God’s Talent Search 2/28/99

Matthew 25: 13 – 30
Page 1451 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ gives us all opportunities. What we do with them is our gift to Him.

In each teaching of Christ are many lessons. In the story of the talents is found the principle of aggressively pursuing your opportunities. Jesus wants you to be an achiever. He desires for you to have the fulfilling satisfaction that in all things you have done your best.

The parable of the talents is the story of assets and abilities well used and the tragedy of wasted opportunity. Each of us finds our self typified by one or the other.

Nineteenth-century American poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “FOR ALL SAD WORDS OF TONGUE AND PEN, THE SADDEST OF THESE: ‘IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN!’”

Living up to our potential is the challenge that awaits us with the dawning of each new day. It is a stretching exercise lasting all day every day. Enjoy it.

In the spirit of Whittier’s statement comes the line from the movie “Rocky,” spoken by an aspiring fighter: “I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

The exciting thing about what our Lord expects is not that we be the best at anything, but that we be our best at everything.

Consider the parable in Matthew 25: 13 – 30.

Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of heaven.” It is a term used for the rule of Christ in the lives of His people on earth. All three people in the parable are believers. That is further indicated by the expression the “man traveling,” being a reference to Christ, “who called his own servants.” All three were believers.

A “talent” was not a reference to ability though it is used to illustrate our use of our ability. A talent wasn’t a coin. It was a weight. Balancing scales were used in that day like those depicted as being held by “Miss Liberty.” The value of a talent was dependent upon what was being weighed. If it was a talent of gold it had one value. If lead another.

The fact “talents,” that is a weight of measure are used to illustrate “talents,” that is abilities is a bit confusing. Keep that in mind. Some were given:

One was given two talents and one five talents. They had different abilities but similar opportunities. Their numbers of talents was “to each according to his own ability” (Vs. 15).

Each traded wisely and doubled their talents. Both were equally faithful. It doesn’t matter one made five and one two talents. The important thing is both made 100%. To make such gain they had to be risk takers.

A risk taker is a humble person willing to sacrifice his ego. Most people don’t believe that. They think people who venture big and attempt big things are ego centered. Consider this. What is the basis of egotism? It is our own ego. Egotistical people are concerned about themselves, their reputation, their safety, their image. They want to avoid embarrassment or failure. Therefore they play it safe. They don’t want to risk humiliation or discomfort.

The risk taker has to be humble because like a turtle his or her neck is always exposed. The egotist keeps his or her head safe in the shell.

Are you willing to venture for Christ? Will you dare stick your neck out for Him? Will you speak up for Him when all others are mute or critical? Will you work for His cause and run the risk of being criticized?

Our abilities aren’t equal. But our efforts should be.

In the parable one was a:

The one given the stewardship by his master of one talent buried it. Like the turtle with his head in the sand he wasn’t going to risk anything. Instead he played the now popular “blame game.”

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours'” (Matthew 25:24, 25).

He was a reason faker. He blamed the master who gave him the talent. He didn’t have his master’s will in mind.

Instead of blaming others thank the Lord for that with which He has entrusted you. One talented person is just as vital, important, and strategic in the kingdom as five talented people.

Lessons of lives unwilling to blame others and cop out are numerous.

Ernestine Schumann was born to poor parents. Her father was Austrian and her mother Italian. As a teenager she aspired to be an opera singer. At age 18 she married. This set in motion a series of heartbreaks. Her husband lost his job. After the birth of their third child her husband Paul left her and the children.

Ernestine went from stage to stage begging for a job. Finally the director of the Hamburg Opera Company hired her for ten dollars a month. With that she had to provide for herself and her children.

Her husband had accumulated significant debts. According to German law the wife was responsible for the debts of the husband. As a result her furniture was taken away.

Destitute and in despair she took her baby in her arms and leading her children set out for the railroad tracks. She knew the schedule and what she proposed would be swift and certain. As the train drew near and blew its whistle she knelt. It was cold and the shivering children began to cry. August her son squeezed her hand. Lotta, her oldest daughter cried, “Mamma, mamma, I love you. I love you. Take me home!”

Love and duty triumphed in her motherly heart and she arose and trudged back to their dreary home.

She became resolute not to bury her talent. She wrote Pollini the director of the Hamburg Opera a letter of appeal and gained an interview. She later recounted the interview.

“Well, I got your letter Heink,” Pollini said, “and I laughed when I read it. It was too funny.”

“Herr Direktor,” I cried, “you say you read my letter and you laughed, because it was funny?”

“Yes,” he said, and got up and walked toward me laughing. “You asked that I let you sing the big contralto parts –- you? (And he pointed his finger at me). “Why,” he said, “you are nothing! You will never be a first contralto, never — never — never!” and he shook his finger right in my face and laughed again.

“I can make you, maybe, a good comedienne. Yes, that I can do— but first contralto — ach, Gott! Never!”

Ernestine continued: “Oh I was furious! I went up to him close, my face to his, and I said: ‘Herr Pollini, now I will tell you something! I will be the first contralto —- not only of Germany, but I will be the first contralto in all the world! Mark that!”

Ernestine Schumann-Heink did sing again in Hamburg. As first contralto she sang lead roles in Das Rheingold and Tristan. In Chicago she sang Lohengrin and that audience gave her not one standing applause but demanded she return for twenty curtain calls.

Madam Schumann-Heink did indeed become the first contralto of the world because she not only refused to bury her talent but she would not allow anyone else to bury it either.

