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For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined (Tit 1:7-8).
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions (Luke 12:42-44).
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful (1 Cor 4:1-2).
Intellectually, you know that everything you have belongs to God. You are a steward of what God has given you, and He may require it back at any time.
But in practice, that can be very difficult to live out. Your hands become accustomed to holding your favorite things. Over time, you move from thinking, “This is what God has given me” to “This is mine.”
It is the same in ministry. You know, as a student leader, that God has given you a ministry to do. You know that it was and is and will always remain His. But over time, you begin to think of it as your ministry.
And I’ve talked about taking ownership of things before. I’ve said taking ownership is a good thing, because it is you taking responsibility for something. But perhaps I was wrong.
There is a difference between taking ownership and taking stewardship.
When I think of a steward, I think of the Lord of the Rings: Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. For over two thousand years, he and his whole family line ruled Gondor in the place of the vanished kings. And Denethor was the last steward, because Aragorn returned to Gondor (hence the name “Return of the King”).
Yet when the king returned, the steward refused to step aside. In two thousand years, the stewards had come to believe, as Boromir said, “Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king.” When Gandalf reminds Denethor that he is only a steward, he replies, “The rule of Gondor is mine! And no other’s!”
This is the same thing that happens in your heart. When you become accustomed to your stewardship, ownership can take the place of your stewardship. And you become a usurper, a rebel, refusing to bow to the one to whom it truly belongs.
I find myself guilty of this at times in the ministry God has entrusted to me. This whole article actually comes out of a recent staff devotional time, where our director challenged us about relying on God. And I realized that, in some areas, I am treating the ministry as my own, not as God’s.
For example, I am the director of our international ministry. We are in a rebuilding period in International Life, having found several areas we have failed to create a strong culture of discipleship. One major area is small groups: we have not been a ministry of small groups. We’ve failed to create that culture. So this year, I am defining a goal of our ministry to have two thriving small groups: one for guys and one for girls.
And I am really struggling to get the guys’ small group off the ground. I have a lot on my plate directing the ministry, and I’m not sure if I really have the resources to do it myself. So I’m looking into how I can do it: should I entrust leading the guys’ small group to someone else, should I cut something else from my responsibilities so I can do the small group and do it well?
All through this, I’ve been asking myself, “How can I do this?” And therein lies the problem: as Andy talked, I realized I was not relying on God. I had taken ownership of the ministry where I need to be a steward.
The question I need to be asking is not, “How can I do this?” but “God, how do you want to do this?”
And just as simple as changing the fundamental question changes the whole situation drastically. I’m not stressed out about it anymore. Because it’s not mine to worry about: all I have to do is be faithful to follow the Spirit’s leading.
You cannot receive blessings from God when your hands are closed in fists around what He’s already entrusted to you. All you do, when you take ownership rather than stewardship, is set yourself up for failure.
So what can you do?
Remind yourself! If you have to wait for someone else to remind you, you’ve probably already missed the mark! Because why would someone bring it up to you if they didn’t think it was a problem already?
What is the first question you ask yourself when you come across a problem or an opportunity? Do you ask yourself, “How do I fix this?” or “How can I take advantage of this?” Or do you ask yourself, “God, how do you want to do this?” or “God, what do you want to do with this?” Chances are, it was the first set. So take a moment. Pause. And make yourself ask God.
Keep your mind on God. Pursue God first, not yourself. And encourage others as you do it as well! When you see someone fretting about a problem, tell them to take a step back, pause, and ask God what He wants to do and how He wants to do it.
Create a culture of dependence on God. Create a culture of stewardship!