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My name is Chris Paavola. Good morning.

Response: Good morning.

Good to be with you guys. I’m the senior pastor here at St. Mark, and I hope you know that we believe that it is not a mistake that you are here, that you are here teeming and bursting with purpose. You’re not like the random result of a bunch of atoms colliding together, that you are made by an intelligent designer, made by a maker, created by a creator, and you are full of purpose. And it’s not just my opinion, actually. That’s what we see when we read the pages of scripture. I saw this translation of Jeremiah one, verse five, in the message translation. Take a look, and I mean this is kind of confirming what I was just saying. The prophet Jeremiah writes in chapter one, verse five, he says, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.”

And it’s this idea that before you were even conceived, that God thought of you, designed you, and had you in mind and had plans for you. In architecture, they talk about form follows function. You need a place where people can cook food, so you build a room called a kitchen that is a place for people to cook food. Or you have a place where you want people to watch TV. You build a living room. Form follows function.

In the same way, God looked at the world he had made. God looked at all the plans that he had, and he’s looking at this niche, this need, this space where he needed somebody and he fashioned you for that purpose. Wow! That brings so much hope. It brings so much joy and I hope that you feel that this morning when you’re with us. But just this idea that God would shape you specifically for a very specific purpose.

And that’s what we’ve been talking about in this series called SHAPE, where we’ve actually made it into an acronym. But look, we’ve been looking at all the things that make you you, that make you distinct. So your Spiritual gifts, your Heart, your Abilities, your Personality and your Experience. There’s no two snowflakes apart. And when all of those things about you are taken together, nobody has the unique disposition and makeup that you do.

And early on in the series, we talked about spiritual gifts. To kind of refresh your memory or bring up to speed, we believe in baptism when God calls you as child or when you just believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, that the Holy Spirit is moving in and he brings with him gifts and he gives you gifts.

And every one of you have some type of gifting, and this is like either you didn’t have this before, but now you have this gift. Or this idea that there was a gift in place and he’s elevated it, redeemed it for his purposes. And so these are soft skills. So things like gift of healing, or gift of discernment, the gift of teaching. That’s the spiritual gifting, and you have one of those.

And then last week we talked about heart. And a lot of times when we think about heart, it’s like the things I love and the people I love, and that’s true. But we talked about how your passion, that actually that word in Latin means to suffer. That’s why it’s called the passion of the Christ. And so when you’re passionate about something, you hurt for it. You’re willing to suffer for it.

And so we went through a list of questions. You can listen to the podcast if you missed it or whatever, to kind of what do I hurt for? What does my heartbreak about? And to ask you, okay, what is the thing that you are, your discontent, the thing that keeps you up at night, your holy discontent? What is it for you? What does your heartbreak about? What people group or issue? What cause makes your heart weep? And so that’s your heart.

And then this week is kind of the flip side as we talk about your abilities, the thing that you do so well, your talent, the thing that you do quickly, what everyone else does slowly, the thing that you do easily, what everyone has to struggle with, the thing that you do well, what everyone else looks like a Pinterest fail. You all know what a Pinterest fail is? Okay. Wives tell your husbands what a Pinterest fail is later. But it’s just the thing that you can’t quite do other people look at you and you just, man, it just flows out of you.

And it’s like it’s this God-given talent because it is a God-given talent. You didn’t have that in yourself. We believe that God gave you that talent to be able to do that thing. Now, anytime we talk about abilities, or as we talk about abilities, we need to kind of frame this and just remind ourselves that there’s more at stake than I think we realize when it comes to your abilities, when it comes to what you can do and can’t do. And you really see this well in a teaching of Jesus.

He tells this story in a biography written by a first century follower named Matthew. And in this account Jesus is telling a story, kind of a parable metaphor thing to a small group of people. And he’s talking about what God has given to us, what he’s entrusted to us. It’s called the Parable of the Talents. And in this story, there’s a really, really wealthy guy and he’s about to go away on a business trip, on a long journey. And so he calls three servants to him and he them each with a little bit of his wealth.

