The Rev. Paul Schneider
1990 Synod Convention Essay
PSALM 100: “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
- A Steward Serves the Lord with Gladness Because He Knows & Believes That
- The Lord Is God (Know ye that the Lord he is God)
- The Lord Is Our Creator & Owner (it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves)
- The Lord Is Our Ruler & Provider (we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture)
- The Lord Is Good & Merciful (For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting)
- The Lord Is True & Faithful (and his truth endureth to all generations)
- A Steward Serves the Lord with Gladness as His Faith & Love Motivate Him to
- Live For the Lord (Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing)
- Worship the Lord (Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise)
- Thank the Lord (be thankful unto him, and bless his name)
Serve the Lord with Gladness
There can be no better introduction to this convention essay which encourages pastors, lay delegates, and other members and friends of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod to SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS than the words which the inspired Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, reminding them of all the spiritual blessings they possess in Christ:
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:2–10, NIV)
Yes, like the Ephesian Christians, we too must give praise to almighty God for blessing us with spiritual gifts, for choosing and adopting us as His children, and for making known to us the mystery of His will. Without these blessings, we would all be spiritually blind and dead, enemies of God and heirs of hell, because that is how we are born. As the Apostle told the Ephesians in chapter two of his Epistle, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph 2:1), so also God tells us through him that we all were born spiritually dead, and followed the ways of this world as well as the devil himself. But because of His great love for us, our merciful God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph 2:5) saving us by His grace. We have been saved by grace, not by works, as the Apostle writes beautifully in these familiar words: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8–9) .
So why did God save us? He saved us because He loves us. He saved us because He wants us to spend eternity with Him in the mansions of heaven. Moreover, He saved us because He wants us to serve Him here on this earth. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10)
This essay deals with the stewardship of life, the service which God desires, expects and makes possible from His stewards (A steward is a manager of God’s possessions). It encourages us to follow the example of Jesus Himself, to possess the same attitude that He had (Php 2:5), thus putting into practice what He preached: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mt 20:28)
A Christian is a child of God who has acknowledged his sinfulness, confessed his sin, and by the Holy Spirit’s power trusts in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Thus comforted with the forgiveness of sins and confident in the hope of heaven, a Christian lives on this sinful earth desirous of rendering service to God and others. Martin Luther understood this truth very well and expressed it when writing THE FREEDOM OF A CHRISTIAN:
We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor. (LW, Vol 31, p. 371)
A Christian steward motivated by the Holy Spirit will therefore SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS.
The Hebrew word for serve in Psalm 100:2 is “abad” which appears 290 times in the Old Testament. R. Laird Harris helps us to understand the meaning of serve:
The etymology of this word [abad] seems to share the ideas of several Semitic roots, e.g. the old Aramaic root which means ‘to do or make,’ an Arabic root meaning ‘to worship, obey’ (God) and its intensive stem meaning ‘to enslave, reduce to servitude.’ This service may be directed toward things, people, or God … When the service is offered to God, however, it is not bondage, but rather a joyous and liberating experience (Ex 3:12; 4:23; 7:16,26; 10:26; Ps 22:31; Job 21:15; Jer 2:20; Mal 3:14). (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Editor, Vol 2, page 639)
Understanding the meaning of the term “serve” as God would have Christians understand it, requires that they understand Who God is and What God has done for them. Psalm 100 presents such an understanding. And the Holy Spirit through the Psalm gives the Christian steward the desire, as well as the ability, to SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS.
A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS BECAUSE BE KNOWS AND BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS GOD. Verse 3a of Psalm 100 reads, “Know ye that the Lord he is God.”
Sinful man often doubts or denies God and desires to be his own god. Satan, in the form of the serpent, back in the Garden of Eden, succeeded in getting Adam and Eve to fall into sin. Satan was successful in getting Eve to doubt the clear command of God and to desire to be “like God, knowing good and evil.” (Ge 3:5)
It is obvious from the many encounters that God had with the people of the Old Testament that one of their main problems was their failure to know that the Lord is God. Many thought like the Pharaoh who spoke to Moses after being told to let God’s people go, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” (Ex 5:2) It was their denial of God that caused God to react to them as He did when He sent the various plagues upon the people of Egypt and continued to repeat the theme: “By this you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ex 7:17) This same statement is repeated over and over and over again in the book of Exodus (6:7; 7:5,17; 8:22; 10:2; 14:4,18; 16:6,12; 29:46; 31:13; etc.).
So important was it to know that the Lord is God that the Children of Israel were instructed before entering the Promised Land: “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands.” (Dt 4:39–40) So important is it to know that the Lord is God that this message needs to be repeated time and again until it reaches not only the ears but also the hearts of the people living today. People have not changed. They are still being formed from the same sinful mold because flesh always gives birth to flesh. People still need to be reminded that the Lord is God. How evident it is that this is a major problem, that people do not know or acknowledge that the Lord is God. Consider all the people who simply live, “doing their own thing.” What the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans of his day applies as well or better to many of our day:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Ro 1:29–31)
The root of most problems within the church today is the denial or abuse of God’s holy Word, which, in all reality, is a denial of God Himself. All the liberalism and the legalism within the Christian church is a direct result of not really letting God be God. When God is not acknowledged as God, the individual sinner becomes his own “god” and service is rendered to himself rather than to the Lord. How important it is to know that the Lord is God!
It is also important to know that the Lord is our Creator and Owner. As the Psalmist writes, “it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Ps 100:3) A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS BECAUSE HE KNOWS AND BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD.
