Two weeks ago we began looking at 1 Samuel chapter 1 – which was the introduction to the life of Samuel. However, we were never…
Today we come to the conclusion of our “Visual Theology” message series. We’ve been following the outline of Tim Challies and Josh Byers in their book “Visual Theology” as they look at the four basic pursuits of the Christian life.
These four things should be a part of every Christian’s experience.
- We should strive to grow close to Christ.
- We should strive to understand the work of Christ.
- We should strive to become like Christ.
- We should strive to live for Christ.
And I trust that over these past few months, you’ve been able to get a fresh understanding of why and how we do these things and hopefully, you’ve been able to pick up some real practical ways for how to live out those things out in your own life.
But we’re not quite done yet. We’ve got one more topic to tackle as we complete our final section of how we live for Christ.
And so I’d like to introduce one more new word to your vocabulary today: the word is stewardship
Now most of you will have heard of stewards or stewardess – they are the kind folks who take care of you in an airplane while you’re flying somewhere. They bring you drinks and snacks and tell you how to put on your seatbelt and how to exit in an emergency, and all of that good stuff.
But that picture of an airline steward doesn’t really give you an accurate understanding of what stewardship is all about. Stewardship is more than just being a waiter or someone’s personal butler. So to help us understand stewardship, I want to read for you a parable from Matthew 25.
Today we continue looking at the story of Joseph. For those who may not have been with us for these past few weeks, Joseph was a young man, who, although the favourite of his father, was hated by his brothers. I won’t rehash the backstory of why that was, but they hated him so much that they were willing to kill him! In fact, one day they grabbed him and threw him in a pit and left him to die. But then, through the providence of God, a roving band of slave traders came by and so rather than leaving him to die, they decided to sell Joseph as a slave to these slave traders instead.
To make a long story short, Jospeh’s new owners took him down to Egypt where he was sold to a man named Potiphar – who happened to be the captain of the the guard for Pharaoh.
And as Mike shared with us two week ago, the Lord was with Joseph – even in slavery – and Joseph quickly rose in the ranks among the slaves in Potiphar’s house – eventually becoming the head of the household – with no one having more authority than he did (except of course for Potiphar himself).
Mike also noted that the Bible described Joseph as being very handsome and well-built. Potiphar’s wife made note of that as well and she tried relentlessly to convince Joseph to sleep with her. But Joseph wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t sin against his master Potiphar and he would not sin against God.
This didn’t sit well with Mrs. Potiphar and so one day, after her advances were once again rejected by Joseph, she falsely accused Joseph of trying to sleep with her. She painted him as the bad guy and Joseph ended up being thrown into prison.
And so that’s where we last left Joseph a couple weeks ago. And you’ve really got to appreciate the roller coaster ride that Joseph life has been so far. It’s just a series of highs and then lows, highs and then lows – over and over again.
- He was the favourite of his father – but all his brothers hated him.
- His dad honored him with a beautiful coat of many colours – then his brother’s threw him in a pit and left him to die.
- He was was rescued from that pit – only to be sold as a slave.
- He rose to be the head of Potiphar’s house – but then falsely accused and thrown in prison.
It’s just one thing after another after another….
But throughout the story we get this cool little reminder – there’s a phrase that keeps popping up: (I think it comes up 4 times in Genesis 39…) And it’s that phrase that I want to start with today. I think I’m overlapping a little bit with where Mike left off, but I want to start in Genesis chapter 39, starting at verse 21.
Who here had $100 in 1997? Anybody? I think I probably did. That was the year that I turned 18, so I’m pretty sure I could have scraped together a hundred bucks. I think most of you guys would be right around that age as well, so a little older – some a little younger. But probably most of us could have scrapped together $100. And I was just wondering, if we had made some different financial choices back then, how different things would be for us today? So I did some figuring this week, and I found out that if you had taken $100 in 1997 and just deposited it in the bank – the interest rates were about a 5% back then – so today, with the compound interest, that $100 would be worth $270. To be honest, that’s not really that great. I think I’d rather just have spent that money 20 years ago.
But then I thought, well, then instead of putting that money in the bank in 1997 – what if we had instead invested it in gold – Well, had we bought gold with that same $100 in 1997, today that gold would be worth $447. That’s a little bit better isn’t it? That’s nearly twice as much as you would have made from the bank. That would have been a much better investment.
Now back when I was 18, I never would have even thought about investing in gold – but I might have invested in the stock market. So let’s say instead that we invested in a good stable company like Walmart. That same $100 invested in 1997 in Walmart would now be worth some $1,381.00. Now that’s starting to be a pretty good investment! That’s three times as much as gold, and 5 times as much as the bank – 13 times as much as our original investment. If only we had know this back in 1997.
But you know, back in 1997, the dot com craze was just starting. People were investing in tech companies like crazy. What if we had been a little more risky and invested in one of those tech company? What if we had invested in Microsoft? I think that would have been a good idea, because that $100 invested in 1997 in the Microsoft Corporation, would now be worth… over $5,500. That’s just from a little $100 dollar investment. Isn’t that incredible? Just by investing $100 in 1997 – you could have over $5000 today. That’s a good return! If only we had been wise enough to invest in Microsoft 20 years ago.
But let me give you just one more scenario. Back in 1997, there was another struggling tech company – that year this company lost about 1 billion dollars. That’s a pretty huge loss! But they hired a new CEO that year named Steve Jobs and things turned around for them. So had we invested just $100 in the Apple company in 1997, today that $100 would be worth $734,906.67 – nearly 3/4 of a million dollars! Imagine if you had only had the foresight in 1997 to invest $100 in the Apple company! You could retire and live pretty luxuriously on that $100 investment.
Isn’t it incredible how a simple little investment can grow into something amazing! Well, that’s just exactly what Jesus is talking about in a parable that we’re going to look this morning.
For those of you who missed last week, we’ve just begun a new series on the parables of Jesus Christ.
And just in case you don’t know what a parable is, last week we defined a parable as a parallel. It’s a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. The story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you can compare the two to help you understand the spiritual truth.
Jesus actually starts off many parables by saying something like “The Kingdom of heaven is like…. THIS” and then he goes on tell the parable – which illustrates the spiritual truth that He’s trying to explain.
And that’s just what we see in the parable that we’re going to look at today.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be a success. That’s hardwired into us. No one wants to be a loser. No body wants to be a failure. We all want to succeed. We want to do well.
And we see this in every aspect of our lives. When we play sports, we want to take home the championship trophy – not just the participation award. When we play board games or video games, we say we play for the fun, but still, we want to win. In war – no one goes into battle being okay with losing – if we’re going to fight, we want the victory.
We want to succeed in our careers. We want to have succeed in raising our kids. We want to succeed at being a good husband or a good wife.
We even want to succeed as Christians. Nobody wants to be a lousy Christian – we want to be a successful one. We want our church to succeed. Clearly there is something hardwired into us that drives us towards success.
But the challenge in all areas of life is knowing what determines success. We have to know what the objective is.
Because if you’re a football player, successfully running the ball to the end of the field is a measure of success – but if you’re a golfer, it’s not. You’ll probably get kicked off the course if you’re out there tackling the other golfers, stealing their ball and running it down the fairway.
We have to know our objective – We have to know what constitutes success in whatever it is that we’re doing. If we don’t know what the objective is – if we don’t know what determines success – then we’re gonna have a really hard time being successful.
As a church, we need to know what determines our success. Are we successful because we’ve outgrown this space and need to move to a larger space over at the Hall? Is that success? If we get to the point where we need to build our own building, is that success? If we get to the point where we offer more programs and have greater attendance and have more baptisms and have a bigger facility than Crossroads – is that success? Or are we measuring success the wrong way?
We need to know what determines our success – or we may spend all of our time and our energy and all our effort trying to be really good… at the wrong thing!
And this totally applies to each one of us personally. We already mentioned how every one us wants to be successful in life. We want to be a successful in our work, we want our marriage to be a success, we want to raise our kids successfully and I think, as followers of Christ, more than anything, we want to be a success in that. At the end of our lives as we stand before God, I think each one of us wants to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
So it’s really important that we know what determines our success. To use our golf analogy, I don’t want to spend my life running running the golfball down the fairway, weaving around and dodging the other golfers like a football player (and being really good at that) – when all along I should’ve been practicing my putt. I want to know and do what it takes to be successful in God’s eyes – because that’s what really counts.
So today, I want to do two things.
Since this is the last service in this building before we move over to the Hall, I want to talk a little bit about how we can have success as a church. How will we know if we are being successful? Are we successful just to keep existing? Are we successful when we reach a certain number in attendance or dollars or sq footage or new believers? What is the measurement of success for our church?
And then, also being New’s Years Day, I want to talk about what it means for you to have success in this new year. What do you need to do in order to be successful in 2017? Were you successful last year? What’s the measurement of your success?
This morning I am excited to begin a new series. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I always enjoy the stories of some of these fantastic Old Testament Bible characters. Guys like Ehud – the left-handed man who saved his country by driving a dagger deep into the belly of the fat King Eglon. Or guys like Benaiah – one of David’s mighty men – who climbed down into a snowy pit to fight a lion. Or guys like Jehu who was known for driving his chariot like a madman.
These fascinating stories. I love ‘em! And so for the next few weeks we want to spend some time looking at another fascinating character of the Old Testament – We’re going to be looking at the Exploits of Elisha. Now Elisha is one of those guys whose name you probably recognize, but you might have a hard time named exactly what it was that he did. Probably part of the reason for that is that we often confused Elisha with Elijah. These are two different prophets who lived at the same time at the same place – and sometimes they’re in the same story – so it’s easy to get confused. God did some amazing things through both of them.
And while Elijah certainly had his share of amazing stories, (and I don’t know if you know this or not) but God used Elisha to perform more miracles than anyone else in the Bible – except for Jesus. Did you know that? The Bible records that Elisha was involved in 14 different miracles. And they include things like raising people from the dead, healing people from incurable diseases, feeding large groups of people with just a small bit of food… And of course, this is all God doing these things, but He used Elisha carry them out.
And sometimes I wonder, why did God choose Elisha to be used in such an fantastic way? Why not his neighbor Larry? Why does God choose the people He does to do His work?
I mean, think about Billy Graham, for example. Why did God choose to use Him in such a powerful way? He grew up on a dairy farmer in North Carolina. He didn’t come from a long line of evangelists or pastors. He didn’t have a doctorate in evangelism. But God chose Him to bring the Gospel to millions.
Or think about John Newton, the guy who wrote the song “Amazing Grace.” He was slave trader, He was the captain of a ship, buying and selling human cargo in the 1700s. Why on earth would God pick Him to write a song that has impacted the lives of millions of people all over the world. His song is probably the most well-known Christian song ever. What made God choose to use that slave trader in such a powerful way?
How does God choose people like that? And maybe more to the heart of the issue – is it possible that God could choose you or me to be used in fantastic way like that? To impact the lives of millions – or at least hundreds? What kind of people does God choose to use?
Well, that’s the question that I want us to think about as we begin looking at the Exploits of Elisha.