Stewarding Grace

We are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us. Our lives are a journey of discovery. “Who am I?” is a question we’re consistently asking and this leaves us searching for our identity wherever it might be found.

When we stop and think about it we find that circumstances are perfect for us to adopt our gifts as our identity and to forget that we did nothing to merit them. But the gifts we’ve received are what God has called us to use to serve Him and to serve one another, not tell us who we are. 1 Peter 4 tells us they are a reflection of God’s multi- faceted grace. When we steward our gifts we are stewarding grace.

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As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Peter 4:10 & 11

Because it’s so hard to determine sometimes where our gifts end and we begin it’s intensely personal to offer our gifts back to the One who entrusted them to us, as if to say, “These gifts are not my identity. My identity is found in You alone. You are the One who gives me value and worth. Therefore the grace I’ve receive is the grace I’ll extend with everything I have, with every gift You’ve given.”

Here are some signs that you’ve surrendered your gifts to the Gift-giver:

1. You’re happy for the success of others in your area of giftedness.

In other words, the success of others doesn’t intimidate you. It’s understandable to feel a tinge of frustration when you see people move ahead and you seem to be standing still, but reminding yourself Who you’re doing this for should realign your heart to the One who graciously gave you the gift in the first place.

2. You don’t dwell on past mistakes.

God has already seen where you’d fall short and He called you anyway. You have to give Him your failures and trust Him with them. He is the redeemer of every lost opportunity and every missed chance if we will let Him be.

3. You can surrender your idea of what using your gift means.

Our culture paints a very specific picture of what using our talents is supposed to look like and it has snuck it’s way into the church. Do you trust God enough to let Him lead you down whatever path He chooses, whether it looks like what you envisioned or not? We sometimes put a ceiling on how far God can take us because we think it needs to look a certain way.

4. You steward your gift faithfully no matter what.

Whether you’re having an opportunity to use your gift publicly or not, if God gave it to you He is telling you to steward it. You steward that gift for Him because He is ultimately the One you serve.

5. Jesus is enough.

If everything changed tomorrow and by the world’s standards you had amazing success, if God asked you to, would you leave it all behind because Jesus is enough? If you were called to disciple the people on the stage rather than be on the stage yourself would you do it because Jesus is enough? If God asked you to use your gift in a place where no one would ever know your name would you do it because Jesus is enough?

If you have a gift, use your gift. Walk it out in the fullest expression possible. God will make up where you lack because He’s to One who is glorified, even in our weakness. ALL the glory belongs to Him. He invites us to be partakers in that glory but not for one second are we intended to try to take it for ourselves. When we find ourselves deceived into thinking this might all be about us, the Holy Spirit mercifully reveals that no amount of achievement or notoriety will bring the kind of satisfaction that offering our gifts back to God could ever bring.

The satisfaction we all long for is found in the Gift-giver, not the gift itself.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
— Psalm 145:16
 

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Let It Happen

Comfortable people don’t need Jesus, desperate people do.
— Bob Goff

I’ve been hearing this question lately, “Why do you keep watering it down?”

“Watering what down?” I ask.

The Holy Spirit whispers, “Your passion. Your longings. That voice that keeps telling you that you were meant for more. You turn to lesser things for comfort when you’re called to feel the discomfort of “not yet” or “not quite”. It’s worth the investment right now.”

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The lesser things just deaden the voice a little bit; they take away the edge. Rather than requiring me to trust God, I make it manageable by making it quieter.

Not too close. Not too hard. Not too much.
That’s how it feels. Like it’s just too much. Deep down I don’t know if I can handle being fully alive so I self-medicate.

I want to protect myself from the pain of disappointment because the dreams are bigger than anything I could do on my own. You know the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough”? Well, they scare me, so I shut them away and act like I don’t care. If it happens it happens, but while I’m waiting I’ll be over here watching Netflix.

There’s a song that goes, “Your full of life now, full of passion, that’s how He made you. Just let it happen.” I just got it. I just realized I wasn’t letting it happen. I was letting the voices of others in my head influence me. I was letting my own desire for comfort influence me. I was avoiding the pain that I know comes with “letting it happen”. Because it is painful. There’s another song with a line that says, “coming alive feels a lot like dying”. And it does. I’ve been comfortable. Not satisfied. Comfortable. I work for a church, I serve, I lead a small group...but I’m comfortable.

We require the right problem to expose our need for Jesus. What’s my problem? Laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that I might not be ready for an opportunity that could present itself tomorrow because my desire for comfort won. Isn’t it interesting how pain reminds us that we’re alive? We find ourselves stuck in the cycle of settling for lesser things until we wake up to the conviction that each day is a day we won’t get back. Because God is merciful He allows me to feel the pain of “what if” and then I wake up.

Sinking deep into who God created you to be can be scary because you’re not sure who can come with you to that place. But if God is calling you there, then it’s because you’re supposed to lead the way for others. The longer you put it off, the more frustrated you’ll become over the time that you’ve lost. But know this: God is the redeemer and He can redeem the time if you hand it over to Him. There is a facet of who God is that we will miss out on if we don’t trust Him with the opportunities we believe we’ve lost.

