The Stewardship of Serving

Steve Viars November 10, 2007 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

 

- Most of us would say that we consider our physical bodies to be a marvelous display of the creative wisdom of our God.

- I have trouble understanding how anybody could hold a new baby in their arms, and look at those little fingers, and little toes, and think something like “Isn’t evolution wonderful”?...

- we would say with the Psalmist...Psalm 139:13-16 - For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

- most if not all of us would agree with that sentiment...and we might not think about it every day...but the way our bodies work, and they way they are designed, is nothing short of miraculous...

- now, when God wanted to help His people understand what it means to be part of the church...one of the metaphors He used was that of the body...

- He wanted us to look at each other, and think about each other, and organize ourselves as if we were just like a...body...

- and when people in churches understand that, they can be incredibly effective...

- that’s why the apostle Paul said --Ephesians 4:15-16 – but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

- did you notice the emphasis on the importance of everybody being involved?...not 90% of the work being done by 10% of the people...or the church organized around a few superstars...

- churches that understand what it means to be a body, and that have found specific and practical ways for everyone to function in a way that is consistent with that metaphor...they can be incredibly effective...and delightfully healthy...

- but the flip side is...if the group is not functioning like a body...one of at least three bad results is occurring...

- either resources are being left of the table...part of the body are being used and therefore spiritual gifts are being wasted...

- or, the body is not nearly as effective as it could potentially be...

- or, some body parts are being overworked and maybe even damaged because they are trying to carry more weight and responsibility than they were ever designed to carry...

- the question that every church family has to face is ...are we functioning like a healthy body should?...and what steps do we need to take to get to a better place in the days ahead?....

- with those  questions in mind, please open your Bible to I Corinthians chapter 12...[page 136 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- we’re talking this morning about The Stewardship of Serving...

- how do we get to the place where every person in the body is functioning the way God designed?....

- while you’re turning there, I should probably make a couple of other introductory comments...

1. If you are visiting with us today, we are right in the middle of stewardship month...

- the word steward was used in the Bible to describe a faithful servant who was appointed to be in authority over a certain portion of a master’s household while he was away on a journey...

- so the steward might have been in charge of the vineyard...

- or he might have been in charge of the farm, or some other aspect of the household...

- but it was a position of trust, and a position of honor, and a position of accountability...

- and interestingly enough, when God was selecting words to describe people who have chosen to become followers of Christ...one of those words was “steward”...Paul said in...

- 1 Corinthians 4:2 - ...moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

- so at our church we devote this time of year to think about many of the things that God has entrusted to us...what He has given to us...and whether we are being faithful to the trust...

- and then we use this time of year to make commitments...to drive stakes in the ground about the choices we are going to make in the days ahead to grow in our faithfulness to what God has given...

- this morning we want to think about the spiritual gifts that God has given every person who knows the Lord...and what it means to use them to build up the body of Christ and accomplish together the mission God has for us...

2. I’d also like to say a quick word to everyone who here last week...thank you for coming back...

- in some churches, if a pastor spoke about the topic I did last week, the stewardship of giving, the crowd the following week would significantly smaller...

- but one of things I love about our church family is that the average person really wants to hear the Word, and all of the Word of God...and as long as I stick to what Scripture says, I’m on safe ground around here...that is a very refreshing atmosphere for a pastor...and is becoming more and more unique all the time...

3. Before we jump into this text, there’s one other thing I better do...what’s that?...

- check on your homework – how many assignments have you been given?---three...

1. 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.

2. Completely read the Stewardship brochure.

3. Get your tickets to the stewardship banquet

- [discuss the issue of those who are struggling financially right now – speak to one of the pastors and deacons...]

- [also emphasize – this is for everybody attending...]

- now, to our topic today – the stewardship of serving...what are you doing with the gifts and abilities that God has given you?...

- read I Corinthians 12:12-27

- so we’re talking about the stewardship of serving...and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 ways the metaphor of the physical body can help us be good stewards of the spiritual gifts God has given.

