The birth of a child is a tremendous
gift, both to the parents, and to the world. Many of us have
experienced this. And with each new birth the seeds of
possibility are planted. To raise that child in a loving,
nurturing, Christian environment is to unwrap a portion of
that gift each day.
With every new day, the observant
parent notices some new aspect of the child's person: the
development of their muscle structure, the beginnings of a
certain appearance, the growth of innate abilities, and the
development of unknown talents.
The life of a child is full of promise
and full of hope. If the child grows to make the most of his
or her God given talents and abilities, some level of
greatness will be achieved. Perhaps not greatness as defined
by the world, but greatness defined by the kingdom of God.
The parable read this morning from
Matthew's Gospel speaks to a situation full of potential. The
master gives each slave a certain amount of talents, or cash,
as we would say today.
Each slave has the potential to
invest, to capitalize, to earn both interest and the master's
good pleasure. Each has the possibility of serving, so as to
hear the words: "Well done thy good and faithful servant."
But one of the servants doesn't fill
his potential. He has only been given a single portion of
talent. He doesn't think he is capable of investing even that.
He is scared, he is afraid to step out in faith. He hides the
talent and returns it unharmed, and he returns it undeveloped.
Fear and uncertainty robbed him of his potential.
"We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men were created equal," wrote Thomas
Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. But that's easy
for him to say. God endowed him with an unusual array of
gifts. Jefferson was a great statesman and politician; he was
also a farmer, and architect, a horticulturist, the founder of
a university, and a man of letters.
He was tall, strong, handsome, well
spoken, elegant, and long-lived. Honestly, not many are
created equal to him.
Yet, all people are created with some
potential, endowed by God with some gifts worth developing. In
this truth, we are all equal and have an equal opportunity, at
least as we are born, of developing into the people God
designed us to be, and in turn we have the potential to put
our God given gifts to good use.
Developing our talents is like
unwrapping a gift for us too. Because we don't know, until we
try, how well coordinated we are, how musically we hear, how
strongly we lift, how caringly we listen, how well we write,
and how articulately we speak.
Each new discovery about what we can
do is a discovery about what God had in mind when God made us.
"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me
together in my mother's womb," the psalmist says. (Psalm
What it is, exactly, that God formed
us to be is a gift that continues to be unwrapped all through
our lives. We are a gift and a surprise, even to ourselves
Who we are meant to be is up to God.
How we use what God designed is up to us. We can use our
talents in many ways. Some benefit the world. Some only
benefit ourselves. And some are of no benefit to anyone.
The parable of the talents sets a
choice before us and teaches us to take risks in giving
ourselves back to God. To help us do this, the church acts as
an agent of God's grace, offering us precious opportunities to
return back to God from God's generous goodness.
But developing our talents, taking
risks, and serving God requires us to have faith.
If I were to go around our sanctuary
this morning and ask everyone individually to tell me what
faith is, many of us would use words like trust, belief, obey,
wouldn't we? And indeed these words do describe faith; we use
them all the time in our conversations, Bible study, in Sunday
school and in worship. But how many of us would say faith is a
gift, a gift from God?
Faith is not something we earn or can
obtain by our human effort. It's a gift given by the grace of
God, a gift that we need to receive, unwrap, embrace and
develop. It's a gift the world desperately needs. And much
like our God given abilities, which need to be developed, so
too does our faith.
Faith can never be exercised by proxy.
We must actively develop our faith. Faith is much more than
simply saying, "I believe."
Spiritual growth begins when we move
beyond the futile attempts to grow passively, and start to
actively engage our faith. Faith is a verb, faith is action,
and faith is a lifestyle of loving unconditionally without
Howard Hendricks has correctly
discovered, "there is no such thing as a correspondence course
for swimming." If you want to swim you must get in the pool.
Therefore an active faith requires us to jump in the pool and
"getting wet." We begin by treading water, but as we develop,
continue to learn, continue to try and are willing to take
some risks, we begin to swim laps.
This in effect is what we have
committed to here at Trinity (Catoctin). Our purpose is to
"grow in faith to grow God's kingdom." In other words we have
committed to jump in the pool for the sake of God.
But how do we receive this gift of
faith, where is it, where does it come from?
