Finding Hope by Being an Obedient Steward

Steve Viars October 24, 2009 Numbers 13:

 

- to begin our time this morning, let me ask you what might first appear to be a rather unusual question…

- where do you want to be when you’re 85 years old?...

- what do you want to be doing?...regardless of how many years it will be before you hit that milestone…

- now, I realize that you don’t think about question like that every day…but now that I’ve raised it…please tell me your answer wouldn’t be something like…

- I want to be filthy rich by then…I want to be playing golf every day…

- I want to have my feet up in a beach chair at my seaside mansion…

- please tell me you can do better than that…

- please tell me your answer would include something like…I want to be making a difference for God…

- If the Lord has still preserved my life, I would want to be shouldering a significant load of minister responsibility…

- I would want to be serving the Lord with passion, zeal, enthusiasm, and initiative…

- I would want to still be making a difference in the lives of people in my community, my country, and my world…

- I can close my eyes and hear myself saying things like “I want that mountain…”…I want the lion’s share of responsibility for glorifying God wherever He’s placed me…

- I’m not that interested in a rocking chair, fishing rod, or a golf cart --- I want that mountain…

- today begins our annual stewardship month…and this year I’d like to speak to you about Finding Hope in the Stewardship of Life

- the events of the last year have taught us a lot of lessons…

- and one of them is...you need to be very careful about where you’re seeking your ultimate hope…

- if it’s in your retirement funds…that can evaporate as quickly as the morning fog…

- that’s not to say you shouldn’t save for retirement---but if that’s where you’re placing your trust or finding your joy…you are building your life on sinking sand…

- if your hope is in your job, and you wrap your identity up in where you work and what you accomplish and how much you earn, that can be taken away as quickly as the next trip to your bosses’ office and the news of the latest cutbacks…

- if your hope is in the next bottle, or the next pill, or the next illicit affair…those activities will promise you freedom while simultaneously enslaving you in ways that will rob you of money, and purpose, and relationships, and dignity, and hope…

 

- that’s why we’ve spent this year thinking about that theme from a variety of perspectives…and we have concluded with the Psalmist…Psalm 146:5 - How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,

- now we want to bring that concept around to the topic of stewardship…can we, and why can we, find reliable hope in being faithful to what God has entrusted to us…

- to begin that discussion, let me invite you to open your Bible to two passages of Scripture this morning, Numbers 13 and Joshua 14…[page 110 and 171 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]---I’ll explain in a moment why we’re starting here.

- I realize that literally hundreds of persons who attend our services today were not part of our church family 12 months ago…

- that in and of itself is an evidence of God’s blessing upon our church family…so if you fit in that category, please know that we view you as a gift from God to our family here…

- on the other hand, I realize that some here have experienced 25 years worth or more of teaching on stewardship during this time of year…

- it’s a topic that can never be exhausted…it’s always relevant…and especially during the turbulent times we’ve just experienced…it’s a perfect way to be sure your life is anchored to principles and practices that can stand the test of time…

- so many of us would say that stewardship is a very, very good thing…

- now, let’s start with a definition…Stewardship -- God given responsibility with accountability…it’s one of the metaphors that is used to help us understand what the Christian life is all about…

- it was a common word in Bible times to describe a scenario where the owner of the house would plan to travel for a period of time – so he would select one of his servants to be responsible for some aspect of the household, or the farm, or whatever business he was in…and of course, since there were no means of modern communication, there was no way of knowing when the master might return…but a faithful steward was a person who cared for whatever had been entrusted to him just as if the master was there…

- well it is a very short walk from that concept to the Christian life…because God has entrusted us with so much as His children…

- just start making a mental list of all God has given you…

- your health, your mind, time, the Bible, financial resources, talents and spiritual giftedness, opportunities, the gospel, your friends, your family…the list could go on and on…

- and the question for all of us is – are we being faithful stewards of what God has entrusted…it’s like we read in…1 Corinthians 4:2 - Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

 

- to boil all of this down, we have found that it is helpful to 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.

 

- humanly speaking, many of us would say that one of the emphases that has helped us become what we are today is this annual focus on this all-important topic…

- when you think about stewardship month, think of these components…

1. you’ll hear a number of stewardship testimonies like the one you heard this morning from various men and women from our church family…

2. we’ll also dovetail all our morning messages around this theme…

3. our ABF lessons are also tailored to a particular aspect of stewardship, and this year we’re focusing on ______________________…

4. there’s also a commitment card in your bulletin…

- it will help you evaluate various areas of your life…and encourage you to think about various commitments you should make for the coming year…

5. Then all of this culminates at our Annual Stewardship Banquet at the community center on the evening of November 22rd, the Sunday night before Thanksgiving…

- we really hope every person here joins us for that evening… you don’t have to be a member of the church---it sort of functions as our church family Thanksgiving Dinner together…I also want to encourage you to be praying that God will use all of this in your life, and in the lives of every person in our church…

- now, for these first 2 weeks, I’d like us to think about one of the greatest stewards that ever lived…a man named Caleb…

- and we’re going to be looking at two stages of his life…and when we’re done, I hope you’ll say --- that’s the kind of person I want to be…

- when I’m 85 years old (if God has still preserved my life and my health), that’s the way I want to be talking…

- that’s the way I want to be serving…that’s the way I want to be living…

- and I also hope you’ll have a better understanding of how we get from where we are today…to someday being an older person whose heart is still filled with passion, and creativity, and initiative, and focus…where you find yourself regularly saying things like…I want that mountain…

 

- now, you have your Bible open to 2 passages of Scripture…Joshua chapter 14 and Numbers chapter 13…

- the first passage (Joshua 14) explains an event when Caleb was 85 years old…that’s the goal, that’s where we hope to be some day…

- the second passage is the one we’re going to really drill into this morning, which describes something that happened to Caleb 45 years earlier…

- let’s start by talking about the goal…please look at Joshua chapter 14…read Joshua 14:6-15…

- now, don’t you love that?...

- a guy 85 years old struts up to Joshua and says…I want that mountain…

- not because this is some kind of land grab…not because he sees this as payday…

- but he knows that God made a promise all the way back in Genesis 12 that someday the people of Israel would have their own land…and he wanted to be part of God fulfilling that promise…

- and it didn’t matter that the Anakim were there – the giants…

- Caleb’s attitude was --- if I’m going to do something for God…I may as well do something hard…

- not “can I have an easy job, please?”…or, where’s the rocking chair?...

- I’m tired of serving God…

- no way – I want that mountain…I want to be in a position where this is only going to work if God is who He says He is…

- and I realize that the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for God’s name to be glorified after He helps us overcome it…

 

- now I’m just going to assume that you would say – that’s exactly the kind of person I want to be when I’m 85…If God gives me strength, if God gives me health, if God gives me life…that’s where I want to be…you could call that, The Stewardship of Vision

- well, here’s the $100 question…how do you get there?...

- what we just read is a part of a lifelong process…if you want to be like “that” – “then”…there’s quite a few steps you can/should be taking right about…now…

- please go back to Numbers chapter 13…this event occurred 45 years prior to the one we just read…here we can learn about The Stewardship of Obedience

- read Numbers 13:1-2, 13:17-14:10…

 

- now here’s the obvious point – you can’t be like the 85 year old Caleb of Joshua 14 unless you’re like the 40 year old Caleb of Numbers 13…The Stewardship of Obedience…

- and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 principles to help you obey God even when you’re being stretched.

- see, that’s what obedience is…it’s when God is telling you in His Word to do something that is hard…that you would not have thought of on your own…until then, it’s just agreement---there’s no difficulty there…

- but when God expects something of you that stretches you, or goes against your grain…that’s when the test of obedience begins…and it’s a test that many of the children of Israel failed…but one that our man Caleb passed with flying colors…and that set him up to be a much more effective steward down the line…

I. Let the Size of the Challenge Fire You Up, Not Water You Down.

A. Caleb wanted to be in situations where his faith in God’s Word was stretched.

- Numbers 13:30 - Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”

- see, if God keeps His promises, then we’re going to be OK…

- if God’s Word is true, this plan will succeed…

- the just shall live by faith…

- and you understand, when they were sent out, the question was never – let’s have a vote on whether we’re going to go up or not…

- they were simply to gain more information on what was necessary to participating in the promise the Lord had made to them…

- Numbers 13:1-2 - Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying,“Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”

- and Caleb wanted to be right in the middle of that, because He longed to be part of God fulfilling His Word to His people…God had entrusted him with that opportunity, and he didn’t want to miss it…

- think of it like this – we’re right in the middle of college football season…

- one of the lamest things a college team can do is pad the schedule with a bunch of teams that are known for being weak…simply because they want a winning record and the opportunity to go to a bowl game…

- games like that are not fun to watch—they’re not fun to play in…because it’s not going to stretch you…it’s not going to reveal the areas of the game you need to work on to get better…it’s not going to draw your team together...nobody likes a college football team that does that…well, why should God like a Christian who does that?…the principle is…

B. It brings great honor to God when you obey Him even when it is hard to do so.

- How do you think God responded when he heard Caleb say what he said in verse 30?...and what opinion of God did that give all the people when he took this stand?...

- then Caleb quieted all the people…that’s a diplomatic way of saying, he told them to shut it…enough offending God with all this unbelief…

- it doesn’t matter if the descendants of Anak are there…the same God who parted the Red Sea stands ready to show Himself strong again…this is an opportunity for us to take Him at His Word and obey His commands, and the fact that that is going to stretch us is a good thing…bring it on…

- Proverbs 29:25 - The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.

C. What about you?

- you can’t be an “85 year old I want that mountain kind of person” unless you’re a “40 year old I’m willing to obey God even when it’s hard kind of person”…

- God has given you all sorts of opportunities to choose to obey Him – have you been a good steward of those opportunities…

- let’s start at the very beginning…

1. Obey the gospel.

- the word “gospel” means good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…and the provision our Holy God has made for the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of His Son…

- that message is encapsulated in the best known verse of the Bible…John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

- so at some point, a decision has to be made…will you repent of you sin and believe the gospel—that you can only be reconciled to God through the finished work of His Son…

- so salvation is a message to believe…it is a gift to accept…but it’s also a command to obey…

- that’s why we see the 2 words “gospel” and “obeyed” connected in Scripture…

- 2 Corinthians 9:13 - Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ…

- that passage goes on to talk about how that affected their generosity to those in need…but all of that starts by obeying the gospel…the command that God has given all of us to accept His analysis of our sinful condition, and appropriate the only solution to the problem…the shed blood of Christ…

- 2 Thessalonians 1:8 addresses this from the other side because it speaks of --  dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

- the point is – there’s no way to be a visionary steward in the future without being an obedient steward today…

- and I would ask every person here – are you sure there’s been a definite time in your life?...[develop steps to take from here….]

 

2. Be sure you’ve taken the first steps in Christian obedience.

- remember, the message of Christ is also about Him being “our Lord.”

- that’s Christianity 101…you have to decide if you are going to submit yourself to Him…to take up your cross and follow Him…

- Romans 10:9-10 - that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

- this is why some people say they are Christians, but there is no demonstrable change in their life…

- you can’t judge somebody else, but one of the reasons some people go to church or say they’re Christians but live like the world the rest of the week is because they are putting their trust in having made a decision that wasn’t genuine, it wasn’t the biblical gospel…

- just ask Jesus into your heart, or God has a wonderful plan for your life…

- a gospel that does not include repentance and an acknowledgement of the Lordship of Christ is a watered down gospel for sure…

- that was James’ point – can that kind of faith (faith without works) save a person?

- and the answer’s no – not because works save you, but genuine salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone will produce fruits of repentance…

- that’s why, on the day the church was born, we read…Acts 2:41 - So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

- immediately when men and women trusted Christ, there were steps of obedience…

- they were baptized…they publically demonstrated that what they were trusting for their salvation was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ…and you don’t read about anyone saying…well, I’ll have to think about that a while…or, I’m not sure I want to humble myself in that way…they got the fact that obedience was part of the equation…and they didn’t want to miss an opportunity to obey their Lord…

- then they were added to the church – they understood that accountability to a family is critical for ones growth…

- the NT doesn’t even recognize the legitimate possibility of a person saying he/she is a Christian but never having been baptized as a believer and then becoming a formal part of a church family…it’s simply a matter of obedience…and in these cases, God designed these as initiatory steps to be sure we all understand what is involved in following Him…

 

- [develop – Intro to Faith class starting next week, October 28]

 

3. Evaluate the key effectiveness areas of your life for additional ways to obey your God.

 

- [fishbone chart – under personal – deal with personal disciplines, under family could talk about the challenge of developing a more Christ-centered marriage...]

 

- the point is – Caleb saw challenges in his life as opportunities to obey His God.

- and he chose to be a good steward of those opportunities to obey…

 

- now there’s another idea in this text that’s not particularly pleasant…but it was an issue in that day and it’s certainly one in our day as well…

II. Embrace the Opportunity to Stand Out in the Crowd.

- now, I’m not talking about you being a super-saint…or being pious, or thinking you’re better than everyone else…

- but let’s face it – not everyone in your life is in favor of you living obediently for God…

- and you may decide that you’re going to obey what God’s Word says about solving problems biblically and the other person involved may refuse to communicate…

- or you may decide that you’re going to get serious about purity and your boyfriend or your girlfriend mocks that desire instead of supports it…

- and at that moment, you’ll need to say with the apostle Paul -- Galatians 1:10 - For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

- and Caleb was in the same situation…

A. Caleb knew whose voice he ought to be listening to.

- it’s amazing how many people were talking in this text…

Numbers 13:31 - But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”

Numbers 14:1 - Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.

Numbers 14:2 - All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!

- and Caleb didn’t listen to any of that…do you know why?...because he was too busy listening to the Lord…obedience is foundational to faithful stewardship…

- and part of my concern as a pastor at this point in our church’s history is – are we as a congregation committed to that?...is obeying God’s Word even when it stretches us something we’re willing to do?...

- and do we see the relationship between obedient stewardship now (let’s go get the land) and visionary stewardship later (I want that mountain)?...

- now you might ask – are you just talking about rank behavior?...not at all…nor was Caleb…

 

B. Caleb viewed this situation through the lens of the heart.

- he was pleading with his brothers and sisters to think about what was going on in their hearts...

1. Be on the lookout for rebellion.

- Numbers 14:9 – Only do not rebel against the Lord.

 

- rebellion says – this world belongs to me, I know best how to operate my life and rule my affairs…

- so I can take my time, and my strength, and my abilities, and my resources and use them in a way that best advances my agenda…do you notice the repeated word in that sentence – “my”…mine…one of the rebel’s favorite words…

 

- in his book Broken Down House, Paul Tripp said, “I preach to myself the false gospel that my moral system is superior to and more efficient than the one God gave me. I tell myself that I am better off ruling myself than following God. So, motivated by the moral laws of personal wants, needs, and feelings, I step over God’s boundaries, fully aware of the wrong I am doing but committed to doing it anyway.” (Broken Down House, Paul Tripp, p. 39)

- [could develop how the antidote to rebellion isn’t pulling ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps, but by following in the path of our submissive Savior]…

 

2. Be on the lookout for fear.

- Numbers 14:9b – and do not fear the people of the land.

 

- [develop as time allows – how fear intersects some of the possible steps to obedience we’ve already discussed – cf. afraid to communicate to try to get the marriage to a better place, afraid to confront my children about something, afraid to take on a serving opportunity, afraid to trust God with my finances…]

- [also develop – the “hope” isn’t that the other person, or the situation will change – but that there is joy in being a faithful steward of your part of the equation…]

III. Look to the Day When your Faithfulness will be Vindicated.

 

A. For Caleb and Joshua.

 

Numbers 14:30 - Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

 

B. For you and me.

 

Hebrews 6:10 - For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

 

- [compared to where we often try to find our hope, that’s a much more reliable source…]
 

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