Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Well Done!" [Matt's Messages]

“Well Done!”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 15, 2019 :: Matthew 25:14-30

For the last 4 messages in our “Following Jesus” series through the Gospel of Matthew, we’ve been studying what Jesus taught about His own return. Matthew 24 and 25 is often called the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, and it’s also called the Eschatological Teaching, because Jesus is teaching here on the doctrine of Last Things, on the End of the World, and on His return.

After Jesus predicted the desolation of the temple, his disciples asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

And so Jesus launched into this eschatological teaching. I won’t try to reconstruct it all for you this morning. If you are interested in all of the details, you should go back and read the sermons on my blog or re-listen to the recordings.

Marilynn puts them all up on our church website and also makes CDs of them back there at the bulletin board. I think I saw 2 copies of each of the last 4 messages that you could play in your car, but don’t fall asleep while driving!

It’s okay to fall asleep in the pew while I’m preaching, but don’t do it when I’m preaching in your car!

I won’t give all of the details again, but I do want to emphasize again what Jesus emphasizes again and again, and that is that you and I don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

When is Jesus coming back?

We don’t know!

Why then do we keep acting like we do?

Last week, we saw that Jesus said that He might come back sooner than we expect.

We have to be ready. We have to “keep watch.”

Jesus said in chapter 24, verse 42, “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” In verse 44 of that same chapter, He said, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

And He gave multiple illustrations of that concept. He said that He would come unexpectedly like a thief in the night. It could be sooner than you expect, so be ready.

It might be today.

But we also saw that He also said that He might come back later than we expect.

Remember the foolish virgins with their lamps but no oil?

They had all of that time, but they still were not ready for the bridegroom. They were not prepared and so they did not get to enjoy the wedding feast.

And what they weren’t prepared for was a long wait.

We don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

Do you know when Jesus is coming back?

Soon! Yes! But on God’s definition of “soon.” And it’s already been 2,000 years.

Jesus said in chapter 24 verse 36 that not even the angels in heaven know when He is coming back.

And He even said in that very same sentence that at that time He didn’t know when He would return.“Only the Father.”

We don’t know.

So, right now, we’re learning how to wait.

We’re learning to be ready.

We’re learning how to be watchful.

And it turns out that being watchful is a potent mix of constant expectancy and constant longanimity. [That’s a fancy word for “patience.”]

Expectancy and patience.

Patience and expectancy.

Constant expectancy and constant longanimity.

And, we’re going to find out today: constant industry.

Busyness, industriousness, the word in our Advent reading today was diligence.

Not just vigilance but diligence.

Or because of vigilance we practice diligence. Industry.

Because you see, there are different kinds of waiting, aren’t there?

The watching and waiting that we are supposed to do right now before the return of Christ is not at all passive.

While we are waiting for the return of Christ, we are not supposed to just lean back and lay around. It’s not that kind of waiting.

It’s not like waiting at the bus stop or the airport terminal. Where nothing’s happening. You just sitting there until your ride comes.

Some people in the Bible were like that. Some of the men at Thessalonika had quit their jobs and were just waiting around because they thought the return of Christ was right around the corner.

In 19th century America, some people thought they knew the day and the hour of Christ’s return, and they gave away their possessions and just waited around to be taken. “Beam me up, Lord Jesus!”

And then it didn’t happen like they expected, and they didn’t have anything left. How disorienting would that be?

What did Paul tell those men at Thessalonika? Get a job!

Get to work.

This “being ready” or “keeping watch” is not a passive thing like watching paint dry; it’s an active thing.

There are things to be doing while we are waiting.

We saw that last week with Jesus’ parable about the wise and the foolish servant at the end of chapter 24.

And now in the middle of chapter 25, Jesus tells another parable with a very similar set of characters and a very similar point, but He takes it much further.

And He puts these wonderful words into the mouth of the master when He returns and rewards His good and faithful servant:

He says, “Well Done!”

“You have waited well.

You have kept watch the right way.

You have stayed ready for my return.

Well done!”

I don’t know about you, but I long to hear that said to me.

And I long to hear it said for all those I pastor.

“Well done!”

Let’s start in verse 13. It goes with the preceding parable, but it’s ringing in the disciples’ ears when He launches right into this one.

And He’s just emphasizing His main point once again. V.13

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Do you know when Jesus is coming back?

No. You do not.

It might be sooner than you expect.

And it might be later than you expect.

So you have to keep watch.

And while we watch, we work. V.14

“Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Now that word “talent,” in the 1984 NIV and the 1611 KJV can be a little confusing for us because it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

A “talent” in those days was a weight of valuable metal. It was the basic amount of metal a soldier could carry on his back. It was about 70 to 100 pounds of precious metal such as silver or gold.

So it was a sum of money. We actually get our word and idea of “talent” from this story here, so that our natural gifts and “talents” are abilities that we have been entrusted with by God.

And that’s a good application of this parable, but in the story, it’s a sum of money.

In fact, it’s a large sum of money. All three of these are.

A talent was roughly equivalent to 6,000 days of wages for a day-laborer.

So 16 to 20 years of wages.

How much money will you make in 6,000 work days?

Let’s say you make $35,000 a year.

If you worked every single day of the year, that’s about $95 a day.

$95 times 6,000 is $570,000. That’s one talent, give or take.

I think the 2011 NIV just says, “bags of gold.” That’s actually more like it.

So this guy is going away, and he’s doling out his fortune and entrusting it to his servants.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize who everybody is in this parable.

The master is?  Jesus.

The servants are?  His disciples. Or at least His supposed disciples.

Us. The servants are us. V.15

“To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Now, here’s point number one of three, marching towards hearing, “Well Done!”


You and I have been entrusted with great responsibility while we wait for the return of Christ.

What do you think these bags of gold stand for in this parable?

They are obviously important, because the story turns on them.

What are these bags of gold?

I think they are all of the resources and responsibilities that the Lord has entrusted into our care while we wait expectantly and patiently for His return.

So it is our talents.

It is our gifts.

And it’s also our money.

Whatever we have been given, large numbers or small.

And it’s also our opportunities. We all have different opportunities.

And it’s our callings and our work. I preached this exact parable four years ago when I was preaching on our work as our worship unto the Lord.

It’s also our privileges.

Do you know how privileged you are?

Every privilege is also a responsibility.

Every blessing is also a stewardship.

It’s everything we know. Our knowledge.

It’s our health. It’s our energy. It’s our lives.

We have been given these things in trust.

They are not our own. They are the Lord’s.

Because we are the Lord’s!

And it’s the Great Commission, too.

It’s everything that our Master has entrusted to us to take care of while He’s away.

What has He entrusted to you?

What’s in your garage? What’s in your bank account? What’s in your house? What’s in your pocket? What’s in your brain? What’s in your hands?

What has He entrusted to you?

Now, notice that the servants don’t all get the same responsibility.

They get different responsibilities based on what the Master determines is their abilities. So we shouldn’t worry about other people’s responsibilities.

We shouldn’t worry about what’s in other people’s hands.

We should just be concerned with what’s in ours.

And remember even just one bag of gold is a major responsibility!

What has He entrusted to you?

Because in this story, we’re supposed to do something with what we’re given.

While we wait, we work. V.16

“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.”

Uh oh. You can tell that’s not going to end well.

But the first two do really well.

They put the money to work. That is probably they enter into business. They buy and sell. Perhaps real estate. Maybe commodities. They buy something, fix it up and then resell it for a profit. They don’t just invest it. They work it.

The point is that they put the money to work. They discharge their responsibilities.

They do something with what they were entrusted with.

What are you doing with what you are entrusted with?

It’s not yours.

It’s on loan.

What are you doing with it?

Are you investing it for the Kingdom?

For example, our Celebration Choir has the same number of Thursdays as all of the rest of us, but they have invested the last dozen or so to practicing for their ministry of music next Sunday.

What have you been given? And what are you doing with it for Jesus’ sake?

You guys filled 114 shoeboxes. You put together 30 gifts for 15 children in our community.

What are you doing with what you have been given?

What are you doing with what you have been given?

Elementary kids. What do you have?

What talents do you have?

Are you good at sports, at music, at art, at writing, at making things, at fixing things, and running things, at leading things?

Are you investing all of that for Jesus?

We have been given great responsibility.

Do you feel that?

Do you know how blessed you are?

Those blessings, every one of them, are bags of gold.

... The last couple of weeks, we’ve emphasized the question, “What do you want to be found doing when the Lord returns?” Because you don’t know when that’s going to be.

This story asks the question, “When Jesus returns, what will you be found doing with what you have been given?”

Because there will be an accounting.


In this story, it happens in verse 19.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

Now, don’t miss those first four words, “After a long time...”

Notice again that Jesus left open the chance that His return may seem delayed to us.

Just like the bridegroom in the last story, this guy takes longer than you might expect.

Remember, Jesus Himself did not know when He was telling this story how long He was going to be away!

He knew so much, but He didn’t know that.

And so He prepared His disciples for Him to be gone potentially a long time.

But He will sure return, and when He does, there will be a reckoning.

We will all have to give an account.

The Master will ask, “What did you do with what I left in your hands?

How did you invest your life? Your gifts and your assignments?”

“Did you stay busy and active for the kingdom while I was away?”

"What did you with the kids I gave you?”
“What did you do with the spouse I gave you?”
“What did you do with the friends gave you?”
“What did you do with the free time I gave you?”
“What did you do with the education I put in your hands?”
“What did you do with the church I placed in your hands?”
“What did you do with the freedoms I gave you?”
“What did you do with the jobs I placed in your hands?”
“What did you do with your retirement?”
“What did you do with role in your community?”

“What did you do with what I left in your hands?”

We will give an account. V.20

“The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' [A 100% return on his investment. That’s great. And look at what the Lord says to Him. This awesome. V.21] 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 your master's happiness!'

The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' [Another 100% return on his investment.] 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 your master's happiness!'”

This is point number three.


We have been given a responsibility.
We will have to give an account.
And if we have been faithful, we will be given a reward.

