And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
The goal of any sports team is to win. That goal is not always achieved. On a given day, one team may compete against better competition, and lose. What can always be controlled is the effort one gives on the field. And so athletes have coined a phrase, “to leave it all on the field.” This means, to make every effort possible in the game, win or lose. I don’t believe in winning at all costs. Because winning at all costs has led some teams to cheat, just to win. I believe in going all out in order to win. If the effort is good and there is a win, that is great. If there is a win but the effort is poor, that is luck, and not something to be proud of. However, if there is a loss and the effort is good, I’d rather take the loss with good effort than the win that involves cheating or less than the best effort.
I once heard a priest give a sermon on this parable of the talents. He talked about how the talent is not just an amount of money, and it is certainly more than a talent in the modern way we think of the word—a talent to write, or to speak, or to sing, etc. The parable, the priest said, is about stewardship. It’s about being a good steward with the things that God has entrusted you. And this stewardship starts with the stewardship of your life. The length of life is unknown for any of us. All we truly have, as we have previously discussed, is this day, this moment. So, are we being a good steward of this day, and even this moment that we are in.
We cannot possibly be working at all moments—there must be moment of rest, times of fellowship, and time to sleep. We also can’t be resting at all times either. There is nothing wrong with a vacation—that’s part of regular rest. There is nothing wrong with resting while recovering from illness. That’s also part of regular rest. I would hope that when I “retire” from ministry, I will still find ways to work and contribute. Because I might be retired for many years, and I wouldn’t want the stewardship of those years to consist of just rest and fun. If God entrusts me years after I retire, I need to have something to show for whatever He gives me.
In the aforementioned sermon, the priest said “I want to die exhausted, I want to leave everything on the field when I die. I want there to be nothing left, no ounce of energy that I didn’t use to serve God and serve others. I want to die exhausted.”
This was a very powerful sentiment. I’ve long forgotten the name of the priest or the occasion of the sermon but I didn’t forget his words. Occasionally people ask me why I write. And the answer I give is “I write because I’m going to die one day and I want to stand before God and tell Him I gave every effort to get His word out.” When I think this way, I don’t think about how many people buy my books or read my messages. Because the thought is more on the effort I’m giving than the results it is producing. Just like the athlete on the field focuses more on his effort and less on the scoreboard. Because many times he can’t control what is on the scoreboard, only the effort that he is making.
Sometimes it actually feels good to be exhausted, to know that one has done everything possible in a given situation. Because if we are never exhausted, we’ll never know how much effort we held back and didn’t give.
We have to see our very lives as gifts entrusted to us by God. This day that we are working is not a right, it is a privilege. It is not an entitlement; it is a blessing. If we learn to see our time as a gift and a blessing, it will be easier to offer the time to others. Jesus says in Matthew 10:8, “You received without paying, give without pay.” In other words, we have received a gift when we woke up today. We didn’t have to pay God for this day. He gave it freely and lovingly to us. What will we do with this day? Will we hold back on offering it back to Him? Will we leave everything on the field? Will we go to bed exhausted?
When I walk off the field one last time at the end of my life, and hopefully into the arms of God, I want to die exhausted. I want to meet God knowing that I did the most with what He entrusted to me.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Thank You for whatever gifts and talents You’ve entrusted me. Help me make the most of this day. May I honor You in all I do today. Help me to give all that I have to You and to others, to leave it all on the field today and each day. Between now and the time You call me home, help me to learn to leave it all on the field, so that on the day I walk off the field one last time, I can walk off exhausted and into Your heavenly arms. Amen.
Focus on effort, not necessarily on results. Being exhausted isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great feeling to walk off the field exhausted. It will be a great feeling to walk off the field of life exhausted as well!