You Are a Steward of the Mysteries of God
Lord God, You have given me so many blessings and gifts. Thank You! Preserve my soul. Keep me from loving the things of this world and putting my desires ahead of Yours. So fill my heart with thanksgiving for Your blessings that I gladly sacrifice what is mine and gladly serve You. Bless us in worship today as we hear Your Word and come to you with our praise and prayers. Amen.
Psalm 116, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2
Our love for the Lord is prompted by His greater love toward us. He hears our prayers, He delivers us from sin and death, He shows great and undeserved love to us by His rich blessings for our bodies and souls. Giving the Lord our whole heart, worshipping Him, and joyfully serving Him is a response of thanksgiving.
The Mysteries of God are all the truths that God reveals to us about Himself. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has created faith to see and believe these truths that are revealed in God’s Word. Jesus has made us caretakers of these saving truths. Faithful stewardship includes guarding the truth of God’s Word and sharing it.
No one can serve two masters. We can’t serve the world or ourselves and still serve our Savior. Becoming caught up in the things of this earth easily leads to worry. Jesus teaches us to make the needs of our souls the priority in our lives and all the solutions for the secondary needs of this earth will fall into place.
Text: Mark 12:41-44
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
In the name of Christ Jesus who has called us to be His ambassadors, dear fellow-redeemed:
During the past four weeks we have been using God’s Word to focus on our lives of evangelism. Through the account of the Apostle Paul’s conversion we saw that The Gospel is a Miracle Worker and applied that truth to evangelism by being reminded that the Gospel is for everyone. There is no screening process or pre-test to determine with whom we should or should not share the Gospel.
We have been cautioned to BEWARE THE ROAD TO EMPTY WORSHIP, being reminded that we make use of the Gospel for the sake of souls, not merely external activity.
We’ve learned that above all else the Gospel is a message of forgiveness. The message of our Savior’s gracious forgiveness is witnessed as we speak His Word but also in our lives as we forgive others.
Last week we listened to God’s instruction concerning prayer and learned of its role in our Christian lives. Prayer does not create faith or forgive sins, but it is our direct communication to God. Therefore, evangelism without the Gospel is empty and without prayer it is incomplete.
Today, with the direction of God’s Word and the blessing of His Holy Spirit, we seek to take these evangelism truths and bring them home to rest in each of our hearts personally.
Each one of us, individually, has been made an Ambassador for Christ. Each one of us, individually, has been given the message to proclaim on His behalf. The message of the Gospel is entrusted to our care to use. We have been made the stewards of the mysteries of God—those wonderful truths that can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit. We have been made the caretakers and users of the powerful Word of God. The treasure of the Gospel has been entrusted to us—weak sinners, earthen vessels easily broken (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7)—so that the power and glory may be of God and not of us as that Word goes out and makes disciples of all nations.
This morning we take the example of a woman whom Jesus observed making a contribution to the temple treasury. We seek to use her example as we consider that each one of us is a steward of the mysteries of God. Today’s theme is very personal. It is not you, plural, are all stewards—though that is also true; but it is you singularly, you personally, you individually are A Steward of the Mysteries of God I. A believing heart responds to its salvation and II. A faithful heart serves its Savior (Evangelism Truth: Evangelism is personal stewardship of the mysteries of God).
In our text we hear that “Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.” [vv.41-42] To describe these two mites as two pennies of our day may not even do justice to the smallness of their worth. They were tiny, very invaluable coins, but the woman put two of these mites into the temple treasury. It is what she had.
If we consider this woman’s situation it is amazing that she gave anything at all. She had no one to support her. She had no social security or other programs of the government. She was a widow and she was poor. She could have undoubtedly spent her time, resources, and money—small as they were—in other ways. This woman could have easily concluded, “What is the point in giving these two mites? They are so small they won’t do much good anyway.” Yet, she gave. She gave because, as the Apostle Paul says, “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The woman gave because she treasured her Savior. She was a believer in the Old Testament Scriptures. We aren’t told if she had heard Jesus’ preaching, or if she knew Him and believed that He was the promised Messiah; but she certainly knew her Savior through the Old Testament words and promises of God. She believed in the coming Messiah. She treasured the salvation He would bring. As a result, she brought her gift to God. She brought her gift because her heart believed in the great gift that God had given her.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He who had all power and glory as the eternal Son of God became poor. He became a man and humbled Himself and became obedient to death even the death of the cross for us (Cf. Philippians 2:1ff). This news, this salvation is what moved the woman to give. Paul continues in the next chapter of his letter to the Corinthians, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The amazing gift of a poor widowed woman was a gift from the heart. What has Christ done for the heart of a sinner? He has redeemed that heart and bought it back from sin and death, eternal destruction. The heart of the woman believed in that truth and responded by giving to the Lord. She offered her sacrifice of thanksgiving (cf. Psalm 116).
There are other examples in Scripture of people whose hearts also responded to their salvation. They responded in different ways, but their hearts were responding for the same reasons. Naaman, was a captain in the Syrian army who came to Elijah and was healed of his leprosy. After he was healed and knew the true God he asked if he might take soil from Israel. Naaman wanted Israelite soil so that when he worshipped the true God in his homeland of Syria he could do so on the soil of the people of God (cf. 2 Kings 5:17).
The shepherds who heard the angel’s announcement on the first Christmas night responded first by going and seeing the newborn Jesus. After they had seen Jesus they responded further by telling everyone what they had heard and seen (cf. Luke 2:17).
Zacchaeus the tax collector of small stature who climbed a tree to see Jesus passing by repented of his past sins. In response to the forgiveness he received from Jesus Zacchaeus was willing to give half of what he had to the poor and to return anything he had stolen four-fold (cf. Luke 19:8).
The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well heard from Him about all of her past misdeeds, but the also heard about the Water of Life which would forgive those sins. This woman responded by going back into the town and telling everyone about this man and what He had said. This prompted the people to come to Jesus to hear Him. He stayed with them for two days preaching the Gospel of salvation to them (cf. John 4).The believing heart responds. We are stewards of the mysteries of God. The woman whom Jesus observed in the temple had the mystery. She understood it. She had the joy of a heart forgiven and she responded.
Our first goal as stewards of the mysteries of God is to know the mystery and to treasure it in our hearts. We learn to know the mystery and will treasure it all the more when we delve into God’s Word. Each one of you (and myself) is a steward of the mysteries of God. That makes it a personal responsibility to go into Scripture. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to dig deeply into Scripture for you. It is your personal responsibility to know the mysteries of God of which you have been made a steward.
God tells us through Peter to always be ready to give a defense of the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). No one else can do this for you. No one else can give a defense for the hope that is in you because it is your heart. Your heart believes when it hears the Gospel. Your heart leaps for joy at the news of sins forgiven. Your heart believes and puts its trust in Christ. Your heart responds. Your heart needs the nurturing of the Gospel. Your heart treasures the mysteries of God, no one else can do it for you.
To give an illustration of this apart from spiritual matters, imagine you read an article telling you all the benefits of having good cardiovascular exercise at least three days each week. You read about all the benefits and think, “Oh! I need those benefits!” Then you find someone else to work out for you. All of the work the other person does as your proxy does you no good. You have to do the exercise to receive the benefit to your body. You, personally, are a steward of the mystery of God. Knowing that mystery, growing in understanding, treasuring it is a personal responsibility.
In Ephesians Paul tells us that Jesus has given “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is true that Christ sends individuals to the Church to lead us, to help us, to instruct us, to equip the saints (believers); but that is an aid, assistance, and instruction The responsibility and blessing lies with each one of us individually.
The stewardship of this mystery is your personal response. Your heart responds and as your heart learns of its need and the salvation which Christ has supplied, it will respond with thanksgiving, glorifying its Savior.
