II Timothy 1:6 (Word English Bible), “For this cause, I remind you that you should stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
So many analogies have been given for this scripture; soup and stew are a few, and how you have to stir up all of the good stuff that has sunk to the bottom. I like to compare it to making jam and I have made countless thousands of jars. When you are making jam, you get to this critical point when everything is at a rolling boil, hot sugar and hot juice in a torrent of activity in your hot pan, it can look like molten lava rolling. When you reach this stage you are at the point of no return. You stand there and you stir! Phone rings, leg cramps, someone knocks at the door; you have to not be distracted. If you stop stirring, the jam is scorched, ugly, and ruined. Thankfully, this process only takes less than five minutes; in fact the rolling boil stage is only sixty seconds. But, believe me, when you have been standing over a hot stove, usually in the summer, and you are on your forth batch, that minute seems to take forever. When all is said and done, there is a great feeling of seeing all of those lovely jewel colored jars filled with bounty lined up in your kitchen that makes it all worthwhile.
Romans 12:6-9 (NLT)” In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”
Isn’t it the same with the gifts God has given us? When we “stir them up” we aren’t letting ourselves get distracted. We are focusing on the Gift Giver and using them to line up those jewels (souls) for Him. What satisfaction comes from that. Maybe, your gifts aren’t so evangelic. Possibly your gifts are used in other ways. Saving a brother or sister from throwing in the towel, using hospitality to show love for your Pastors, feeding some hungry young families that feel stretched in ten different directions, all are part of the purpose of the gifts. Teaching those who need to know, giving to those with need, and leading in others. We lift up, support, and encourage one another with the gifts God has given us. We bless God, ourselves and others when we use them. And sometimes along the way we lead someone into the kingdom. What great gifts!
Matthew 24:14-30 (NIV), “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Every job interview I have ever had they asked me my strong points and I always said, “I am a fast learner.” But, I am sure that God would disagree. I am reading through the bible in chronological order and am now in the New Testament. So I read this parable in a few different versions, and in a few different books. The wording wasn’t exactly the same, but in all of them the “wicked servant” didn’t use his talent. He hid it, or as in this version in Matthew he buried it. As I was fasting and praying this week, one of the petitions I lifted up to the lord was that my published books would sell. I had seen little or no sells month after month even though my books were going pretty steady for quite some time. I rebuked delay, I commanded them to sell, I thanked God for the finances, and that the books would be a blessing to those who read them. When I got around to thanking Him for my talent…this verse popped in my head and God spoke into my heart, “don’t bury your treasure.”
You would think the light would have come on then. In my defense I hadn’t eaten any food for some days and my mind was a little foggy. I did think that that would make good teaching on my blog so I stopped by the table in my prayer walk and wrote down “DON’T BURY YOUR TREASURE,” and continued to pray. It wasn’t until two days later as I was pondering my lesson for Ladies Bible study that the light came on. So maybe I am not always a fast learner but thank God He has patience with us.
My books pretty much stopped selling when I stopped writing on a consistent basis. I even ran into a parent of one of my past students and she asked me how the writing was going. I was honest and said I hadn’t done much and pointed to my beautiful nine month old grandson who I have been watching every day while his parents are at work. Finally I see that all my prayers, begging, frustrations were for nothing. My books weren’t selling not because Satan was withholding, or because God wasn’t blessing, it wasn’t because I was self published and I wasn’t doing enough marketing, it was because I had buried my talent.
It is so important that we use what God has given us, for His Glory!
II Timothy 1:6 (Holman Christian Standard Bible), “Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Paul had to remind Timothy to “stir up” the gift that God had placed in Timothy’s life. He didn’t say, “Ask God to fan the flames and get you going again.” It is something each one of us has to do for ourselves. We have already been given the talents, the gifts, the character traits that God needed in us so that we could do what He has asked us to do. He put them there. Now it is our job to use them and when things seem to settle on the bottom we have to stir up the pot. He chose what He placed in us. It’s amazing that our simple mortal bodies can contain such wonderful gifts. When we see someone who can really sing or play an instrument we can’t help but acknowledge that they got that gift from a loving Father, even if they aren’t using the gift for Him, He is still the one who put it there.
II Corinthians 4:7 (NIV), “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Even some of the most wicked, worldly entertainers us the words, “I give God the glory” when accepting their awards and we know they are not in relationship with Him. How much more should we be using our gifts and talents to honor and glorify Him. If we are using them to glorify ourselves, we have stolen His glory. Those that I mentioned above may be doing lip service, but they haven’t truly glorified God, their messed up lives have a louder messages. Their pride and arrogant lifestyle negate the few words they speak at awards night. A vessel of honor doesn’t allow its contents to be used for dishonorable things.
It doesn’t matter if we’ve been given one, two, or many talents, what matters is what we do with what we have.
Charles H. Spurgeon in one of his sermons on the subject had this to say,
“You say, when such a man dies, who stood in the midst of the church, a triumphant for the truth, the angels will crowd to heaven’s gates to see him, for he has been a mighty hero, and done much for his Master. A Calvin or a Luther, with what plaudits shall they be received! — men with talents, who have been faithful to their trust. Yes, but know ye not, that there is many a humble village pastor whose flock scarcely numbers fifty, who toils for them as for his life, who spends hours in praying for their welfare, who uses all the little ability he has in his endeavor to win them to Christ; and do ye imagine that his entry into heaven shall be less triumphant than the entry of such a man as Luther? If so, ye know not how God dealeth with his people. He giveth them rewards, not according to the greatness of the goods with which they were entrusted, but according to their fidelity thereunto, and he that hath been faithful to the least, shall be as much rewarded, as he that hath been faithful in much … Ah! if there be degrees in glory, they will not be distributed according to our talents, but according to our faithfulness in using them.”
