New Year Service Sermon Notes

By January 1, 2017Sermon Notes

Faithfulness and Faith


*Brandon Burlsworth…Burls

*Grew up fatherless in a small Arkansas town.

*Told his mom as a young boy he would play for Arkansas.

*Overweight, clumsy…he did not have the body or skills to play at that level.

*Even starting his Sr. Year in HS he was 6, 200 pounds…inches and 100 pounds short of what he would need to be to play at Arkansas.

*He walked on, his mom getting a second mortage to pay for his first year.

*Very few walk ons make it at that level…there is a now a national award named for Brandon given to the top college football player who started his career as a walkon.

*He ended up being almost 6’4″ and weighing 308.

*He could run a 40 in 4.8 (in case that doesn’t mean anything to you…its fast for a big guy)

*Was a first team all American, drafted in the 3rd round…projected to start as a rookie at Indianapolis.

*Was going to earn nearly 2 million his first year and take care of mom…died before signing…

*15 miles from home, on his way to take his mom to church….never signed.

*Is it a story of:

  1. Great faith: Believed God for things that no one else could see.
  1. Great faithfulness: He took personal responsibility to control the things he could control.

-He consistently outworked everyone around him.

  1. Great God: God gave Brandon the tools, the opportunity, the drive, the vision.
  1. Great disappointment: All that and he never signed (left mom poor), never played in the NFL, didn’t have the chance to continue to use his platform for the gospel and the good of others.

*What does it matter anyway?

*Brandon’s work, sacrifice…gone…will be forgotten.

*Sure his jersey is hanging in the Arkansas stadium…retired…but it won’t be long before all that remains of him is a jersey of some long forgotten dead guy…that fans who are watching the current team play have grown immune to seeing.

*But beyond that, the day will come when the stadium will crumble, brought down by men or time…

*So in the end, isn’t all human live, all human achievment, all human dreaming…a disappointment…a cosmic “yawn”…who cares, who remembers.

*Begin 2017 with a theology of faithfulness and how that theology is built on faith.

*To be “faithful” in the true sense of the word requires “faith”

*The suffix “ful” means “characterized by.

*Shameful…characterized by shame.

*Faithful…characterized by faith.

*It is faith that empowers a life of faithfulness.

*I believe the purpose of your life and mine is to be found faithful.

*I once saw a hotel swimming pool near lake Tahoe with a state line dividing the pool in half.

*I didn’t get in but I did stand straddling the Nevada, California state line on the side of the pool.

*Today we stand straddling 2016 and 2017.

*Its likely we have a mixture of feelings…disappointment, satisfaction…fear, anticipation.

*This morning as we lift a feet from 2016 and walk firmly into 2017…we are going to look at a theology of faith and faithfulness. 

*Children are in here:

  1. I’ll try to concentrate but feel free to take them to the foyer or overflow if they become too unhappy with my preaching.
  1. Remember this if you ever wonder why we don’t do it every week.

-Children hear the gospel in language they can understand

-Parents can focus on hearing what God has for them.

*”I want my kids to learn to sit still”…take them to a movie…its more important for your kids that their parents hear from God…this happens best when distractions are minimized.

  1. Matt 24-25: Jesus tells a series of stories meant to warn & encourage us to be ready for his return.

*The Lord stands straddling the “already” (he has come) and the “Not yet” (He will return)…and gives instruction on how to live.

*Jesus looked at the Temple area (Herod’s temple…expanded and remodeled largely for his own glory) and said, “not a single stone will be left on another.”

*His disciples asked him, “When is this going to happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of this age?”

*He then describes some things that were to come relatively soon…some that would happen in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed and thousands of Jews in Jerusalem were slaughtered…and some things that are farther down the road in human history.

*Then he tells three stories, parables to get their hearts pointed in the right direction regarding the future

*They are connected because they all answer a single question.

*How do we live now, in light of the reality of the end.

*The implications are enormously practical…not just “end of the whole world” but “end of our personal world”

*These have applications for the fact that every person will experience an “eschaton” an end.

*Eschatology is the study of the end…human and personal eschatology.

*What matters most at the end, matters most now.

*Very often when people think of “eschatology” end-times…they go weird, esoteric…theoretical.

*Jesus will have none of this…he pushes us over and over to live our belief…Place your confidence, faith in God…reveal your faith by loving people.

*So the Three parables:

  1. Wise and foolish servant
  2. Wise and foolish wedding attendants
  3. Wise and foolish investors

*Three things in common:

  1. Sudden and unexpected accountability
  1. Radical division of the wise and foolish
  1. The foolish are surprised at the outcome:

*We will focus on what is called the parable of the talents, Matt 25:14-30.

Matt. 25:14   “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 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. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19   “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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!’ 22   “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23   “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!’ 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. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 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? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28   “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 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. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  1. Talent: was a weight that differed in value

-It was a lot of money, up to 20 years salary.

-The amount that it represents is not important, what it represents is.

-A talent is what we have been “entrusted” with.

-It is anything whereby we may glorify God…opportunity, health, mental capacity, resources, etc.

  1. Look at how Jesus demonstrates preparedness…it is being faithfully and energetically engaged…not passivity, but activity.
  1. There are two types of “stewards”: people who have been entrusted with something that belongs to another…two faithful, one unfaithful.


