Jack Forbes - God's Children as Stewards - 1930

God's children as stewards: This word “stewards” is applied to every child of God, servant or saint. I Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man so account of us, as ministers (or stewards) of the mysteries of God." In the previous chapter, he speaks of the people of God being His husbandry and building (verse 9). Paul speaks of himself as being a steward over God's heritage or husbandry. He seemed to be giving a reason why he dealt with these people in a way that made them conscious of the chastening hand of God. Sometimes we feel it is not the most pleasant experience for those who speak or for those who listen to be made conscious of God's chastening. I do not know of anything that has a more sobering effect upon those of us who profess to be God's servants than to realize that we are stewards of God and that someday we will have to give an account. In Nehemiah, it talks of the priests that after they read the law they gave the right sense to it. No occupation is more responsible in all the world than those who are appointed stewards of the mysteries of God and who are responsible to rightly divide the word of truth and to declare the whole counsel of God to those who bear His name. Paul wanted those people to understand that in ministering to them he was a steward of the mysteries of God. It is required of stewards that they be found faithful. One is glad that the qualifications for being a steward in another sense of the word is not ability or cleverness but in every place it is mentioned it is faithfulness and loyalty that is spoken of.

 

 In Paul's letter to Titus, he mentions that the elders over the flock of God were stewards and he wanted them to understand and have that feeling regarding their position in the church. He wanted them to know that it was not a place for honor or for getting place for themselves but as stewards, they were to feed the flock of God. Sometimes we feel that, in God's kingdom, there is just as much need of stewards in the sense of those who would learn to oversee or act as the elder brother among the flock of God, to guide and help them, as there is even of those who go forth to preach. We sometimes have difficulty with those who occupy the place of an elder. Some are God appointed, some are man appointed and some are self-appointed. Some think that because the meeting is in their home that they are elders and they take that position. One elder that we knew so magnified his office and took it so seriously and importantly that even when some of the older sisters came around, he would not let go his office to even let those who labored in the Gospel take that place. Any man occupying the place of being an elder should recognize that those who have given their lives to be stewards of the mysteries of God are more fitted to take the place of feeding and ministering to God's people. It is strange that persons who have not separated themselves to the ministry should ever magnify their office to such an extent that they would crowd out and push aside those who have given their lives and those whom God has appointed stewards over the mysteries of God. An elder must be blameless. He referred to them as being blameless in their manner of life and in their business. There is a lot spoken concerning elders that it would be very good for those who occupy that place to think about. The difficulty in some places is that the elders take too much or part. There is no one next to those who have given their lives in God's service that is more valued than those who are elders indeed. The meeting that is most God controlled is the one where there is the least human interference. Some might be inclined to take the Convention meetings as an example of how the church meetings should be run but there is very little parallel between them. When I get into a church meeting, I like to interfere as little as possible and let God control, guide and speak; and that is more like what God has intended it should be.

 

 I Peter 4:10, Peter speaks of those saints of God as being stewards ministering one to another of the manifold grace of God as good stewards. Perhaps Peter had in his mind the temporal things as well as the spiritual things but I feel that as we today partake of the grace of God and God ministers to us the things of His kingdom that He will hold us responsible as stewards to minister these things to others and one to another. A person that gets the blessing in meetings like these would surely feel that responsibility in their lives, that they are stewards and should minister these things to one another. It would be a good thing if we could get it fixed in our minds that all true blessing must necessarily mean us becoming a blessing to others. Recently I enjoyed the prayer of Hannah. She recognized God's conditions and said, "If Thou wilt give unto me, I will give unto Thee." She recognized the need that existed in the kingdom of God that day and she said that if God would bless her, she would give unto God and the people of God. That is the condition upon which God will hear our prayers and answer those prayers.

 

 Luke 16, in many parts of the Scripture, this word steward is used to suggest what our true relationship should be towards God. In the beginning of the Bible, it tells that God committed all He had made on earth into the hands of Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, but some time after that as God looked down on the earth, He saw humanity, instead of acting as stewards, they had appropriated these things to their own use and despised the One who had created them. In Luke 16, Jesus used this illustration of stewardship to try and get these people to understand what their relationship towards God should be. The steward was called to give an account of his stewardship. The purpose of every Convention meeting is that it makes us feel as we look back over the past that we as God's stewards have wasted our Master's goods. The thing that Jesus commended was not the way this steward acted but He commended him for his foresight, for the fact that he looked ahead and made provision for the future, and as He taught the disciples He said, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." He told them to make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that when you shall fail, you may be received into everlasting habitation. The only way I can understand this is that as that steward took his master's goods and used that over which his master had made him steward in such a way that when he was dispossessed, he had friends to receive him into their habitation. So the saints of God are stewards over their farms, their businesses and all the things God has committed to their care. God would have you use them to make friends so that when they shall fail you would have so used your stewardship that you would be received into everlasting habitation, that you would have friends in eternity. Matthew 25 may have a connection here. Jesus on the Day of Judgment speaks of those who ministered of their goods to those who were hungry and strangers in the world. It is embarrassing sometimes to talk along these lines but there could be no happier relationship than the children of God recognizing that the things that God has committed to their care, they are only stewards of them. "He that is faithful in that which is least....or faithful in a very little....is faithful also in much." If you have not been faithful in the natural temporal things, if you have not been faithful in your home and business, who will commit unto you that which is your own? That is the way Jesus talks of the eternal things which God has given us in Christ. They are our own but it is only as we are faithful that He will commit unto us the true riches.

 

 God has made us who are servants, stewards over the mysteries of the Kingdom, and He has relieved us of the responsibility of temporal things. Jesus implied to those who went forth to preach the Gospel that they would get just what they needed. He speaks of the rich young man coming to Him and Peter as he saw the young man go away sorrowfully asked, "Lord, what shall we have?" Jesus told them of a certain man who had a vineyard and he went out one day and hired laborers. At the end of the day, he paid them each a penny, both those who had worked all day and those who had worked only part of the day. When I tried to think of how this could be rightly applied and thinking of the previous chapters, I feel I got a little light. Sometimes people forget to take into consideration who these parables are spoken to, and why and when. In this chapter, Jesus continues to illustrate by the parable of the vineyard and the husbandman, the condition He set forth before the rich young man and Peter's question. As He sent them forth into the vineyard at the 3rd, 4th, and 9th hours, he paid each a penny at the end of the day. Jesus was laying down the principle for those who were laborers in the vineyard that however long they labored they were each just entitled to have his need supplied and the youngest was equally privileged to have that as well as the oldest. The reward for laboring in the Gospel is equality and we cannot claim more than our needs supplied. As I thought of those who had borne the heat of the day, I was glad they were fitted with the same portion as the youngest in the field. As laborers, Jesus laid down the principle that the earthly reward or what we were to receive for preaching now can only be that penny a day. The mother of two sons, James and John, came to Jesus and asked that when He would come into His kingdom they might have a place, one at His right hand and the other at His left. The Holy Ghost leaves here the record of the eternal reward and Jesus does not say that it's equality but He says, “Are ye willing to drink of the cup that I drink of and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" He tells them that it is not His to give them that place but that it is reserved by His Father in Heaven. Paul says there is one glory of the sun and another of the moon and there are terrestrial bodies and heavenly bodies. The reward in eternity is measured by our willingness to drink the cup that Jesus would have us drink. God has protected us against being accused of wanting anything for ourselves. We are responsible to be faithful and not appropriate things to our own use but recognize that we are ministers and stewards of the mysteries of God.

     

  Eliezer was called a steward or bondservant of Abraham, Genesis 15:2. Genesis 24 speaks of the relationship that existed between that man and his master. In reading it over, I felt helped by some of the marks that were seen in his life. As he went forth to seek a bride for his master's son, he was willing for all the self-denial, willing to efface himself and do violence to his own interests. That is one of the most important qualifications of a servant of God, that they be willing to do violence to their own interests. When Abraham spoke to him concerning going to that far-off land to seek a bride for his son, Eliezer did not hesitate. What is spoken of here of Abraham, Isaac and Eliezer is typical of God as the Father, Isaac as the Son and Eliezer as the servant of God. One of the first things that Abraham said was, "Go not into the way of the Canaanites." He was zealous lest his son should be united to a Canaanite. That is one of the things we should feel responsible for as God's children that we are not guilty of bringing a Canaanite into the family of God. Sometimes parents might be guilty of bringing their children into God's family and not recognizing that God would never welcome a Canaanite. Eliezer swore to his master that he would go to the country of his kin and seek a bride there and as he went all his master's goods were in his hand. There is no greater responsibility resting on the people of God than the recollection that all that God has, He has committed into their hands, and especially as the servants of God, to feel that God has committed to us all that He has. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father said, "All that I have is thine," even though that man was not saved. God has put humanity in the position where all that He has is theirs, and to us as the servants of God "All his Master's goods were in his hands." When I think of first starting in the service of God, it seems that God is satisfied like a Master would be, in handing over His goods to an apprentice to learn the trade. The thought of using our Master's goods or rather abusing them is the most responsible thing that ever comes into the lives of the servants of God. As Eliezer went on his journey, he came to the well side and there prayed that God would guide him by His Spirit and that he would make choice of the right person. I have enjoyed the thought that Eliezer left room for God to decide who should be the bride. As God's people, we might make the mistake of thinking that God is working together with us instead of being workers together with God. Eliezer left room for God to make the choice there. The more you read, the more confidence you have in the Spirit of God to guide people to the right place. After Eliezer prayed to God to lead him, it talks next of him giving his master's message. He talks so much of his master and never once mentions his own name. I would covet to learn how to do the work of God so that I would make people conscious that I have a Master, and be able to efface myself and not to impress people with my own personality, but that "I am just my Master's servant." Twenty times Eliezer talks of Abraham as "my master" and he mentions himself repeatedly as "I am my master's servant." There was provision made for Eliezer and all that were with him. The provision in the Gospel does not merely lie behind but it is before us and even if the people of God were unfaithful in ministering the things God has made clear to them as stewards there is still provender and every provision made. When Eliezer had entered the house, he would not eat until he had declared his master's business and after this as he was about to go away and they constrained him to abide, he said, "Let me return to my master." That is a mark of a true servant of God. He was not there to indulge in his own pleasure and when he had declared his master's business he would not stay there. Sometimes people in their kindness or in their ignorance would try to constrain us to remain with them and to take a holiday but Eliezer said he could not do that. I enjoyed first of all the marks of self-denial and the willingness to do violence to everything in his own life that was seen in this man. No true servants of God have any claim as to where they are going but they have to go where the Lord guides them. As Eliezer went, he could bow his head and praise and worship the Lord who had led him continually. This word "worship" has a far deeper meaning than any of us conceive and though I have been a number of years in God's way, I am only beginning to learn what it really means to worship God in Spirit and in truth. Eliezer, as he was conscious of God guiding, controlling, and leading him, could bow his head and worship the Lord. In all the places where it talks of worship, there is something definite that has happened between those who worship and the Lord. This matter of gathering together on Sunday morning and going through the set form and no definite yielding or consciousness of some transaction between ourselves and God is not true worship. Paul said, "I beseech you to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God." I long to know something of that experience in my own life, so that when I gather together on the first day of the week, there would be those inward conditions in my life that I would know how to worship God in Spirit and in truth.

 

  If we are faithful as stewards, whether as saint, elder or servant, as God finds us faithful in the little things, He will commit to us the greater things and the things which are our own.