“To Whom Much is Given…”

(1 Chronicles 4:10) Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Enlarge my territory… a phrase that implies a desire for more…

As we grow in Christ, and become increasingly more committed to His will for our lives, we begin to have the desire for more responsibility, bigger blessings, and a greater reach into the world.  In fact, if we are truly growing, it’s a natural progression to have these desires, because we want to see the kingdom of God expand and become stronger.  Furthermore, we want to be a PART of it!  So we begin to ask the Lord to give us increase.  However, we must understand the importance of being a good steward with the blessings that God bestows on us.

First:  We have to relinquish ownership.  Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  All that we have within our grasp is but a collection of gifts, given to us for the purpose of making the kingdom of God bigger…fulfilling our great commission.  We have work to do, and every blessing is a tool…an avenue.  “But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”  (Deuteronomy 8:18)

Second:  We must take responsibility.  Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.  We are are but managers of God’s great wealth and vast domain.  He has given us dominion, but we must never forget that He reigns over us.  His will and desires are what we are called and purposed to carry out, and that is no small undertaking.  It’s important, and it matters. 

Next:  We have to be accountable.  Just as the manager of a business has to answer to the owner, we will one day have to stand before God and answer to Him for the way we managed all that He entrusted to us as stewards.  We will be held accountable for how we gave of our time, our money, our love, and our commitment.

Finally:  We must work toward our reward.  Colossians 3:23-24 tells us, “23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” 

When we ask the Lord for blessing and increase, and He grants it, we ought never to make the mistake of viewing that as reward.  A good steward will instead add it all to the inventory, using everything wisely and carefully to magnify the Creator, all with the understanding that a greater and truer reward awaits in Heaven…one that is eternal and far more glorious than anything we’ve yet to see. 

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  (Revelation 22:12)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I understand that I am living on borrowed time and resources with a purpose to do Your will.  I am Your creation, and as such I am Your servant.  Help me to continue to grow and mature as a steward, and as I prove myself faithful with few things, I ask you to please…enlarge my territory.  Amen.

It’s like sugar…

(Deuteronomy 15:7-11) 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

If you work hard, and you still have very little, it can be truly difficult to give.  Generosity is not always a natural tendency.  It’s hard to let go of hard-earned money and resources, especially when our society tells us that the under-privileged are constantly looking for a handout. 

However, beyond what any media plays into our minds, past all of our fears and misgivings about the intentions of people who say they are in need, we are called to love.  Does love not encompass provision and care in times of hardship?  We are so quick to jump up and fix a meal for our church family member who is sick or the family who has just had a baby.  We readily make pies, cakes, casseroles and whatever else is needed for the church potluck.  We support fundraisers for the youth group and children’s department, and we give toward projects that better our facilities.  Please understand…these things are wonderful and we should continue to support such efforts, but I am also suggesting that it should be just as easy for us to respond to the need of a stranger. 

We can do more.  I can do more. 

In Jefferson County Public Schools alone, there are approximately 7,000 homeless students.  These students rely on SCHOOL to have shelter and food throughout the day.  They are the children who never miss a day because they have the guarantee of a full belly and safety.  I’m sorry, but when did this become the responsibility of the government?  Do we dare even wonder why so many look down on the church when, in the grand scheme of it all, we do so little?

Why do you think so many people were willing to listen to Christ, follow Him, face persecution possibly unto death for Him, and loved Him without question or condition?  It wasn’t because of a beautiful facility He was able to speak in, or because He put on fun social events…it was because He responded to the needs of people who were cast away.  He healed, fed, loved and nurtured the hurt, sick and poor people.  He responded.  If we are to truly be His hands and feet, His representation, His church, then we have to do better.  We can’t worry any longer about tomorrow.  Our faith tells us that tomorrow will worry about itself.

Matthew 6: 38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

It’s like sugar…

This passage always makes me think about when you are using brown sugar in a recipe and you have to pack it down into the measuring cup.  You may be measuring it with the exact same cup that you use to measure white sugar, but that brown sugar is able to be pressed down to the point that it far surpasses the amount of white sugar that you are able to get into that vessel.  When you give, maybe what you are able to do only amounts to a cup of plain white sugar, but if you give it in love and in good faith, expecting the best, God returns that cup with a packed down double blessing.  Just like that brown sugar, He will surprise you by packing your life with a more abundant blessing, and the sweetness of what He has ready to give, you can’t possibly understand. 

And remember…all that you’ve acquired, or hope to obtain…it’s all just stuff that you can’t take with you when you’re gone…stuff that was never truly yours to begin with…so you might as well give a little…or a lot…if you dare.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to have open hands and a softer heart when it comes to those in need.  Give me the opportunity and desire to respond accordingly.  I know that You will never leave me forsaken, as I endeavor to do Your work.  Amen.

Do It Yourself!

(Numbers 18:2-7 NLT) 2 “Bring your relatives of the tribe of Levi–your ancestral tribe–to assist you and your sons as you perform the sacred duties in front of the Tabernacle of the Covenant. 3 But as the Levites go about all their assigned duties at the Tabernacle, they must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. 4 The Levites must join you in fulfilling their responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the Tabernacle, but no unauthorized person may assist you. 5 “You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the LORD’s anger will never again blaze against the people of Israel. 6 I myself have chosen your fellow Levites from among the Israelites to be your special assistants. They are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD for service in the Tabernacle. 7 But you and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain. I am giving you the priesthood as your special privilege of service. Any unauthorized person who comes too near the sanctuary will be put to death.”

The book of Numbers records the strategic plan of God for the operation of the Old Testament Tabernacle. Honestly, I wonder why God requires all of these intricate details. I’ve studied the details and listened to the scholarly explanations, and I still can’t make any case for the logistics of it all. I simply choose to believe that God has a reason for it all.

The thing that struck me this morning was the very specific duties that the priests were required to complete. In verse 5 God says, “You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar.” And in verse 7 He instructs, “You and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain.”

God made it very clear that while there were helpers who had been assigned to assist the priests, there were limitations as to what those helpers could do. God’s requirements were so specific that He said, “they (the Levites) must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. (Verse 3)

I’m fully aware of the historical context of these commands and the very specific interpretation that accompany the Scripture. But, while reading these verses, I was impressed with the idea that there are certain things I must do myself. There are some things that only a father can do for his children. Likewise, a mother can provide nurturing and love like no one else. A husband/wife can provide spousal support like no one else can. The list certainly could be a long one indeed!

As a pastor, I realize there are times when my voice, touch, input, etc. is needed. While I am blessed with a very capable assistant pastor, office assistant, and other support staff, there are times when I must interject my presence, experience, and decisions into a particular scenarios. I must do what only I can do.

The same is true for you. You have divine purpose that only you can fulfill. God is waiting for you to step up and represent His interests as only you can.

This is not a pressure. Instead God said, “I am giving you the priesthood (calling/assignment) as your special privilege of service.” Special privilege? WOW! God has provided a way for me to make a significant contribution into the Kingdom of God. That, my friend, is an incredible honor!

PRAYER: Father, help me to remember when I’m walking through the difficult assignments that You’ve asked me to perform, that You have provided a way for me to contribute significantly to the eternal kingdom of Heaven. I’m grateful that You trust me like that! Amen.

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