ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
Who Am I?
When talking about doing the work of the Lord, have you ever heard someone say, “Who am I, that I should do such a work?” or “they will not believe me or do what I say”. Have you ever heard someone use the excuse, “I am not eloquent” or “I cannot speak well”? Have you ever used one of these excuses? Have you ever reached the point where you simply said, “Lord, please just get someone else to do it?” If so, there is hope. These are the same excuses offered by one of the greatest men of the Bible.
Edward Everett Hale is quoted as having said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.” In this statement there is an acknowledgement of personal responsibility and an absence of excuses. What about us? Can we make this statement without reservation?
It seems to be a common fault of man to offer up excuses for not assuming responsibility and not taking positive action to correct a problem or accomplish a task. Our society has created a passive environment where we wait for “someone else to do it.” We would rather not get involved. We limit our expense of energy to satisfying our immediate wants. Notice, I said “wants” and not needs. A sense of personal responsibility and the self discipline necessary to exercise that responsibility are uncommon traits in today’s world.
Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. In the third chapter of Exodus, Moses was going about his business of shepherding a flock of sheep for his father-in-law Jethro. Having led the flock to back side of the desert, he came to Mount Horeb. On that mountain, God spoke to Moses from the midst of a burning bush. He identified himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses was so taken back that God had manifested himself to him that he literally hid his face, “. . . for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6).
God explained to Moses that he had heard the cries of the Israelites and that he had, “. . . come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7). He then charged Moses with the task of leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. What was Moses’ reaction? Did Moses jump at the chance to do this great work for the Lord? Did he assume that God would meet his every need and walk with him throughout the ordeal? On the contrary, Moses responded as most do today. Let’s look at how Moses reacted to the presence of God and the assignment of this great task.
Moses’ first reaction was, “Who am I, that I should go . . . ?” (Exodus 3:11). Moses had been raised in Pharaoh’s palace and had known the ways of the powerful people of Egypt, yet because he had killed an Egyptian and was forced to flee the country and assume the lowly job of a shepherd, he now believed he was of little value to God or his own people. God quickly assured Moses that he would not be alone and that he would be with him throughout the process (Exodus 3:12).
God instructed Moses to “. . . say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you . . . “ (Exodus 3:15). God told Moses to tell the elders of Israel that God “. . . will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt . . . unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). He told Moses that the elders would “. . . hearken unto thy voice . . .” and that he and the elders should go to the king of Egypt and demand in the name of God that he allow the children of Israel to go into the wilderness to make a sacrifice unto God (Exodus 3:18).
Was this divine revelation, given to Moses from the mouth of God through a burning bush that would not be consumed, enough to stir Moses to action? Was God’s answer to Moses’ first excuse enough to motivate Moses to get on with God’s plan? No, Moses was not finished making excuses yet. Moses said to God, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee” (Exodus 4:1). So God answered his excuse by making his shepherd’s rod a very special sign unto the Israelites. This rod could change into a serpent and back again as a sign to prove that God had indeed spoken to Moses. He gave Moses a second sign, that of a leprous hand, just in case they did not believe the first sign. He further gave Moses the power to turn water taken from the river into blood in order to convince anyone that did not believe the first two signs. Was Moses now ready to God’s work?
Having failed with his first two excuses, he now turns to his perceived physical and mental limitations. Moses said to God, “. . . I am not eloquent . . . I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). God quickly responded, “. . . I will be with thy month, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Moses was running out of excuses. He then said to God, “O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send” (Exodus 4:13). The New International Version translates the verse, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Verse fourteen is very interesting. After hearing all the excuses Moses had to offer and after giving Moses all he needed to accomplish his task, Moses had the nerve to say, “. . . please send someone else to do it”. Verse fourteen begins by saying, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses.” What a fearful thing to have happen to anyone! If we refuse to do what God has determined for us to do, do we have any reason to expect that God’s anger will not be kindled against us?
God made one more concession to Moses. He said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well . . . I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him” (Exodus 4:14-16). Moses had no more excuses. He realized that God was serious about what he had called him to do. How long will it take each of us to run out of excuses? How long will it be before we realize that God is serious about what he called us to do? Just as he did with Moses, he holds each of us personally accountable for the resources and talents he has given to us. We will be judged not on what the Church has accomplished as a whole, but on how we have used our individual talents to serve God.
There is an often used statement that says, “It becomes responsibility when we have ability and opportunity.” Let’s look at John 12:1-8.
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
The first act of service we see in this passage is the preparation of a meal and Martha serving that meal to Jesus. This is certainly not an unusual or high profile act but it is one of simple service not only to Jesus, but to the others present as well. The next act of service garnered far more attention. Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard (some say it cost as much as a year’s wages), anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. Why did she do that? Why did she use something of that immense value to anoint the feet of Jesus? It’s quite simple really; she had the ability and the opportunity. She recognized Jesus for who he was. She knew he was special. She knew that whatever she had, no matter what the cost, she was going to give it to Jesus. Not only was she going to anoint his feet but she was going to humble herself to wipe his feet with her hair. Ask yourself, if I truly recognize Jesus for who he really is, do I rush to serve him in the smallest of ways or do I do as Judas and say that my energy and resources can be better spent somewhere else?
The most well known New Testament story concerning stewardship is the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. It is the story of three servants and how they chose to use the money entrusted to them by their master.
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The 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!'
24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Notice the dire consequences of not being a good steward. First, what talents you do have will be taken from you. Secondly, a bad steward will be throw “outside” into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. As we saw with Moses, God is serious about the Christian using the resources that have been given to him. On the other side of the coin, look at the reward for those who are good stewards. Verse 29 says, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance . . .” In other words, God will continue to bless those who have shown (proven) they are good stewards.
You may say, “OK, I’m ready to go to work. How do I find out what my God-given talents are?” “Do I sit back and wait until God speaks to me through a burning bush?” “Do I use my God-given common sense and find something to do?” The answer may be found later in this same chapter.
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
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. 35For 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, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
In verses 35 and 36, the Lord gives us six areas of service. He said, “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.” Five areas of service we often overlook because there is no “glory” in them. We do not understand the two statements; “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (v40) and “'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (v45). Is there not at least one of these five areas of service that can be performed by everyone who professes to know the LORD?
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Warren Dale Kirby