A Glimpse into Eternity: The Question of Your Life
Blink of the Eye
Of all the events of our never-ending life, there is one that stands out above the rest.
You may recall me outlining for you that our never-ending life actually has not two markers (birth and death), but six markers consisting of birth, death, destination, resurrection, rewards and eternity.
One of the biggest lessons of all is that birth and death, and the span of time between these two, are not only two of six markers of your real life; but also that that span of years between birth and death is incredibly minute compared to the length of your never-ending life.
This means that these years on earth are but a blink of the eye compared to the rest of your life.
A blink of the eye….. Normally a blink of the eye means that it’s not all that important. You blink and it’s gone, right? How can that be important?
Yet that blink of an eye, those relatively few moments of your life, are among the most important aspects of your never-ending life for it sets the destination and quality of life after your death.
Your destination in the next life – heaven or hell – is determined by what you do with Jesus in this life in terms of calling on his name and making him your Saviour.
You do that and your destination will be heaven. Don't do that, and your destination will be hell.
Not only that, but also once you have settled the destination question you then need to live your life as a follower of Jesus so that you have the highest quality of life in heaven.
Quality of eternity is tied into rewards, compensation and being given what is owed you based on how you lived your Christian life.
So we talked about the gold standard of rewards and compensation consisting of the five gold crowns given out for selfless service, sharing the Gospel with others, having an eye for Christ’s return, living a consistent Christian life and being willing to do all that despite opposition and pressure.
We pointed out that the gold standard is not only what you do but the motivation behind it, namely being motivated by love for others, the glory of God and out of close relationship with Jesus.
You do all that and you will own the podium and get that gold medallion which will be the ticket to an incredible eternity.
That moment is actually the moment of your never-ending life. When that gold medallion is hung around your neck as you hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!” it will bring you to the defining moment of your life!
In the New Testament in his parables, Jesus teaches on that.
The Parable of the Ten Minas:
“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.” Luke 19:12-15
The Parable of the Talents:
14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” Matt. 25:14-19
The Parable of the Tenants:
33 “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.” Matthew 21:33-34
All very different from each other but the same theme underlines all three.
It may be land, talents or money, but the point is that in all three there was a clear stewardship expectation.
An opportunity to grow an asset was provided in the absence of an owner, with an expectation that what was entrusted would grow and eventually handed back to the owner.
And depending on how the asset grows, so would then be the rewards.
“You have been commissioned to manage an asset for your Master. Your asset is your life – the sum of your talents, strengths, personality, and interests. Your opportunity is to manage your life in such a away that you greatly increase your Master’s kingdom.” Bruce Wilkinson
All three parables point to the fact that there will be this moment where an accounting for the stewardship of an earthly life will be required and that the outcome will determine the reward received which in turn determines the quality of the eternal life.
The Opportunity of a Lifetime
In each case there is the opportunity of a lifetime, be it a vineyard made available, talents handed out, or in the case of the minas, a tidy sum of money:
“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten Minas. Put this money to work.”
What an opportunity! Ten servants were each given what was known as a Mina or three years’ worth of salaries – you do the math and figure out how rich that is!
No matter how you slice it, it was an opportunity of a lifetime!
Few get that opportunity, but when they do the onus is on them to make the opportunity grow: “Put this money to work.”
It is so similar with the servants in the Parable of the Talents. What an opportunity they had (“he called his own servants and delivered his goods to them”) with the unspoken understanding that they were to put this to good use and make it grow!
Both sets of servants knew that this was not a gift but a loan, that they were not the owners but only stewards, and that the investment needed to be returned. And when it was returned, it needed to be returned bigger than how they found it.
So in the Parable of the Talents, the one who was given five was to double it to ten, the one who was given two was to double it to four and the one who was given one was to double it to two.
The point is: it is essential to grow what is entrusted to you.
The same thing applies in the Parable of the ten Minas. Each of the ten was given three years’ worth of salaries, with the instruction to put this money to work.
Well Done, My Good Servant!
Of those ten servants, the spotlight lands on three.
The first one came back and said “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” Amazing return on the investment! The master is thrilled and says: 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
There you see the quality of life ahead for this servant. He would be elevated from being a mere servant to being in charge of ten cities. Can you imagine that?
The spotlight then lands on the second servant who had just as much given to him as the first servant: 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.” 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ ”
Wow, five cities! To go from servant to the mayor of five cities is equally impressive, wouldn't you think? That’s quite the rags to riches story, right?
