Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth, and more specifically, is found in the first nine verses of the fourth chapter. As you begin reading these nine verses you are immediately captivated and gripped by the tremendous challenge and confrontation that is contained within it. When I begin reading this particular passage of Scripture I am immediately confronted with the concepts of stewardship, of ministry for and ministry unto Christ, of humility before men and of Christ, of the revealing of those things which are and have been hidden, and of properly viewing and understanding oneself. Consider you will the words and language that is contained within the first nine verses of the fourth chapter of this epistle: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with. Me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hath thou that thou didst not receive? Now I f thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not receive it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, the have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God hue did reign, that we might also reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:1-9).
As I read the words of the apostle Paul which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, I can’t help but be captivated and gripped by the following words—“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” One such question which comes to my mind as I read and consider these words is whether or not it is possible to be a steward, and yet not be a faithful steward. In other words, is it possible to be entrusted with something and yet not be faithful with that which has been entrusted into our hands and into our care? Moreover, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder how many men and women—including myself—have been entrusted with something from the Lord, and yet are not, and have not been faithful with that which has been entrusted unto them. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote, which are recorded for us in the third chapter. Read carefully the following words which are found in the third chapter of this epistle when you begin reading with and from the first verse—“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession< Christ Jesus; who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things if God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; but Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)” (Hebrews 3:1-11).
Pause for a moment and consider the words which the author of this particular epistle unto the Hebrews wrote, for they spoke of Moses as being faithful in all his house—and not only was Moses faithful in all his house, but was faithful as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after. It is both necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the words which were spoken of Moses, for Moses was indeed a servant of the Lord of hosts within the earth, and was found faithful in all that was assigned unto him. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the incredible contrast that is found within this passage of Scripture, as not only do we see and witness the faithfulness of the servant of God, but we also find the faithfulness of the Son of God. It is actually quite remarkable that within this particular passage we not only find the faithfulness of the servant of the Lord as represented by Moses in the Old Testament, but within this passage we also find the faithfulness of the Son of God as represented by Jesus Christ who is the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father. In fact, if you continue reading the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews, you will find various other references concerning and regarding the faithfulness of the eternal Son of God whose meat was to do the will of the Father. Consider the following words which are pulled from the fifth chapter of the epistle unto the Hebrews: “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God., as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:1-10).
There is another passage found within this epistle written unto the Hebrews which further helps illustrate the faithfulness of the Son of God to that which was entrusted into His hands and into His care. If you begin reading from the first verse of the tenth chapter you will not only discover the work of faithfulness, but you will also find the reward of faithfulness. Please don’t miss this very important concept—the work of faithfulness, as well as the reward of faithfulness, for until and unless the work of faithfulness is completed and completed to the exact specifications prescribed and ordained by the living God, there will be no reward to receive. Beginning with the first verse of the tenth chapter of the epistle unto the Hebrews you will find the following words:
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance against made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hasty thou prepared me: in burn offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered on sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:1-18).
It is what we find and what we read in the twelfth verse of this chapter I would like to direct your attention to, for within this verse is revealed something absolutely astonishing concerning the eternal Son of God and the work which He performed and completed upon the earth. In the twelfth verse of this tenth chapter we find the following words written by the author—“But this man, AFTER HE HAD OFFERED ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS FOR EVER, sat down on the right hand of God. It is quite obvious that Jesus is in fact seated at the right hand of the Father, and there are a number of references within Scripture that support this reality. While we love to talk and speak about Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father in His glory, I fear that we oftentimes forget the work that is directly connected to that work. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning Jesus’ being seated at the right hand of the Father is that He would not, He could not sit down at the right hand of the Father until the work that was assigned for Him to accomplish was completed and fulfilled. There is a tremendous challenge that is found within this very concept, for I would dare say there are a number of men and women who have not completed or fulfilled the assignment, the mandate and the work that has been ordained and appointed unto them, and yet have begun to sit down. One of the most powerful realities and truths we can learn and understand from the life and ministry of Jesus is that He would not and could not leave any part of the work which had been assigned to Him undone and not completed. In fact, if you direct your attention to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to John, you will find His high priestly prayer which He prayed as He was preparing to finish the work which the Father had given unto Him to accomplish and fulfill. The following words are taken directly from the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel and must be carefully examined and understood concerning the tremendous need to not only engage ourselves in the work of God, but also be faithful to complete it. It’s worth noting that the apostle Paul wrote and declared that He will be faithful to complete the work which He began in us, and yet the question is not whether or not He will be faithful to complete the work He began in us, but whether or not we ourselves will be faithful to complete the work He has given us to do. Consider the following words spoken by Jesus as He prepared to finish the work which He was sent to the earth in the form of human flesh to accomplish:
“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are min: and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that thy also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfec tin one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteoushes Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:1-26).
