1 Corinthians 4:2 says, "Moreover it is required in
stewards, that a man be found faithful." My Bible Commentary says, "A
major requirement in stewards is to be found faithful. Man values cleverness,
wisdom, wealth, and success; but God is looking for those who will be faithful
to Jesus in all things."
It is significant that the words 'all things' are used
here. In my observations of people and the discrepancies between what they say
and what they actually do, I've found that those that have tried to put
restraints or limits on being faithful to the Lord in all things, often have a
restrained or limited relationship with Him. They do not want to make themselves
available in case He should call on them at an inconvenient time and move them
out of their secure routines. When one is pulled out of a dependable routine, we
are then forced to ask the Lord for help. This renders us somewhat helpless
because He may not help us the way we feel it should be done. However, if we can
'endure' long enough, the reward of answered prayer and a corresponding
build up of faith comes.
The word 'endure' is not a popular one today as its very
meaning tells us that we might have to go through some discomfort as a servant
of the Lord. Most of us love the verses about God giving us power and love and
sound minds, and the ones that tell us that there's no condemnation for those
of us in Christ Jesus etc etc, but we don't like the ones about enduring "hardship
as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" - 2 Timothy 2:3. Why is this?
As with the subject of food, there is a balance that is
necessary here. For an athlete to compete and win at the Olympics, training,
discipline and endurance is necessary and yet no-one rails against those. To be
a green beret or a navy seal, training, discipline and endurance is necessary
but no-one says "That's not right - these people should be allowed to do
whatever feels right and to organise their lives to suit themselves." Those
options are available to any who would like to take advantage of them but they
will never reach the pinnacle of success if they do.
Is endurance the only quality necessary in a good walk with
the Lord? Certainly not! In the same passage of 2 Timothy, Paul says to him
(Timothy) "....my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit
thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." It
then goes on to talk about enduring hardship and the fact that anyone who is in
a battle is not interested in entangling himself in affairs of this life but he strives
for the mastery.
The wonderful grace of God is necessary to ensure that those
who are enduring are able to keep their minds on Christ and not go off on their
own half-baked ideas that have no substance. Those that 'strive for the
mastery' have made definite plans about where they are headed and what goals
they want to achieve. If the trainer says 'jump', they will jump! In this
case, our Trainer has much to say about running this race of life that we are
all in different stages of.
The Apostle Paul, who was notable for giving up all worldly
prestige and position - of which, in the eyes of the world, he was strongly
deserving, said that though he'd preached to others, he didn't want to
become a castaway for lack of discipline in his own life. At the end of his
life, he was able to say, "I have fought well and have kept the faith". What
an amazing testimony to give of one's self.
While working on this article, I looked through some old
notes that I had jotted down and felt that they were applicable. "We have
illness in our family at present and it has been long and drawn out. To my
shame, I have not handled it as well as I possibly could have because I have
allowed the pressure of the circumstances to sap me of vital energy which is
normally supplied by my daily time with the Lord. Because illness is no
respecter of persons, it does not usually make itself known at set times
throughout the day but is often more painful at night. Because I didn't want
to become ill myself, I made sure I had adequate rest by sleeping in to make up
for the interrupted nights. As a result of this, my morning time with the Lord
became later and consequently more rushed, not to mention considerably shortened
as the demands on my day grew greater. It didn't take long before I had no
reserves left and had to make the effort to get things back under control enough
so that I could once more refill my spiritual bank. (There is an excellent book
called "Too Busy Not To Pray", by Bill Hybels and that's exactly the
situation I found myself in.) Once I had re-established that time with the Lord,
He was able to equip me with what I needed to carry on. (2 Peter 1:3)."
Time with the Lord must be made up of speaking to Him
and hearing from Him. If we pray our hearts out but do not spend any time
reading His Word, we have no idea of the 'exceeding great and precious
promises' that He has made on our behalf or of His great love for us that
tells us that we are someone precious in His sight, not just a grovelling
worm. If we spend all our time reading His Word but not saying anything to Him,
there is no communication and areas of our lives that could be committed to Him
for fixing, are left unchanged and our walk becomes a solitary one with no
effectiveness whatsoever. Why walk on your own when you could be walking with
His loving support?
The Bible talks about us seeing the 'mote' or splinter in
our brother's eye and totally missing the plank in our own eyes. When I am
going through an 'honest with myself' period, I think of all these motes or
'faults' that others have in their lives and then notice a corresponding
plank in my own - not a pleasant realisation!
There's a wonderful song with these words - "He's
still working on me to make me what I ought to be. It took Him just a week to
make the moon and the stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How
loving and patient He must be. He's still working on me!"
What kind of a God could make and complete all these awesome
things - a universe and planets that have precise places, stars, a sun and moon
- and yet still be content to be 'working on me' for the space of my entire
lifetime? He doesn't put us through a crash course so that we're completed,
He just gently leads and teaches us, and prepares us for an eternity with Him.
With a love like that cradling us, isn't it worth casting off restraints and
limits and surrendering ourselves to Him? You will only be totally content if