Well, not so fast! Notice the absence of the commendation. No one said “well done” or “good servant” or even “because you were faithful in a very small matter.”
This is not because the master was demanding or harsh in any way.
Each of these servants was chosen to be given this because they had the potential within them to bring back ten times the investment.
The master knew that each servant had it within them to have done more.
Don't confuse this with the Parable of the Talents where talents were handed out according to ability or life situations. “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability.” Matthew 25:15
In the first parable each received the same Mina, while in this parable each received various numbers of talents. So the one with five was expected to bring back ten, which was not the case with the servant with two, and certainly not the one with one.
Each was given according to their ability; each according to what had been given them.
You cannot expect a one talent to make ten any more than you can expect two to make ten but you can certainly expect a five talent to make ten.
As long as the one makes two and the two make four and the four make ten, then all is well. In fact, if that happens then you would hear the same commendation:
‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:23
Here is a little test for you: Who do you think this was said to in the Parable of the Talents? I bet your first response is the guy who made five become ten, right?
While it’s true that those same words were said to the five-talent guy, these words in Matt. 25:23 are actually said to the two-talent servant.
And I am going to bet that the same words would have been said to the one talent servant had he turned his one into two!
Folks, its not what you end up with that matters but what you end up with based on what you have been given.
The only reason why the one talent servant heard an indictment was not because he didn't bring back ten nor four but because he didn't bring back the two that he could have.
Had he doubled his investment based on his ability he would have been in the same boat as the other two.
The Parable of the Ten Minas
That brings me back to the other parable – the one with the Mina. Remember how each servant was given the same amount. Each was given one Mina.
This is where this one becomes different from the other parable. We’re not talking about one servant receiving five Mina while the other got two and the third one one. All of them received the same amount!
“So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ ” Luke 19:13
The first one lived up to his fullest potential and turned his one into ten, and the other one reached some of his potential by turning his one into five (although his destiny was for him to reach ten as well). The third servant, on whom that spotlight fell, did nothing with what was given him!
That’s the great tragedy here!
While neither this servant nor the servant with the one talent in the other parable were cast out of heaven, neither one of them received any rewards or payments for a life invested.
“Their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
I Cor. 3:10-15
What a shame to be saved as one escaping through the flames. How sad to stand empty-handed at the edge of eternity!
The Parable of the Ten Minas warns us against three common misconceptions when it comes to how to be the best stewards we can be.
Lesson 1: We are expected to bring back great returns!
We think that even though God gave us gifts and talents, He is somehow not bothered if we don't make the best of every opportunity.
The reality from the first servant who turned his one Mina into ten is that God does expect us to take the resources of our lives and greatly multiply them for the kingdom!
Lesson 2: Rewards are proportionate to reaching our potential!
We think that the rewards are all the same for everyone and that heaven is a place where everyone has the same opportunities.
The reality from the second servant who turned his one Mina into five (when he could have reached ten) is that that our reward will be in direct proportion to how we have multiplied our lives for him on earth; and, furthermore, that reward will have a major and eternal impact on our future.
Lesson 3: There is no such thing as ‘no loss’!
We think that if we don't serve God with what he has given us the worst that can happen to us is that we will have no reward.
The reality from the third servant who kept his one Mina as one Mina, when he also could have reached ten, is that there is loss.
There is loss of a potential reward, the loss of opportunity for great service in the only life that counts, and the shame of an eternity with empty pockets.
So this day determines a Ten-Mina man or woman! You have it within you to be that. You were born to be that. The obstacles of life do not limit you from reaching Ten-Mina status!
God has gifted us all differently. We all have different talents. Some of us have five, others of us have two and some of us have one.
No matter where you are this morning you can reach ten-Mina status!
You think you are only a one-talent person? Fine! Reach ten-Mina status by seeing the one talent turn into two!
If you start out with one and you stretch it to two you will be at the same level of reward as the one who starts with five and finishes with ten.
And lest you think that your time is gone, that your best years are behind you, and that you have somehow wasted or squandered a lifetime of opportunity; or that you have come to faith late in life and that you will never ever catch up to those who have been at it since morning, that is simply not true.
You need to know that in God’s great equalization plan there is still the opportunity to give of your best to the master even in these later years and that God will make it so that you will still get your reward too.
Don't ask me how He will do that, and He will have to sort out each person’s reward, but I do know that God does have a great equalization plan.
