HOW TO INVEST YOUR LIFE
At the end of your life if you were asked, “How can you determine if your life was worthwhile?” How would you answer that? You come to the end of your life and start reviewing it and you say, “Did my life count? Did my life make a difference, an impact?” What are you going to look for? Wealth? Fame? Popularity? Pleasure? Experiences you had in life?
There are three things you can do with life. Three options.
1. I can waste my life. “You only go around once in life. Go with gusto!” Live for today. Do your own thing. If it feels good, do it. Waste your life.
2. I can spend my life. I can spend it on a career, a family, making a name for myself. I can spend my life in many different ways.
3. I can invest my life.
The best use of your life is to invest your life in something that outlasts it.
The people, who waste their lives, we call fools. The people, who spend their lives, we call average. They get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed, retire and die. But the people who invest their lives we call leaders.
I want to look at some principles of leadership based on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. From this parable we see seven principles for investing your life, on how to make your life count. How to invest your life in a way that’s going to outlast it.
1. THE PRINCIPLE OF OWNERSHIP
Everything I have really belongs to God. God made it all and since He made it all, He owns it all. The creator is the owner. Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Everything that’s in it is His. God made everything. Everything you see, God owns. We’re just loaned it for 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years – however long you’re here. You get to use it awhile and then you pass it on. You never really own anything. It’s just while you’re here on earth you get to use it. Then it goes on and somebody else gets to use it.
Genesis 2. Whenever in doubt about God’s purpose, we consult the owner’s manual. Go back to the very start and find out what was God’s plan from the very beginning. Genesis 2:15 tells us God’s purpose for man from the very beginning of time. “The Lord God took the man and He put him in the Garden of Eden to work it [circle “work it”] and to take care of it [circle “take care of it”]” God made the world and then He put man on it to manage it. We are the managers of the world. We are to manage God’s creation. He put us here to take care of His world. The word “management” and the word “stewardship” are the same word. It means to be a manager. God has entrusted to you certain things, certain abilities, certain gifts and opportunities – certain things – but they all really belong to God.
Matthew 25:14 “Again it would be like a man going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” In this parable the master represents God and we are the people, the servants. Property has been entrusted to us. Circle “entrusted”. God has entrusted some things to you, some relationships to you, some privileges to you, some responsibilities to you. Everything I have really belongs to God. That’s the bedrock – The Principle of Ownership.
2. The Principle of Allocation.
God has given me some talents. He’s given you some talents. He’s given you some abilities. V. 15 “To one who gave five talents, to another two talents, to another one talent, each according to his ability.” The word “talent” (when we talk about it today) actually comes from this story. In the Bible, the word “talent” was just a measurement of money, approximately $1000. But because this story has been told for two thousand years, the word “talent” now refers to the way we think it means as talent. He’s saying that God has given us some talents. He’s allocated some things. Some get five, some get two, some get one – each according to his ability.
A talent is anything God has entrusted to me. Anything. Anything that God has entrusted to me can be a talent. There are actually three different varieties of talents: abilities, resources, opportunities. All three of those are trust. God gives you resources, He gives you abilities, He gives you opportunities. All three of those are gifts of God. We don’t own those things. They are allocated to you.
Couple of lessons:
The amount differs but everybody gets something. That’s the point I want to make here. Somebody got ten talents, somebody gets five talents, somebody gets two talents, somebody gets one talents. There are different abilities and different levels of talent but everybody gets something. There are no no-talent people in the world. There’s no such thing as a no-talent person. Everybody has at least one talent. The amount differs but everybody gets something.
Romans 12:6 “We each have different gifts according to the grace God has given to us.” It’s grace but they’re all different gifts. You’re unique. You’re different. Everybody has at least one talent and we all have different talents. That’s the Principle of Allocation.
