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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

14 Aug '08

For those at half-time

Posted by T.J. Addington in communication, Intentional living, The heart
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), the master calls his three servants and tells them that he is going on a long journey. He divides up his wealth and tells them to invest it well so that there is a return when he comes back home.

Upon his return, two of the servants had doubled the money given to them to manage. To these two, Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21).”

The third servant was preoccupied with his own life issues and frankly didn’t have time for his master’s investments so he merely buried it and offered a lame excuse for why he had not invested them on his master’s behalf. Jesus’ words for the third servant were harsh. He had not paid attention to his masters business but only to his own.

There is both a message of blessing and warning in this parable. Of course, the master is Christ and his servants are us. The talents (money) he handed out are the gifts, opportunities and unique work he has made for us to accomplish on his behalf. Our choice is whether we will faithfully steward what He has entrusted or whether we will live a life of self preoccupation and selfishness. Will we be like the first two servants who took their stewardship seriously or like the third who only took his issues seriously.

The amazing thing is that Jesus has entrusted to each of us a portion of his ministry and has gifted us with abilities and empowered us with His spirit. We have been invited by the Lord of the Universe to represent him and make a difference for His kingdom. All he asks of us is to be faithful in using those gifts.

For me, those ‘talents’ are gifts of leadership, vision and strategy and communication. God wants me to be faithful in using these gifts on His behalf. For my friend Naomi, he gave gifts of administration and faith and she used those gifts in representing Christ as a school principle and administrator and these days at 99 she uses her faith gift as she prays for people all around the world.

For my friend Doug, who was the classic entrepreneur, he gave the gift of making and giving money, extending mercy to people in need and evangelism. He used those gifts to advance the kingdom by funding many ministries, helping hurting people who came across his path and sharing the gospel with those he did business with.

His wife Susan, was gifted with the ability to mentor other women, teach and has an incredible gift of hospitality. Thousands of people from all walks of life have enjoyed her hospitality and their home is frequently full of friends, neighbors, and foreign students.

We often think that ‘real’ ministry is reserved for full time, trained ministerial types. That is a lie of the devil. The Master has given each of us gifts and has asked each of us to make ministry investments on His behalf. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things by simply being faithful with the gifts and opportunities he gives us.

This is one of the greatest blessings any of us could experience because these investments have eternal value. Those of us who take our opportunity seriously will be with many individuals in heaven who our lives touched – many whom we never met – because we used the gifts given to attain a lasting, eternal legacy.

But there is also a warning. There are many who are so consumed with ‘our own stuff’ that, like the unfaithful servant in the parable, they bury and ignore the responsibility God gave and have little to show for their lives when the finish line is crossed. They leave no eternal legacy.

The definition of the third unfaithful servant would be that of a wasted life that may have yielded temporal success but was an eternal failure. In the end it is a life of deep regret when the consequences of life decisions are faced and the picture of what could have been is seen.

Halftime is both an incredible opportunity and a major danger zone. Almost everyone who does not finish well fails in the second half of life. There are many - who like in the parable of the sower - allow their passion for God to be “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature or live out their potential (Luke 8:14).” They cannot say with Paul, I have finished the race and have kept the faith.

It is the choice of using the opportunity God has given like the first two servants in the Parable of the Talents or simply burying our opportunity like the third.

In many ways, halftime is a decision time. We must decide whether we will take the experience, financial stability and increased disposable time for His purposes or focus instead on ourselves – allowing our passion for Jesus and His work to grow cold. The legacy we want to leave can be lost if we do not stay focused in the second half.

Too many people retire from both work and ministry, as if the latter is the same as the former – do our time and then relax. It is sad to see people who have so much to offer disconnect from what is most important for a life of empty leisure.

My heroes are those whose passion to know Christ and be used by Him grows as the years pass, knowing that the finish line is coming and wanting to finish well and leave an eternal legacy. We may retire from our job. But there is no retirement from the call of God on our lives or the work which he created uniquely for us. As long as God does not retire from ministering to us, why would we retire from ministering for Him?

When my friends, Bob and Judy, head to Mexico to their second home on the water, their days are filled with ministry with their Mexican friends and extended families (they are like family) and spending time on projects that give Bob and Judy opportunity to develop relationships and share the love of Christ. Bob may be retired from his full time job but he is permanently engaged in the work God created him for. That is how God designed us. There is no retirement from God’s work.

How are you doing in the second half?