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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stewards of God's Grace

1 Peter 4:7-11 “7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

It had been a discouraging day. I fumbled for my house keys and meandered up our driveway. Taped to our front door was an envelope with our name on it. Not recognizing the handwriting, I opened the envelope. The contents brought me to my knees. Enclosed was a long encouraging note and Scripture verse along with a gift certificate for our wedding anniversary and a generous check. Dear friends, who had financial troubles of their own, believed that the Lord had placed it on their hearts to bless us in such an extravagant, thoughtful, and sacrificial way. Several weeks before that, some other dear friends, who also had financial troubles of their own, wrote us a loving and encouraging note that said they were led by the Lord to write us a large check. In both cases, the gifts were lavish, unexpected, cheerful, at great cost to the givers, and came with no agenda attached and no expectation of repayment. Both came from hearts of love and obedience toward God and love for us.

The effect on us was phenomenal. Although these gifts were miraculous provision in the face of recent financial blows, the biggest effect on us had nothing to do with finances. We were deeply humbled before our friends and before our God who consistently shows us how much we need Him and how much He provides. We felt as if God Himself wrote the encouraging words to us, picked out the gift, and wrote the checks.

The experience truly shed light on 1 Peter 4:10 for me (written out in context above). In the NIV, 1 Peter 4:10 is translated: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” Our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ stewarded or administered God’s grace to us. The grace and love we experienced did come to us from God Himself through the hands of His children! These thoughtful actions by our friends were life giving and redemptive in a season of life where we could see death in operation in the world around us. For us, it was a clear and much-needed reminder that God does love us in the midst of what He brings into our life by suffering. These friends were the hands and the feet of Christ Himself to us! What an honor for them to be the vessel for the Lord’s boundless love and grace!

In a great sermon I listened to several months back, Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church called the body of Christ a “delivery system for grace”. That phrase stuck with me. Several weeks ago, I heard another great sermon by Pastor Mike Vederoff of Hope Bible Fellowship (guest preaching at Grace Fellowship Puget Sound) on 1 Peter 4 on the body of Christ as stewards of God’s grace. The Lord further etched these two wonderful teachings into my heart through the practical acts of kindness of our friends.

Dear Father, Thank you for your extravagant grace and love. Thank you for the loving friends you have placed in our lives! Thank you that you have shown yourself to be so glorious to them that they willingly and cheerfully sacrifice out of what you have given them. Thank you for the tremendous faith you have given them. I know You will bless them for their faith and obedience to you. Thank you for their witness to us and to all who hear this story. The witness is of you- of a God who is worthy of all of our worship, and worthy of sacrificing all. Thank you that the body of Christ is a delivery system for grace. Make me a delivery system for your grace as well! Make me a good steward of your grace in any gifting or resource you have given me. May my thoughts, words, and deeds be about You and not me, so that others see You in me and that they may experience your love through me. Grow in me sincere love for others that follows Jesus’ example as in Philippians 2. Help me to seek out ways of putting the interests of others above my own- out of sincere Holy Spirit produced love- for your glory! In Jesus name, Amen.

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