This week I’m reflecting on ten years of writing devotions. The one question I get asked constantly is, “How do you do it every day?” I give a simple answer, but it’s more complex than that. My answer is, “It’s an act of obedience.” More than anything else, I write because God told me to write. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it or how I’m feeling that day. I obey. Obedience isn’t based on feelings. I believe it transcends feelings. I don’t allow my son to obey only when he feels like it. Why would God expect anything less from me?
The follow up question is usually, “Yeah, but what about when you’re on vacation or holidays?” I write. My faithfulness to do what God asks isn’t based on where I am or what’s going on around me. It doesn’t matter how tired I am either. My act of obedience has to take priority in my life. Being a servant of God isn’t something you do. It’s who you are. You can’t just do it some of the time. It doesn’t work that way. To be a servant who doesn’t do what He asks would be like the servant who took the talent and buried it in the sand. He didn’t get the reward, but the two who did something with the talents did.
The response Jesus gave to these people in Matthew 25:21 was, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (NLT) You can’t receive God’s praise or be given more responsibilities in the Kingdom until you’ve been faithful with what little He’s asked you to be obedient with. For me, that means staying up late studying and getting up,early writing. For you, it’s going to look different. Whatever it is, treat it like an act of obedience and give it priority in your life. God will reward your obedience in this life or the next.
One of the things that my parents taught me early on was that God is our source. Everything we have comes from Him. Our jobs are simply tools He uses, and we need to be careful not to think that they are our source. When we get the two confused, our life gets out of balance. We can start to think that we are the reason we have the things we have and that it belongs to us. When we understand that God is our source, we understand that everything we have not only comes from Him, but it belongs to Him as well. Our money, our house, our car, our food and all that we possess belong to Him. When we think that way, how we use money changes too. We’re more careful with something that belongs to someone else.
In Matthew 25, Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. There was a man who was leaving on a trip. He gave each of his servants money according to their abilities. One received five talents, one received two talents and the other one. He would then come back to see what these servants did with the money. The money that the servants had always belonged to the man who went on a trip. It was simply their responsibility to manage it well. We know that some did and one did not. The ones who managed his money were rewarded with more. He told them if they could be faithful with what they were given, he could then trust them with more. There were so many lessons to learn in this parable including the idea that all we have belongs to God and we need to treat it as such.
David understood this concept too. In Psalm 16:5 he wrote, “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands” (GNT). Knowing this and living it don’t take all the stress off of things, but it should help us to keep things in perspective. God knows your situation right now. He will give you all you need and your future, which belongs to Him, is in His capable hands. Whether you have a little or a lot, what we do with what we have is what’s important. Understanding that it all belongs to Him and one day He will ask us to give an account of what we did with what He trusted us with should guide us. He is all we have. He is all we need. He gives us all we need. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance in caring for and growing what He’s entrusted to you.
Taking risks and being open to failure are a couple of things I try to teach my nieces and nephews. Those who aren’t afraid to fail and take risks are some of the most successful people on the planet. The greater the risk, the greater reward. However, when you fail, fail fast. Don’t keep going in that direction just because you’ve risked a bunch and you’ve committed. There are times to cut bait and run. At that point, figure out why it didn’t work and where it went wrong, then take another risk. If you can have the courage to push through a few seconds of fear, you can do just about anything. All of these things hold true for money and God’s blessings in our lives. Hoarding them does no good and stunts their growth.
In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable we’re all familiar with. A man was going to take a long journey and decided to entrust some of his property to some of his servants. He gave one five talents, one two talents and one talent to another. The one who had five talents invested it and was able to get a return of ten talents. The one who was given two talents also invested his and doubled it. Then the person who only had one dug a hole and buried. He let fear keep him from taking risks with what was given to him. In the end, his fear cost him everything. If he had done something risk free like putting it in the bank just to get a little interest, it would have been better than succumbing to fear.