By letting God be God and listening to His Word, the truth that the Lord is the Creator and Owner of the world is driven all the way home to the heart. God Himself said through Moses, “The whole earth is mine,” (Ex 19:5b) and through Haggai, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine.” (Hag 2:8) King David knew and believed this as he wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Ps 24:1) So also did Martin Luther, as he testified:
A sincere Christian believer has all the possessions of God and is a child of God. The time of his life, however, is but a pilgrimage… Therefore we must use everything on earth in no other way than as a guest who travels across country, comes to an inn where he must spend the night, and takes nothing but food and lodging from the innkeeper. He does not say that the innkeeper’s property belongs to him. Thus we must also deal with temporal goods as if they did not belong to us … Thus the Christian life is only a night’s lodging; ‘for here we have no lasting city’ (Heb. 13:14), but we must go where the Father is, namely to heaven. (LW, Vol 30, p. 35)
We confess this truth in these words of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Makerof heaven and earth.” Perhaps it would be good to revise this creed to confess: “Maker and OWNERof heaven and earth.” How important it is to know and to believe this reality. Therefore, everything we have, use and enjoy in this world is a gift from God. Although man claims responsibility for “making” many material goods, it is God who supplies him the raw materials as well as the ability to fashion them. A steward will serve the Lord with gladness when he knows and believes that the Lord is the Creator and Owner of everything in this world.
The Lord is also our Ruler and Provider. The Psalmist wrote: “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps 100:3b) A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS BECAUSE HE KNOWS AND BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS THE RULER AND PROVIDER.
Sheep of His pasture — what a beautiful picture of His Providence! Jesus is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10), and because we are His sheep, we lack nothing. He makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the quiet waters (Ps 23). He watches over us and gives us all that we need for this body and life. Luther’s explanation of the First Article sums it up so very well:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and praise, TO SERVE and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
Even though we often must work very hard for what we need in order to live, it is the Lord, our Ruler and Provider, Who makes it all possible. Moses reminded the people before entering the promised Land: “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Dt 8:18)
Because the Lord is our Provider, we Christian stewards never need to worry about our life, what we will eat or drink or about our body, what we will wear (Mt 6:25). Therefore, instead of expending energy and time on worry, God enables us to spend our energy and time rendering service with gladness, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Mt 6:33), knowing that when God is for us, nothing can be against us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Ro 8:32) How thankful we can and we should be that our gracious God does provide for us just as a good shepherd provides for his sheep!
God’s greatest concern is the care of the soul, which we know from these words of our Psalm: “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting.” (Ps 100:5a) A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS BECAUSE HE KNOWS AND BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS GoOD AND MERCIFUL.
If we go back to the picture of the Good Shepherd, we see our Lord not only providing for our temporal bodies but especially taking care of our eternal souls. Jesus Himself said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:11) That is exactly what our Lord, the Good Shepherd, has done for us. After living a perfect life, keeping all of God’s commandments perfectly in our place, He suffered and died on the cross of Calvary, enduring the wrath of God over all the sins of the entire world. Jesus, as our Substitute, suffered our eternal punishment of hell, a punishment we all deserve but a punishment we can now all escape. Because of Jesus, instead of spending eternity in hell, we sinners, who have been declared saints, can spend eternity in heaven.
It is especially for this reason that we Christian stewards are to spend our entire lives living for and serving faithfully the Lord, and to do so gladly. This is certainly God’s desire, as He so tells us through the inspired Epistle of Paul to the Romans: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — which is your spiritual worship.” (Ro 12:1) The Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed sums up this reality:
I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and SERVE Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Yes, this Gospel message is most certainly true. There never need be any doubt in our minds about that. Our Psalm stresses this fact with these concluding words: “and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Ps 100:5b) A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS BECAUSE HE KNOWS AND BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS TRUE AND FAITHFUL.
Pilate questioned Jesus before His crucifixion and asked a question that is still being asked today, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38) In a society which questions any absolutes, it is easy for even Christians to fall into the devil’s trap of questioning the faithfulness and truthfulness of God and His holy, inspired Word. People show their lack of trust in the faithfulness of God to keep His Word when they serve themselves instead of God. How sad when people fail to trust God. Consider the many promises that God makes in His Word, promises which He will always keep, but promises which are often doubted by faithless or fearful followers.
Here is a sampling of some of the many promises God has made to His stewards:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” (Lk 6:38) “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (II Co 9:6) “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” (II Co 9:10) “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal 6:9–10)
When people fail to serve the Lord with gladness, it is often because they are too busy serving themselves, thinking that God helps only those who help themselves. At the same time they fear that if they don’t take care of themselves, nobody else will and therefore they will lack what they really need. While one must always keep a proper balance in life, using good Christian common sense and guarding against going to any extreme, Christian stewards can certainly trust the promises made by God because the Lord is true and faithful.
