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Scarecrows and Strawberries – Matthew 25:14-30

03 Aug

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The Church has left the building

(I have begun a new sermon series. These are the powerpoint slides: The Church has left the building)

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We begin with the story of a man who walks along a country lane one day and comes upon a lovely garden. In the middle of the garden is a strawberry patch and in the middle of that is a scarecrow.

On each outstretched arm sat a blackbird. Each had obviously been enjoying a feast in the patch. There were also birds around on the fence and in the trees, but none of them seemed to have enjoyed the sweet berries.


Why? They were frightened away by that terrible effigy standing guard in the center of the garden. An effigy, by the way, that was harmless! Two of the birds had figured it out…most had not and were missing out on the feast!

One of the best scarecrow stories you will ever hear is taught by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30.

Picture2The story has three characters…two of them who immediately receive praise and admiration:

  • For their dedication and commitment to their master
  • For their skillful use of their talents and opportunities
  • For their return of double benefits on the day of reckoning
  • For the commendation they received “well done”  (a commendation we all hope to hear on our day of reckoning)

The third man is so different:

  • He made little or no effort, won no prize, and received no commendation
  • Instead, he lost what he had and was bound and cast into outer darkness
  • It would be difficult for Jesus Himself to find a more pathetic failure!

Why the great difference in these men? Like the story of the birds and the scarecrow, this one foolish man was robbed of his prize and reward by harmless scarecrows. He was cheated by his own groundless fears  “I was afraid.”

The scarecrow of his own thoughts of littleness and insignificance.

Did he have this attitude: “These men are far more capable than I. If I only had the talents and abilities they do, what big things I would do! “But since I have only 1 talent, there’s no use to even try.”

It’s common in many congregations for Christians to be frightened into uselessness by thoughts of their own insignificance or littleness:

“If I could only preach or teach like ______________”

“If I could only lead a class like _________________”

“If I could only lead singing like _________; what great things I would do for the Lord.  BUT since I’m not talented like they are, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do.”

On the day of judgment we won’t be judged by the numbers of accomplishments, but rather by our faithfulness in using what we’ve received.

God will not judge us as to what we would have done IF we had 5 or 10 talents, but “what did you do with what you had?”

(Romans 12:1-11)  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. {2} Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. {3} For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. {4} Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, {5} so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. {6} We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. {7} If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; {8} if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. {9} Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. {10} Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. {11} Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

If a man is centered upon himself, the smallest risk is too great for him, because both success and failure can destroy him.  If he is centered upon God, then no risk is too great, because success is already guaranteed–the successful union of creator and creature, beside which everything else is meaningless.

Picture1The scarecrow that kept him from the garden of plenty – unfavorable circumstances.

The man just knew that if he lived somewhere else the market would have been better… another time…another place…difference circumstances….but since he lived where he was and when it was, the circumstances for serving his master were just all wrong.

There are some who have heard the gospel for many years…and always intend to become a Christian someday. It’s always tomorrow, some time, some where….but the circumstances are just right NOW!

The third scarecrow was mistrust of His Lord.

We hear him say that his Master is a hard man (vs. 24). It’s another way of saying “Master, you’re not fair, you’re not just.”

Some look at Christ this way. They fear the task He will set for them is too great.

The fourth scarecrow: the possibility of failure.

Failure is one thing that can be achieved without effort. Failure is not stumbling and falling.  It’s staying on the floor. Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.

He was afraid to try anything on behalf of His Master for fear of failure. The possibility of failure didn’t keep us from learning to ride a bike, roller skate, from trying golf, or tennis, or cooking, or sewing, did it?

To achieve anything worthwhile, we have to risk the possibility of making some mistakes. To be so afraid that we refuse to try at all is to have the supreme eternal failure.

Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure — it does mean you haven’t succeeded yet.

Failure doesn’t mean you have accomplished nothing — it does mean you have learned something.

Failure doesn’t mean you have been a fool — it does mean you had a lot of faith.

Failure doesn’t mean you’ve been disgraced — it does mean you were willing to try.

Failure doesn’t mean you don’t have it — it does mean you have to do something in a different way.

Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior — it does mean you are not perfect.

Failure doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your life — it does mean you have a reason to start fresh.

Failure doesn’t mean you should give up — it does mean you must try harder.

Failure doesn’t mean you’ll never make it — it does mean it will take a little longer.

Failure doesn’t mean God has abandoned you — it does mean God has a better idea!

Failure has been correctly identified as the line of least persistence, whereas success is often a question of simply sticking to the job and working and believing while you are sticking.  If a particular job is harder than you might wish, just remember you can’t sharpen a razor on a piece of velvet and you can’t sharpen a man by spoon feeding him.

Failure is never pleasant.  It certainly isn’t enjoyable to lose a job, see a relationship falter, or fail a test.  But the immediate disappointment we feel when we face defeat can be turned into the joy of success if we take the right attitude. Thomas Edison was busy working in his laboratory at 2 o’clock one morning when an assistant came into the room and noticed that the inventor was smiling broadly.  “Have you solved the problem?” he asked.  “No,” replied Edison, “that experiment didn’t work at all. Now I can start over again.”  Edison could

have such a confident attitude because he knew that the road to success is often paved with disappointments that serve to extend the road — not to block it. Each failure brought him a little closer to success.

How did the 4 scarecrows rob the man?

  1. They robbed him of usefulness. He ended up doing nothing because he was frozen by fear into total uselessness.
  2. They robbed him of the joy of service to His Master and fellowman.
  3. They robbed him of any growth through experience.
  4. They robbed him of that which he did possess.
  5. He lost his destiny.

We have scarecrows in our own lives; what is to be done about our scarecrows?

Make use of them. If a bird had good sense he would soar high and search far and wide looking for scarecrows. Seeing a scarecrow is like hearing a dinner bell, or having an invitation to a banquet. Have you ever seen scarecrows in untilled fields, or in deserts?

If a thing seems hard, or causes us fear or apprehension, that’s one indication of its desirability. Those things which cause effort, sweat, struggle, and tears also usually bring a reward worth treasuring and keeping.

But the minute we decide to do something worthwhile, that will count for something…the devil is going to throw up various scarecrows to try to frighten us away from God’s bountiful garden.

When we hear Christ speak of “taking up the cross” and “deny yourself,” the devil wants us to see these matters as frightening effigies…a way of life full of hardships, void of fun and pleasure.

In reality, one who has tried these things and understands what the Lord means by them realizes they are guideposts to real, abundant, fulfilling life!

Defy them. The scarecrow lead the blackbirds to the strawberry patch! How foolish for them not to claim them.

Ever taught a children’s class? Willing to be a helper? Greeted visitors at the door? Maybe the devil is throwing up scarecrows. The thing to do is to face up to your fears…go on in spite of them and win the victory! It takes courage to become a Christian…to help out in a class … to visit a shut-in monthly…IT TAKES NO COURAGE at all to deny Christ.

Realize scarecrows are harmless!

They can’t hurt us! They only frighten us. Fear of rejection, ridicule, criticism…these things can’t harm us unless we let them.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Sermon

 

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