O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Use it or Lose it
Use it or Lose it
Based on Mt. 25:14-30
Preached on November 16, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints and servants of the Master, have you ever heard that expression before? Use it or lose it. We‘ve applied this simple expression to all sorts of things in this life. Languages we've learned, our brains, our muscles, even money. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. Young children raised with two languages will lose one if they don't continue to use it. Recent studies show active brains have far less memory loss. Anyone who has exercised can tell you how hard it is to get fit and how easy it is to lose it. And of course, money that isn't invested, that isn't making interest, will eventually be worth nothing due to inflation. Use it or lose it.
And as simple as this sounds, in His parable this morning Jesus teaches the same thing about faith. Faith? I thought Jesus was talking about money. Well I hate to disappoint you, but if you are looking for advice on whether to pick RRSPs or TFSAs, you've come to the wrong place. Jesus uses this picture of investing to teach us about faith. Let's take a look.
His parable is about the judgment on the Last Day. He tells us it will be like a master going on a journey that called His servants and entrusted His property to them. But after a long time the master came back and settled accounts with them. Of course, Jesus is the master who goes away for a long time but then returns to judge the living and the dead. We are His servants, His believers, to whom He has entrusted His property, His gifts - faith.
Now, you know the rest of the parable, two of the servants use their faith, and the other loses it. The faithful two are given even more to manage. But what the lazy servant has is taken away. The faithful servants enter into the joy of their master, into the eternal presence of the LORD. While the worthless servant is cast into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now, before you get ahead of yourselves, or jump to any conclusions, Jesus is not teaching that you get into heaven by doing good works. Faith in Christ is still the only thing that saves. What He wants you to know is that faith is alive, like a muscle. It needs nutrients and it needs to move. Without these, it will die. This is what happened to the worthless servant. Christ gave him faith. He was entrusted with property, but it lay inactive, buried. The man didn't use it. He didn't hold it to be the priceless gift that it was. He treated it like it was dead, and indeed for him - it was. This man succumbed to unbelief.
Let's put this into exercise terms, Christ has already secured your salvation. He has already done the heavy lifting. He lifted the heavy weight of your sin off you and put it on Himself. He carried that sin up onto Calvary's hill and died with it there on the cross. Then He rolled back the stone of His own grave to prove He is your eternal strength and your salvation.
Hearing this message gave you faith, it gave you muscles. This message is what you are strong in. Faith is strong in God's Word. In the same way, hearing this message keeps your faith strong. God's Word is the protein your faith-muscle needs. The substance. The fuel. What then, is the exercise? Why is God fueling these muscles? What sorts of movements does God fuel this faith to make?
This is what the Lutheran Reformers called the new obedience, the new life of godliness worked in us by the Holy Spirit. You see, just as God gave His Son for you, He has now given you to your neighbour, to the people in this room. Christ is your eternal strength so that you are strong for your neighbour. Christ forgives you so that you forgive your neighbour. You have been created new in Christ to do some weightlifting for those around you.
And - there is a promise attached to it. Through these exercises God promises to preserve and increase His gifts in you by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He wants you to have more, and works in you to see that happen. Two becomes Four. Five becomes Ten. No, your works don't merit salvation, only Christ does that, but what you do here will matter when you get to heaven. God promises to reward you for it now, and in His heavenly kingdom.
Imagine a promise like that for exercise equipment - all you have to do to be fit is use it. Wait a minute, I think that is the promise of exercise equipment - just don't let it become the place where you hang your clothes to dry. But sadly, our faith gets like that from time to time, doesn't it? Something that we just hang other things on - instead of the actual thing we are using. But God gave you muscles so that you use them. He says, "Your faith is looking a little inactive and lazy. Here eat my body, drink my blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith, - so that you may again look to your neighbour in his need."
This is what we can say then - We Christians do good works, not because it gets us into heaven, only Christ does that, but because it is the right thing to do. God wants us to, and it is right for children to obey their Father. It brings glory to His Name which we carry. It keeps our faith strong, and (brief pause) our neighbour needs it, your brother and sister in Christ, they need you. And they will be drawn to this godliness by it - just think of how much easier it is to exercise when you have a partner, or a team.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, your team is Beautiful Savior. It is the people of this congregation. God has given them to you, and He has given you to them, so that we can build each other up in the faith. Look around at your workout partners, your teammates in the faith. Christ saved you so that you might know these people, spend time with these people and learn how He has put you here to help these people.
No, you don't all have the same gifts. You're not supposed to. You don't have to be the chairman, or the one who visits other members in the hospital, or the one who teaches Sunday School. But the gifts that God has given you are not to be buried, they are to be invested.
God has given you faith so that you use it and He promises to bless you in it. Yes, it is a wise investment, it will bring eternal reward, and your neighbour really needs it. So come to the place where God strengthens you for this work. Enter into the joy of your master to eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith, so that you may again look to your neighbour in his need. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr