Expectation. I remember being a young girl, squirming on the vinyl seat in the back of our Chevy station wagon, asking way too often, “Are we there yet?” My parents would take turns answering, “Be patient honey. We’re not there yet.” If I was really lucky, they would give me a countdown--just 2o minutes left and so on. But at that young age, 10 minutes could feel like forever because I couldn’t wait to get to where we were going!
Is it any wonder that as Jesus got nearer to Jerusalem, his followers were much the same as a young child? Expectant belief swelling in them that God’s kingdom was going to appear at any moment. Certainly, it’s here, they thought.
Jesus, being who he is, knows this and tells them a story. He speaks of a ruler who was hated and despised, but who went off to get himself appointed as king. While he is gone, he puts his servants in charge of various amounts of money called mina. The first two servants double their master's investment, but the third just buries his mina in the ground so it doesn’t get lost. That’s all he does.
Let’s pick up Jesus’ words as the ruler returns to his servants. There are protests as he has now been newly anointed king. After very generously rewarding the first two servants for their efforts, he addresses the third. After chastising him, he says:
“'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
'Sir’, they said, 'he already has ten!'
He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away..." (Luke 19:24-27).
Talk about an interesting response to, “Are we there yet?!” There are several lessons contained within this parable (as is the case with Jesus’ stories). The one that jumps out to me is, like it or not, Jesus is Lord and his timing is the one that prevails. He is less concerned with when our answer comes—to prayer, the challenge, to hardship—then how we handle ourselves in the waiting.
Jesus, in fact, talks a lot about how we handle ourselves as we await his return, all with the same message: are you getting yourself well-prepared? Are you focusing on making the most of your journey? Are you giving Jesus your best?
In the context of working hard for Jesus during my journey, I’m challenged to make sure I invest well the resources which he blesses me. Am I giving of my time, my talents and my treasures for God’s glory? Not perfectly, but consistently. Remember that God isn’t looking for perfection or performance; he is looking for a heart that wants to please him. And somewhere during my journey, God will come back. Whether it’s during my lifetime or after, he will be looking for a return on his investment in me.
Mostly, I am challenged to have my heart for people grow. I've learned that people, in so many ways, are the greatest reflection of our true heart for God (see 1 John 2:9-11, 1 John 3:11-20). Sometimes I feel like the Grinch—my heart is two sizes too small. I care, but loosely. I give, but with reservation. I’m not quite burying my time, talent and treasure away, but neither am I always letting it grow and flourish.
Immediately, I think of Matthew 5:46-48: “What reward do you deserve if you only love the lovable? Don’t even the tax collectors do that? How are you any different from others if you limit your kindness only to your friends? Don’t even the ungodly do that? Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, become perfect like him.”
The person who cuts me off rudely in traffic, the child who is always confrontational and quick to push my every button, the co-worker who is volatile and difficult—that’s who and when I’m called to love. My friend who treats me poorly, my spouse who angers me, the neighbor who is always rude—that’s who I’m called to love.
Choosing to love doesn’t mean I don’t establish boundaries. Jesus established boundaries with people (see John 2:24). But it does mean my response should reflect Jesus, not my anger, bitterness and resentment. Not my frustration or my judgement. My words are gracious because of whose I am, not because of who I am talking to. Extending grace again and again to others because Jesus extends grace to me again and again. I take correction even when it’s hard because of who I am trying to reflect, not because everything that is being said is correct or the person who is speaking deserves to say it. I establish a boundary to protect my heart before the Lord, not to be Judge and jury toward someone else. And wow, that’s tough for me!
No doubt about it, these are hard teachings. Yet after 35 years of following Jesus, I see the blessings that come from them. I’ve seen the way God works through those counter-cultural choices I make to honor him, sometimes in miraculous ways. I’ve seen hearts and situations change that seemed unchangeable. I’ve seen the incredible blessings He’s given me in the midst of my storms, the character growth He’s blessed me with from being kind to people who don’t give, aren’t ever kind, or continually judge me.
So, I hold tight with hopeful expectation, remembering the blessings of the past in order to strengthen my resolve for the current stress and challenges. I fight to make myself stop and pray, even when all I want to do is respond. To own up to and apologize for the many times I don’t. Try to remember the guy who just flipped me off (after he cut me off in traffic, mind you) has a story that I don’t know or understand. That my friend who is unkind and judgmental has brokenness they are responding from, just as I do. I place boundaries from a position of loving strength, not punishment and power.
Yes, it is hard, but it is worthwhile. And I grab a hold of Jesus’ reminder: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
There is a scripture I love in Proverbs 24:3-4 that says, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” It reminds me that my life is a house I am building. That godly wisdom and understanding become the rare and beautiful treasures that make my life meaningful, and reflect the beauty of Christ.
What about you? What are you investing your time, talent and treasure in? When is it hard for you to love others as you love yourself, and how do you fight back in those moments? I’d love to be encouraged by you so please post by clicking on the comment button below.
Would you open the eyes of my heart, Papa, and show me what you want me to see here. Would you give me ongoing revelation throughout the week so I can understand more fully what you want my heart to be for you. Help me to love others with the lavishness you show me. Thank you, Papa. Amen.
To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to have her speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.
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