Please find below my teaching notes for part 1 of the new series, “iGive.” (c) 2012, Terry Broadwater. For personal use only. For permission for other uses, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to our new teaching series, “iGive!” This teaching series is about how you manage your greatest gift and resource: your life! And we’re going to break it down into four primary areas: your life, your time, your finances, and your service- what are you doing with your abilities? The big question we’re going to continually ask is: “Am I being a good manager of my life, my time, my finances, and my abilities/service?”
And here’s why this is such an important issue- how you’re managing your life, your time, your finances, your service. Because God is going to hold you accountable for those things and he is going to expect a return on his investment! The Bible says that one day each of us is going to stand before God and give an account of your life. God is going to say, “I gave you this one life. How did you use it, how did you manage it, what do you have to show for it?” Here’s a parable Jesus taught that illustrates this:
Note Matt. 25:14-30 (CEV)
Basically, in the story, the “master” represents God and the “servants” represent you and me. Jesus is saying that each of us has been given “talents”- which, in essence, represents your life, consisting or your abilities, giftedness, calling, opportunities, etc. And God is going to expect a return on the “life” he has given you- did you reproduce it or did you waste it?? So, obviously, if I want to stand before God at the end and hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant” and not, “You wicked and lazy servant” then you better know the key to managing your life well! Would you agree?
In other words, God has given me my life, but he has also given me the responsibility for managing it, as well as the choice regarding how I’ll manage my life! Thankfully, Jesus also tells gives us a “Life Management Seminar” in Mark 8:34-37. Four key principles are revealed so listen to what he says…
Note Mark 8:34-37 (CEV)
Jesus gives us incredible insight into the best possible management plan for your life: “Give up your life!” What does “giving up your life” have to do with having a plan for your life? Everything!! It’s living by this principle: “I give my life!”
We think giving is all about money. No, it’s bigger than that! As a matter of fact, God doesn’t necessarily want your money; but he does want your life! Why do you want to give God your life? Because it’s the only way you can “lose it all” and still “gain everything!” Let me explain. I’m going to spend the bulk of my time on this first principle, because it is the key thing we need to understand and accept. The other three are the responses to the first one. Okay?
Life Management involves four primary principles:
The Principle of Biblical Stewardship
GOD IS THE MAKER, AND I AM THE MANAGER OF MY LIFE!
Biblical Stewardship simply comes down to this: We own nothing. God owns everything; we are simply managers of the life, time, finances, gifts, service opportunities, he has given us! Whether you like that or not, agree or disagree with it; that’s the way it is!
Psalm 24:1 “The earth and everything on it belong to the Lord. The world and its people belong to him.” Col. 1:16 “Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen… All things were created by God’s Son, and everything was made for him.”
Deut. 8:17-18 (CEV) When you become successful, don’t say, ” I’m rich, and I’ve earned it all myself.” Instead, remember that the LORD your God gives you the strength to make a living. That’s how he keeps the promise he made to your ancestors.
The principle of biblical stewardship or management says: You are in a relationship with God. He is the master who hands out the resources and will one day ask for an accounting; and you are the steward who is entrusted with the resources and must eventually answer for how they were invested. God is the master; he distributes gifts at his discretion. We are stewards/managers; accountable to him for all that we do with all that we have (I’ll talk more about this in Parts 2-4, “iTime, iFinance, and iService.”).
Michael Novak puts it like this: “We didn’t give ourselves the personalities, talents, or longings we were born with. When we fulfill these – these gifts from beyond ourselves – it is like fulfilling something we were meant to do…. The Creator of all things knows the name of each of us – knows thoroughly, better than we do ourselves, what is in us, for he put it there and intends for us to do something with it – something that meshes with his intentions for many other people…”
As humbling as this sounds, we don’t bring anything to the table. It’s all God’s. This principle carries some heavy implications. First, since God owns it all, he holds the rights that come with ownership. Since we only have what we have been allowed to have, then we operate primarily in the realm of responsibilities.
Hear that clearly: GOD HAS RIGHTS; WE HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES. God has entrusted us with certain resources, gifts and abilities. These things rightfully belong to him. Our responsibility is to live by that trust by managing these things well, according to his design and desire.
Another implication is that since God owns everything and expects us to manage things according to his plan and purpose, every decision is a spiritual decision. Whether it’s buying a new car or going to the movies, how we use our time and money matters a great deal to God. God demands to be in the loop on every investment, purchase and decision. Now you may think that sounds extreme; but obviously, I’m not suggesting you should pray about whether you should go to the movies or not, or what toothpaste you should use, etc. That’s not the point at all. What is the point is that I’m responsible for the life, the time, the finances, the service opportunities, etc., that God has given me.
Obviously, from the story Jesus tells in Matt. 25, “The Parable of the Talents”, GOD GIVES WHAT HE WANTS TO WHOM HE WANTS, and there are a couple of variables. First, the master does not give each servant the same amount of talents. We don’t have to look too closely to see that this is just the way things are. Some people have gifts that are publicly celebrated. Others have gifts that are quiet and unseen. Not everyone is gifted in the same way, and that needs to be okay with us.
Jesus makes it clear that the size of the gift is not the important variable. The variable that matters is what each servant does with what he’s been given. While the first servant is given more than double what the second servant is given, they are both commended with the exact same words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (vv. 21, 23). In the final analysis, on the day of reckoning, the master will not ask why you didn’t invest someone else’s gifts. He won’t ask what you did with what you didn’t have. He will only be concerned with what you did with your life!
When the servant who had buried the money began offering excuses, the master refused to accept them. Instead, he rebuked the lazy servant and punished him severely. Meanwhile, the faithful servants enjoyed the rewards they had received for their diligent labor. The master is generous beyond belief, but he is also going to hold his servants accountable. He will reward diligence and faithfulness; he will punish laziness. Here is perhaps the most sobering point of this parable: The third servant is not judged for doing bad things; he is judged for doing nothing. He did not lie or cheat or steal; he simply sat on his hands, he did nothing with the life he had been given!