As you read the words which Jesus prayed unto His Father in heaven within this particular chapter, you will immediately be confronted with the recognition that He had fulfilled, completed and finished the work which had been assigned unto Him. Perhaps the single greatest question that must be asked concerning that which has been assigned to us is not whether or not we have started the work, nor whether or not we have continued the work, but whether or not we have completed the work. It is one thing to start and begin the work, it is one thing to continue in the work, but it is another thing altogether to finish and complete the work. You will notice in the fourth verse that Jesus makes a two-fold declaration unto the Father concerning His work within and upon the earth—“I have glorified thee on the earth,” and “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” I HAVE GLORIFIED! I HAVE FINISHED! I HAVE GLORIFIED THE FATHER! I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK! In all reality, I am convinced that these two statements are essentially two sides of the same coin when we seek to understand our faithfulness before and our faithfulness unto the Lord. When we seek to understand our purpose, when we seek to understand our assignment before the Lord upon the earth, we must understand it in two different arenas—ministry unto the Lord, and ministry for the Lord. I am convinced there are a number of men and women who might very well engage in, and perhaps even be good at ministry for the Lord, yet when it comes to ministry unto the Lord they seem to fall short. I believe with all my heart that it is not enough to simply minister for the Lord without also ministering unto the Lord, for the two are directly linked and connected to each other. What’s more, is that I am convinced that all true ministry for the Lord must flow directly from ministry unto the Lord. I would dare say that any and all ministry for the Lord—whether within the house or in the streets, whether in the home or in our place of employment—must first begin with our ministry unto the Lord. When Jesus declared that He glorified the Father on the earth, we must understand that as Jesus’ ministry unto the Father, while when He declared that He finished the work which He was given to do, that speaks of His ministry for the Father.
Let me pause for a moment and ask you a question right now—are you glorifying the Father in the earth, and are you finishing the work He has given you to do? Is it your ambition, your desire, your mission to fulfill and complete that which has been given you from the Father, and to glorify His name within the earth? If you continue reading Jesus’ words which are recorded for us within the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel, you will find various references which are declarations of Jesus’ finishing the work which He had been given to do. In fact, the various references that are found scattered within and throughout this chapter in all reality describe what that work looked like upon the earth. In the sixth verse of this chapter we find Jesus declaring unto the Father, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (John 17:6). In the eighth verse you will find the following words which Jesus spoke unto His Father “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (john 17:8).When you come to the twelfth verse of this chapter you will find the following words which were also spoken by Jesus—“I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition” (John 17:12). When you come to the fourteenth verse you find these words—“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world” (John 17:14). IN the eighteenth verse we find Jesus declaring that as surely as the Father sent Him into the world, so also did HE send them into the world (John 17:18). In the twenty-second verse of this chapter we find these words spoken by Jesus unto His Father in heaven—“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:23). In the twenty-sixth and final verse of this chapter we find these words spoken by Jesus as He concluded this prayer unto His Father—“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
If you want to further understand this concept of stewardship and the incredible need to be faithful with that which the Lord has entrusted us with, it is necessary to turn and direct your attention to the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew. If you want to gain a proper understand of what stewardship truly looks like, and what a lack of stewardship looks like, this chapter is absolutely perfect and ideal for your reference. Within the first thirteen verse of this chapter we encounter a stewardship of oil which ten virgins had among themselves. What’s important to note is that each of these virgins had a lamp with which to wait for the bridegroom, yet the contrast is not found in the presence of the lamp, but in the presence of oil. Each of the ten virgins had a lamp with them, yet only five virgins took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Consider carefully the words which are found within the first thirteen verses of this chapter within the gospel of Matthew:
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took Olin in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go yet out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:1-13).
When you come to the fourteenth verse of this chapter and continue reading through unto the thirtieth verse of the same chapter, you will find another account stewardship, yet not a stewardship of oil, but rather, a stewardship of talents which had been given unto and bestowed unto three different individuals. As you read this particular set of verses it’s important to note that each man was given according to that which they were capable of, and were each given a measure based on their ability. There was not one who was excluded, for each received that which their master wanted to entrust them with while he was gone. What we must recognize and understand regarding these three individuals is that the issue wasn’t whether or not they received something from their master with which to steward over, but what they did with it. Consider the following words if you will:
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had receive the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had receive two, he also gained other two. But he that had received on went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beisde them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had receive two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usery. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath. Not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30).
If you continue reading this twenty-fifth chapter you will find yet a third reference of stewardship, yet not stewardship of oil, or stewardship of talents, but rather stewardship of people. Oil has always represented the anointing of the Spirit, as well as the Spirit Himself, and talents represent that which the Father has given us to use and to work with. The first question we are confronted with when reading this chapter is whether or not we have a healthy supply of oil within our lamps, as well as in reserve should the need arise. The second question we are confronted with when reading this passage is what we are doing with that which has been given unto us to work with upon the earth. The third question we are confronted with is what we are doing with the people whom the Lord has placed before and all around us. When you read the final portion of this chapter you will discover a division taking place before the throne in heaven, and a separation between goats and sheep. What we must recognize and understand is that what separated the goats from the sheep was not the number of people they encountered on a daily basis, nor even whether or not they had opportunity to minister to those whose paths they crossed, or those whom the Lord brought into their path, but what they did when encountering those before and around them. Beginning with the thirty-first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter we find the following words concerning the separation of the goats and sheep:
“When the SON of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation fo the world: for when I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and the visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal?” (Matthew 25:31-46).
WELL DONE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT! These words strike at the very heart of that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints, for they stand as the catalyst and foundation of that which the apostle believed and wrote. If we are to be stewards before the Lord within and upon the earth—we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that each and every one of us is in fact a steward—we must be found faithful in that which we have been entrusted with. Directly linked and connected to this faithfulness is an underlying humility that keeps us in the place where we recognize that what we have received we have received from the Lord, and that we have been entrusted with that which He has given us. If there is one thing the words of Jesus concerning the wicked and slothful servant reveals, as well as that which His words reveal concerning the goats, it’s that there is nothing hidden that cannot and will not be revealed. There is coming a time when the Lord will come and will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts of men. The question is not whether or not we are stewards—for we are all stewards—but what type of steward we actually are, and whether or not we are faithful as sons and servants in the house and work of the Lord.