Loving Neighbors (6)
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17.4
All things for the glory of God
The apostle Paul was merely expressing by exhortation what Jesus demonstrated by example when he wrote to the Corinthians that they should do all things for the glory of God, even down to such everyday, mundane activities as taking a meal (1 Cor. 10.31). Everything in our lives has the potential to refract the living Presence of the indwelling Christ, to show our love for God and others in ways that glow with the new life we possess in the Lord Jesus.
The challenge we face each day is to make the most of every opportunity before us for glorifying God (Eph. 5.15-17), so that, at the end of each day we can say like the Lord Jesus, concerning the day just gone by, “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do,” if only for that day.
And this is a matter of stewardship. The love we have for our neighbors – seeking and serving them, shepherding their souls, and sowing God’s Word into their lives – is a stewardship of love for which we must prepare and about which we must be diligent every day. Jesus was a good steward of His time and of every opportunity for glorifying God that presented itself in His time. Relating to others with the love of Christ, and the good works that contribute to the progress of His Kingdom of love, is a matter of stewardship – the stewardship of time, words, and deeds.
What makes for effective stewardship in the Kingdom of love?
Elements of stewardship
The parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30) is a good place to turn in trying to understand the essentials of good stewardship. Four principles emerge from that parable which relate to all aspects of life, including the opportunities we have for showing the love of Christ to the people around us.
First, we must learn to see everything and everyone as a gift from God. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). He is the ruler of all time. And every moment of time, together with everything in it, comes to us freshly minted from the Word of God. We are not our own, and “our” time is really God’s time, loaned to us, and everything in it, for the purpose of glorifying Him and finishing His work. When we see time and relationships as gifts, we will be more likely to receive and use them according to the intentions of the Giver.
And especially as we bear in mind that all the people to whom God sends us are His image-bearers, have immortal souls, and can know, love, and serve God as we do, we must be careful to steward well all the opportunities we have for showing them the love of Jesus.
Second, and deriving from this first principle, we must learn to conduct our lives under the heavens rather than merely under the sun. We are always under the loving and watchful eye of our heavenly Father. We are at all times being sustained and blessed by the upholding Word of Christ. And we are never without the
presence of God’s Spirit to guide and empower us for love. Indeed, we have even been seated with Christ in heavenly places, and we are commanded to set our minds there in all we do (Eph. 2.6; Col. 3.1-3).
Living under the heavens means always being mindful of the Lord’s Presence, and even living from that Presence and unto and for thatPresence in all we do. Solomon lamented the years he wasted living under the sun, and he called all who would learn from his wisdom to set themselves squarely before the Lord in all things, and give themselves entirely to keeping His commandments (Eccl. 12.13). When the Law and Word of God are firmly hidden in our hearts, and dwelling in us richly (Ps. 119.9-11; Col. 3.16), then we will be ready to make the most of every opportunity for the good of our neighbor and the glory of God.
Third, when it comes to how we use our time, the opportunities for loving others presented in our time, and the continuous Presence, oversight, and power of God available to us in our time, the watchword that guides us in all we do must be improve, improve, improve. Like the talents that became 10 and 4, we must invest the time of our lives, and the relationships we conduct within that time, for the sake of improving love for God and others by every means. Our goal should be to flood our Personal Mission Fields with the loving Presence of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4.10). Scripture can teach us how to improve in this area, and the Holy Spirit will prompt and empower us according to what we’re learning from the Word of God. But we must be diligent to act on the teaching of Scripture and to improve the practice of love at every opportunity.
Finally, practice accountability in your relationships with the people around you. Find a prayer partner or soul friend who will encourage and support you in your efforts to improve love. At the end of each day, review your relationships before the Lord in prayer, and wait in silence for Him to affirm, redirect, or guide you in new ways. Keep in mind that, some day soon, all our works will be reviewed before the divine tribunal, and do everything within your power to hear “Well done” on that day, especially with respect to the love you show to others.
A stewardship prayer of preparation
We will be better stewards of the opportunities for loving others if we can manage to keep the requirements of love and the importance of each opportunity for loving before us at all times. I encourage you to memorize 1 Corinthians 13.4-7, which outlines the requirements of love. I also encourage you to memorize, and to pray throughout the day – in the morning, before each new activity or engagement with others, as often as you think of it – the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90.12, 16, 17:
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom…
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.
Plan to love. See loving others as the primary work of the Lord for your day. Seek the Lord’s help, moment by moment for the wisdom, skill, and strength to love. Pray the prayer of Moses daily, and watch how your stewardship of love improves, and all your relational disciplines along with it.
1. What do we mean by saying that we must receive our time as a gift of God? How should this affect the way we use our time?
2. What’s the difference between living “under the heavens” and living “under the sun”?
3. How might you be helped in loving your neighbor by having a prayer partner or soul friend?
Next steps – Transformation: Find a prayer partner or soul friend to hold you accountable for loving others. Share your Personal Mission Field map with your prayer partner. Meet regularly to pray together.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.