Robert and Maureen McQuillan remind readers that ability is good but that availability is more useful to God.
In Galatians 5, Paul speaks very strongly regarding our freedom in and through Christ. The Message Bible version uses some down-to-earth wording in urging us to get rid of ‘stuff’ – such as ‘a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage…trinket gods; magic-show religion … small-minded and lopsided pursuits’ (v19-20).
In verse 18, Paul urges Christians to ‘choose to be led by the Spirit’ and in verses 22-23 adds, ‘what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives … We develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and …involved in loyal commitments … able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.’
Note the wording (we’ve) emphasised above! Jesus has achieved so much for us …now we must do something – be willing to be willing and loyally committed!’
Living outside the comfort zone box
Christians are God’s new creation for his Son’s kingdom and service, each with talents and abilities that should be used in following Jesus, who himself declared, ‘Seek first the kingdom…’ (Matthew 6:33).
Sadly we are so often content to live in our comfort zone and never be bold in fulfilling whatever task Jesus gives us.
It’s time to move out of the proverbial living in a box! Yet many prefer to live in a restricting box of wrongs… wrong thinking, teaching, understanding, false religion, pursuits, hype, ‘cheap grace’, confusion, negative speech, poor self-image, lack of goals, without vision, inability to fully trust God, not using our talents for Jesus, no intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit accepting strange so-called displays of the Spirit at work, and more.
We haven’t space to touch on all these matters here (We’ve written before in various Encouragement articles about the need to trust God and to know the Spirit). In his current Biblical Perspectives series on Confusion in the Church, Dr Jim McClure clearly points out the dangers of today’s ‘trinket gods and magic-show religion’ in church circles.
But let’s highlight willingness to serve committedly and sticking at it.
Many times we hear Christians speak negatively – often it’s in terms of…
• ‘I can’t.’
• ‘I could never do that.’
• ‘I tried and blew it.’
• ‘That’s impossible for me to achieve.’
• ‘God could never use me.’
• ‘I don’t have time.’
• ‘Let the pastor do that – he’s got the charisma, talent and time. Besides, he’s been to Bible college.’
Children love to play with boxes – so often we’re like children in a box! It’s time to get out, speak positive words and claim the truth and reality of Philippians 4:13 Message, ‘Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.’
The NIrV puts it this way: ‘I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength’ and the word ‘strength’ here is endunamoo a link to the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit. It’s time to get out of boxes!
Starsky Reyes‘ Inspirational article testifies of the power of speaking positive words and believing instead of declaring negative words and doubting, sitting in the comfort zone, and not discovering more of the caring, planning, provision and generosity of God.
The parable of the talents
Some doubt and, having a low opinion of themselves, can be afraid of trusting God. And of accepting a ministry calling, being asked to do something for Jesus by using their giftedness (talents both natural God-given ones and those developed as life progresses).
It’s always encouraging to reflect afresh on Matthew 25 where Jesus speaks about ‘the master’ entrusting his property to his servants with the expectation that they’d act wisely and promptly. Actually he was talking about himself and end times. Traditionally this episode has been referred to as ‘the parable of the talents’ …different versions refer to the property entrustments either as talents, coins, silver, gold or dollars.
Either way, they were the master’s and intended for usage. Here’s two main points to note:
1) The ‘talents’ were the Lord’s property, given in trust.
The Message calls this ‘delegated responsibilities’ (v14). And the Greek of the ‘giving’ here indicates a ready willingness of a supreme one to surrender, to’ yield over’ to a subordinate.
2) The property was specifically given to each chosen servant ‘according to his ability.’
We like how the NIrV explains this: He only gave that which ‘he knew the servant could take care of.’ (Even the one-talented guy). In others words, Jesus only asks us to take on board what he already knows we can handle! Even then the word ‘ability’ is dunamis, a word linking with the Spirit’s power.
This demonstrates Jesus’ love, insight and wisdom – he never overburdens us; He knows those who can handle greater responsibilities (five talented and two talented Christians) and those of us who can only, at any current time, handle one single challenge or task! Jesus isn’t going to dump heavies on us and then chastise us if we don’t step up brimming with success. In Matthew 11:30 (NIrV), he stated: ‘Serving me is easy, and my load is light.’
