Friday, September 16, 2016

Count for Something (Matthew 25:14-30) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

In January 2010, Jeff Miller, an independent businessman from Rogers Park, Illinois clinched his third consecutive “Ultimate Couch Potato” title Chicago's ESPN Zone. "It's all about determination," said Miller, who watched TV sports programming for 72 straight, sleepless hours.

Miller, 26, bested three other competitors and pushed himself beyond the Guinness World Record for nonstop viewing.  The venue controlled the remote from the time the four contestants first reclined on New Year's Day, and 72 hours later Miller sat alone. His superior sluggishness earned him a new recliner, a $1,000 gift card toward the purchase of a television, money for one year for his cable/satellite bills, and the Ultimate Couch Potato trophy, adorned with an actual spud just like the trophies he won in 2008 and 2009.  Ambition, you gotta love it.

From a Biblical and Christian perspective, God has created each one of us, so the question is, is winning the ultimate couch potato title what God desires for our lives or does God have something else in mind?  One philosophy goes something like this:  When someone calls for a volunteer look the other way, turn away, keep your head facing downward, don’t make eye contact, don’t look up.  Follow, never lead.  Strive for mediocrity.  Aim low.  Do the least, do the minimum, just get buy.  Stay in the center of the crowd so you won’t get chosen; whatever you do, don’t stand out.  Sadly, this is some people’s philosophy today.

So why has God created you and me, to glorify God and not ourselves? We are called to accomplish something for the Lord?  We are called to live for something larger than ourselves?   We are called to achieve?   God has created us for significance, for our lives to count for something?    Are you reaching your full potential as a follower of Jesus Christ?   Are you investing in the Kingdom of God?

We read in psalm 8 – “What are human beings O God, that you are mindful of them, mere mortals, that you care for them, and yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.   You have given them dominion over the works of your hands you have put all things under their feet.

In our lesson from the Gospel of Matthew we read about a master going on a journey who leaves his servants in charge of his property.  He gives give talents to the first servant, two talents to the next servant, and one talent, to the third, each according to his ability.  Clearly Jesus meant this parable to apply to his followers.  And we quickly see that we all have talents and abilities, but they are different, and that some people have more abilities and others have less, but God has given abilities to everyone.

After a period of time, the master returns and asks his servants to give an account of what they have done with their talents.  The master is pleased with the first servant and says: “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You did something positive with your talents.    You have been faithful and I will give you other responsibilities.  Come and share in your master’s happiness.”  The servant with the two talents receives the identical response.  But the master is not happy with the third servant.  The servant makes excuses, and accuses the master of being hard and unpredictable.  He blames the master for his doing nothing with his abilities.  He fails to take personal responsibility for his lack of action.  Out of fear, he buries his talent and doesn’t attempt to use or invest it.  The master takes the talent away and gives it to another servant.  Then the master has the servant thrown out into the darkness.

This is a parable about life, life matters, it counts for something, it is significant.  What does a significant life look like?  That’s what’s wonderful. Significance comes in all sizes.  There is no one standard or ideal, no one size fits all, no blueprint or template.  There is no cookie cutter measure.  It looks differently.  It might even look like your life right now.   Are you living a significant life?  Are you reaching your God given potential as a follower of Jesus?

I suspect that there are people in our society who feel insignificant.  They think, “I don’t really matter.  I haven’t done anything important. I haven’t contributed anything of value.   I don’t have anything special to offer the world.  I’m nothing special.”   Of course there are also those whose ego is so colossal, that they fill a room all by themselves.   They believe they are God’s gift to anyone who has the good fortune to meet them.  Maybe you know someone like that.

Living a life that counts for something means that our lives are accountable to God, that we will be held accountable for the stewardship of our lives.

The truth is that God has given each of us something to work with.  We don’t enter this life empty handed.  God has imparted to us a mind, ears and eyes, a heart, wisdom, knowledge, experience, health, compassion, influence, relationships, freedom to make choices and set priorities, the ability to see needs and address them.  God passionately wants us to achieve something in the limited time that He has given us on this earth.

