In a continuing study of our accountability before God, especially in spiritual leadership and development, today we come to 1 Corinthians 4. How can we praise God through stewardship? What is the nature of our stewardship? These dimensions are unknown, unstudied, untaught, often unthought. Our text says, "It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Perhaps the greatest thought on earth is my personal accountability to God. Increasing my accountability to others increases my accountability to God.
For some, the concept of the steward or stewardship is bothersome. "Not another sermon on giving!" This is not a sermon on giving, although it includes that. A steward is one in charge, trustee, one given a trust. In our modern world, the parallels may be the business manager, accountant, CPA, financial consultant, or business agent. Another is given total charge of one's house, to sell, invest, exchange. This person is a confidant, to give advice. This kind of relationship is recognized as a sacred trust. All of us have a trust from God. This trust is a demonstration and reminder of our individual personal accounttability to God.
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Spring is coming, the promise of renewal and resurrection, some will get spring break and time away, Easter, the silver Sundays of church work, visitors, please welcome them. A recent visitor commented on how large our building is, it is overwhelming, catacombic, labyrinthine. Please make certain you help us welcome visitors. Walk in their shoes.
Our mission work is exciting. Excellent Bible studies organized by our education ministry, emphasis on marriages, families, retreats. Opportunities for counseling--a world of confusion, mixed up people, an important part of counseling is that we learn to listen. Listen, Pray, praise.
We are already hearing about an exciting summer--missions trips, work camp. We are thinking about worship. Our 50th anniversary is coming. This is a different church than when it was established, ours a different community. What does that mean? How have we changed? We do we need to do? We have begun to think about several monthly focus areas. I would like to designate some month "Praise Month." Consider Psalms 119:164. David was a man of God. Imitate him and his heart for God. I am intrigued by his praise life.
Focusing Our Text
How would you outline 1 Corinthians? What is its focus? What is its message? A usual response might be "church problems." One outline points out areas of misunderstanding. The Corinthians misunderstood the gospel, the role of ministers, the nature of leadership, the ministry, and even themselves. This is the context of our text. What do we understand, what should we understand?
Our text says we have a sacred trust from God. The text urges faithfulness. Is this solely for apostles? Ministers? Church leaders? Is this not true of all? We have a trust from God. We are stewards. What does that mean? Consider several areas touched by our text.
I. This trust touches ME.
This trust touches you, us. We do not usually put this first in thinking about stewardship. When men get together on retreat, one may ask about stewardship. How do men respond? Our answer is that we work hard, earn a salary, pay our debt, protect our good name. We may point to our bank account, we provide for our family. We tend to think of stewardship in terms of dollars and cents. But that is not the prime responsibility of stewardship.
In Acts chapters two and four, we see the early church, it is growing, baptisms every day, 3000-5000-multiplying. Why? Not because of meeting a budget, not because of the church building, not because of anything external. The main trust we all have before God is in relationships. We are stewards. Fathers, husbands, we have a family. We are entrusted with relationships. This is for all. This is not just church leaders. Can we get along? In our marriages, our families, the church? The church in this time will grow again if we understand the need to restore the spirit of relationships, the need to restore "all things in common." These gave according to need. They were glad eating with generous hearts. The bottom line is in accountability to God, and we are accountable for how we relate to others. This is our trust. We are stewards of things, of people, even of our community. We must do better for people, better for one another, better for family.
A basic dimension of this trust is relationships. The church is family, we are responsible for one another, we belong to one another (Rom. 12:5). The early church loved one another. The church is more than a business, not a hierarchy, not accomplishment. the bottom line is can we get along with one another, love another, miss one another?
"Relationships are more important than productivity." Producing is not the measure of church. Stewardship is where we have not looked for it. Church is family, Eph. 3:16ff. We are stewards of the gospel. Acts 2:47 boils it down. We will see daily baptisms when members praise God and get along with one another. Trust #1--relationships. Family, church, friends, people.
II. This trust measures MOTIVES.
We must understand the "mustness" of Christianity, of our trust. Religious persecution has historically led the church to faithfulness. I fear the modern church is not very faithful. We use the church in American to be hatched, matched, and dispatched. American Christianity has been described as "spoiled brats religion." We want to do what we like when we want to do it. We seek the convenient. We ought to be larger and more active, but it is easier to play church. We must be serious. We are stewards of the mystery of the gospel. We better learn faithful movies of this mission and mystery.
III. Our is a trust of MINISTRY.
We have ministries, 1 Pet. 4:10-11. Gifts are for the common good. Be honest. Do not use a verse only when want to use it. Here are spiritual gifts, but these are more than charismatic, Pentecostal. Every person receives a gift (not talent, blessing), this is from God, not from us. This is different than talents, not simply innate. These are a trust, stewardship. Every person here today has enabled by God to do something, something only you can do. We may sing and pray, but God expects it of us. Don't do what you can't do. Do what you can do, what God enables, what God gives opportunity to do. Entrusted with minsitry, so minister and erve--as of the ability God gives, so God is glorified through you and through his Son, Jesus Christ. Must find your gift and use it because God gave it to you. Teach, lead, serve, minister. Recognize it, use it. There are some great people in this church, just ordinary persons, not superstars, but spiritual people used by God. And yet amidst talents and gifts, some are not hooked up. Some with gifts are not given job assignments. As a modern author has said, the church is a giant wasteland. If we would hook up, use gifts, find ministry, give assignments, get all involved--what would happen? What an impact! If we could all use God-given gifts, what a difference it would make. This trust is in responsiblity for ME, MISSIONS, MYSTERY, MOTIVES, MINISTRY. This alters relationships, faithfulness, and using what God give us so that we may serve.
IV. This trust involves MONEY.
I have to say this but I will not dwell here. Let us do church right! We are selfish, indulgent, do not know how to say no, interested in latest doodads, gimmicks, gadgets, gizmos. Giving is the only answer to greed. I am greedy and selfish, and the only way to solve that is to give, give, give.
V. This trust involves our development of the MIND of Christ.
If the greatest thought on earth is our personal acctability to God, the greatest power is the mind of Christ within us.
Two books reveal us, two books God has at judgment, two criteria for evaluating my life: my calendar and my checkbook. Is there Bible for this? As we consider deeds done and works, these are functions of time and money. All you have is time and possessions. God has my life opened, 1948 to 20__?. My calendar, my checkstubs. Show me where you put time and spend money, I will show you where you investing for eternity.
Stewardship of time and money is the trust made easy by the MIND of Christ.
We ought to praise God in the trust he gives us. It all boils down to an essential fact of stewardship: stewards must be faithful to the trust received.
Today among us are those who need to be baptized, to show the beauty and wonder of one in Christ. We are stewards of the manifold mysteries of God. Others need to come home? Others may wish to share faith today in this family of God? God gives a trust, he seeks faithful stewards. It affects me, my motives, my mission, my ministry, the mysteries of God entrusted, my money, my mind.
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