Step Up in Faithfulness, Discover and Invest Your Talents for Christ

2017 Messages

Jeff Ward walks us through the “Parable of the Talents” found in Matthew 25:14-30. Jeff shows us how the Master gifted his servants with talents. In the same way, he also gifted each of us with something of tremendous value. He wants us to invest in ways that serve others and bring Him glory. Jeff discusses how God gives us all something of tremendous value, how He wants you to invest radically, and that God is ultimately responsible for the results.

Jeff WardJul 30, 2017Matthew 25:14-30; Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Peter 4:10-11

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Watermark. Welcome, Dallas. Welcome, Fort Worth and Plano. Some of you guys might be joining us online. We're just so glad you guys are here today with us. My name is Jeff Ward. I get to serve here at Watermark on the External Focus team, and our job really is to connect you guys and your passions, your skills, your talents, and your gifts with strategic opportunities around the community to love and serve our neighbors here and around the world. It is really a privilege to be with you guys this morning.

My grandfather was a dentist here in Dallas for about 40 years down in the Oak Cliff area. I remember as a kid spending a lot of time in his dental chair. Then I remember when he retired and sold his dental practice… He was telling me a little bit about how that went, and he said, "I got this money from selling the practice, and I was looking for an opportunity to invest. A friend of mine came with some other friends, and they pitched me this idea of this novel restaurant concept, this chain that was coming out of California."

He said, "You know, they wanted to sell hamburgers out of windows." He was like, "I just didn't get it. I told them, 'I don't think anybody is going to want to buy hamburgers out of windows.'" If you know the rest of that story, that young upstart company was McDonald's in the late 1960s, and it turns out that people really like to buy hamburgers out of windows. Billions of them, in fact. That company, of course, is over $100 billion today, but my grandfather didn't get it and didn't invest. Had he invested, I don't know if I would be standing here on this stage, frankly.

I start with this story because I think we're a lot like this. We all have something of tremendous value. We may not have a pile of money to invest, but we have something of value, and sometimes we miss the God-given opportunities that come in front of us to invest and to move into a relationship or a situation where we can love and serve in a way that honors God. Maybe you're thinking, "Listen. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I have runny noses and I manage chaos. What do I have to offer tangibly for the kingdom?"

Or maybe, "I'm a junior high or high school student, and I don't even drive yet. What do I have to offer the kingdom of God or my community?" Or "I'm an accountant and I crunch numbers" or "I fix cars" or "I paint houses. I just don't know what talent, what gift, what resource I have that can be invested to love and serve people and to bring honor and glory to the kingdom." Jesus had a message for us, and about 2,000 years ago, he shared that with his disciples. He shared what we now call the parable of the talents.

So today, we're going to be in the book of Matthew, chapter 25, but before we get into that text, I want to go ahead and give you the walking-away point. Here's the teaching point. If you remember nothing else about today, remember this point. God gave you something of tremendous value…a resource, a skill, a competency, a passion, maybe even a holy discontent for a group of people or a geography. He gave you something of tremendous value. He wants you to invest it in radical ways to bring honor and glory to him.

Jesus, at this point in time, is on his way… He and the disciples have come into Jerusalem, the triumphant entry. He is headed to the cross, so he knows his time is short with these disciples. He has just told them a parable in this section of Matthew about a bridegroom, and he's really talking about their hearts. Are they abiding with him, and do they love God, and are they putting their faith in God?

The reason I tell you that is because then he quickly moves into this other parable about the talents where he addresses their hands. He has addressed their hearts, and now he wants to talk to his disciples about how, as fully devoted followers of him, they should put to work what he has given them to advance his kingdom.

I tell you that because there's a danger that as we talk about this parable we think it's our good works or the way we're investing the talents he has given us that saves us, and we know that's not true. We know we are saved by grace through faith. So I wanted to start with that. Jesus was trying to explain to his disciples, because he knew there was a danger. He was going to be buried. He was resurrected, he ascended, and he knew there would be this gap between his second coming and that his disciples would be tempted to be idle. He wanted them working as they were waiting.

This story may be familiar to you. The CliffsNotes version is you have this master who draws together three of his servants, and he gives one of the servants five talents. Now it's important to know right here at the beginning that a talent, what Jesus is communicating here, is a unit of value, of significant worth. In fact, a talent was approximately worth 20 years of what your annual wages would be back then. So it was a monetary value of significant worth.

