, that His will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. We cannot afford to be irreligious and indifferent now.” ` Medical Ministry page 327
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” ~ James 1:22-25