Will you finish the work that God has given you to do in His church? And will we, together, finish the work that He has given us to do?
You know the disciples at one point—you all will probably remember this account of the gospel of John—they were getting hungry, and they urged Him to stop and eat. And you’ll remember what He said. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” We all know that Jesus had a passion, that His whole life’s purpose was to do the work that God has sent Him to do. And before He was put to death, we all remember His words and His prayer to the Father, where he said, I have finished the work which you have given Me to do.
Brethren, the question I have for all of us today, for me, for you, for everyone watching or listening: Will you finish the work that God has given you to do in His church? And will we, together, finish the work that He has given us to do? I would like to address that issue today, because we all are positive. We’re excited about United. We’re sorry for what we’ve been through, but we want to move on and learn and grow, as Mr. Fahey was expressing, and become more like Jesus Christ, and living His way of life and doing the will of God.
We all have high hopes. We all have dreams. We all have visions. But only God can determine the final outcome. And what I would like to do today is look at three vitally important areas, three things that we must do to finish the work that God has given us to do in His church and in our lives personally. And many of you have been at this for decades. I know I’m speaking to many very senior people and servants of God, veterans of the church and the work, but it’s kind of like a new beginning for United.
When we had our last conference, it’s the way we were looking at it. We do want to learn from what has happened in the church. We want to grow. We want to serve God, and we want to finish the work that he’s called us to do that he’s raised us up for, the reason we exist as a church, as the United Church of God, as a part of the body of Jesus Christ. United has always said from the very beginning that we are part of the board of directors of Jesus Christ. We’re part of the work of God. We recognize there are other brethren and other groups of brethren out there that are striving to serve God and do His work as well. And we do know that eventually we will all be one, one body, one group of people together again, in God’s time, and only God knows how to bring us back together.
But until that happens, we have a mission, and I would like to read the mission statement of the United Church of God, and then we’ll look at the Bible. What really matters is what the Bible says. But if we’re going to be successful in United, every single minister, elder, deacon, deaconess, member, servant, every member needs to know what our purpose is. What is our mission as a church? What are we to accomplish? What are we to do? Why are we organized? Why do we want to be able to work together? Because of the mission that we were given by Jesus Christ.
And so my first point that we’ll look at, if we’re going to finish the work that God has given us to do in His church and in our lives, is to stay focused on our God-given mission. Nothing must distract us or deter us from the mission that Jesus Christ has given to us, His church and His people. Let me read that. Sixteen years ago, when we started over because of what happened doctrinally in the church, when we started in United to reorganize, we put together the rules.
We call it the Constitution of the United Church of God. But it was the way that we would cooperate and work together, and it contains our purpose or our mission statement, our fundamental beliefs, what we believe. It’s why we did what we did, so that we could obey God and continue with the truth that He had given to us. And the constitution also just contains the way we will be organized and cooperate and govern and work together as a group of people in order to accomplish our mission or our purpose. And here’s what we came up with 16 years ago, many of us. And it took weeks. You might say why would it take so long? Well, we wanted to make sure the wording was biblical from scripture. And here’s what our governing documents say.
We’re at page 1. “Constitution of the United Church of God. Mission statement: The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples.”
Now, let’s look at the scriptures. Let’s go back and review them and examine why we as a group of ministers working together took days of discussion, and there were points of view, “We should say it this way. We should say it that way. We should say this. We shouldn’t say that.” And here’s what we came down to. Let’s go back and look at the original scriptures. Mark chapter 1 to begin with. Because if we’re going to succeed, I think you would all agree it is very important that everyone is on the same page in saying, yes, this is our God-given mission in the United Church of God. This is our purpose. This is why we come together not only for the love of, the fellowship, the support, all that we need, but this is what we all—when it’s all said and done, we want to be able to say I have finished the work God gave me to do. We’ve finished the work God gave us to do. Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×.
Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version× Now after John (John the Baptist) was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand,” because he was there as the coming king representing that kingdom. And he said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
So we know that’s certainly part of it, isn’t it? We follow Christ’s example. Let’s go to the end of this book, because we’re going to look at each gospel. Each gospel adds a little more or something different about the commission that He gave the church. The end of Mark chapter 16, I think I’ll begin in verse 14 there. Mark chapter 16. We’ll read verses 14 and 15. This was after his resurrection.
