Stewardship of God’s Grace (3:2)
Usually when we talk about stewardship in the church it either means we are talking about money (because we are behind budget) or time (because we need nursery workers). Before you click off this blog, in this case we are talking about neither. We are talking about God’s grace, the Gospel. We are not merely partakers of God’s grace and we are not owners of it. We are stewards – it has been entrusted to us by the Owner that we would carry out His will with it.
One key component of being a good steward is to frequently examine your use of the object. If you leave someone to steward (watch out and care for as you would) your child, pet, or home, you would expect that they regularly had their eyes on it and thought about it frequently. Paul obviously did this with the Gospel. He was overcome by what he had been given to take to the world and could not get his mind off of it.
Application: Get an object that reminds you of the Gospel and keep it in your pocket (something like a small cross or a wooden “G”). As you load your pockets in the morning, as you reach for your keys or change throughout the day, and as you unload your pockets at night, ask yourself, “How did I do at being a steward of God’s grace?” Reflect on the day for opportunities you may have missed and what you could have said or done to be a better steward. This makes for great conversation at the family dinner table.
Confidence Through Our Faith in Christ
It is almost hard to think of confidence without the prefix “self” attached to it. But Scripture speaks much more of faith-confidence than self-confidence. We find that again in Ephesians 3:12, “with confidence through our faith in him [Christ].”
Ironically, we only need faith when we have come to the end of our “self.” Until we come to the end of our self we only need determination, education, training, or opportunity. Once we come to the end of our self, we need faith; it is the only hope we have left.
Consider the following questions to help you assess whether your confidence (which is a good attribute for a Christian to cultivate) is in self or Christ by faith.
- When you are fearful or anxious do you first plan harder or pray?
- Are you able to face a challenge with a restful heart?
- Do you see God as the source of your talents and abilities?
- Do you see God as the source of your opportunities and good breaks?
- When you give advice do you mention relying on God?
- Do you succumb to self-abasement after a failure?
- Do you succumb to self-pity after a bad break?
- Is your prayer life marked by gratitude?
- Do you succumb to a fear of failure to avoid embarrassment?
- Are you willing to confess your sins to God and others?
- Are you able to attempt great things for God while maintaining humility?
Faith-confidence is a work in progress for every one of us. The goal is to consistently have an honest self-assessment of where we are between pride/self-love and shame/self-hatred. As long as “self” is our primary pre-fix, our life is not God-dependent.
Do Not Lose Heart in Suffering (3:13)
It is comforting to notice how many times Scripture connects suffering with the temptation to lose heart. God know us. If Scripture only spoke of how suffering is turned to good or how it shapes our character, I would be discouraged. Not because I disagree with either of those statements. But because, I would think the Bible had someone much stronger than me in mind for its audience.
But what are we to make of Paul saying his suffering was the Ephesians glory? When we suffer for someone we are demonstrating that we love them. Jesus suffering on our behalf on the cross demonstrates His love for us. True love (here not used in the romantic sense, but love that is in keeping with God’s character) changes things for the better. Paul is saying, “If you see Christ in what I am doing on your behalf, rejoice in it. God will use my actions and example to transform (sanctify) you more like him.” For a similar statement see Ephesians 5:26.
Reflection: Suffering often seems very meaningless and makes us feel quite alone. Suffering tends to reduce our world to the size of our pain or oppression. It is good for us to ask, who can I love or serve in the midst of my suffering? Who can I be an example for? What lessons am I learning that could be passed on to another who will suffer after me? As we see in Ephesians 3:13, not only was Paul’s suffering the glory of the Ephesians Christians, but the growth of the maturation of the Ephesians Christians was the meaning and fuel to persevere for Paul in his suffering.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.