3. The Principle of Accountability
God expects me to use my talents. He expects me to make use of them. He’s made an investment in you. He wants a return. I am to make the most of the ability, the talents, the opportunities, the resources that God has given me.
v. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” Circle “settled accounts”. One day you’re going to be audited by God. You think that being audited by the IRS is a task! One day you are going to have a life audit. God is going to come and audit your life. Romans 14:12 “Each of us will give an account [circle “give an account”] to God.” One day that’s going to be true of all of us. You will give an account of how you’ve wasted, spent or invested your life.
What’s going to happen? God’s going to ask you a question at that audit. “What did you do with what you were given?” What did I do with what I was given? God’s going to ask me what did I do with what I was given. That’s the Principle of Accountability.
4. The Principle of Utilization.
The next truth that this parable teaches is that it is wrong to bury my talent. He gives them to me. He expects me to use them. If I don’t use them, I’m sinning. It’s wrong to bury my talents.
Notice he has three different servants in the story. The first man, v. 16, received five talents. He went out and at once put his money to work and gained five talents more. He doubled his talents. He took five and doubled them. Pretty good investment.
The second man, v. 17. This guy is the one with two talents. He also went out and gained two more. He doubled his money. He’s got a hundred percent return. God’s pleased with that.
The third man. “But the man who had received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money and buried it.” He buries his talent. He did nothing. The third guy is cautious, conservative. His philosophy of life could be as nothing ventured, nothing gained. That’s his philosophy. He’s going to play it save, cautious, conservative. “I’m going to take the one talent God has given me and I’m going to sit on it. I’m not going to double it. I’m not going to invest it. I’m not going to make any effort. I’m just going to sit on it.” Notice the master’s reaction to the guy who played it safe and cautious and conservative. V 26-27 “His master replied, `You wicked lazy servant. So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown, and gathered where I have not scattered seed. Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” He could have put it in the bank. He could at least have gotten common, simple interest. But he sat on it, stuffed it in his mattress, buried it in the back yard. At least he could have put it in the bank.
The point here is the third guy had not even tried. His sin is inactivity. His sin is passivity. His sin is doing nothing. It says, he went and buried it. Circle that. He dug a hole and buried it in the ground, put it in the ground.
When you bury something, what’s the purpose? It’s dead. You want to bury it because you want to get it out of sight. We say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The point is, he says, “I want to forget my responsibility about this talent.” Symbolically he’s saying, “I know I’ve got a responsibility. God’s given me a talent. But I don’t even want to think about it so I’m going to bury it. I’m going to get it out of sight, out of mind, out of the focal point of my life so I don’t want to face it.”
The point is, I cannot please God by playing it safe. Notice the master’s reaction. He said, “You lazy, wicked servant.” The guy didn’t do anything that we would see humanly wrong. He just didn’t do anything. God says that to do nothing is wicked and lazy. To do nothing with your life — to just breathe, take up space, die — is sin. You cannot please God by playing it safe. You must take risks. The Bible says without risks you don’t need any faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” If I’m not taking any risks, I don’t need any faith. And if I don’t have any faith, I’m not pleasing God because it takes faith to please God.
What risks have you taken this week? In faith? How pleasing was I this week to God? The Bible says that whatever is not of faith is sin. The point that he’s making here is that doing nothing with my life is absolutely inexcusable. God would rather have you try something and totally blow it than do nothing. God would rather have you attempt to do something great and fail than to have you attempt to do nothing and succeed. God would rather have you at least make an attempt, an effort, to live for Him, to try to minister for Him and fall flat on your face in humiliation than to have you do nothing. He said, “You did not even try.” Attempt something great and expect something great from God.
When I die I want four words written on my tombstone: “At least he tried.” We’ve set some big goals for this church. I’ve set some big goals for my life. I may never reach them. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is, I’m going to die trying.. If ultimately what you’re attempting is for the glory of God, you should never be afraid to attempt it. You cannot be considered a failure if you don’t reach your goal as long as you’re making the effort. At least you tried.