Look more closely at the Master’s words and soak them up.

Notice that the Master says the same thing to both faithful servants.

It doesn’t matter how much they were given. It just matters that they did something with it while it was in their hands.

Again, don’t get caught up in looking at other people’s bags of gold.

Jesus will say the same thing to all of His faithful followers whether you are a big name Christian or a no-name Christian.

V.21 “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 your master's happiness!'”

First, the well done.

The attaboy.

That’s reward all by itself, isn’t it?

I love it when someone says to me, “Good job.”

It happened to me a number of times this week, and I can name all of them, and so I’m just lifted up today.

But all of those “good jobs” that people have said to me will fade, and I’ll be looking for another one.

And if I live for other people’s approval, I can be controlled by them.

But if I am living for this, “Well done!” then I will be controlled by this Master.

And that’s what counts!

And His “Well done!” will never fade!!!

Imagine that.

Are you living for that “Well done!” ?

I think so often we live for someone’s else approbation.

We live for someone else’s praise. Including our own praise of our own selves.

But while wait, we should work for the praise of this One.

But these two receive more than just His praise.

They receive more responsibility. V.21 again.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

That’s something, isn’t it?

This tells us something more about eschatology.

This tells us something more about what the kingdom will be like.

What it will be like in the new heavens and the new earth.

In eternity, we will not have less responsibility, but more responsibility.

There will be more work to do in the kingdom!

Now, it will be work with no curse, so it will be wonderful. Imagine work with no curse to put frustrating friction on what we can achieve.

But we won’t be just sitting around for ever, either.

Heaven will not be boring!

Anything but.

Part of our reward is more responsibility.

Are you living for that?

Are you being faithful right now so that you can be given more to do when the kingdom comes?

“You have been faithful with a few things [how every many I gave you]; I will put you in charge of many things. [And then the biggest reward:] Come and share your master's happiness!'”

He said the same thing to the second servant, “Come and share your master’s happiness.”

That sounds unimaginably good.

I don’t know how much joy the master in this story had.

But I do know that Jesus has limitless joy.

The kingdom is party.

It’s like the last story, of being invited into in the wedding feast.

The greatest party ever.

And we who are faithful get to enjoy His joy!

What a reward!

Are you living for that reward?

This gives us something to live for by God’s grace.

Notice how much grace is here. They are given these bags of gold and then they are given the master’s reward. This is all of grace and not legalism.

But grace is not opposed to effort.

Grace is opposed to earning, not effort.

Grace empowers effort.

So we who have been given much grace are empowered to give much effort.

So that we will see much reward.

Are you living for that reward?

Are you living for Jesus’ “Well done.” ?
Are you living for Jesus’ “Here’s more to do.”
Are you living for sharing in Jesus’ joy?

If you are, then you can expect a reward.

But if you are not, woe to you.

Because the opposite is also true. V.24

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'”

He seems mad at the master, doesn’t he?

“Why did you give me this job?

I don’t love you or trust you. I’m just sacred of you. So I disobeyed you.

Here’s your stuff back. I didn’t do what you asked.”

Jesus’ stories often have crazy endings, don’t they?

This servant doesn’t obey in the slightest.

He doesn’t know the Master’s heart.

He views the Master as a “vicious tyrant” (phrase from Grant Osborne).

He views the Master as harsh and unfair.

And so he rationalizes his disobedience away. He refuses responsibility.

And he does absolutely nothing.

Do not sympathize with this man in this story.

And do not be like him.

Do not be lazy with what the Lord has given to you.

V.26. “His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? [You think that I exploit people, do you?] Well then [if you are so scared of me], you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers [at least!], so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”

You didn’t have to have ten talents.

You didn’t have to have 4 bags of gold.

Two would have been enough.

1.5 would have been enough.

1.03 would have been enough if that was today’s interest rates.

But you did nothing!

You didn’t risk anything for my interests.

Friends, don’t be like this man.

He refused to take any risk for His master.

The master’s been gone a long time, and this guy has nothing to show for it.

Just an assignment that he didn’t lift a finger to do.

And so for him there was no reward. No praise, no more responsibility, no joy.

What a scary phrase to hear from the Lord Jesus, “you wicked, lazy servant!” You sluggard, you slacker, you have been worthless.

He actually calls him “worthless” or “useless.” v.28

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The same thing He said in the last verse of chapter 24.

The condemnation of the judgment.

Unbelievers will lose the life and talents and assignments and treasures and all kinds of other gifts that they have received in common grace if they will not trust the Lord Jesus and show that they trust the Lord Jesus by obeying the Lord Jesus.

But those who do believe Him and trust Him and put their faith in Him will show it by being faithful to Him.

“For everyone who has will be given more and he will have an abundance.”

That’s what I want for all of us in this room.

Abundance. Now and forever.

And it comes as the fruit of faithfulness.

If we are faithful, we will be rewarded.

Because there are not three kinds of servants in this story.

There are only two.

There are wicked and lazy so called servants.

And there are good and faithful ones.

Which one are you?


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch