Finding Hope by Being a Visionary Steward

Steve Viars October 31, 2009 Joshua 14:6-14

 

- last week we began Stewardship Month…our annual opportunity to think about all that God has entrusted to us, and whether we have been faithful to the trust…

- we left with 3 homework assignments at the end of our time together…

1. Memorize one of the key verses in the Bible on this topic:

1 Corinthians 4:2 - Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

- I am assuming that every person here could recite that verse from memory, and more importantly, you are trying to grow in your skill of pleasing God by applying this verse to real life situations that you face…

2. Memorize the…Four Key Principles of Stewardship

1. God owns everything, you own nothing.

2. God entrusts you with everything you have.

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given you; God wants you to increase it.

4. You can be called into account at any time, and it may be today.

- and the goal with these as well is to become more skilled at applying these biblical concepts in real time…

3. Seriously evaluate your life for any evidence of lack of obedience to God’s Word...because we saw last week from our study of the first portion of the life of Caleb that you cannot be a visionary steward without first being an obedient steward…

- you can’t have the “I want that mountain” kind of stewardship in Joshua 14 without first having the “I’ll obey God’s Word even when it stretches me” kind of stewardship in Numbers 13.

- so I hope that every person in our church family took serious stock of the opportunities God has entrusted to you to obey Him in the various facets of your life, and your level of obedience or lack thereof…

- now this morning I’m going to do something that I seldom do…and that is pull the curtain back from several strategic conversations and meetings I’ve had with other ministry leaders recently…

- here’s why I don’t normally do this…

- We would not want anyone inside or outside our church thinking that we thought we were big stuff…the Scripture is clear that pride goes before a fall…and our desire is to glorify God not ourselves…

- but sometimes God allows us to be involved in Him glorifying Himself and even uses us in the accomplishment of that goal…

- and many of us scratch our head like – the Lord certainly could have chosen somebody better…

- so how do you talk about what He’s doing without giving the impression that you think you’re big stuff?

- On the other hand, if we don’t do this at least occasionally, many of us might not understand the strategic days in which we’re living…that would have motivated even greater stewardship if we realized what was at stake…

- at the risk of sounding melodramatic or corny…I feel very much like a football coach at mid-season whose team has won a lot more games than anyone expected…

- and he gets the team together…and says something like, we have the opportunity to do something special here…

- I’m not sure I like that because I don’t really like the word “special”---it sounds like something Barney the purple guy on TV would say…

- but I think that metaphor aptly describes where we are in the history of our church…

- now, let me do some things that I normally don’t do, but take this in the spirit in which it’s intended…

1. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a pastor in San Francisco…he said that he was speaking to the provost at Master’s College, where John MacArthur is the president…and he said that their church wanted to become more effective at community based outreach ministry that was passionate, creative, yet doctrinally sound…and the provost from Master’s College encouraged him to come here…because in his words, “they have one of the best models I’m aware of”…

- now, for 100 reasons I think you can see why I would be concerned about repeating such a thing…

- but the point is twofold---isn’t God good in that of all of the places that could have been used to be a blessing to this church in San Francisco, the  Lord gave us the privilege to potentially be a blessing to them…

- the second upshot is – we better be sure to get it right…if God is going to allow us to play on that part of His field, we want to have our A game ready when the whistle blows…

2. I was in a meeting a few weeks back with James MacDonald, and Garrett Higby, and David Powlison, and Lance Quinn…

- James is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago…and I have the utmost appreciation and respect for what the Lord is doing there…

- their church has five campuses, 50 church plants---their Walk in the Word ministry is heard on 950 radio stations---it’s amazing how the Lord has blessed their faithfulness to His Word…

- a year ago James contacted me and said that they were concerned about providing better resources for their church family to help them in their Christian growth…

- he said that we have won a lot of people to the Lord---but we want to be sure we are helping them become stronger in their faith…one of their mottos is, not the number of disciples but the quality of discipleship…

- he said that after careful prayer and contemplation by their elders and key leaders, they have decided that biblical counseling was the tool they needed to accomplish their goal…and he asked if I would help them locate the right person to lead that endeavor…

- the short version is that Dr. Garrett Higby, who has also been a great friend to our church, has now been hired by Harvest…

- at this meeting two weeks ago, James told everyone at the table…Faith has the model of counseling and discipleship that we need…and we want to do everything we can to duplicate that at Harvest…

- so they are going to be sending a team of people down here to our counseling and discipleship conference in February – James wants to help us in any way he can so now he is going to be able to speak to our guests that week…and he wants to explore additional levels of partnership in the future…

- now, that results in the same response as the San Francisco contact…The Lord could have chosen to give anyone that privilege to serve a church like Harvest…but by His grace, he allowed us to do that…and secondarily…it’s back to the football analogy, if the Lord is the coach on the sidelines and says---son, go in and play linebacker…you want to ready to give it your best shot…

- and you’re running out there saying – I can’t believe I get to do this – I wonder if the coach realizes who he just sent in…but as soon as that ball is snapped, I am going to knock somebody’s block off (in Christian love, but that’s what linebackers do…)…

3. We’ve been contacted by some leaders at Bethlehem Baptist where John Piper is the pastor…and they too want to ramp up their ministry to people who are hurting, so they are sending 21 people here in February…including 5 of their elders…

4. This week we met with a group from Louisville…the pastoral staff member is a graduate of Southern Seminary’s PhD program, and they started a church about 10 years ago that is already the same size as ours…

- and it was the same conversation – we want to learn how to do community ministry that is compassionate and substantive…can we come up and meet with your team and learn what you’re doing?...and we had a great time together…

 

- we could tell stories like that all day long…and I hope you take what I just said in the spirit in which it’s intended…but here’s the point…the Lord has chosen for reasons none of us understand to give us unusual opportunities to be a blessing to others…

- but having our A-game on the field is going to require faithful and growing stewardship by every person on the team…

- it would be a terrible thing to later say something like, you know, if I had known the game was going to be that big, I would have practiced harder and prepared more thoroughly…it’s required in stewards that a man be found faithful…

- with all of that in mind, please open your Bible to Joshua chapter 14…page 171 of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- we actually read this passage last week to help us have an understanding of the goal of this process…this morning we want to study it more thoroughly…

- last week we emphasized The Stewardship of Obedience…thinking about Caleb when he was 40 years old and how he did want not want to miss the opportunity to obey His God even though it was hard…regrettably the children of Israel would not listen…and they missed the opportunity and they had to spend 40 years in the wilderness because God does not take very kindly to people who willfully disobey Him…in fact, that entire generation had to die in the wilderness except for Caleb and Joshua…

- now they are in the process of moving into the promised land that God had given them…

- it’s in that context that we read these words…read Joshua 14:6-14

- we’re talking this morning about The Stewardship of Vision…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 characteristics of visionary faith.

- in my mind, that’s one of the best ways to summarize Caleb’s great request – I want that mountain…that’s visionary faith…

- just to be clear about what we’re talking about here, another phrase we could use is, “ministry initiative”…

- not waiting around until somebody asks you to do something…but constantly looking around and asking the question---what are the opportunities to serve God here…

- I think Christians ought to constantly be asking that question…

- I think that’s the question they ought to have when they walk around their neighborhood…

- when they walk into work…when they think about their community…when they open the newspaper…when they listen to the news…

- you’re like this big vacuum cleaner sucking in all the cultural data you possibly can and then processing it through the lens of an aggressive ministry heart…

- constantly asking the question…what are the opportunities to advance the kingdom of God here?…

- and if you would say, well—that doesn’t come naturally for me, or that’s not where I am right now – then let’s let our friend Caleb help us here…3 characteristics of visionary faith…

 

I. Visionary Faith Takes God at His Word.

A. Caleb waited 45 years for this promise to be fulfilled.

- can you imagine what it must have been like to have to endure the wilderness wanderings because of the disobedience of other people?...

- but Caleb didn’t become bitter…

- he didn’t lose his zeal for the things of God…

- the Lord had made a promise to him, and that formed the foundation of his faith, and the foundation of his vision for the days ahead…

- Romans 10:17 - So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

- the principle is – there is a direct relationship between your confidence in the Word of God and your desire and willingness to participate in whatever you believe God is doing in your world at the time…

- if “ministry vision is the car”…then “confidence in the Word” is the gas…

- humanly speaking, we would never be here as a church were it not for visionary leaders in the past…

- it is unfortunate that the vast majority of the people who attend our services never had the privilege of knowing Pastor Goode, our former pastor or sitting under his ministry…because confidence in the Word was one of his hallmarks…

- and here’s the way it developed – he and Mrs. Goode were serving at a church up in Gary in the late 60’s/early 70’s…

- and the ministry emphasis for those who can remember that far back was churches having bus ministries and building large attendances through bussing all the neighborhood children to church…

- and in many places it was a numbers game…and what bothered Pastor Goode was, there were so many people out taking care of other people’s children, there was little time left for discipling and training the adults…so we’re getting bigger but simultaneously getting weaker…

- then one of the key leaders in the church was having marital trouble and Pastor Goode said – I’ve never been trained to help people in this way, but I want to be and need to be…

- so the church sent him out to California…where he was trained in using a mixture of secular psychology and biblical principles…

- and he came back and tried that but he said it was confusing because he teaching God’s Word one way on Sundays but then he was supposed to use another source of truth the rest of the week…and that contradiction in ministry did not make sense…

- it was at that time that he became aware of a new approach to ministry that believed God’s Word is sufficient…not just on Sundays, but all though the week…and it could be the source of truth for helping people not only come to Christ, but also to learn how to change and grow and handle the practical issues of everyday life…

- in theological terms, we call that progressive sanctification…believing that God has a practical plan for how to grow…and that He expects every Christian to be becoming more like His Son…

- at that same time, our Doctor Smith was having a similar experience in the medical field…he wondered why it was that many of his patients said they were Christians but didn’t seem to handle their physical challenges and diagnoses any differently than those who did not know the Lord…

- so he and Pastor Goode and a group of other ministry leaders received training in how to use God’s Word to help people with the day to day struggles they were facing…

- that is the foundation for our approach to ministry…the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical progressive sanctification…resulting in white hot outreach (because God can save anyone, and help anyone change) and white hot discipleship (because God will meet people where they are, but he has no intention of leaving them there)…

- the Lord brought Pastor Goode and Dr. Smith, along with some very committed lay men and women here together…and we enjoy a heritage of Caleb like visionaries…who weren’t looking to build a name for themselves…but who loved God and were willing to take Him at His Word.

 

 - now, where does that put us?...

B. You too can develop that level of confidence in God’s promises.

1. Regarding your spiritual growth.

- I hope one of the questions you’re asking is…what is my place in all of this?...

- what is my mountain?...

- and part of the answer to that is – by embracing the opportunities God is giving you to honor His Word by applying it to the practical areas of your life…

- ultimately the proof is the pudding…and what puts us in a position to possibly be a blessing to someone else is first and foremost a church family of strong followers of Christ here…

- I cannot tell you how many people have traveled to conferences here and left saying something like, I enjoyed the teaching, but what sealed the deal was interacting with various members of the church…

- that’s why we read statements in the Word like…

- Titus 2:10 - …showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.

- 2 Peter 3:18 - but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

- Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

- John 17:17 - Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

- that’s why on the personal growth section of the stewardship commitment card in your bulletin…there’s a place to consider steps of growth God wants you to take in your own life…looking at that through the lens of “I want that mountain” is a good thing to do…

- now you might say – but what if I need some help…I’m stuck in a particular area…or we’re stuck…

- then please, by all means, ask for help…we have all sorts of people who are trained and ready to sit down with you and share truth form the Word to help you get to a better place…

- this week, people from the church family have contacted us and said---we need help…that take courage…there’s nothing to be embarrassed about of that’s where you are…and that was the whole point of Pastor Goode and Doc Smith’s quest...[deal with the no waiting list for members issue]…

2. Regarding the surety of Christ’s mission.

- Matthew 16:18 - I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

- see, please think about this…do you really believe that Jesus is powerful enough to keep that promise right now, in this community?...to be in the process of drawing men and women to Himself…and to want to use you in the accomplishment of that plan?...

- is that biblical…and do you have growing confidence in it?...

- well, then when’s the last time you said – I want that mountain?...

- honestly, where are you when it comes to the matter of the stewardship of vision?...

- let me give you a few of hundreds of examples I could give…

 

a. Ronda McKinnis – executive director of Big Brothers / Big Sisters

- saw the need for faith-based mentors for some of their clients…

- worked with their leadership team to start that program…that’s ministry vision

b. Foster parenting – JP and Jennifer Thorpe…

- saw the need in our community for serving foster children…

- got involved, received the training, have been training others, and are now doing training for the county…

c. Craig/Sue Swennsen, Tim/Leslie Peoples…meals for homeless folks at the Mental Health Association Day shelter…

- great opportunity for ministry…

- one of our new members was a contact from that ministry

d. Lori Walters – CFRC – Babies Can’t Wait…

- serving couples whose children had to be removed because of some sort of problem in the home…

e. SCCReM  (serving Christ in construction related ministries) Ministry – Pat Richard…

- working on a Habitat project and for the Babies Can’t Wait house…

- what are the opportunities---I want that mountain

 

- it’s important for us to understand the dynamics at work in many of the secular service providers in our town…

- because of the stress on resources, and the increasing needs…many of them are having to look at what they do and say – is that really part of our mission?...

- are those activities and events better suited to faith based organizations?...

- bingo – the truth is that many secular social agencies came about because many of our churches did not fulfill our responsibilities to love the people in our communities…but we may have another opportunity to take our place at those tables…the question is – do we want that mountain?...

- develop the annual Christmas Day dinner CFRC hosts…

- possibly help them with food for the event…

- possibly host it at the community center (cf. Danny Little)

- possibly take more of a leadership role…

 

- now, let’s push further in our text…

II. Visionary Faith Asks for the Hard Assignments.

- Caleb said…

A. I refuse to live by fear.

- Joshua 14:8 - Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully.

- it’s interesting that 45 years later, that’s a significant part of what stuck out in Caleb’s mind about that event…

- we did not accomplish all God had for us because we allowed our hearts to be overrun with fear…

- Paul had to tell Timothy…2 Timothy 1:7 - For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

B. I recognize that effective ministry always involves risk.

- Numbers 14:12 – perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.

- in other words, I don’t know what’s going to happen…but I’ll put my part on the table and see what God chooses to do…

- cf. the risk involved in being a faithful steward…

- Matthew 25:16 - Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.

- see, Caleb understood this principle…and you cannot be a good steward of vision  without this…that’s why he could say with integrity…

C. I want to follow my God fully.

- Joshua 14:8 - …but I followed the Lord my God fully.

- see, that’s what I did 45 years ago, and that’s what I want to do now…

- and the point of all of this is…our man Caleb said…

D. I want that mountain.

- Joshua 14:12 - Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day…

1. I’m not winding down, I’m gearing up.

- Joshua 14:10-11 - …I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now…

2. I’m not intimidated by the challenges.

- Joshua 14:12 – for you heard that the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities…

- I want that mountain…visionary people are thankful for how God has used them in the past, but passionate about how God could possibly use them in the future…

- it’s a holy dissatisfaction and a desire to always get to a better place…

 

- now, how does that apply to where we are as a church family, especially in light of some of the comments I made at the beginning…what does it mean practically to put our A-game on the field?...

- I hope everyone here is familiar with our 5 year plan…if not, there are copies at the Welcome Center…

- you may know that the plan our congregation adopted called for us to launch a 3 year capital campaign this fall…we’ve decided to put that off one year…and here’s why…

1. God has blessed us with so many people who are new, we want to be sure that we are building the kind of relationships where men and women are comfortable to get plugged into various opportunities for growth…we don’t want to get bigger and weaker…

2. Our 5 year plan is primarily about deepening and developing our approach to biblical ministry…we want to put more time into the “deepening side” of the equation before we launch some of the “developing aspects” of the plan

3. We understand that this has been a challenging time economically for many…so we want to be sure folks have had the opportunity to get things in order financially at home before we launch these projects as a church…

 

- so where does that leave us right now?...what does “I want that mountain look like, now”?

- the short answer is – everything around here is getting an audit, and where needed, everything is getting a makeover…

- we’re doing that in our nursery and children’s ministries

- in our youth ministries…

- in our Adult Bible Fellowships

- music/worship…everything is getting a pass…how can we do that better?....what does the next level of excellence look like?...

- that requires a level of humility on the part of everyone involved…

- it also requires people aren’t just interested in fussing about things, but who are also interested in being part of the solution…

 

- it impacts specific ministries…let me just mention some of them…

1. Vision of Hope…

- we are very thankful for the depth of the ministry that’s occurring there…

- but the board is committed to helping our staff receive additional degrees and possible secular licensure…

- because we believe interacting with others in the secular world can cause us to go back to Scriptures and ask questions we might not have asked…

- or learn things God has taught them…

- or achieve an additional level of credibility that gives us a greater platform for God and His Word to be glorified…

- that’s an 8 year initiative that will cost $125,000…but for Vision of Hope we’re saying – we want that mountain – we’re thrilled for what we have, we want to make that better…

2. Our seminary…we are thrilled with the first class that will be graduating next spring…you’ve been hearing from them on Church Family Nights…

- but both Pastor Aucoin and Pastor Green are finishing up their Ph D’s…

- we are seeking accreditation – that may not be possible, but we are moving in that direction…

- as part of the 3 year capital campaign that will launch a year from now, they will need to build a second duplex out at Bethany Farms for student housing…

- I love being around people who say, I want that mountain….

3. Our College ministry

- we love what is happening in that group…

- but we would like to build a new facility for PBF…

- for their Friday night Bible studies, meetings throughout the week…

- we would like to start a biblical counseling center there on the campus for students/staff

- we are even considering a housing component…

- cf. students serving on the design and site location committees – I love reading their e-mails – I want that mountain…

 

4. Our counseling center

- completely reviewing and rewriting our entire curriculum…

- would like to build a new ministry center on our site to enhance training and counseling [it would also be the new home for the seminary]…

- right now – 25 counselors – still have a waiting list…[that should greatly concern us]

- more willing to be trained – but where would they work?...

 

- attend the planning sessions tonight…

- pray for the development efforts…

- begin asking God how you can/should be involved financially a year from now…

- [develop – if we raise more money, we’ll roll out the third project, if less, we’ll cut down to one]…

 

III. Visionary Faith Longs for Opportunities for God’s Name to be Glorified.

 

- I’ve avoided this term for a variety of reasons, but really what I’ve been talking to you about developing the skill of being a ministry dreamer…

- I think that’s another way of walking by faith…

- Caleb didn’t know if God would give him this mountain, but that didn’t stop him from dreaming about it…

 

- and friends, sometimes, God will choose to glorify Himself by letting you do what you really hoped you could do for Him…

 

- Joshua 14:13-14 - So Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the Lord God of Israel fully.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video