When the church was not even a year old, one night we were sitting in the Sunday service (when we had Sunday night service) and I said, “Let’s have a big day to celebrate our eighth anniversary as a church.” I said, “Let’s set a goal of how many people we want to have in church for our eighth month anniversary. Everybody bow your heads.” I had a blackboard behind me. I said, “When I say the number you think we ought to pray for and believe God for, for our eighth month anniversary, you raise your hand.” At that time we were running about 150 people. I said, 175? 200? 225? 300? 325? 350? (I’m starting to get a little nervous.) 400? Everybody raised their hand at 500 – practically the whole group. I wrote 500 people down. There was only an about 30 people there that night. I said, “OK, this is the number we’re going to pray and believe God for.”
I went home scared to death. I said, “God, look what You’ve got me in to. Let me tell You what’s going to happen. We’ve set this big goal to have 500 people. We’re never going to have 500 people! We’ve only got 100 or some coming now on Sunday morning. We’re going to pray and work real hard to try and get 500 people and nobody’s going to show up. Then we’re all going to be embarrassed and we won’t reach our goal and the morale will be bad and I’ll feel bad. We’ll all feel like losers. It’s going to bad! That’s what’s going to happen!” I was really telling Him off.
God said, “Rick, you need to go read your own sermons. What have you said about failure? Failure is not, failure to reach your goal. Failure is to not set a goal. Failure is not, not making every dream that you set. Failure is, not having a dream. Failure is not, falling on your face. Everybody falls on their face. Failure is, not getting up again. Failure doesn’t mean you never stumble. Failure means you refuse to keep going once you stumble. He said, “Remember that as long as what you’re attempting is for My glory, ultimately you cannot fail.” The church is already a success whether they reach the goal or not because at least they’re going to make the effort to try to reach 500 people for Christ. I know lots of churches who don’t even make the effort to try to reach 500 people for Christ. At least they’re going to try.”
When the day came, we didn’t reach our goal. We had 380 people. But 380 is a whole lot more than 120. The fact was, people came to know the Lord that day. Many of those people are still here from that day.
The point is, Jesus is saying it is wrong to bury my talents. The person who takes the one talent he’s got and buries it in the ground and says he’s not going to do anything about it, that is wicked and lazy, Jesus is saying. At least make an effort.
Notice which was the person who buried his talent in the ground. The guy with five, the guy with two or the guy with one? The point is, often it is the person with limited talent who is the most likely to do nothing. Why? Here’s the logic that Satan uses — Since I’m not a super star, then I’ll just watch on the sidelines. Because I can’t sing like Rick Muchow, then I won’t ever sing. Because I can’t do something the best, I won’t even do it.
I meet so many dull Christians. There’s no joy. They look like they’ve been drinking pickle juice, baptized in vinegar. They look like an ad for Geritol. There’s no spark in their life, no joy, no fiz. They say, “My spiritual life has gone flat” and I know every time why it’s gone flat. Because they are playing it safe. They’re not taking any risks in their life. They’re not making any goals. They’re not taking any challenges. They’re not attempting anything for Jesus Christ. They’ve buried their talent. They’re sitting on the sidelines. They’re just spectators. And they’re drying up.
A lady came to the office and said, “I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines. I want to get back in the ballgame.” Today that lady is a lay pastor here in our church. She glows when I see her. She’s giving out, caring, visiting people in the hospital – thing like that.
Why do we play it safe? That leads to the next principle.
5. The Principle of Motivation.
Fear keeps me from using my talent. Always fear. This is Satan’s favorite tactic. He uses fear to put us in prisons, to keep us from using the gifts and the abilities and the talents God’s given us. V. 26 “I was afraid [circle “afraid”] and I went out and hid your talent in the ground.” That’s why we play it safe. Satan’s tactic is to fill us with fear.
There are three different kinds of fear. These three will keep you from being effective in the ministry.
