Saturday, 2 February 2013

Stewardship : Life's True Priorities

During her long lifetime of 94 years, Fanny J.  Crosby, the  famed  blind  composer  of  many  religious  hymns,  often recounted  the  story  of  a  minister  who  spoke  as  a  guest  in a  church  one  morning.  He was  accompanied  by  his  little son.

After  the  worship  service  the  minister  recalled  that  no offering  had  been  taken, and,  as  he  was  in  the  habit  of never going to  the Lord's house without  presenting an  offering,  he left a  coin  in  the offering box  that he  noticed  beside the  door.  As  he  and  his son  walked  away  from  the  church, one of  the  church officers  came running after them,  saying, "It  is  our custom  here  to  give  to  the  preacher whatever  we find  in  the  offering  box  after  the  service."  And  the  man handed  to  the  minister  the  coin  he  himself  had  left  there. Whereupon the little boy looked up into  his father's face and  observed,  "Papa,  if  you  had  given  more,  you  would
have gotten more, wouldn't you?"

In  his  simple,  but striking  comment,  the  little  boy  underlined  the  Biblical  principle  given  by  inspiration  and penned  by  the  wise  writer  centuries  ago:  "A  man  may spend freely  and yet grow richer;  another is  sparing beyond measure,  yet  ends in  poverty."  (Proverbs 11:24, N.E.B.)* Jesus  made  it  clear  that  the  last  days  would  be  dominated by men  having  a  strong materialistic  attitude.  Eating, drinking,  building,  and  hoarding  money  would  be  central in  the  thinking,  talking,  and  doings  of  men.  We  who  live in  the  seventies  when  so  many  other  of  the  last  signs  are being  fulfilled,  can  hardly  avoid  noticing  the  realization also  of  those  prophecies.  And  further:  We  find  it  difficult to  avoid  being  influenced  by  the  same  attitudes  ourselves.

The Lord's Sacred Claims

First of all:  There is.  no  question  about  the  fact  that God  calls  us  to  be  stewards.  "As  every  man  hath  received the  gift,  even  so  minister  the same  to  one  another,  as  good stewards of  the  manifold grace  of God"  (I  Peter 4:10).  "You are  not  your  own;  your  Lord  has  sacred  claims  upon  your supreme  affections  and  the  very  highest  services  of  your life  ... to  the  fullest  extent  of  your  capabilities,  for  His own  honor  and  glory."—Counsels on Health, p.  385. Notice how wide the scope  of our responsibility is:  "Stewards  of  the  manifold  grace  of  God"  and  the  "Lord  has sacred  claims  upon  your  supreme  affections  and  the  very highest services  .  .  .  ."  The  totality of  life  is  included:  "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly;  and I  pray God your whole spirit  and soul  and  body  be  preserved  blameless  unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:23).

This  part  of  a  Christian's  relationship  to  God  is  closely knit  to  the  atonement.  He bought us with all that we are and have.  He  did  this,  not  only  to  free  us  from  our  transgressions  and  their  consequences,  but  also  for  a  purpose while  serving  Him  here:  "What?  know  ye  not  that  your body is  the temple of  the  Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye  have  of  God,  and  ye  are  not  your  own?  For  ye  are bought  with  a  price:  therefore  glorify  God  in  your  body" (I  Corinthians  6:19,  20).  To glorify God because  we  are bought  with  a  price  takes  in  much  more  than  we  usually consider.  Note this:  "I will enforce truth on the conscience, and  men  shall  be  My  witnesses,  throughout  the  world  asserting  my  claims  on  man's  time,  his  money,  his  intellect. All these I purchased on the cross of Calvary."—Testimonies, VII, 159.

May  these  words  sink  into  our  minds:  On  the  cross Christ  paid  the  price,  first  of  all  for  our sins,  but  He  also bought  our  time,  money,  and  intellect.  Everything  now belongs  to  Him,  even  though  he  left  the  administration  to us.  Therefore,  when  we  see  the  fuller meaning of  the  cross, it  leads  to  humility,  thankfulness,  acceptance,  and  even dedication.

When  Graf  von  Zinzendorf,  as  a  rich  young  man  in Germany,  stood  one  day  before  a  painting of  the  suffering of Christ on  the  cross,  he  noted  the words written under it: "All  this  I  suffered  for  you.  What have you done for me?" The picture and the message touched his heart.  Then  and there  he  decided  to  give his  life  and  all  that  he  had  to  the Master's  service.  He  became  the  founder  of  the  Hernhut Brudergemeine  (Renewed  Brotherhood),  a  missionary  and religious leader.  His strong influence throughout his life was due to his deep personal devotion to Christ.

God's Only Way

"God  permits us  to show  our appreciation of His mercies by  self-sacrificing  efforts  to  extend  the  same  to  others.  This is  the  only  way  in  which  it  is  possible  for  us  to  manifest our gratitude  and love  to  God.  He has provided no other." —Counsels on Stewardship, pp.  18, 19.

Sometimes  we  may  wonder  why  God  chose  "self-sacrificing  efforts"  in  order  to  bring  God's  grace  to  others,  as "the only way" in which we  can show  our love  to  God. Why did he provide “no other” way?  Here  is  at  least  part  of  the answer:  "God  could  have  reached  his  object  in  saving  sinners without our  aid;  but in  order for  us  to  develop  a  character  like  Christ's,  we  must  share  in  His  work.  In  order  to enter into  His  joy—the joy of seeing souls redeemed  by  His sacrifice—we  must  participate  in  His  labors  for  their  redemption."—The Desire of Ages, p.  142.

In  other words:  The greatest  blessings  flow  back  to  ourselves  as  we  try  to  follow  God's  plan.  The  following  words of Jesus  that  did  not  get  into  the  Gospels  but  which  Dr. Luke  placed  in  the  Book  of  Acts,  express  the  experience  of many  of  God's  children:  "It  is  more  blessed  to  give  than  to receive"  (Acts  20:35).
In  the  light  of  this  instruction  from  Jesus,  we  see  that life  is  not meant to  be  a  grab bag from which  we  take  those things  we  desire.  If that is our philosophy, we shall indeed be deeply disappointed.  Life is rather an opportunity to share.  It will  then  go  out  and multiply  and return  to  us  in forms  we  need,  to  our  own  joy  and  growth  in  Christian experience.

Stewardship,  in  its  deep  spiritual  and  practical  meaning,  is  not  only  acts  or good  deeds.  It is much more.  It is an experience. We share ourselves in the transactions. When this philosophy dominates our lives,  we  open  doors to  blessings  we  could  not  obtain  in  any  other  way.  STEWARD-SHIP DAY,  therefore,  offers  us  an  invitation  to  stop  and  consider  life's  true  priorities.

by ALF  LOHNE ,Vice President General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

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