Yes, admittedly, there are times of ups and downs when we need to be reminded of our role of willing commitment – but we can win though.
On that great future day he returns (Note: not tomorrow or whatever date some so-called prophet names), Jesus wants to gleefully say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant…Let’s celebrate together.’
Today we are each called to some ministry in extending the kingdom in whatever role the master decides. It’s purposed to be meaningful!
Therefore every follower of Jesus must be willing to accept whatever the task is and, like the servants in this story, act promptly, not wasting time!
As we hear from Jesus and respond, believe in ourselves and trust the Holy Spirit, we will cast aside negatives and discover that we are capable of achieving much. And not only in church life.
Never give up – or in!
Sometimes when difficulties assail us as we serve the master, we can easily slacken in the commitment aspect! We must never give up; indeed it’s good to recall the encouragement of Winston Churchill’s famous, unexpectedly short speech to a Harrow School graduation class 75 years ago, after the Blitz – ‘Never give in!’
The great statesman strongly urged, ‘Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never, never… in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’
Let’s grasp these words, and especially remind ourselves that Jesus has never given up on us. God’s promise in Hebrew 13:5 (Mge) promises that he will ‘never let you down, never walk off and leave you.’
The lie of discouragement
We can easily feel discouraged if we think ‘What have I achieved?’ The answer to this is the adage – ‘One never knows where the wave caused by a skimming pebble thrown in the water will carry to.’
Heaven’s scribes have all our achievements notated! There’s more written down that we can recall! All we have to be concerned about is the Father’s business just like Jesus who said, ‘We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over’ (John 9:4) – just like Jesus was (Luke 2:49).
Let God work out the details and successes. It’s all for his glory …the time factor is his and faithfulness will lead to success. Avoid discouragement – it’s only a lie of the enemy.
Here’s a personal example on this one…some months ago, when I (Robert) was recuperating after my heart operation and feeling discouragement, I wondered, ‘What have I achieved in ministry?’
We visited a particular church that had a guest speaker sharing – the director of a successful missions organisation continually church planting in Asia. I had told Maureen, ‘We’ve never met him before, don’t know him.’
Imaging my overwhelming surprise when we entered the foyer and this ‘unknown’ man spotted us, promptly rushed over and grabbed me, hugging me so tight and exclaiming, ‘Robert McQuillan! It’s great to meet you at last after all these years!’
Thrown off guard, my mind was spinning! Then he said, ‘Thirty years ago you two were ministering in a small Melbourne suburb and, although you didn’t know me, you had a prophetic word for me that changed my life and direction.’ Smiling he moved away only to return twice and hug again!
‘It ain’t over till…’
As they say in the classics, the rest is history! I actually started to weep and Maureen explained what I had gone through, was recovering a little shakily and ‘feeling unused.’ Needless to say, my heart sang and I recalled the pebble adage.
In truth, it’s not over till (no, not the fat lady sings) the Lord himself joyfully greets us and says, ‘Good work! You did your job well!’
This month our friend Hope Flinchbaugh shares how her willingness to use her ‘talent’ blessed people she didn’t know. Drs Andrew Corbett and Ed Delph also share about being available. Tait Burge tells about Mary Jane Ponten, suffering with cerebral palsy, committed to writing Bible studies for adults with intellectual disability.
Be encouraged to keep on keeping on, like the two faithful Matthew 25 servants who ‘doubled his master’s investment’ (v20 and 22).
May none of us be like the wastrel one-talent servant of whom the furious, returning master said, ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!… Get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb’ (v26 Mge).
Links: TheBuzz – Hope Flinchbaugh’s Allowing Jesus to Use Your Talent / Inspirational – Starsky Reyes’ Letting God Take Control / Focus – Andrew Corbett’s / Leadership Gleanings – Ed Delph’s Willingness to do What You’re Unqualified for is What Qualifies You / Generational – Tate Burge’s Foundation Studies for Adults Living With Intellectual Disabilities