1. Self doubt.
Self-doubt goes like this: “I could never do that. I’m just not qualified. I haven’t been trained. I could never do that.” Actually what this is, is a fear of failure. How many of you, when you were in school, thought “I know the answer to that question but I’m not about to raise my hand because if they call on me and it’s the wrong answer I’m going to look dumb.” So even though you knew the answer, you wouldn’t raise your hand because of self-doubt. That same pattern holds on when we become adults. We sit in church and think, “Maybe God can use me but what if I went out and bombed. I’d be so embarrassed. I’d die a thousand deaths!” Self doubt.
2. Self pity.
Self-pity is just as bad as self-doubt. It keeps you in a prison and keeps you from being used by God in ministry. Self pity goes like this, “I failed in the past so I’ll never try again.” There are two ways to respond to failure. They are very well demonstrated by two of the disciples in the Bible. One being Peter and one being Judas. Right before Jesus went to the cross there were two people who denied Jesus – Judas and Peter. They both denied him. Judas betrayed Him and Peter denied Him in front of three other people. But the way that they responded to that failure was very different. The same sin – denying Christ – but the way they responded to it was very different. Judas in remorse, went out and wallowed in his guilt. He said, “I’ve failed, I could never repent, I could never get right, I could never be forgiven.” He went out and took his life. The ultimate expression of self-pity. He committed suicide.
Peter, on the other hand, went out and repented. He wept bitterly – “God, I’m so sorry. I’ve made this big mistake.” He repented and turned around and this man, Peter, who denied Jesus Christ the day before the cross three times, was the same man who God chose fifty days later to preach on the day of Pentecost and three thousand people became believers. Mr. Failure. Mr. Foot-in-Mouth. He was the first preacher of the church. The guy who fell on his face and everybody knew it. He said, “Lord, I’ve lived with You two and a half years but when it comes down to the clinch, I deny You.” He did not give into self-pity.
It does not matter where you’ve been, what maters is the direction of your feet today. Where are you heading now? Don’t give in to self-doubt. Don’t give in to self-pity.
3. Self consciousness
Self-consciousness goes like this: “What will other people think?” Proverbs 29:25 says “The fear of man is a snare.” It’s a trap. The moment that I start worrying about what other people think I’m dead in the water. What matters is what God thinks. What happens is we excuse ourselves by pointing to more talented people, more gifted people and say, “Lord, use them. If only I had the ability like…. If only I had the resources like…. If only I had the opportunity like …. If only I had the education like …. “ Just because you cannot do the spectacular does not excuse you to do nothing. Whether you’ve got one talent or five talents or ten talents or two talents, don’t let fear from using your talents.
v. 24 “The man who had received the one talent came and said, `Master, I knew you are a hard man, harvesting where you haven’t sown, gathering where you haven’t gathered seed.” That wasn’t true! The master wasn’t hard at all. The point is, fear causes me to make excuses for doing nothing. I make excuses why I can’t be involved in ministry but the bottom line is fear. —self doubt, self pity, self-consciousness.
6. The Principle of Application.
This is very simple. It says if I don’t use it, I’ll lose it. If I don’t use my talent, I’ll lose my talent. Notice v. 28 “The master said, `Take the one talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.” Does that sound fair? It doesn’t sound fair. It’s like the rich get richer, the talented get more talented. The guy who has only one talent, it’s being taken away from him.
The point is this: God has the right to take away anything that I don’t use to invest for Him.
Letter from member of the church who took the New Members class. He said, “I had it made. I had a company that had 1200% profit in about four years, a 9000 square foot home, nice cars… I wasn’t using it for the Lord and I didn’t give Him the glory and I lost it all. I went through this period of depression and I found the church and now God has shown me the answers.. And I’m rebuilding my life.”
