Robert Jeffress - Talent Search
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. God has blessed each and every one of us with unique gifts, talents, and opportunities. But one day we'll have to account for how we used our blessings. And only some of us will be rewarded. Today we're going to discover how God will ultimately evaluate our lives by reviewing a lesson from the parable of the talents. My message is titled, "Talent Search", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In 1863 during the war between the States, when the outcome was anything but certain, general Robert E. Lee, the leader of the confederate forces was enjoying continuing success over union general George McClellan. In fact, McClellan seemed paralyzed, unable to respond to Robert e. Lee's unrelenting attacks. Finally, a frustrated president Abraham Lincoln sent a note to his general and it read thusly, "Dear General McClellan, either use your army or return it to me so that I may". God has given every one of us certain gifts, certain resources, certain opportunities to use to expand his kingdom. But the passage we're going to look at today reminds us that either we're going to use those to accomplish God's purpose or we risk losing them for all eternity.
If you have your Bibles today, turn to Matthew 25 as we continue our study of the parables. And I thought that this parable, the parable of the talents was particularly applicable to us today. Now, remember the parables have to be understood in context. And this parable we're looking at today was a part of a larger body of teaching that we call the Olivet discourse. Now, the only reason we call it that is because it was teaching that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives before his death. And it was occasioned by the disciples' question back in Matthew 24:3. They said, "Now Lord, what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age"? And so Jesus beginning of verse 4 of Matthew 24 gives the most detailed explanation anywhere of the events that will precede his second coming, his visible return upon the earth.
And by the way, that's what he's talking about here. His second coming. He is not talking about the rapture. People have asked me all week long about what I said last week about that passage in Matthew 25. Two people in the field, one taken, one left behind. Two women grinding at the field, one taken, one left behind. And I said last week, the ones that are taken are not taken to heaven. That's not the rapture. They're taken away into everlasting judgment. And they say, "Well, we've always heard that that's the rapture. Why is that"? And I said, all goes back to that old song from the 1970s. I never thought I'd live long enough to say an old song in the seventies, but I have. That old song back in the 1970s Larry Norman wrote, "I wish we'd all been ready". Remember that? Two men in the field, one taken, one left behind. I wish we'd all been ready.
Larry Norman was a great songwriter. He was a lousy theologian. He didn't understand what he was writing about. This is not the rapture. It's the second coming. Jesus never talked about the rapture. Never mentioned it. Why? Because it was a mystery. It was a mystery that was the end of the church age. The whole church age was a mystery that the apostle Paul revealed. When Jesus talks about his return, he's talking about his visible return to earth to set up his kingdom. And so, the disciples said, "Lord, what will be the sign of that kingdom"? And he tells us beginning in verse 4, Paul was very logically. The tribulation. There'll be wars and rumors of war. And then beginning in verse 29, about the signs of his coming. And then verse 36, just like it was in the days of Noah, it will be when the coming of the Son of Man. People will be eating and drinking and giving in marriage until the flood came and took them all away.
And then that passage describing the judgments when Christ comes back. Two will be in the field, one taken away into judgment, one left behind to enter into the kingdom. Then when we get to chapter 25, he's continuing this teaching. And to illustrate the judgments that will occur when Christ returns back again, he tells three parables to illustrate those judgments. Now remember, when Christ returns to the earth and you and I are going to return with him because we will have been raptured, we will be in heaven seven years earlier. When we return with him to earth, there'll have to be some judgments, because the earth will be filled with believers and unbelievers alike when Christ returns. Believers who are saved during the tribulation, unbelievers who survive the tribulation. There'll be a mixture of true and false believers. And they'll have to be separated before the millennial kingdom begins, before Christ sets up his rule.
And so Jesus tells three stories to illustrate that judgment that will occur. In verses one to 13, he tells the parable of the 10 virgins, the 10 bridesmaids. They all appeared to be a part of the wedding party, but when the bride representing the church and the groom representing Christ returned, five of those bridesmaids weren't really ready. They had no oil in their lamps, they were busy doing other things. The only ones who were truly a part of the wedding party were those who were anxiously awaiting the groom and the bride's return. And Jesus is teaching us in verses one to 13 that one sign of being a true Christian is you are watching for the groom's return. You're watching for it. But then beginning of verse 14, Jesus is going to tell us that those who are true believers are not only watching for Jesus' return, they are always working in anticipation of Christ return. And that's the parable we're going to look at today.
Now I divided this parable into four easy parts that teach us four important truths we need to understand. Jot them down on your outline if you will. truth number one is this: Christians are given differing opportunities for service. Christians are given differing opportunities of service. Look at verse 14 of Matthew 25. "For it is just like a man who is about to go on a journey". And what does it refer to? What it refers to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is trying to explain to us the kingdom of heaven. Now, this is key to understand. The kingdom of heaven is used two ways in the New Testament. Sometimes when Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, he's talking about all true Christians, those who are going to be with him forever and ever in heaven. But sometimes the phrase kingdom of heaven is used to refer to those who profess to be Christians. Today we call it Christendom. Christendom or the kingdom of heaven is filled with real and phony believers, with wheat and tares.
In the world today, there are people who profess to be Christians. Some are and some aren't. There are people seated right here today at the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Right on your pew, everybody here today probably professes to be a Christian, but in fact some are genuine believers and some are phony believers. We saw that truth last time. And one way that we discover true believers is true believers are working for the Kingdom of God. So look at verse 14. "The kingdom of heaven," that is the world of real and phony believers, "Are just like a man who was about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability: and he went on his journey".
Now here's a master who's about to go on a trip. And so he calls together his slaves. The word slaves there, doulos , doesn't just mean those who do menial tasks. It refers to those who could have been highly trained individuals, especially in the skill of money management. And so before this master goes on his trip, he says, "I want to entrust my riches to you to manage while I'm away". And so to one of his slaves, he gave five talents. Now a talent was a unit of measurement in Jesus' day. It was about 80 pounds of gold. I was doing some calculations this week. Gold is almost at a record price right now, about $920 an ounce. That means five talents, 80 pounds of gold, I calculated to be about a million dollars, okay? It's going to be about a million dollars. To one he gave five talents, to another he gave two talents. That's less than half. That would be about $400.000. And to another he gave one talent. That would be about $100.000. He gave it each according to his own ability and he went on his journey.
Now let's stop here and make the obvious application. The master represents Jesus Christ. Jesus has left us. He has gone away on a journey temporarily. We represent his slaves. His servants who have been left to manage what he has entrusted to us and to enlarge his kingdom. And the point is we have been given differing opportunities for service. He's given us different amounts of resources to use to build his kingdom. We've talked about this before. For example, God has given different spiritual gifts to us. Some of you have the gift of teaching, some of you have the gift of exhortation, of giving. We all have differing spiritual gifts. Not only that, we've been given different opportunities to use those gifts. We have different lengths of years here on earth to use in serving Christ. Some people live a long, long life, many years.
I think about the late Vernon Grounds, used to be president of Denver seminary. He lived well into his nineties. Somebody asked Dr. Grounds one day, "What is the secret of a long life"? He said three things: God, jeans and the gym. Well, that's true. But probably God is at the top of the list. God is the one who determines how long we live. He's given some people many years of service, some only a few years of service. And we come from different spiritual backgrounds. Some of you here today come from a Christian family where your father and mother were strong believers. For some of you, you're the only believer in your house. We have different spiritual backgrounds. Some of us came to faith in Christ when we were very young and we had a lifetime of service for God, others like the apostle Paul were saved in mid-life or later and have fewer years. The fact is we don't get to choose what opportunities and gifts are given to us. That's what the master chooses to entrust to us. The question is not what have you received or not received? The question is, what do you do with those things God has entrusted to you?
And that leads to the second truth in this parable, we respond differently to our opportunities of service. All of us respond differently to our differing opportunities of service. Look at verse 16. "Immediately the one who had received the five talents, the million dollars, he went and he traded with them and he gained five more talents". Now this guy didn't say, "You know what? I know the master told me I need to work on his behalf and expand his kingdom. And I'll certainly get around to it. But first I've got to rear my family, I've got to make sure my job is secure. I've got to make sure I get that promotion I need, I need to do this and that and then I'll go out and do what the master instructed me". No, the Bible says, "Immediately he went about doing what he had been instructed to do". And what did he do? He traded the talents and he gave five more talents.
The Greek word there, traded, carries with it the idea of a continuous action. That is he didn't go out with his five talents and buy 5.000 lottery tickets and hit it big and say, "Okay, I've done what I'm supposed to do, now I can get about doing what I want to do". No, it's an idea that he continually worked and worked and worked with those talents, that money given to him until he had doubled it. He had gained five more talents. Look at verse 17. "In the same way the one who had received the two talents, he also doubled what he had. He gained two more". Verse 18, "But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground and he hid his master's money". It was very common in Jesus' day for people to bury things that were of value. Today you have some people who don't trust the banks. They put their money, hide it under the mattress. That's what this guy did. He hid the money, the talent that was given to him.
Every time I read that passage, I'm reminded of the story of the pastor who was preaching to his people on the subject of spiritual gifts. And he preached from Romans 12 about how some had the gift of teaching, some the gift of exhortation, some the gift of mercy. After he had finished the message, a lady came up to him and said, "Pastor, you didn't mention my gift". He said, "Well, what gift do you have"? She said, "God has given me the gift of criticism. What do you suggest I do with my talent"? He said, "Lady, whatever you do, go out and bury that talent". Well, that's not exactly what Jesus is talking about here. The one who buried his talent buried what had been given to him so that he could go and spend his life doing what he wanted to do. The only problem is one day there is a day of reckoning that is coming. And that leads to the third truth in this passage, "We will be judged according to the use of our opportunities". We will be judged according to the use of our opportunities.
Look at verse 19. "Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and he settled accounts with them". Now, I have an idea that Jesus was giving us a hint here about the timing of his second coming. I think Jesus was saying to his disciples and to us, "I'm going to be away on my journey longer than you anticipate I'm going to be away". You see, the disciples believed that the Lord was going to return in their lifetime. The apostle Paul believed, he fully believed Jesus was coming back in his lifetime. I think Jesus is giving us a hint. Perhaps the disciples missed it, that he's going to be away longer than people thought. He's been gone now about 2000 years ago, but he is coming back again. And that's what Jesus is saying here. "Even though it seems that I've gone for a long time, even though you may lose heart and think I'm not coming back, I am going to come back and I'm going to settle accounts".
And what Jesus is talking about here is the fact that when he returns, we're all going to be judged. There is a great judgment coming. That only makes sense when you think about it. Not all sins get punished in this life, not all good deeds get rewarded in this life. It only makes sense that there would be a Day of Judgment, a day of reckoning, a day of settling accounts. But I find that a lot of Christians are really hazy about this whole idea of the afterlife and the judgment. They say, "Okay, maybe there's going to be a judgment, but even if there is going to be a judgment, it might result in things continuing as they are for me, or maybe things even getting better for me. But surely things won't be any worse for me than they are now as a result of the judgment". That's not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches, many people will be worse off than they are now when that judgment time comes. That's certainly true for unbelievers.
Even though right now Christians and non-Christians are sitting together in the pews of the First Baptist Church, Dallas, even though they appear to be having the same existence. And we think, "Well, they're going to continue together sharing the same existence". The Bible says, "No, there's going to be a time of separation when true believers will be welcomed into everlasting paradise and unbelievers will be sent to an eternity of hell". I had an interviewer ask me this week, "Pastor, do you really believe the only people who are in heaven are going to be those who've trusted in the name of Jesus Christ"? I said, "Yes, I do". And then they asked the follow-up question, "Well, that means then that there will be billions and billions of people in this world who have never trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Are you trying to tell me they're going to spend eternity in hell"? And I said, "Yes, I am because that's what Jesus said".
In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, "The gate is small. The way is narrow that leads to salvation and few are those who find it". Jesus taught very clearly, "There are going to be more people in hell than they're going to be in heaven". But this judgment that takes place is not only between Christians and non-Christian. There is a judgment for Christians as well, a judgment of rewards. 2nd Corinthians five. "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ". And he's talking to Christians. "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ that each one of us may be rewarded for what we've done in the body, whether it be good or," your Bible says, "Bad," but the word there is in Greek. It means worthless. We're going to be judged according to what we've done with the resources, the time, the gifts God has given us.
Have we spent them on ourselves or have we spent them investing in eternity? That's going to be the basis of the judgment. And he talks about that judgment beginning in verse 20. "And the one who had received the five talents came and brought the five saying, 'master you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents'. And his master said to him, 'well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things'". Would you underline that in your Bible, "'few things, and I will put you in charge of many things: enter the joy of your master'. The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, 'master you entrusted to me two talents. See, I have gained two more talents'. And his master said to him, 'well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things: enter the joy of your master'".
Now, will you notice that these first two slaves did not return the same amount of talents. One returned five, one returned two. But they returned the same percentage of profit. They both doubled what they had been given. Again, the issue in life is not what has God given to us? What have we done with what he has entrusted to us? And here we come upon a surprise. The master says, "Because you have been faithful in a few things, now I'm ready to give you many things".
What we discover is when the master left on his journey, in fact, he didn't divide all of his wealth among those slaves. He only gave them a sliver of it. He only gave them a little bit as a test to see if they could be counted on. And now that they had been faithful in those very few things that had been entrusted to them, now the master said, "Now I know I can trust you. I'm ready to give you management over a great many things". God says the same thing to us. As brief as this life is on earth, it's important because it's a test. These few years we have on planet earth, they are a test of our faithfulness to God. And perhaps of all of the things God tests our faithfulness with, at the top of the list is how we handle the money that has been entrusted to us.