And we read about it in Matthew 25, verse 15. He says to one servant the master gave five bags of gold. And that word five bags, actually the word is talents. And it’s kind of interesting, coincidental, but the word talent means a unit, a measurement of money. And so a talent is about 20 years worth of wages. So that’s about $2 million in today’s terms, 20 years of wages. And this guy, the first guy, he gave five talents, or five times two, 10. Math’s not one of my abilities. Okay? Ask Mark, he’ll tell you. I do my best.

But anyway, so he gives five talents or about $10 million to him. And then another guy, he gives two talents, which is about $4 million. And then to another one, he gave $2 million, one bag. Each according to his ability. And again, it’s coincidental that the word talents means money because again, this is for anything that God has entrusted to us, including our talents or abilities. So he’s entrusted to you. Okay, there you go.

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

And then he went off on his journey and the story continues then that after a long time the master returns and the servants come up to him one by one with a return on what they’ve done with this money that he entrusted to them. And the first guy comes up and he’s like, “Hey, I took your five talents, master, and I doubled it. Here’s 10 talents.” And the master looks at him and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Well done. And then he goes on, “You’ve been faithful with little, I will make you faithful with much. Come now into your master’s inheritance.”

And then the next servant comes up to him, the one with two and he’s like, “Master, look, I took the two and I doubled it. Here’s four talents.” And the master looks at him and says the same thing, “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.” And then the servant with one talent comes up to him with one talent and he says, “Master, I know you’re a hard man reaping where you did not sow. And so I took what you gave me and I buried it in a field. I hid it, I kept it safe. Here it’s back. I kept it safe. Here’s what you gave me the exact same amount.”

And in this story, when Jesus tells this, he doesn’t mince any words. He looks at this servant and he says, “You wicked,” like evil. “You wicked and lazy servant. You knew I was a hard man. Why didn’t you at least put the money in a bank where it could collect a little bit of interest? I didn’t give it to you to keep it safe. I gave it to you to manage it.” And then Jesus says, “This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.”

And you read this parable and the point is so obviously pressed on us that God entrusts to you what God gives to you. He wants a return on his investment. He wants some kind of compounding interest. He wants it to be used for the good, the growth, and the glory of his kingdom. Expand this. Don’t just maintain this. Stasis is death. Take what you have, and flourish and grow. This is why I gave it to you. And taking what you have and burying it and hiding it and just using it for yourself and just, “Well, here it is. Thanks for letting me use this.” He calls that servant wicked and lazy.

And so you read this and you hear this story and you start to realize whatever God has entrusted to you, including your abilities, including the things that you do so well, the thing that God has entrusted to you, it’s a question of stewardship. Being a good caretaker means increasing the master’s profit, bringing a return on the investment. It’s a question of stewardship. And so as we talk about abilities today, what I want to do this morning is just give you a few questions of stewardship that you can ask so that you hear, “Well done, well done, good and faithful servant.”

So you can grab your message notes on the back of your bulletin and write these down. We’re just going to give you a few questions of stewardship that you can be asking about the abilities and gifts that you have as you think about your abilities and being a good steward thereof. And there’s kind of three categories I’ll give to each of these questions. But the first one is questions of examination. Questions that help you examine things. What do I love to do? What can I do well? Or where should I work hard? And I’ll kind of go in order, but what do I love to do? What do I enjoy? If it’s dancing, dance. If it’s gardening, garden. If it’s teaching, teach, if it’s quilting, quilt.

What do you love to do? Then do that thing. I talked about this last week, but when God makes you and he’s got these plans for you, he’s like, “I’m going to give him an extra measure of enjoyment for that thing that I want him to do.” That’s how he would work. And so what do you love? What makes you come alive? What makes time fly where you’re just like, you look up and it’s been three hours because you’re having so much fun doing it? Okay? What do you love to do?

And then the next question is what do you do? Well, like I said earlier, what’s the thing that you do quickly, easily, and perfectly? What other people just do slowly inefficiently and imperfectly? What’s that thing for you? And then the third question I think is kind of an interesting one. I could take more time to talk about this, but I won’t. It’s where should I work hard? There’s this idea of maximize your strengths. So don’t try to take a three on your skill level and make it to a four. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze. You’re not really getting a return on the investment.

