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Unearthing Your Talent

We know that Jesus often spoke in parables so that his message would be more relatable, as He used items or analogies that were relative to his time.
Parables are stories with spiritual messages that are meant to teach us about God. Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard parable after parable.
The passage this week is….yes, another parable. This one tells of a man who leaves, with each of his 3 servants, a certain amount of talents to manage. When speaking of a “talent” in these times, we are referring to an amount equivalent to 20 years of a single day’s labor-a very large amount. Investing that much money can be as risky today as it was 2,000 years ago.
Even though Jesus was talking about money, we’ve come to use the word “talent” today, to mean our God-given gifts and abilities. Usually, our natural talents are obvious to us and to others…
Bill is a clearly talented singer. Ron is an incredible musician. Kathy and Steve are so tremendously organized and helpful in teaching me the assisting duties here. Poor Steve, he has to help dress me, it takes me 10 minutes just to get this cincher tightened. There is no belt buckle, it’s tricky!
However, I have come to believe through my personal experience, that sometimes our most valuable gifts are not the ones that bring us the most joy or are quickly identified by others, but the ones that have always felt too risky to use.
In the parable we read, the master became angry at the servant who hid his talents. And like the servant who hid his talents, we often hide our experiences and lessons because we are ashamed, afraid, or angry.
That was me for a long time, even fearful of what I was to do with my life. Frequently wondering, “Why did God put me here on this earth?” I thought, here I am: married, approaching mid-life, house, cars, kids, financial obligations, relationship challenges, job layoffs…..
For me, my life spun a little out of control because I let my unhappiness affect the most important people in my life.
Like myself you too may have asked, “God..what is my gift? All I see are roadblocks, challenges, stress, and heartache in my world. How in the world do I find my gift in the midst of all of this?”

Well, as it is with the love and grace of our God, there is hope…
Brothers and Sisters,
Did you ever think that your greatest struggle, your biggest challenge, the one thing that you thought you could not overcome but did…..
Did you ever think that may also be your greatest gift?
I think many times we fail to realize that the very challenges and tough situations we face in life, are the very things that God wants us to use to help someone else. None of us are exempt from pain and many of us have lived through job loss, broken relationships, the loss of a loved one, maybe depression or illness, or maybe just finding ourselves lost, searching for our purpose?
We do not seek to understand these events, but know that these are simply “seasons” in our life that we must pass through. But we know that God walks with us at all times.

One thing that took me time to realize is that God never once said that life would be easy, fair, simple, without challenges, without heartache, without stress.
There is an inspiring verse, one of those feel good verses in Jeremiah, one I was always very fond of… that says
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
That was one of my comforting passages. But…there is a story behind this inspiring verse….some of you know it…God frees the Israelites from Babylon, who were exiled there, but only after He tells them that they must spend 70 years there, in order to restore and rebuild the land and population, telling them to seek the welfare of the city. The point being that ultimately God does and will provide a path for us, but in no way does He promise a life without challenges.

So, we know that there is good news for us!
And I stand before you a witness of God’s great mercy and unrelenting grace, a testament to that free gift of grace that we talk about so much. I would like to share a little of my story with you…..
Almost 3 years ago, God lead me to the door step of a person I had worked with but whom I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years. Tim is in his early 70’s and I had known him to always have the grandfatherly wisdom that made me so comfortable.
One November evening, I show up at his doorstep, no earthly idea that this visit would eventually change my life forever, in the most drastic way. I poured my heart out to Tim, and he said “Jeff, I can help you.”
Unbeknownst to me, Tim has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for nearly 40 years, he was a Recovery Coach, a Spiritual Advisor. Tim taught me how to apply those principals to my life. You see, AA is rooted in your connection and relationship with God. And no matter what your challenges, your “addictions”, the program teaches you that you can only achieve sobriety by understanding your powerlessness, and then recognizing and appealing to God for his guidance in faithfully walking with you. The principles of AA helped lead me to the “emotional sobriety” that I needed.
So that was just the beginning of an incredible almost 3 year journey, many, many great things came to follow: I left my 20 year career, renewed my faith and love in a God that has been so good to me, took on opportunities that I would have never dreamt of, started seminary, committing my life to serving God’s kingdom through ministry. My wife, now refers to me as “2.0” A new and improved version!
This is my opportunity to invest my gift. And it is that “investment” from us, which God seeks.
One thing that I had to learn to do was overcome my challenges. For a very long time, I let fear and lack of confidence in myself dictate my movement in life. But God’s grace frees us up and breaks those chains of anything that binds us. Don’t use what you think is holding you back, as an excuse.

Do not be paralyzed by fear!
Do not be paralyzed by insecurities!
By lack of confidence!
By worrying what others may think!
Do not be paralyzed by losing!
By not being good enough!
By not being successful enough!
Do not be paralyzed by thinking that you are too young or too old!
Moses was 80 years old when he brought the Israelites out of Eygpt, all along the way doubting his abilities that the Pharoah would obey him, that he wasn’t articulate enough, he stuttered, begging God to “please send someone else”. “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?” We know that God reassured him, spoke through him, teaching him what to say, which led him to free all of the Israelites.
Our God is a champion of the underdogs! The bible is full of examples. God does his most extraordinary work through the most ordinary people. Never underestimate what is possible with God. All of things that hold you back are conquered through God. We know that even death itself, DOES. NOT. WIN.
Let go of all of these things and be free to use these things for the betterment of the kingdom rather than for the detriment of your soul.
Brothers and sisters, Be bold, be brave, be fearless, be strong. Step out of your comfort zone. Because I guarantee you, there is someone within your reach who needs you. And the investment of your gift in them and in the kingdom of God can be that one thing that right now which may be holding you back.
Like the master from the parable, God wants us to use our gifts to get the return on his investment. He gets his return on his investment in us, by our sharing our experiences and our gifts and talents with our brothers and sisters.

CHURCH, I ask that you purposefully pray that God will use you and be assured that your gifts will be revealed. As Jesus preaches in Matthew 5:14:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
God will work through you to affect the lives of others. You will be His hands here on earth.
We ask this all in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.