I'd Like to Speak to the Manager - Part 4
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
May 06, 2018
This series is called, “I’d like to Speak to the Manager.” It’s about resources belonging to God that have been put in our care, making us managers.
The idea of being a manager is very biblical. In the Bible managers are called stewards or overseers; they are servants put in charge of a household. The thing about managers or stewards is they don’t own any of the resources they are in charge of, so they are called to manage the owner’s stuff the way he would.
This is exactly what Paul had in mind in his letter to the Corinthian Christians…
1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (ESV) — 1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
We looked at that text in last week’s message where we discovered we are managers of the life-changing gospel of Jesus. Before that we were challenged to be good managers of time, and before that our bodies, all of which belong to God and have been put in our care.
Oh, that we might be found faithful stewards in these things. That should be our prayer throughout this series, especially the resource we’re covering today.
The apostle Peter is going to introduce us to what that is.
He wrote a letter to Christians who were discouraged, confused, and defeated because of the suffering they endured for their faith. He encouraged them to stay strong, putting their hope in Christ, who also suffered and who was also going to return one day and deliver them to heaven.
Let’s take a look at a text towards the end of his letter…
1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV) — 7 The end of all things is at hand;
When I read that I immediately think of a crazy guy with a beard and sandals who stands on the street corner with a sign that says, “The end is near!”
He’s become iconic, I guess because every generation believes it’s the one in which the end comes. We look around and see all the hatred and violence and horrible things happening and think it can’t get any worse, and then it does.
The end was at hand the moment Jesus was born because that meant God was beginning his plan to wrap things up. The end is still at hand, meaning Jesus could return at any moment to set things to rights, and because of that Peter says we Christians should (back to verse 1)…
therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
Paul says someone who lives like the end is near is not crazy, they are sober-minded, which is another way of saying in their right mind or sane.
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Man, could churches use a dose of this. We are fighting over the most foolish of things, showing everything but love for and hospitality towards one another. Just as the love of Jesus in giving his life for us covers a multitude of sins, so our loving one another in response covers a multitude of hurts or offenses.
A guy should stand outside every church holding a sign that says “The end is near”! That puts all this other mess in perspective.
Now we get to the heart of today’s message. Look at…
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Immediately upon reading that verse we should wonder what Peter means by gifts. Does he mean material things? Spiritual things? Or something else?
When you study the Greek word used for gifts here, you discover it’s root word is very familiar to us: grace, God’s unmerited favor towards us in sending his Son to live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died.
That root word in the Greek is found in this same verse (God’s varied grace).
You could translate verse ten this way:
As each has been given a grace-gift, use it to serve one another, as good managers of God’s many-faceted grace.
Now we wonder, what is a grace-gift? Often in Scripture, you find out more by looking for the same word in other texts. But you must be careful to see it’s used in the same sense. Paul uses this word in the same sense as Peter in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12…
Romans 12:3–8 (ESV) — 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
1 Corinthians 12:4–11 (ESV) — 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
The grace-gifts Peter mentions in his first letter are connected directly to the grace-gifts mentioned by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and Romans. When you take the time to put it all together you discover that grace-gifts are something specific, not general, when referring to Christians, to members of Christ’s church. So are Grace-gifts a thing? Yes, they are a thing.
If you’ve been around church for a while, you may have heard grace-gifts referred to as spiritual gifts. Paul names some of them such as the gift of faith or generosity or mercy. There’s also the gift of teaching and evangelism.
We don’t have time to unpack all there is to know about them in one sermon, probably not even in a hundred, but when we study all the NT offers us on these gifts we discover some basic truths…
Grace-gifts are given to every Christian (equipped and dispensed by the Spirit).
Look back at…
1 Corinthians 12:11 (ESV) — 11 All these [grace-gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
I often encounter Christians who feel unimportant or unable to really make a difference in God’s kingdom. They can’t speak publicly or aren’t good at teaching or leading so they resign themselves to just sitting on the sidelines, wishing God would give them purpose.
Reverend Thomas Tewell tells the story of his friend Andy Eddington, once the president of Shriner College in Texas, who would go to prisons and preach to men on death row in Huntsville, Texas.
“I used to go with Andy every now and then, and on one of those trips we stopped at a greasy spoon on our way home to Dallas. Andy loved sugar in his coffee, so he took not one, not two, but three teaspoonfuls of sugar. As the waitress watched, Andy said, "Ma'am, we're going to need more sugar for this table." This Texas waitress looked at Andy and said, ‘Listen, bud, before I give you more sugar, you stir what you got.’"