As amazing as it is that the woman whom Jesus observed gave anything at all, it’s more amazing that she gave everything she had. “[Jesus] called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.’” [vv.43-44]
The woman’s heart felt the need to respond. She wanted to serve her Savior, but how could she do it…and with what? She had very little subsistence monetarily, but what she had she gave in service to her Lord.
Jesus’ comments about the rich who gave out of their abundance do not necessarily mean that the rich were not giving out of love for their Lord. Nor does Jesus suggest that we should automatically give everything we own to the temple treasury. Jesus rather points to what the woman did—not the amount, but what she did. The woman sacrificed what she had for her Savior. The gifts brought by the rich were no sacrifice. They gave out of their abundance. But for the woman it was a sacrifice. It was all that she had. She had nothing else.
It doesn’t take any trust to give God our leftovers. If I fulfill all my desires and still have something leftover and then give that to God, what have I sacrificed? What trust is involved? None! The woman sacrificed and trusted that the Lord would provide what she needed. She didn’t worry about tomorrow. She didn’t worry about what she would put on or what she would eat. She sought first the kingdom of God and completely trusted that all of the other things would be added to her (cf. Gospel reading).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul encourages us: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 1:2). God calls upon us to sacrifice for Him, to make our lives living sacrifices.
Our sacrifice for God begins by sacrificing sin and everything that our sinful flesh wants to hang onto. In the upper level of Sunday School and Bible Class this morning we studied the life story of Augustine. Augustine was a pagan in his early life. He had a mistress. He pursued every desire of sinful flesh and immorality but he became a child of God through the working of the Gospel. Eventually, Augustine became a bishop in the church. Later on in his life, Augustine looked back on his life and remembered the earlier days. He said, “How could I give up my sins? I liked them! I loved them too much, I enjoyed pursuing them!” When we think of sacrificing for our Savior and responding with a heart of love, it begins by sacrificing ourselves to sin, cutting sins off even though we like them, cutting them off even though it hurts because, “I really, truly enjoy this God!” Sacrificing our sins is the response of a forgiven heart that treasures its Savior.
Peter writes in his first letter: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:1-5).
We sacrifice for our Savior and we serve Him when we sacrifice our agenda for God’s. We may pursue things that are moral but still do it on our terms and then are not serving in every possible opportunity which the Lord provides for us. Rather than serve ourselves and pursue our goals first, the responding heart serves its Savior by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteous, His goals, His will. The believing heart conforms its life to God’s will rather than living life according to its will and fitting in God’s Word and worship and service wherever we might be able to find room.
Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations is a personal commission to each one of us. There is a great variety of ways in which we can serve Him and work toward that goal of evangelizing—sharing the Good News. We faithfully serve our Savior when we sacrifice our desires and look for the gifts and abilities that God has given us and then use them to His glory and in service to Him and His Word.
You will recall the parable of Jesus in which He told of a man who divided an amount of money among his servants. The servants were to be stewards of the money while their master was away. Each servant received a different amount. Two of the servants invested the money and returned a double amount to their master. But the third servant buried his money and returned just the amount he had been given. The master angrily rebuked the lazy and wicked servant who had done nothing with what had been entrusted to his care and keeping. He didn’t serve his master.
Again in writing to the Romans, Paul says: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness”(Romans 12:4-8).
The response of thankfulness is to seek out our gifts, our opportunities, our resources, sacrifice the selfish desire to use them for ourselves and instead faithfully use them for our Lord.
This service of Christ is not one that is required by compulsion because “if you don’t do it, look out!” Rather, this is the response of thanks. The heart that believes in his Savior responds by making use of all that God has given us to proclaim and to share the mysteries of God.
I address each one of you individually: You are a steward of the mysteries of God. That awesome Word and all of its blessing has been entrusted to your keeping. Share the good news day to day. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt