Sunday, May 15, 2011

Living Response-Ably...STEWARDSHIP

“Living Response-Ably…STEWARDSHIP”

Pastor Tom Millner

Malachi 3:8-12; John 10:7-10


I’ll venture to say that most of you think of stewardship as tithing. Whereas tithing is an element of good stewardship, stewardship is much more than tithing. In the second chapter of Genesis, God placed mankind in the position of being the stewards of all that was created. The steward does not own. The steward does not rule. The steward handles for the owner those things entrusted in a way that is in the best interest of the owner. The steward furthermore enjoys the benefits of that for which he or she is given oversight. From the time of the “fall” in the Garden that resulted from “having it my way,” we live in a world set on false assumptions about purpose and ownership. We say; “I did it my way.” Jesus says; “I am the way.” We say; “this is my life!” He says; “I have bought you with a price.”We are not our own! As ones who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; as Redeemer and our friend, we have been placed into a newly restored position in Christ – the position of trusted steward of all God has given us.  I think we are not very good stewards because we don’t understand what stewardship really means. How, then, are we to learn what good stewardship is about? Let’s look to God’s Word for wisdom and guidance!

In today’s reading of Malachi we hear of the prophet’s chastisement of the people of Israel for not being good stewards of what God had given them. They had been delivered from captivity by the Babylonians and had returned to their land without due regard for the One who had delivered them. God had been faithful to deliver them; He was expecting that they be faithful in giving back to Him as good stewards. God reminds them that He is the giver of all blessings and that when honored as such by their stewardship; He is faithful to deliver more as a testimony to others. He says “Test me in this.” Now let’s get something clear. This is not an “I give and I’ll get” scripture. In our greed, we may be tempted to tithe so that we will be blessed with more; as though putting our money into the vending machine to push the button for something we desire. This is not what Malachi is trying to convey. God is saying that He is faithful to provide and that we are to be the good stewards He has created us to be and give back for the good of all. In being good stewards or stewardship is multiplied as a witness to living as God created us to live. We are so accustomed to look for “what’s in it for me,” that we lose sight of being the steward He created us to be! The blessing is tied to the stewardship. The stewardship is not the ticket to the blessing. Stewardship is honoring God for who God is and what He has done; it is not the manipulation of God’s grace and blessings in order to get more! We too often use the broken model of human relationships as the model for relationship to God. In our human relationships we more often than not give to get, rather than give for the joy of giving because that’s what we have to give. When we model our human relationships after the Godly model, our human relationships will be healed from their brokenness as well. 

            We’re not only to be good stewards of our money but also of all He has given us. When asked by the Pharisees in Matthew 22 about the greatest of the commandments, Jesus responded “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He went on to express that loving your neighbor as yourself was the fulfillment of the expression of love to God. God desires that we be good stewards of our hearts. He has given us hearts filled with desires that honor His presence and His leadings. When we nurture (as good stewards) those things which build up our heart towards Him, we experience even more of His heart in us. R.G Le Tourneau was a passionate inventor of earth moving machinery. He was at my home church once when I was just a young lad to give his testimony. He told the story of how he turned the stewardship of his heart into a mighty force for this nation. As his business began to grow, he grew his contribution to God’s work (His Church) proportionately. Beginning with 10% of his earnings, he grew his contributions to 20%, then 30%, then 40%, and so on until the time of his testimony he was giving back to God 90% of his income. I didn’t realize at the time that I was hearing the testimony that the man speaking was the inventing father of one of the biggest earth moving business in the world. Le Tourneau earth moving equipment were the major instruments in the building of the interstate highway system in the US. Le Tourneau gave his testimony not to encourage more people to get rich, but rather to share the joy of how God had inspired and multiplied his heart for building in a way that built greater things than his heart could ever have imagined. God has given you a heart for something as well. How is He calling you in stewardship there? He has given you a heart for that special something for a reason and it is not for you to hide it firmly in your own control but rather to be His steward in multiplying it for His kingdom. When we are good stewards of what He has given us in our hearts and give back to him in greater and greater proportion, we discover the multitude of ways others are blessed by our heart expressions.  

Romans 12:1-2 reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Not only are we called to love God with all our heart, but also with our entire mind. If we are too busy indulging our mind in all sorts of ways in which we can maneuver measuring up or getting out of having to measure up, we haven’t much time left to be good mind stewards for God. I venture to say that if we were better stewards of our thoughts, we’d experience greater joy in our hearts and more love in our relationships. Instead of offering Him the best of our thoughts, we more often than not offer Him the brunt of our thoughts. Some of that brunt is anger, hurt, and insistence in having it all our way – that is not having to suffer any bad consequences for any of the bad choices we’ve made. At other times we give Him the brunt by turning away from Him and not being obedient to His commands because it’s more convenient than giving Him thanks in the midst of life’s struggles. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This requires good stewardship of the mind we have been given. Paul encouraged the folks in Thessalonica to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In the midst of your turmoil or strife, just as within the midst of your joy and gladness, stewardship of your mind renders thankful thoughts and acknowledgement of His gift of life and love. Cluttering our minds with gossip, selfishness, revenge, ego fulfillment or self-elevation at the sacrifice of others is not good stewardship of our minds. 

Going back to Romans 12:1 again we hear Paul asserting that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. We seldom think of our bodies as gifts for which we are to be good stewards, but they are an essential part of the stewardship mix. Who gives you the capacity to breathe every breath? Who provides you with life itself? Who has gifted you with the body you have that is inhabited as the very temple of God? The answer is not YOU. Yet YOU are called to be the steward of that body. How many of you would upon receipt of a priceless masterpiece of art begin to daily slap permanent ink all over the canvass? Pretty soon, that priceless piece of art would be rendered a worthless unrecognizable object. I venture to say that we wouldn’t do that, yet we think nothing of polluting one of the greatest and priceless gifts we have been given with toxins, infections, bad thoughts and bad habits. That masterpiece you’ve been given is priceless in the eyes of God. He even gave His life so that you may have your to the full. Why do we insist upon turning his priceless tart into a mud pie? It’s poor stewardship!!! We’re all guilty, to one degree or another. God calls us to be good stewards of what He has given us. How are we answering that call?

All of us have fallen short of His call. That doesn’t mean we are forever failures at the task. His grace is sufficient in all situations. He doesn’t ask us to be good stewards in order to measure up; He asks us to be good stewards because He has already done the measuring up for us. We can thus be stewards in gratitude rather than slaves to an unrelenting master. We can be good stewards of our wealth (or seeming lack thereof). We can be better stewards of our hearts, of our minds, and of our bodies. He does not leave us alone in our tasks. He has given us the fellowship of other believers here in this church family. He has given us the comfort of His Holy Spirit presence in our lives. He has given us the benefit of His WORD. From our scripture reading today in John 10:10 we can be assured – “the thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”




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Pastor Tom Millner, Sr. Pastor  (Sister church in NJ)



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