It all comes back to the Trust.
What you “have” isn’t yours any more than what somebody else “has” is theirs. It all – even your life – belongs to God. He purchased it completely with the death and resurrection of His Son. But He has entrusted the management decisions to you. Incidentally, the primary management decision you must make is what you will do with the death and resurrection of His Son!
Jesus’ story of the talents illustrates the point. (You can read my paraphrase/summary here.) Each of the servants received part of the master’s possessions to manage for him while he was away. That represents your life and all it entails.
Your life is a unique blend of characteristics, just as each servant in the story received a unique “portfolio.” No one has the unique blend of abilities, relationships, intelligence, finances and other commodities that you do. Hey, even you don’t have the same portfolio you had a year ago! That’s why it’s vain to compare yourself with somebody else.
Your life is also an opportunity – an avenue through which God wants to bless you! As in the parable, God gave you the life you have in order for you to be blessed, not just by the Trust itself, but also by what you do with it! Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Some people become life hoarders (as in the parable), consumers, gamblers, or pleasers.
So what determines your portfolio? Why do you have what you have, or lack what others may have? Why is it different than it was a year ago, or different from other people?
The short answer, of course, is God. It’s His “stuff” – He can do anything He wants with it. But certain clues in the parable help understand what prompts His decisions.
You have what you’re able to manage. “Dividing it in proportion to their abilities,” Jesus said. That includes your spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and acquired skills and education. Many abilities are subject to the law of use (“use it or lose it”), as I discovered when I tried to play softball for the first time in 19 years. It was ugly!
Here’s a phrase I hear often: “God won’t give me more than I can handle.” True. But the person who says it is usually describing some form of stress. I’ve never had that conversation with a lottery winner. I’ve never heard the freshly-weds shout that phrase from the limo as they leave the wedding.
Come on, admit it. How many times have you sputtered out a little frustration at the Lord because of all the good things you could do if you just had that million or two in the bank? Or that position of power or authority? Yet heaven is lovingly silent.
Bake this in your theological oven for a while: maybe you can’t handle it – if so, you’d have it. That doesn’t mean you can never handle it. It just means that your Trust is a reflection of your ability.
If you want a greater trust, as much as in your power, get greater ability.
Your Previous Use of Resources
How did you do with your previous opportunities?
“You have been faithful in handling this small amount,” he told him, “so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Begin the joyous tasks I have assigned to you” (Matthew 25:21, LB).
These words are both haunting and exciting. Haunting because of the many little “small amounts” I’ve mishandled along the way. Exciting because of the opportunities you and I have daily to seize the opportunities at hand. Maybe you can’t change the past. But you can redefine it. Yesterday’s mistakes can be today’s lessons; they don’t have to be today’s habits.
LifeVestors design their future by their management of today’s challenges and opportunities. But here’s the key: they invest in the future, they don’t borrow from it.
Have you ever decided that you were too important, too smart, too big for the small assignment given you? Have you ever been blind enough to actually say to yourself that when you get that big opportunity, you’ll really shine?
That sigh you probably didn’t hear? That was the Lord, sending you back to The School For the Little Things. Or maybe it was me, recalling the many times I prayed something like, “Lord, don’t you get it”?
The Uncertainty of the Season
Jesus had a lot to say about the uncertainty of the hour. That uncertainty places the stamp of urgency and importance on your Trust. Simply put, the greater trusts are given to those who can demonstrate they can “redeem the time.”
Here you are given no guarantees. You have an appointment with God, but no clue as to the day and hour. And when God calls your name, that’s it. It will be too late to pray, to witness to your son, to make that broken relationship right. Your good intentions are cheap. The adventure of LifeVesting is in the urgency of the fact that your days are uncertain – and limited.
Your Confidence in God
Your Trust comes from your, uh, trust.
In the parable, the LifeVestors put their “talents” to work. Jesus used the word, “traded.” When you put money, time, or relationships to work, you offer something of value in exchange for something of value in a way that it produces an increase. Farmers do that with seed. Investors do that with real estate or equity in a company. People do that with their education and relationships, too.
But what actually made them different from the hoarder? You’ll find the answer in the hoarder’s mousy excuse:
“Sir, I knew you were a hard man, and I was afraid you would rob me of what I earned….”
He didn’t trust him! He didn’t act with his master’s authority, seek his master’s glory, or trust his master’s intentions. He “played it safe” – and insulted his leader.
Whenever you trust God enough to act as His ambassador, using His authority, whenever you put the Trust He’s given you to work for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom, you are expressing one of the highest forms of worship. You are saying with your life, “I trust You enough to seek Your pleasure.”
And God trusts someone who trusts Him like that.