Matthew 25:14-30
Ephesians 4:11-16

There was an orchestra led by a second-rate conductor; not only because he was always running late but also verbally abused his musicians. In the orchestra was this guy on the clashing cymbals, who did his best, but was always a fraction of a second off. So one day the conductor says, “If you don’t get it right this time, I’ll shoot you.” 
When the time came for the percussionist to get it right, he didn’t. So the conductor pulls out a gun and shoots him dead on the spot. Of course, he was arrested, charged, tried, found guilty and eventually the conductor ended up on death row. The day came when he was sent to the chair. The executioner flipped the switch, but nothing happened. Everyone wondered what went wrong. But the conductor knew. Saddened by all that had taken place, he said, “I never was a very good conductor.”

The conductor par excellent, Christ Jesus, the Creator and King of the universe is standing at His rostrum with His baton in hand waving it back and forth in time with the music of the spheres, eliciting a cornucopia of grace-filled notes from all manner of musicians as He orchestrates the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He is the conductor and we are the musicians; His musicians, who by His grace are invited, and by His Spirit enabled to participate in creating the symphony of the ages through His Church.

That, in a nutshell, is what both Jesus and Paul were talking about in today’s texts.

Jesus says God has invested in all of us; all of us have been blessed. Whereas the NLT says we have been blessed with ‘bags of silver,’ the Living Bible says we have been given ‘bags of gold.’ For sure, the word literally translated as ‘talent’ means ‘a measure of money,’ but it is universally agreed upon by Bible scholars that the ‘bags of silver and/or gold’ represent anything we have been blessed with; money, possessions, talents, gifts, abilities. The point of the entire parable being: not what we have been blessed with but how we have used what we have been blessed with.

For Jesus makes it clear that God is looking for a return on His investment. He is encouraging us to take our place in His orchestra; to use what we have been blessed with for His glory.

Paul takes that basic concept and expands on it. Christ has given what he calls ‘spiritual gifts’ to His people. Here in Ephesians, he lists the so-called speaking gifts: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” (4:11).

But in his letters to both the Romans and Corinthians, he lists many others.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (Romans 12:6-8).

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have
(I Corinthians 12:7-11).

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets,
third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages (I Corinthians 12:27-28).

I can save you the trouble of counting them, there are 21 listed in the NT. Paul’s point being because all Christians have the Spirit, all Christians also have a gift of the Spirit to be used to build God’s Kingdom.

So Paul echoes Jesus . . . we have been blessed to be a blessing. How are those evangelists, pastors and teachers going to be a blessing?

Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).

And how are the people of the church going to be a blessing?

As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love (Ephesians 4:16).

So Jesus, what’s the goal? To use what we have been given to make heavenly music here on earth to give God a good return on His investment.

And Paul, do you have anything more to add? As more and more people begin to reinvest what God has invested in them the body of Christ, the Church is built up, grows stronger, more healthy, full of love; and therefore, better able to accomplish her mission.

Now having said all this about using what we have been given on behalf of Christ’s Church, I want to give a warning:

There is a tendency, if we are not careful, to substitute accomplishing the Lord’s work for spiritual growth. To be sure, using our gifts to build up the body of Christ is part and parcel of our walk with God. But to allow busyness, even busyness for the Lord to interfere with our higher calling to draw near to God through scripture, prayer and worship doesn’t do us or God any good.

Remember Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Any work we accomplish on behalf of our Lord honors Him and accomplishes His will and is empowered by His Spirit ONLY when that work is a natural outgrowth of drawing near to and therefore becoming more like Jesus.

To bear the fruit of the Spirit; therefore, is more important than displaying the gifts of the Spirit. Don’t get me wrong; the gifts of the Spirit are to be desired, sought and used for the glory of God. However, the New Testament teaches that they are to take a back seat to bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul is clear about this in his letter to the Corinthians where he is talking about the gifts of the Spirit, but then says, “Now I will show you a more excellent way” and moves into chapter 13 where he says, I can display all the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit in the world, but if I don’t bear the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit, in this case, love, the gifts count for nothing.