He gives one servant five talents, he gives another servant two talents, and then he gives one servant one talent. The five- and the two-talent servants go and invest what the master has given them, and they get an enormous return on that investment, but the one-talent servant went and hid his in the ground, and when the master returned simply returned to him what the master had given him. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Matthew 25. We'll jump right in and read this text, and then we'll be off to the races.

"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?

Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

For the rest of this time today, I want to flesh out three observations from this story. Here they go. First, God gave you something of tremendous value; secondly, he wants you to invest radically; and thirdly, he is responsible for the results. Let's jump right in.

1._ God gave you something of tremendous value_. One of the first things that hit me as I was reading this parable was a little bit of this sense of injustice. As the master is doling out these talents… You know, five talents. I get it. Two talents, and then one talent. I'm like, "That guy only got one talent. That's not good. That's unjust." But right here at the beginning of the parable, Jesus is making a point, even in the distribution of these talents, because, again, one talent was an incredible value. It was worth 20 times your annual salary.

Think about your annual income and then multiply that by 20. Let's just say you're making $15 an hour, which is, if you're working full-time, $30,000 a year times 20. That's $600,000 in terms of value. Jesus is making a point of something of incredible value. It moves way beyond money, but we'll talk about that in a second. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say if someone walked in here today and handed you a check for $600,000, I don't think many of us would feel sorry for you. So even one talent had tremendous value.

Here's the point. The master distributed different values, but they were all valuable. Again, it's important to note a talent was something way more valuable than money. Jesus is making a point through this. Let's keep following this line of thought. The first servant takes his five talents, which would be equivalent to about $3 million if we use that analogy, and he puts it to work and makes $3 million more.

The second servant takes his 1.2 million and doubles it. I don't have a lot of investing experience, but that's a 100 percent return. I mean, you're not investing conservatively to get a 100 percent return. That's not T-bills and bonds. That's something radical. I suspect if those guys were in your Community Group you'd probably be going, "What are you thinking? What are you doing?" Maybe "How can I jump in on that?"

But what about this one-talent guy? He takes his jackpot and buries it in the ground. If you're like me, you wonder what was going through that guy's mind. He could have done something with it, just like the master said. He could have put it in the bank and gathered interest. He could have just taken it and blown it all on himself. At least we could understand that. What is Jesus trying to tell us right here at the beginning of this parable? I believe it's if you are a faithful follower of him, you're going to be betting the farm.

You're going to be making radical investments with what he has given you for his purposes, and that can mean money, but it means way more. It's your time and your talent, your treasure, your acumen, your skills, your network, and all of the things he has brought into your life. Sometimes I think the temptation with this parable could be that we talk about faithful stewards and move into this mindset of frugality, kind of penny pinching and cutting coupons, but Jesus is taking this parable to a way different place.

He is talking about incredible value incredibly invested for an incredible return. We have to get past this comparison trap, this one I'm describing. We have to stop looking around at how God has uniquely gifted and resourced other people and focus on what he has given us. Let's be honest. There are some people in this world who are really, really wealthy financially, and there are billions of people on this planet who live on less than $2 a day.

There are people who are physically strong, and there are people who are physically weak. Some people have amazing voices and musical ability, and some people can't carry a tune. That is the world we live in. In my role here in ministry, it's really easy to fall into this comparison trap. I look around this incredibly gifted and talented staff, and it's really easy for me to think of myself as the one-talent guy or something less.

Let's just take my friend JP for example. He's not here, so we can pick on him. You guys know him. He's crazy cool, and I watch History channel. He drives a really sleek black truck, and I drive a Camry. It does have fog lights, so it's kind of cool. He can beatbox and rap and all that, and I like NPR. He's crazy tall, just like a bunch of guys on our staff, like really tall, and I keep trying to convince everybody that 5'10" really is average. They even gave me the kid's podium today. He's an entrepreneur, and most everything I touch loses money. You get the picture.

The fact is we both have something of value that God has given us, and you do too. Our job is simply to be faithful with that. But before you can invest your talents, you have to know what those are. So you have to stop for a minute and think, "What gifts has God given me?" If we had more time, I'd probably make you draw two columns and in the left column just spend the time and think prayerfully about "What has God given me?" Then I'd probably have you make a right-hand column that says, "How have I actively deployed each one of those?"