That plan I see in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and in closing let these words be the balm of Gilead for you:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ ”
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ ”
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.” Matthew 20:1-9
This day, decide to be a Ten-Mina Servant!
The Blood of the Martyrs
by Jurgen Rausch
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Heb. 13:3
Persecution is Real!
The stories are grim, the statistics horrendous and the situations the world over not getting any better.
The numbers are truly unbelievable – well over a third of the entire Christian church faces persecution and discrimination of some kind; that’s a staggering 650 million people!
Over 200 million of them face direct and intense persecution with another 400 million facing some sort of discrimination.
Amnesty International reports that over 80% of all persecution is related to people’s faith in Jesus!
Since we last talked about this a year ago, another 2123 Christians have been murdered for their faith which is almost double from the year before
The week I wrote this sermon, the Voice of the Martyrs newswires were buzzing with news that week of the tragic news that included:
Ø Christian villages attacked in Nigeria by Fulani militants resulting it the death of 12 believers .(http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/nigeria/ng-village-flickr.jpg)
Ø Two Hmong converts were forced by their families to leave their homes and were promptly arrested by the authorities. http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/laos/la-touly-faicho-vomus.jpg
Ø Authorities shutting down the New Life Church in Gaziantep, Turkey forcing its American pastor fleeing the country and the congregation running for its life http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/turkey/tr-life-church-wwm.jpg
Ø A Christian couple was hospitalized in northeastern Sri Lanka after being badly beaten by Hindu militants. http://www.persecution.net/images/maps/india.jpg
Ø Over 200 police officers raided a house church in Guangdong Province, China on September 21st. More than 100 Christians, including children, were arrested in the raid, which occurred during their Sunday service. http://www.persecution.net/images/countries/china/cn-house-church-caa.jpg
However the best way I know how to convey the depth of the pain of our brothers and sisters is by showing you the story of Victoria. While it’s reenactment, Victoria is real and so are her tears.
Since this day began, three more Christians have been murdered somewhere in this world for their faith in Jesus!
It makes you want to weep, doesn’t it! Breaks our hearts to know that persecution continues even as we speak.
While we may have been sheltered here in the West and thank God that many of you were able to come to the shores of this land, I remind you that North America remains a bubble from the ravages of the killing fields all over this world.
The Persecuted We Will Always Have!
So the question this morning is whether we’re seeing any evidence that the rate of persecution is declining? Are less people being killed today then ten, twenty years ago? Will the day come when there will be no more persecution?
I wish I could tell you otherwise but unfortunately persecution will always be among us.
Just like we will always have the poor among us so we will always have the persecuted in our midst.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
That’s Jesus’ way of saying that the persecuted you will always have among you; which is also the reason why there are over 200 references to the martyrs in the original languages of the New Testament!
This is why throughout the age of the Christian faith there has been blood spilled for that faith.
From the days they carried away the body of Stephen who was the first martyr (Acts 7:57-58) to the final scenes outlined in the last book of the Bible where the Dragon makes war against those who hold fast their testimony about Jesus (Rev. 12:7), people have always been martyred; and will continue to be until the close of this age.
Folks, ours is a faith that was born in the blood of our Messiah. Should we honestly expect anything different among his followers then when the very founder of the faith was murdered for the very beliefs that are at the very core of our faith?
Blood Of The Saints And The Word Of Their Testimony
In a strange sort of way, the waves of persecution have always been the seeds of the incredible growth of the church.
You need to know that the blood of the saints and the word of their testimony have always been linked together in the Scriptures.
It says in the Scriptures: “They triumphed over Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Rev. 12: 17
Suggesting that the phenomenal growth of the church has been in part because of the waves of persecution; almost as though for everyone who lays down his life, ten more rise up!
For everyone one that dies, the other nine become more radicalized in their faith so much so that they quickly attract the attention of others who in turn want what they have and swell the ranks.
If nothing else, if one of them dies it will shake up the other nine and any “hanger-oners” will decide to jump on board or get off the wagon.
Even if one dies and two jump off because it isn’t worth the cost, I’ll bet the other seven will be so determined to stay faithful that they quickly will attract others who love the quality of spiritual life they have.
There’s something about persecution that shakes out the dead wood.
You see, in times of ease, its easy and convenient to be called a Christian with little commitment, cost and sacrifice but also with little power, effectiveness and witness!
When persecution comes only the committed stick around. And I am telling you that more can be done for God with a few radicalized believers then with a huge crowd of half-baked ones!
God actually uses persecution to purge the church of the dead wood.
Not that those who give their lifes were dead wood but that the remaining nine will make sure that it’s worth their while to serve Jesus in an age of opposition!
The blood of the saints is tied into the word of their testimony!
Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at what happened when persecution broke out in the early church:
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. “ Acts. 8:1,4
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-22
The same thing happened years later when Paul was put in prison for his faith: “ Because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear” Phil. 1:14
The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of some of the most explosive growth of the Christian faith in the world!
Take a look at this map (http://discipleallnations.files.wordpress.com/ /2013/08/top-20.jpg) that shows you the countries where the fastest growth rates are happening. In many places it’s where we see the greatest persecution!
Nepal, China, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Mongalia – none of those places are friendly toward the Gospel.
11 of the 20 are Muslim countries. What is going on the planet?
What’s going on is that the seedbed of modern day church growth is the blood of the martyrs!
Jesus was bang on when he said: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
See Them As Though They Are Your Flesh And Blood
In light of that, what we are to do? Are we to try to stop this? Stop what – the greatest church-growth movement in the world? I don’t think so!
In fact, I haven’t read anyway in the literature from ministries that advocate on behalf of the persecuted church that we are to marshal our energies in an attempt to stop this.
Of course, there is incredible individual pain and our hearts break at the Victoria’s of this world and we would and should do everything we can to stop individual pain
But if truth be known and if the persecuted church could speak to us, it would be the words of 2 Thess. 3:1 “Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly… and pray that we may be delivered form wicked and evil men”
Pray as you never have before that God’s will would be in done in their lives and through their lives.
And I don’t mean the usual prayer. I don’t mean casual prayer, convenient prayer or flippant prayer. I am talking about persistent, passionate, tearful prayer as though you were suffering and your loved one in prison.
Folks, we owe them that at least! If they are paying the price that is fuelling the growth of the church then the least we can do is to pray for them in such a way as though they were our own flesh and blood, brothers and sisters.
Do you realize that God requires of us nothing less? “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Heb. 13:3
That puts this on a different level! As though we were their fellow prisoners; as though we were suffering right along side of them!
We owe them at least that much. Stand in their shoes, look through their lens as though you are prisoners beside them.
This is so much more than just one day a year. So much more than just remembering them on an annual day of prayer somewhere.
As though we are chained with them. Maybe that’s what Paul had in mind when the coined the phrase: “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings”
Do Not Be Ashamed Of The Prisoners
While in prison, Paul’s only wish to Timothy is the plea of every prisoner and sufferer this morning: “Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel” 2 Tim 1:8
It’s as though they are saying to us: “Join with me in my suffering. Let me know you care. That my tears are your tears and that my pain is your pain.
Let me know that I am not the only one in this prison and that you are with me in spirit and are interceding to our Heavenly Father for his will to be done”
It’s as though they saying: “Our blood may well be the seedbed of church growth but it’s still our blood, these are still our daughters, sisters and mothers; these are still our fathers, brothers and sons”
May it be said of us as it was said of the family of Onesiphorus. They were among those who stood by Paul when in prison. In fact, they searched him out and ministered to him when they found him
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.”
2 Tim. 1:16-18
Searching hard for him until he found Paul is exactly what I am talking about this morning. That’s the equivalent of us remembering the prisoners of our days as though we are chained with them!
May the Lord show mercy to you because you often refreshed his prisoners and was not ashamed of their chains!
The Lord’s Supper In Solidarity
Today in these closing moments I invite you to participate in this memorial Lord’s Supper prepared for you.
Servers will come to your row in the center isle at which point you will be invited to come down the center isle.
Tear off a piece of bread meant to remind you of that our Lord’s body was torn apart for your salvation; and do so as you stand in solidarity with every sufferer who’s ever had his or her life torn apart for the faith.
Then take that broken bread and dunk it into the chalice reminding you that the blood of Jesus bought your redemption as you stand in solidarity with every sufferer whose blood has been the seedbed of the growth of the church that brings the Good News of Jesus to the nations.
All of it is free but not of it is cheap. Our faith has come to us at a high cost.
Not only has Jesus died for your faith but men and women throughout the ages have died so that this faith would be preserved and passed down the generations to us.
This very day men and women are dying and suffering for this faith so that future generations would have the Gospel even as we did.
It’s free but no one said it was cheap.
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.