Our series of studies would not be complete without considering the principles by which a true disciple of Jesus should be guided in the matter of responsibly and biblically handling the natural resources which God has given to each one. In this study we will consider Biblical principles that apply to the way we handle the time, money and talents we have received from God. Most of us would like more resources – more free time, more money and more abilities. God is able to give us these things – but first He is looking to see faithfulness in us concerning our handling of what we already have received. God is the Giver of Good Gifts. We should never think of God as being stingy or selfish. God is the giver of all good things. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights." (James 1:17).
Copyright (C) 1996,2008 Michael Fackerell
Table of Contents
- A True Christian Has Given Himself and All He has to God
- Faithfulness in Money Matters
- Providing for One’s Family
- Working is Good
- Honesty and Accountability
- Spending and Investing Wisely
- Receiving Prosperity
- Faithfulness with Time
- Vision and Purpose
- Faithfulness with Talents and Calling
Jesus told us to "Ask, and it will be given unto you. Seek and you shall find. Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7). God has even given Himself to us – in that He has given us Jesus to die for us and rise again for our salvation, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us into all the truth. And "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). God of course gives us more than we deserve. We should respond by giving God all that we are and all that we have. In fact, this we have done if we have truly turned from sin to God, and trusted wholeheartedly in Jesus for our salvation. This is part of what it means to be in blood covenant relationship with God Almighty. "You are not your own, you are bought with a price." (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)
God has given us minds because he wants us to be responsible managers of the many kinds of blessings He has given us. God does not like us to waste the precious resources He has given us – be it the knowledge of the gospel, money, time, talents or influence. He will require an account for what we have done (Luke 19:11- 27 especially vs 15) and there are real consequences to our actions and decisions both for this life and for the age to come.
We see then that in giving one's life to Christ one has given not only one's eternal future but all that one has to Christ (Luke 14:33). As the body of Christ, we belong to Christ. Our bodies themselves are to be presented to God as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1). As temple of the Holy Spirit, we belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). As part of the army of God, we must listen to Jesus our commander and obey Him. As children of God, we need to be obedient. You are the spiritual child of the one you obey (see John 8:38-44; 1 John 3:6-10). As the bride of Christ, we belong to Christ, and must be cleansed and prepared for the Lord (Ephesians 5:25-27). Christ gave Himself for us – we must give ourselves to Him. We are God's field and God's building (1 Corinthians 3:9). The point is clear. We are God's and we are Christ's.We have been bought with a price and we are not our own. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We are now the servants of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:22; Ephesians 6:6; Luke 18:11-27; Matthew 25:14- 30; Romans 6:16; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:3).
It follows from this that all our time, talents and treasures belong to God. If you don't feel that this is so in your life you should know that either you are not a Christian – or you are stealing from God by wasting something that does not belong to you. Did God give you permission to use your time, money and talents for something else besides the good of His Kingdom? We are indeed responsible to give an account for all the knowledge, time, money, resources and opportunities we have had to serve God and extend His Kingdom in this life.We therefore must think of ourselves as stewards, as managers of resources that God has placed in our care. Paul saw himself in this way (1 Corinthians 4:1,2).
In the remainder of this study we will see what God has instructed us in His Word regarding the way that these resources He has given us must be managed.
"He who is faithful in what is least is also faithful in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own. No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:10- 13)
God is very interested in the way we handle our money. The Bible speaks a lot about money, and if we want to do the will of God it will effect the way we view and use money. Jesus here is saying that spiritual riches are the true riches – not money. Money is of lesser value than God's favour and the spiritual blessings that brings – joy, love, peace, purpose, forgiveness, ministry anointings and eternal rewards. Yet Jesus is saying that if we can't be trusted to use our money correctly – especially the money that we earn in our daily employment, then we have shown ourselves unfaithful in small things. If we are unfaithful in small things we will be unfaithful also in the great things – we will be unfaithful with spiritual blessings. Therefore learning to faithfully use our money, time and talents in the way God wants is important if we are ever going to be entrusted with spiritual responsibility in God's work.
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8)
God, speaking through Paul, makes it clear that we have a sacred responsibility to do what we can to provide for our own household. This means that God expects us to do something for which we will receive payment, so that we can look after the needs of those in our family who cannot work to support themselves, for whatever reason. It is necessary for a husband to provide for his wife and children. This is not primarily the wife's responsibility, but the husband's. It may be necessary for the wife to do a paid job as well as her other responsibilities which are to manage the household and raise children (Titus 2:4,5), but the in the matter of providing the main responsibility falls on the husband. If a wife has been left alone with children she must work to provide for them. Children who are able to work should do so if their family's financial situation makes it necessary. In this way they honour their parents. If a person has old parents or grandparents who are struggling financially and cannot work that person should help them according to his or her ability, without neglecting other family responsibilities (1 Timothy 5:4). It is a rare case when the church finances should be used to regularly support someone (1 Timothy 5:3-16).