Having talents and gifts and not using them at all is like burying your treasure. It isn’t benefiting you and it certainly isn’t brining glory to God. How foolish would we think the next Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner, if they took their winnings and just buried it somewhere to rot away. Or think of those people who “hoard” things. If you’ve ever watched the show you know what happens…it spoils, it smells, it ruins, and rots.
Maybe you don’t see any talent in yourself. Sometimes, like my writing, it just needs to be developed. Other times you may be overlooking your talent or gift because it isn’t as obvious as musical ability or artistic ability. A good example is my husband. He is mechanically inclined and can fix just about anything. He has not only used this talent (just one of his many) to keep our own cars and appliances in working order, he has helped countless others with similar issues. He has used this talent to bless others. Or think of someone you know who loves children, maybe they aren’t great at teaching, but they sure know how to hug, and rock, and play with the little ones. Often you find them volunteering in nursery or working at a daycare. Then there are those who use their talents to provide for their families, or to earn a lot of money and distribute to the poor, or give into the Church. There are many ways to use our talents that glorify the Lord. One is not better than another. My husband’s mechanical talent isn’t less than Aaron Roger’s talent in sports, or Adam Levin’s singing talent. They are all supposed to be used for good, and they are all important to God’s plan.
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:25-34
We are God’s treasure. He sold everything (laid down His life) to purchase the Pearl of Great Price (you and me.) He is the Good Shepherd who leaves the flock safe in the mountains, to go and search for the one lost little sheep. The very one who wondered off looking for something different, that greener pasture.
Where is your treasure? What is your treasure? Is it your fine education, your forty foot yacht, your modern day castle, or the latest technological toy? Or maybe it is the recognition you get on your job, or for doing your “good works?” Is your treasure something shameful that you don’t want anyone to know about? Is it simply money and possessions? What will you give for your treasure? What sacrifice are you willing to make? Your marriage, your kids, or your relationship with God?
When Jesus created everything-He created an order and a balance. God loves us and wants to give us good things. But our lives must have balance and order. First our desire should be for Him. Everything else comes after. Our greatest treasure should be Him. A passionate relationship with Him is the greatest thing we could ever hope to attain. When we do that, He adds all the other stuff to us-giving it freely.
When we hold back from Him or give our hearts over to other people and things, before Him, we lose. The sacrifices we make to keep those tarnished so-called-treasures, ends up being too much. We end up selling our soul and hurting so many others in the process. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Let’s get practical. The holiday season is fast approaching us. Thanksgiving-a time to thank God for all he had provided for us, a day spent with family sharing how thankful we are for each other. And quickly following that day comes Christmas. Christmas is a day set aside to remember a loving God who humbled Himself and came to us in the form of a mortal man. A Father who sent us gifts to make our lives better, the gift of life to a dying world. So we in turn give gifts to others in remembrance.
Sounds lovely doesn’t it? But for most people those days are not all “thankfulness” and “peace on earth.” They are stress and overspending, loneliness and depression. Some feel they have little to be thankful for, and some have little to eat while we all feast away. Many look at the expensive unnecessary toy, gadgets, clothes and merchandise (junk), displayed as the next-best-greatest-thing that will bring happiness, love, satisfaction, ease and envy. But it is all only stuff!
We are so shallow…and dare I say it? Foolish. Things may make us happy for a season, but most of the time they disappoint-or something newer and better comes along and we look at what we have with disdain. Who cares if the shoes I am wearing are five years old and not “in style?” Or if the phone I just paid extra for last spring, because the free one was too plain, is now obsolete? How many apps can one person use? We are calling wood, hay and stubble treasure! How disappointing that must be to the Father. We step over the homeless man who smell makes our eyes water, to hurry into the mall to purchase that sale item that is supposed to represent God’s gift to mankind. Seriously?
Ask Him what we can do to celebrate these special days. He’ll give you something wonderful (hard) to do. Like put away the charge card and only buy what you can pay for. Maybe invite someone to share your family only meal with. Maybe it will just be bringing some food, not your leftover things sitting in the back of your cupboard, to the local food pantry. This one is a favorite of mine; make some shoeboxes for “Operation Christmas Child.” All of these things build treasure in heaven, if our motivation is to please God and help others. Attend a Christmas Eve service. Not to show off your new clothes and jewelry, but to praise Him for who He is, to sit in His presence with a thankful heart.
We have Him! Is there anything that can compare to that? He is our treasure. Don’t you want to give Him to others? He’s the only treasure worth seeking. But He’s a treasure not to hide, or horde. He is to be shared. “Freely we have received, freely we give.”
We all have dreams, aspirations, a call to greatness, a yearning to make a difference. Ask any five year old. They know what they want. You’ll here answers that vary. Some want to be ballerinas, basketball players, doctors, astronauts, rappers, dancers and the list goes on. They all have a great dream. We had those dreams. Mine included most of those already mentioned, plus be a painter, writer and all around creative genius. Then we grow up. What happens to our dreams? Do we just let life carry us away on a path that we never wanted? Do our experiences, failures and lack of recognition deflate our dreams? In retrospect, I would have made a poor astronaut; I get sick on carnival rides…and my artistic talent falls a tad short of genius; however I do have gifts and talents. I think that though some of our dreams are just that, dreams, we can still accommodate, or alter slightly, those dreams that just seem to hang on. They crop up when we least expect it, that something tugging at our heart, that quiet whisper. What is your dream?