One way or another we all care about something or someone. A child cares for their toys. A student stewards their time and focus. A factory worker sees to their machine. A husband and wife manage the home. Your pastor shepherds souls. A farmer husbands his field, flock, and harvest. We are all stewards of something. Peter reminds us that those who have chosen Jesus and walk with him are called to steward the gifts of God.
Welcome to our 19th edition of our Walk Through 1st Peter. Feel free to join in even if this is the first article of this series you’ve seen. Previous articles are on our website – lambchow.com.
Peter wrote, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7–11, NASB95)
We live in the end times which began with Christ’s ascension to Heaven and ends with His sure return. Where we’re at in the ends times is a constant matter of speculation. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that only the Father knows when that last day will be. I’ve heard that we’re in the last of the last days as long as I can remember. In my younger days, I even made decisions based on the supposition that Jesus return must be very soon. While Peter states that the end is near he also provides direction for continued growth towards Jesus and with each other. The combination of which leads to an expectation balanced with mission. Jesus didn’t say to sit and wait but to go.
Peter’s first instruction is to pray with sound judgment and soberness. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be exuberant and excited. And while it’s a bad idea to pray while drunk or buzzed I don’t think that’s what Peter had in mind. The first “sound judgment” is to recognize that God is God and we are people. We don’t tell God what to do. We may ask for something but even better is asking what He wants. As in, “Lord, how do you want me to pray?” Being sober means that we are not carried away by our passions, our problems, or our pains. We should be clear minded in our prayers no matter what is coming our way.
Above All – Love
Peter continues that while expecting Jesus to return at any moment, we are not exempted from loving one another. In fact, we are to fervently, continuously, intentionally, sacrificially, “agape” love one another. This priority is because “Love covers a multitude of sins.” You will offend someone, and someone will offend you. It’s one of the “one another” statements we don’t even need to try to fulfill, it just happens. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs but quickly forgives. It covers with grace someone’s failings instead of exposing them to others. It doesn’t mean that sin is hidden like dirty laundry, it is instead washed and put away.
Above all – Be hospitable
I love that Peter says to “be hospitable without complaint.” We can easily do the right things while murmuring and grumbling the whole time. Being hospitable means to be open handed. Hosting someone in your home is one example. But it can also mean inviting others into your life and sharing the treasures of your heart. Some of us are open handed and open hearted but we complain about it. For others, the challenge is to become open-handed, willing to share our home, our table, and our fellowship with those different than ourselves.
Above All – Serve
Let me start out by giving this advice – Don’t get hung-up on what is your “special gift” from God. Some folks get side-tracked trying to “figure it out.” Others disqualify themselves by claiming a gift God has not given. Funny, I’ve never heard anyone claim that God has gifted them as a toilet cleaner. Others boast and over-identify with their special gift. This too is an area that we must have sound judgment and be sober in spirit.
Here’s a good way to look at it. Whatever God has placed in your hands right now, do it. For a time my “special gift” was being a father to my children. Now that they’re older and have families of their own God has opened the door to teach in His name through this forum. Tomorrow He could put something different in my hands. Peter’s point is that no matter what that something is we are to exercise it with God’s strength and in God’s Word so that all the glory and praise goes to God.
Peter calls us to “[serve] one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I love that Peter highlights the grand variety of God’s grace. No matter what form it takes for us we are to be good stewards as we share the grace we’ve been given with others.
Being a good steward or manager doesn’t mean that we hide or protect God’s grace but that we put it to work. We speak and serve effectively and productively. It’s not a gift to be hoarded or owned but given away and taught to others. The thing we steward doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to God.
We do all of this for one reason – “so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We are nothing more than a bottle ready to pour out what’s inside, the love and grace of Jesus. The glory belongs to the contents, not the container. No matter how public our ministry, how successful, notable, and effective, we are still nothing more than containers of God’s love and grace.
Pray then with a clear mind and sound judgment. Continuously love and forgive one another in Christ. Be open-handed towards one another and strangers. Employ the gift God has given you with His strength and for His glory. Keep doing that until the trumpet sounds, and Jesus returns. That’s what being a good steward looks like.