In the year of the Lord, two thousand and seventeen, our theme will be “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (ESV) We will explore what it means to be “servants of Christ, stewards of the mysteries and be found faithful” at greater length over the coming months.
January is frequently a time for goal setting or resolutions. We look ahead and set our course for those things we want to accomplish in the coming year. “If you aim at nothing, you’ll always hit it.” Instead we commit to accomplishing whatever our heart leads us to. The biggest problem is that from a statistical point of view our commitment lasts about three weeks. My personal favorite example of this phenomenon is the gym. New year, let’s get in shape so we join the gym. First week is great feeling tired but proud of our effort. Second week starts well but by mid-week life starts interfering. I can’t find the time. The third week the battle is lost, too many demands, don’t feel well or this isn’t fun anymore. There is no fourth week. This is how fitness studios make great profits, you pay and don’t use.
One of the most effective antidotes to the above is a training partner. Someone with similar goals and commitments to the objective and to you. They will work with you and call you out when you try and renege. Training partners increase the likelihood of accomplishing goals dramatically. Welcome to the Body of Christ, the original training partnership.
So we begin our journey into 1 Corinthians 4:1, “This is how one you regard us. . .” What does regard mean? A dictionary tells us, re·gard, verb: “consider or think of (someone or something) in a specified way.” The essence then is how do we want others to think of us? What image are we creating so that others will see a certain thing in us? Image creation and maintenance is a giant business in our world. Image consultants are in very high demand from large businesses to individual performers. They create what we want the world to see of us. It ultimately matters a great deal to many people what others think of them. Frequently their business life depends on image or reputation. Herein the apostle Paul asserts, “This is how one should regard us” He wants us to create and maintain a certain image, “servants and stewards.” We will examine this image in much greater detail in the months to come. But for now, how do we create this image in the first place?
In our culture image is first created by press release. we begin the process of telling others what we want them to consider about us. We manage the flow of information so that we present the best view possible. If you keep telling people the same thing long enough they eventually will begin to believe it even if its a lie. (paraphrase Vladimir Lenin) “The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.” Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany.
The real challenge is this, “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” from an essay titled “Social Aims” by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1875. The popularized rendition of the quote is “What You Do Speaks So Loudly that I Cannot Hear What You Say” used by President John F Kennedy, 1960. What you are is the most powerful testimony to what you believe and what you want to project. Talk is cheap but authentic living carries a most powerful persuasive effect.
So if we want people to regard us as servants of Christ, we have to live it. Our “preaching” will always take second place to the way we put truth into practice. They must see our servanthood if they ever hope to believe it and regard us as His servants. Show them first, then tell how.
So in 2017 will you commit to showing the world what a servant of Christ looks like? Will you demonstrate how a steward of the mysteries of God lives? This is my New Year’s resolution for us. God grant us the grace to succeed (be found faithful) Amen