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Joseph the Proven Steward

The Heart of Stewardship: Faithfulness *

Pharaoh had a problem.

He’d had a very disturbing dream, and none of his counselors could figure it out.

Then, one of his servants (the chief cupbearer) remembered that a fellow named Joseph, now languishing in prison, had this unusual gift of interpreting dreams. Joseph, a faithful steward now nearly forgotten, had been given a gift by God that would put him back into a place of influence.

Joseph was cleaned up and brought before Pharaoh. And when Pharaoh described the dream, Joseph was given insight into its meaning – an upcoming drought cycle that would seriously impact the nation of Egypt.

Pharaoh was going to need a creative, wise, pro-active, reliable, proven administrator to help prepare the country. Someone to whom he could delegate a huge swath of responsibility.

Hmmmm….where could he find such a person??

Joseph was elevated to a position that could probably best be described as vice-pharaoh: Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 

signet ring egyptPrisoner one day. Big kahuna the next. From wearer of rags to wearer of the king’s signet ring. Why?

Joseph had passed the test. He had a track record of proven faithfulness. He had been competent and loyal all along. He was gifted by God to carry responsibility and to have unusual insight.

When God wants to make a squash, He takes a few months. When He wants an oak, He takes years. Ask Abraham. Ask Moses. Ask Joseph. Ask any of a number of saints through the ages, down to the present day.

It takes time to form and prove a faithful steward. No shortcuts. And if God is willing to invest that time, so should we be.

Today, let us be faithful. And tomorrow. And next week. When it is time to move up higher, God will make that plain.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 4, considering how faithfulness is central to stewardship. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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The Heart of Stewardship: Faithfulness *

When we left Joseph in yesterday’s post, he had been thrown into prison on trumped-up charges. A highly effective and faithful servant, left forgotten in obscurity because he was loyal and morally pure.

Who could blame him for throwing it all to the winds and drowning in self-pity?

But Joseph was not a situational steward. He was, simply put, a faithful soul anywhere and everywhere he went.

Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. -Genesis 39:20-23

Just as the Lord had been with Joseph in every other sphere, blessing his efforts, so the Lord was with Joseph in prison. And soon, the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge, because – hey, why not? He was a faithful leader and administrator! When you have a great assistant, willing to work, then you delegate.

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As we’ll see, Joseph’s faithfulness and competence eventually earned him an even higher place of authority. But here’s the point – our faithfulness is proven in obscurity. When God and very few others notice. A consistent character of reliability shows itself in a dungeon as well as on a stage.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 4, considering how faithfulness is central to stewardship. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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The Heart of Stewardship: Faithfulness *

In this past weekend’s Sunday School lesson, we looked at how faithfulness is at the heart of God-pleasing stewardship. Let’s dig a little deeper in this week’s devotional thoughts.

To be faithful is be firmly devoted and loyal. The faithful steward is steady, reliable, and trustworthy. End result: you can hand something off to a faithful steward and not worry about it.

If you’re a business owner – don’t you wish every employee was like this?

Let’s consider Joseph, a prime biblical example of stewardship. What can we learn by looking at his life?

pitJoseph, the youngest of the sons of Israel, was sold off into Egyptian slavery by his jealous and vindictive brothers. Not an auspicious start to his career. First entry into his LinkedIn profile: Dumped in a pit by my family, and made a slave in a foreign land.

But Joseph did not crumble into a pity party. His qualities as a faithful and competent young man soon came to the surface.

We see in Genesis 39:1-6 that Joseph was sold to an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar, and verse 2 provides us with the key to Joseph’s eventual success:

The Lord was with Joseph, (and therefore) he became a successful man.

Lest we miss the point, verse 3 is even more clear: His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that He did to succeed in his hands.

Now, we will discover as the story unfolds that Joseph was a brilliant and gifted man. And we know, from Psalm 139 and about a bajillion other places in the Bible, that all such giftedness is from God.

But more: God’s hand was actively with Joseph. He was blessed with the presence and the favor of the Almighty. Joseph had the Midas touch – and it was all from God.

Before we go into the particulars about Joseph’s faithfulness as a steward, let us pause to consider this: any man or woman, boy or girl, under the favorable hand of God can and should become faithful. Every believing follower of Christ should increasingly stand out as loyal, reliable, and trustworthy. Faithful stewardship isn’t just for the super-saints or the patriarchs of old.

It is for you and me. Right now. Right where we are. Because God is God.

He who matured Joseph into a faithful and successful steward is the same God who is with us. As we consider faithfulness this week, let us remember that it is God’s will for every single one of us. No matter what our gifts or our circumstances.

Is God’s hand of blessing on you? If you are in Christ, the marvelous answer is, Yes!

We, then, can and must become faithful stewards. Even if we start out in a pit.

photo credit: phototraffic via photopin cc
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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 4, considering how faithfulness is central to stewardship. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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Stewardship: Our Generous God *

Have you ever heard of Deism? Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term, but the deistic worldview surrounds us.