We can learn from Moses, as he instructed God’s people to drive out the enemy nations from the Promised Land. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” (Dt 7:9) We can learn from Solomon also, who trusted God’s promises and experienced firsthand the faithfulness of the Lord. At the dedication of the Temple, after he had finished all the prayers and supplications, he rose from before the altar where he had been kneeling, stood before the whole assembly of Israel and said in a loud voice: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” (I Ki 8:56) Moreover, after the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua wrote: “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled,” (Jos 21:45)
The following quotation and illustration from Charles Spurgeon reinforces the reality that the Lord is truly faithful:
Where can it be shown that one of his promises, when rightly understood has ever failed? What thing hath he spoken that hath not come to pass? Trace the records of the Bible, and they form a great cloud of witnesses to this truth. Trace the course of providence, and its varied events all show that his truth endureth. Trace the experience of God’s people, and it is the same. Let the following quotation illustrate: ‘Now instead of taking you back to ancient or modern history, I would like to take you to the history of your mother or of your grandmother. I think of my dear grandfather, and of what he used to say to me. If he were here tonight — I am glad he is not, because he is in heaven, and that is a much better place for him; but if he could come from heaven, and could talk as he used to do when he was here on earth, he would say, ‘Ah, my boy, I did find him a faithful God.’ He had a large family and a small income, but he loved his Lord, and he would not have given up his preaching of the gospel for anything, not even for an imperial crown. He has told me often how the Lord provided for him. He had a little farm to get his living upon it, and he had a cow which used to give milk for his many children, and one day when he came up to the cow it fell back with staggers, and died. Grandmother said, ‘James, how will God provide for the dear children now? What shall we do for milk?’ ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘God said he would provide and I believe he could send us fifty cows if he pleased.’ It so happened that on that day a number of gentlemen were meeting in London — persons whom he did not know — were sitting as a committee for the distribution of money to poor ministers, and they had given it to all who had asked for it. My grandfather had never asked for any; he liked to earn his own money. He did not send any petition or appeal. Well, after the gentlemen had distributed to all who had asked there were five pounds over, and they were considering what they should do with this balance. ‘Well,’ said one, ‘there is a Mr. Spurgeon, down at Stambourne, in Essex, a poor minister; he stands in need of five pounds.’ ‘Oh,’ said another ‘don’t send him five pounds; I will put five to it; I know him; he is a worthy man.’ ‘No,’ said another, ‘don’t send him ten pounds; I will give another five pounds, if some one else will put a fourth five to it.’ The next morning came a letter with ninepence to pay. Grandmother did not like to pay ninepence for it; but there was twenty pounds in it, and as my grandfather opened it, he said, ‘Now can’t you trust God about an old cow?’ These things I tell you, and you smile, and well you may; but, oh, my soul laughs, and my face laughs on both sides when I think how faithful God has been to me. He has never lied unto me, or failed me, or forsaken me; but has kept his word to this moment in every respect (Spurgeon). But such an experience as this the whole army of the saints of God can furnish instances of. It is no solitary example.” (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol VIll, Ps C, p. 357)
God is God; God has created us and owns us; God takes care of us and blesses us. As a Christian steward studies the Scriptures and surveys his own personal life, he sees personally how the Lord has created all things, has helped him, delivered him, and kept all the many promises made in the pages of Holy Scripture.
A Christian steward serves the Lord with gladness because he knows and believes that the Lord is God, that the Lord is our Creator and Owner, that the Lord is our Ruler and Provider, that the Lord is Good and Merciful, and that the Lord is True and Faithful But what are some specific or even some general ways in which he serves the Lord? Our Psalm gives this answer as well. Psalm 100, brief but beautiful, tells us that A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS AS HIS FAITH AND LOVE MOTIVATE HIM TO LIVE FOR THE LORD.
The opening verse states: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” (Ps 100:1, KJV) The NIV translates it: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.”
The Hebrew word “rua” which is translated “make a joyful noise” is an unusual verb, although it occurs forty-two times throughout the Old Testament. The primary meaning is “to raise a noise” by shouting or with an instrument, especially a horn (Nu 10:7) or the traditional ram’s horn (Jos 6:5). It is used in this sense in rituals of the Israelite tabernacle (I Sa 4:5). The same root is used to describe the exaltation of the people when David brought the ark to Jerusalem.
As we apply these, words in this convention essay, we stress the joyful noise of serving the Lord with gladness that we stewards make by living each and every day for the Lord. We are to dedicate our entire life to service in the Kingdom of God, no matter what our occupation or vocation may be.
People sometimes like to divide their lives into different categories, especially separating the spiritual from the secular. But all of life is to be lived under God and in service to God! What a Christian steward does on Saturday night is as important to God as what he does on Sunday morning. Although there is a proper time and place for everything (sleeping is very necessary, just as hearing a sermon is very necessary… only don’t try to do both at the same time!), and certain activities do have a greater impact upon the soul than others, yet each individual steward is to render each individual activity of life in service to God in His Kingdom. God is interested in what we do to serve Him every minute and every second of every day.
One of the more familiar Bible passages to many Christians is John 3:16, often called “the Gospel in a nutshell.” Another, II Corinthians 5:15, can be termed, “Stewardship in a nutshell.” St. Paul writes: “And he (Christ) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” This passage describes the total stewardship of life, a life lived selflessly for the Savior and not selfishly for the self. What a loud and a joyful noise a dedicated Christian steward makes when he dedicates his life to God and His Work!
Martin Luther, when lecturing on the book of Genesis, comments:
Hence the purpose of God’s gifts is not the pleasure or the tyranny of those who have the gifts, but the lawful use which should be directed toward the glory of God and the welfare and benefit of the neighbor. But although people receive God’s blessings, sovereignty, priesthood, power, strength, and intelligence, they are not concerned about the final cause. But why are you a king? Why are you a prince, a priest, a father, or a mother? ‘In order that I may be blessed in this life,’ you say, ‘in order that I may indulge in pleasures, in order that I may gratify my lusts. I am learned and rich in order that I may get a great name and glory among men.’ But then the rule of which you boast is completely done away with, because God does not want His blessings poured out for any other purpose than for His own glory, for the praise of Him who bestows them, and for the welfare of the church. (LW, Vol 5, p. 112)
Isn’t it sad that many church members live for their own glory rather than for the glory of God? In their selfishness, they feel little joy, and direct very little joyful noise unto the Lord. The ultimate reason many church members do not feel this joy in their lives spoken of in Psalm 100 is because they only partly understand and do not fully appreciate the glorious doctrine of justification. What is this doctrine of justification?