Biblical Stewardship is about more than merely being a manager; but being a “shrewd” or “street-smart” manager of your life! Note Luke 16:1-9
This perplexing parable appears at first glance to encourage dishonesty. GOD EXPECTS ME TO BE SHREWD NOT DISHONEST! Jesus enjoins us to mimic the steward’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty. Jesus commends the man’s ability to use his present and temporary power and resources to make preparation for what was coming. In Jesus’ day there were two primary words for “wisdom.” One word was sophia, which had a spiritual, pious ring to it. This is the wisdom that comes from above, resulting in godly character and conduct. This wisdom comes through the grace of God. But the word Jesus uses here is phronimos, which meant cunning, cleverness, street-smarts. Jesus uses this word in Matt. 7:24 about the “wise” man who builds his house on the rock. It takes no special revelation from above to know that Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount form perhaps the greatest ethical platform known to man. It only makes sense to apply these teachings to our daily lives, thus the “wise” man is also shrewd, and shrewdly manages his life.
Jesus made it clear that we are his stewards. We manage his resources on earth. We manage multiple resources of our time, finances, gifts, and opportunities. Luke 16:8-15 contains the application of this “Parable of the Shrewd Manager.” You can read it this week.
The application is basically this: IT’S SMART TO LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF… BY BEING LOYAL TO YOUR MASTER! Again, the point of biblical stewardship is that we manage what God owns (and he owns everything). He expects maximum return on his investment. Stewards/Managers work hard and smart. The best stewards/managers are also shrewd. They look for the “extra” possibility to serve God well.
So, based on the Bible’s clear definition of being a good steward and managing your life well, let’s ask and honestly answer the question: I am managing my life: 1 2 3 4 5
I’m going to close with these next 3 things because they are really the appropriate responses to what we just talked about; mainly, God has rights, we have responsibilities. It’s the right responses to Jesus’ call to be his disciple, or more concisely to make him the “Lord of your life!” Basically, you are taking the first step of biblical life management by giving back to God what rightfully belongs to him- your life! It comes down to these 3 things Jesus tells us in his “Life Management Seminar” in Mark 8:34-37…
The Principle of a Life-Surrendered- “I say no to myself…”
To go up I must give up! Elevating your life to a new level means you are managing your life in a way that denies self and promotes God’s purpose! It means you are “giving your life” back to God. It’s saying, “Here’s my life Lord, use me for your purposes, your glory!” It’s realizing that your life is better off in God’s hands than in your own!
It’s accepting that God has the rights and I have the responsibility. I surrender my rights! I give up my life, my selfishness, to go up to a level of “abundant living” that is only possible through surrendering myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ! Jn. 10:10 “The thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest!” A fulfilled life is only possible if it’s a surrendered life! It’s realizing that God’s purpose for my life is always higher than mine! I am surrendering my life for a higher purpose: 1 2 3 4 5
The Principle of a Life-Sacrificed- “I take up the cross…”
Dying to self saves my soul! Life management that results in “being a good and faithful servant” and in being “given more to manage than what you started out with” is about more than surrender, it’s also about sacrifice! You don’t just deny self, you die to self! Self says to get more you have to take more. Jesus says to be given more give more!
I accept that God has given me everything I have. My appropriate response is to give everything back to God (Rom. 12:1-2). You say, “I’ve worked for everything I have!” Well, God has given you the talent, the strength, the opportunities, etc. The motivation for God approved and blessed life management is not what can I get if I give, but I’m going to give regardless of whether I get! Jesus entrusted his life to the Father on the cross. He also certainly expected a resurrection. But he also accepted that by being given the resurrected life, he would be able to give resurrected life! God rewards your sacrifice by giving you more than what you gave so you can have more to give! I am learning to be more selfless and less selfish: 1 2 3 4 5
The Principle of a Life-Submitted- “I follow Jesus…”
To use authority I must be under authority! Life management God’s way requires me to submit! Biblical stewardship means God owns everything, and if God owns everything then I need to not merely accept that, but submit to it.
I submit to the supremacy of God- he is the Master, I am the servant. Why do I want to do that? So that things won’t have supremacy over me!! The challenge is always about who or what is in control. A submitted life to Christ means I put him in control so I have the authority to control the things that would want to control me! I have power over things, they don’t have power over me: 1 2 3 4 5
Ask yourself: Why would I gain the whole world but lose my life? What will I give in exchange for my life?
Biblical stewardship touches every area of our lives. It requires a basic commitment to present your life completely to God as his servants, fully surrendered, sacrificed, and submitted, with no strings attached. The real issue of stewardship is whether we are administrating our affairs and possessions as if they are ours or as if they are God’s.
Our lives are shaped by the decisions we make, and there is no greater choice offered to us than surrender, sacrifice, and submit to the one who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. T he ultimate question, then, is this: Am I the lord of my life, or is Christ the Lord of my life? We will either labor under the illusion that we can control our own lives, or we will submit to the reign and rule of God.
This is the difference between the great I will and the great Thy will. Whether we realize it or not, we face this decision many times in the course of each day. Our answer to this question will determine how we manage the time, money, abilities, (talk more about these in Pts. 2-4), truth and relationships God has placed under our care.
A wise steward will treat things according to their true value, treasure the things God declares to be important and hold with a loose grip the things that God says will not matter in the end.
So, are you ready to accept that God owns everything and that God has given you the things you have? God has the rights, you have the responsibility. Will he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” or “you wicked and lazy servant?”
Next Weekend: Pt. 2 “iTime”