STEWARDSHIP: My management of God’s gifts
Our lives are not aimless drifting but opportunities to serve God and others.
Jeffrey D. Enderle
He found himself adrift in the middle of the ocean. The depth of the water and the distance to the nearest patch of land could be only guesses. Waves crashed down on top of him as he hunkered down in a tiny life raft. Ravenous sharks surrounded him. Unknown enemies lurked farther in the distance. This was the desperate condition in which Louis Zamperini found himself in May of 1943.
After his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini was fortunate just to be alive. Adrift in the middle of the ocean, it would have been very easy for this airman to give up. Facing overwhelming odds, he could have despaired at the scant resources at his disposal to prolong his life. His true life story is riveting for many reasons. Audiences are captivated by this man’s struggle, getting a glimpse into how this remarkable hero was able to do what was necessary.
Christians can feel adrift in the middle of this crazy world too. We find ourselves struggling against the current of our culture. Ironically, we are at risk not because we have so little but because we have so much and are occupied with so many activities, responsibilities, and interests. With so much and such hectic schedules, we run the risk of our things and our schedules owning us.
God, however, has placed us where we are and has given us the opportunity to live for him. God opens our eyes to see that our lives are no accident. We have blessings and resources. Whatever we have been given, it is a trust from God. God also wants us to know he has bigger plans for us than simply to survive this life. He wants us to be fruitful branches connected to his Son, Jesus.
God prepares us
If you have read the story of Zamperini in the book Unbroken or have seen the movie, you know how the story ends. Even if you haven’t, no spoiler alert is necessary to tell you that the saga on the life raft wasn’t the only ordeal Zamperini had to endure. Even if you know how his story ends, you can’t help being held in suspense as you take in the challenges and terrible tragedies of his life.
Actually, the narrative is expertly crafted to reveal how the early events of Zamperini’s life shaped his character. His identity, the type of person he became, prepared him for handling conditions no human being would expect to survive. Even more than those past experiences, though, it was his outlook and focus that kept him going.
How has God prepared you for your life on a raft in a godless world? It can be easy for Christians to get discouraged when we look at what we must face here in life. Then we look at our meager resources and question how we can ever survive. Sometimes we even look at the amazing things other Christians are doing and start to feel inadequate.
But wait! God wants us to recall our identity whether we are feeling adrift amid all kinds of things in this life or assaulted by all sorts of activities. As baptized children of God, we already know our story ends in victory through Jesus Christ. God has made us his children and has promised not to abandon us. While we live here, he also encourages us to use our time, talents, and treasure for him. We know Jesus and his power. He reminds us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus satisfies our souls with his salvation. We are alive because of him.
Our outlook and focus come from him. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1,2). Because Jesus has redeemed us, we have the privilege of living for him and serving his purposes. God doesn’t call us to do what everyone else does. God tells us, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6). Whatever gifts he has given us are tools he has placed in our tool belts to be used for his purposes.
Use what God has given
Zamperini’s story is inspiring because his uncommon determination and perseverance led him to use whatever resources he had at his disposal. He only had a handful of tools on that life raft but managed them with skill and ingenuity. Attention and toughness allowed him to outlast physical and mental torture.
Packaged together with our calling to faith through the gospel, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes. He enlightens us to see so many amazing blessings bundled together with the gift of salvation. Our very lives and everything about us are gifts from God:
“Therefore, I urge you . . . in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV 2011).
Think of our gifts from God as more than our possessions. They don’t belong to us to store up and squirrel away. God calls us to faithfully manage his gifts. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus describes our use of God’s gifts more in terms of investing. Investing our gifts for God’s work and then allowing God to accomplish his results help remove our fear of failure. Faithful investing does not require us to figure out if we are the servants with one talent, five talents, or ten talents. God calls us simply to do our best. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Then God allows us to channel our investments—our time, talents, and treasures—where we think they are needed. He will bless our efforts to bring about the maximum impacts in the lives of the people he has placed into our spheres of influence.
God enlightens our hearts to see our Christian identity and maintain a uniquely Christian outlook for life. Then God helps us see the people and opportunities he places in our lives as investment opportunities for our gifts. When we put those gifts to work, we don’t know what God will accomplish in return. We don’t know what will be the result of spending a quiet moment in prayer with a hurting sister or brother in the faith. We might never find out what will happen from sharing a warm meal with an empty-bellied stranger. We might never fully know what our offerings accomplish for the work of his church. But whatever gifts you’ve been given and however many you possess, God’s got pretty amazing stories planned for their results in his kingdom.
Jeffrey Enderle is pastor at Beautiful Saviour, Carlsbad, California.
This is the final article in a three-part series on stewardship.
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Author: Jeffrey D. Enderle
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015
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