What Does God Want?
October 06, 2019*
By Pastor John Partridge
Acts 26:27-31 Galatians 5:22-24
If you’ve been in church for very long, you’ve heard the message before, and in fact we’ve heard it here over the last few weeks. We’ve heard messages like “be content with what you have,” “money is a root of all kinds of evil,” and, “…people who are eager for money have wandered from the faith.” We heard last week that the values of our culture and the values of God are often at odds with one another.
So, what is it that God wants?
What is it that we should do with out lives, with our time, and with our money? What is it that God wants us to do? How should we manage the things that we have been given? How should we manage our lives, our time, and our money?
And, as odd as it may seem, there is word for that. There is a word that encompasses and describes that exact sort of management. How we manage our lives, our time, and our money, in ways that honor and please God, is called stewardship. Stewardship recognizes that all that we have been given, our lives, our time, and our money, have been given to us by God. God owns them all. God owned them before we were born, and God will own them after we die, but for now, God has given them to us and has entrusted us to care for them and to mange them. And that, is stewardship.
So, while, in one way, this is a message about stewardship, in another way, it isn’t.
For the next few weeks, during our stewardship campaign, you will hear someone (other than me) offer a few minutes of reflection as a “stewardship moment” during our morning worship service. Each of those reflections will guide you to think about different aspects of how we might honor God and the gifts that we have been given. But what I want to talk about is bigger than that, and it builds on the same things that we’ve already been talking about for several weeks.
What is it that God wants from us?
And, as a part of answering that question, I want to remember the story of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts. In that story, Paul had been visiting the Temple in Jerusalem when some of the Jews there started a riot over some of the things that he had been preaching in other cities. During the riot, some of these people attempted to beat Paul to death, but he was rescued by the Roman soldiers in the Fortress Antonia. Several more times, the people who were plotting to kill Paul planned to murder him while he was being transferred from one place to another, but each time Paul was rescued. But a part of Paul’s defense was that the accusations against him were religious in nature, and were not, under Roman law, a criminal offense worthy of punishment or imprisonment. Ultimately, Paul would use his rights as a Roman citizen to carry the message of Jesus Christ all the way to Rome and to Caesar himself, but in Acts 26, Paul tells King Agrippa, who was the king of the whole area around Israel, the story of his life, his pursuit and persecution of Christians, his trip to Damascus to hunt for, and arrest, more of Jesus’ followers, and ultimately his encounter with Jesus on the road, his conversion, and his new mission as a disciple of Jesus Christ. At the end of that story, Paul, knowing that Agrippa was a follower of God and a man who knew the stories of scripture, asks the king if he believed the stories of the prophets that he knew and had studied. (Acts 26:27-31)
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
30 The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. 31 After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.”
Just as we learned in recent weeks, Paul used his Roman citizenship, and everything else that he had, to save his life and to bring him, and his message, into audiences with the Governor and with the king. And in those audiences, Paul not only defends himself, he preaches the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone that he can whether they are Jewish citizens, Roman guards, or the king himself. And then, even though King Agrippa and others who heard his case were willing to dismiss Paul’s case and release him, Paul appeals his case to Rome and to Caesar himself (as was his right as a Roman citizen). And in Rome, Paul would continue to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone, and to anyone, that would listen until his death.
I can almost hear you thinking, “But, I’m not Paul.” Indeed, most of us are not Paul. We weren’t born into the best of families, or trained under the best teachers, or hung out, and worked for, and with, the powerful movers and shakers. We don’t speak, or write, like Paul, so how can we learn how to manage our lives from him? Simply this: Just as we’ve heard in recent weeks, Paul used what he had, whether that was much, or whether it was little, in order to advance the cause of Jesus Christ. And, with that in mind, let’s remember some of the things that we have been given as the followers of Jesus. And this list, incidentally, is also from Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia (Galatians 5:22-24).
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
As the followers of Jesus, we have been filled by the Spirit of God, and that spirit develops within us, fruit that God uses to grow his kingdom. We may not show all these fruits at the same time, but as we mature in Jesus Christ, we should see them grow within us. And as we do, we should use them, steward them, manage them, however you choose to describe it, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is spread, so that people come to faith in Jesus, and so that his church, both on earth, and in heaven, grows as well.
What does God want?
God wants disciples who are committed. God wants us to be intentional about using the things that he has given to us, to focus on something bigger than the ordinary everyday things that occupy our time. God wants each one of us to use the gifts that he has given to us, life, liberty, freedom, time, money, talent, rights of citizenship, the fruits of the spirit, and anything else that we have at our disposal, so that we can be a blessing to God, to his Son Jesus, and to his kingdom.
Are you ready to be committed disciples?
Let us not just thank God for what he has given to us.
Let us use those gifts as a gift to God.
That, my friends, is stewardship.
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