Is Fear Determining Your Destiny?

The summer after high school graduation at Milo Adventist Academy was the first time I met Tami, my wife-to-be. Both of us worked at  Big Lake Youth Camp, a Seventh-day Adventist camp near Sisters, Oregon. Before the camp flooded with hundreds for kids, the staff celebrated the end to staff training with a banquet. Tami and I were matched as dates for the banquet by a computer-driven algorithm that analyzed our responses to a questionnaire about our personalities, likes and dislikes. If you'd seen us on our first date, the lack of positive chemistry between us would have led you to guess we didn't have a future together.

That summer, I developed an interest in another young woman. Tami had her eyes on another young man. Summer ended, and that fall I moved on to Walla Walla College to start my freshman studies. I'd had a wonderful summer as a camp counselor and looked forward to being invited to return the next summer.

As spring approached, I looked for a letter to arrive from the camp director inviting me to return to Big Lake for the coming summer. My friend Doug received a letter. Others I knew from the camp staff received a letter. I checked my mailbox daily--nothing.

I phoned Gary, the camp director. I asked him why I hadn't received a letter inviting me to return to camp. His response disappointed and discouraged me. He said I wasn't energetic or enthusiastic enough.

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is the second of 3 parables in which Jesus warns of a coming judgment and our need for the Holy Spirit to prepare us for our place in HIs Kingdom. In this story one of the main characters receives very disappointing and discouraging news.

Jesus tells of a manager who gives his goods to his servants before leaving on a long journey. He gives his goods in the form of currency called talents.  Each servant is given an amount based on what the manager knows they can manage. One servant receives 5 talents, one receives 2 talents, and another receives 1 talent.

When the manager returns from his journey, he calls the servants in to account for how they have managed his goods. Like the boy who gave 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus to feed thousands, the servants who received 5 and 2 talents traded these and doubled the money entrusted to their care. Their master commends and rewards them for their good stewardship and gives them greater responsibilities. The servant who received 1 talent confesses he was afraid the master would expect more than what the servant could achieve. This servant had buried the master's talent, and returned it to him.

The master judges the unprofitable servant, calling him "wicked and lazy." The master sends him into the "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus teaches in this parable that the spiritual gifts He bestows on us are to be used in ways that increase their worth. "The special gifts of the Spirit are not the only talents represented in the parable. It includes all gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. All are to be employed in Christ's service. In becoming His disciples, we surrender ourselves to Him with all that we are and have. These gifts He returns to us purified and ennobled, to be used for His glory in blessing our fellow men." (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, 328.2)

Too often, rather than use the gifts and abilities Jesus gives them for His mission, people hide these blessings in fear. Sometimes they fear disappointing God. Sometimes they fear disappointing others. Sometimes they fear not meeting their own expectations. Jesus doesn't allow for any of these excuses in His parable.

Jesus says, the choice to return to Him unimproved talents is to choose a dark destiny. No matter how simple the gift, Jesus expects us to use it in His mission, and to increase it's value.

"By faithfulness in little duties, we are to work on the plan of addition, and God will work for us on the plan of multiplication. These littles will become the most precious influences in His work." (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, 360.1)

This isn't salvation by works. When we receive salvation in Jesus, the Holy Spirit works in us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure," (Philippians 2:13).  "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them," (Ephesians 2:10 NKJV)

When Camp Director Gary told me his reasons for not inviting me back to the Big Lake staff, for a few days I felt sorry for myself. My friend Doug encouraged me to consider an appeal. "Tell Gary you'll work on being more energetic and enthusiastic," he said.

I'm introverted. I don't naturally express energy and enthusiasm. I had a choice to make: Develop traits that don't come natural to me, or look for work better suited to my natural traits. I chose to present my appeal to Gary, and in a remarkable act of mercy, he invited me to return to Big Lake as a camp counselor.

That summer, with Divine assistance, I expressed energy and enthusiasm. I repeatedly chose to step outside of my natural comfort zone. Gary noticed my efforts and rewarded me the next summer by promoting me to director overseeing the boys counselors. A few summers later he promoted me again to oversee all the camp's activities. By the time my camp career ended 7 summers later, I was serving as an assistant camp director, and was newly married to Tami.

Don't let fear motivate you to sell yourself short. Jesus warns of a terrible ending for people who choose that path. Jesus gives each of us a measure of faith that equips us with power to accomplish what human reason considers impossible.

"As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings. " (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, 333.1)

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