“Use it or lose it.” –If that’s not a Scripture, it should be. (Which means it’s probably in there, but stated otherwise. Anyone?)
(Several suggested the text should be the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. It begins: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and another one talent, each according to his ability.”)
When a pastor with whom I’d just connected on Facebook thanked me “for your unique ministry,” I replied:
I’m only doing the same thing you are–using what God has given me to do what He has told me in the place where He has sent me.
That’s what basic Christian ministry is all about, and it’s available to every child of God, whether we serve in the pulpit or from the pew.
We are using what He has give us. He gives gifts to His beloved. We are all gifted. “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:7 NASB).
We are doing what He has told us. He gives assignments to His children. We are all called. “And those He predestined, these He also called….” (Romans 8:30).
We are using what He has given us to do what He has told us in the place where He has sent us. We are led by Him in the path of righteousness to a site of His choosing. Some go to Jerusalem, some into all Judea, others to Samaria, and still others to the uttermost parts of the earth.
That is our calling.
His choice of gifts, His command of actions, His decision about the place.
Much of the unhappiness among God’s people stems from our unwillingness to trust His wisdom in these matters. We want different gifts. “Oh, if I could preach like him.” “Organize like her.” “Administrate like that one.” Sing, draw, serve, teach, counsel.
We want to do a different ministry from what the Lord has called us to and sent us for. Pastors have told me, “I don’t want to visit hospitals and deal with church problems. I just want to teach and preach.” And yet, the Lord called them to the ministry as a pastor.
We want a different place. “I could serve the Lord better if I were pastor of a different church.” Lived in another city. Had a larger house. Was not married to this person. Was married to that one.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” I take that to mean I’m praying for God’s will in my corner of the earth–my family, my town, my state, my nation, etc.–as well as for the entire planet.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ if you are not going to do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
The mark of a faithful disciple is he/she takes the gifts which they have been given and goes to work in the field where they have been sent doing the work to which they were called.
When the day is done, it all goes back in the box.
My gifts and calling, this assignment and the specific instructions, are all for a fixed time. They are temporary.
My friend Winfield “Windy” Rich served many churches as interim minister of education. When he arrived at our church, knowing full well he would be gone in a few months, Windy announced to our staff and membership, “I’ve come to leave.” I interpreted that to mean he was not attempting to build a following or carve out a permanent nest for himself but was devoted to giving his very best for a short period of time.
In one sense all of us have “come to leave.” Those of us who view our positions at the church as “permanent” know better. I served the church where Windy helped us for over 12 years. But eventually I left. Another pastor followed me, logged more than 15 years, and his successor has racked up another 12 years so far.
At the end of the day, I must give account to the Master. I can carry nothing over with me. “Each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
We use it or lose it.
Traveling home from a meeting, I stopped at a popular restaurant an hour from my house to get a bite to eat. Inside the front door, I ran into Charles and Shirley, faithful members of my congregation, who were just leaving. They told me that Charles had won a trip with his company. “They gave me $4,000 and one week. We could go anywhere that money would take us and use it any way we pleased.”
They’d been to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Charles said, “But when we get home, I have to turn in any money I have not used.” He added, “I’ve been spending money right and left.” We laughed.
Then he said, “Let me buy your dinner. It will come out of my vacation funds. If I don’t, I have to turn it in.”
I let him buy my meal. The funny part was he didn’t want to stop there. Looking at the items for sale the rustic restaurant had in their gift shop, Charles kept saying, “Could I buy this for you? Don’t you think Margaret would like one of these?”
That is a parable of life.
It all belongs to God. He gives us a portion of it and expects us to put it to good use. At the end of the day, we return back to Him all that is unused.
It is required of stewards that they be faithful.
We shall all give account.
I suggest you and I both get on with it. As the cartoon character Snuffy Smith used to say, “Time’s a-wastin’!”