Sunday, January 2, 2011

Steward of the Word

Happy New Year! I’m excited to see what 2011 will bring, I hope you are too!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about stewardship and I’m amazed at all the ways God has shown me to apply this word in my life.

It began a few weeks ago when I noticed the bathroom scale was giving me some un-wanted news and I acknowledged that tackling my weight-eating-health problem alone would probably end in failure – again. I realized then that my body was something on loan to me from God to be a steward over – to care for on His behalf.

But as I said, that was only the beginning. Over the next few days I jotted down several other “things” God has entrusted into my care. And then, I stumbled across this definition of stewardship: a minister of Christ, whose duty is to dispense the provisions of the gospel. If that doesn’t sound like anything you find in your dictionary, don’t toss the thing out, there’s a good explanation. I recently got my hands on a newly published copy of Noah Webster’s 1828 English Dictionary. I’ve really enjoyed thumbing through it to compare old definitions with those in our modern dictionaries. What an eye-opening experience! But, I’ve digressed here a bit . . .

So a steward is one who cares for someone else’s property and looks out for their best interests. A Christian Steward is one who cares for God’s property on His behalf. And according to Noah Webster at least, one of those pieces of property in our care is the Gospel. What a glorious gift! What a marvelous thing it is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone! But also, what an awesome responsibility it is to be charged with “dispensing the provisions” of the very words of God.

As Christians we often find ourselves over-focused on our great privileges – and yes, they are great and many and we should be eternally thankful. However, in doing so, we have often overlooked our solemn duties and responsibilities. Throughout Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul challenges each of us to be faithful stewards and bring God’s Gospel of Grace to all the nations. And may I add, beginning with those living in our own neighborhoods.

Maybe 2011 is the year you’ll become bold for Christ. How many people have known you for years and you’ve never spoken with them of your faith? Are there people in your life who would be surprised to bump into you if they visited your church? If so, resolve to be a better steward of the gospel this year – be bold about your faith, not offensive, but not ashamed either. . . . “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

But witnessing to the lost is only part of the steward’s challenge. We also are responsible for knowing and applying God’s Word to our own lives. If you don’t already have a new year’s resolution, please allow me to suggest one for you: read your Bible through this year. If that seems too daunting and difficult, get your hands on a copy of Halley’s Bible Handbook. This gem has been in print several decades so even used copies are readily available. A friend of mine shared with me just a couple weeks ago how she always reads along in her Halley’s as she studies the Scriptures. And I applaud her method of choice – Henry Halley is an excellent “Tour Guide”!

But perhaps for others, the idea is little ho-hum because you’ve “been there and done that” so many times before. If that’s the case, then offer to be that Tour Guide for someone tackling Scriptures for the first time. Seeing their excitement is guaranteed to put fresh meaning into every golden nugget of Truth you unearth together.

In the end it doesn’t matter how you do it, just as long as you do it! Letting your Bible sit on the coffee table or book shelf and gather dust is an awful waste of knowledge. But it is also against God’s will for your life: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15). This book contains God’s revelation to us, and He longs for us to know what is there. The English preacher Charles Spurgeon had an interesting twist on our need to be stewards of God’s Word. He said we should never let our fingers be defiled by Bible dust.

Unfortunately, here in the United States, we often take for granted we will always have access to God’s Word – that it will be there for us, whenever we manage to get around to making time for it. We’ve lost our passion – we’ve forgotten how precious Scriptures are. Just five hundred years ago, Gutenberg’s printing press first allowed non-clergy folks to hold God’s Word in their own hands. And Reformers, like Martin Luther, fought to have Scriptures written in the common language of the people. Our nation’s Founding Fathers saw to it that every child had an opportunity to learn reading so they could study Scriptures.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John passes along God’s warning to the church at Ephesus, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). If these sad words describe you, don’t lose heart. Today marks a new beginning. Start the year off right -- cherish the Word, be a good steward of the Gospel. Here are some practical suggestions to get you going:

• Be a better steward of your time -- schedule a regular meeting with your Bible.

• Volunteer to be a teacher or work with the youth of your church, share with others the knowledge of Scriptures God has entrusted to you.

• Consider giving financial support to organizations dedicated to sharing the Bible around the world. The Gideon’s and Wycliffe Bible Translators come to mind, but check with your clergy for other suggestions.

• Start a neighborhood Bible study group and watch God do great things as you maintain an “open to all” atmosphere.

• Commit to memory one Bible verse or short passage each week or month. And plan to review these regularly in order to keep them sharp in your mind.

• Search out opportunities to personally share the gospel with others. Be a faithful witness for the Lord, telling others what great things He has done for you. You don’t need to memorize fancy scripts, just speak the truth from your heart.

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