This is from New Life Church. Pastors Matt & Heidi Messner
While mine is touted as one of the first words a child learns, we also see from a very young age, children often have a generous spirit…wanting to engage in the world around them, sharing in and with others. Yet we tend to grasp onto things more and more tightly and determine what is mine and what is someone else’s as we grow, often having the mentality “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours should be mine.”
M: As adults, generosity is a challenge for us. We hold to what is ours, but God wants us to learn to let go. Today, we are talking about stewardship. What is stewardship?
H: Stewardship is the responsibility to care for, manage, supervise resources on behalf of another.
We began this year with a series called “God Songs”, a look at the book of Psalms, “which were written as songs about and to God.
Psalms 24:1“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
M: This describes the Christian worldview. As Christians, whose resources are we stewarding? We cannot talk about stewardship without first understanding “Lordship”, and surrendering all that we have, to God. As Christians we see everything as ultimately belonging to God.
God owns it all.
H: We are stewards of what is God’s…this doesn’t just include how we spend our money, but also how we manage our time and our talents. Stewardship is a holistic message. It covers every area of our lives. Are we generous in these things or stingy? Do we live life with the perspective of mine or mi casa es su casa?
M: Today we are focusing on two of the seven rhythms that we at New Life have identified as being essential to a thriving life in Jesus.
God calls us to pathways and patterns of generosity and service that can be woven into the fabric of our lives. We are “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:16)
God is calling me to live counter cultural rhythms of spiritual life.
Old patterns of behavior are difficult to break. Like most people, I was told as a child that it is not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. On the other hand, my experience taught me that there was a big difference between winning and losing, and winning was way more fun than losing, and winning was rewarded. I connected winning to receiving love. So, I determined that I should win as often as possible. I wanted to be the best reader in my class. I wanted to be the fastest runner. I wanted to be the valedictorian. I was a competitive achievement oriented person. If I didn’t achieve my goals, I would beat myself up, and by setting high goals, I was often very disappointed with myself. My losses and failures remain as some of my most vivid memories.
H: We love winners. When Michael Phelps was competing in the Olympics, 10 gold medals wasn’t too much for one person. He needed to win 23. And someone once said “Second place is the first loser.” – a philosophy that is so ignorant and arrogant that it isn’t even funny. If a person lives this way, they are setting themselves up for great disappointment. If we buy into this way of thinking, we can only fail.
M: As we keep score of winners and losers, how many athletes retire as “winners”? Very few. They usually hang on a little too long and retire after bitter defeat.
H: How many CEO’s retire “successfully”? Very few. Most CEO’s leave their companies when they are either bought out or forced out.
To succeed in this world, using its definition of success, can be unethical or at least unloving. The only way to win is to cause others to lose. This is a far cry from God’s ways.
M: After I became a Christian, I transferred my drive to achieve into expressions my spiritual life, trying to win for God. I ended up having a very driven expression of Christianity, where I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. That kind of behavior looks good on the outside, but the Lord wanted to do something deeper on the inside of my heart. He doesn’t want us striving for His approval, He wants us at rest.
We live in a competitive world and the values of the world are in direct conflict with the values of the kingdom of God.
H: The clashing values of Jesus and the world are not always easy to see: They are not easy to see even as His own followers.
Psalms 25:4-6 “Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.”
We need God’s help to understand His ways in order to live a life that reflects Him. When we continually immerse ourselves in God’s Word we will begin to look more and more like Him. He is a generous God. As we become more like Jesus we become more generous with all we have and all we are.
We need God’s help in removing the scales from our eyes in order to see His ways.
M: We are going to look at one such principle today. Understanding and embracing this one principle can radically change us and it will have a radical impact on the people around us, because it is such a contrast to the world in which we live.
We live in a world that admires ambition, that celebrates success
We live in a world that worships popularity and celebrity
One with organizational and cultural structures we are taught to climb
A world that loves power and money
The disciples of Jesus struggled with these same “worldly” realities.
H: We read about a conversation Jesus had with the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples in…
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. (Note: In Mark’s Gospel it is the sons who ask the question)
21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
This is an interesting story. We could even analyze it from the perspective of Psychology. New research finds that parents really do hope to live out unfulfilled ambitions through their children.
Toddlers & Tiaras
M: They may push their children in order to fulfill a need within themselves. Promoting them. Pushing them.
There is a Netflix documentary called “Trophy Kids”, that shows the crazy behaviors of Little League parents who will do just about anything to make sure their kids win.
So, we see a glimpse of this in James and John’s mom.
But before we judge her, maybe we should give her some credit for being assertive enough to give this a try.
After all, this sounds good. If Jesus truly is the Messiah, as they understood the Messiah to be a king here on earth, it would be in her best interest to have her boys in charge of the world.
We could call this a great example of initiative. She is stepping up. Getting her boys into leadership. Go for it mom!
H: It sounds good but Jesus knew what was motivating them. He knew what was behind their request: Un-checked, unbridled ambition.
Pride, achievement, and ambition drive our world…
In this world, greatness is defined by money, position, power, and popularity. Competition fuels conflicts all around us. Competition has literally led to wars.
M: Today we are privileged to have two of our Foursquare workers with us, who have been serving in Eastern Europe and have been experiencing first hand the effects of these worldly ways.
Paul and Marie FMI Workers, interview
What prompted you to give up everything you had – home, close proximity to family, stable incomes – to move across the world and serve in another culture…
You had to flee your home recently, because of a war. How many years were you living in that country?
You had planted a church there. What is it like today, without the two of you?
Things escalated there quickly, creating a radical change in your lives. How did it affect you and how have you been able to adapt to your new paradigm?
How is serving in this culture (here) similar to serving in another culture?
What are you doing now and how can we partner with you?
(Thank them for being with us. Pray for them. Table in the lobby)
M: New Life Church (you), have supported their work by giving generously.
In 2022 here is what you as a congregation did to help with their work:
• Foursquare Disaster Relief / In May we sent $26,065.42 from funds collected by the church to Ukrainian refugees.
• $24,500 for workers in that region (Spangs and Cecils)
Total: Over $50K given. Great job NLC!
H: Back to the story of the disciples fighting for power:
22“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.
We might not see their request as particularly sinful. We could admire them for their willingness to sacrifice in order to succeed. We admire them for their desired closeness to Jesus. We admire them for their boldness and their fearless vision.
The other disciples were just as hungry for power and position as James and John were. It is why they are indignant. Jealousy. Power. Competition. They were all willing to achieve success at any cost.
M: They are divided by their selfish ambition. Today these interactions would’ve made for good reality TV. Jesus goes on to explain that these values are the opposite of His values. Their understanding still matched that of the world. They still had a lot to learn. And so do we.
25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The worlds way of leading is to have others serve us. The worlds way of leading is to take for oneself.
But King Jesus’ Mission:
To SERVE and to GIVE
H: The greatest would be the least, the last would be the first and the powerless would be powerful. Jesus is saying here…
Greatness is measured by service not by superiority
I was once walking with a pastor of a church where I was about to speak and noticed some garbage in the lobby. I picked it up and began to take it to the garbage can. He told me their maintenance person would take care of it. I responded, “Actually, I can get it. If I can’t pick up trash, I shouldn’t be allowed to preach.” We should never be too important to pick up the trash.
A servant knows who they are serving (Jesus).
(Example) It isn’t just about serving people. For most of my life in ministry, it felt like my main job was setting up tables and chairs…watering the lawn…buffing floors…taking out the trash…(After Bible college…But I had to let go of my ambition, and find the joy in doing the mundane, for the Lord).
Colossians 3:23-24: 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Someone hates their job…dysfunctional supervisor…but
Having a hard time with the colicky kids…
A servant is focused on others
Let us serve joyfully, and give generously- we talk about this often at New Life. This church has been deemed a generous church. When this is said it has to do with the ways in which money has been given, yet what Jesus refers to here is much broader than giving money generously. It has to do with a way of life.
It is a heart issue more than it is a responsibility or a task issue. You can lead and be led by the Lord. “The downward mobility of the Christian life.” He must become greater…I must become less. Jesus emptied himself (Philippians 2)…If you really want to be challenged, as a leader, I have a book to recommend: “In the Name of Jesus”, by Henri Nowen.
H: The question is, where is our heart? Being a servant doesn’t mean that you do everything yourself, but you would be willing to do anything you ask others to do.
• Choose love over power.
• Choose serving over being served.
• Choose being led over leadership.
• Choose the cross over control.
The Servant Principle:
Greatness is measured by service, not superiority
M: Our calling: Live these two rhythms in life:
Give generously of our time, tithes and talents.