Anyone who refuses to work in an honest, paid position to help their starving family has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. They must repent.
"But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who leads a disorderly life and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to and of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread." (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)
"that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly towards those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing." (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12)
There are different kinds of work, it is true. There is manual work, administrative work, research work, business and mixtures of all. God wants us to be productive and do something beneficial for our fellow man. This is a good witness to the society we live in. Every Christian should be doing some kind of work.
The Lord's work is also work. It is not just rest. It is not just relaxing in the presence of God – although that is important. We may rest from our own works (Hebrews 4:10), but when we do the Lord's work it will also require effort. Paul worked night and day. As an apostle of Christ he was "in labours more abundant", and, "in weariness and toil" (2 Corinthians 11:23, 27). He instructs us as Christians, "Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Jesus got up early in the morning to pray alone (Mark 1:35). In this way He had power from God to serve the people – doing the work of teaching, praching, healing, casting out demons all day. At times Jesus prayed at night after a full day of ministry. (Matthew 14:23). If you are going to be a worker in God's harvest field you are going to have to work. We should rest one day in seven to regain our strength.. But it is in heaven that we will enter into complete rest and reward. Not on the earth.
Working amonst ungodly people brings us to a place where we are forced to develop character, overcoming temptations that are there. We are called to be salt and light in the community – to influence this corrupt world for God and for righteousness (Matthew 5:13-16). We should endeavour to build relationships with people based on honesty, righteousness and kindness, so that we can silence the mouths of evildoers and convince those around us at work to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord. We should invite people to come to church meetings – house groups, celebration events or special outreaches (Colossians 4:5,6). If our life demonstrates what we preach those whom we bring to Christ in this way are likely to remain with the Lord.
Working a paid job does not prevent us from doing the work of evangelism and discipleship, or from having a prayer life. We can do these things in our lunch breaks, and after hours. While we are at work we should work on the task that has been assigned to us. We shouldn't steal from our employer by taking back time which we are selling to him.
A Christian should not leave his paid work for full-time evangelism or other service unless the following conditions are met. Firstly, there must be a definite call from God to do this. Secondly, that Christian should take responsibility personally in the matter of trusting God for provision for themselves and their family. If things don't work out they should return to a normal paid job or business in society and not blame anyone except themselves. It is not right to just leave your work to serve God and then start expecting and demanding that the church or other Christians provide for you and your family. The exception to this is where a certain support or salary has been promised beforehand. We have a right to expect that Christians who make promises should fulfil them. But still every Christian must look to God as his or her source, not people. Indeed God uses people to bless us financially, but not necessarily the ones you think should be helping you.
I am currently reviewing my understanding of the Scriptures on this subject. Here is a link to my former teaching on tithing, which I wrote in 1996.
Tithing is taught by many pastors and teachers today as being the giving of the first ten percent of all your income to the local church congregation in which you take part. These they say, ensures that there is food in God's house – i.e. the church budget will be sufficient. In the Old Testament, tithing meant giving a tenth of something received. Abraham tithed 10% of the spoils of war to Melchizedek. There is no record that he tithed regularly at any other time, or that he tithed of his other accumulated assets. To follow Abraham's example here, which predates the law, is not what most teachers of tithing would have in mind. Jacob, Abraham's grandson, made a bargain with God that if he would bless him, he would give a tenth to God. We are not told if he did, or how he did fulfil that promise. No one was forcing Jacob to make this vow. In the Law of Moses, there were many laws about tithing. Tithes were given for parties in Jerusalem, for the upkeep of Levites, for priests, for strangers, widows and orphans. It can be argued that the tithe only applied to agricultural produce. In any case, the tithe was part of God's social welfare and temple service maintenance programme. A careful study of the Old Testament will reveal in detail what God said about tithes under the Law of Moses. The people of God in the days of Malachi were robbing God by disregarding God's commandments on tithing. They disregarded other commands about the lambs they were sacrificing as well. To dishonor God by not giving to His work as He leads, or to misspend what is given for God's Work, or to do God's work slackly, keeping the best for yourself, is also a form of robbing God. We need to be very careful about this.
Jesus affirmed to the Pharisees that they should tithe faithfully (Matthew 23:23). It is debatable if this means that Jesus said this to Christians under the New Covenant, or to Pharisees who were fulfilling part of the Law of Moses, while neglecting the weightier MATTERS OF THE LAW. Jesus called it a matter of the law, not a matter of grace.