Holy Scripture quite simply describes the act of justification negatively as a ‘forgiving of sins,’ or a ‘covering of sins,’ or a ‘non-imputation of sins,’ Rom. 4,6–8, and positively as the ‘counting of faith for righteousness,’ Rom. 4,5; Ga1. 3,6; Rom. 4,3. (Christian Dogmatices, J.T. Mueller, p. 367)
Another important reason why so many “church members” are so quiet in their praise and service to the Lord is a lack of understanding of the doctrine of sanctification.
By sanctification, or renewal, we understand the inward transformation of the believer through the Holy Ghost, by which he is removed from the service of sin and made fit for the service of God in a new spiritual life. (Mueller, p. 382)
It is obvious that the level of sanctification is quite low in the lives of many members of the Lutheran Church and of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Although care must be taken in the use of statistics, yet a great deal of insight and understanding can be received through careful and accurate interpretation of certain numbers. The Parochial Report of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod for the year 1988 (the large sheet in the back of the SYNOD REPORT) shows baptized members total 21,378 and confirmed members total 15,518. By using a calculator and the total average attendance for Sunday morning worship of 9,341, we can determine that on a given Sunday only 43.7% of our members are in church for worship. Our special services get only about 30% of our membership in attendance. The Adult Bible Classes of our ELS get only 12% of Confirmed members. It is no wonder that the total yearly contributions for home purposes amounts to only $368.20 per communicant and the contributions for all other purposes, including missions, is only $67.25 per communicant. The synod received budget contributions in 1989 of only $47.81 per communicant. A doubling of that figure shows that a husband and wife might well contribute less than $100 for the entire year! With the blessings that God has bestowed upon many of our members, we have a right to say to one another: Those “yearly” amounts could and should easily be “monthly” amounts for many of us, and for a number of us, “weekly” amounts!
Furthermore, with these statistics in mind, let us spend a week (all 168 hours) with a typical Evangelical Lutheran Synod church member. Some of those hours are used working, sleeping and eating, all necessary activities for the Christian steward on this earth. (For some Norwegians, coffee drinking also seems to be necessary!) Some are used relaxing and playing, also very necessary activities. But how many hours in a typical week are simply wasted by spending time foolishly on selfish endeavors? And then two really important questions need to be asked. How many hours are spent (invested) in worship, Bible study and reading, family devotions and prayer? And how many hours are contributed doing “church business” or rendering service in some different manner to others?
Time is a creation of God and a very precious gift from God. Time is an opportunity to serve Him and to prepare for eternity. Time is very valuable for it cannot be stored up and saved or loaned like money. But time can be given and should be given—to God and to others!
Studies are often made and newspapers frequently print articles about certain aspects of life. How accurate this information is could be debated. But it makes interesting reading and/or conversation and does sometimes drive home an important point. One study stated that the average American, during a life time, will spend six months sitting at stop lights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, five years waiting in line and six years eating. Applying these statements to our members, we need not debate the reality that many might make more faithful use of their time SERVING THE LORD IN GLADNESS!
If a study were made of your entire life, how much time would be spent sitting in church, opening your Bible, looking for misplaced sinners, successfully making phone calls for spiritual purposes, waiting on others, and eating the spiritual bread of life? Time is our opportunity to SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS! God gives the privilege and provides the opportunities. May God also provide the motivation for us to respond by serving Him with gladness!
It follows beautifully that when time is given, talents are also given in the Kingdom of God. How important it is to use the abilities God grants us to render service! How gifted Christians are! How blessed churches are when members share their abilities with the congregation! Christians are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pe 2:9). Christian stewards are also privileged to serve God and one another with the talents God has provided. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (I Pe 4:10) “But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Gal 5:13)
King of Grace Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, Minnesota encouraged its members to use their time and talents by listing some estimates of hours needed to be given for various services within the congregation. Areas of ministry listed were Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, Choir, Ushering, Maintenance & Trustees, Administration & Boards, Counters of Money, Youth Workers, Greeters, Drivers, Social Groups & Support, etc. The estimate of total hours needed to accomplish these ministries amounted to 14,160. At 2,000 hours per year for a full time employee, it would take seven people working full time to accomplish this work, work which is “donated” by the members. How blessed this church is, and any church is, when members faithfully and gladly give of their time and their talents.
Every Christian steward needs to keep in mind these words:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Ro 12:3.6)
These gifts have been provided by God for the Christian steward to render faithful service in the church. Let each steward ask himself: “What am I doing with my life, my time and my talents, to serve the Lord with gladness?”
As we spend this week with a typical ELS Church member, we should take special note not only of what he “does” but also of what he “has.” There might be several cars in the driveway and perhaps so many other possessions in the garage, that it cannot even be used to shelter a favorite automobile. Usually the make, model and year of these cars displays an income of the owner which could certainly afford more than 92 per week for missions. (92 was the average weekly contribution ELS communicants gave in 1989 for the synodical budget.) In addition to the automobile(s), many members own boats, campers, motor homes, cottages, etc. We will no doubt notice that the home is quite comfortable. No need to question if there is a television. Today the den or family room often sports “an entertainment center” with VCR, camcorder, disc player, and a host of other electronic devices which were not even thought of by most people a generation ago. The closets are usually full of the latest fashions (time is often wasted wondering, What shall I wear?) and the kitchens include all the convenience appliances for the working mother to put a quick meal on the table when pizza isn’t delivered in or if the family is not taken out to some nice restaurant.
