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I commend a great book to you.  It is Jon Ortberg’s, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat.”  I shared some thoughts from the book this past Wednesday and some of this morning’s ideas come from the book as well.

Matthew 25:14-30 14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five.

Ladies Read:  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

His Master replied,

Men Read:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with the two talents also came.

Ladies Read:  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied,

Men Read:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came.

Ladies Read:  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied,

Men Read-‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Matthew 14:29-“So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.”

Silent Prayer

In Matthew’s account of Jesus and Peter walking on the water, Peter responds to Jesus’ invitation to come to Him by getting out of the boat and by walking on the water.  For a few seconds or moments, Peter made history.  He walked on the water.  He discovered the exhilaration of being on adventure with Jesus, and although he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink, in the process he also learned something about the quality of his faith and how important it is to maintain focus on Jesus as He invites us to share in the adventure of accomplishing the supernatural alongside Him out on the water.  Peter learned firsthand what it feels like to be rescued instantly by Jesus who had to have been so proud that Peter was willing to give water walking a try.

The eleven who stayed in the boat were the true failures in that story.  They didn’t experience what Peter experienced.  He moved to a new level in faith and understanding that they missed because they only watched it happen.  Listen, there are people who are doing great things for God and there are people who are watching it happen.  There are people who are experiencing the supernatural power of God which enables them to do mighty things in Jesus’ name and there are people who are only watching it happen.  Often those watching the water walkers wonder, “Why can’t that be me?  Why can’t I have that kind of experience with Jesus?  Why can’t I do those mighty acts?”  I’ll tell you why.  In order to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.

It is as we step outside of the boat, outside of our comfort zones, outside of where we have always been that we learn about God and grow more into the image of Christ.  Doing what you have always done will get you what you have always got.  Status quo is not the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.  When we become disciples, we are always on the lookout, always seeking where Jesus is doing some water walking so that we can join Him and experience His power at work in us that will enable us to accomplish great things.  We have not been designed to be boat dwellers, sitting in our comfortable canoes singing “Row, row, row your boat” all together like we are on some spiritual comfy cruise ship.  Christians, we have been called to be water walkers, people of faith who do great things in Jesus’ name.

We see in our text today that just like Peter, the three servants were given an opportunity.  Each one was given at least one gift. The third servant responded differently to the reception of his gift than the first two servants did.

Jon Ortberg, in his book, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat,” comments:

There are two ways we can respond to a gift that we receive.  First, we can decide the gift is so valuable that it can’t be risked. If we bring it out of the box and actually use it, things could go wrong.  It might be poorly used.  It might not be admired by others the way we think it should be.  It might even get broken.  It’s therefore, risky to take it out of the box.

The second way to respond is to say “This gift is so valuable it must be risked.” People who choose this approach realize if the gift isn’t taken out of the box it will never be used at all.  “To leave the gift in the box is to thwart the desire of the giver.” Ortberg concludes this thought by saying, “There is no tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift.”  (p. 32)

Truly there is a cost to using a gift or to exercising an opportunity.  But as we’ll see from this parable this morning, there is also a cost for doing nothing.  Taking advantage of an opportunity will result in growth and we were made to grow.

Colossians 1:10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”

II Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

Ephesians 4:15b “We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

Look at your neighbor and say, “It’s time to grow up.” Think back upon your life.  You grew up as you acquired language and could communicate.  It brought you new opportunities.  You grew up as you explored your environment as a toddler and learned the stove is hot, gum is sticky, a using a whole bottle of bubble bath can create some issues.  You grew up as you left diapers behind for a more sophisticated way of life.  You grew up as you moved into new experiences such as preschool, Kindergarten and elementary school. Only new experiences brought new challenges which were often completely unknown beforehand and often uncomfortable caused you to grow.

When Joshua comes in crying because he hurt his leg trying to do a flip on his skateboard, after we determine he’s alright and we have a little chuckle, Thom will say, “Did you learn anything?”  We want our kids to know that even skateboard wrecks, and the sharing of a friend’s secret that causes the word to get out that someone likes so and so in the third grade, and the getting of a less than desired grade on a test are all opportunities to grow as long as effort was put into trying.

Listen, people who stay in the boat don’t grow.  They get either seasick or bored, but they don’t grow.  People who stay in the boat just perpetuate things as they are.  We see from our parable today that there is an expectation of those who are going to be servants of Jesus.  That is that they make the choice to use the gifts that are given to them by the Master.

I want you to embrace some key ideas today.

First, God wants you to be growing so He has given you gifts.

Look at Matthew 25:15- “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.”

a. We see in this story, that all three received a gift. God gave each one specific gifts according to their individual abilities.

I Corinthians 12:7 and following says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

No one is left out when it comes to receiving something from God.  God has created each one of us to be unique.  Before you were conceived, God had a plan for your life.  Into your DNA He breathed gifts and talents and a destiny that you were meant to embrace.  Great care and thought was put into who you are and who you could become with God’s help.

What is more special?  To be given five talents to start with and see that doubled or to be given one and see that ability exercised to the point where you wind up with more at the end than anyone else because you kept exercising the faith to believe you could use your gifts and would continue to be blessed with more and more?  Maybe those with fewer gifts who use them wisely are the ones to be applauded because they didn’t let jealousy creep in when they saw others with more and just sit and pout about their meager resources.  They didn’t let intimidation set in because they didn’t think they were on the same playing field.

The point is, God knows what you can handle.  He knows what you are wired for.  Whether you have five talents or one, He has given you something that He intends for you to use in order to bless your life.

b. All three could have received a blessing.

When the Master in this parable went away after entrusting talents to His servants, He knew that when He returned He was going to reward those that did something with what they had.  That was the plan from the “get go.”  For the Christ-follower, I don’t think there are any sweeter words than “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Those words drive us, don’t they?  They feed us.  They motivate us.  When we receive great service at a restaurant, we always ask to speak with the manager.  We give a commendation to our server because we know he or she will receive some kind of reward for their excellence.  We want them to be blessed by the words that accompany a job well done.

We’ve been wired by God to appreciate those words, “Well done.  Good job.”  Many of us don’t hear them often enough.  Some of you here today haven’t received those messages from the significant people in your life.  Instead of feeling encouraged you’ve been beaten down.  Instead of feeling like a success, you’ve felt like a failure.

I want you to know that your Heavenly Father isn’t what He was accused of being in this parable by the third servant.  He isn’t the hard, angry, mean God who is waiting to pounce on you and pummel you and whack you over the head like the “Whack a Mole” game at Chuck E Cheese! J He isn’t setting you up for failure. He is trying to set you up for success.  He gives you gifts in order that you can grow and stretch so that He can say, “Well done. That a boy.  That a girl.”  He wants to give you more and more and more to oversee and handle.  He is setting you up for success, but you have to open the gift.  You have to use it.

The two that did something with the gifts they received were rewarded.  “You have been faithful with a few things.  I will put you in charge of many.”  So in essence, the Master treated all three the exact same way.  Each received something from Him.  Each could have been blessed by Him.

c. All three had a choice to make.

One gift God has given to all of us is the freedom to choose.  He will never make us do anything.  When you boil it all down, success in life really comes down to one thing-the choices we make. Joshua 24:15 says, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life.”

The first two servants in the store chose to open and use the gift.  The third one buried the gift in a hole in the ground.  There were a thousand and one things he could have done with the gift, and he chose to bury it in the ground.  When the Master returned, the man came up with a little song and dance routine to try to explain his laziness.  Yes, laziness.

He quickly came up with a cute little defense about the Master being an angry, mean person that created great fear in the third servant.  Have you ever done that?  Someone calls you out on something and you try to save face by shifting the conversation away from yourself and your actions?  How many of you have tried to talk your way out of a speeding ticket?  Don’t raise your hands please.  Or at least, Office Deweese and Officer Howell, close your eyes! J

The Master wouldn’t have any of it.  He didn’t even try to refute the accusation or justify if with a response.  He simply called the man what he was. Lazy. I’m not saying fear never plays a role in our lives.  It absolutely can and it does, but in this man’s case, fear wasn’t the issue.  It was simply laziness and the Master knew it.  How hard would it have been for him to walk his body to the bank and put the talent in the bank in order that it might earn interest?

The point in this parable is that we are full of excuses.  I used to teach fifth grade and I told my students all the time, “Excuses are like armpits.  We all have a couple and they stink!” J Excuses aren’t going to fly when the Master asks what we have done with what He has entrusted to us.

Jon Ortberg highlights some of our excuses in his book this way:

-I would develop my gifts more thoroughly, but I have a boss who stifles my initiative.

-I would pursue another job, but I need the money, security and familiarity of this one.

-I would grow in my capacity for intimacy, but my spouse isn’t interested.

