Summary: We only have one life to live -- make it count for the Kingdom.
Living A Life That Counts!
Once upon a time there was an office manager who lost his job during a recession. In his sadness he wandered into a park, found himself an empty park bench, and sat down. After a while another man came strolling along. The second man was especially sad as he took a seat at the opposite end of the bench. After these two men had sat silently for a couple of hours, the first man said, "I'm an office manager who has been made redundant. I don't have a job anymore. What's your problem?" The second man answered, "I own a circus. The big attraction at my circus was an ape. Last week the ape died, and the crowds have fallen off to almost nothing. I think I'm going to be out of business if I don't find another ape."
It didn't take long for the first man to come up with an interesting proposal. "You need an ape and I need a job. What if I dress up in the ape's skin and pretend to be real? I could carry on for your patrons and everybody would be happy."
Having nothing to lose, the circus owner decided to give it a try. To his surprise the fake ape proved to be more entertaining and drew larger crowds than the real one had. Money came pouring in. And both the former office manager and the circus owner were getting rich.
Then, one day, things got out of hand. Somehow a lion got into the same cage with the fake ape. The office manager didn't know what to do. He maneuvered as best he could to escape the claws of the lion, but he realized that sooner or later he would be a goner. A large crowd gathered outside the cage to watch the spectacle. They screamed and gasped as the lion finally trapped the office manager in a corner of the cage and poised himself to leap on the make-believe ape. Suddenly, the shocked crowd heard the ape yell in a shaken, frightened voice, "Help! Help!" It was then that the lion muttered under his breath, "Shut up, stupid! Do you think you're the only one around here that's out of a job?"
I am convinced that there are many of us parading around today in ape costumes. Playing a role that doesn't fit. Behaving out of character. Suiting up so that we can make ends meet. Uncertain of who we really are, not knowing what God has purposed for our lives, and unclear about whether or not there is any meaning to life at all - we suit up every morning to trudge into our day simply playing a role that doesn't fit.
In the second part of our study of "Sharing the Gifts" I want us to focus our time on the stewardship of our abilities, the gifts and talents that God has given to us. Instead of simply asking you to consider what gifts you possess and how you might use them to bless others around you, I want to stop and consider some important questions. Questions like, "Why am I here? Who am I? Is there any lasting meaning in life or am I just doing what I have to do to get by and make it to the end?"
I know that when I told you we were going to talk about stewardship for three weeks that you thought we would focus our time on the question, "How much money are you going to give to God's work at Britton Christian Church this year?" That is not the real issue. The fact of the matter is that God's work at Britton Christian Church is going to continue -- not just survive, but thrive whether you or I give any money, donate any time, or serve in any ministry. How much you or I give is not the real issue. The real issue is "Who are we?" Are we people whose lives have been set apart and dedicated to our King's service or are we the captain's of our ship? Do we call the shots and make the plans for our lives or do we receive our orders from Jesus and seek to live in compliance with His will? The real issue is, "Why are we here?" Are we here, have we been given life, to bring glory and honor to God or are we here to eat, drink, and be as happy as we can possibly be? To fulfill our own dreams and hopes? The real issue is, "Is there any lasting meaning in life?" Are we living out Walt Whitman's philosophy delivered in his poem, "Leaves of Grass?" The idea that all of the great victories and accomplishments of life are eventually covered over by the growing grass and forgotten. Or does our life really matter and count in eternity?