I. Wise Stewardship of Service Requires an Appreciation of the Unity of the Body – vs. 12-13.

- I should probably say somewhere along the line that we have jumped into an extended discussion about this topic...

- all of chapters 12-14 are focused on the matter of handling the gifts that God has given us well...

- but verses 12 and 13 of chapter 12 really focus in on the unity aspect of all of this...

- and the argument starts with something that is very apparent to all of us...

A. What makes our physical bodies amazing is not the individual parts, but that the individual parts work together.

- for example, your fingers...

- by itself, it is impressive...but what takes the discussion to an entirely different place is the fact that your finger is connected to your brain...and your brain tells it to work...

- or your finger can work in concert with your hands...

- when you were coming in this morning, your fingers were working, along with your feet, and your eyes, and your mouth...

- all the parts simultaneously working together is a beautiful thing...

- now, the end of verse 12 says something that I think should surprise us...

- how would you have expected verse 12 to read?...1 Corinthians 12:12 - For even as the [physical] body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is ...

- I think we would have expected Paul to say...the church....that’s where this discussion is going...

- but that’s not where Paul goes first in the argument...

- he says that...

B. Our Lord even demonstrated His appreciation for the importance of the unity of the body in His ministry.

- in other words, Jesus was not a lone ranger...even though He certainly could have been had He wanted to...

- how is that true?...how did Jesus show that he valued working with a team of people, or a body of people, in order to accomplish His mission?...

1. He purposely chose to work with disciples.

-  He even went so far as to call them His friends...

2. He purposely chooses to identify Himself with us.

-  for those who were here a few weeks ago for our study in Romans 6-8, the doctrine of our union with Christ explains that these spiritual gifts that we have been given are especially powerful because they are used in unity with Him...

- John 15:5 - I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

- we don’t bear much fruit as individual parts...we bear much fruit in union with Him...as part of the body...

- I don’t want to make this overly gruesome, but this text calls up all sorts of pictures to try to help us get the point so perhaps I should do the same...I remember the day I was called down to the hospital to be with one of our members who had had an industrial accident...a portion of his finger had been severed from his hand...nobody was standing around saying...isn’t this finger a wonderful thing...it was all about getting that part of his finger back on his hand where it belonged as fast as possible...

- a finger without a hand isn’t worth much...

- and the reason some persons are not being very effective for God is because they have not found a way to connect their spiritual gift to a body for which it was intended to be used...

- to take that one step further to show how much our Lord values the unity of the body...please keep this in mind, not only does He choose to identify with us...

 3. He purposely chooses to identify Himself with those to whom we minister.

- do you remember what He said about what happens when we love children, probably in that context speaking of new believers?...

- Matthew 18:5 - And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

- He made the same point later in Matthew 25...when He was speaking about rewarding those who had given Him something to eat when he was hungry, or something to drink when He was thirsty, or invited Him in when he was a stranger, etc...

- And the people said – when did we ever do that for you?...what was His response?...

- Matthew 25:40 - ...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.

- so here’s the point---just like the individual parts of our physical bodies illustrate the importance of being united...also is Christ...He has chosen to organize His ministry then and now around that important principle...

- now, how does verse 13 fit into this?...

C. The Holy Spirit also delights in unifying an unlikely group of people.

-  I realize that we sometimes get used to reading certain phrases in the Bible and they don’t grip us like they would have done for the original audience...

- but the notions of Jews and Gentiles being united in the same church...or slaves and free persons united in the same church...

- that was nothing short of miraculous...

- so what does that mean to you?...if you know Christ as Savior and Lord...there is no question that God has entrusted to you at least one spiritual gift... 1 Peter 4:10 - As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

- time doesn’t allow us today to talk about what those various gifts are, etc...

- but the point here is...just like physically we can the importance of the unity of the body...

- and just as Christ and the Holy Spirit emphasize the importance of the unity of the body...

- you and I have to look at what we are doing with what God has entrusted to us and ask...do we?...is there evidence that we value the unity of the body?...that we understand that our gifts are used best in concert with the giftedness of others in the church?

- let me ask you to take out your stewardship commitment card...is this becoming more and more of your friend?...

- would you please look at the serving opportunities that are listed there...

- we’re asking you to consider your stewardship of the gifts and abilities that God has given you...

- and we understand that some folks in our church are fully deployed...there’s no question about that...

- but it is possible that a number of folks would say...one of the commitments I need to make for this coming year is a decision to at least learn more about one of these serving opportunities...my finger needs to find a hand...

- now, Paul anticipated that some of the people in the Corinthian church would struggle with this concept...so he developed it more fully in the next verses...

II. Wise Stewardship of Serving Requires an Appreciation of the Diversity of the Body – vs. 14-25

- that’s the point of the transition in verse 14...

- as soon as we get the unity piece, we have to give equal attention to the diversity piece...

- and the point made in verses 14-20 is...

A. Your spiritual gift is needed by the body.

- Paul is trying to get his readers to chuckle over the thought that your foot would say...because I’m not a hand, I’m not a part of the body...

- or your ear saying, because I’m not an eye, I’m not a part of the body...

- what’s the point of that...

1. Just because you have concluded that your gift is not needed does not make that conclusion true.  .

- Has your foot ever gone to sleep?...we’ve probably all had that experience...”I’m not coming on this trip”...how well does that work?...

- look Mr. Foot, you’re coming, because you’re part of the deal whether you think you’re needed or not...

- now, let’s make this a little harder?...why might a person have drawn this conclusion?...

- the answers are not all that pretty...

a) Beware of envy.

- well, if I can’t do that, I’m not going to do anything.

- do you remember what James said about that?...

- James 3:16 - For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

- the problem with many of the people in the Corinthian church was that they were coveting the showy gifts...the ones that drew attention...

- the vast majority of what is meaningfully accomplished in a church is seldom noticed or acknowledged in any kind of public way...it is just faithful people using what God has entrusted to them...

- [cf. one of the repeated comments at the LN – it is amazing the way your people serve – they’re just talking about folks waving flashlights, or carrying hot chocolate...]

- another possibility is...

b) Beware of laziness.

- you’ll never become a faithful steward of serving unless you get to the place where you like to work for God...

- that is why Paul told the Colossians...Colossians 3:23-24 - Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

2. This is one of our church’s core values.

Serving Together, believing that God wants us to challenge and equip our members to serve Him, and that he wants every member serving.

- and that is one of the things I appreciate about our church---many people around here take this very seriously...the question I’m raising this morning is, are you one of those persons?...

- now, what about the person who would say...I don’t like my gift...

- some would say---I want a different one...

- or others would say --- I don’t mind this one, but I want it to be better...

- if I have to have this one, or if I have to have this one in such a meager amount, I’m not going to serve in Christ’s church at all...

- friend, be very careful about that...because keep in mind...

3. Your spiritual gift was given to you by God Himself.

- hasn’t that been the constant emphasis?...

- 1 Corinthians 12:11 - But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

- 1 Corinthians 12:18 - But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

- what you do with the gift you’ve been given says a lot about what you think of the person who gave it...

- now, the argument changes in verse 21, doesn’t it?...

- read v. 21 again...

- that’s the other side of the coin...

B. The gifts God has given others are needed by the body.

- the point is – an eye without a hand is in serious trouble...

- or a head without some feet is going to have a real problem...

- and what’s the upshot of that?...

1. We should work at showing appreciation for others who serve, especially in the less noticeable ways.

2. We should be open to the distinct possibility that God may bring others into our church family who are different because we need them.

- if a church isn’t careful, a church can start looking alike...

III. Wise Stewardship of Serving Requires an Appreciation of the Joy of Serving on the Team Together – vs. 26-27

- deal with how a unified body, serving together, rallies around a part of the body who is suffering...

- and who rejoices when one is honored...

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