Empowered by God – Responding by Grace

Following is a Stewardship talk I presented at Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Sunday, November 30, 2014:

“Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you — so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking” (2 Cor. 8:7).

I have been asked to share a message of stewardship with you, so here is my stewardship message to you – God loves you.  Actually He is crazy about you.  He wants the very best for you, so much so that He has even given you His entire creation.  He only asks that you take care of it.  God has hired you as Steward of His estate and castle.  You see that is where the word comes from, when the lords who were the landowners had a steward that managed their property.

Psalm 50:10 “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”  … and even the hills are His.  You see it’s all His.  He owns it all.  But He has given it to us, so when we give, we are being more like Him.

To recap our prior talks, we have considered how we are empowered by God. We’ve considered our theme, “Empowered by God — Responding by Grace” and how our primary response to God’s work in our lives should be that of the Macedonian Christians: To first give ourselves to the Lord. We said that our response should be, “Lord, I’m yours to use as You wish. Any time. Any place. Any thing. Any cost.”

I received a really good story a couple of days ago from a friend of mine.  You may have heard it since it made its way to me via Facebook, but I want to share it with you anyway.  It was found in the billfold of Coach Paul Bear Bryant of Alabama fame after he died in 1982.

Imagine you had won the following “PRIZE” in a contest:  Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use, but here are the rules:

  •  Everything that you don’t spend during each day will be taken away from you.
  •  You can’t just transfer any of the money to some other account.
  •  You may only spend it.
  •  Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.
  •  The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say, “Game Over!”

It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.  What would you personally do?  You would buy anything and everything you wanted, right?  Not only for yourself, but also for all the people you love and care for.  Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?  You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?

ACTUALLY, this GAME is REAL.  Shocked?  YES!  Each of us is already a winner of this “PRIZE”.  We just can’t seem to see it.  The PRIZE is “TIME”.

  • Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds as a gift of life.
  •  And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is NOT credited to us.
  •  What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.
  •  Yesterday is forever gone.
  •  Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT WARNING.

SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?  Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars.

If God owns everything, including our time, can we do less than to put Him first in how we use this priceless resource?

How we use our talents is yet another way of “responding by grace.” Different people have different abilities. One may be an outstanding surgeon; another a carpenter. One may play a musical instrument with skill; another may teach young children.

But our talents are also what one person described as “gifts on loan from God”.

As some of you may know, I just finished Financial Peace University.  It’s the Dave Ramsey course that teaches people God’s principles for money.  We had a small but dedicated group and I am happy to say that I was able to replicate myself.  So Bill Odean and Janet & Bill Krusinski will be leading the next class of Financial Peace University on Tuesdays starting in January.  I had so many people tell me, I’d love to take that course if it just wasn’t on Wednesday evenings. Well, now’s your chance.  I am so happy and grateful that Bill and Janet and Bill are willing to pay forward the principles they learned.

And so for you, God’s faithful.  Here is my charge to you.  Replicate yourselves by getting another person involved at Bethany in the next year.  “You like to cook?  We need people to help with funeral luncheons.”  “What a great voice you have.  You know we could use you to help with the readings during the service or be part of the choir.”  Add a connection.  It can even be somebody in your own family.  You see Jesus thought it was such a great idea, he replicated Himself a dozen times.  He knew His time on earth was limited.  It would take a dozen to continue to spread the good news. And then a dozen times a dozen.

So thank you for coming out this morning.   Thank you for allowing me to share a message.  And if you don’t mind, I’d like to close with a story that Dave Ramsey tells.  It’s one that I can really identify with because, you see, I have two sons.   Dave was up early one morning, about 5:00 am.  He picked up the Bible to gather a little inspiration as he started his day, and he looked up to see his little son coming down the stairs in Spiderman pajamas, you know, the ones with the feet in them.  His son, Ben, was dragging his blanket as he came over to Dave, and Dave asked him, “Son, what are you doing up so early?  You need to get back to bed or you’re going to be tired and cranky in a couple of hours and heading for a time-out”

“Dad, can’t I just sit here with you for a little while?”

“Oh, I suppose.”  So Ben crawled up into Dave’s lap and Dave went back to reading.

Pretty soon a tear is running down Dave’s cheek and Ben got all excited.  “What’s the matter, Dad?  Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no, Son.  Your fine.  It’s not you.”

You see Dave had just read, “For God so loved the world, that he GAVE … HIS … ONLY … BEGOTTEN … SON.”

As we head into Advent, I hope you will give some consideration to the “first fruits” that God asks you to give.