Maybe your talent is time. Maybe God has given you a phase of life where you have time to invest in others. Maybe it's money. Maybe it's a gift for teaching and equipping. Maybe it's encouragement. Maybe it's a love and a compassion and ability to work with kids, like Wes was just talking about that we need here at Watermark. Maybe you're artistic and you can draw. You have musical ability. Maybe you have business sense and strategic thinking skills. Think creatively about what God has given you and make that list.

We know, as a follower of Christ, that God has given each of us spiritual gifts. In fact, 1 Peter 4:10-11 says, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." We know that God wants us to reach the lost and move forward his kingdom agenda right here on earth right now. If you remember from the Lord's Prayer, he prayed that the Father's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. That was present tense. He has work for us to do right here. Mission is here and now.

As you do this personal inventory, you don't have to get wrapped up into "Is this an ego trip?" because none of this is yours. These are God's gifts that he has given you. Even if you think, "I made good choices in high school and got into college, and I work hard at my job, and I've been promoted and have done all of these things…" Even with those things, God has given you the ability, the opportunities, the network, the influence, and has allowed you to do that.

So we don't have to worry about, "Man, when I do this inventory I'm thinking these are for myself." As the 1 Peter 4 passage says, even these gifts we're using in his power. Here's the reality check for all of us here. Watermark is filled with people who have been given incredible talents. We often describe this body of people as an army, not an audience. The truth is this room is filled with two kinds of people today.

There are people who are in the army who know what their talents are, who are actively deployed, who are all in in God's purposes, loving and serving their neighbors. If that's you, we want to encourage you and say, "Well done." Keep going, and look for more opportunities to be deployed and to be promoted up through the ranks. We even need recruiters, just folks to come alongside others and invite them in to see how you're doing that and to help them see what their gifts are and how they can be invested and activated and all of that.

Then there's a second group of people, which would be the audience. These are folks who have tremendous gifts, and they may not be actively deployed. That could be because you don't even know yet who the Master is who's given you these gifts or you haven't taken the time to understand what those gifts and talents are or you haven't thought through how you can deploy them. What we know from this passage is that following Jesus is not a spectator sport. Jesus does not want fans; he wants followers. He doesn't want an audience; he wants an army.

Here's a true story. True confession. My wife and I had two young boys, and in 2002 we started attending Watermark. At this time, I was in the audience, and I was in the audience for far too long. My wife got plugged in. We went through the membership class, and she was plugged in and serving in the kids' ministry, and I really wasn't doing anything service-wise. We had these conversations where she'd say, "Hey, you should really plug in. There are all of these opportunities here at this young church." I always seemed to have an excuse or there was a delay.

Finally, she took matters into her own hands and called Watermark for me and got connected, either fortunately or unfortunately for me, to Blake Holmes, our Equipping director. She said, "Hey, you know what? My husband has a talent. He has a gift or two, and he's just not using them. He's not actively deployed." So Blake had a meeting with me and extended me a ton of grace and just encouraged me and talked me through my wiring and how God had gifted me and how I could get plugged in and all of that.

My wife was loving me well. She wasn't throwing me under the bus. She was doing what a faithful mate does, which is help your spouse see a growth area and move into deployment. We all need that. Husbands need to do that with wives. Wives need to do that with husbands. In your Community Group, ask each other, "Hey, what has God gifted you with, and how are you using that?" That's the adventure that is the Christian walk. So I was in the audience for way too long.

2._ God wants you to invest in radical ways_. Again, the five- and two-talent investors were "bet the farm" investors. When the master returns and is talking to the one-talent servant, he doesn't just criticize this cautious investor; he calls him wicked and lazy or slothful. So what was going through this one-talent guy's mind? I often put myself into the story and try to figure out what he was thinking.

We have to be careful, because we're not told specifically everything that was going through his mind, but I know how we can think in ways that make us cautious and passive and fearful to use the talents we've been given. Maybe it was the comparison game. Maybe he looked as the talents were being doled out and said, "Man, I only got one. These guys have amazing opportunities and gifts and talents, and I'm just going to cross my arms and huff and puff, and I'm not even going to try."

We know from the text he feared failure. We'll come back to that one. That's important. Maybe he just got busy and lost focus. Maybe initially when the master handed him the talent he saw it as this tremendous gift, but he didn't take the time to think about how he could deploy that. We know from the parable it says, "After a long time the master returned." So maybe he got busy, got distracted with work and family and even going to church.