-I would devote myself more fully to spiritual growth, but I can’t find the time.

-I would have realized more of my potential, but no one was ever interested in mentoring me.

Or how about these?

-When I feel confident, I’ll try using this gift.

-When my boss is more supportive, I’ll grow.

-When my kids are older, I’ll volunteer in ministry.

-When I make more money I’ll start to tithe.

Listen, every time you make an excuse you are burying your gift. Are any of you card players out there?  Thom and I could probably take you in Rook or Euchre. J I’ll tell you there is nothing more frustrating than having a great hand, but not having the Rook or the Bauer.  You’re counting on your partner to have it, but when the game is over and you have lost, you find that the greatest card, the card you needed in order to win, was buried in the “blind” or the “kitty.”  Some of you are struggling to succeed today because you have buried what you need to move forward and grow in Christ.

Just because you are here every Sunday doesn’t mean you haven’t buried something God intended for you to use.  Your faithfulness to church isn’t the same as your faithfulness to use your gift.  Church attendance doesn’t work with God as a smokescreen for spiritual laziness.  Some of us might need to get off of our “Blessed Assurance” this morning and get out our shovel with God’s help and uncover the gifts we’ve buried.  Because the truth is we can’t use and God can’t use what we have buried.

Now because it is legitimate and real, let’s talk about the gifts we bury because of fear.  Let’s go back to Peter and his water walking moment.  You’ll have to remember that Peter wasn’t the only one in the boat in the middle of that storm when Jesus sanctioned a water walking experience.  There were eleven others who stayed in the boat out of fear.

Let me just say that Peter and the eleven experienced the same circumstances.  There was a storm going on whether they were in the boat or whether they were walking on the water.  So it didn’t make a difference whether they stayed in the boat or got out.  They were still going to experience the storm.  But I’ll tell you something.  When there is a storm, I’d rather be walking on the water where Jesus is than clinging to the inside of some shallow boat, getting seasick when it might just capsize anyway.  There are no guarantees whether you are out of the boat or are walking on the water, but the safest place, listen, the safest place is wherever Jesus is!

About fear. It absolutely can cause us to bury our gifts if that is the voice we listen to.  Fear is a powerful force.  In his book, Jon Ortberg identified that:

-Fear of being poor is what made Jacob deceive his father.

-Fear made the Israelites in the wilderness slight God’s calling and care and clamor to return to Egypt.

-Fear of having to suffer is what made the disciples run away from Jesus.  And what made Peter deny Jesus three times?

-Fear made the disciples betray their deepest value to their best friend at his greatest hour of need.”

Fear makes us think, “If we do something with the gift, if we fully obey God, maybe God won’t bless us like He says He will.  Maybe something will happen that we just can’t handle.”

Do you realize that the punishment the third servant received didn’t come as a result of doing something bad?  It was because he did nothing.  Every Christian needs to listen carefully.  There are consequences for sin, for sure.  But there are also consequences for doing nothing with what God has entrusted to us.

I believe we have gifts we don’t even know we have.  Just my personal opinion but it has also been my personal experience.  I believe we find out “what we’re made of” so to speak, what gifts we possess when we actually start using the gifts we know we have.  I didn’t know I had strong administrative gifts until I was 26 and was put into a position where I had to organize more than myself.  It wasn’t something I got to work my way into either, you know, like how you get into the pool when it’s cold?  You put your feet in and then you work up the nerve to go down the steps a bit and then when you’re waist high and your rubber floaty is wet J you think, “I might just put my head under.”  Sometimes we get to tiptoe in.  Sometimes, though, we are just pushed in head first and we find ourselves able to swim when we didn’t even know we could.

So what does God want you to know this morning?  He wants you to know He loves you and wants you to grow so He can keep blessing you.  So He has given you gifts to set you up for success.  He wants you to know you have a choice whether or not you use the gift but regardless of what you choose, He wants to remind you that there will be a performance review and you will have to account for whatever choice you made.  So are you rowing, rowing, rowing your boat just trying to stay afloat? Or are you growing this morning because you are using what God has given you whether it’s your time, your talents, or your financial resources?  Have you buried your gifts in the sand or have you invested the in the Kingdom of God?  To the those who have five talents this morning.  Are you using all five or have you saved two or three for when it’s more convenient?  To all of us, are we diligent or lazy?  Faith-filled water walkers or fearful boat drifters?  Are you rowing or growing?

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