God expects more of us under grace than under the law. Grace empowers us to do so much more. And now, as Christians, we have a wider scope for service in God's world. Something is really wrong if someone belonging to God cannot give 10% or more to God's purposes one way or the other. Now it is about far more than the maintenance of a temple in Jerusalem, or helping some people in service roles in the church. God's purposes encompass the evangelisation and discipleship of all nations. This is what needs to be financed, as well as the practical needs of those unable to properly care for themselves, such as widows and orphans. We can do MORE than give 10% of our income and wealth to these purposes, and we SHOULD, as the Lord leads. To have pastors who will pray for us, and take a leadership role in co-ordinating God's work in a local area, we need to invest resources into that. If we don't support pastors and teachers financially, then they have to get jobs and they can't devote themselves fully to prayer and the ministry of the Word. AND IF WE DON'T SUPPORT TRUE EVANGELISTS – IT IS DOUBLY LIKELY THAT WE WILL NOT BE EQUIPPED TO DO OUR MAIN JOB ON EARTH – SOULWINNING. Apart from that, if God reveals that He wants large meetings, extravagant musical praise events, and a convenient delivery platform for the messages of our spiritual leaders, as I am sure He does on many occasions, we are going to have to pay for it somehow. We just need to be sure that this is what the Lord is leading us to do by His Spirit. We certainly can't obey the commands of Christ in isolation, we have to work together in harmony and in assemblies. But we have to remember that doing these things is no substitute for fulfilling our responsibilities in the Great Commission. While we spend lavishly on our mini temples, there are millions of Christians starving in oppressed nations.
Here is a link to some very thought provoking questions written by a Ugandan believer to African pastors. I recommend you read this also.
Because many spiritual leaders pronounce that you are cursed by God if you don't tithe to your local church, you have to be very strong in your convictions if you ARE NOT going to tithe to your local church. Even if GOD does not curse you if you don't tithe to the local church, many pastors WILL pronounce that you are cursed if you don't tithe, because they believe that God is doing it also. And there is power in words, especially the words of spiritual leaders. So unless you have a clear leading from God to give in a different way, and are strong enough to resist all the attacks of the enemy that come from negative words spoken against you, I would suggest you tithe to your local church. Also if your conscience bothers you about not tithing to the local church, or if you believe that you should do it, then you MUST do it to avoid sinning unless God shows you differently, for whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23)
There might be situations in which it is impossible or impractical for you to tithe to your local church budget, but I believe that if you want to do it, and believe you should, then you can, and God will be pleased if you act in faith.
All you have belongs to God if YOU belong to God. So fear God. There are serious warnings in the Bible about misusing God's resources. I recommend you put it before God and ask Him how much he wants you to give to your local church, poor churches and Christians, orphans, widows, foreign and local missions work, evangelists and various worthwhile Christian causes. If He confirms in your heart to pay at least 10% of your gross income to the local church, just do it. Far be it from me to oppose such a leading from the Lord that you may receive. But just remember it doesn't excuse you from your responsibilities in the other areas.
The only New Testament argument concerning tithing that carries any weight for me is based on Hebrews 7:8:
"Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives."
It seems the mortal men referred to here are the levitical priests which were about to be done away with by means of the destruction of Jerusalem. However, it does say Jesus receives tithes [present tense]. So Jesus will and does receive tithes today. The question is, what did Jesus say about how to give something to him?
If we go back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, it was this: "Inasmuch as you've done it to THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, you've done it unto me." The way to give to Jesus food, clothing, service or valuable time is to give it to those believers who need it most, who are counted insignificant according to natural thinking. The emphais of the New Testament exhortations to giving were exhortations to give to the poor, especially widows, orphans and poor itinerant missionaries who don't take money from unbelievers. Not to mega-church pastors (the greatest).
If you disagree with what I am saying here, please comment or write to me. I will take time to read what people send. Please don't shoot the messenger though.
There is a spiritual law associated with giving. "Give and it will be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you." (Luke 6:38). This principle is found also in various forms in the Old Covenant. "There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself." (Proverbs 11:24,25).
What this means is that God so arranges things that we sow what we reap (Galatians 6:7). If we sow material things by giving of them, God arranges things so that we in turn will receive from others – usually more than what we gave! Therefore it is smart to give into God's work as the Lord leads us, because God will arrange that somehow, in a way known to Him only, we are going to receive back the blessing we have sown and perhaps even more.
Giving is what goes beyond our tithe. The tithe belongs to the Lord, we are only paying Him what belongs to Him. Beyond that ten percent we are invited to give offerings, to give to the poor and invest in the work of the gospel.
