Use Your Gifts For The Kingdom
“Use Your Gifts For The Kingdom”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
November 19, 2017
Readings: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90
1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
Matthew 25:14-15, 19-29
For many weeks we have been encouraged by Scriptures to put into practice the things God has given us. We lack in nothing. God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness, yet we struggle thinking we have no ability, we can’t accomplish anything and we’re of no value to anybody. If we would only take the time to stop and realize how much God loves us, it would take away most, if not all our uncertainties and situations that keep us in bondage. Christ came to set us free and he who is free is free indeed; yet many of us are in slavery to circumstances and situations placed upon us by the world. We feel that we have to reach certain levels of accomplishment or else we’re not valuable when in reality the fact that we were born in itself says something awesome about the love and commitment of God to each of us. He has breathed His life into us and that life is the most powerful tool that exists. That life will conquer; it will overcome death. What we consider as death is only a stepping stone in the midst of the life God has given us because Jesus said even if you die, you live. That life can’t be taken away, hindered nor destroyed. It’s God’s gift to us and as we look at all that God has given us in the weeks that we’ve been studying, we should be the most peaceful, secure people on earth, but we don’t find that in most of our lives yet. We struggle, we have anxiety and stress. I said “we”; I’m talking to myself, too. We go through these battles and conflicts not realizing that God is greater than all these things. Trust Him; He won’t fail you.
Scriptures today encourage us to make plans for tomorrow. We live in a society where people don’t care about yesterday. Schools used to teach history, but not so much anymore. We don’t care about the past. We don’t look at the future. We live for the day. We don’t want responsibilities. We just want to enjoy life, but such an attitude eventually leads to great pain, disappointment and fear because we have not prepared ourselves to meet our Maker. God has created everything with purpose and for a reason. I’m reading a book that’s very challenging because it says that what God created is meant for us to use. When God created the trees and the green leafy vegetables, He said these are what we are to eat. Never did He say to eat meat. These green leaves are for the healing of the nations. Could this be why we have so many sicknesses and diseases today? The commercial world is so committed to making money that they feed chemicals to animals to make them grow faster, and we ingest these chemicals when we eat the animals. When God set things, He set them with purpose and reason and we’ve violated many of the things He has given us. We think we know better and we really need to stop and evaluate because the Old Testament reading says the day of the Lord is near and as the day draws near, there’s going to be wrath. Do we not see wrath in the world today? I don’t believe I’ve seen so much turmoil in the world, so much lack of respect. It used to be that people with authority were respected; not anymore. We’ll shoot a police officer and remove a road barricade so we can get through. Such arrogance; we don’t respect anyone and only care about getting what we want. Scripture says this is the danger of the age in which we live. It talks about a day of trouble and distress. Seems like every way you turn there’s another problem, but we have that assurance and peace that when we face them, we hold firm and we don’t let them destroy our faith and confidence in God. They may be there but God will get us through them so that we become conquerors. Zephaniah goes on to talk about “a day of destruction and desolation”. How many earthquakes and other natural calamities that have destroyed hundreds of lives have we seen? The prophet says fortified cities will not stand (“a day of trumpet and battle cry against fortified cities and the high corner towers”). We build our cities to be strong and yet in this particular time we’re living in, the cities seem to be the source of most of the evil in the world. Terrorist groups have situated themselves in cities. Zephaniah goes on to say, “They will build homes but not inhabit them, and plant vineyards but not drink their wine”. These things will not work for you because you work hard to get them yet you’ll find that they won’t supply because you have not put your confidence and trust in God.
The New Testament reading to the church at Thessalonica was challenging the people to stop speculating about when Christ is coming back. They were trying to figure out the time and the day but Paul said they won’t find it. Just a couple of weeks ago, YouTube and other media organizations were filled with proclamations of Christ’s second coming saying He would come on such and such a day based on their studies. Scripture tells us that it’s not for us to know when it’ll happen but we must be prepared. Remember last Sunday’s Gospel about the virgins? They didn’t know when the bridegroom would come so they had to be prepared. Many of us are so consumed with the world around us that we’re not preparing ourselves by building the Kingdom of God. We consider other things as more important. We will never know the actual date but I believe that the time is ripe for something to happen. Much of the world is now turning to Christ. It’s happening quietly. Media isn’t talking about it because most of them don’t want it known. This is one of the signs of the times. People are beginning to realize that things are passing away and it’s useless to be building things that won’t count and remain and that instead, we should be building the things that are of God. No one knows the day and the hour, not even the angels. “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). The Father has fixed the time and only He knows the time. What we are called to do is to prepare for it, that’s why we have the parable of the ten virgins. We spend so much time preparing for life here on earth when this life will change drastically and the things we prepare for may not be valuable anymore.
The Gospel is very interesting because it talks about God giving gifts. It talks about the Master going on a journey and before he leaves, he gives to his workers certain gifts: to one it was five talents, to another, two and to another, one. We think that talents are such gifts as dancing or singing, but this was monetary and large amounts were given. This is symbolic to tell us that what God has given us is not minute but abundant, and it will do what it is set to do. We can’t say, “I can’t”. That phrase should be totally eliminated from our vocabulary. God has armed us more than adequately (with gifts or talents) for the task He has assigned to us and there’s no excuse for not accomplishing the task. He doesn’t ask anything of us that He hasn’t prepared us to accomplish. It would be wrong of Him to expect us to do something without giving us the ability, the grace and a measure of faith to complete the work. It’s all a matter of us believing what He has said and work on it by faith.