In other words, the fruit of the Spirit should be cultivated first, and then our character will drive the gifts of the Spirit. The most important fruit of the Spirit in this regard is ‘faithfulness.’ Let’s allow faithfulness to propel us on to using whatever God has given us to glorify Christ and build up His Church. For in his first letter to the Corinthians (4:2), Paul asks, “What is required of stewards? (a steward being a manager of what one has been given) And His answer: “That they be found faithful.”

It was the faithfulness of the leaders of the church who cooked up the idea; it was faithfulness that led Bill Richardson to loan one of his wagons; it was Brad and April Winter’s faithfulness that motivated them to transport it here and back; Jim, Lindsay, Julianna Brandenburg, Gail and I who fashioned together our palm trees; Jim, Lindsay, Julianna, Gail, Chris Laurence, Russ Eader and I, who decorated the float; Jim who loaded his truck with the necessary sound equipment; Heidi Cantlin who expertly pulled the float with Jim’s truck aided by her co-pilot Gail; Jim, John, Lindsay, Dawn, Robyn and I who played and sang Cheeseburger in Paradise; while Russ Eader flipped imaginary burgers and his boys Nick and Cameron Eader along with Abigail Topola threw candy; and last but certainly not least, Lee and Marie Kehoe along with Nancy Carr, walked behind the float handing out invitations to people for a free cheeseburger at our next community meal.

Because of the combined ‘faithfulness’ of all these people CrossPointe had a presence in the 4th of July parade and in that regard fulfilled our Mission of ‘Sharing God’s Grace with our Community!’

This is the way it is supposed to work! 26 people were faithful in offering their gifts, skills and their time to accomplish a mission on behalf of God’s Kingdom.

The fruit of the Spirit which is ‘faithfulness’ motivated all of us to offer the gifts of the Spirit.

As to those gifts of the Spirit, some of you have taken a class that included a spiritual gifts inventory and you have a pretty good handle on what your spiritual gift(s) are. If you have not had that opportunity and would like to, I encourage you to google ‘spiritual gift inventory’ and take one or more of the dozens that are offered. You will have fun and learn something about yourself that perhaps you never knew. But more importantly you will be encouraged to pick the right instrument for you to play in God’s orchestra.

There are some current needs in the church that could be met by some of you offering your gifts: Handyman, Visitation (home, nursing home, hospice), Small Group Facilitators, Kids Worship, Nursery,

And beyond offering specific gifts, everyone can plug on our next Gather to Scatter.

“As each part does its own special work.”

To say, “I am my own. What I do with my life is my business, Jesus, and therefore I really don’t wish to play in Your orchestra” invites disaster. For Jesus replied, “even what little they had will be taken away.” Jesus seems to be saying, “Use it or lose it”? Lose what? Lose out on the JOY of investing in His Kingdom.

Notice that Jesus says to both the men who invested what they were blessed with, “Well done My good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in handling this small amount; come let’s celebrate together!”

There is joy to be experienced as we invest what God has given us back into His kingdom.

In a far country lived a band of minstrels who traveled from town to town presenting music to make a living. They had not been doing well. Times were hard; and there was little money for common folk to come hear the minstrels, even though their fee was small. Attendance had been falling, one evening the group met to discuss their plight.

“I see no reason for opening tonight,” one said. “To make things even worse than they may have been, it is starting to snow. Who will venture out on a night like this?”

“I agree,” another disheartened singer said. “Last night we performed for just a handful; fewer will come tonight. Why not give back their meager fees and cancel the concert? No one can expect us to go on when just a few are in the audience.”

“How can anyone do his best for so few?” a third inquired. Then he turned to another sitting beside him. “What do you think?”

The man appealed to was the oldest and wisest of the group. He looked straight at his fellow musicians. “I know you are discouraged. I am too. But we have a responsibility to those who might come. We will go on . . . and we will do the best job of which we are capable. It is not the fault of those who come that others do not. They should not be punished with less than the best we can give.”

Heartened by his words, the minstrels went ahead with their show. They never performed better. After the show, with the small audience gone, the old man called the others to him. In his hand was a note handed to him by one of the audience. “Listen to this, my friends!”

Something electrifying in his voice made them turn to him in anticipation. Slowly the old man read: “Thank you for a beautiful performance.” It was signed very simply, “Your King.”