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Respond: Guard the Treasure
October 7, 2007

Wesley United Methodist Church

2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14

When someone special to you says, “I love you,” do you just sit there like a bump on a log? Perhaps you remember some of the special times you’ve had together. Perhaps you rejoice in her/his love. But, is that it? Is there no response from you? Do you just sit there? The theme of our church’s stewardship campaign is REMEMBER, REJOICE, RESPOND.

When you send someone a gift, don’t you expect a response? Doesn’t it bother you when there is no response? You wonder if the gift was received. You get angry at the rudeness. And then, you wonder if they didn’t like the gift, and that is why there is no response. A woman wrote to one of the newspaper advice columnists. She had written all of her wedding thank you gifts within a week of the wedding, but discovered a year later that they were in the trunk of the car waiting to be mailed! The advice she received? Send them immediately! Even a year late is better than giving no response.

50 years ago, I wrote my marriage proposal from Japan. I was in Nagoya as a short-term missionary teacher for three years. When I wrote the letter, I was nervous. This was a big step. Worrying about the response, my proposal was quite oblique. Our three boys get such a kick out of the letter. I started with the weather! Imagine, the weather. Somewhere in the course of the letter, I finally approached the subject, and treated it like it was a done deal, already decided. Anyway, it took courage for me to write. Incidentally, we didn’t even think of telephoning between Japan and Minnesota 50 years ago!

Then, I waited for the response, anxiously chewing my fingers, rushing to pick up the mail everyday. Finally, an airmail letter arrived. I quickly tore it open. Thank God, it was a positive response, and there she sits! What if she had decided not to accept my proposal, and didn’t think it was even worth a response? I would have waited, wondering if my letter got lost in the mail, wondering if the answer was not only “No”, but not worthy of a response.

Imagine how God waits for a response from you. The theme of our stewardship drive is REMEMBER, REJOICE, RESPOND. Remember what God has done for you. Remember and rejoice. Rejoice in what God has done for you. 1 Peter 1.8, “Rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” That is what the Christian life is all about—rejoicing with an indescribable and glorious joy. Why can you rejoice? Why can you experience such joy? Because, 1 Peter 1.9, “For you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your soul.” Salvation is a relationship with Jesus that outlives death. Notice the present tense—“you are receiving”. Salvation is not just a past event; salvation is a relationship in process. Salvation is the experiencing of the presence of God every day in every way.

The Scripture lesson for today from 2 Timothy reminds us that we have received gifts from God. God gives us salvation. 1.7 states that God gives us a spirit of power, love and self-discipline; not a spirit of cowardice or inadequacy or shyness or weakness or helplessness. No! God gives us power and love. 

Remember what God has done for you. Rejoice in all that you have received with an indescribable and glorious joy. And then, what? Do you just sit there like a bump on a log? God waits for a response, wondering if you received the gifts, wondering if you use them or if they are sitting on your coffee table, wondering if you think the gifts unworthy of a response. God waits, waits, waits. RESPOND!

How do we respond? 2 Timothy 1.14, “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you.” What treasure? v. 13, “the standard of sound teaching, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the gospel, the good news of Jesus. God has entrusted to us the message of salvation. God has entrusted to us the responsibility of doing God’s work—reaching the lost, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, taking care of the earth. The earth is a treasure that God has given to us. God trusts us to manage, to take care of the earth. We only have one planet; it is all we have. If we destroy it, and there are many indications that we are in the process of doing so, then where do we go? We only have one earth.

God trusts us with the care of the gospel, the care of the earth, and God trusts each of us with wealth to underwrite and do his work. What a plan God has devised! There is so much to do, and it takes money to do it, so God gives us money to manage so that we can use it to do God’s work. God’s plan is ingenious and fair. God lets us keep 90% of all that we have, and use the other 10% to do God’s work. We have an opportunity now, through the Pony Express and our stewardship drive to make pledges to do God’s work through Wesley United Methodist Church in 2008. 90% for you, 10% for God.

The managing of the earth and the managing of your personal wealth is called stewardship, but 2 Timothy uses another word: guard. We are not only the stewards, the managers of God’s wealth, we are the guards! A guard protects, keeps out the bad guys. A guard is on the alert; when a guard lets down his guard, the predators thrive. The environment needs to be guarded. Your personal wealth needs to be guarded. The resources God has given you need to be protected, protected from scams. Bad guys have declared war on us by trying to take advantage of us. 

Your personal resources need to be protected from unwise, risky investments. My father-in-law told us to put savings into a savings account or an insured Certificate of Deposit. “Don’t take chances!” he said. He himself, however, invested in land. But, he worried about his children’s business sense!

Not only protect your personal wealth, but also guard against waste. Don’t squander the wealth God has given you. Protect it. Did you read how the infamous Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog! And, neglected at least two of her grandchildren. What a waste! “Guard the treasure!” 

Guarding and protecting, however, does not mean hoarding, keeping it all for yourself. Yes, guard the treasure, guard your wealth, keep it safe, but keep it growing. Why? So you can use it to do God’s work; use it to glorify God.

REMEMBER how God has blessed you. REJOICE in God’s gifts. RESPOND by guarding the treasure and using it to do God’s work. Saddle up! The Pony Express rides again.

© 2007 Douglas I. Norris