It’s better to take your eight and your nine, the thing that you’re, and maximize it, grow in it. Put in the hours for it. Pablo Picasso didn’t start out, he had this natural inclination, but he was an eight or nine, but he became Picasso when he put in the 10,000 hours to become an expert at his craft. I have a buddy who’s a great singer, amazing singer, absolutely amazing, and he kind of rose. He could take any musical piece and just sing it instantly the way it was supposed to be done, nailing every note, had near perfect pitch. It was unbelievable. It was a fun party trick to play a note and have him say what note it was. It was awesome. He grew through the ranks, but everything came easily for him. And he grew in the music industry and he eventually got to a level in the music industry where everybody around him had that same talent level, but they had something he didn’t have.

Work ethic and hard work, because they had to struggle and fight to get there, and everything came so easily to him. So once he encountered resistance or difficulty with musical pieces, he couldn’t keep on growing. He didn’t have that work ethic. So I mean, that’s being a good steward my friends. It’s that ability God has given to you. Well, put in the hours for it, develop it, nurture it, maximize it. So those are questions that help you examine your giftedness, what it is you do. Okay?

And then there’s a set of questions that it’s just kind of taking inventory of yourself. Then there’s a set of questions to help you explore. Moving beyond just examining questions to help you explore what other possibilities are out there. And these are two questions that you can ask. What needs can I meet? And what am I interested in?

So first one, what needs can I meet? Sometimes I think when it comes to our abilities, we are like, “Oh, hey, what’s that special unique thing that makes me distinct?” But even if you share an ability with other people, it doesn’t mean that’s not an ability God can’t use. People who are disabled would look at you and say you’re privileged. You are wildly gifted with a specific skillset. And they would say you have the ability to do something that I cannot do. You are gifted for that thing. Or any kind of thing that you have. Let’s say you’re blessed with a car, you are privileged with a car, you have the ability to drive to church. You could pick up somebody and drive them here. Somebody who relies on public transportation, and we don’t have a very good Uber system here in Battle Creek at all. I tried to get an Uber to the car shop and it kept on spinning and circling they couldn’t find anyone in the area. And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, this is not a thing around here.” Okay.

But you have an ability to do something that’s very meaningful, very simple, but you’re willing to do it. Bill Parcells, the NFL coach from back in the day, he famously said that sometimes the best ability is availability. You’re just willing to do and able to do something that other people aren’t. You’re able to do that thing. And it doesn’t have to be these grandiose, “Hey, I’m up on a stage doing this special skill.” It might be just picking up trash. It might be making a meal. It might be serving on a team that is behind the scenes. But you’re just able and willing to do that thing.

And then the next question to explore is what am I interested in? What kind of makes me go, “Huh? There’s something there I like and I want to learn more about that.” I haven’t said this yet, so let me just make sure I say this. You don’t retire. You’re never out of the game. You know when you’re done is when God calls you home. But if you can fog a mirror, you have abilities that God can use and God wants you to flourish and develop. This is why nursing homes still offer classes and lessons and workshops for its residents, because they know this is a part of being of a human. It’s developing and flourishing, and you are not out of the game yet.

If you’re here, if you hear the sound of my voice, you’re not out of the game yet. Stay thirsty my friends. Stay hungry. Stay passionate. Always be alert. Buy the book for dummies, that thing that you’re curious about. Enroll in that class at Kellogg’s of that thing that interests you. Buy the dance shoes, buy the curling stick. Yes is the answer, especially if you’re younger. I’m looking at some of these younger folks in our room today. If you’re at a young age, this is the time of your life.

When I was in college, man, I traveled the world because I knew. I can’t even travel to dinner without getting four babysitters now. But when you’re single and young, it’s the time of your life to explore and be on a wild goose chase for who God might have made you to be. So what do you love? What are you interested in? What are you curious about? Yes is the answer. Do that thing. When I was a young kid, I loved Kung Fu, loved Kung Fu, and the old Kung Fu movies with the bad sound effects and then the voiceover dubs like, “Hey, you want to fight?” You know what I’m talking about, right? Yeah. All right. And I remember I would sit and crisscross in front of the TV in the living room and just watch these shows in the afternoon television.

