Series: Lessons in Sovereignty - a.k.a. Stewardship - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 27, 2016
Today is the first Sunday of… Advent.
We get this. Right? This season of the year comes with a whole lot of additional stress - trying to cram more stuff into our already overcrowded schedules and to trying stay within budgets that are already overspent. Thinking about the credit card bill coming next month. The reason that’s all true is because that’s all... true.
Someplace in all of that in the back of our overstressed minds - is the thought that we ought to be more focused on God and what we really ought to be celebrating. And when we can slow down enough to actually do that then we will.
Which we all know and get and which is why the last thing we need to hear is another guilt inducing sermon about messed up priorities. Amen?
Which is why for the next three Sundays we’re going to be focused on the sovereignty of God and stewardship. Point being - forget about guilt, is there any real help for us the midst of all that?
A steward is someone who manages someone else’s stuff. God is the sovereign creator who entrusts us with resources to be used for His purposes. The big three that get stretched beyond belief at this time of the year are our time, our talent, and our treasure. Stewardship meaning how much time we have to use our abilities while hopefully spending bucks on what really matters.
Point being: The goal of our looking at stewardship is not how we can save money on Christmas presents so we can give more to Creekside. Which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But our goal is to help us stay focused on God and what God has for us verses going nuts.
We’re kinda together?
I pulled this quote from a article by Mark Labberton - currently the president of Fuller Seminary: [We] “have often done a better job cultivating Christian consumers with well-developed musical tastes than nurturing battle-ready disciples.” (1)
One of the things we’ve shared - on other Sundays - one of the huge reasons why the church in the US is in serious if not near terminal trouble - is that we’ve substituted serving God with serving ourselves.
Costco Christianity - free samples - lots of stuff to choose from - anonymity - low commitment - pay your membership dues and you’re good to go.
A Christian religious experience where the bottom line is not how can I serve God - sacrificially following Jesus - but how God through His church can serve me - meet my needs - my family’s needs. Great worship - youth ministry - reasonably entertaining sermons - whatever floats our boat. If not - then I’m out of here - I’m on to the next church.
Stewardship is the complete 180º opposite of all that. Stewardship disciplines us in the day-to-day of life to focus not on ourselves but on God. To live trusting God. Where the only explanation for what gets produced - experienced - enjoyed - sustained - whatever the purpose and priorities - stewardship brings us face-to-face with the reality that the only explanation for all that is God.
Which in contrast to what often eats up our time, talent, and treasure - stewarding according to the purposes and priorities of the sovereign God opens up to us the kind of life with real security and peace and the fulfillment that we crave - opens us up to the life that God desires for us to live with Him.
This morning we’re focused on the stewardship of time. We’re going to focus on Psalm 90. Which we are going to read out loud together and then come back and unpack.
You all are Group One. You all are Group Two.
Lord you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
In the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
Yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Groups One and Two:
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
That is an incredible affirmation of the awesomeness of the sovereign God? Amen?
Notice four things about God and His time. First: God is the God of history.
Moses composed Psalm 90 during the Exodus - out in the wilderness - for Israel to sing as a praise to God - to remind God’s people of Who God is. Moses begins with “Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”
A dwelling place is a place where people… dwell. It’s where we live. Since man has been on earth man - generations of man have dwelt with God.
Before Moses there was Jacob and Isaac and Abraham. Before Abraham there was Noah and Adam. What can be pretty dry devotional time. Reading through and mispronouncing names of genealogies.
But while we’re reading we need to be thinking that these were real people - who were born to real mothers and fathers - into families - and who lived their lives as we live our lives - who had hopes and dreams just like we do - with the fullness of what that means - and then they died.
As long as there have been generations God has been there dwelling. People come and go but God remains generation after generation dwelling with His people. Meaning that God is the God of man’s history.
Second: God is the God of creation.
Before the mountains were - God is. Before there was an earth - God is. Before anything was - God is. In Genesis God speaks all things into existence by the authority of His word. God speaks and it is.
Whatever understanding we may have of natural law is limited to the perspective of the created. We don’t have the perspective of the creator. We can speculate all we want about how all this came into being - how long it took - even the method God may have used to bring all this into being. But, ultimately we don’t know. But, God does. Because God was there and we weren’t. By His word - out of nothing - God created everything.
Third: God is the God who is eternal. God exists from everlasting to everlasting.
God exists outside of time - before time - during time - after time - simultaneously. God has always been God. God will always be God. God doesn’t owe His existence to anything. He is the great I Am. God is.
Coming from our perspective of birth - life - death. Beginnings and endings - linear time - that’s a mind blower isn’t it? God exists. Period.
Fourth: God is the God who uses time. Time is God’s. He created it. Time does not bind God. God binds time. God uses time according to His purposes.
Moses writes, “You return man to dust.” We’re created from dust - the stuff of this earth. We return to dust. Earth to earth. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes. Dust is like a vapor. Poof. Gone.
A thousand years - a millennium of man’s time - think about all the history that’s gone on in the last 1,000 years - the dusty ages of antiquity - the empires - the lives lived and gone - the known and unknown - and all that those people experienced - generations.
All that is as familiar and as recent as yesterday to God. God brings the years into existence. Before Him they flourish. When their time is done - toward evening - they fade and wither away.
Which brings up some serious trust issues on our part. Because how we look at time is bound by our own perspective of passing events not the reality of all time being God’s time.
“Time dilation” is what they call the effect that explains why the speed of light is the same no matter how fast we’re going.
Twin brothers live on Earth. One brother takes a trip to a distant star traveling at a high percentage of the speed of light. When the twin returns he’ll be younger than his brother who stayed on earth because for the twin traveling near the speed of light time slowed down during the trip.
Meaning as a traveler accelerates time slows down for him. This, in turn, affects his measurements. Time being relative to our perspective of what’s up with us.
Like when we’re anticipating something we’re really looking forward to - like a vacation - and the anticipation takes longer than the actual event. That’s the passing of time altered by our perspective.
As dust - bound by the passing of time - it’s hard to wrap our minds around how God sees the events of thousands of years unfolding as something that just happened yesterday.
More to the point: It is way hard to think about how God can take the events of yesterday - or a millennium ago - and link them together with the events of today - or a thousand years from now - and use them without deviation from His purposes.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian believers: “When the fullness of time had come…” “Fullness” in Greek is a word that has the idea of a ship being prepared to set sail - provisioned and crewed. When its ready, it sails.
“Fullness” means when all the preparations were completed - fully - completely - without leaving anything out - when the time was right to move forward - when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son - Jesus - born of a women, born under the law, so that He - Jesus - might redeem those who were under the Law… so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4,5 NASB)
Where Jesus was born - when Jesus was born - how Jesus was born - those aren’t coincidences. Right?
The Greeks and the Romans gave us our first Global Village. A time of common language - culture - transportation - commerce - and the ability to spread the Gospel that hasn’t been seen since - until today. Imagine if they’d had the internet - Facebook - Pinterest - texting and tweeting the Gospel.
The date of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem - Palm Sunday - that timing was fixed centuries earlier - through the prophetic word - and even - Scripture tells us - before the creation of the world.
Jesus arrives on the scene when God’s people were searching - desperate. Their religious leaders had failed them. Their politicians were abusing them. The gods of the cultures around them had come up empty.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus enters Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles - to enter in triumph before millions looking for a king. To arrive at Passover - to present Himself as the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sins of mankind.
The Apostle Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, no wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
That’s perspective of time - the use of time. God being patient with purpose.
The Bible says, “None is righteous... not one.” (Romans 3:10)
We all are sinful - unholy. Deserving eternal conscious punishment - eternal separation from the Holy God. (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1)
When Jesus returns we’re all toast. Judgment and Hell and eternal separation for those without Jesus.
But, God is patient toward us that we might be saved. God loves our family members and friends - our co-workers - who have not trusted Jesus. He is patient - perhaps working through us - to share the Gospel and bring them to salvation.
Point being - bottom line - God transcends time. He created it. The God of man’s history - the eternal God is using time. Time is a tool in His hands - that He’s using according to the purposes for which He created it.
We need to hang on to that. When we look at how the events within the time of our lives - how those events unfold. They may seem random - senseless - lurching along to some uncertain future. We need to be reminded that time - and the events within time - they progress according to God’s perspective - His purposeful use of time.
God knew - before we knew - the events around us of this last week - and how those events connect to what’s coming this week. He knew which of us would be here today - even the message we need hear.
All time is God’s time. That truth needs to get in to our hearts and rattle around and shape the very core of who we are and our willingness to trust not ourselves - but to trust the sovereign God with our lives - the time here that He entrusts to us.
Two men were walking home one night and decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery just for laughs. Right in the middle of the cemetery they were startled by a tap-tap-tapping noise coming from the misty shadows. Trembling with fear, they found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones.
“Holy cow, Mister,” one of them said after catching his breath, “You scared us half to death ... we thought you were a ghost! What are you doing working here so late at night?”
We all have some idea of what we’d like our lives to be like. Dreams and hopes and desires. Which can be really good dreams and hopes and desires. But with all that - unless Jesus comes back first - everyone one of us has a reservation in the marble orchard.
70 or 80 years go by really quick. Exercise. Diet. That’s all great. They do have their value. But when our number’s up. It’s up. And the clock is ticking.
I don’t know if that makes you feel any less guilty about what you ate on Thursday. Could have had more pie and stuffing.
The point of verses 7 to 11 - these cheery verses about being brought to an end by God’s anger and being done away with by God’s wrath - the point is that we’re accountable to the sovereign God for how we use the time He’s purposefully given us. Whatever length of time that may be.
Life is about Who? God. Our time is God’s time.
We need to let that truth rattle around in our minds and hearts. We need to admit the frail and finite nature of our lives and to realize that we’re here because God has put us here - for His purposes and priorities - for what He desires to do in us and through us.
The third truth we need to know about time is that God’s Time Isn’t Wasted Time. Time is valuable - priceless.
12: So - because all time is
God’s time and our time is God’s time - So
us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(cartoon) “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”
How valuable is a day? Ask someone who’s been given only days to live.
Wisdom is the application of God’s knowledge to the day-to-day experiences of our life. Numbering our days means to count them - learning the value of each moment given to us by God. Wisdom from the heart - means that at the core of who we are we’ve learned from God how to use our days according to God’s purposes.
Walk with me through these verses. Look at verse 13: Return, O Lord! How long? have pity on your servants!
A rough translation is: “God, don’t leave us hanging while we’re numbering our days.”
Verse 14: Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love - before our first cup of coffee - every morning fill us full with your goodness - fill us to overflowing with your faithful love - that we may rejoice and be glad all our days - that we’ll be so overcome with joy that every day we’ll explode with praise for You.
Verse 15: Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Meaning: Life has enough hard stuff in it. Life is full of drama. God balance it out. Let the good times roll.
Verse 16: Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Lift the curtain. Let us see behind the scenes of history - your purposeful orchestration of history. Let us see what you’re doing - the awesomeness - the splendor - the glory of Who you are.
Verse 17: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Roughly paraphrased: O Lord our God - may you be so pleased with us that you will make our endeavors successful. What endeavors? The one’s which You God have purposed for us to do in the time You’ve given to us.
Are we together that verses 13 to 17 are a result of learning how to do verse 12? Verses 13 to 17 are the expectation of what happens to us when we use our God given time according to God’s purposes. Which is all good.
Which is an amazing way to live life. Purposefully. With security and peace and fulfillment.
How incredible it is - even in the midst of daily drama - to experience the joy of God’s presence. To live experiencing God’s faithful love. To be more and more aware of God at work in our lives and how He weaves us into His purposes. To anticipate success in our endeavors. To know that our lives have purpose. Wouldn’t it be great to live that way?
God gives us time - not to waste it - not because God has time to burn - but because each moment is valuable to the work He desires to do in us and through us for His praise and glory.
Processing all that: Thinking about the stewardship of time and trusting the sovereign God - what difference all this makes in the real time of our lives as we head out trying not stress out. Two helpful insights to marinate in.
First: Time isn’t a birthright. Which is a game changer in our entitlement driven culture. “I got born so I’m entitled to this. It’s mine.” No government in the world can give us more time than what God ordains.
C.S. Lewis - writing in The Screwtape Letters - Screwtape - a high ranking demon - is giving advice to Wormwood - his novice demon nephew. Screwtape is giving his nephew Wormwood advice on how Wormwood can really mess up the faith of a young man: “You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own.’ - Hear that? Birthright. Entitlement. - Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of his property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.”
When we view time as our birthright we begin to think that all those interruptions to our plans - someone showing up unexpectedly - the driver going really really slow in front of us - the phone call in the middle of the game - people who never stop talking when we’ve got places to go - people to see - things to do - we start thinking that all that is an imposition on “our” time.
Easy to do. Yes?
I’m sharing out of my weakness not my strength. I’ve got a ways to go on this.
God gives us the time and privilege to join with our siblings in Jesus - here for worship - Love God - but we feel entitled to be somewhere else.
God gives us the privilege and time to meet together with Him and our siblings in Jesus - for prayer or Bible study - Love Others - and we have other priorities.
God gives us time and opportunity to serve Him - Serve The Church - and our schedules are so crammed that we can’t squeeze it in - at least not consistently.
God calls us to witness for Him - Serve The World - “Go into all he world” - that’s proactive - requires commitment - intentional dedication - our commitment to show up - not “go and do what you think is best and when you can get around to ti and once in a while drop My name into the conversation.”
God gives us time to “Go witness” - and we allow other things to organize our time. To avoid stepping into opportunities that God opens to us. We just can’t take the time to help people avoid Hell.
Time as a birthright is all about me, myself, and I.
Sandcastles. Hours of work - envisioning - constructing - shaping. Amazing works of art and skill. So incredibly important to us as we’re investing hours crafting them.
Gone my morning.
What are we really investing our time in?
Imagine our world as adults - using time to serve ourselves - building things out of nothing. Answering phones - keeping up with emails - texting - chatting - taping schedules into organizers - commitments and obligations - running from place to place - never really catching up - hoping we don’t forget a child someplace - not that we’ve ever done that. Trying to control our lives. Building our carefully constructed little worlds. Monuments to ourselves. Living in fear that something will happen to all that. And now… it’s Christmas!
In time what happens? The tide comes in - washes away our little castles. No wonder we’re stressed..
When we see time as a birthright - holding on to what we think is ours - life slips through our fingers like little grains of sand - and for what?
The sovereign God owns the sand. He controls the waves. Maybe we need to view time differently.
Second insight: Time is a gift of God.
How do we do that?
Do you remember the movie “Dead Poets Society” - Robin Williams portraying John Keating? He quotes the Latin words, “Carpe Diem” - which means what? “Seize the Day.” It was a way of energizing his students. Rise up and grab hold of life.
About 100 years ago Christians signed their letters with the postscript “D.V.” D.V. stands for the Latin words? “Deo Volente” - which means? “God willing.”
“Carpe Diem” is arrogant. “Deo Volente.” “God willing” puts us under God’s sovereignty - understanding that time is God’s gift.
Kent Hughes describes us this way, “So pervasive is our culture's arrogant independence of God that even many (most) Christians attend church, marry, choose their vocations, have children, buy and sell homes, and numbly ride the currents of culture without substantial reference to the will of God.”
We need to turn from our arrogance of faith in our own knowledge and cleverness - our own self focused priorities and planning - our own self focused vision of our future. We need to daily - minute by minute - if not second by second - learn to enjoy the process of discovery, submission, and faithful dependence on God.
Everything we do needs to be first taken before God in prayer. First thing in the morning to thank God for giving us a new day. To ask Him to seize control of our lives and lead us through His purposes for giving us that day.
What would that be like for you? Learning to live life - a life in which, from the core of your being, your passionate desire is to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness - the accomplishment of His will in you and through you. For you to lay your life down before the sovereign God of time - so that if any vision is given - if any direction is given to your life - it must be coming from Him.
Take home question: Today, The sovereign God has entrusted you with time. How will you steward the time He has entrusted you with?
1. Mark Labberton, Leadership, Summer 2010
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.