Mark 16:14 Mark 16:14Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
American King James Version× And afterward He appeared to the eleven as He sat at the table with them.
And notice he rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And so one of the first things he did was to straighten them out a little bit and correct them and teach them. They were not converted yet. And then in verse 15.
V. 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. To every person that means. To those that God would call. So we can see clearly, as we go through these gospels, what our mission and purpose is, if we believe we’re to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ and do what he did.
Let’s move on to Matthew 24, see how Matthew worded it. Matthew 24, verse 14. This one we all know very well. This is where Jesus said:
Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version× And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and that means as a warning, doesn’t it? So we know not everybody’s going to listen or heed to be converted. But it will be a warning, this message. And then the end will come.
So we have always believed and understood that the Church of God would be proclaiming the gospel in some way somehow until God almighty brings it to a close. And we’re part of that. We believe that. I know that. You know that. We have that heritage in the Church of God going back a long ways.
And notice—drop down to verses 21 and 22. The reason there is an urgency to preach the gospel to the world as a witness and a warning is because Jesus warned of that end time. There would be great tribulation, great trials, great suffering, for such as has not been since the beginning of the world until time, no, nor ever shall be. So this is not the cry wolf, you know, and just keep doing it year after year, decade after decade.
I think all of us can see looking at world events that it is getting closer. That America’s power and Britain’s power is in time—Israeli’s power is going down. And the times of the gentiles are coming, and all the prophecies we all heard when Mr. Armstrong was preaching—for Leanne and me now it’s approaching 52 years of when we were first called and began to hear this and come into the church—that this time is near. I think we all realize this time could happen in our lifetime, while we’re alive.
Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version× And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
So this is part of the message, the gospel, the purpose, the mission that Christ has given us, the church, to keep focused on. We must always want to help proclaim God’s truth, His word, this warning message to as many as we can. You sit here and I stand here today and you brethren who are watching out there today because someone before us was faithful in doing the work of God. And we want to be faithful in doing the work of God until the day we die.
Let’s look at Luke 24. We’re talking about now staying focused on our God-given mission and not letting anyone or anything to distract us from our purpose as a church and a work. Luke 24, verses 44-47. Let’s begin reading in verse 44.
Luke 24:44 Luke 24:44And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
American King James Version× And He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
Now, this is what Luke is saying was some of Christ’s words there after his resurrection. He was giving them their marching orders.
V. 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
V. 46 And He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day, at the end of the third day, three days and three nights in the grave.
And Verse 47, this is part of the mission, the commission, the teaching of the gospel that He gave the disciples.
V. 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and then to all nations of the world.
And so part of the gospel as we know is teaching and preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul—let’s go to Paul— what Paul said about the gospel in Romans chapter 1, verses 1-4. So what we’re focusing on, what I want to be able to do, following the direction of God the Father and Jesus and the counsel of elders in the United Church of God and following what we have agreed to is do my very best as president while I’m here to help us to really stay focused on this vital mission.
Romans 1:1 Romans 1:1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God,
American King James Version× Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
V. 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
V. 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ…
I noticed part of the gospel of God, which He promised before, and the prophets, and the holy scriptures,
V. 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.
V. 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
So we see that in Paul’s teaching that part of the gospel was the good news concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. And he repeated that in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Let’s see that again. And I’m reviewing with you the many scriptures that we went through 16 years ago, and many more as we went back and forth in developing a simple clear statement of the mission or the purpose of the United Church of God.
1 Corinthians 15:1 1 Corinthians 15:1Moreover, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand;
American King James Version× Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand,
V. 2 for which also you are saved—by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
V. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I received: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
V. 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
So Paul made it very clear that part of the gospel that he preached was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no kingdom of God without the King.
Let’s go to the book of Acts, as we look at staying focused on our God-given mission, the book of Acts. We’ll start in chapter 26, Acts 26, verses 13-1. And here we find recorded, you know, the history of the church and what God wanted us to know written by Luke about the church, the new testament church.
Acts 26, begin in verse 13. Paul was on trial, verse 2 of this chapter. He says,
Acts 26:2 Acts 26:2I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before you touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
American King James Version×” I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews…”
So he’s being heard by King Agrippa. He’s on trial because accusations were being made against him.