Every material item mentioned above is not sinful to own and to enjoy. God “provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (I Ti 6:17b). But it does become sinful to own many material possessions when they have been acquired at the expense of God’s Kingdom Work and when they are the “gods” of their owners. Far too many material possessions are purchased with the firstfruits of God’s blessings while meager leftovers are reluctantly placed in the offering plate, on the occasional Sunday when the individual does worship! Far too many of these material possessions actually possess the owner and keep him from rendering the service and the worship which God desires and deserves!
Is there a difference between the children of Israel bowing down to worship the golden calf and the children of the ELS bowing down to worship their god of gold? Is there a difference between the Old Testament people who “did as they saw fit” (Jdg 17:6) and the New Testament people who “do their own thing?” The prophet Hosea reminded the people: “With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction.” (Hos 8:4) It is ever so obvious that there is a problem with sanctification in the Lutheran church today. Pastors not only see open defiance of God’s Word and quick defense of sinful actions but they must deal also with the depression of these same rebellious sinners as they doubt God’s promises because they sense their Lord to be withholding His blessings and not answering their selfish prayers. John White, who authored a book speaking out against the materialism in the twentieth-century church, expressed such actions and attitudes in this profound way:
The twentieth-century church has also forgotten which master she belongs to, painting herself like a hussy in her silly pursuit of Lord Mammon. Or, to use another image, the church has gone a-whoring after a golden cow. Not a calf, if you please, but a cow. I call her a golden cow because her udders are engorged with liquid gold, especially in the West where she grazes in meadows lush with greenbacks. Her priests placate her by slaughtering godly principles upon whose blood she looks with tranquil satisfaction. Anxious rows of worshipers bow down before their buckets. Although the gold squirts endlessly the worshipers are trembling lest the supply of sacrificial victims should one day fail to appease her. (THE GoLDEN COW by John White, pp. 67–68)
There are several realities to remember as we deal with the lack of sanctification in our congregations. First, we must always remember the doctrine of original sin and the reality that every Christian still possesses the Old Adam. Our ELS Catechism teaches us that “The Old Adam is our inherited sinful nature with its evil lusts. “ (Q. 285) Quoted after the answer is this passage:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. (Ro 7,18–19)
This Old Adam is continually fighting against the New Man, which “is the new spiritual nature which the Holy Spirit created in us by regeneration.” (ELS Catechism, Q. 286) The inspired Apostle Paul also described this civil war when writing to the Galatians: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal 5,17) There will never be perfection in the life of the Christian this side of eternity. We must never forget that. However, we must never excuse the fact that Christians are not always as sanctified as they should be. As Jesus personally observed the sign of the sinful nature in His disciples of His day, so He continues to witness that same sign in His disciples of our day.
Second, we must remember the doctrine of the Means of Grace. The Holy Ghost brings us the Gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ, through the Word of God, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these means that the Holy Spirit brings us God’s grace and makes it ours. (See the 1989 SYNOD REPORT for the essay, “God’s Gift to You: The Means of Grace.”) When people neglect these means, they remain spiritually weak, spiritual babies who cannot behave like mature spiritual adults. Many members within the ELS need to hear and to apply these inspired words first written to the Hebrews:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11–14)
How sad that church members neglect the means of grace and starve themselves spiritually. A lack of worship and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, Bible study and personal Bible reading is a reality in most every Lutheran church.
Third, we must remember and properly apply and distinguish the doctrines of Law and Gospel. Both Law and Gospel are needed in order to produce sanctification. But it must always be remembered that only the Gospel has the power to motivate the steward to do good works; works of faith which the Holy Spirit leads the Christian to do out of love for Christ, according to the Ten Commandments, for the glory of God, and for the welfare of his neighbor. (See ELS Catechism, Q. 216) Confusion of Law and Gospel will certainly lead to poor sanctification in the lives of church members. On one extreme individuals exhort, “Preach only the gospel and don’t worry about the daily life”, a practice which emphasizes justification but neglects sanctification. On the other extreme individuals exhort,“Preach more law to shape these sinners up!” attempting to use the law to accomplish what only the gospel can do, thus emphasizing sanctification to the neglect of justification. There must be a proper balance. We must always keep in mind that faith, not works, saves; yet faith that saves will always have works. St. James wrote: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2,26) Luther said: “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” We need also to keep in mind that the Gospel should not be used as a “club” to produce sanctification from sinners but rather as a “comfort” to produce security for saints. Justification always precedes sanctification.