And my mom told my grandma, “Hey, Chris is way into karate right now, so that’d be a gift that you can get him sometime.” And so for Christmas 1986, my grandma made us karate pajamas. You got a picture here, okay? I’m on the left there. And I think we knocked my other cousin Ben down, so I think he’s about to cry. I’m not sure. And then what else did we get? We got Legos that Christmas, little boxes of Legos or whatever. And instead of building the spaceship, we made Chinese stars out of the Legos and we’d throw them and they’d explode. I’m giving some ideas to some kids right now. I’m sorry.

Anyway, we put those on and they’re black belts. We were instantly like Bruce Lee. We were instantly these kids loving this and having, and so my mom was like, “Well, we should try karate lessons, Chris.” I was like, “Sure, let’s do karate.” And so later on she enrolls me in karate lessons and I went to the class and the teacher was mean, and the other kids didn’t want to pretend fight. They wanted to really punch me. And there was discipline involved. We weren’t just flipping around and kicking and having fun. There was a way to do things, and I was being told the way I was doing it was wrong. And I’m like, “This is not what I signed up for.” And so after two or three lessons, I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” So I started faking stomach aches.

I’d get these phantom stomach aches and I’d be like, “Mom, I don’t know. I don’t feel very well today.” So one time we were driving to karate lessons and like the Phantom I’m acting. I’m like, “Oh mom, I don’t know.” And she’s like, “You know, Chris, it’s okay if you don’t like karate, we could try something else.” I was like, “Oh!” And I remember just being a young kid, having this epiphany that it’s okay, you’re just trying something out. You don’t like it, you don’t like it. You go try something else.

And I think for our kids today, okay, I understand the sentiment of you can be anything. But you can’t be anything. Have you watched American Idol? There are some people out there who need someone who loves them enough to tell them they can’t sing, and they got on American Idol because they didn’t have someone in their life. That’s so tragic. I’m never going to be a Hall of Fame NBA player. I’ve got a six-inch vertical. It is not going to happen. I can’t be anything. I can’t be a karate master or whatever. And it’s okay. It’s just about having that hunger to try new things and never lose that, my friends. Never lose that because being a good steward with what God has given you. Do you get that? Does that make sense? Y’all say, “Amen.”


Okay, if you get. All right. So those are questions to help you examine, take an inventory of what you are, explore kind of looking around what might I be? And then also then we need a third question because it’s not enough. Being a good steward of what God has entrusted to us requires a question about exalting. How can I glorify God with my abilities? And you, that’s where the rubber meets the road. Honestly. It’s like taking that and going, “Okay, how can I point to God with this?”

And we talked about this a lot in week one, but throughout scripture we see that there’s a Westminster Catechism. It talks about the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And it’s true. If God has made you for this thing, he’s glorified you when you do that thing. And there’s tons of scripture that talk about this. Here’s three of them for example. Isaiah 43 verse seven: “Bring me all the people who are mine, who I made for my glory.” It’s for him. It’s not about you. And yeah, it’s okay to use your gifts and your abilities and have fun and enjoy them, but ultimately it’s not about you. It’s for his glory. Those I formed and created, those I shaped.

Or we see it in Paul. In Colossians 3:23, he says, “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.” Do it for the Lord, not for the praise of other people. Ultimately, the reason you’re doing it is for God. Or, “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” So usually a sacrifice is something that you kill it and it’s done and you’ve offered it. It’s over. You’ve released it from your hands. But this is an idea of a living sacrifice in perpetuity. Keep doing that thing because when you do, you are praising God. This is holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship.

And we talked about this in week one, but it bears repeating. How do the stars shining praise God?

By doing what God made him to do.

Oh my goodness.  Y’all, give him a hand listening, leaning in. By doing what God made him to do. That’s from three weeks ago, man, you get extra stars. Goodness.

