As the New Year approaches, I want to consider three points of stewardship that my beautiful wife, Melissa, and I are exploring that will bring peace, physical health, and prosperity to our home in the next year. 2015 is almost upon us, and if you're like the majority of Americans, you may be over-leveraged, over-budget, and overweight. Contrary to the typical doom-and-gloom that you typically hear this time of year, I would like to posit some wise words regarding the faithful keeping of the calendar, the bank account, the mindset, and the physique.
Thanks to the Word and to the mindset and thought process of some very close people to my family, we have learned to protect these areas of responsibility because of their direct effect on our marriage, our fellowship, and our friendships. To be a blessing, we must channel effectively the blessings that we have been given by the Master of the house.
A man once told his Bible class teacher, "I have no idea where to keep my car while I am on vacation"
The wise instructor said, "Well, you can keep it in my garage."
"Well that wouldn't be fair; I don't want to take up space you could use," replied the humble student.
The professor considered the matter and concluded, "To be fair, it's God's garage, so I am sure He wouldn't mind."
I heard that story From Bro. Bill Watkins on Sunday, and I am not sure I told it right, but you get the idea. The things that we have are being lent to us, to be returned to the Father upon our departure from this world: our time, our money, our bodies, our family, our minds, our souls - Everything Is His.
James 4:14: Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
You've probably heard the old Yiddish proverb, "Man plans, God Laughs." There is a reason that he is the Almighty. For, "It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10:23) and "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25). There is but one way to ensure that our expectations are returned back to Him, and that is to let His will determine your plans, praying the promises of God over your household.
Paul reminds the churches at Ephesus and Colossi that they should be "redeeming the time." There are two different immediate contexts, but to the same end. For the Ephesians, it is to expose the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph 5:11) through the light of Christ. And for the brethren at Colossi, to "walk in wisdom toward those who are outside," "that God would open to us a door for the word to speak the mystery of Christ" (Col. 4:1-6).
Eternal God and father in heaven, please grant us grace and patience for our wastefulness of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades that we have not passionately and patiently consumed and abided in your will. Please grant us a spirit of urgency that we might redeem the time that is before us to expose the unfruitful works of darkness and that we might proclaim and embody Your Light, Your Son, Your Might. Father please open our eyes to the days, which are an illusion, and enlighten us with your presence. God if it is your will, please let us dwell in you in 2015, if not eternally, ephemerally, that we might grow in you. In the name of your Son Jesus, the Christ. Amen
On to what has become the focus of the holidays and what most likely plagues the spirit the most - Things.
Luke 16:1-13 records the story of an Unfair Steward who has wasted his master's resources and, to save his behind, takes from those whose debts are not yet due in full. A Bible scholar could likely provide more historical context here, but look at verses ten and twelve: "One who is faithgul in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much...And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own."
You probably know many, many people with a lot of money and very little time or, in contrast people with an exorbitant amount of time and barely enough or nary enough money to get by. The previous example is subject to a large corporation, and the latter is subject to the welfare system. The the first is an over-leveraged millionaire; the second is the homeless man on the street. There are many differences between them, yet, they are extremely similar.
They are both enslaved to the dollar bill. They are both constantly thinking about money - how much or how little they have. So the solution is to be middle-class, right? Wrong, the solution is to be a good steward of your time and money so that it frees you to work for the glory of God, not for the dollar bill. When you go into work for His Glory, you reap His reward. When your Boss is the Creator, you take pleasure in the work of your hands because it is, in effect, His Hand working. If you're working to become more happy, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you're working happily, no one can steal your joy.
When I think upon the provisions that God has given us, I think of course of Money, of Family, of Friends, of shelter and food and talent. It's All His. It is neither wrong to have a little or a lot of things as long as you work diligently with God as your master. Luke continues in verse 13, "No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money"
Paul learned as a minister of Christ, no matter the situation, to be content, whether it was hunger or even abundance (Phil. 4:11). He writes to his son in the Faith "godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content...for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (I Tim. 6:6-8, 10).
The wise apostle wouldn't condemn a Christian for being wealthy or for wanting to provide more for His family--to the glory of God. What is it that is being condemned? "Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' (Heb. 13:8)" Money does not bring you closer to God, neither does it force you away from Him. It is a neutral idea that the government uses to symbolize worth and production. It does not determine the worth of your soul or the value of your humanity. The word "content" here conveys the idea of being at peace, rather than complacent.
Some very broke-minded people idolize money, so when you talk about wanting more for your family (speaking of more choices, more blessings, more peace), an average person may assume that you mean "I want more money." They take the opposite stance: the hatred of money. I have spoken the words "I hate money" with the impression that money caused all of the fights between my parents, my father's unhappiness at various jobs, his depression, his adultery, the divorce, etc. I was greatly mistaken. It was the attitude toward money -- perhaps even the love of it -- and the failure to surrender to God was what caused all these things.
Heed the words of the savior, "one who is dishonest in very little is dishonest in much."
Our heavenly Provider, please give us a spirit of humility and a mind for your surrender. Grant us a heart of gratefulness and appreciation and rid us of greed and desire. God we know that in your presence and your blessedness, the man of God may see wealth and riches, that his righteousness endures forever, and that he gives freely to the poor, returning the gift to the Source. Father please give us peace from on high and faithful use of our funds and our family that we might prolong the call of the gospel to those who are not yet yours. Open our hearts to your coming kingdom that we might give our all to the work of the Glory of God, in the name of your most Majestic and Priceless Son, the Messiah.
Finally, we read Romans 12 and see that this life, these bodies, these souls, are not our own but the Lord's. They'll return to him one day for reconstitution, redemption, or restitution because our lives rest solidly in His hands. With everything that is in me, I pray that in the coming year, we heed the words of the apostle that I'll include here to close this post.
Romans 12: 1-21: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.