So here we are. A summer holiday weekend. Half the Church are away on their summer holiday. The other half are taking a long weekend break. And another half aren’t back from enjoying the sunshine at the seaside or down at the park. And here WE are. In the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day to offer him our worship and praise and thanksgiving. What does God want to say to us? Simply this.
`Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
We all know the parable of the talents. I could very easily preach a challenging sermon on the importance of using all the different the gifts God has given us for His glory. Using the Treasures He has entrusted to us, our homes, our possessions, our money, that which we give to the church and that which we keep to use ourselves, using our Treasures for God’s glory. Using our Time for God’s glory, redeeming the time, making time to serve God in the church and in the world as well as making time to spend with God Himself. Using the Talents we have been given for God’s glory, our natural abilities and our training and experience and our spiritual gifts all for God. And perhaps most important, guarding the Truth God has entrusted to us, the truth of the gospel, proclaiming it boldly and not digging a hole and burying it to keep it safe. Treasures. Time. Talents. Truth. All given to us by God, for us to use for His glory.
But you all know these things. You are the faithful few who have come out to an evening service on a Bank Holiday Weekend. You are the ones who always have and who always will continue to honour God with treasures and time and talents and truth. What has the Parable of the Talents to say to you?
Matthew 25:20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five.
`Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness”
We don’t encourage each other enough! I am very conscious that it is impossible to preach sermons week in week out which apply equally to every person in the congregation. Especially in the mornings we often have folk who are not yet believers in the congregation. We have seekers and new Christians. We have folk who have been following Christ for 5 minutes or 6 months or five years alongside others who have been believers for 50 years. So often, the message is directed at the seekers or the new Christians. And often that message, I believe rightly, is a message of challenge, a call to repentance or holiness or prayer, or love or service or witness. You will have heard hundreds of such challenging sermons.
But what is God’s message for Christians who have served Him week in, week out, for many years, obediently, sacrificially? It is the message of the Parable of the Talents. `Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness”
We serve God faithfully week in, week out. In our worship. In our service in the church and in the community. In our witness to the watching world. It is entirely possible to get worn out and weary and discouraged, or even simply bored with the things of God.
Listen to this encouragement from the apostle Paul Galatians 6:9
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Don’t give up, because there is a reward waiting! That amazing reward of eternal life!
`Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness”
We often talk about the challenges and the costs of following Christ. We don’t talk nearly often enough about the rewards! That is actually a theme which Matthew’s gospel highlights. Remember the words of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.
We shouldn’t forget the context of course. The reward Jesus is talking about there is for those who suffer for the sake of Christ!
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because
great is your reward in heaven!
Not the easiest way for gain a reward – but nevertheless Jesus is talking about the rewards of following Him. Indeed the whole of that passage which we call the Beatitudes talks about the blessings of following Christ.
3 ¶ “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
What a wonderful catalogue of blessings for following Jesus! To inherit the earth – or the promised land. To receive mercy. To see God. To be called sons of God!
Then hear these wonderful promises Jesus makes in Matthew 19: 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Remember Jesus’s encouraging words in the Parable of the Sheep and the goats.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
What a glorious inheritance! the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. That’s no small reward for a few acts of kindness!
Jesus says Mt 10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
The Old Testament was always very clear about the rewards which would come for the person who trusted and obeyed God and particularly the person who delighted in God’s Law.
Psalm 19:7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. ,,, 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
So just what will Christians be rewarded for?
There is a legend which says that, when they get to heaven, Christians will be rewarded by the kind of transport they are given. I am sure you will have heard the story of the vicar who was very disappointed that when he got to heaven he was given exactly the same bicycle as he had ridden for forty years on earth. “Why is that taxi driver driving around in a Rolls Royce?” he complained to the angels. “That’s easy” the angel replied. “When you preached, people fell asleep. When he drove his cab people didn’t just stay awake – they prayed!”
The grain of truth in that story is that there are rewards waiting in heaven for those who have served God by building His kingdom and His church.
1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.
8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. 9 For we are God’s fellow-workers;
you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
There are certainly rewards waiting in heaven for the service we have given to God and to His church in this life. So. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up
NOT salvation by works!
We cannot earn our salvation however many “good works” we might do! By nature we are miserable sinners, separated from the Holy God by all the evil we do and think and say. No amount of good we might try to do could ever pay the death penalty for that sin which each of us has to pay – the soul that sins will die! We can never earn or deserve to be forgiven, or to be welcomed into God’s family as his beloved children. Our salvation comes to us as a gift, not earned, never deserved, paid for by Christ’s death on the cross in our place. So this is NOT salvation by works. What I AM saying is this. God is no man’s debtor. There are blessings prepared for those who serve God faithfully and other people who do not serve so faithfully will miss out on those blessings!
NOT “health wealth and prosperity” gospel!
There are some churches which teach that we will receive our rewards for following God faithfully in very concrete forms in this life. Drawing on some parts of the Old Testament they teach that faithful Christians will be rewarded with riches and success in business and possessions and even better, good health and long life and protection from accident and illness. This “health wealth and prosperity” so-called gospel is NOT what the Bible teaches. It is a false and cruel deception. When I am talking about the rewards of serving God faithfully “health wealth and prosperity” are NOT what I am talking about.
Because it is clearly the case that the Bible promises the greatest rewards, not to those who have prospered and have been most successful and apparently blessed in this life, but on the contrary, to those Christians who have suffered the most in this life.
Re 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put one of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Re 2:26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-
Re 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Re 21:7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
So we should not run away from suffering and difficulties and persecution – but rather embrace them. They will bring their own reward.
Martin Luther wrote “If we consider the greatness and the glory of the life we shall have when we have risen from the dead, it would not be difficult at all for us to bear the concerns of this world. If I believe the Word, I shall on the Last Day, after the sentence has been pronounced, not only gladly have suffered ordinary temptations, insults, and imprisonment, but I shall also say: “O, that I did not throw myself under the feet of all the godless for the sake of the great glory which I now see revealed and which has come to me through the merit of Christ!”
The rewards of serving Christ will not usually come to us in this life. Rather they are God’s promise for the life to come.
2 Tim 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
And just what form will these rewards for Christians take? To begin with, the approval of our Lord our God and Father.
`Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness”
Our reward will be to be with God in eternity, to see God face to face and know Him even as we are known.
Ge 15:1 the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
GOD HIMSELF is our very great reward.
Ps 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
The great saint Thomas a Kempis wrote this, as God’s message to his faithful servants.
“Do not be worn out by the labors which you have undertaken for My sake, and do not let tribulations ever cast you down. Instead, let My promise strengthen and comfort you under every circumstance. I am well able to reward you above all measure and degree. You shall not toil here long nor always be oppressed with griefs. A time will come when all labor and trouble will cease. Labor faithfully in My vineyard; I will be thy recompense. Life everlasting is worth all these conflict, and greater than these. Are not all plentiful labors to be endured for the sake of life eternal? Lift your face therefore to heaven; behold I and all My saints with me—who in this world had great conflicts—are now comforted, now rejoicing, now secure, now at rest, and shall remain with Me everlastingly in the kingdom of My father.” Or in other words, God’s words to you this evening:-
`Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!’