Keys to Stewardship Living #1
Forward in Faith #40
We all know what a combination lock is. You turn it right to a certain number, left passed that number to the next number, and then right again straight to the final number and a tug and the lock opens, releasing all the valuables hidden behind the lock.
We have been talking about faith for the last year in the book of Hebrews. Apart from our salvation, the act of being who we were created to be takes nearly as great an exercise of faith.
What were we created to be? We were created to be stewards, that is to care for the things of God. Adam and Eve were created and placed in the Garden of Eden to tend to the Garden.
Why do we rise up to defend children when parents don’t take care of them? It is because we believe we have a God-given duty to care for the children we have been given. Paul said that in our jobs, though we have earthly employers, we are to work for them, as if we were working for God. in our jobs we are caring for the things of God.
Everything we have is from God, is through God, and is to God. That is because it is all his and we are caretakers.
We are stewards of time, things, resources, talents, and that belongs to God.
A steward is one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns. And so, stewardship is the office, duties, and obligations of a steward, the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.
If being a steward of the things of God is what we were created for, then we need to study it. Not only were we created for it, but a study of what scripture says about eternity shows us that we will serve him joyfully for eternity. So, we erally need to understand stewardship since we have that job for eternity.
We need to carefully and responsibly manage the things with which we have been entrusted.
You have been entrusted with life and we must be careful and responsible.
You have been entrusted with perhaps children or grandchildren or other charges.
You have been entrusted with intelligence
You have been entrusted with a job
You have been entrusted with financial resources or wealth
Oops, now I am treading on dangerous ground J . One of the #1 complaints that people have with church is, “all they talk about is money”. Well, we only talk about what the Word of God teaches. Could it be that our finances are evidence of where our heart is? Could it be that they reflect our relationship with the Lord?
Our finances give a strong indication as to who or what we believeis in charge and to whom all we have belongs.
So, if we are going to live a life of Stewardship Living, if we are going to experience the blessings of faithful stewardship, then we have to turn the lock, we have to find the correct tumblers.
What is a tumbler, it is “A pivoted piece in a lock that holds the bold until lifted by a key”
We are going to look this month at 3 tumblers, 3 pivotal pieces, 3 numbers in the combination for unlocking a life of Stewardship Living.
These are not the ONLY aspects of living as faithful stewards, but these 3 release us into a life that God has for us.
Let me say something else … very gently …
It is something that could cause some to not want to hear the rest of my message. It could cause some to not want to come to the other two messages in this series. Perhaps you would even want to go somewhere else. Listen to me please. I very much understand that finances are tight for you and are they are very tight for us here at New Life. That however is NOT why I’m preaching this series. Finances are tight in many churches, but not because the economy is bad, but because we either don’t understand the biblical commands, we don’t follow the commands, OR for other reasons we have wandered from it.
So, I’m asking you to stay with me and prayerfully work through these 3 tumblers. I asked the Lord, what are the things that keep us from being good financial stewards and he led me in this direction.
So let’s start turning the Lock, turning toward the Lord. And the first tumbler is CONTENTMENT. That brings us back to Hebrews 13. Read with me and look for this first tumbler.
READ Hebrews 13:5-6
After being shipwrecked and coming to faith in Christ … Robinson Crusoe said
I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.
Does it just mean we live apathetic lives? NO! Do we live without ambition without aggressively striving toward goals? Do we not try to be more and have more? NO.
But, let me ask you a question.
How different would my life be if, while I strive as best I can for the goals before me, yet, I believe that God has allowed into my life what I have or what I don’t have. So, I have to stop blaming everyone and become grateful and satisfied with what the Lord has given me and then learn to be faithful and even generous with my allotment from the Lord.
THAT … is contentment. So, how do we live contented lives? 4 things that were in our text, FIRST …
Remember we said last week that sometimes we worship or have affection for “insufficient things and they become objects of worship for us.
Now, contrary to what some think, money is NOT the root of all evil. Money is the economy of the world it is necessary for living in the world. But the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10 “the LOVE of money is A root of all kinds of evil.” It goes on to say “… “some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
There is nothing wrong with money. We need it. We use it. But we can’t allow it to take an improper place in our lives. We can’t allow it to breed fear in us. We can’t allow it to drive us to blind ambition or jealousy.
We are told “don’t have a love for money”. This is not just a concept. It says “keep your lives” – that means to make the manner of your living, your lifestyle …
“free from the love of money” – it is a compound word. It takes the word for “love of money” and puts the letter “a” in front of it. Like something “typical” because NOT typical when you put the “a” in front of it and it’s “atypical”. Something “moral” becomes absent of morals when it is “amoral”; without morals.