Let’s drop down now to verse 13, where Paul is telling the king what happened to him. Mr. Fahey was reading and talking about that, when God intervened in Paul’s life and struck him down. So here Paul—and maybe some of us, you know, when I read these things I wonder if some day I or you, we might be called upon by God to tell our story. “Well, look. I’m a Christian, and here’s what I believe and here’s why. Here’s what happened to me.” That’s what Paul is doing. Picking it up in verse 13.
V. 13 “At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.
V. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads, ’ meaning his conscious.
V. 15 And so I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus Christ, whom you are persecuting.
V. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.
V. 17 And I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I will now send you…’
He’s giving Paul his marching orders, the purpose, the mission to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. That’s part of the gospel, our mission and our purpose. Very important part. And Christ made it clear to Paul, once again, you preach this to turn them from darkness and to light, from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
And then chapter 28. First vitally important thing that we must do if we’re going to finish the work is stay focused on our mission, our purpose. Acts 28. Let’s look at verses 22 and 23. Here we find Paul under house arrest in Rome. He has certain freedoms in house arrest, and he calls for the leading Jews in the city. He wants to talk to them. And they come to see him. And we pick it up in chapter 28 verse 22.
Acts 28:22 Acts 28:22But we desire to hear of you what you think: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
American King James Version× “But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect of Christianity, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
V. 23 And so when they had appointed him a day, that many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets…
And so both were part of the message that God gave to Paul preaching the things concerning Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. They go together. And notice verses 30 and 31.
V. 30 Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, house arrest, and received all who came to him,
V. 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ…
And it’s interesting that that’s what Mr. Fahey was emphasizing, doing the things that Jesus brought from the Father and the songs that we’ve been singing. We are all on the same page, brethren. We know that the answer is the coming kingdom of God. The only answer to the church’s problems and the world’s problems is the return of Jesus Christ. He’s the King. That’s another important part of this mission that Mr. Fahey properly brought out.
And then that other part of the mission, let’s go to Matthew 28 and read it again. Because I’ll be putting the emphasis here on just a little—some of the other verses. He read it to all of us. Matthew chapter 28. So we’re all joined together as brethren for something bigger than ourselves. We love our local congregations. We love being a part of them, and they’re vitally critically important. There is no church and no work without the brethren, and the support and love and loyalty of everyone. But we all want to be a part of something greater than a local congregation, bigger than ourself, don’t we? That’s why we want to be a part of the Church of God doing a work. Here is where Jesus said, Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×to the disciples, verse 19.
Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version× Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, everywhere on earth, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…
And we heard Mr. Fahey mention that. So a very important part of the mission of the Church of God is to go to the world, preach the gospel and baptize those that God is calling to repent and lay hands upon them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. We believe in that. We’re doing that, and we thank God so much for you, brethren, that—in many parts of the world who may see this or hear this later for your faith in God and for hanging in there and staying with us and wanting to be a part of United.
We know we are a part of the work and the Church of God. We want to do our part in the work of God and in the Church of God. And we thank all of you, brethren. Whatever part of the world you may be in, we want you to know we want to serve you. If you want to be a part of United, make sure you let us know, and we’ll make sure we do our best to serve you and help you. And many of our ministers and wives are doing that already, and we thank you all for what you’ve already done. But this is a critical and vital part of our mission as well.
And then one final scripture. Mr. Fahey referred to it. Turn there with me. John 21. We’ve looked at the key scriptures and the gospel and Acts where Jesus Christ made it clear this is the mission that He gives to his church. John 21:15-18 John 21:15-18 15 So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs.
16 He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my sheep.
17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Love you me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not.
American King James Version×. Actually, I’ll read through 17.
John 21:15 John 21:15So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs.
American King James Version× And so when they’d eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter — again, these are scriptures we’ve heard many times. And what I find interesting here too, when Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love me” — sometimes He uses the Greek word agape, which, you know, means this Godly, divine, unselfish love that is willing to sacrifice, die if necessary. And then in some of the other verses He uses the Greek word when He says do you really love me? It’s philos. Do you really—am I your best friend? Do you have deep affection for me? He uses both of these words. Let’s read this — “ do you love Me more than these?” These other disciples? Peter, do you love me more than the other disciples? And he said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And He said, “Feed my lambs.”
And the second time he —
V. 16 “son of Jonah, Simon, do you love Me?” And he said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. And He said to him, “Tend to my sheep.” Take care of my sheep.
