9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Whether it’s in our personal lives, our careers, or the life of the church, how much do we believe this? Do we really believe God is with us wherever we go? When we are first starting out in life, in our church, in our careers, we ARE bold. We ARE courageous! Because we feel we have all the time in the world. Because we don’t have much to lose. But the more comfortable we become, the more invested we are, the less likely we are to be so bold or to be as courageous. We play it safe. The thought of losing what we have starts to weigh on us. And we start to balance that with the risk of obtaining more. Is it worth it? Even though we might not be living the life we want, or have the job we hoped, even if our church is slowly growing smaller, still….is it worth risking what we DO have for only the promise of what MIGHT be? And slowly but surely, our resolve, our BOLDNESS fades away.
Jesus knew this would be a problem for us.
And so he told a story to help us see the need to be bold for Christ in every aspect of our lives. Among Biblical scholars it’s called the Parable of the Talents and basically, it’s about these three servants who are each given a bag of gold to take care of for their master while he was gone. When the master returns, the first guy says, “You gave me five bags of gold and now I come back to you with five bags more.” And the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Then the next guy comes up and says, “You gave me three bags of gold and I come back with three more.” And the master says again, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” And then the last guy comes up and doesn’t have anything to give except the one bag he started with. He confesses he was afraid of what might happen if he lost the one bag and the master is disappointed with him – not because of the money, because he didn’t need the money, but because the last servant wasted what was given to him out of fear and doubt. He would rather keep things the way they were instead of taking a chance on a better outcome. Which servant are you more like? Which servant does God want you to be?
I have heard those three little words more often than I can count.
If I was attracted to a girl and thought there MIGHT be something there, I’d ask her out – only to hear those three words every guy (and every woman, too I imagine) dreads hearing. “Let’s be friends.” In high school, a buddy of mine, Pete, asked me about that one day. He said, “Why do you do it? Why do you ask out these girls when you don’t even know if they like you or not?” And I told him, “I don’t want to live my life with regret. I don’t want to wonder, ‘What if?’ because what if one of them said ‘yes?’” And you know, one did. Our life isn’t perfect (whose is?), but I can tell you, I have no regrets. And I feel blessed for the life I have. But back then, Pete shook his head and responded, “I have to give you a lot of credit. I don’t think I could do that. I’d never ask a girl out unless I knew she would say ‘yes.’” That really surprised me, because by all accounts Pete was a good-looking guy (or so my female friends told me). He was also nice, smart, and pretty well off. In high school, he drove red Porsche 944. Here was this guy with every reason to be confident but wouldn’t ask a girl out unless he knew she’d say yes. But a lot of us are like that, maybe not about dating, but about something. Why put ourselves through the possibility of rejection or failure? And the more we are comfortable with our lives the way they are, the less likely we are to do it; to be bold, to risk giving up what we have for the hope of something more. But think of the possibilities if we succeed! We could do things we’ve never done before. We could achieve goals we never thought possible. We could see our lives change, our careers change, our church change in ways only God could have seen.
My dad had a saying, “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
As a kid, that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. If I wanted money, shouldn’t I save as much as possible? But my dad explained it like this, “If you want to do something right, you can’t afford to do it half-way. You’ve got to do it right the first time.” And he was right. I didn’t know it at the time because I was only like 10 years old, but what my dad was trying to tell me was also Biblical. Matthew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Whatever we invest in with whatever we have – our time, our money, or our talents – is an indicator of what is truly important to us. And if we are going to invest in something, if we want something to succeed then we need to use whatever resources we have toward that goal, whether that’s our career, our family, or our relationship with God. To see a return, you’ve got to invest, and you’ve got to do it whole-heartedly. “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
Do you sometimes hold back?
Do you have doubts? Is that because you are not quite sure if things will work out? Sometimes we hedge our bets because we’re not sure of the outcome. We hold stuff in reserve just in case. But God wants us to live lives of boldness! He wants us to go out into the world and love unconditionally. He wants us to be the kind of people who give abundantly. And he wants us to trust in him freely and without reservation. Those things are not easy for us to do. Children do those things easily, but as we grow up, we get hurt by people who take advantage of our unconditional love, of our abundant giving, and our willingness to trust and we start to build walls between us and the person God wants us to be. I’ll never forget this. One time when Emma and I were in LA, we stopped by this place called Milk. They served the best cookies. And as we were walking from our car to the place, we saw a homeless woman who was asking for money. Something about this woman’s plight touched Emma and as we kept walking she reached into her pocket and found 35 cents. She said, “Daddy, I want to give this to her when we go back.” I couldn’t be more proud so as we returned with our cookies in hand, Emma gave this woman all she had. And do you know what that woman did? She turned to my little girl and said, “That’s all you have? Come on! I can’t even buy a cup of coffee with that!” I was livid! Not just for the disrespect she showed my nine-year old daughter, but because she took a little piece away of that unconditional love and trust Emma had in humanity. For what? A cup of coffee? So believe me, I understand how the world chips away at us, but God challenges us to give abundantly as he made clear in this passage.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Don’t hold back!
Live boldly the life God wants for you to live! In your marriage, in your relationship with your children, in your career, and in your faith. In all of these things, invest of yourself fully. Do not be afraid of what might happen. But love unconditionally, give generously, and trust in God fully and you will know a life filled with abundance in a way you cannot experience otherwise. Living this kind of life not only opens you up to God’s work in your life, but is also an example to those around you of the power of faith. I understand that by living this kind of life, you also open yourself up to failed expectations. I get you might be taken advantage of by someone who isn’t as scrupulous. I know that living the way God asks us to live makes us vulnerable. But it’s the only way to truly open yourself up to the life God has in store for you. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. This is the promise of God. Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you where you are being challenged. What areas in your life are you retreating to the safety and comfort of the familiar? And where could you live a life of boldness that would change your life? We all have those seeds of doubt inside of us, but push past them and live boldly! The promise of God is greater than the fear that comes from failure.