From the world of sports comes inspiring stories of those who refused to bury their talent. Some even having only one talent.

From Tanzania came John Stephen Akhwari to run in the 1968 Olympics. With his right leg bloody and bandaged he staggered into the stadium more than a hour behind the winner of the marathon. When asked why he didn’t quit long before he said,

“My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race.”

Our Lord hasn’t saved us that we might engage in starts and fits of faithfulness but to finish faithfully.

Don’t hide your talent, invest it for the Lord. Don’t keep it to yourself. Give it to Jesus.

In the parable some were —-

Two multiplied the talents entrusted to them.

It is faithfulness in little things that make or break us. It is the little things of the hour not the great things of the ages that make us.

It is the constant sunbeam not flashing lightening that makes life flourish. It is the calm cool clear water of a quiet stream that refreshes. Not the nosy torrent of a flooded river that quenches thirst.

It is day-in-day-out loyalty to the Lord that makes for a rewarding life.

It really doesn’t matter what talents you have. The important thing is to maximize your opportunities. Each of the faithful ones returned the optimum. The excuse maker, had he been faithful, and the two talented recipients, had they not been faithful would have returned the same.

In sports a person with ability grading 80% who extends a maximum effort will achieve more than a person whose ability grades 90% but only extends a 75% effort. You can be an achiever for Christ regardless of your ability.

In the parable some were:

There is joy inerrant and as a result of a job well done. One of the best definitions of happiness I have ever been able to concoct is: “Happiness is a beautiful by-product of a job well done.”

The faithful servants engaged in various delights.

One of the blessings of doing a job well is the satisfaction of having done your best.

Many people live for the weekends, vacation, or time off. When these times of imagined enjoyment finally come they aren’t enjoyed. There is a simple formula explaining why.

We are prepared to enjoy our leisure in direct proportion to the extent we feel we have deserved it.

Some having goofed and worked half-heartedly know they haven’t earned and don’t deserve time off and they don’t enjoy it. These faithful servants had a sense of fulfillment.

Part of their reward was more work to do. We are our most contented when we have a meaningful task. It is challenging and gratifying. Knowing there is more rewarding work to do gives a sense of purpose. Its fulfilling.

The ultimate reward and fulfillment in the parable is found in verse 21: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord'” (Matthew 25:21).

Joy is the natural result of being a good and faithful servant.

The ultimate joy is reserved to the end. It is heaven.

We must by love be compelled to give our best our all for our Lord.

It was a big and busy street along which the hurrying feet of a poor little newsboy walked rapidly. He had little interest at this moment in selling papers. It was his mother’s birthday and he was on his way to a nearby florist shop. He had fingered the thirty seven cents he had in his right pants pocket. His invalid was his one concern. Traffic ignored the little guy and he ignored traffic.

As he entered the floral shop the owner said, “Thanks, son, but I don’t need a newspaper today.”

“I didn’t come to sell newspapers. I came to buy some flowers. The lad spoke, “You see, mister, Mom’s birthday is today, and I’m going to buy her the best bouquet in the world. I’ve been saving penny after penny and now I’ve even got a nickel. Mister, I’ve got thirty-seven cents and I want the best bouquet in the store. Daddy’s been gone since I was a boy and now my sister is with the Lord. It’s just Mom and me left. She loves flowers. I’ve been saving and I want to take her flowers.”

The man listened attentively to the little urchin and said, “Alright, son, she will have the most beautiful bouquet in this city today.”

Like an artist the florist added bud after bud and wrapped it well.

“How much is it,” said the child, as he confidently put down his thirty-seven cents.

“Let me see,” said the proprietor, “that will be exactly thirty-seven cents.”

As the elated child walked out the florist said, “Remember, tell your mother happy birthday for me.”

Moments later as the quick-footed boy rushed across the street with the flowers partially blocking his vision the sound of the shrieking of heavy steel brakes on the city rail car was heard. The limp body of the mangled child was placed in an ambulance with the flowers and newspapers.

In the hospital the large eyes of the child searched the white room and finally focused on a man standing over him.

“You are a doctor, aren’t you mister?” “Yes, I am.”

The child’s nervous hand felt across the bed where his leg should have been.

“Well, doc, I suppose I didn’t make it did I?” “No.”

In his pitiful condition he said, “Where is that big bunch of flowers?” The doctor handed them to him.

“Doctor,” the boy smiled through tears he tried to keep back, “today is Mom’s birthday and now I can’t bring her these flowers. Would you take ‘em to her? Would you please? We live on the last street in the East-Side Settlement.

“Tell Mother the flowers are only thirty-seven cents worth, but it’s the best I could do … and tell her I love her.”

The trained eye of the doctor saw life slipping away. Seeing the child’s lips move he bent over to try to hear what he was saying. He heard him repeat, “thirty-seven cents worth … not much … but the best I could do … and I love her … love her … love.” The voice went silent and the soul went skyward.

The doctor went to the project searching for the mother. As he entered the hall he heard the mother call out, “Sonny boy, are you home already —-?”

Seeing the doctor she exclaimed, “Doctor, what are you doing here?” “I brought you some flowers. I merely brought them. They are from your son on this your birthday.”

It was hard for the doctor to tell what had happened. Her sturdy faith calmed her broken heart as she asked, “What were my boy’s last words?”

She heard words which became etched in her memory: “Thirty-seven cents’ worth … not much … but the best I could do … and I love her … love her … love.”

Heart to heart … have you ever given Jesus your best, your thirty-seven cents worth?” Do now.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).