Maybe he felt like he was firing on all cylinders because he cut a check to a charity or gave to things. Some of the things we can do too… Our kids are in high school and we're about to be empty nesters. "When I become an empty nester, then I'll have margin, and I'll really think through how I can be missional then." Or it's "Man, I'm close to retirement. When I retire and get out of the rat race, then I'll figure out how I can be missionally engaged and loving and serving others."

Here's the point I want to make, and this is really key. The way all three of these servants worked and used their talents was a direct relation to what they viewed of the master who gave them those talents. Does that make sense? What these three investors did with their talents was directly attributable to what they thought about the master who gave them those talents.

The first two investors took big risks, huge, and they had courage, and they were probably surrounded by people who were naysaying. "Really, what impact can you have? You have these priorities right in front of you. How really can you move the needle on some of these issues by the things you're doing?" Here's the thing. Courage comes from understanding what you believe about the master.

I bet this is how the two- and five-talent servants' thinking went. "He's the master. He gave me something of tremendous value. He didn't have to. He could have kept that talent or invested it himself. After all, he's the master. But he entrusted it to me, so he believes I can do something with it. I can do something great with it." These men view the master as loving and kind and generous and somebody who's going to want to see a return when he returns.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to Whistler up in Canada for our anniversary. We like to do kind of crazy outdoor things. We like to hike and do things like that, so we were looking around for something to do that would be sort of an adventure. So we're watching TV, and this ad comes on, and we knew immediately, "Yes, that's it. That's what we want to do." We wanted to ride the tallest (7,000 feet), the fastest, and the longest zip line in North America. It even had a cool name: the Sasquatch. This was going to be awesome.

So we hiked and zipped and climbed around until we got to this giant platform overlooking this giant zip line. You can't even see the end of it. It disappears into the mist, into the tree line, from one peak of this mountain range to another. We're looking at this thing, and then we're assigned a guide. We'd already been given like 10 pages of warnings and instructions, and then, of course, you have the waiver.

This guide starts walking us through her education, her training, and what she had done before, and then she walks us through the equipment. "Here's how the carabiners work, and this is your safety helmet." She just talked us through very slowly and deliberately how this ride had been tested and what we were going to experience and how she was going to make sure it was safe. Then she got this cable from our harness and clipped it onto the zip line, and then she even got a second one from our harness and clipped it onto this redundant safety line.

So she walks us through all this, all these cautions, more cautions, warnings, and coaching. This whole thing was pretty risky even for us, so I did what any Southern gentleman would do. Ladies first. I'm like, "Baby, hop up there." So she does, and she goes zipping down this line. Her voice trails off and you don't see her anymore. I assumed she made it safely to the other platform because they radioed and said they were ready for me.

We zipped down this line, and it was amazing. It was tremendous. It lived up to the hype. It was such a cool experience. Here's the reason we were willing to take that risk: we trusted our guide. If you view God that way, you're going to act like that. You're going to take huge risks. You're going to be like the trapeze artist who takes those risks and does those acrobatics in the air because you know there's a safety net below you. You know you're going to take risks because you're playing with house money. It's not even your money. It's the gifts God has given you.

You'll recognize that you're called simply to be faithful with what God has given you. Or you can view the master like the one-talent servant did. I think this is one of the most important points in this parable, and one that I had never really thought about. Notice what the one-talent guy's view of the master did not lead to. It didn't lead to wild living. He didn't spend all the money on himself. It led him to be cautious and passive.

He's not the Prodigal Son here either. God has a soft spot for those folks who go and end up in the trough with the pigs and come to their senses and return in repentance to their father. God has a soft spot for that, but what we know from this parable is this bad theology, this understanding that he had of the master, led him to extreme caution, to passivity, and he never uses his talent. He never uses it or risks it, and as we learn here, the master has no soft spot for that kind of servant.

He says to the master in this exchange near the end, "You reap what you did not sow, and you gather what you did not scatter." I used to read that and think, "Man, he has missed it. Who's that guy he's talking about? The first two servants don't describe the master that way. Maybe he was talking about someone else." But in this case he's right. The master doesn't correct his perception. He had correctly perceived. He had just incorrectly interpreted.