Dr. C.F.W. Walther expressed it well when lecturing on Thesis XXIII:
This confounding of Law and Gospel occurs … also in the orthodox Church, in numerous instances… this confounding of Law and Gospel occurs when ministers become aware that all their Gospel-preaching is useless because gross sins of the flesh still occur among their hearers. There may be drunkards among them or people who indulge in fist-fights, etc. These people come to church occasionally, but rarely to Communion and refuse to contribute when a collection is taken up. Now, the preacher may come to the conclusion that he has preached too much Gospel to them and must adopt a different policy; he must hush the Gospel for a while and preach nothing but the Law, and conditions will improve. But he is mistaken; the people do not change, except that they become very angry with their minister for not permitting them to do what they very much like to do. A collection is taken up, which nets twenty cents, when he had expected twenty dollars. He resolves to give these people hell and damnation next Sunday. Possible he may increase the collection by a few dollars, but the offering is worthless in the sight of God, because it was made under coercion…. Even the most corrupt congregation can be improved, however, by nothing else than the preaching of the Gospel in all its sweetness. The reason why congregations are corrupt is invariably this, that its ministers have not sufficiently preached the Gospel to the people. It is not to be wondered at that nothing has been accomplished by them; for the Law kills, but the Spirit, that is, the Gospel, makes alive…
It is a shocking sight to see a preacher do all he can to produce dead works and turn the members of his congregation into hypocrites in the sight of God. When good works are forced from men by the threats or even by the promises of the Law, they are not good works. Only those are good works which a person does freely and from the heart. (Walther, Law and Gospel, pp. 387–389)
Walther gives us a solution to many of the problems with sanctification. We must have a proper balance of Law and Gospel. The Law needs to be used in all three ways, as a curb to maintain, to a certain extent, outward decency and order in the world; as a mirror, to show us our sins; and as a guide, to show believers how to live as children of God, (ELS Catechism, Q. 101) But the Gospel also needs to be used, telling the good news about Jesus Christ, His perfect substitutionary life, His holy sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection from the grave, assuring that all has been accomplished to win forgiveness of sins and bring salvation to the entire world of lost sinners.
It will only be when the sinner is brought to repent of all sin through the preaching of the Law and given faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel that he will “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD.” (Ps 100:1) It will only be such faith that will motivate the Christian steward to serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with singing, joyfully giving praise to the Almighty. The act of singing sets forth the picture of joy. The Psalmist invites: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD.” (Ps 95:1) The Apostle James writes: “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” (Jas 5:13)
If statistics were to be gathered regarding how happy many church members are when it comes to serving the Lord, one would surely see that far too many are crying and complaining instead of singing and rejoicing. Nominating committees seeking “warm bodies” for various elected positions, Trustees seeking “working bodies” for clean-up days/nights on the church grounds, Church Officers seeking “willing bodies” to accomplish various tasks of ministry in the congregation can all testify that far too many church members run away in silence rather than come forward in song. Even more evidence of this is seen when the stewardship programs are presented. Many members run away and hide from stewardship, resenting the request to attend, actually rebelling against the idea that they should and could learn something to help them become more faithful stewards of God’s blessings. Psalm 100 reminds us that a steward will serve the Lord with gladness as his faith and love motivate him to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and to come before His presence with singing.
We are also reminded that A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS AS HIS FAITH & LOVE MOTIVATE HIM TO WORSHIP THE LORD. Verse four begins: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” The courts mentioned in this Psalm were literally the open spaces which surrounded the tabernacle or temple, where the worship was celebrated by the people. What a beautiful picture of God’s people gathering together for regular worship!
It has been mentioned that far too many church members fail to attend the regular worship services conducted in the local congregation. There is an attitude today which declares, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian!” But anyone making such a claim is giving evidence of ignorance of God’s Word and Will. To quote AT. Bliss, Jr.: “While it is true that one doesn’t have to go to church to be a Christian, it is also true that a Christian wants to go to church.” A study of the following topics and passages will certainly show clearly that attendance in church is not optional for the Christian and is also something that the New Man desires to do.
[(Third Commandment, Ex 20:8) (Offerings given in the Church, Ex 23:19; 34:26; Lk 21:1ff; I Cor 16:1–2) (Tabernacle, Ex 26:1) (Sabbath Ex 31:14) (Call to worship, Ps 95:6; 96:8–9; 100; 122) (Jesus in Temple, Lk 2:21ff; 2:41ff; 4:16; Mt 12:9; Mk 1:21) (Worship encouraged, Heb 10:25) (Worship in early church, Acts 2:42) (Church order, I Cor 14:40) (Church is Body of Christ, Rom 12:5; Eph 1:22–23; Col 1:18; I Cor 12:12ff) (Lord’s Supper, I Cor 11:17ff) (Church discipline, Matt 18) (Great Commission, Matt 28:18–20) (Pastors are God’s gift to the church, Eph 4:11.16) (A Christian will worship, Rom 12:1–6, Cor 5:11–21)]
Consider the advice God gave to His people before they crossed the Jordan to possess the Promised Land of Canaan. After telling them to destroy completely all the places of idol worship on the mountains and hills, after breaking down those altars and smashing those sacred stones and burning the Asherah poles, God told His people through Moses:
You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. (Dt 12:4–7)
Although God has given the New Testament Christian the choice of “when” to worship, He has not given him the choice of “whether” to worship! Although God has given the choice of “where” to worship, He has not given the choice of “whom” to worship! Individuals who claim they can better worship God apart from the local congregation are really not worshipping God (the Savior) but rather god (the self). It is difficult, if not impossible, to carry out all the New Testament injunctions God has prescribed to His people apart from the local church and synod. Every gift which God gives to His church and its members is given for the specific purpose of rendering service, service to others and God, not to self. Christian stewards understanding God’s Will are happy to worship God in church on Sunday morning and to enter His gates (doors) and His courts (sanctuary) with thanksgiving and praise.
A STEWARD SERVES THE LORD WITH GLADNESS AS HIS FAITH AND LOVE MOTIVATE HIM TO THANK THE LORD. Psalm 100, verse 4b states: “be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
It has already been mentioned that the Christian steward is to live his entire life for the Lord, SERVING HIM WITH GLADNESS. Every occupation or vocation for the Christian is a position for production of service and a pulpit for proclamation of salvation.