From the moment we are born God
desires that we be restored into his image. However, the only
way to recover the image of God is by God's grace through
So working backwards we learn that to
be restored to the image of God requires faith in Jesus
Christ. We receive faith by God's grace, but if we don't know
God yet how can we know the gift is available to us so we can
John Wesley describes the process of
restoration by describing 3 ways in which we can receive
The first is prevenient grace. This is
God's grace, which comes before our believing and knowing God
and Jesus Christ. Prevenient grace is universally given to all
people and is available the moment we are born. Through God's
prevenient grace the seed of faith is planted within all
Our parents, the church, friends, and
so forth nurture us in this grace, so that we become aware of
God's presence in our lives. As we gain knowledge of God and
Jesus we acknowledge the gift of faith.
And in general this is where our
society has fallen short. As a society we are not nurturing
our children in the faith.
But as we do come to know God we allow
God to develop the gift of faith, within us. We on our own as
humans cannot develop our faith. It's only by God's grace that
our faith grows and develops.
Then over time as our faith develops
we experience an awakening as we come to know Jesus as our
savior. And it's at this point that we are justified and
experience a new birth, a spiritual birth. We call this act of
God justifying grace.
Justification is the gracious act of
God in restoring human beings to a right relationship with him
by forgiving their sins. In other words when we commit our
lives to Christ we are justified and our sins are forgiven.
We often use terms like saved, born
again, new birth, and so on to describe this experience. And
it's important to know that justification is only by grace
through faith in Jesus Christ.
As we continue to grow in faith and
seek to become more holy we experience God's sanctifying
grace, which is the process of God's continuing work in
Christian believers through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sanctification follows justification and is growth in holiness
of life and grace.
So as you can see God's grace is
active in our lives from the very beginning, and it is through
grace that we are offered the gift of faith, which then
propels us into a further relationship with Jesus. The key cog
in this systematic process of being restored to the image of
God is faith. Without faith the whole process of being
restored to the image of God is lost.
Now as faithful Christians we have a
responsibility. We who have received this wonderful gift of
faith have the responsibility to share it, to proclaim it, to
spread it around like a shrewd businessperson spreads around
In financial vernacular we need to
diversify our assets, in other words don't invest all our
assets in one spot. We learned this from our parable this
Well the same is true of our talents
and our faith. We need to invest our talents and faith, not
only within these four walls, but also throughout our
community, and throughout the world. We need to diversify our
faith and talent portfolios so that faith and talents grow
within us and grow within our community.
Faith and talents that are shared are
gifts that will grow. Faith and talents that are hidden or
hoarded at best will remain dormant, and at worst will crumble
and decay. After all, "God can't steer a parked car."
Jesus makes it clear in our parable
this morning that the one who develops neither talents nor
faith is a servant that the kingdom of God does NOT need. When
one employs their talents, and lives out their faith actively,
they are fully alive. So here we have Jesus,
uncharacteristically speaking a new law. Jesus is telling us
to use well what God has given us, or lose all that we have.
And I dare say this law, if you will,
goes beyond talents and faith, it includes all we have. Jesus
is saying, "be good stewards of all that you have," knowing
that at the center of this law is love.
Love in fact is the photonegative of
all of God's commandments. Here Jesus' hard words speak of one
who graces people with faith and life. This life is ours to
live, to develop, to enjoy, and to share. Faith is ours both
as a harvest of salvation and a seed to be sown for the
benefit of others.
Hearing such legalism from Jesus is
easier to accept rather than hearing it from the ever-watchful
Pharisees of his day. Because even though they had received
the gifts of law and faith, they failed to invest them wisely.
Jesus on the other hand took his
entire capital, all that he had, and risked it on a venture
called the cross. And you know it is still paying dividends
today, for those who are heirs of the fortune of faith.
When we receive a gift we have two
choices don't we? We can receive it or we can ignore it. If we
decide to receive it then we either unwrap it quickly, ripping
off the paper as fast as we can, or we take our time removing
one piece of scotch tape at a time.
Well the same is true with the gift of
faith. Some will receive it and some will decide to ignore it.
For those who receive it, some will quickly receive the gift,
unwrap it and enjoy it immediately, investing it wisely,
allowing it to grow, so that it might be given to others.
Others will take there time unwrapping
the gift one corner at a time because of doubt, fear,
uncertainty, or lack of nurturing by other Christians. And
unfortunately some will wait too long. Have you truly received
the gift of faith and are you investing it wisely, or are you
still unwrapping this divine gift one corner at a time?
Read other messages by Pastor Wade