In verse 29, the master said to him (and the Master says to us), “For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance” (AMP). Part of valuing the gifts and blessings of God is being willing to risk failure with them. God invests different gifts in each one of us, but He’s watching to see what we do with them. We will have to give an account for our actions (or inactions) one day. If you’ve been letting fear of failure dictate your decision in risking them, it’s time to get enough courage to push past that fear and to do something with them. Start that blog, sign up for that course, ask for the microphone, stand on stage, send that letter or whatever it is that fear is keeping you from doing. God is counting on you to value your blessings enough to risk failure with them.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
A few years ago I had my nephew read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. After he read it, we went to dinner to discuss it. He explained to me how the king had given servants silver and asked them to invest it while he was gone. When he came back for his money, one servant made ten times the original, another made five times and a third just buried it in the ground. The king was happy with the first two, but furious with the third.
After he explained it to me, I pulled out a hundred dollar bill and set it on the table. His eyes lit up. I slid it across the table to him and told him to invest it for me. I told I wanted him to think of a ministry he wanted to support with the profits. He quickly named a missionary in Kenya who had made an impact on him. I then told him I was going to come and ask for the money back and that we’d give whatever he had left to that missionary. Three months later, he ended turning that $100 into nearly $500. Not bad for a 12 year old.
It got me to thinking about what am I doing with the talents God has given me. Am I using them? Am I growing them? Have I invested them so I can show a profit from what He gave me? Yes, the story with my nephew is about money, but I’m talking about gifts God has enabled me with. Each of us has been given certain gifts and talents. Not one of us is talentless. Sure, some have more talent and gifts than others, but that doesn’t give us the right to bury ours in the sand.
In Romans 12:6-8, Paul tells us that no matter what gift God has given you, you should use it well. And in I Corinthians 12:7, he says that a spiritual gift has been given to each one of us so we can help each other. That means that God has given you a gift and He wants you to take a risk with the gift He has given you by using it. There’s a saying in business that says, “No risk. No reward.” Don’t be afraid to take a risk today with your gift. You might fail or you might succeed. You’ll never know until you try
I once had a boss whose favorite question to ask in an interview was, “Tell me a time when you took a risk. Did it pay off or not?” I asked him about it one time and he said, “I don’t want people working for me who are afraid to take risks. I’d rather have someone on my team who has taken a risk and failed miserably than someone who was too scared to even take a risk in the first place. At least the person who took a risk learned something. The one who has never taken a risk will never change his results because he’s too scared to try something new.”
He helped me to understand that taking risks is a Godly trait. Each time you or I step out in faith, it’s a risk. Will God step out and move on my behalf or will I fall on my face? We don’t know, but God asks us to do it anyway. I’ve seen God ask someone to take a huge risk and then allow them to fail. It sounds weird at first, but God needed them in a place of failure to be able to grow them beyond what the risk could have ever offered. His reward for their risk was delayed.
When you risk it all for God’s sake, you put yourself in a place that is totally dependent on God. Your risk speaks volumes to God. It says, “I’m not satisfied with what I’m producing for you. I want to do more for the Kingdom and I’m willing to risk what I have for a chance to offer you more.” It’s in those moments that your faith grows and produces more than it ever has. If you fall on your face, you let God know you’re not going to play it safe. If He catches you, the rewards are eternal.
There’s a difference in taking a risk and making a calculated move. If you’ve got a 90% chance of success, that’s not really much of a risk. It’s a calculated decision made to look like faith. God is looking for those who are willing to go all in and risk it all for His Kingdom. In Matthew 25, he gave three different people three different amounts of talents. To the one who risked nothing because he was afraid, the master said, “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? (MSG)”
Later on He said, “Get rid of this play-it-safe who won’t go out on a limb. (MSG)” God gets angry when we live life with the goal of arriving in Heaven safely with no bumps or bruises. He put the desire for risk in each one of us. We can either take a risk or allow fear to cause us to play it safe. If you know the parable I’m referring to, the ones who risked it all stayed with the master, but the one who risked nothing was cast into darkness. God calls us to live by faith, not by sight. What risks have you taken for His sake? What is He asking you to risk right now?