Wikipedia briefly defines it this way: Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature.

In other words, there may be a god, but He’s not involved.

The God of Israel and the Church – the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, and all who adhere to biblical teaching – that God doesn’t bother conforming to deistic standards.

He’s totally involved.

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

(from Psalm 145)

Steward3

God is not only the Creator of all things – He is the actively involved Sustainer. He is personally involved with every aspect of His universe, and with every creature in it.

“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus said. “They do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

But this is not just an abstraction about the world out there. It is very true of us, as individuals made in His image. A reading of Psalm 139 leaves us breathless with the extent of God’s involvement, even in the formation of our very cells in the womb.

As good stewards of our pets, we personally remain involved – generously loving, providing for, and sustaining them. With heartfelt affection. Would we believe that God is somehow a lesser being than we are?

No-one would care about being the steward of a deistic god. A lovingly involved Father, however, is worthy of all affectionate service.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 3, staring directly into the generous heart of God. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar >

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Stewardship and My Office Window

Stewardship: God – Man – Earth *

I am looking out one of the windows in my office and, in the midst of all the snow covering everything, there are birds busily flying and hopping about.

They are here because my caring wife put food out for them.

MyOfficeWindow

Also, behind the red maple that holds our bird feeders, there are the glowing red berries of our winterberry bushes, which I planted years ago. They are near some birch trees and ornamental grasses that we’ve put in over the years.

To beautify the place.

Way back at the end of our property is a large stack of split wood, created when we cut up trees blown down by Hurricane Sandy a while back. For a while, the appearance of your yard was messed up by the destruction that occurred – but now, with planning and effort, things look much better again – and we have plenty of fuel for the fireplace.

That’s being a caretaker.

Whether it’s building stone walls, cutting grass, or planting vegetables <—(this is also called “feeding the wildlife”…grrrr!), when we borrow a home from God and the bank for a season, we generally feel a need to cultivate, maintain, and improve it.

I often have been found walking around the grounds of our home, envisioning improvements – some of which actually get carried out. Like many homeowners, my wife and I have invested countless hours and a fair amount of money trying to make our environment better-ordered and more pleasing.

We impose our rule and “subdue” our little tiny corner of the earth in a beneficial way. Even that section in the back that we decided should go back to being a more untamed meadow.

There is certainly a place for leaving large swaths of public land relatively wild, for the benefit of all of its inhabitants and visitors. But our stewardship involves active planning and management, not capitulation to whatever natural forces come our way.

We are to beneficially manage (though not abuse) the world to provide for ourselves and others, and to bring glory to God.

God filled the earth with resources and potential for that very reason. And He gave us creativity and a drive to rule and improve so that we would…do just that.

* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re on week 2, discussing the relationship of man to his planet.

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Stewardship: Created To Be Stewards *

God created mankind to be stewards on (and over) the earth. What does this mean on a practical level? What are the “verbs” of our stewardship found in Genesis 1 and 2?

Earth– We are to fill the earth

– We are to subdue the earth

– We are to rule over and manage the lesser creatures

– We are to enjoy the earth’s bounty and sustain ourselves with it

– We are to cultivate and keep this earthly garden

– We are to stay within commanded limits

In other words, we were created with work to do, and this earth and its occupants were made with symbiotic interdependence.

We need our environment, the Earth. And the planet needs us.

Our fall into sin (NOT staying within commanded limits) made a hash of our relationships with God, each other, and the entire created order; and the Scripture says that the earth “groans” under corruption brought about by the Fall of humankind.

However – even though we now find ourselves in a fallen world, that does not mean that our core identity as stewards – and the core “verbs” of our duty – have changed.

Do you see those 6 bullet points above? That is God’s charge. That is God’s will for us, even as fallen stewards.

In the news, we’ll constantly see two extremes – those who carelessly ravage the earth, and those who (in essence) worship the earth. Each extreme is a disorder, a rejection of God-given stewardship. We’ll dig deeper into that topic next week.

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* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline)

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My, My, My….Yours

Stewardship: Created To Be Stewards *

Stewardship begins with a denial and an affirmation.

Not mine. Yours.

We will grow to become faithful stewards only when we plant our actions in this soil: Everything is God’s. It is from Him, for Him, to Him.

This was King David’s perspective in the wonderful prayer found in 1 Chronicles 29. Here, toward the end of his reign and life, David and the people of Israel had been gathering all the riches and materiel necessary to build a glorious temple for God.

How easy it would have been to slip into the trap of boasting – “God, look at all that WE’ve given. Look at OUR devotion.”

No…David knew that he was but a steward, and that everything possessed by Israel was from the hand of God.

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might, and it lies in your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”

That whole me…my…mine thing? Not really. We come into the world (which belongs to God) naked, and naked we leave it.

MY

Next time you think about giving God some little bit of YOUR resources (time, effort, money, etc.), remember that it’s really all His. You and I are mere borrowers, stewards of the true King.

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* This brief devotional is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline)

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