If you don’t use it in the right way, you’ll lose it. If you don’t use it at all, it goes away. It’s a universal principle. If you refuse to exercise, what do you lose? Muscle. If you refuse to use your mind to think, your mind goes dull. If you refuse to practice, you lose a talent. It’s the universal principle of life. Whatever skill, ability, talent you have, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
The converse of that is true also. That is whatever you would like to have more of from the Lord, start giving what you’ve got to Him. If I need more energy, I start using energy for the Lord and I watch it multiply. If I need more time in my schedule, then I give part of my time to the Lord and watch Him multiply my time. If I need more money, I start being generous with others. Planting seeds. “Give and it shall be given unto you.” Whatever you need more of, start giving away what you’ve got. If you want to be more talented, start using the talent that you have however little it may seem to you. And it will, like a muscle, begin to grow and stretch and develop and get bigger and better.
God has given me an ability to communicate to people. But it’s a talent that I’m developing. I’m embarrassed about messages I used to do ten years ago. I’m getting better. If you don’t like me now, hang on! I’m getting better. I’m honestly, earnestly, constantly trying to sharpen my skill. So I work at it, I study, I practice so I develop the talent God gives me. The more you use it, the more it grows. The less you use it, the more you lose it. That’s the Principle of Application.
7. The Principle of Compensation.
The Principle of Compensation says the opposite: If I use it wisely, I’ll be rewarded. If I use what God gives me wisely, then I will be rewarded. Notice in v. 23 the rewards this guy could have had. “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.’”
In this passage we see three rewards. When you use whatever talent God has given you, God rewards you three specific ways.
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Good job. You’re doing good. Good job. You’re trying to grow. You’re trying to develop.
“You’ve been faithful in a few things, I’ll put you in charge of many things.” A lot of people want instant success but success starts in the small things of life. Being faithful in the little things. When you’re faithful in the little things, God gives you greater responsibility. You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry. If you make sure your ministry is committed to Him, whatever it is, god will expand it as He sees fit with a promotion.
“Come and share your master’s happiness.” The happiest people are those who are using whatever they’ve got for the glory of God right now. Those Christians who are bored and miserable and worn out and empty and dull, those are sitting on the sidelines.
Let’s review: Seven principles
1. Ownership. Everything I have belongs to God. I don’t really own anything. One of the things that does is relieve you of a lot of worry. It is God’s responsibility to care for everything. What makes you nervous is when you think you own it all.
2. Allocation. God has given me some talents. Some of you have five talents, some of you have one, some of you have two. If you want to have more talents, simply start using the one you’ve got and you’ll get another. The lesson is: the amount differs but everybody gets something.
3. Accountability. God expects me to use my talents. One day He’s going to do an audit of my life and He’s going to say, “What did you do with what I gave you?” Opportunities. Resources. Talents.
4. Utilization. It’s wrong to bury my talents. The Bible says I cannot please God by playing it safe. God says it’s sinful to bury my talent.
5. Motivation. It is fear that keeps me from using my talent. Self doubt. Self pity. Self-consciousness. When I put these things in my life it causes me to make excuses for why I can’t get involved.
6. Application. If I don’t use it, I’ll lose it. That’s the loss. But the compensation is, if I use it wisely, I’ll be rewarded greatly.
The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives up what he can’t keep for that which he cannot lose.”
Life Investment Guide. The Bible says, “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” Matthew 6:20. You’re going to spend a lot more time there than you do here. Here’s a personal evaluation. Rate yourself.
Talent. From ten percent to a hundred percent, place an “X” to estimate the percentage of your talent that you think you’re using for God right now. Then set a goal. Put an “O” for a six-month goal, by faith, how much of my talent do I want to be using for the Lord six months from now? You don’t have to go off the end saying, “I want to be using one hundred percent of my talent.” I don’t know anybody who’s using one hundred percent of their talent for the Lord on a consistent regular basis. But how much growth can you see in the next six months.
Time. If you really want to be a dynamic Christian, you’ve got to get control of your time. Your time is your life. If you don’t have control of your time, you don’t have control of your life. Time management is life management. “X” – estimate the percentage of time each week you’re investing in spiritual growth and ministry. There’s 168 hours a week. So ten percent would be sixteen hours a week. (Don’t count your sleeping as prayer time!) What percent of my time would I say I’m really investing in spiritual growth and ministry? Then put an “O” for a faith goal for the next six months – a realistic faith goal. Be realistic but make progress. What percentage of my time would I like to give to spiritual growth and ministry on a weekly basis within six months?