Watering down your calling is just a temporary solution for an eternal problem. It will never lead to the satisfaction and true rest that we all long for. At the end of the day, I know that if I don’t trust Him with this I’ve denied myself abundant life. Jesus said that’s what He came to bring us, and just as He challenged the rich young ruler, He also challenges us to leave our comfort behind.

What He’s placed inside us isn’t just for us. God’s purposes will be accomplished with or without us. Are you okay with that? I don’t think so. Although, my actions make me feel as if I am betraying myself, since they seem so contrary to who I know I am—to who I’m called to be.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
— Colossians 1:28-29

When Paul says, “for this I toil, struggling,” he's saying that he's exhausting himself for the sake of the call, for the good fight of faith. He acknowledges the powerful work of the Spirit within and responds accordingly. Know this: Paul is not working for the sake of achievement or earning recognition. He is working and toiling in response to the reality of a dying world and the corresponding power of the Holy Spirit within; the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

When we water down the call we relegate the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to the sidelines of our lives. The power that raised Christ is the same power that is available for you to spend yourself completely on the gospel (beyond what you thought possible). And in the very midst, the Holy Spirit invites us to rest in His sovereign care. He wants us to know that if we pour out our lives, abundant life awaits us.

You may be asking the same question I’ve used as an excuse many times to keep from being “all in." How is it possible to give beyond what you imagined and then to rest? Both are the result of utter dependence and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t work in submission to the Holy Spirit and not rest AND you can’t rest in submission to the Holy Spirit and not work.

When we try to preserve our comfort we deny ourselves true rest.

But Jesus invites us into a “glorious ‘yes.' " A yes that requires every part of us and gives us abundant life in return.

So give it all.

Give it everything you’ve got.

Do it scared if you have to.

Because it will be worth it.

It always is.

You’re full of life now, full of passion. That’s how He made you. Just let it happen.
— United Pursuit
 

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Treasure

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid: and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
    — Matthew 13:44
     Photo Credit:  Simon Wilkes

    Photo Credit: Simon Wilkes

    Growing up I read the Bible to find out what I needed to do and how I needed to act rather than to know God. Although, I had a love for scripture (that I now understand is by no merit of my own, but a God-given gift) I didn’t see the grand narrative of redemption because I didn’t know to look for it. I didn’t know God’s redemptive plan was woven in from Genesis to Revelation and parables like this one, rather than being instruction for me, were actually revealing something intrinsic to the nature of God and the way He interacts with us. 

    Since I was always reading to find the application I assumed the main character talked about in this short parable, stuffed in the middle of Jesus’ discourse on the kingdom of heaven, was me or you. Obviously, what we’re supposed do is give up everything we have because we’re so happy we’ve finally found the kingdom, right? That’s the application. Count the cost to get the kingdom. 

    But here’s the catch, we have nothing to offer. And why am I buying a field? Every word Jesus spoke was intentional. We can’t just ignore the details we can’t explain. If I sold everything to purchase the field that the treasure was buried in, as it pertains to the Gospel (which means "good news"), that doesn’t make much sense. Why would I buy the whole field when I can freely accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin?  If you’re still hung up on this, let me put it this way, there is nothing you or I have that could ever purchase our redemption. But when we receive the good news everything we once held of value will pale in comparison to the riches of Christ. What a convicting thought! But the idea of us being the main character just doesn't fit within the context of the parable.

    Rather, this story shows the incredibly intentional nature of our redeeming God and the man in this parable undeniably represents Jesus. 

    If that man is Jesus and the field is the world (vs. 38), then him selling everything and purchasing the entire field because of the treasure he finds there makes sense. Jesus has something to offer: His deity and His life.

    In the parable, this man is overwhelmed with joy when He finds the kingdom of heaven. But He can’t just take it. That’s not how it works. Because God is just, it has to be done the right way. So, the man hides the treasure right in the middle of the ordinary place he found it so that he can go sell everything he owns to buy something that only he understands the immense value of.

    But if the man represents Jesus why would the King of kings and the King of heaven need to sell everything to buy the kingdom of heaven? What is the “kingdom of heaven”? It’s not talking about what we typically envision when we think of a kingdom. I don’t know about you, but I generally think castles and princesses and dragons because I’m kind of a nerd and I like stuff like that. But what the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” is talking about here is the rule and reign of heaven, God’s rule and reign. So basically, Jesus is bringing God’s way of doing things in heaven to earth. 

    Due to man’s rebellion, the rule and reign of heaven on earth and in the hearts of men had to be purchased back. The price tag on this process would cost God everything. Much like the man who expresses so much joy at discovering the treasure, we see Jesus “who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross”. 

    Jesus went on the greatest rescue mission imaginable; He gave up the comfort of heaven to bring the kingdom of heaven to us. He gave up everything He had to buy back a broken world, so that the kingdom of heaven would come to it’s fullest expression in the redemption of man. And that is a really, really good story. It’s a story about how much God values us. It’s a story about how treasured we are.

    Of what great value is the treasure hidden in the field! If we only understood what a treasure we are to the One who has found us! 

     

    Your kingdom come,

    Your will be done, 

    On earth, as it is in heaven!


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