Taking Inventory Of Our Christian Service
On Sep 21, 1862, Lincoln summoned his Cabinet to the White House for a special session. Secretary of War Stanton later wrote: "The President was reading a book and hardly noticed me as I came in. Finally he turned to us and said: 'Gentlemen, did you ever read anything of Artemus Ward? Let me read a chapter that is very funny.' Lincoln then read aloud something by humorist Ward entitled "A High Handed Outrage at Utica." Furious at what he regarded as "buffoonery" on Lincoln's part, Stanton almost got up and left. But Lincoln read on until the end of the piece and then laughed heartily. Everyone else was silent. "Gentlemen," said Lincoln disappointedly, "why don't you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do." Then he reached into his tall hat on the table, took out a paper, and said: "I have called you here upon very important business. I have prepared a little paper of much significance. I have said nothing to anyone, but I have made a promise to myself--and to my Maker. I am now going to fulfill that promise."
He read in a clear voice: "On the first of January in the year of our Lord, 1863, all persons then held as slaves in any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, and thenceforth and forever free." Stanton was overwhelmed. He got up, took Lincoln's hand, and said, "Mr. President, if reading a chapter of Artemus Ward is a prelude to such a deed as this, the book should be filed among the archives of the nation and the author canonized!"
At noon on Jan 1, 1863, the final Proclamation was taken to Lincoln. As it lay before him, he twice picked up his pen and then put it down. Turning to Secretary of State Seward, he said, "I have been shaking hands since nine o'clock this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.'" He then took up the pen again and slowly and firmly wrote, "Abraham Lincoln."
Some time later Lincoln told Francis B. Carpenter, the artist who painted a picture commemorating the event, that he regarded the Emancipation Proclamation as "the central act of my administration, and the great event of the nineteenth century." When Colonel McKaye of New York reported that he had found enormous affection for Lincoln among freedmen on the coast of North Carolina, the President was deeply moved. "It is a momentous thing," he told McKaye, "to be the instrument, under Providence, of the liberation of a race."
May I say, that it is a momentous thing to be God's instrument. We are all, in a sense, God's instrument of liberation. We are have been appointed by God to take the good news to those who are in bondage to sin and Satan. Understanding the great assignment that has been given to each of us, it would do us well to take inventory of our Christian service.
In the passage before us Paul speaks of taking inventory of his life and service for God. Let's examine these 3 verses and take inventory of our own work for God.
1. THE EXAMINATION OF OUR WORK!
The word "account" that Paul used is a bookkeeping term that speaks of taking inventory. Paul challenges other to take inventory of his work for God. Paul says, "Let a man so account of us" (Vs.1). He was saying, "You are welcome to take inventory of my life.
It is good for the heart and soul to take a spiritual inventory once in a while. The Bible speaks of taking such an inventory.
A. THERE IS AN EXAMINATION OF OUR SALVATION.
We read in 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith." The word "examine" means to put something to the test, to scrutinize." We are to put our profession to the test of the Scriptures.
We should examine ourselves in the light of God's Word and ask, "Have I done what God said to be saved? Is my salvation based on what God said? Does my life bear the marks of a Biblical salvation?"
B. THERE IS AN EXAMINATION OF OUR CONSECRATION.
We read in 1 Corinthians 11:28, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." The examination that Paul calls for is in reference and relation to the taking of the Lord's supper. He is calling for them to examine their hearts and life to see if there is anything that would cause them to take of the Lord's Supper unworthily.
The word "examine" speaks of putting to the test for approval. The purpose of such an examination is that we may take of the Lord's supper with clean hearts. We are to come to the Lord's table in an approved fashion. The Lord's supper is to be only taken by those who are consecrated to the Lord.
We should put our consecration to the Lord to the test. Is there any unconfessed sin in our life. We should examine our life to see if there is anything in our life that is displeasing to the Lord.
C. THERE IS AN EXAMINATION OF OUR DEDICATION.
It is such an examination that Paul speaks of in our text. He was speaking of taking inventory of his dedication to God's work. If you were to take an honest inventory of your dedication to God, how would you answer the following questions. Do I know the will of God for my life? Am I doing the will of God? Am I seeking to win others to Christ? Have I won others to Christ? Am I involved in God's work.
Someone has said that the Church is full of willing people. There are those who are willing to work and those that are willing to let them work. Which class would an honest inventory of your life put you in?
How would other "so account of us?" How would God "so account of us?" In I Corinthians 3:13 tells us that God keeps the books on our work, it should behoove us to take inventory of our Christian service.
2. THE EXPLANATION OF OUR WORK!
After challenging others to take inventory of his life, Paul speaks of the areas in which he welcomes this inventory. He gives two pictures that describes his role and responsibility is in God's work. He says in verse 1, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."
Paul speaks of himself as a "minister" and a "steward." These two pictures describe the role and responsibility of every believer. The words "minister" and "stewards" both speak of a slave. During Roman times a large segment of of the Roman Empire consisted of slaves. Now these slaves worked for their master in different roles and with different responsibilities. Lets look at these two pictures Paul gave and considered the work that each believer has.
A. WE ARE MINISTER'S THAT HAVE BEEN GIVEN A TASK.
The word "minister" actually means "under-rower." These slaves were galley-slaves who manned the oars on a ship. The task of these slaves was to pull the oars to propel the ship forward. Each of us has been assigned the role of an under-rower. We have been assigned the task of working for our Master, the Lord Jesus, who gives the orders and directions. We are involved in the work of propelling the Ship of Grace forward.
Our task involves subordination. We are under our Lord's command. Our work is at His direction and under his direction. We are not doing what we wish, but obeying His commands.
Our task involves co-operation. Each of us are working together to fulfill the Master's plan. We act as one, all pulling together to reach the Master's destination.
Our task involves participation. The power behind the ship reaching its destination was the work of these under-rowers. The work of the Church moves forward on those who are involved and working.
The work of God requires under-rowers. People that have submitted themselves to God's plan for their life and have put their hands to the oar and started pulling. God's method of doing His work is His people. The reason many ships are dry-rotting in the harbor is that there is not enough under-rowers to energize and move the ship forward. If this Church is move forward and do the work God has given us to do, there is a need for each of us to realize that we are to be ministers.
This is our task. To obey our master and do His work. The Church moves forward on its availability of under-rowers.
B. WE ARE STEWARDS THAT HAVE BEEN GIVEN A TRUST.
Paul also spoke of himself as a "steward." The steward was a slave like the under-rower, but in altogether different circumstances. He was one that had been put in charge of the administration of the house or estate. He completely managed the affairs of his master. He was one who had been placed in a position of trust by his master. Paul speaks of how he is a steward of the "mysteries of God." He had been entrusted by God to disperse the revealed things of God.
We read in 1 Peter 4:10, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Peter tells us that we all are stewards and challenges us to be good stewards. Peter also speaks of every believer being a recipient of spiritual gifts. Each believer has been entrusted with spiritual gifts by God. God has given us these gifts as a trust.
To put it in simple words, God has equipped each of us for some particular aspect of Christian service. To not be involved in Christian service is to violate the trust God has given us. We are accountable to God for the trust He has given us.
The Springfield, Oregon, Public Schools newsletter published an article that told about a group of animals that decided that they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of a new world. So they organized a school. They adopted a curriculum of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects. The duck was excellent in swimming but he only made passing grades in flying, and was very poor in running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn, so that he only averaged in swimming. The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming. The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground instead of the treetop down. He developed charley horses from overexertion, and so only got a C in climbing and a D in running (From "The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart" by Charles Swindoll).
The moral of the story is that each person has his or her own abilities. Each believer has their own gifts. Each has their own place of service. As we think of our gifts, we must remember that they are a trust and we are stewards of those gifts.
3. THE EXHORTATION OF OUR WORK!
In light of every believer being a steward, Paul says in verse 2, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." Theodore Roosevelt said, "It is better to be faithful than famous." God is not interested in believers becoming famous, but He is interested in us being faithful. Paul says that faithfulness is required by God. Someone has said, "The world crowns success; God crowns faithfulness." That is true. In fact, there will be no spiritual success without faithfulness.
A. WE SHOULD BE FAITHFUL TO OUR WORK.
Whatever God has given us to do, we should be faithful to that work. As a minister we should be faithful. As a steward we should be faithful. If God has called you to preach then be faithful to your call. If God has placed you in a position of leadership, be faithful to your responsibility. If you have a job in the church, be faithful to that work.
On one occasion after Moody had preached, an older woman came up to him and said, "I noticed that you made eleven grammatical errors in your message tonight." Moody had a limited education and his grammar was lacking. Moody looked at the woman and smiled and said, "Yes, I'm sure that is true. My education is limited. I wish I could have had more, but I'm simply using the grammar I have to win all the people I can to the Lord."
That's what God wants us from all of us. To be faithful and use what we have and do what we can.
B. WE SHOULD BE FAITHFUL IN OUR WORK.
The church choir director was being driven out of his mind at the rehearsals for the Christmas choral concert. It seemed that at least one or more members of the choir was absent at every rehearsal. Finally they reached the last rehearsal and he announced: "I want to personally thank the pianist for being the only person in this entire church choir to attend each and every rehearsal during the past two months." At this, the pianist rose, bowed, and said, "It was the least I could do, considering I won't be able to be at the concert tonight."
How sad that many treat the work of God like something they can fit into their schedule and drop from their schedule if there are other things to do. The work of God is a priority and should be treated as a priority. If you have a job in the Church, everything else should take a back seat. Your job in the church should not be something you show up for if you feel like it. It should be something that you are faithful to and faithful in. Why? It is what God requires.
Paul challenged others to take inventory of his service. Have you taken an inventory of your work for God?