Money. We’ve said many times, you can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead. Place an “X” by estimating what you’re investing in the Lord’s work. What is my current percentage investment financially in God’s work? Then put an “O” for a faith goal for the next six months.
Starting conception on all three of these: Why don’t you consider the concept of tithe applying to more than just finances? Have you ever thought of tithing your time? Tithing your talent? Do you think that God gave you your talent just to be used in your career? No, He didn’t mean for all your talent, time, energy, money, effort just to go to build a career. Of course, you’ve got to have a career but realize if all your time, all your money, all energy really belongs to the Lord anyway it’s not a matter of, “I’m going to give ten percent to God”, it’s really that God lets me keep ninety percent of my time. It’s all His time. If He didn’t want you to have it, you wouldn’t have any time.
Invest your life.
What I have is God’s gift to me. What I do with it is my gift to God. Some of you have abilities. Some of you have resources. Some of you have contacts, influence. Any of those things could be considered a talent. Anything that God has entrusted to you – time, money, talent, resources, ability, effort, energy, influence, spiritual gifts – can be used. Some of you have the ability to make money. Do you think God gave you that ability to just pad your own account? No. He wants you to use it for His sake.
I meet Christians all the time who say, “I’m bored with my job.” God never meant you to be totally fulfilled by your job. Never. Let’s say you have one hundred percent talent and you’ve got a job that uses sixty percent of your ability. That gives you a forty percent boredom factor. If you’ve got a job that takes eighty percent of your abilities, that gives you a twenty percent boredom factor. Some of you have a hundred percent talent and you’ve got a job that requires only about thirty percent of your talent. You’ve got a big boredom factor. What do you do? Go get a second job? No. Invest the time, energy, effort in ministry. Put the bread on the table with your job and find your fulfillment in ministry.
I look out on our church and see that it’s so full of unused talent. I know that so many people are really burying what God wants to do in their lives. Has fear kept you from getting involved in a ministry? Have you ever asked yourself, “How could God use me?” The fact is, He’ll give you the power. You say, “What if I don’t have the time or the energy?” Is it just possible that there may be things in your schedule that are not going to last for eternity and they need to be cut? Jesus said, “See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.” Seek first, not last. As we close, let me ask you a very serious question. When God does an audit of your life, what will the bottom line be? Will it be positive or negative? Will He be able to say, “You did a great job with what I gave you. I’m proud of your faithfulness.” Or will He have to say, “You wasted your time and your money and your talents on things that really didn’t count.” The wisest investment you’ll ever make is when you say, “Father, I want the rest of my life to count for eternity. I’m going to develop the talents You’ve given me and use them for You. I’m going to get off the bench and get into the game. I want to invest more of my time. Help me to find a place of ministry.” Maybe if you think in terms of a forty hour work week, a tithe of your time would be four hours a week for ministry. That would be a good starting point. “Lord, help me find four hours a week to give to You.” Whether it’s in a small group or working in the church office or helping in a Sunday School class. There are so many different ways God can use you. Some of you say, “By faith, I’m going to start tithing ten percent of my income as an eternal investment. The fact is, God’s going to put some of you in strategic positions. I really believe that as time goes by, but first He’s going to test you in the little things. Some of you have thought, “I’d like to get involved but I’ve been holding back.” God has a word for you. He wants to say, “Go for it!” The best use of your life is to invest it in those things that will outlast it.
Heavenly Father, I pray that no person here would waste their life. Even in just spending it, we would invest it in things that are going to count for ever and ever. We know that You’ve promised joy, reward and to even increase our talent as we use what we’ve got for You. Help us to break out of self-consciousness and self-pity and self doubt and take that risk in faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.