03/15/M – Faithful Servants and Stewards

Ezra 7:1-26; 1 Corinthians 4:1-9; Psalms 30:4-12; Proverbs 11:12-13

OT: “After these events, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra — came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was on him… Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (‭‭Ezra‬ ‭7:1a, 6, 10‬ ‭CSB)

Ezra was born into a sanctified family lineage – a direct descendant of Aaron the first High Priest. Ezra was also born into Babylonian captivity. There in Babylon, there was no Jewish Temple… no place for a Jewish priest to minister, and no reason for a Jewish priest to apply himself to his spiritual calling. However, that didn’t stop Ezra. He didn’t allow his circumstances to determine his identity. He knew who he was: he was a priest. He determined in his heart to remain faithful to the call on his life… and the hand of God was on him. It is written that Ezra determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord… but it didn’t stop there. Ezra also determined in his heart to obey the law of the Lord, and teach it to those in his circle of influence. It isn’t enough to simply study God’s word. Faithful servants and stewards are faithfulI because they obey and teach others. It was out of Ezra’s diligence, obedience, and faithful stewardship to the Lord that he rose in prominence – to the point that King Artaxerxes placed his faith in Ezra to lead a coalition to Jerusalem and remain there to ensure that the God of Israel was honored and worshipped.

NT: “A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful. It is of little importance to me that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even judge myself. For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. It is the Lord who judges me… Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying: “Nothing beyond what is written.” The purpose is that none of you will be arrogant, favoring one person over another.” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-4, 6‬ ‭CSB)

Still addressing the issue of divisions in the church driven by partiality with leadership, Paul described the role of ministers in the church in this way: Firstly, spiritual leaders are primarily servants of Christ. The Greek word translated here as ‘servant’ actually means an underrower… one of the below-deck servant-rowers of a ship, charged with getting the ship to where the captain wanted it to go. Spiritual leaders aren’t the captain – they are the underrowers, following the directions of Christ the Lord and Captain of the church. Secondly, spiritual leaders are managers (stewards) of the mysteries (formally hidden and now revealed truths) of God. Spiritual leaders don’t own revelation… they don’t keep the revealed mysteries of God to themselves for selfish advantage. They steward the revealed mysteries of God by obeying them and teaching them to faithful people, who will then obey them and teach them to others. Because of this, spiritual leaders and ministers are not to be subject to popular opinion or the judgements of man – nor are they to be justified by their own biased self-evaluations. They are to answer to and be judged by the Lord and Captain of the Church, Jesus Christ. Because spiritual leaders in the church are subject primarily to Christ and not the whims of the crowd, requirements and expectations for spiritual leaders should be based on requirements and expectations found in the word and not personal preference. If spiritual leadership in the church are obedient servants to Christ and faithful stewards of the word, and congregants don’t become arrogant and listen only to the leaders they like, then the church will grow, mature, and reach the intended destination prescribed by the Lord.

Psalms: “Sing to the Lord, you his faithful ones, and praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor, a lifetime. Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning. When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified. Lord, I called to you; I sought favor from my Lord: “What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your truth? Lord, listen and be gracious to me; Lord, be my helper.” You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:4-12‬ ‭CSB)

In this psalm, David alluded to a time when he allowed his heart to become lifted up and unfaithful to the Lord. It was a time when he felt secure, and his heart said in arrogance, “I will never be shaken.” When David was faithful to the Lord, the Lord showed him favor. But when David’s heart was lifted up, the Lord “hid His face.” It was then that David realized His utter dependency on the Lord and the error of his ways. Once David repented of his unfaithful heart, weeping was turned to joy, lament was turned to dancing, and sackcloth was replaced with garments of gladness. Because of that, David cried out to all who would hear his voice, “Sing to the Lord, you His faithful ones, and praise His holy name.” David had experienced the results of becoming unfaithful to the Lord, and He didn’t want any of the Lord’s faithful to experience the same thing. He didn’t want them to experience the Lord’s anger, but to experience His favor for a lifetime.

Prayer: Lord, I acknowledge that primarily and ultimately, I am called to be Your obedient servant and a faithful steward of Your word, will and ways – by studying, obeying, and teaching. Help me to not be persuaded by popular opinion nor deceived by my own self-evaluation – but to hold my life to the standards of Your word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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