I once had a friend that lived according to her Franklin Covey planner. She scheduled everything in that binder. If it wasn’t in there, she didn’t do it. I, being young, made fun of her. I asked her if she was ever spontaneous. She responded that she had time on Thursday evening to be spontaneous and wrote it in. Her life was mapped out and she was going places. I lived by no schedule and was going no where. She went where she wanted in life and I went where life took me. It’s not hard to see how important it is to make a plan and to work that plan.
I talk to a lot of people who are going to do great things for God. They tell me what God wants them to do with their lives. I ask, “What are you doing today to prepare for that calling?” Usually I get the religious answer, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He’ll prepare me in time.” I ask them what they are doing to today in the form of that calling. I usually hear crickets chirping. They, like so many of us, expect God to give us honorary doctorates in whatever field He’s called them to with no work on their part. They believe it will just happen.
I believe things don’t just happen. God expects us to plan, prepare and practice before it’s time to perform. We have to schedule time with Him, start out small and invest in our calling. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Talents, He said, “You have been faithful over a little; I will put you in charge of much.” So many Christians shun the little things because we want to do big things for God. We forget that God won’t give us the big things until we show we can be faithful over the small things. If you can’t spend time alone with God when your life isn’t hectic, how will you do it when it is?
I remember hearing Andy Stanley speak at Catalyst two years ago. He said that none of the speakers at Catalyst had an easy road to that stage. They paid high prices in the little things before God would trust them with the big things. Greatness in life only comes from being faithful when you aren’t great. All giants in the faith started out small. Major churches, giant Christian organizations and well known preachers started somewhere small. They had God’s call on their life to do something great and they started small. They scheduled time with God and began doing things that wouldn’t be noticed by most.
Do you feel like God has called you to do something big for Him? What are you doing today to prepare for that? What is a little thing that you can put on your schedule to do this week to move you closer to greatness? I heard someone once say, “If you were going to do it, you’d already be doing it.” If something is important to us and will pay out greater dividends, we wouldn’t wait until later to do something. We’d already be doing things to make that happen. We’d already have it on our schedule. Be faithful now when no one is looking so God can trust you when people are.
And you must love The Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. – Mark 12:30
About a year and a half ago, I was reading Mark Batterson’s book “Primal”. It dealt with this verse as well. When I got to the part about loving God with all your strength, I began to see that I had not been loving Him with my strength. I had loved Him with my heart, my soul and my mind, but I had left out an important part. I had failed to love Him through my actions and abilities. That chapter created the birth of this website.
I had always felt called to write, but never had done anything more than talk about it. I had visions (fantasies) of having never written and somehow I would be granted a book deal. When I read that loving God with my strength meant that I was to use my talents and abilities for Him, I knew I had to start writing. I may never get a book deal and I’m ok with that because I’m doing what He asked me to do. I’m writing in order to love Him with my strength. His approval is more to me than anyone else’s.
Jesus told the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. A man went on a trip and called his servants together. To one he gave five talents to, to another he gave two and to another he gave one. The first two servants went out, used their talents and doubled their worth. The third dug a hole and carefully buried the talent given to him. When the man returned he took account of what they had done with what he had entrusted to them. He partnered with the first two and took away the talent from the third. The attitude of the third is what I want to look at because it’s what I saw in the mirror.
In the Message in verses 24-27 the conversation went almost like I had been with God. The servant said, “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless… I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place.” Unfortunately, that was my attitude about what God had given me. I didn’t want to mess up so I just sat on it waiting for the day to come when He asked for it. The master’s response is what motivates me now. He said, “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?”
When we don’t love God with all our strength, we are doing less than the least. We are putting our pride of how others will critique us over our obedience to what He asked of us. As He put it, that’s a terrible way to live. Each of us have been given an ability to do something for God no matter how great or small. We can’t all be a Mark Batterson, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, Chris Tomlin or Darlene Zschech, but we can be who God called us to be. We can love Him with what He gave us instead of burying it because we’re not as good as the best out there.
What talent has God given you and called you to use that you’re sitting on? It’s time for you to dig it up and start investing it in the Kingdom. It’s time to love God with your strength.