So, the Greek word, philargyria - fil-ar-goo-ree-roo- love of money; avarice, covetousness
With the “a” in front becomes aphilargyros -af-il-ar-goo-ros- not loving money, not avaricious, not covetous
Can we break down this 1st step to contentment?
It means to rid ourselves of avarice … what is that? Avarice is “extreme greed for wealth, or material gain"
And we have to rid ourselves of covetousness – which is "a desire for something that someone else has"
To be content we have to recognize greed within or a dissatisfaction with what we have and an envy to have what someone else has.
Is this important to God? Well, in 1 Timothy 3:3 pastors must have the character that is not a lover of money. It’s the same word and Deacons are told to not be greedy, a synonym word. Why is this important for deacons and pastors? It is because we are leaders who are to lead people who should follow in the same way.
So, if I am to be free from greed for more money and free from wanting what someone else has, just for the sake of having it, it is because I am supposed to lead you there too and then the 2nd step in this is
Puritan Preacher Jeremiah Burroughs said
/What a foolish thing is this, that because I have not got what I want, I will not enjoy the comfort of what I have! There is a great deal of folly in a discontented heart.—"
Our writer tells us to “BE CONTENT with what you have”
There is certainly nothing wrong with striving for something better within the will and plan of God, but we must, at the same time, understand satisfaction with what we have.
“Be Content” – arkeo - ar-keh-o- to be possessed of unfailing strength, to be enough, to be satisfied
Contented living is satisfaction literally means “be contented with the things at hand” or “being contented with the things at present”
Fanny Crosby wrote some of the greatest old hymns ever written. She was blinded at 6 weeks of age by a doctor that put what he thought were eye drops in her eye and instead took her sight. She learned early the secret. At EIGHT years of age she wrote
Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
Satisfaction comes from that RESOLVE to be contented
Satisfaction with what we have is being “full” – When you are “full” you aren’t tempted to want something else and tempted to endulge
Contented Living would shut down most divorce proceedings. It would close down the casinos and bankrupt the lottery.
Most importantly, Contented Living would enable the people of God to be free to be obedient in the financial aspects of faith and churches would have greater Kingdom resources to do what God has called them to do.
Are you living contentedly?
Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain”
There is often a problem in the church as churches are often full of godly people, that is “devoutness, piety” but they haven’t understood contentment
Autarkeia -ow-tar-ki-ah- 1)a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed 2)sufficiency with the necessities of life
It is having a greater desire to be like God than to be like our neighbor. It is a desire for God’s Character more than my friend’s car.
Paul also tells us that we can be content and that keeps us from falling into temptation
If there is anything that this financial downturn should do for us is to teach us to learn to do without things in order to be obedient to God and content with godliness
Can we sit down as families or individuals this month and ask, “what is something we can do without?” Or, “what do we need that we can get another way?” “Is there something we can do without and instead present those resources to God as an offering or act of obedient faith.
Contented Living starts somewhere. It doesn’t just happen by accident and for most of us it doesn’t come naturally but it can be LEARNED
Phil. 4:11b-13 - for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength
He said he had LEARNED to be content. Can I say that he didn’t learn this the EASY or pleasant want. When we look at Paul’s life it is evident that he was on the FAST TRACK to getting ahead in his chosen field as a Pharisee. He was a man of influence and of wealth. But when he received Christ and chose to follow God’s plan for his life, things God tough. He gave up the life of privilege and wealth. He knew persecution instead of praise and so in that he LEARNED to be content in any circumstance
“learned” – manthano – to learn, to be informed, learn by use and practice, to become accustomed to
Paul was saying “I have had a lot and a little.”
Well, I have had a $40 steak and $0.25 pupusas from street vendors in El Salvador and I can be filled or satisfied with both.
We learn it by hearing and by putting into practice the disciplines and then find that I can live with whatever I have been given.
And from THAT context, the state of contentment, Phil. 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”
Could it be that the reason we find ourselves weak and ineffective at times is because we weren’t willing to learn contentment?
When we say, “I can’t” we aren’t exhibiting faith in the promises and provisions of God, which brings us to the next step in contented Living
I CAN do all things through CHRIST
Hebrews 13:5 says BE CONTENT because …
“God has said”
We can’t be content because it looks ok, that isn’t faith
We can’t be content because our job is secure, that might change
But I CAN live contented because “God Has Said”
“Never will I leave you
Never will I forsake you”
Remember we looked at this a few weeks ago. I told you that this is a double and triple negative that strengthens what it says
No matter who cuts me loose
No matter who leaves me behind
“no not ever will I cut you loose;
And not no not ever will I leave you behind”
Do you believe this? Is there anything that you are holding too tightly because you are fearful of being left alone?
