Who Get’s Blessed?

April 7, 2013

So here we are.  “Money
Month” 2013.  For those of you who have
become a part of our church family in the past year here is a little
insight.  11 years ago we decided to take
a different approach to dealing with finances at Cornerstone.  Instead of dealing with the crisis of
finances, that is harping at you every time things got tight financially in the
church that instead we would teach stewardship once a year.

Because our church year ends in April we decided that would
be a good month and so here we are.  And
so if you can handle four messages on stewardship then you get a free pass on
the preacher harping at you about money for the rest of the year.   As part of that process we adopted what we
call “Step-up Cornerstone”.  Each year, at
the end of April, we ask those who make Cornerstone their church home to step
out in faith and fill out an “estimate of giving” card.  And just like the name implies, we ask you to
estimate what you hope to give for the upcoming year.  We collect those cards at the end of that
service and we use that figure to plan our budget for the new church year. 
And there are benefits to that, both as for the church and
for you.  For the church it gives us a
responsible way to plan our budget for the upcoming year.  For the first twenty years of my ministry the
churches that I led did what most churches do. 
Each year the leadership would pull a budget out of the air.  It was may have been based on the previous
year’s budget with a small increase for additional expenses, or perhaps
department heads had submitted their wish list for the upcoming year. 
Often it was done by committee but realistically it wasn’t
based on any knowledge of what the church income would be for that year.  Often time’s churches would talk about how
they were stepping out in faith.  But the
result was that the preacher would end up talking about money all the time
challenging people to step up and pay a budget that was not rooted in reality. 
In 2002 the leadership at
Cornerstone decided to take a different tact. 
I would speak on the biblical role of stewardship for a month each
year.  And it’s an important topic, and
it’s an important part of our spiritual lives. 
And at the end of the month we
allow the folks who call Cornerstone home to respond and provide an estimate of
what they believe they will be able to give in the upcoming year.  In affect you get to have a say in the budget
and say “This is the type of church I would like to have this year.”
I think I handle the mechanics
of it well; we try not to embarrass anyone or put anyone on the spot. If you
don’t want to participate that is fine, although we encourage everyone to take
part.   And we don’t come knocking on your door if you
aren’t able to give what you thought you’d be able to, we hope you will after
all we have based our budget on those figures. 
And we provide you with updates throughout the year about where we are
in relation to what was committed and where you are personally in relation to
your commitment. 
So, that is the intro to the
month.  Last year the theme was “What
Jesus said about Money” the year before that was “Treasures of the Heart” and
in 2010 I spoke on “Those Who Gave to Jesus”.
This year our theme is “The
Blessed Life” and the concept and some of the material comes from a Texas
preacher by the name of Robert Morris. 
The bible is full of examples
of how our finances provide a spiritual barometer for our lives.  From Genesis to the Revelation God’s word
speaks to God’s people about how they make their money, how they spend their
money and how they give their money. 
Jesus spoke about it a lot and
even reminded people in Matthew
6:21
Wherever
your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.   You notice that he didn’t say
“Wherever your heart it, there your treasure will also be.”  And many times that’s the way people quote
it.  And maybe you think that basically
it is the same thing.  But it’s not.  Most of understand that your treasure will
probably follow your heart.  That if you
have a passion for something that you will be more inclined to invest yourself there
financially.  However Jesus flips that
upside down and warns us that our heart will follow our treasure.  That where we are invested financially will
be where our passions are.  
Which is why I often tell
people I can tell their level of commitment by looking at the two most
important books in their lives, their date book and their cheque book.
If you want your heart to be in
the Kingdom then you need to put your treasure in the Kingdom.
In our world today we are
consumed with thoughts of investments and the returns that we will get on our
investments.  And sometimes I think that
we carry that train of thought over to our giving in the church.  That on that last Sunday in April when you
have the opportunity to  fill out your
estimate of giving card that some of you are thinking “How much is Cornerstone
worth to me?”  And mentally we are
weighing out the benefits of our contribution to Cornerstone. 
And I’m afraid that for some
people if the thought crossed their minds; “if people don’t give the church
will have to close their doors” their next thought would be, “Well if they had
to close I guess I would have to find another church.”
But you can’t simply use a
spread sheet and try to do the math: 
Well if the four of us went to a movie it would cost about forty bucks,
and if we each had popcorn and small pop that would be another forty, but they
only give us coffee and cookie, so we could knock off thirty, and we only go
every third week, so maybe 15 or 20 times a year.
But somehow we need to get to
the place of understanding that our giving to God is not an attendance fee that
we pay so we can come to Cornerstone, and it’s not a tip that we give because we
enjoyed the message and liked the music. 
Instead it is part of being a
Christ follower.  That from the beginning
of time God has asked that we return a portion of all that he has given us back
to him.
And still you might be asking
“what’s in it for me?”  Well if we give
in the right spirit and if we give in obedience I truly believe that there is a
blessing that is attached to that giving. 
Now before you write off what I’m saying as part of the prosperity
gospel listen to what I have to say.  We
don’t give to get, we give to give.  If
we give to get then we are giving in the wrong spirit and we will be
disappointed.   
You see having a blessed life
means having a blessed life it does not mean having a blessed cheque book.  And you can’t always quantify what blessed
is.  At some point you have to ask
yourself “Is my life better serving God then it would be if I didn’t serve
God?” That is where the blessings start. 
Let’s go back to the blessing
for a few minutes.  Do you believe that
God wants to bless his people? 
Maybe?  A little bit? Not sure?
Let’s go back to the beginning
of the book.  Genesis 1:27-28 So God created human beings in his own image. In