God says: “I created you in my image, your life is a gift, you are special, you are my child, that’s why you have the capacity to excel in life?  I have given you my Spirit.”  That’s why we can lead a life that is noteworthy in God’s eyes.  God has graced us with abilities and talents.

Living a life that counts for something also means that our view of God affects how we perceive ourselves.   Your view of God will directly affect your ability to step out in faith.  The first and second servants respected the master, they trusted his word, they trusted his mercy and love, they trusted his leading, they obeyed him, they stepped out in faith.  Even when the master was gone, they proved trustworthy and wise in their work.  They knew this was a chance to do something significant.

You’ve seen old cars driving around with a bumper sticker that says my other car is a BMW?  Well a young man was seen pedaling around a college campus with a T-shirt reading “I’m going to be a doctor.”  A sign on the back on his bicycle proclaimed, “I’m going to be a Mercedes.”   Now that’s positive thinking.

Actor Hugh O’ Brian died last Monday.  He was 91.  Now I don’t know about you, but he was one of my childhood heroes.  He played Wyatt Earp, in the Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp which ran six seasons, from 1955 – 1961.  That series made him a star.  He also acted in many other television shows.  Now that in itself is quite an accomplishment.

But his most enduring legacy is off-screen.  He organized the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization, founded to inspire and develop youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service, and innovation.  More than 375,000 high school sophomores selected by their schools have gone through this organization.

How did it start?  It grew out of an invitation to O’Brian from Dr. Albert Schweitzer to visit the medical missionary at his hospital in Africa.  O’Brian spent 9 days working at the hospital in the summer of 1958.  It was a life changing experience for him.  He and Dr. Schweitzer spent hours talking each night after dinner.  As O’Brian was getting ready to depart, Schweitzer asked asked: “Hugh, what are you going to do with this?”  On the plane flight home, the vision of an educational organization for youth came into his mind.

On the other hand, I also think of people whom you never heard of, people who were not famous, but significant in my personal life – Like Ms. Moe, my third grade teacher, Mr. Armundson, my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Malone, my Sunday School teacher, and Rev. Hamilton, my pastor.  Your significant life can be known by the world or by a single person whom you were there for and supported at just the right time.   The life we lead depends upon our understanding of, our view of God.  If you believe God is a couch potato, chances re you too will adopt a similar life-style.

Living a life that counts for something means that what we do in life has eternal significance.   Your influence stretches beyond this earthly life.  It touches other people for generations after we are gone.  Our life has an immeasurable impact on this world.  When we invest our lives glorifying God, God will honor our investment and multiply our efforts beyond anything we can know or imagine.

You never know when your seemingly small task is actually a part of God’s big plan.  Remember there are opportunities all around us – in our neighborhood, our community, our church, our family and even in politics.  God calls us to lead important lives, and we need to respond.  Because ultimately only God can see the big picture and how you fit into that picture.  God calls us not just to survive but to thrive.  Not just to lead lives of mediocrity, but of reaching our God given potential.  That whatever the task or challenge, to give our most and not our least.

Herman Cain, CEO and president of Godfather’s Pizza, was raised in poverty.  He credits his hard working father for his success in life.  Throughout Herman’s life, his father worked 3 or 4 jobs at a time in order to support his family.  Cain also received inspiration from a poem taught to him by Dr. Benjamin Mays, a former president of Morehouse college.   This poem has guided Herman through the ups and downs of his life.

Life is just a minute, only sixty seconds in it, forced upon you, can’t refuse it, Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it, But it’s up to you to use it.  You must suffer if you lose it, give an account if you abuse it, just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”

God’s word is powerful – your life matters, it counts for something.    Remember the psalmist’s words:  God has crowned you with glory and honor.  Let us pray: “God, here I am, open my eyes, open my ears, use me for something significant, that you will be pleased, that you will be glorified and that we too may hear those word:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.’”   Amen

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