Contentment is an act of faith … but it is a certainty and a surety in the Word of God
If God has said it you can build your life on it
Psalm 119:89 “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens”
Do you believe God will provide? If so, then Contentment comes finally as we …
Because we believe the Word of God
Because we don’t place our greed on the things of this world
Because we would rather be like God than like our neighbors
Because I know where my help comes from …
I will not be afraid … besides what can this world DO to me?
In Contented Living, I believe that my help isn’t in corporate America
My helper isn’t the banker or broker
My helper isn’t the government
My helper is THE LORD
So, "I will not be afraid” … this is a quote from Psalm 118:6
V8 there says “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than trust princes”
I don’t trust Obama or Boehner, Democrat or Republican, Tea or Coffee for that matter
Psalm 118:1 says “Give thanks to the Lord for he is Good”
V4 says “Let those who fear the Lord say ‘his love endures forever’”
Contented Living is being satisfied with God’s salvation in Christ and believing that everything else is gravy.
Isaiah 12:2 says “surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; and HE has become my salvation."
When I am satisfied with God … everything else falls in place
In Psalm 17:15 David says "in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with your likeness."
Can we choose or learn to choose to be satisfied to be like Jesus even if it means I don’t keep up with my neighbors things?
As we close … let me give you some action points
On the 28th we will have our annual “Thank Offering Day”
I would like you to spend this month preparing to offering up thanks that day
That day is also a “Prove the Tithe Day” … That is to say that on that day, we encourage everyone to tithe even if you normally do not.
How can you prepare?
Forgo eating out once a week
Forgo Starbucks this month
Forgo your regular trip to the movies.
None of these things are bad, but consider doing without for a month and presenting that savings to the Lord has a gift of worshipful thanksgiving
Or perhaps you can do what you have done during the Talent Offerings and find a way to raise extra money through your own resources but giving the profits to the Lord this month.
These teachings are a Plumb line. You know what that is? It’s a tool to see if you are building straight walls a you build your house. Is having a straight wall important? YES. Even being off a few degrees will impact the safety of the building.
So begin this week asking … are we living a Contented Life? We have to admit that the reason we are coming up short is because we are sinners and have given to our sinful nature.
George Washington was a man of prayer and in his handwritten prayer book from 1752 he gave us a way to pray and be honest with God. It’s lengthy but let me read it to you. You can get it online from my notes after I post them this week
WEDNESDAY MORNING.… Almighty and eternal Lord God, the great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven, in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prostrate myself before Thee, sensible of Thy mercy and my own misery; there is an infinite distance between Thy glorious majesty and me, Thy poor creature, the work of Thy hand, between Thy infinite power, and my weakness, Thy wisdom, and my folly, Thy eternal Being, and my mortal frame, but, O Lord, I have set myself at a greater distance from Thee by my sin and wickedness, and humbly acknowledge the corruption of my nature and the many rebellions of my life.
I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, in thought, word & deed; I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought not. I have rebelled against light, despised Thy mercies and judgements, and broken my vows and promises; I have neglected the means of Grace, and opportunities of becoming better; my iniquities are multiplied, and my sins are very great. I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, destation and loathing, and desire to be vile in Thine.
I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins, for the sake of Thy dear Son, my only Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; be pleased to renew my nature and write Thy laws upon my heart, and help me to live, righteously, soberly and godly in this evil world; make me humble, meek, patient and contented, and work in me the grace of Thy Holy Spirit.
Prepare me for death and judgement, and let the thoughts thereof awaken me to a greater care and study to approve myself unto Thee in well doing.
Bless our rulers in church & state. Help all in affliction or adversity—give them patience and a sanctified use of their affliction, and in Thy good time, deliverance from them; forgive my enemies, take me unto Thy protection this day, keep me in perfect peace, which I ask in the Name and for the sake of Jesus. Amen
Once a rich industrialist, disturbed to find a fisherman sitting idly by his boat, asked, “Why aren’t you out there fishing?”
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” was the reply.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” asked the rich man.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.
“You could sit down and enjoy life.”
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.
You can’t know satisfaction and enjoy life if you don’t know Christ
You can’t know contentment if you don’t trust him
You can’t be content without gratitude
Do you know him?
Do you trust him?
Will you follow him?