Facing the Fire

“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest:
for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire —” I Corinthians 3: 11-13Fire

Stewardship’s a pretty important concept, relevant to all of us since we’re commissioned with gifts and abilities, and we’ll all answer for how we’ve handled that commission. But any Christian feeling a call to full time service should especially get a good grasp on stewardship pricniples.

They’re laid out pretty strongly in Matthew 25:14-30, where Jesus describes a master commissioning his servants with differing amounts of money, then taking a long trip, expecting each of them to make good use of what they’d been given by investing it wisely. It was still his money, after all, and he’d entrusted them not only to still have it when he got back, but to have also managed it in such a way that it earned interest. They understood that he would return, and that when he did, they’d each give an account of the way they’d handled his finances.

You know the outcome. Most of his servants did make good use of what he’d trusted them with, so they were able to give back more than he’d originally given. That’s what he expected, which explains why he was so enraged with the one servant who, afraid to even try investing his portion, simply buried it and left
it alone.

Stewards take note: What we have He gave; what He gave He expects a return on; and He’ll come back with questions about our commission. That’s good news for the faithful, judgment to the unfaithful, and a warning to all of us. It’s a joy to serve Him, sure, full of blessing and excitement no one can adequately describe. But it’s also a responsibility, a heavy one which we’d best take seriously.

Paul had a lot to say about this. He said that he (and others following in his ministry steps) should be considered stewards, and that a primary requirement of a steward is faithfulness.(I Corinthians 4:1-2) He also noted that, where ministry’s involved, a foundation has already been laid which cannot be replicated, which is Christ Himself and His finished work (I Corinthians 3:11) who commissioned His servants with gifts for the building up of His body. (Ephesians 4:12) When these gifts are exercised they add to the original foundation, for better or worse, depending on how they’re used. (I Corinthians 3: 12-15) And that’s what we’ll answer for, according to Paul.

Plainly put, when we communicate eternal truths or otherwise use what we’ve been commissioned, we add to the foundation. The layers we’ve added over our lifetimes will be tried with fire to determine their true nature: precious or perishable; valid or fluff.

Mind you, we’re talking about fire testing our works, not the hellfire Jesus described elsewhere. (Mark 9:45) But it’s a fearful flame nonetheless, revealing what is versus what seems to be. I want my work to stand when it faces the fire; I crave hearing the eternal “Atta Boy!” wrapped up in that precious phrase “Well done, good and faithful servant.” All of which has me asking myself how I can be sure (as sure as one can be in this life) that my work is acceptable to God?  Three qualifications come to mind.

First, my work needs to be doctrinally sound.

If God has spoken, and He has, and if He has spoken in His inspired written word, which He has, then everything I do by way of service better be done in accordance with Scripture, coming under its scrutiny, and passing that scrutiny. Never perfectly, I know, but essentially. Essentially, what I communicate should either repeat, or illuminate, or at the very least be in harmony with, what He has already communicated. Not only my work, in fact, but my very life needs to be one that’s able to withstand Biblical examination. So does yours. Now, you and I know that no one passes that test perfectly. But it’s a test we should pass essentially. Settling for anything less constitutes, to my thinking, unfaithful stewardship.

Second, my work must be relevant.

It’s true that you should eat less red meat and more green vegetables. But if you’re addressing a woman who’s just been injured in a car accident, communicating that particular truth would make you quite a Bozo.

It’s not enough to hold the truth. We’re also commissioned to manage it wisely, applying appropriate truth to the situation it’s relevant to. Sure, I’ve got to prayerfully search the scriptures to know and hold the truth. But I must be equally prayerful when assessing the world I live in, the area of influence I’ve been placed in, and the needs represented in each. And when making that assessment, I’ve got to plead, literally, for God to show me how to both live and express truth in such wildly confused and deceived times, and express it in ways that are practical, pertinent, relevant. That’s true of all of us. By God’s grace, we have to see the area of need, then draw upon the relevant truth, then apply it.

Christians are called lots of names these days, most of them unfair; some of them deserved. But let’s never let it accurately be said that we’re irrelevant.

Finally, my work must be stewarded in love.

Agape love, divine and durable. And here’s where I’m tempted to wave the white flag, because dealing with people means dealing with difficulty; dealing with difficulty inspires irritation, yet requires love. Paul said “The love of Christ constrains us” (II Corinthians 5:14) and that reminds me how impossible it is, with my limited emotional resources, to summon up the level of love that serving others requires. If I’ve learned anything in the past 27 years of my own service, it’s that the same Master who commissioned gifts to me needs to give me His love as well, because mine simply won’t sustain the workload. Unless I’m motivated by His love, I’ll give up on people too soon; reject when I should embrace; lash out when I should speak softly. For my work to have lasting impact, it needs to be undergirded by lasting love. And my Commissioner is glorified all the more when I admit my lack, draw from His abundance, and thus thrive.

How incredible that we’re allowed the privilege of being involved in what our God does! And how sobering to realize we’ll answer for how we’ve stewarded
our involvement.

Lord, make us good and faithful servants. Let three things be true of our work: Let it pass the scrutiny of Your word, let it answer the needs of our time, and let it spring from the eternal love You have and give so freely.


Jerry Armelli | Jan 23, 2017

Thank you, Joe.

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