The wicked servant saw the master as judgmental and shrewd and angry, and he let his fear of failure paralyze him. He was always thinking about what could go wrong, and he did not trust his guide. But you know what? The fact that the master operates like that is really great news for us. It's amazing, in fact, because the Master takes something of value and invites us and entrusts us to grow his kingdom with him.

He gives us talents and invites us to use them to bring the lost to relationship with him, to redeem the community, to serve the poor, to build businesses to hire at-risk folks, to empower them to be all that God intended, to lead kids and students, to serve in public office, to invest in others, to lean into difficult conversations and relationships to give hope to people with the hope you've been given.

That's the kind of master who doesn't withhold anything good. In fact, this Master didn't even withhold his only Son, his perfect, blameless Son who he sent here to earth to live the life we couldn't live because of our sin, to die that awful, terrible death on the cross to pay for our sin so we could be reconciled and restored to our Master in relationship. And not only that, but to then spend eternity with him. That is a good, generous, loving, kind, trustworthy master.

Here's even more good news. With what he gives you, we learn from the parable, you can create even more. That generous and good God. He doesn't give you gifts to bury. In fact, Jesus said, "Even greater works will you do." So whatever he has given you, put it to work, and whatever is accomplished, whatever the return on investment, you know it's not about you; it's the Master who gets the glory, because it was his gifts he gave you, used for his purposes to steward for him in his power with your faithfulness.

How do you view God? Do you view him like the one-talent servant, that he's judgmental and angry and going to zap you if you make a mistake, or do you view him as sovereign and good and holy, like the two- and five-talent servants, and trust him with what he has given you? Do you know what? We have so many faithful, ordinary members here who are trusting their guide and investing in radical ways to love and serve our city.

In our ministry, I get to think about friends who are serving externally…friends like Amy Hulme, for example, who is a stay-at-home mom with little kids. She wanted to build into these kids at an early age this value of loving and serving, so she just found opportunities where she could serve with her family, and then she invited other moms into that group to love and serve, and out of that was formed an organization called the Hands and Feet Projects, just helping invite families into service.

I think about my friends Hil Bowman and Todd Anders. They come out of the financial services background, and they said, "Hey, we can teach formally incarcerated, at-risk men who are looking for work how to budget and steward their finances and invest in wise ways, biblical ways." About 200 men have had touchpoints with those guys, opportunities for discipleship and to learn more about the Master.

I think about my friend and colleague Ryan Wall, who came back from one of the international discipleship trips and was really frustrated because over there he didn't know the language or the culture and there weren't enough translators. So when he got home he goes, "I know the language and the culture here in Dallas. Why don't we do mission trips right here in the city?" So over a thousand people now have been trained and equipped in how to share their faith, and they go out monthly to love and serve and share the gospel on the streets of Dallas.

I think about Charla Dixon, my friend who every Tuesday night goes down to Vickery to spend time at the Vickery Kids Club with refugee kids. I've been down there with her. I'm like a human jungle gym. The kids are everywhere, and it's awesome. She's loving and serving in radical ways and investing her gifts. Just a few weeks ago in your Watermark News you saw Glow. We had over 100 of you in the army deployed doing hair and nails and makeup and facials and photography and health and wellness and fashion consulting, just reminding these women of their worth and value and dignity that is God-given.

We have over 20 local partners here with about 2,000 of you guys who are serving, who are mentoring at-risk kids and reading with kids and writing notes to prisoners who feel forgotten and putting people to work and medical professionals and folks who just want to pray with people serving over at QuestCare Clinic, where we had like 8,000 folks come through last year. Here at Watermark we feel so strongly about you understanding your talents and how you're deployed that we even make that a requirement for membership. Not serving externally alone but serving internally or externally. We feel so strongly about that.

We even put that in the annual survey that many of you guys have filled out and returned. We ask you, "What are your gifts, skills, and talents, and where are you putting those to work?" I read through eight pages worth of quotes about people responding back in creative ways of how they're loving and serving their neighbors, and I thought I'd just share a few with you. Maybe they'll inspire you the way they inspired me. Here we go.

"Within my apartment complex, my wife and I build community. We're a first point of contact for neighbors who need anything, praying for our neighbors and networking with others." "My husband and I have a business that hires people coming out of recovery and gives them a trade that they can use for a lifetime." "I sew and donate baby quilts and pillowcases to organizations and mission trips going to orphanages and pregnancy resource centers."

