18th Sunday after Pentecost ~ October 8, 2006
True faith - another concept as we continue in our stewardship campaign. True faith is at the heart of good stewardship because it clings to the true source of everything we have. It puts everything in perspective when we know who is really in charge. It helps us give up our control and give it over to God.
In Stephen Ministry we have a compass that guides how a Stephen minister will be formed through training and experience. The four points and center are “Compassionate, Full of Faith, Skilled, Trustworthy and the center is Christ-centered” As you can see one of the points is “Full of Faith.” What does this mean to a Stephen Minister? It means that God is ultimately in control of the caring relationship and that we need to Him for our source of strength. We have a saying in Stephen Ministry, “We are the care givers and God is the cure giver.” Only God can truly effect change and healing in another person’s life.
That same concept can carry over into our thinking about Stewardship. Only God is really in charge of our time, talent, and resources. All that we are and all that we have is from God. Knowing this we transfer our ownership to God and we become only managers of His resources. To do this we have to have faith that God truly knows best. We have to trust that God has our best interests at heart and wants the very best for us. We have to have a vision that God is in control of our future and sacrifice our very selves trusting that God will work all for His good and gracious will.
And that is where Hebrews 11 can inform us about being full of faith. This is a great chapter in Hebrews that shows the faith people of the Old Testament. It list many individuals who put their trust in God. I would like to look at two of them, Noah and Abraham.
Noah, the man who was called by God to build an ark, take animals on board and his family, and weather the great flood God was going to unleash. This is a man who trusted God, even when he didn’t know what the future would hold. Noah was called by God to build an ark in the middle of dry land. Noah may have never even seen a ship in his life and yet is called on by God to build an enormous ark. Noah had to trust that his faithful use of resources would be blessed by God. You could say that Noah was visionary in that he trusted the future to God.
And this was no simple task completed in short order. Noah spent 100 years of his life on the ark. Talk about a career change! All because Noah trust that God knew best and he followed His plan. Being a good steward means we need to let go of our controlling the “future” and letting God be in charge. When we think we know best, and think that we can control a situation for the future, then we often hord our resources instead of sharing them. God has called us to trust Him and let go of what we have to be used for His kingdom building.
The second character we encounter is Abraham. We know Abraham as the father of many nations in whom God established His covenant. Abraham was promised an heir, even in his old age. And not only that, God will call on Abraham to sacrifice this heir, his only Son.
First we see a visionary view of God’s providence in Abraham like Noah. Abraham trusted God to fulfill His promises in the future. The problem with Abraham, and with us, is that we often get impatient with God. Thinking it was taking too long to have an heir born to Sarah, Abraham’s wife lets her servant have a child with Abraham. Abraham loose faith in God and looks to himself to manage God’s resources. But what is neat in this story is not only do we see Abraham as a true sinful person, but we also see God’s faithfulness in spite of our lack of faith. What we see is that even faith is a gift from God and we need to trust in Him to fulfill His promises. And we need to pray for patience for God’s timing is not ours, but His is best.
Once the heir, Isaac, is born to Abraham then he is called on to give the ultimate sacrifice – give his son as a burnt offering to the Lord. That is huge, I am not sure I could have followed through with this command of God. Now the story really isn’t about the almost killing of Isaac, it is about trusting God. True sacrifice means we give all to God, even our most treasure things in life. All is a gift from God to be used for His purposes. What God gives God can take away as well. Abraham, in a sacrificial way, was trusting that God would fulfill what He had promised – namely that Abraham would have an heir. Abraham didn’t know the outcome but trusted God, even with His soon.
God calls us to faithful service to Him, which means trusting Him, really trusting that God will use all that we have to further His kingdom. Faith helps us remove any doubt. For where there is doubt then we hold back. And what we hold back is nothing more than what is God’s already.
True faith calls us to obedience, trusting in God in all that we do. Using all that we have to further God’s kingdom involves faith that God will actually do what he promised. Being full of faith means we need to turn over final power and authority over to God. He holds the future in His hands and promises to bless us. He calls us in faith to give of our time, our talents and our treasures sacrificially for His purposes, which are ultimately good. It requires trust on our part – faith that God is God and we are His people.
As the hymn line goes, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. Full of faith stewardship – let God be God and give it all over to Him.