That’s how the stars, that’s how birds, that’s how the waves praise God. Because they’re doing what they were designed by God to do. And the same is true with you. You worship God when you do what you were designed to do. So do it. You worship God when you do what you were designed to do. So now the question becomes only limited by your creativity. How can you take your abilities and leverage them and launch them and use them for the good, the growth and the glory of God’s kingdom? What does that look like?

Maybe if you like cooking, make food for the hungry. If you like quilting, make blankets for those without homes. If you like teaching, teach in Sunday school. If you like videography or tech work and stuff, go volunteer at the tech team. How can you glorify God with that abilities? Because you worship God when you do what you were designed to do. And this might be in service to others. This might be in service in the church. It might be just as simple as you giving praise and honor to God when you have a platform because of that ability. A quintessential example of this is football players. Like today, after the Lions win and when Jared Goff gives praise to God. I’m totally playing to the crowd right now. I’m totally. That was cheap.

This idea, Tim Tebow did it. Quinn Ewers does it. CJ Stroud does it. When they win, they say, first of all, I just want to give praise to Jesus for giving me this gift. And you could do that too. You might not have a camera pointed at you and a microphone, but you can praise God when others compliment you for their gift, and you can direct their attention to an intelligent designer who designed you for that purpose. Amen. And when you do, you worship God. So there you go. There’s the three sets of questions, questions to help you examine your abilities, explore new abilities and exalt God with your abilities. And when you answer those questions and you ask those questions in totality, I think you are being a good steward. And then when you act on it, you’ll hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And this is why in this series, we are ending every week by offering this chance for you to fill out a SHAPE profile. There’s a QR code. If you’re watching online, you can just grab your smartphone and scan that QR code or go to Or you guys who are in the room, you can do the same. Or you can grab one of the hard copies that are at the physical hub out there in our lobby. Just take a few moments and fill it out. Because honestly, if we don’t know that you have that gift, it’s the equivalent of that gift being buried, that talents being hidden away.

And I don’t want you to bury your gifts. And when we have an opportunity to coming up, whether it’s to serve in children’s ministry, or we need new videographers, or we need new people on the finance team, or new singers, or whatever, what we’re going to do is enter a search term in our database and it’s going to pull up the people who have told us, “This is how I’m gifted, this is what I love doing, this is what I care about.” And then those are the same people that we’ll reach out to and you will, lo and behold, honor God and glorify God with your abilities. That’s what I want for you. I want for you to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Now, before I wrap up, I could be done. I could be. I just want to give you a reminder that this is not a salvation issue. This is not an issue that if you don’t do this, you’re not going to heaven. Okay? This is not a salvation issue, but this is a stewardship question. This is an issue of finding pleasure in God, honestly. And so it’s not like if you don’t serve, you don’t get into heaven. And it’s not like if you do serve, you somehow need less grace than the people sitting around you. Okay? In fact, scripture when we talk about abilities eventually says we’re all unable.

Romans five: “We were unable to save ourselves, so Christ came to do for us what we could not do.” Lived the perfect life, died a perfect death and rose from the grave, because he is able where we are unable. And that’s what we celebrate in this meal that we’re about to celebrate. We do this often where we’re going to receive what Christ did for us that we were unable to do for ourselves. And before we receive this meal, one of the customs or practices in the church that I think is important is to take and confess how we’ve fallen short, what we were unable to do. And as I talk about this, I think it’s kind of like we start thinking about the ways we haven’t been good stewards with our gifts. And so before we receive this meal, and to end our time together, I’d like to take a few moments for a confession, and then we’re going to get into what’s a written-down prayer, and we’re going to recite that prayer together.

Sometimes when you don’t know what to say, letting the words of others give you the words to say is helpful. And so let’s take a time of confession for just a moment. And I want to remind you from God’s word that it tells us that if we say we have no sin, next slide please, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. We say together. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let’s take a few moments of silent reflection on the ways that we have fallen short.

And since we’ve all fallen short, every one of us, we all join our voices together and pray: Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature, sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment. But for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name. Amen. Upon this, your confession, I as a called and ordained servant of the word, as your pastor, announce the grace of God to you. And I forgive you all of your sins. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.