V. 17 And He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” And Peter was grieved… And can just image, well, Lord, I’ve already told you twice. Yes, I love you. I love you with agape love. I love you with Philos love. I love you. And he said, “Lord, You know all things; and You know that I love You.” And Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
And so this is an important job that we all have together, right? And I—I think at least I feel and I can only speak for me—everyone has to speak to God from their own heart, that this is one of the vitally important lessons God is trying to teach us all as ministers is to love God’s people, to be very humble, to realize that we are one of them. We are brethren. We should be their servants, not overlords, but humble servants. We’ll take a look at that again in a moment. So that’s a very critical part of our mission.
Let me read then the mission statement again from our constitution, the mission of the Church of God. This is under the Constitution of the United Church of God.
“The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God in all the world to make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples.” And that’s what we all want to do better, a better job of doing, together as a team, all of us, brethren. Because, again, the ministers are to be the leaders and set the example. But we’re a team. And we need all of you brethren to accomplish this mission.
Let’s look at the next—I mentioned three vitally important areas if we’re going to finish the work that God has given us to do.
So the first one is we have to be focused on that mission that we’ve been given and together and on the same page, locked in arms doing that same mission. We all know what our mission is.
The second important thing is this. We’re going to finish the work God has given us to do. Two, we must use our God-given talents and gifts in His service, all of us, every member, every person, every man, every woman, every child growing up in the church. The second point then is if we’re going to some day be able to say, “I have finished the work that You gave me to do, we have finished the work You gave us to do,” we must use our God-given talents and gifts in His service.
And so I have to ask myself, you have to ask yourself, and, remember, every minister, am I doing that? And many of you, I’m sure, can say yes. You’ve given your life in God’s service. But as long as you’re alive and as long as you breathe, as long—it doesn’t matter how old you are, I’ve told many senior citizens—they say I don’t have the energy anymore. I don’t feel well. And I’m this, and I’m that. And I just say, look, your faithfulness, your example, your prayers, your support is a wonderful inspiration to me, and so don’t you ever think that you have nothing more to give in the church and the work of God. You do. And there are many outstanding examples. But let’s take a look at what the scriptures say, and I’ll wait until the end to read. After I go through the scriptures in the Bible, then I’m going to read to you what we wrote 16 years ago as a part of what we wanted United to be as a church. Let’s begin in Matthew 25 verses 14-30. So we’re looking at if we’re going to be able to finish the work God has given us to do, it’s going to take every member—and many of you have already started to do that even more since we’ve been through the big trial we’ve had together. Many of you have stepped up to the plate.
Matthew 25, let’s read verses 14-30, just as a reminder we heard many serious strong words that Mr. Fahey read from Jesus Christ. This is one of those that makes me really think deeply and seriously. Here’s Christ speaking.
Matthew 25:14 Matthew 25:14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
American King James Version× The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.
Now, we know that’s you and me. God called us, and he’s given us a job to do.
V.15 And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on his journey.
So we know we all have different levels of ability. You know, we’re all unique. We’re all different and special. To me that’s what it means. There’s some people that have five talents, others two, and others one.
V. 16 And then he who had received the five went and traded with them—he used them. He put them to work—and he made another five talents. He doubled what he had.
V. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.
V. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
V. 19 And after a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
So when I read this, what I read, apply it to me, that I know that it’s getting closer to the time in my life either I’ll die and it will happen, or I’ll live until Christ comes, and Christ is going to say, “Okay, Denny, I called you 50-umpteen years ago. This is what you were like back then. Here was your genes, your D.N.A., your inheritance, your personality, your temperament. Here’s how you started. Let’s look at how you ended up. What did you do with the ability that I gave you?” We’re going to have to give account to Jesus Christ, because then He will say, “Here is the job that I have for you in my kingdom.” And so it goes on in verse 20.
V.20 “So he who had received the five talents came and brought the other five, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I’ve gained five more beside them.’
So some people really grow more than others. And only God knows all the reasons why.
V. 21 And his lord said to him, well done . Now, these are words we all want to hear. “ Well done” — you can put your name in there — “ good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things . Now, I gave you certain opportunities in the church in the work of God, and you took hold, and you had the vision and you grew and multiplied what I gave you when I called you. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
V. 22 And then he who had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents; and look, I have gained two more talents besides them.”
See, only God really knows each of us and can make this judgment of have we taken what He gave us when we were called and what have we done with it. That’s His call. We’re all very different. And but this person who had two talents took it and multiplied it. And his lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you’ve been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter the joy of your lord.”
So maybe someone of superior talent is going to hear the same words as someone that maybe wasn’t quite where they were doing what they were doing.
And then in verse 24 we begin to see this person who doesn’t catch the vision, sees God as very hard, and is afraid and does not grow.
V.24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you were a hard man —” now, this is not true. But God does want us to grow. But it was his attitude that was wrong, this person. It wasn’t God that was wrong. God just wants us to bear fruit, and he’ll help us. But this person didn’t have that willing attitude of faith and trust in God. “ I knew you want to reap where you have not sown and gather where you have not scattered seed.
V. 25 And I was afraid…”
See, here’s the problem sometimes, that sometimes we are afraid to step out—and as we’ll see later, there’s got to be the right attitude—but afraid to let God use us, afraid to take on — to do things that we’ve never done before, whatever it may be. God, only You know where I fit in the church and in the work, and only You know where I fit in Your kingdom. I’ll do whatever You want me to do. Please help me not to be afraid. We all have those human anxieties and fears at times, maybe depending on our past, our background, or whatever the reasons may be. But we all can have human fears about our own inadequacies or imperfection, and that can actually stunt your growth.
Now, it doesn’t matter what your problems are, one of the areas we hope to develop and improve on as time moves on is something we started at the very beginning in United. It’s an area called focused education. I won’t get into it here now, but it’s an area where we call upon ministers, elders and brethren who have been through very difficult challenges in their lives, of whether it’s alcohol, drug addiction, abuse of various kinds, all kinds of personal struggles and issues, from the very get-go in United, and we have that in our—part of some of our documents that we developed is to help people. Because sometimes things that have happened in your life, people need help from others who have been there and understand those issues who can help them to move forward and make breakthroughs.
But, anyway, Christ is telling us, don’t be afraid. This person just took what they had and buried it in the ground. And notice verse 26, the Lord said to this person.
V. 25 And he said, “ I was afraid, lord, and I just took the talent that you gave me.”
You know, some people never—and I don’t mean this wrongly. Please understand, because I think most the people do grow and change. But some seem to be stuck, they’re stuck and they’re still hurt or angry or resentful or bitter about something in their lives, and it’s just there.
V. 25 I was afraid, and I hid my talent in the ground.
And, look. Here’s—I give it back to you.
V. 26 “His Lord answered and said, ‘You wicked and lazy servant — those are strong words— you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. You knew that I wanted you to overcome those things in your life, no matter what they were, with God’s help and the help of brethren and the help of others.
V. 27 You ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
V. 28 Take that talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
Now, that doesn’t seem fair. But God is looking for people who understand that we must take our life, who we are, what we are, our God-given talents and gifts, and give it totally to Him in service, however He wants to use us. Anywhere. And it isn’t a matter of climbing the ladder to positions of power and success, as we’ve seen at times that has destroyed so many people. It’s a matter of God, “Where do You want to use me in service with my personality, my temperament, my God-given gifts? Where do You want to use me in Your church and in Your work.”
And this one individual was just so negative and afraid, they just continuously made excuses.
V. 29 And He says, ‘To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And these are scary words.
V. 30 Cast that unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Now, none of us want to experience that or see that.
And let’s move on, because most of you, God’s people, are growing people. You want to grow. Want to do whatever it takes to glorify God. And we’re going to see that’s what this is all about. Let’s go to Romans chapter 12. So here is this second thing that we must do as a body of God’s people, we must all encourage and support one another in developing our God-given talents and gifts. We’re not in competition with each other. You know, it’s not I’m better than you, and, therefore, I’m over you. It’s, look, God has given me this opportunity now. Tomorrow it will be somebody else. That’s wonderful. Romans 12, verses 3-6. It’s encouraging and helping and supporting one another, and wanting to do it until the day we die, as long as we have soundness of mind and have any energy or life left.
Romans 12:3 Romans 12:3For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
American King James Version×For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
V. 4 For as we have many members in the body, but all the members do not have the same function.
V. 5 and we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
V.6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…
So what we want in United is what God wants, what Christ wants. He knows the full potential of every man, woman and child in the church. Everybody is special and unique. And the question is how does God want to use each of us in His church and in His work? How can we take our abilities, gifts and talents and glorify Him and help in His work and in His church?