In the context of this Psalm and this convention essay we now ask, “How can the Christian steward express gratitude to God?” An obvious way is to bring an offering. When the Lord was instructing His people on worship, He told them: “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” (Ex 23:15) It is only natural for Christians to bring offerings of love to their Lord and their God. Consider some early examples of bringing offerings, before the formal laws were even given: Abel brought offerings (Ge 4:3–4); Noah offered animals from the ark after the flood (Ge 20); Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek (Ge 14:20); Jacob pledged to tithe (Ge 28:22).
As Christian stewards who desire to do God’s will, we turn to God’s Word for guidance in giving. Consider these directives which are here called THE TEN STEWARDSHIP DIRECTIVES FOR GIVING.
1. GIVE SOMETHING. No one should feel excused or exempt from bringing an offering to the Lord. When the Apostle Paul gave the guidelines for the special offering at Corinth, he clearly stated that everyone should give. “Each one of you should set aside a sum of money. . .” (I Co 16:2). When Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the commandments for the second time, he was also given other directives from God, one of which stated: “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” (Ex 34:20; See also Dt 16:16). No one is too rich or too poor, too young or too old, to give offerings to the Lord. As Jesus looked upon and accepted the widow’s mite with favor, so He looks upon even the poorest of the poor and expects “something” for an offering. It is only “natural” for the Christian steward to offer gifts of gratitude to the Giver of every good and gracious gift!
2. GIVE IN RESPONSE TO GRACE. It is by grace that we are saved. It is also by grace that we are able to give. This grace is first given to us by God and is what motivates us to share our blessings with Him in the form of church offerings. The Apostle Paul stressed grace when he talked about the Macedonian Christians and especially about the Savior when writing to the Corinthians:
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches…For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (II Co 8:1,9).
If there is one word to use to describe why and how we give, it is the term GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!
3. GIVE FIRST FRUITS. God is to be number One, the First and the Best, in our lives. A steward demonstrates the place of God in his life when distributing the blessings which are received for management. In the Old Testament God specifically commanded His people to bring the first fruits, not the leftovers, when He inspired Solomon to write: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” (Pr 3 :9) In the New Testament Jesus encourages believers to put the Lord first by telling us: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Mt 6:33). This means that when we receive blessings from God, we take from the “top” and offer our gifts to Him before we use the remaining blessings for ourselves. In other words, the church offering envelope should be filled before any bills are paid. (Note: I did not say any “other” bills because our offering to the church is not “a payment of a bill” but “a gift of love.”)
4. GIVE A PERCENTAGE. Our total life is to be dedicated to God. This means one hundred percent of our total income is to be used in accord with God’s will. There are many personal needs in life, needs which God satisfies with the income that He provides through labor, gifts and inheritance. The church also has needs which God satisfies with the offerings given by His people. A respectful portion of our money is to be given as an offering to Him through the church. The advice the Apostle Paul gave the Corinthians is certainly good for us to follow: “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” (I Co 16:2) He repeated this advice in his second letter: “Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Co 8:11–12) The Christians in Antioch followed this principle as they contributed to the famine in Judea. “The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea.” (Ac 11:29) Jesus upheld this principle when He told His disciples, after the widow had given her two mites: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Lk 21:3–4). Jesus emphasizes this principle of proportionate giving when He answers Peter’s question about the parable which taught readiness for the Lord’s return. In that parable Jesus was teaching that God does expect His stewards to be faithful, working to their full potential. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Lk 12:48)
5. GIVE GENEROUSLY. To be generous is to be willing to share with others in an unselfish, plentiful manner. God tells. us about being generous through the inspired Apostle who writes: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (II Co 9:6) He emphasizes generosity when he advises a young pastor named Timothy: “Command them (the rich) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (I Ti. 6:18) Statistics show that the average church contribution is about 2–3% of personal income. Is that amount to be considered generous giving, especially in view of what God commanded in the Old Testament, and the potential of New Testament Christians? Each individual must ask himself if he is being “generous” with his offerings to the Lord. Because the Bible in the New Testament has neither set an amount nor a percentage, we dare not tell others what to give. The amount of a personal offering is to be set by the Christian steward himself, in faith and love, from the heart, as he battles the Old Adam and desires to live according to the New Man in Christ.
6. GIVE REGULARLY. The Apostle told the Corinthians: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money …” (I Co 16:2) God also instructed through the Old Testament that He never wanted anyone to come before Him empty handed (Dt 16:16). As often as we have income, we should bring our offerings to our Lord when we faithfully worship Him in church. While it is true that the expenses of the church do go on week after week and that our offerings are used and needed to meet these expenses, yet the main reason we give regularly is to respond to all of God’s blessings and to do so as we worship (which is regularly!). If all church members practiced this principle or directive, there would not be the all-to-common “summer slump” and the “budget crunch” during the year. There would be no need for “special pleas” to catch up the budget deficit because the offerings would be coming in faithfully each week and month throughout the entire year.