It’s interesting to think of what the five talents could be. I believe that almost everyone has been given five talents. These are our five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. They are given to us to make us sensitive to the things around us and enable us to accomplish great things. The talents have been given to all of us through these five senses and God wants us to use them properly to bring Him honor and glory. When we get to the Judgment Day, we won’t be judged by whether or not we’ve been born again. We can’t take credit for that because it was Christ who did the work for us and we need only accept it. What we will be judged for is what we did with what God gave us. In the Gospel He gave five, two and one talent. The one who did nothing with the gift God gave was cast out. He was afraid to use the gift because He said God was a hard man. Christ answered back that yes, He is a hard man and so he should be afraid not to do something. Most of us have not even stopped to ponder on what God wants us to do. Sometimes we even try to avoid what God wants us to do. In my high school years, I knew that I was supposed to go into ministry but I didn’t want to. I didn’t have much choice because my grandfather and uncles were all in ministry. It’s in the lineage. But I wouldn’t listen; I fought it. Then I gave in so I could use what God has given me. I was always amazed at my mother because the pastor would always call her on Saturday to ask what the lesson would be for the following day. She taught him what to preach and I always wondered why he had the job but my mother was doing the work. She had the understanding and ability and that came from walking with God.
As we look at the gifts that God has given, we must give them priority in our lives. To avoid them is to bring destruction upon ourselves. I couldn’t get anything good accomplished when I ignored God’s calling. My two sons were constantly sick. When I said yes to God they were healed instantly. To know the gifts God has given us and to submit to His call will bring into our lives confidence and security that even if things go the wrong way for a moment, God will give the answer and supply whatever we need. For almost six weeks my car wasn’t functioning. Several mechanics have looked at it but couldn’t fix it. I finally got hold of mechanics who can repair it but I didn’t have the money to pay them. I didn’t say anything to anybody, I didn’t ask for help, but yesterday somebody gave me the money. The provision came right at the moment that I needed it. God is gracious and merciful when we’re walking with Him. He supplies our needs. This is something that we miss when we’re not using the gifts God has given us. That’s what we’re going to be judged on, not by how big our house is or how many degrees we have or by how important people think we are. We’re going to be judged by what we did with the gifts God has given us. The third man who received one talent buried the talent in the ground. The symbolism of burying it in the ground is burying our talents in the world system when all we care about is getting all the niceties in life such as building a house and buying a car. The third man lost the talent because he used all his energy making life comfortable for himself when he should have been building the Kingdom of God. Most of us put a lot of our energy into building things that are passing away. They won’t work. We have to put our confidence in what God gives. He will add to us because we’re doing what He wants us to do in fulfilling the gifts He has given us. He said to the two who have accomplished this, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master”. This joy is the blessedness that comes into our lives knowing that we have done what He has given us to do. He then provides the things that we need – the joy and the peace in our walk with Him. You’re not pointing a finger at others because you’re busy building the Kingdom and concerned about the things that bring honor to God. It’s in your heart. It becomes your life goal to use your talents in the Kingdom of God. It’s not to gain fame and fortune but to put Christ’s Kingdom first in your life. This is something that many of us are struggling with. The world is pulling us away from God. If you’re not in a certain class, people will look down on you. Yet the most important people are those who God finds that their hearts are in the right place and they do His will.
There was a small lady that I remember from my childhood. She had a peculiar smell to her that was not offensive but it was so distinct that when you smell it, you knew that she was around. Her husband was a drunkard and her children weren’t really one with her but she gave her life to God. She was a woman of prayer and she never seemed to get upset regardless of what was happening around her. She never complained about her husband and children. She was constantly thanking God for the blessings in her life and I always thought that it was strange that she would be living in such a situation and be oblivious to what was happening in her life. She wasn’t oblivious; she was only grateful to God for her life. This was a woman who enjoyed tremendous respect from others because she always had a good word for everybody. If you had a problem, she would help you through her prayers. She was helpful to everyone. Here was a woman who used the gifts God had given her regardless of the obstacles in her life.
This is the challenge that comes to us. Here we are coming to the end of Ordinary Time, but what have we done with what we’ve heard and learned? The prayer when we began this morning was for God to help us study the Holy Scriptures, to hear them and learn them so we can live them because it is where we find life and hope and assurance. As I read the Scriptures everyday, I see things that I’ve never seen before. Recently I was reading a verse that stood out: if you have given a promise to someone and you don’t fulfill it, it is sin because you have given hope but deny what you said you would do. This is the world we live in today. The political systems promise everything but don’t deliver and instead take everything, leaving you with nothing. How many times have we promised someone that we’ll do things for them but don’t do it? We give them hope but leave them disappointed and frustrated. God will never deny the hope that He has given us. So as we come to the end of Ordinary Time, we should see our lives changing. Things should be different, not ordinary according to the world’s standards but ordinary according to God. According to the world, we’re peculiar. I like being peculiar because then people will recognize us. They will say we can do the task. What we want in our lives are the faith and grace to accomplish the tasks He has given us, not to be fearful or anxious because we know that God won’t fail us. It doesn’t matter what comes our way because God is the answer. He won’t allow the problems to destroy us. He will always lift us up. That’s our hope. Our God is a great God and we have much to be thankful for because of His grace and mercy in our lives.