Kingdom Principle: Stewardship of suffering yields increased faith.
Faith yields a fruit of favor. Favor is experienced as grace and mercy.
|Lamentations 1:1-6,3:19-26||Psalm 137||2 Timothy 1:1-14||Luke 17:5-10|
Garth Brooks made famous the song – “Thank God for unanswered prayers” there are many times we might ask God for something, when we have no clue what the impact of that request is going to be. The answer Jesus gives to the disciples at their request to increase their faith is basically- NO. Jesus continues, (my paraphrase) “You don’t need “more” faith, the problem is that your focus is on your need, rather than the needs of others– you are being greedy. It only takes a mustard seed of faith, and clearly even that seems to be lacking at this time.” But let’s not be too harsh on those disciples– they could interpret what they just heard from Jesus as “Don’t ever make a mistake by leading people astray, but if anyone one else makes a mistake – then you must forgive them – over and over and over again.” SAY WHAT? So they cry out in desperation – Jesus – We are not there yet… increase our faith, so we will be able to act in such a way…. NOPE. Further Jesus continue – not only are you not getting more faith, you are going to need to go all this with not so much as a thank you – for this is what you “signed-up” to do. In much the same way you don’t need any new information to understand the principle; nor by applying it are you all of the sudden going to be awarded any new prize. You simply need to deepen your understanding of what’s already been given.
What Jesus is calling the disciples (and us) to do is the also found in the charge of Paul to Timothy in one of his final letters before his death. “Fan into flame the gift of God” – this gift is Faith, it is in you, but it must grow. Paul elsewhere says to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. (Phil 2:12-13) This verse follows, the demonstration of how Christ served and gave more than his very life and did so in humility and suffering.
If you have followed the blog, the words Stewardship & Generosity are nothing new. We are to leverage, manage and invest in our relationships; we are to give, distribute and bless with our resources. This week we see it take yet another angle – we are to Steward are sufferings and to be generous with others out of our growth in experience. To understand this principle we must be reminded of many things we have covered in other principles:
God uses wilderness (pain & suffering) to conform our will to His. Pain and Suffering are universal to humanity, says Seth Jethani in his book “With”. Out of suffering comes the world’s desire to control and minimize painful experiences and to at the least make sense of it all. Here we discover that the call to steward our sufferings means they have become assets of ours, which we can leverage, manage and invest to yield a greater return, that return is an increase in faith.
Faith is the foothold of the Kingdom – it is by faith that we discover a Disciplined Body, Developed Soul and Directed Spirit. God is the author and perfect of our faith and faith is given as a gift. The question for us is, has your faith taken root in your heart. Faith can be based on knowledge and information or experience of your heart. In the Parables of Mark 4, we see growth in the seed placed in the soil. It is by faith that the seed grows without the work of the farmer or the seed – somehow rather it is from the soil (experience)…. The soil is the gift of God as faith.
Faith in the Kingdom yields a “fruit” of Favor. Favor is the Power & Authority of God displayed through Wisdom. Favor is a “fruit” of faith, and like any fruit – it is not there until the right season (we are called to be prepared in season and out), it must be rooted and established (in love), and finally fruit is the demonstration that the plant has grown healthy and is fulfilling its purpose. When you want more Favor in your life, the call is to plant more seeds of Faith. A great mystery will take place in this act of faith and as the seed sprouts – your Credibility will grow and be tested – resulting in your Character being forged. This is the process of pain and suffering, and why favor is not about getting out of suffering, but getting more out of your suffering.
Favor is not about what you can “get” from God – it is rather being able to give everything away – even your own rights, security and well-being. Here at the crossroads of Faith yielding Favor is the reality of Forgiveness. (refer back to the Luke texts of this week) Favor from God is revealed through the heart of Forgiveness. The Favor of the Lord is not yours to give; rather it is yours to steward for both eternal rewards and temporal joy (last two weeks). In this you can give Forgiveness, Finances, Freedom.
Giving such things does not increase your favor – rather it is an indicator that you are in not need of more favor, rather you demonstrate though actions/deeds that your faith is alive. This faith trusts in the King which can replace/redeem all things it in a moment of time. The way in which we come to learn this is by applying the Grace of God.
Grace grows us from a “child-ish” attitude to “child-like” faith. Grace is the means by which salvation and life transformation (sanctification) take place. Mercy is God’s withholding punishment. Grace is God giving possibilities to those without power. Grace is the giving of Discipline, such that growth might take place.
Grace is Free – but it does not lead to Freedom from actions (to do whatever you want), rather is makes your actions all that much more costly. Obedience (Discipline) is the result of applied Grace. Mercy frees you to invest your life, not fearing it will be consumed by the world. Mercy causes your eyes to be focused on the Power of the King, rather than the neediness of ourselves. Thanksgiving is the result of Mercy. Compassion is the movement of the Spirit uniting the two. Mercy opens the door to Grace. Grace deepens our understanding of Mercy. We don’t deserve mercy, we can’t earn grace. But in receiving grace we grow to demonstrate the mercy of God to others.
Therefore – when the Disciples ask for more faith – what they really need is more suffering. Then the mustard seed of faith will grow – beyond their wildest imagination. This process of growth will yield the favor that they so long for. This favor will be experienced both at Grace and Mercy. We are to apply this pattern to our lives – as has Israel, Jesus and Paul… only Jesus did it perfectly!
Jeremiah laments over Israel’s poor example applying Grace and being thankful for Mercy. In fact they did not work out their salvation with fear and trembling, they exchanged their faith in God for the gods of their neighbors and were left empty handed. Paul’s charge to Timothy is that we shall never be empty handed or lacking enough faith if he simply guards that which has been entrusted to him. This is not our work alone – it is the very work of the Holy Spirit.
To Steward your Sufferings:
1. Discover the difference between Sufferings for Greed and Sufferings for the Gospel. When Greed is rooted in our heart – suffering will occur –(see Israel) and when the Gospel is rooted in our heart – suffering will occur – (see Paul). Only the Suffering of the Gospel will yield both eternal rewards and worldly joy. (Stewardship of relationships and resources is the first step, but you multiply your return through suffering.)
2. Be Generous with your sufferings. Share the story of your life… by leading with your ears. The sufferings of your life are there to be given away to others. (2 Cor. 1:3-7) If you learn to lead with your ears, rather than your mouth – sharing these sufferings will produce in others more than if you simply tell the story.