"I do volunteer mediation at SMU's conflict resolution center." "I serve as a high school robotics coach, which allows for hours of relationship building, mentoring, evangelism, and discipleship." "I spend a lot of time with people in my car. I'm an Uber driver, and I honestly feel I make a connection. It might not be visible to all, but I care for and encourage people the best way I can." "There's a special place in my heart for older women, especially widowed and divorced, who have just given up on themselves from a physical fitness standpoint."

Another one plays a flute at a senior living facility. "I help to operate a running club for children on the autism spectrum." "I hold something called 'craft club' in my home once per month. Third-grade girls from our neighborhood come over, and we learn a Bible lesson and make a craft." One family had a child in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), so they now go back as a family and deliver flowers and minister to the staff and other families who are there.

"I love working and ministering to my neighbors who are refugees from Burma." "We mentor about 70 international students through UTD." Some of you might even have a larger platform, a way that you could really impact in even bigger ways. I had the opportunity to be down in Cuba last week with some Watermark folks and some friends from some other churches, looking at this tremendous ministry down there that is literally nationwide and reaching people for Christ in a really challenging environment.

One of the guys I met there had been an elite baseball player there in Cuba. He had come to a baseball field, and there was an exhibition game with some Christians, and they invited him down and just loved him well. Just the kindness of God that drew him to repentance and into faith with Jesus. He said, "I have a talent."

So he was telling me now about this ministry he leads across the entire country of Cuba, a baseball league where over 1.4 million kids have come through and heard the gospel of Christ and have opportunities to be discipled through these coaches and these partner churches. It's tremendous. God wants you to invest in radical ways. Now let's look at how the story ends.

3._ God is responsible for the results._ The master returns at the end of this story, and he doesn't praise the two- and five-talent servants for their business ability, for their performance, for their skill. He praises them for their faithfulness. That is good news. That frees us up to not operate out of comparison or fear of failure when we know we're not responsible for the return on that investment. The scorecard, gang, is simply faithfulness with what you have.

This made me think about what this scorecard is not. I'm not much of a sports guy, if you haven't figured that out, but I love to play golf. I love to get outside. I love to go play golf with friends. Anytime somebody asks me to go play golf with them, I kind of have a little bit of an interview, because I need to make sure they have the gift of patience. I tell them I'll get more swings for the money than anybody out there. I'm awful, and I lose dozens of golf balls.

When this became a line item in our family budget, my wife even went out and got me some of those "as seen on TV" glasses, where you can find your ball in the weeds. So I do that too. Maybe because I rarely ever keep score when I play… Some friends finally told me about this idea of a handicap. For those of you who know, you know it's a way of leveling the playing field. If I shoot 35 over and my friend shoots 15 over, it penalizes him for being a great player and gives me grace and gives me a better score. It gives us the same score.

It's like getting a head start in a race. I was like, "This is a cool concept." Well, it's good for me. It's bad for the players who are more talented than I am. Here's the point. There is no handicap in this parable as the master returns and evaluates the servants. There's no grading on the curve. The master doesn't chide the two-talent servant because he didn't get the same return as the five-talent servant. It's not based on the amount of the talents that have been given.

He doesn't say to the five- and two-talent guys, "Well done, good and savvy" or "good and clever" or "good and smart." He says "good and faithful." The scorecard is simply faithfulness with what God has given you, and that removes the need to compare or to fear failure. It's the same scorecard for everyone, and that is good news.

Back to my friend JP. You know what? God has gifted us differently, but our job description is the same. It's two words: be faithful. Be faithful with what God has given us. I want to close with a story of what happens when a bunch of ordinary people step up in faithfulness to an opportunity and use what they have been given and those efforts combine to create something really remarkable.

This movie came out recently called Dunkirk. Have you guys seen that movie? It is one of my all-time favorite stories of World War II, well before the movie, so I don't feel bad spoiling it for you, because you probably studied it in high school…maybe. Here it is. In 1940, World War II was almost over before it even got started. You had Hitler rising up in Nazi Germany, and then he just starts moving west.

He invades and occupies and conquers Poland, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and then he pushes into France, and he's just pushing, pushing, pushing. England and their prime minister, Winston Churchill, were like, "Hey, we see the writing on the wall. He's moving our direction." They start funneling hundreds of thousands of troops and war materiel to help the French push back against the invaders.

It's looking bleak. At this point, the Germans are actually more powerful than the Allied forces, so they split the Allied forces and push the largest group of these Allied forces back and back and back until they're in this small little area near Dunkirk on the northern French coast. They're surrounded on three sides, and their back is to the English Channel. They're not there storming the beach; they're stuck on the beach.

So you have 400,000 of these troops there, and Churchill realizes what's about to happen. He's about to lose the lion's share of his ability to defend England, ultimately, if there's an invasion. This is a serious situation. But where the Germans view the sea as a hopeless dead end, the Allies begin to see it as a means of escape. They start formulating an evacuation strategy, but even then, the evacuation was only going to get maybe 30,000 to 50,000 of these troops out, so about 10 percent of these troops.

As if things could not get darker, they soon realized their battleships, their destroyers, couldn't get up to the beach. The water was too shallow. King George VI over in England even calls for a week of prayer, asking the country to pray for a divine intervention, a miraculous evacuation. Then the call goes out to civilians. Anybody with a boat, anything that would float, a yacht, a fishing boat, a life raft, whatever people had… The call went out to use it to help with this evacuation. They needed a miracle.

Ordinary people did respond. They wanted to help, but all they had were these boats and this determination and this courage to risk it all in the effort. By the end of the operation, over 700 little boats evacuated over 300,000 of these soldiers off the beaches of Dunkirk and enabled them to go back to Britain and rally and ultimately end the war. Each of these little faithful efforts, combined with the efforts of so many others, brought about this miraculous delivery, this amazing result.

I'm sure the owner of this little tiny boat, the Tamzine (it's a 15-foot fishing boat), had to wonder, "Hey, what real impact can I have? How many guys can I rescue with that boat?" I'll tell you this. Not only did that boat have an impact…he rescued, obviously, soldiers who had downlines who really were grateful…but that boat is now today preserved in the Imperial War Museum in London as a reminder of what can happen with the faithfulness of one guy with one talent deploying it faithfully in risky ways.

We have an opportunity as well, and we're at war. Our enemies are the peace, comfort, and luxury of living in America, and the Enemy would love nothing more than for us to be lulled to sleep as we're surrounded by this war, as the battle rages. Even when we're awake it can be overwhelming. The needs are staggering here in our community. We can be overwhelmed by the busyness of life and circumstances and what's going on.

We can be overwhelmed by the idea that we have nothing of value, that all we have is a 15-foot fishing boat or that we have no ability to make an impact. This is exactly what the Enemy wants. Where you see a little, God sees a lot. The Enemy wants us to think that our back is against the sea and that we're surrounded, and yet there has never been a more tremendous opportunity for the body of Christ, the church, to step up in faithful ways to invest in the kingdom, one neighbor at a time, to bring about together a remarkable result.

In the end, you know what? The success on that beach was not due to the naval destroyers. It wasn't due to the Royal Air Force and the number of aircraft they had. It wasn't due to the tactical training of those forces on the beach. It was, surprisingly, due to something they didn't even think about, and it surprised even Churchill. It was the faithfulness and the collective power of individuals answering the call, using what they had.

Remarkably, as we have learned, God doesn't do these things by himself. He chooses to invest us, to entrust us with talents to work with him. If we all do this together as the body of Christ, we know miracles will happen. So I would just ask this…What is the boat you have, and what's preventing you from launching that boat? Imagine if we all radically invested the gifts God has entrusted us without fear of failure or even fear of comparison and paralysis. What if we just understood rightly who the Master is and just went out in faith and invested it? We might just change the world. Pray with me.

Lord God, I thank you for this day. I thank you for this army of people. Father, I thank you for the gift that you are. Lord, I pray for perspective. Father, would we just understand more of who you are? The fact that you would give us something of tremendous value, that you would entrust us with it, Father, that you wouldn't just use it yourself but that you would rely on us to be partners with you, in some sense, in reaching the lost, in redeeming our community, restoring people, giving them the hope we have.

Father, thank you for the gift of your Son, first and foremost, and the way you modeled for us selfless sacrifice. We know Jesus was humbled and responded in obedience all the way to the cross. Father, if we would just understand that, how we would just be all in. We would be followers, not fans. We would be an army, not an audience. Thank you for the opportunity of today, Father. Help us be attentive to your Spirit as you provide opportunities for us to be faithful today. We love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.