7. GIVE CHEERFULLY. Although our old sinful nature is never happy about giving to God, our new spiritual nature rejoices in the privilege and the opportunity of giving. Common in the vocabulary of the Christian steward are these inspired words: “God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Co 9:7) Professor Richard Balge of the WELS writes in his commentary on this passage:
God himself is a cheerful Giver. He wants his children to imitate him and loves them when they do…What makes a man a cheerful giver is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Cheerfulness in giving is a gift of his grace. God loves and blesses a person for what God himself has given to that person, a spirit of cheerful generosity. Everything in Paul always begins in and returns to ‘grace alone.’ (Quarterly, Vol 85, No. 3, p. 228)
No one should ever give from pressure, for “each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion …” (II Co 9:7) . Christians who are serving the Lord with gladness will want to give and, in fact, will demand the opportunity to give. Listen to the translation of II Corinthians 8:4 from the NEW EVANGELICAL TRANSLATION (NET — GWN). Here the Apostle Paul points this out as he uses the Macedonian Christians as an example of “happy” givers to encourage the Corinthian Christians to complete their special offering: “With much pleading they (the Macedonian Christians) begged this favor of us that they might share in the help given to the believers.” Retired Pastor/Professor Julian G. Anderson, this author’s first Greek instructor, translates the verse as follows: “I’m telling you the truth when I say that they begged us to give them the privilege of taking part in the collection. . .” (New Testament in Everyday American English by Julian G. Anderson) How sad when the church is forced to go begging, sometimes seeking funds through professional fund raisers, to support Kingdom Work when the members themselves should be, and would be, if properly motivated by God’s grace, literally begging to participate in the giving of offerings! God wants cheerful givers!
What a privilege it is to be a giver in search for needs. Such a giver will certainly find many ways to serve the Lord with gladness. If more such givers were following this principle as well as the other nine here listed, we would find more church leaders in the same situation as Moses when he was building the Tabernacle:
And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning…The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done. Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary. And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (Ex 36:3–7)
8. GIVE CONFIDENTLY. How often it happens and how sad it is when a member comments: “If I were to give generously of my first fruits before my bills were paid, I would be out in the street!” or “I can’t afford to give anything to the church right now. I have other obligations.” To give confidently is to give in faith; trusting that God will bless your gift and will always provide for all your needs. Realizing that the Corinthian Christians possessed the Old Adam and needed encouragement, the Apostle informed them:
Now he (God) who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (II Co 9: 10–11)
Consider just a few of the wonderful blessings promised with these stewardship challenges:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse… test me … I will pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Ma13:10) “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.” (Lk 6:38)
We all can learn from the now sainted Professor M.H. Otto, whom this author remembers with fondness and respect: “We cannot afford not to give. We never get rich by withholding from the Lord more than is proper. . . People may think they are gaining materially by not giving liberally, but actually they are making themselves poorer and poorer.” It comes down to a matter of faith. Do we trust God to keep His many promises which assure us that He will bless our stewardship and provide for our every need?
9. GIVE THOUGHTFULLY. When the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians to encourage them that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give.” (II Co 9:7), he is assuming that they will do some careful thinking about the gift that will be given. Although there are times when unplanned and unexpected gifts will and should be given, normally the Christian steward will give careful thought and planning when determining and giving his gifts to the Lord for the Kingdom Work. God does not condone disinterested, careless giving which the following well-meaning statement often made by some church members reveals: “I put my money in the offering plate in good faith, and what they do with it is their business.” God’s Work deserves and demands loving interest which necessitates careful thought and careful follow-through on the part of the giver. Christian ministries also need to provide complete information about programs and accurate accounting of all contributions and expenses. Thoughtful giving will apply the previous eight directives as well as the tenth one that follows.
10. GIVE PRAYERFULLY. Do Christians view giving seriously enough to pray about it? Do they ask God to guide them in their giving? Do they fail to heed passages as: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all.” (Jas 1:5) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Php 4:6) “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:16)? Generally, they may think that these passages apply only when they are experiencing concerns regarding witnessing, illness, worry, etc. Let them not forget the need they have for guidance in giving to finance the Lord’s Work and thus to pray about this giving. How blessed is their giving, and how rich the Kingdom of God as well, when Christian stewards take the matter of their giving to the Lord in prayer!
When considering and applying these TEN STEWARDSHIP DIRECTIVES FOR GIVING, it must always be remembered that they are directed at the Christian who wants to do God’s will and thus seeks such guidance for living and giving.
In view of all that has been said, we need to apply Psalm 100 and this convention essay by asking, “How can I improve my own personal stewardship as well as the stewardship of the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod so that we all might more faithfully SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS?”
First, I must hold before myself and others that glorious and chief doctrine of the Christian religion, the doctrine of justification by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith.
Second, I must apply this doctrine of justification by living a life of sanctification which is accomplished when the Holy Spirit through the means of grace produces in me the desire and the strength to forsake sin and to grow in holiness and good works. I must resolve in my heart to serve the Lord (Jos 24:15), making faithful and diligent use of the means of grace for the power to render such service… and to do so with GLADNESS.
Third, I must faithfully use and properly divide the Word of Truth not confusing the Law and the Gospel and thereby avoiding the wrong motivation when attempting to encourage and increase the stewardship of the church and synod. Only the gospel can produce proper fruits of faith.
Fourth, I must cling to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, comforted with the assurance that through Him all my sins are forgiven, even sins of poor stewardship, confident that my Lord has prepared a place for me in the Paradise of heaven, and cognizant of my opportunities to live on this earth rendering service with gladness.
Fifth, I join the other members of my Evangelical Lutheran Synod as well as the saints in heaven to sing these words Ulrik V. Koren penned on the basis of Psalm 100:
Ye lands, to the Lord make a jubilant noise;
Glory be to God!
Oh, serve Him with joy, in His presence now rejoice;
Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
Not we, but the Lord is our Maker, our God;
Glory be to God!
His people we are, and the sheep led by His rod;
Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
Oh, enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise;
Glory be to God!
To bless Him and thank him our voices we will raise;
Sing praise unto God out of Zion!
For good is the Lord, and His mercy is sure;
Glory be to God!
To all generations His truth shall still endure;
Sing praise unto God out of Zion! Amen. (LH 44)
TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY!