Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Stewards of Grace"

(A companion piece to yesterday's essay, with thanks to Peggy for the inspiration)

    God's free gift of grace in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation does not preclude the rewards for service often referenced in the New Testament.  Such recompense, however, results from different responses on our part than the concept of "reward" usually implies.

    Our Heavenly Father calls His trusting children in Christ to be "good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (I Peter 4:10).  We apprehend, appreciate, and avail ourselves of our Lord's freely given favor and empowering presence for the purpose of fulfilling His will.  He will reward our labors upon the basis of our response to His working in us.  As the Lord Jesus declared of His perfectly faithful earthly lifetime, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). 

    1.  Apprehend - First, we receive God's good grace by faith, believing that the One who birthed us as His born again children possesses no less capacity to enable the life to which He calls and commands us.  The Apostle Paul confessed of such enabling, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly that they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).  Indeed, for the next step of faith and faithfulness, whatever it may involve in measure or mode, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus lives in us to empower obedience to our Heavenly Father.  This we must believe, regardless of past experience, present feeling or perception, and uncertainty about the future.  Thereby the grace that eternally inhabits our spirits becomes the grace that energizes our mind, hands, and feet to take the next step, and the next, and the next…

    2.  Appreciate - Gratitude for gifts given plays a major role in our experience of God's abundant generosity in Christ.  Particularly regarding enabling for doing the will of God, we do better to thank the Lord for the already provided "power that worketh in us" than to beg our Heavenly Father for the strength that presently exists within us through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:20).  Again, our fleshly feelings, sensibilities, and reasoning may contradict the Truth declared by the Word of God.  What will we believe?  Who will we believe?  Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know "the exceeding greatness of His power to upward who believe" (Ephesians 1:19).  We do well to pray for each other and for ourselves that we will gratefully know the same, and thus live according to the Gift already given - "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3).

   3.  Avail - Stewards use the means provided by their master to do his will.  Believers are actually steward sons and daughters who possess our Heavenly Father's infinite bounty whereby we can do all things that honor Him and fulfill His purposes.  When living in accordance with God's will, we will find no shortage for the step or task at hand.  We rather discover a Divine creativity and energizing that can only be explained by the wisdom, presence, and enabling of Someone far greater than ourselves.  Every martyr who ever gave his or her life for the Lord Jesus would tell is that their "last full measure of devotion" resulted not from their own devices or dedication, but rather from the most holy means provided by God that empowered their sacrifice as they trusted and submitted to Him.  Obedience to God proceeds from this freely given grace made available through Christ, and then availed of by believing and devoted hearts.

    Those who steward God's good gifts by faith will be rewarded for their apprehending, appreciation, and availing.  Such recompense will not ensue because of their own means and efforts, but rather because they became the willing vessels of their Lord's means and efforts.  Remember Paul's confession: "I labored... yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."  In a life wherein we "live by faith," only the products of the power of God as received and applied by faith can and will be rewarded (Romans 1:17).  In actuality, God will recompense us for apprehending, appreciating, and availing ourselves of His works, as revealed in and through us.

 "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither is he that planteth anything, or he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.  Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one, and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." 
(I Corinthians 3:8).

Weekly Memory Verse
   Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
(Psalm 29:2)

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