Of all that God has entrusted to us, what do you think should be our ultimate stewardship priority: our money, our time, our talents, our families, our careers, our bodies, the earth? What would God put at the top of His list? May I suggest that none of these, as important as they all are, would be ranked first on God’s list of top stewardship priorities. In fact, what is at the top of His list might not even make it on many of our lists at all. Paul knew what was at the top of God’s list. He says it this way in I Thessalonians 2:4 (NASB): we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. It is not our gospel, it is God’s. We were not the ones crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, it was Jesus. It is not our salvation, it is His.
For whatever reason, God, in all His infinite wisdom, chose to entrust to mere mortals his top eternal priority. Candidly, I marvel that He would assign to such fallen and selfish creatures as us the task of bringing the world to Him. In God’s mind, is there any greater priority than the proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of His only begotten Son? Paul repeatedly identifies sharing the gospel as a top stewardship priority. In each reference, he gives us a slightly different focus as to why our stewardship of the gospel is so critically important and of the utmost urgency.
1. The Gospel Saves
In Ephesians 3:2 Paul writes, you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you. As Christians, we readily accept that the gospel…is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). What we may not be as aware of is that when we accepted the gospel we also accepted the responsibility of being stewards of “God’s grace,” now offering this grace to the lost world from which we have been rescued. Remember, Matthew 28:19-20 is called the “Great Commission,” not the “Great Suggestion.” Just as with everything else our Father has entrusted to us, the gospel carries both a privilege and a responsibility. In this case, it is the honor and the challenge of disseminating His good news. We are to be ready and willing to both proactively (Mark 16:15), as well as re-actively (I Peter 3:15), share the gospel with unbelievers at every opportunity. It is not enough to just intellectually agree that the proclamation of the gospel is our top stewardship priority; we must live like it is. The latter, I think we would all admit, is really where the “rubber meets the road.”
2. The Gospel Matures
Paul says in Colossians 1:25-28, I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God…to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. It is commonly believed that the gospel is for the unbeliever. Once sinners accept the gospel, the thinking goes, they then need to move on to the “meat” of the word and leave the “milk” of the gospel behind (using the language of Hebrews 5:12-14). The implication is that there are more “meaty” things in the Christian life that need to be pursued and developed to become a mature Christian.
But according to Paul, he intends to present every man complete in Christ by proclaiming Christ to them. The gospel is not just the beginning of the Christian life, it is also the end. Is there anything in your life that should not be radically affected by your acceptance of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? I have now been a Christian for over 50 years and I can still be easily brought to tears when reminded of what Jesus did for me at Calvary. In fact, the older I get, the more moved I am by it all.
Paul reminds the Philippians in 1:27, Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. He is telling us that our daily behavior should be a consistent representation of the foundation of our faith—the gospel of Christ. The gospel must permeate every aspect of our lives: how we spend our time and our money, how we use our talents, what we allow to entertain us, how we raise our children, how we treat our bodies, how we give, and when, where, and how we work. Absolutely everything should be impacted by the good news of what Jesus did for us on the cross and the price that was paid to redeem us. No matter how long we have been following Jesus, the gospel must remain the immovable foundation that leads us to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13, ESV). The gospel is not just for the sinner who needs to be saved, it is also for the saint who needs to be made “complete in Christ.”
3. The Gospel Motivates
In I Corinthians 9:16-17 (NASB) Paul confesses, For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. You might conclude that after the third beating with rods and a near-fatal stoning (II Corinthians 11:25), Paul might be getting a little bit weary of this stewardship of the gospel that God had entrusted to him. He endured more than any of us will likely ever endure, and it really didn’t matter whether he liked the job or not. Paul is saying, “Want to or not, easy or not, I’m all in.” I think Paul could echo the words of Jeremiah 20:9: But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.
We are all called to be stewards of a gospel that is burning so hot in our bones that we cannot hold it in. We should be compelled to share this good news with both sinners and saints because we have a stewardship entrusted to us to share it with any and all who will listen. I think that is what Paul is talking about when he instructs Timothy, be ready in season and out of season (II Timothy 4:2). In other words, be ready to share when it is convenient and when it is not, when you feel like it and when you don’t, when it is safe and when it is not. The slogan of Nike might be the charge Paul would give to us today regarding sharing the gospel: “Just do it!”
In I Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul tells us what God is looking for from stewards of His gospel, Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. I think there is one unavoidable question that we all must honestly ask ourselves, “Am I being a trustworthy steward of the gospel He has entrusted to me?” Proverbs 11:30 (NIV) tells us, he who wins souls is wise, and might I add, is also a trustworthy steward. May we all be found trustworthy in this, our ultimate stewardship priority.