Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
There is a rewarding life in acknowledging that all creation is made for Him, by Him, and through Him. That includes our lives. How are we going to use our lives for the betterment of His creation? Watch as Pastor Sam shows us ways to do so.
Hi, and welcome to Faith Track. We’ve been exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So, as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our time together, we will look at a good number of passages from the Bible, and I will encourage you to take what we discuss into conversations with others. For this, we have created a notes page with all of the Bible verses in the session questions. You can access this at those pages at cornerstonesf.org/notes during the original airing or cornerstonesf.org/faithtrack anytime afterward. In our last session, we looked at the importance of growing in our understanding of God’s Word and teaching what we know by living it out. In this session, we are going to be looking at another important aspect of being disciples; stewardship and managing for God.
Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, all that fills it, the world, and those who dwell therein.” Colossians 1:16, the apostle Paul wrote, “For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him.” The Bible is clear that the world is made by God and for God. The same is true for us. We are made by God and for His purposes. Through Jesus’s work on the cross, we are reconciled to Him and invited into learning about and living out His purposes for our lives. This is not forced, and God gives us great freedom and grace to choose what much of this looks like, but it’s clear we can choose to live for God’s purposes or choose not to.
It’s important to know that God has good purposes and plans for us. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” So God has plans for our lives, good and hope-filled plans. Even the things that guide and correct us are good. Jesus said that those who love Him obey his commands. He commanded us to do things like loving, serving, forgiving, and praying for one another. We were called to live lives that demonstrate His work in us and through us. So this is important. Actually, this is so important to the Lord that we are accountable for how we do at this. Romans 14:12 says, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
So we will explain what we did with these lives that God gave us. Jesus even said that we’ll be accountable for all the words we speak. Matthew 12:36-37, “I tell you on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified. And by your words, you’ll be condemned.” What we do and don’t do. What we say and don’t say, all matters to God. This can feel heavy, but I promise it can be one of the most amazing and freeing things we can encounter. When we start utilizing our lives for doing what is good and right, speaking what is good, and edifying and stepping into who God created each of us to be, we become more alive than we ever thought possible because this allows God’s spirit to guide, strengthen, and work in and through our lives.
In the Bible, there’s a key discipleship term and concept that shows up called stewardship. The Holman Bible Dictionary defines stewardship as utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation. We are meant to be managers of what God has given us, knowing that we will give an account to Him in the end. Everything we do or say can either bring glory to God or not. Everything we do or say can better His creation or not. This is our responsibility. This is our opportunity. As disciples, we are to utilize all of our God-given resources for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation. In 1st Corinthians 4:1, the apostle Paul wrote, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” So stewardship or being a steward has to do with how we respond to the ways of God.
This involves how we use our intellectual capacities to learn and apply the teachings of the Lord to our lives. It starts with acknowledging that God has a right to everything in our lives. Wait, everything we might say? “I work hard for what I have. I’m willing to give credit where credit is due, but aren’t I due some credit as well?” It’s true. We work to earn our living to cover the cost of our needs and things that make life enjoyable. How we spend our time and use our money to meet our needs and live our lives can honor God. But it’s important to dig into what God’s perspective is on our abilities and efforts. In Deuteronomy 8:17-18, we read, “Beware lest you say in your heart. My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth. You shall remember the Lord, your God for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth that He may confirm His covenant, that He swore to your fathers as it is this day.”
Okay? So technically God made us and gave us our capacities. Everything we can do that is good and of value is because God created us so that we have these abilities. It is true that we have the choice to decide whether to work hard or not and how we want to use our time. God’s intention is not to treat those with greater capacities and who worked very hard unfairly. In fact, God has given people skills, abilities, and spiritual gifts so that we can thrive and do well individually and as a community if it fills His promise to provide. As disciples, our abilities are from God and are to be utilized for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.
It is worth noting that some people are entrusted with greater capacities. Since this is from God, it’s not unfair for Him to expect more from those to whom He has given more. As Luke 12:48 notes, “Everyone to whom much was given of him much will be required. And from him whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Now, this sounds a bit like the quote from Uncle Ben in Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility, but in the Lord, this is true as well. This phrase recorded by Luke is shared in the context of an encouragement to be ready for the Lord’s coming. In Luke 12:42-44, just a few verses before that. “And the Lord said, who then is this faithful and wise manager whom his master will set over his household to give them their portion of food at the proper time. Blessed is that servant whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.”
In this parable, Jesus described a servant who is a faithful and wise manager who could be entrusted to care for his household. The steward uses his or her faculties to care for the members of the master’s house until he returns. As disciples, we are entrusted with caring for the household of the Lord. Caring for the house of the Lord can feel like it is mostly geared towards those who serve as formal leaders in the church. But this applies to each of us in our circles of influence in ways we are gifted to serve within the community. We all have ways that we can care for others in God’s household, the church. This may be our families, our small groups, our ministry teams, our friends, and also those in need.
So what does caring for the Lord’s household look like? For me, this started with moving chairs. I saw people moving chairs around after the service at the mission campus and I figured that was something I could do. I joined the ushering team and even used some of my administrative skills to help schedule the teams. Then I found out the church was taking volunteers out into the community and looking for places to serve. So I helped set up a partnership with the San Francisco Food Bank, where I worked at the time. Each time the Cornerstone group came in to help sort food, people got to see some fun, church people providing care to the broader community. I also wanted to get to know the Bible better so I joined a small group and offered to help support the leaders and the host so that offering this awesome resource was easier for them.
Eventually, I became an apprentice leader, so I could fill in for them to take a night off every now and then, or to cover when they were away. These were all little things and fit within my gifts and abilities, but they showed care for the household of the Lord. In 2nd Corinthians 9:8-11 we read, “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work as it is written. He has distributed freely. He has given to the poor, His righteousness endures forever. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
These verses again note God’s provision to us, all of whom were poor in spirit. He has provided for our spiritual needs but also promises to meet our physical needs as well. As we utilize well what He has given us, it shows up by serving each other with generosity, with our time and resources, hospitality, caring, compassion, forgiveness, grace, and walking with one another through the real highs and lows of life. As we were faithful in these things and opportunities, He will multiply the blessing and entrustment. As disciples, we are called to be stewards in how we utilize our time and care for each other.
I’ll be transparent here, the time when I started serving was also when I learned about giving financially to the church. I was working for the San Francisco Food Bank and earning just a little more than minimum wage. I had a very tight budget. Once rent, household bills, groceries, and all of my financial responsibilities were covered, I had $5 each month set aside for fun. Wee, $5. Fortunately, I love playing sports in Golden Gate Park so most of my fun was free. It was humbling, but I was content. Then I signed up for the classes here at Cornerstone and talked about getting more involved in the church and growing with God.
As a small part of one of the classes, the pastors touch on the topic of financial giving and tithing. This is actually where I first learned about stewardship. Malachi 3 describes people robbing God by not getting ties and offerings to the storehouse, which at the time when Malachi wrote was the temple, but now is the local church. In Malachi 3:10 it says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and thereby put me to the test as the Lord of hosts. If I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
A tithe is literally a 10th. Malachi shared God’s prompting to call people to bring a 10th of their income for the year to the local temple. I’ve always been good at math and I knew that my tight budget minus a 10th would not only wipe out my $5 fun allowance per month but would likely cause me to have to withdraw from my limited savings. However, God invites us to test Him in this and promises His blessing. I figured I could risk a controlled experiment. So I started giving and quickly worked up to a 10th. The first month of doing this was October and some family sent birthday money. I wrote the tithe check and even had $10 left over to spend on fun. Okay, coincidence. Right?
The next month I wrote my tithe check and my grandmother sent a random Thanksgiving gift, which she had never done before, and again was enough money to cover the tithe. The same happened with gifts in December. Then my work gave me a bonus. I had extra again. I was still operating on my budget, but it was getting weird. The next month, my job gave me a raise. This covered the tithe fully and allowed me to keep my budget intact. I kept giving and I kept having enough. I’ve seen this throughout my walk with the Lord. I was faithful with a little, and then I was entrusted with more. As disciples, our finances are to be utilized for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.
Let’s be clear though, this is not a prosperity gospel in which someone might try to manipulate people into giving financially to a so-called ministry or cause saying that if they supply some financial seed, God will make them rich. That’s not biblical. What God does say is that when we are faithful with what we have, when we use our abilities and resources well, He will entrust us with more and make sure we have enough. This does not mean that those who have little are unfaithful or that those who have much are faithful. Actually, being financially well off can make being faithful more challenging. Though it wasn’t Jesus who first said, “Mo money, mo problems.” He definitely addressed this topic.
In Matthew 19:23-26, “And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished saying who then could be saved? But Jesus looked at them and said, with man, this is impossible but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus wasn’t anti-wealth, but it’s important to know that wealth can cause us to feel like we have gained things apart from God. We can begin to see what we have is having nothing to do with God and may feel the freedom to use resources however we want. In fact, most of us in the United States have some amount of this. With greater financial resources we can spend money more frivolously. We may even be comparatively more generous than most people, but God looks at our hearts.
In Luke 21:1-4, “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. And He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said, truly, I tell you this poor widow has put in more than all of them for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Jesus looked at how generously people gave, not simply how much. And we have to be careful, we are prone to compare ourselves with others. We want to be just a little better or a little more generous, or at least on par with what someone else is doing. Jesus often cautioned about avoiding comparison.
John 21: 21-22 says, “When Peter saw him referring to John, the disciple, he said to Jesus, Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, if it is my will, that he remained until I come what is that to you? You follow me.” Like Peter, we should not compare ourselves with others, there is obedience in God’s provision to them. We are called to be responsive to His call over our lives. We may feel conviction when we see someone else’s generosity, kindness, or hospitality. Sometimes that’s the Lord inviting us to step it up a bit. Other times we are just being invited to celebrate that person’s faith being lived out as we are responding to God in the ways that He’s calling us to. We each must consider how we keep our faith alive and active.
In James 2:14-17, he wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but it does not have works, can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily, and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed and filled without giving them things needed for the body, what good is that?” So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. Once we know what we are to do, then it’s just a matter of by what measure. Paul describes this in 2nd Corinthians 9:6-7. “The point is this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give, as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” As disciples, we must decide in our hearts how to utilize our resources cheerfully for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation. Our attitudes matter.
In 1st Peter 4:10-11, “As each of you have received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s very grace, whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God, whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Again, stewardship is utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation. When it comes to stewardship, some of the key resources God has provided are our time, care, compassion, relationships, abilities, networking, connections, possessions, finances, hospitality, and knowledge of Him. Literally, everything in our lives can and should be considered as to how it can be used for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation. When we do this, we come alive. Our faith comes alive. The world wants to know what causes love and care like this and the gospel is spread even more readily. Let’s be good stewards.
I’d love to pray and then we’ll hop over to our Zoom conversation. If you’re watching this after its original airing, or if you’re unable to join us for the conversation part of tonight, this has meant to be gone through in community. Faith trackers or disciples always walk things out, at least in pairs. So join us for the conversation if you can, or find another person or a group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us dig into these key areas of growth as disciples of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow as we move together as a community. So let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you that you invite us to be stewards. We know that you will hold us accountable and it’s not to rub our faces in things or to sort of mark us with a red pen when we step out of line. But your desire is that our lives through and through would be a testimony of your goodness and grace because we represent you. Lord, I pray for each person that’s tuning into this Lord, myself included.
Lord, help us in word and deed to represent you well. Lord, may we be generous with our time. May we find ways to serve people creatively this season when we can’t come together as a church the way we wanted to. But also, Lord help us to consider and pray about if you’re asking us to do something with our finances to honor you there, but not out of compulsion, Lord, we know it’s something that we reconcile with you and then whatever we can do cheerfully. Lord, I pray that you would guide us in this and in all of these things. Help us to be hospitable, help us to serve one another well, to love one another well, and to use all things for the glory of you and for just the blessing, the beauty of your creation, the betterment of it, Lord. We invite you into our conversations. We invite you, as we dig into this going forward. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
All right. So please join us for the Zoom conversation if you can. Otherwise, let’s keep talking about these things and we’ll see you next week. God bless.