Notice 1 Corinthians 12, and we’ll read verse 1, and then verses 4-7.
1 Corinthians 12:1 1 Corinthians 12:1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant.
American King James Version×Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.
And then verses 4-7.
V. 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit.
So God, through the Holy Spirit, can add to us spiritual gifts and abilities that are not natural. He can give us wisdom, knowledge. We’re not going to go read all of those. But notice verse 5.
V. 5 There are differences of ministries, different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
V. 6 There are diversities of activities… Some are good in this area of the church and work. Some are good over here, and some better with youths, some with senior citizens, some in music, some at organizing, some at teaching, some at preaching, some at—you could just go on and on. Diversities of activities, it is the same God who works all in all.
V. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
And so United can do a wonderful work, if we all humbly—not in competition—just recognize that God has called us to be a team to work together, to support one another, to recognize in each other the differences, and say, thank God that person is better at that than I am.
Ephesians chapter 4, where Paul put it this way.
Ephesians 4:7 Ephesians 4:7But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
American King James Version×To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
And then notice verse 16. From who—referring back to Christ.
V. 16 From whom the whole body, the church, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies — that means every member— according to the effective working by which every part — every single individual—and sometimes you can look at somebody and say, boy, they’re kind of odd or weird or different or dysfunctional. And some of the things that I’ve learned that have helped me most to help people have been, as Paul said back in 1 Corinthians 12, some of those members that sometimes we think are the least are necessary and important. They teach us very important lessons of compassion and understanding, because we see people’s problems or sins, and we don’t often understand the causes of those things in their life, and God does.
And we can learn from everyone, no matter who God calls out of what background. It doesn’t matter. And Christ reveals through Paul that every part, every member, every joint is important, and does its share and causes growth of the body for the edifying itself in love. You know, so when we come to the point we have that kind of mutual love and respect for every member of the Church of God—and I know many of you are there. I want to acknowledge and recognize that, how wonderful it is. And then one final scripture on this is 1 Peter chapter 4. We’re looking again, remember, at how we can finish the work that God has given us to do, and that is by using our God-given talents and gifts in His service. 1 Peter 4, and we’ll read verses 10 and 11.
1 Peter 4:10 1 Peter 4:10As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
American King James Version×As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
V. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak the oracles of God, the truth of God.
V. 12 If anyone ministers, or serves in any capacity, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ … And so that’s the purpose of it, isn’t it? Any gifts or abilities any of us have, who are we to say, “Boy, look at me”? God gave us what we have and made us who we are. He receives the glory— that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. So that’s the second thing.
Let me read to you what we wrote over 16 years ago under the section, the church, in our constitution, which gives our purpose and mission and how we’re going to work together and cooperate, under the church.
“There is one body, the Church, which is a spiritual organism. The Church has many members, to each of whom God has bestowed a measure of faith through the Holy Spirit. Through that Spirit, our Father has made us one in the body of Christ, and, individually, members of one another. He has given us gifts that differ according to His will and has entrusted His Spirit to each of us so that we might exercise those gifts with humility, gentleness and patience in submission, first to Christ, and then to one another. By the establishment of this Constitution, we acknowledge the truth of Scripture that all members have a different function within the Church, and that it is our Father who determines each member’s function within the Church.” That God determines that.
And it goes on. “The purpose of the various functions established within God’s Church is to equip each member to perform the work of service; first to the Church, and then to the community and all humanity. The proper working of each individual member in accordance with his or her function causes the Church to grow.”
And then one more part.
“We acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord, the Apostle of our faith and the Head of the Church. We acknowledge that God, in order to fulfill His mission and purpose for His church, has appointed some to carry the gospel to the world, some to pastor local congregations, some to teach, some to help, some to administer and assist. And to the end that all members may exercise the grace given to them by God as He has willed, the following administrations within the Church are hereby established.”
And then we explain how United will be organized and how we’ll work together, and it requires every member being an active part of everything that we do.
And so, brethren, we encourage all members everywhere, all over the world, to use whatever talents and abilities and skills that God has given you in His service and to His glory they we might accomplish His work on earth.