the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God
blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.
Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that
scurry along the ground.”   Now
let’s go to the back of the book Revelation 22:7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of
prophecy written in this book.”   And
if we go to the middle of the book we read Psalm 112:1-2 Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the
LORD and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful
everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
So the book starts with God
blessing his people and the book finishes with God blessing his people and in
the middle of the book we read about God’s people being blessed. 
And most of us don’t have a
problem with that.  In the Sermon on the
Mount Jesus tells people over and over again that if they do certain things
they will be blessed.   But even if we accept that God wants to bless
us we get a little nebulous about what those blessings might be and we get a
little squirmy if we keep reading in Psalm 112 and stumble onto verse three
that says this about those who fear God and delight in obeying his commands  Psalm 112:3 They
themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.  Most of us really aren’t comfortable
with that statement any more than we are with scriptures like Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the LORD makes a
person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. We don’t want to equate
God’s blessing with money. 
But apparently the Bible didn’t
have a problem with equating God’s blessing at least in some way with material
blessings.  In Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so
there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s
Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing
so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”
If you bring all the tithes then God will open the windows of heaven for
you and will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have all the room to take
it in. 
And Jesus tells us in Luke 11:28 Jesus replied, “But even more blessed
are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Did you
catch that?  We aren’t just blessed; we
are more blessed when we are obedient to the word of God.
Now understand that we aren’t obedient
so we will be blessed, but when we are obedient we are blessed.  We don’t give so we will be blessed, but when
we give God’s word tells us that we will be blessed.  And again, let me reiterate, having a blessed
life is about your life, not your cheque book. 
It is about God’s presence in your life
So let’s go back to the
scripture that was read for us earlier.  Most
of you know the story.  A man is going on
a trip and so he entrusts his wealth with three of his employees.  In the NLT it tells us that it was bags of
silver, five bags to one servant, two bags to the second servant and one bag to
the last servant.  In the original
language the term that was used was 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent.  And a talent was a measure of money.  And not a little bit of money but even the
guy who only got the one talent received a pile of money.  A pile of is the technical term.  Those in the know tell us that in that day a
talent was the equivalent of a month’s wages for 200 men.  Or 9 years’ salary for a skilled
labourer.  So even for the man who only
received one talent he got the equivalent of between a half and three quarters
of a million dollars. 
Matthew 25:14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by
the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and
entrusted his money to them while he was gone.
The first thing we need to
Understand is Everything We Have Comes
From God 
This has to be the premise
that we start from.  Everything we have
comes from God.   
That’s why we sometimes have
difficulty giving to God because we think that we are giving him what is
ours.  But the reality is that he is
simply asking us to return a portion of what is His.
And you might be thinking “No
pastor, I have what I have because I’m good at what I do and I work hard at
it.” So who made you good at what you do? 
Who gives you the ability to work hard? 
Who gives you life?
You see the talents that we
have in our lives are the abilities that we were born with, those God given
abilities that we have.  And we have all
been born with abilities of some kind. 
We often hear about it in
relation to musicians and athletes, how they have a natural ability.  Or sometimes someone will say something like
“They are a born salesman, they could sell ice cubes to the Inuit.”  Or “They were born with the gift of gab.”
Jesus’ brother James writes in James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect comes
down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He
never changes or casts a shifting shadow.  
I am not a half bad preacher,
and that ability to communicate is a talent or ability that I have had since I
was young.  When I was in high school I
was involved, quite successfully, in debating and public speaking, and from the
beginning I had a talent for it.   On the
other hand I can’t sing worth spit, which leads us to the next point.
Matthew 25:15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of
silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion
to their abilities. He then left on his trip.   We
Don’t All Get the Same Thing 
In the
story the three servants weren’t all given the same amount of money. And in our
lives we aren’t all given the same things, not materially and not in
talents.  And we don’t always get the
choice.   Last week I drove to NB for a
funeral, and when the preacher leading the service started the song service I
thought “I wish I had a voice like that.” 
But I don’t.  And I would have
thought that if God was going to lead me into preaching, pastoring and church
planting that He would have felt that it would have been good for me to be able
to sing.  But apparently not.  And so through the years I have told people,
I don’t sing I preach.  Angela sings.
 The thing we need to note and the thing we
probably don’t want to acknowledge is the comment “Dividing
it in proportion to their abilities.”  We
may not understand how God divides things up, we may not even agree with it,
but we have to trust that He knows what he’s doing.
And so in the story each of the
servants gets something but they don’t all get the same something.  And remember, we’re not talking a piddling
amount, even the man who got the least got the equivalent of nine years
wages.  Not bad.
You can spend your life whining
about what you didn’t get or you can focus and be thankful on what you did
get.  I would love to be able to sing,
but if I had to choose I’d still pick my ability and talent to preach.
And we can’t simply limit the
meaning of the story to talents and abilities, it also has to do with material
blessings as well.  After all Jesus was
talking about money. 