Listen, God has already given you a grace-gift, some special ability to serve him. Don’t sit around wishing you could do more, stir what you got! I’ll talk about what that means in a minute.
Another thing we learn is…
Grace-gifts are designed for ministering to others.
Look back at…
1 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV) — 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
In other words, grace-gifts are not for us, but for others. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul was actually getting on to the Christians at Corinth for using their gifts selfishly. He reminded them they are for use in building up our brothers and sisters in Christ and ministering the Gospel to our neighbors and family and people within our circle of influence (which ties in with last week).
Here’s something else…
Grace-gifts are intended for use in the community of faith.
Look back at Paul’s words to the Christians at Rome…
Romans 12:4–6 (ESV) — 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…
Think about this: All Christians are given grace-gifts (it’s not “if” you have a gift but “what” gift). These gifts are designed and intended for ministering to others in the community of faith. If that’s true - and it is - then the idea that a Christian can be a part of the community of faith and not serve in some way “does not compute.”
Or put another way, if you’re sitting here this morning and aren’t serving some way in the community of faith… “Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!”
Another thing is…
Grace-gifts aren’t rated according to importance.
Go back to our main text in 1 Peter says we should be good stewards of grace gifts knowing…
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.
Peter sifts grace-gifts into two main categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. Speaking gifts are out front. They involve teaching or leading or sharing the gospel with words. Serving gifts are behind-the-scenes. They often don’t involve talking at all.
The speaking gifts (pastor/teacher, evangelist) are more prominent than the serving gifts (helps or generosity) but are no less important. The Corinthians were messing that up too, exalting the speaking gifts and downplaying the serving gifts. That’s why Paul wrote…
1 Corinthians 12:21–22 (ESV) — 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
Every part of our bodies is important and serves a critical purpose. The eye needs the hand to get out an eyelash. The head needs the feet to carry it to the dinner table. And many parts of the body that don’t get much attention are as equally indispensable as parts that do. In context, Paul is talking about how this relates to the body of Christ and the members of it in relation to grace-gifts.
In March of 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. In 1968 the New York City garbage men went on strike for nine days.
Which do you think is more important, the President or the garbage men? Consider this…
Although Reagan was the nation’s chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation’s activity. Government continued on. In contrast, it is said NYC looked like [“a vast slum as mounds of refuse grow higher and strong winds whirl the filth through the streets.” …there were about 30,000 tons of trash on the streets, a number that would grow to 100,000 tons…“Garbage was piled chest-high. Egg shells, coffee grounds, milk cartons, orange rinds, and empty beer cans littered the sidewalk.”]
Both the president and the garbage collectors are vital, they just serve different functions!
It’s the same way with grace-gifts. Both the speaking and serving grace-gifts give God glory, and that’s all that matters.
Grace gifts are discovered by serving (not necessarily by taking a spiritual inventory evaluation).
I like the way Henry Blackaby looks at this. He says that instead of trying to discover our gifts so that we might use them, we should instead seek an assignment first, and discover our gifts along the way.
My story of how I came to discover I had the gift of teaching…
I would encourage you to not only pray about discovering your grace-gifts but go ahead and start serving until you find that sweet spot.
Let me be a little blunt for a minute. I’m pretty sure one reason the church flounders is because too many folks are sitting on their grace-gifts, too many folks aren’t trying to discover their sweet spot.
That’s why we fuss so much and get so little done. When you’re serving you don’t have time to fuss!
And think about all the opportunities lost because part of the body (the community of faith) isn’t employing it’s grace-gifts in ministering the gospel.
Conclusion: Let’s look back at what Peter said about grace-gifts one last time…
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
If God empowers us with grace-gifts then he owns them. If he owns them and puts us in charge of them that makes us managers. If someone said, “I’d like to speak to the manager,” concerning grace-gifts, who shows up? We do.
One fellow said…
“All too often we regard stewardship simply as a matter of our giving to God, but this aspect is secondary. Before we can give, we must possess, and before we possess we must receive. Therefore, stewardship is, in the first place, receiving God's good and bounteous gifts. And once received, those gifts are not to be used solely for our own good. They must also be used for the benefit of others, and ultimately for the glory of God the giver. The steward needs an open hand to receive from God and then an active hand to give to God and to others.”
Repeat after me… Grace-gifts are given to us from God. That makes me a steward of them. Therefore I must use those gifts in serving others.
The greatest grace-gift ever given is Jesus!
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