*There is an emotional “tone” that is there in the Greek that is missing in the English.

*The Faithful are eager, excited to please…”Look! You gave me this much, now…look how much I have to give you!”

*Just think of someone you have loved and respected and you did a good job for them…parent, teacher, coach.

*You can’t wait to show what you have done…their pleasure is your pleasure.

*This is the tone here…their eyes are sparkling…they are so excited to please…because they love this person…they delight in his delight.

*If you miss this, you miss the point…these who were entrusted with their stewardships were “lovers” not merely investors.

*If you are a Christian you have been given a stewardship, a life to invest…because you are, at your core…a lover of Jesus…not merely an investor.

*We are not getting investment commands here…the duty of a Christian.

*We are seeing the joy of being given a stewardship whereby we can bring joy to Christ.

*Important to note: They had two different stewardships, one had more than twice the talents of the other…and likewise two different outcomes in regards to their investments.

*But…they each received the master’s pleasure and commendation…”Well done faithful servant…come and share your master’s happiness.”

*Really important, faithfulness with what YOU been given…not focus on what others have been given.


*The unfaithful investor has a totally different tone:

*He is sulking, angry, accusing, self-justified, no trust…”here’s your talent, you can have it back…not one bit more or less.”

*”I knew you are a man without character, taking what is not yours…in fear of your inherent unfairness…I hid what you gave me in the ground…here, you can have it back…I didn’t lose any of it.”

*The master rightly assesses this unfaithful servant:

“He is wicked and lazy”

-Wicked: assigning false motives to the master

-Lazy: this is his real problem…better to blame than to exert effort, especially effort with risk.

Two Lessons:

  1. There is going to be a day of reckoning

-What matters most at the end matters most now.

-Faithfulness will matter…revealed primarily in love for God and love for others.

  1. The Emphasis on actions or works

-Not works that bring relationship with Christ, but works that reveal that relationship.

-Grace is not opposed to effort but earning, effort is attitude, earning is action.

-God does not justify without regeneration…justification is faith alone and produces actions, changed lives.

*The larger message of the parable: faithfulness is the measure of a life.

A Theology of Faithfulness

  1. 1 Cor. 4:2 It is required that those who have been given a trust be found faithful
  1. Luke 16:10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
  1. Zech 4:10 “Who despises the day of small things?”

*Returned from exile still under Persian rule. (586: Fall to Babylon-538: Fall of Babylon)

*Persians had whipped the Babylonians…Daniel and the hand on the wall.

*Long captivity…life was still hard.

*Prophets encouraged the rebuilding of the Temple…important sign of God’s presence.

*It wasn’t as big or as grand as what they believed it should have been…not like the former glory.

*They were not happy with the “smallness” of the times…or with what God was doing with them.

*God challenged them…do not despise the day of small things.

*That is the ongoing challenge…most days are days of small things.

*The glory of God in your life is the accumulation of faithfulness over many, many days of small things.

*We love the home run, the touchdown…God loves the base hit, 3 or 4 yards and a first down.


  1. Faithfulness is bottom line…the most important thing to do is what God has put in front of you to do.
  1. Nothing and no one can remove meaning, purpose…if faithfulness is your objective.
  1. God’s glory is what matters most…how is he most glorified?

*What does he need? (Acts 17)…nothing.

*What does he want? (1 Cor. 4:2)…faithfulness

*A life of faithfulness requires faith

*Faith, confidence in God.

*As we straddle 2016 and 2017 in a larger sense we live straddling this life and the life to come.

*If we lift a foot from either reality we become imbalanced…we loose sight of how to live faith-filled lives.

*If we lift a foot from the future reality we will experience…faithfulness in there here and now becomes foolish, meaningless…

*Brandon’s life was ultimately…without meaning.

*Love, sacrifice, discipline, ministry…all of it is temporary so it is ultimately meaningless.

*A struggling and honest non-believer wrote “How could there be no design, no metaphysical purpose? Can it be that every life–beginning with my own, my husband’s, my child’s, and spreading outward is cosmically irrelevant?”

*Stephen Crane “A man said to the universe, “sir I exist”. “However” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”

*The universe…cold and impersonal…does not care about you…it cannot care…it is a an it.

*So, no…if you lift your foot from the future reality of God and live only in the temporary “now”…none of it matters.

*On the other hand if you lift your foot from the temporary now…and lose sight of the importance of normal, everyday faithfulness then your future faith will become twisted and deformed.

*Paul said “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

*To lift the foot from the now is to forget that “To live is Christ.”

*To live a life of “to die is gain” without “to live is Christ” is to not really live.

*We are made to live with both feet planted firmly in the twin realities of “faith and faithfulness.”

*To live is Christ…be found faithful.

*To die is gain…our faithfulness is planted in faith…”It does matter now, because it will continue to matter then.”

*Right column living

*Left Column praying

*Single page living

*Do not mistake an emphasis on faithfulness as an excuse for not believing God for great things.

*It is instead a specific focus on what greatness is.

“The safest place for ships is in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.” anonymous

*Maturity is the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny.

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

*Has been attributed to many different people

Well-differentiad leader: Clarity about his or her own life goals and is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about.

Someone who can manage his or her own reactivity to the automatic reactivity of others.

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