And then finally, the third point that I wanted to bring out, if we’re going to be able to say that I have finished the work God has given me to do, we must serve as Christ serves, with love and humility.
Now, Mr. Mario Seiglie will be giving tomorrow at the G.C.E. the keynote address on the theme of this year’s conference for the ministers, serving as Christ serves. And he will elaborate on what that means to serve as Christ serves. I think we all recognize in our lives and from experience in the church that a wonderful talent or gift of God can be ruined by human pride and ego when we as men or women begin to let our human nature, our vanity, our egos begin to take credit or we become ambitious and begin to seek position or power or control. We’ve always had problems in the church. We must learn to serve as Christ served, and He served with love and humility.
Let’s go to Philippians 2 verses 3-5.
Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
American King James Version×Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowlines of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Now, people who do this are willing to step aside at any time for someone else that God may decide to use and give others an opportunity, because they have the lowliness of mind that we’ve heard about from Mr. Fahey. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interest of others. Let this mind or this attitude be in you which was in Christ Jesus. And as we know, it was an incredible attitude of humility, of giving up His power, His glory, His position, His privileges in coming down to this earth and becoming a servant and dying for us, as we all know. Incredible amazing example. And we must learn that. I think that’s where we fail in the ministry as we’re not perfect yet. We’re still learning. We’re still growing. Only God knows where we are each at spiritually and in our conversion and in our relationship with them, and it’s all different, isn’t it? And I think that’s where love comes in and humility. Otherwise, you get into, as we heard, the judging and the condemning and the criticism.
I want to close with 1 Corinthians 13. I’ve always felt that if we’re going to really finish the job and get the job done, there’s only one thing that I know that never fails, that will never fail, has never failed and will never fail, and that is the love of God, agape love, Godly love. Let’s read about it in closing, in 1 Corinthians 13, verses 2-8.
1 Corinthians 13:2 1 Corinthians 13:2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
American King James Version×Though I have the gift of prophesy, and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but if I have not love, I am nothing.
And that’s agape, Godly love. And what this speaks to me and what this says to me—I don’t know how you apply that. I read it this way: Denny, you may speak, you may understand this, you may do that, you may do that, but if the motivation for what you are saying and for what you are doing, if your motivation is not the love of God, God’s love, it means nothing, and it will come to nothing. I know that. And I know I believe you do as well.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, though I give my body to be burned. But if I have not love, it Prophets me nothing.
I can give, give, give. But if it’s for the wrong reason and the wrong motivation, it means nothing, comes to nothing, because God’s love suffers long, is kind. God’s love does not envy others. God’s love does not boast. It’s not proud. It is not puffed up. God’s love does not behave rudely and mistreat other people and try to dominate and control people in a wrong way. God’s love is not rude. God’s love does not seek its own. It is not self-seeking, NIV says. God’s love is not easily provoked. God’s love thinks no evil. NIV says keeps no record of wrongs. Boy, that person did that. Said that, did that, I don’t like that person. As we heard, God’s love forgives.
V.6 God’s love does not rejoice in iniquity or in evil, but rejoices in the truth.
V.7 God’s love bears all things…
I like the N.I.V. here. It says, God’s love always protects. I’m putting in the “God’s love,” but that’s what it’s saying. God’s love always protects. God’s love always believes and trusts. You know, people say, “I’m not trusting anybody anymore.” Well, I am. I’m trusting God and the Father, Jesus Christ, my wife, some of my best friends, people that I know that are converted, I trust them. So, you know, God’s love doesn’t get to that point where it’s, “I don’t trust anybody anymore. Nobody can trust anymore.” That’s not God’s love. God’s love is pure.
V. 7 God’s love believes all things, trusts all things, always hopes all things, always endures all things.
V.8 God’s love never fails. Never, because God is love.
So, brethren, before I die, I hope to be able to say, “I have finished the work that You have given me to do.” I think most of you would hope and want the same thing. Whenever the time comes for you, the end of your life, whatever that may be, I think you would say the same thing. I really hope that I will be able to say to God in my heart and in my prayers, to you or to my loved ones, as maybe I’m lying there dying or whatever, “I have finished the work that God gave me to do.” And I pray that all of us will be able to say that we have finished the work that You have given us to do in Your church.
And I want to end by saying thank you, brethren, for your faithfulness to God and for your service in His work. Let us go on and finish the work that He has given us to do.