The Next Step - Part I
The Christian journey is full of many twists and turns. Obstacles are regularly placed in our way, and the question is, how do we forge past these obstacles and go to the next step? This is the first of a two-part article that looks at some of the obstacles that can consciously or unconsciously stop us from becoming a Christian and growing as a Christian.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shared the parable of the talents. He used this to demonstrate how Christians should live in anticipation of His return and to emphasise the need for faithful service during His absence. Additionally, this parable showed that every gift, if used with faithfulness, would be equally rewarded and highlights some obstacles that can significantly affect our actions and decisions for the Lord.
Let's look at the parallels in the parable and their symbolism:
In the parable, talents, or money, were given to each servant - representative of the Christian - by the master, who represents Jesus, to be invested according to each person's ability. Matthew 25:16 and 17 indicate that the first two servants, though they were given different amounts of money, were equally diligent and doubled their capital. In verse 18, the servant who had only one talent displayed no diligence and instead hid the talent he had been given.
In verses 20-23, on their lord's return, the first two servants had different sums to present, but both offered increases of 100 per cent and received the same commendation and reward: "... well done, good and faithful servant." Their master tells them: "I will set thee over many things." Part of their reward was gaining greater responsibilities and privileges with the Lord and sharing in the master's joy. The third servant, however, did not win the praises of the master because instead of investing the talent, he buried it. What he incurs instead is severe punishment.
HIDING YOUR TALENTS
So why did the third servant fail to invest his talent? He confesses: "... I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground." Matthew 25:25 NIV. He was so scared of the master that it crippled his ability to accomplish the task set for him. The key takeaway here is that our fears can inhibit, retard, and cut us off from what God wants to accomplish through us and the blessing that He wants to give to us.
Why was the third servant afraid? Verses 24-25 give us a glimpse into his thoughts, "... I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed ... ." But why didn't the other servants respond to the master that way? On getting the instruction, they ran off quickly, joyfully and put the money to good use. On the master's return, they equally, joyfully, and with excitement showed the master what they had done. On the good report, the master gave them a great reward, one much greater than what they gained. One Bible commentary states, "The unprofitable servant, however, reveals by his explanation an utterly false view of his master." The third servant heard what he interpreted as an instruction from a cold, harsh, calculating, and exacting person, and that invoked a response of fear.
We all filter the information we receive based on a grid of assumptions that we have internalised. That is why two people can hear the same message and have two diametrically opposite responses. The third servant's opinion of the master was skewed, and it affected how and what he heard the master say. Instead of hearing a loving, kind, empowering, benevolent master saying that you can do this thing, he heard the opposite. This limited his response.
Similarly, some people fail to serve God because of their assumptions about Him. When He invites us to submit to Him or tells us that He loves us; when He tells us that He has our best interests at heart, we cannot hear that. We hear: impossible to serve, one whom nothing would please; exacting what is impracticable, and dissatisfied with what is attainable.
BEFORE BECOMING A CHRISTIAN
In my case, before I became a Christian, when I was told about the joys of serving God, the response in my mind was, 'What joy?' God will only steal my life. I would have to give up everything I enjoy, and it would be too hard to serve Him. So irrespective of how He spoke or through whom He spoke, I could not believe. Assumptions I now recognise as untrue and false were keeping me from making the right decision.
The assumption you have about God can determine how you hear Him and how you respond to Him. It is good to know that God speaks to us and how He speaks, but more critical is our ability to hear Him. This is a critical issue as it can cause us to be disqualified from the blessing God has in store for us just like the third servant.
Where do you fall? Are you like the first two servants, or are you like the third servant? Not many of us like to consider ourselves to be like the third servant. Do a careful assessment of yourself and join me again next week as I continue with some factors that influence our false assumptions and how to use the truths of God to correct them.