April 27, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Able and Available
Renee Swope, Director of Speaker Team, Speaker and Author
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 in your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
The doorbell rang soon after I got home. I was surprised to see Janet standing in the doorway. I had just walked home from her house after dropping off a thank you note. “This is the most amazing thank you note I have ever read.” Janet said. “Renee, you have a writing gift and you need to use it.”
I was a bit puzzled. It was only a thank you note. Later that afternoon I thought about her words of encouragement. They kept me company that day. I wondered if God could use my writing to touch the hearts of others. I’d been struggling through a spiritual desert for months. Ministry had become duty, and my relationship with God felt dry. I tucked Janet’s comments in my prayer journal and asked the Lord to show me if we wanted me to do something with them.
A few months later, I was returning from a women’s outreach dinner my church has three times a year. Our senior pastor’s wife had given the message. I always loved what she shared, but I wished I could read her notes, so I could apply the lessons in my life. “Maybe I could write a follow-up study guide to give to the women who come so they could go deeper, too.” I thought.
I called Janet with my crazy idea and she loved it. She asked our women’s ministry director to consider my idea. To make a long story very short: They approved. I nearly died from the suffocation of fear and insecurity. With Janet’s prodding and prayer, I wrote a study guide. It was given to over 1000 women. I taught a class the following year to lead women through the study guide. I wrote another and another. The next year, a new ministry was birthed and it is thriving today. All after one thank you note! All because I gave back to God what He had given to me.
But I haven’t always been able or available. For many years I was more like the third servant in Matthew 25:14-30. In case you’re not familiar with the story, here is my contemporary synopsis: There was a business owner who had three servants with varying degrees of abilities. He was going on an out-of-town business trip, but before he left he assigned each employee an individual project, according to their abilities. The first two were given more to oversee. Perhaps they had more experience or were better at multi-tasking. In any case, both gave their time and talents to serve their boss and he was very pleased with them when he returned. The one who had been given less responsibility made excuses about neglecting his assignment. He even blamed his boss for his neglect.
I wonder if he thought, “Oh, this little project isn't much. Why worry about being faithful with it? The boss will never notice.” I have thought that at times. I wonder if he was jealous that others were given more visible responsibilities. I wonder if envy turned to presumption, which led to strife toward the boss and apathy toward his abilities. I know that has happened to me.
This is our story. Our Boss is on an out-of-town assignment and He’s asked each one of us to oversee something in His kingdom, according to abilities He’s given us. With each ability comes an assignment. With each assignment comes a choice, a risk and a responsibility. With each assignment comes the possibility of reward and the potential of regret. With each assignment comes accountability to the Master — whether great or small.
It isn’t a matter of how much or how little He’s given to us. What matters is how well we use the abilities we have been given. Just like the servants, if we are faithful with a little God will entrust us with more and we will experience deeper joy as we live out His purpose in our lives. No matter how big or small our talents seem, they are all God-given, and they all matter to Him.
It’s been five years since I wrote the first study guide. A team of women now write it and others help teach the classes with me. God has been true to His promise of giving more when we are faithful with a little. Much to my surprise, He has used my writing to grow my speaking. He has entrusted me with more for now, and I have the blessing of sharing all that He is teaching me with women across the country. Just as He promised, I am getting to share in my Master’s happiness. Ministry is no longer duty, but delight. My relationship with God is no longer dry, but delicious.
It started with one thank you note. It started with a woman who was faithful in the little things of encouragement, prayer and the gift of prodding. It started with another woman who gave back to God what He had given to her.
My prayer for today:
Lord, what abilities have You given me that I don’t see? Please make me aware of the little things that can make a difference for You and others. I lay down my doubt, my jealousy and comparison. I confess the times I have been unwilling to give back what You have given to me. I want to know the joy and pleasure of being faithful with the little things! Amen.
Read the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Put yourself in this parable. What truths apply to your life? What changes need to be made?
List your abilities. If it’s difficult, list some things other people say you do well:
Have you ever struggled with the abilities God’s given you compared to others?
Have you ever “buried” your abilities because you didn’t think God would notice or because you didn’t think they mattered?
How did each servants’ faithfulness with their abilities impact their relationship with the master?
How has burying or using your abilities impacted your relationship with God?
What steps are you going to take to be a faithful steward of the abilities God has given to you?
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)
Ephesians 4:16 “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (NIV)
Romans 12:4-5 “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” (NLT)
Romans 12:6-8 “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (NLT)
Shaped with Purpose Workbook, by Renee Swope
A Woman’s Journey Toward Purpose, Seminar Cassette by Renee Swope
Living Life on Purpose by Lysa TerKeurst
The P31 Woman Magazine
Originally published Tuesday, 27 April 2004.