And while you may not be able to understand why you got so little I’m sure that
there are lots of people in the world who aren’t able to understand why you got
so much. 

Let’s go back to the story, Matthew 25:19 “After a long time their master
returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used
his money.  We are Responsible For What We Get 
The man who got two talents wasn’t responsible for the five talents
that the other servant got but he was responsible for the two talents that he did
get. 
While we might not all get the
same things each of us is responsible for the talents and abilities and
material things that we do get.  I
believe that God gave me the ability to communicate, but he expected me to
develop that ability.  Talent is what God
gives us, skill is what we make out of that talent.  I have an ability to communicate, but I work
hard at my craft. And if I was still at the skill level was as a high school
debater or even as a young preacher than I would have been unfaithful with the
talent God had given me.

When I was at University the president, Ron Mitchell, had a sign on his office
wall that said “what you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift
to God.”

The difference between good
athletes and great athletes isn’t always natural ability it’s the practice and
hard work that they put into becoming great. 
It was Irving Berlin who said “Talent is only
the starting point.”
We may not all be equal in
talent; but we can all be equal in effort. 
So the question for you isn’t what is Denn doing with what God has given
Denn? It is what are you doing with what God has given you?
Now listen to the result of the
servants being faithful with what God had given them.  In both situations the master’s response was
the same.  Matthew 25:21 “The master was full of praise. ‘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!’
There was a Blessing  Not
only were the servants given more responsibility, more talents but the master
celebrated with them. The New Living Translation says “Let’s celebrate
together!”  in the Greek what it actually
said is “Enter into the Joy of your Lord.” 
Sounds like a blessing to me. 
When I was in Ghana I met a
rich man, not just rich in Ghana terms but rich in our terms as well.  And I spent a couple of hours with Johnson
and he told me how God had blessed him years before with a gift from a couple
in the states and how he invested it and it multiplied and he invested the
profits and that multiplied as well. 
And it’s easy to look at
Johnson and just see his wealth but when you started digging you discover the
churches that he had helped start, and the breakfast program that his
organization began that feeds thousands of kids, and the goat program they
implemented that puts kids through school. 
The maternity hospital they are building that will provide health care
for the women of the surrounding villages, and the microfinance programs they
have put into place.
And you wonder why God has
blessed Johnson? Why wouldn’t he, Johnson is a great investment.  I’m sure that he would echo the words of Erma Bombeck who
wrote  “When I stand before God at the end
of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and
could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”
And finally  Matthew 25:29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be
given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even
what little they have will be taken away. 
Let’s not
forget that It All Starts With Our Lives  I came across an interesting theory this
week that makes sense. The man with one talent was cast into outer
darkness.  Is it possible that there is
one something that we get from God that he wants to get back? 
Is it possible that the one
talent represents your soul?  And the man
who did nothing with what he was given represents the person who never makes a
commitment to Christ. 
The two guys who saw and
increase were told “Enter into the joy of the Lord”  and the guy who did nothing with what he had
been given was cast into “outer darkness”. 
In effect God is saying that at the very minimum I expected to get your
soul back but I didn’t even get that.
The blessed life begins with
giving our lives to God, with giving the most precious and the most valuable
thing we have, our soul to God.  The only
thing we have that doesn’t come from God is our sin and he’s willing to take
that from us and in return to give us forgiveness and eternal life.
Let’s finish with a promise from the word of God, 2 Corinthians 9:10 For God is the one who provides
seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and
increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
What has God been speaking to you about this morning?