God has a special place in his heart for the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says, "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given." We cannot expect the poor to pay us back (Luke 6:34,35), but God will pay us back. Some have suggested that God will pay us back with interest! We should bless our poor brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when they cannot do any more themselves (Matthew 25:37-40). This is a fruit of true faith in Jesus. We should also be open to helping the poor, the widows and the orphans even if they are not in God's family (James 1:27). We should extend our soul to the hungry and help the afflicted (Isaiah 58:10). God has promised blessings – both spiritual and material, to those who consider the poor and help them (Psalm 41:1-3). God is able to arrange the events of our life in such a way as to prosper us materially if we do these things for the poor.
Another important form of giving is giving to the gospel. We know that God has left us on earth to preach the gospel to all creation and make disciples of all peoples. We are doing this in partnership with the body of Christ worldwide (Philippians 1:7). We need to have a vision for world-wide evangelisation and church-planting. Material resources are necessary for any kind of strategy of church-planting and evangelisation to be effective. By giving generously to the work of the gospel, we can sponsor missionaries, send gospel literature and tapes, construct training centres for missionaries and many other things as well. Using money, we can multiply the effectiveness of the time of God's servants in doing the work of the gospel. Through giving to the gospel worldwide, our sphere of influence is not limited to the zone where we live. We can have not only local but also international influence through our giving.
There are promises for those who give in the gospel. This kind of giving is investing in something eternal. Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29,30).
If we give according to the leading of the Spirit we are going to receive many times more in this life. Our reward is in this life also, not just in the next age. But we must give for the sake of the gospel, and for Jesus' sake. If we give for our own sake or as a strategy to become personally wealthy we are not giving for Jesus' sake. The only way to do something for Jesus' sake is to do it as the Holy Spirit leads. Therefore we must look to the Spirit of God for guidance in our giving. Then He will multiply what we give back to us.
The Philippian believers were partners with Paul in the gospel at a time when no other church was helping him (Philippians 4:15). They sent aid for his necessities (Philippians 4:16). They shared in his distress (Philippians 4:14). The apostle Paul did not always enjoy abundant prosperity, although at times he did (Php 4:12). We should not judge the spirituality of a minister of God by how much money he has, or how well he lives. Its quite easy for a gifted speaker or charismatic personality to become rich in religion by telling rich and middle class people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 6:5). Paul however knew what it was to sacrifice himself to extend the frontiers of the gospel. He wasn't seeking his personal profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33).
The promise, "And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory" (Philippians 4:19) was given to people who supported missions. This is a promise of abundance for those who invest in the gospel. God's riches in glory are immense. We should not be afraid to invest our money in the gospel. As well as being partners in eternal fruit for the glory of God, we are putting ourselves in the place where we know that God will supply all our needs abundantly. "And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8).
At this point in our study it is worth mentioning this important principle. Faithfulness in money matters includes being honest and accountable with what we receive. We are stewards of God's resources. If we have not forsaken the idea that the things we have belong to us we cannot be disciples of Jesus (Luke 14:33). That means we should be doing exactly what the Lord wants us to do with things. It is required in stewards that one be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). And part of faithfulness is honesty. "A faithful witness does not lie" (Proverbs 14:5).
Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death. (Proverbs 21:6). God requires us to be honest in all our financial matters. The treasures gained or money saved by dishonesty will never do us any good. "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing" (Proverbs 10:2). The Book of Proverbs alone is filled with statements concerning the importance of honesty in business, in life and in all things. See Proverbs 10:2; 11:1; 12:22; 13:11; 16:8; 20:10; 21:3 for examples. If we want God's favour on our life we must be honest. If we are stealing we must repent.
In our handling of money in the Lord's work, we must seek to do what is honourable not only in the Lord's sight, but also in the sight of men. "Avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us – providing honourable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." (2 Corinthains 8:20,21).
To do this today we must be able to demonstrate through adequate accounting records that we are not wasting God's money, but that we are putting it exactly to the purposes for which it was given. If someone gives you $100 to buy literature with, it is dishonest to use that money to buy a pair of shoes with it. You should make records and if possible always get written receipts for money spent in the Lord's work. All income and expenses should be written in journals so that you and others to whom you are accountable can see what you are receiving and where you are spending it. This will also be necessary many times from the point of view of providing an honest income tax return to the government. We should give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Many things we do depend on government services and we should not cheat the government on taxes. (Luke 20:25; Romans 13:6,7).
If we are honest in small things we will be honest in large things also. Let us therefore live with a holy respect for God in all our affairs of life and business.
The unjust steward in the parable Jesus told was accused of wasting the master's goods. As Christians, we must seek to avoid wasting God's resources which he has given us. Resources of time, talents and treasure should be used to the greatest benefit for God's Kingdom. They should not be wasted. It is true that some things which might look like a waste in men's eyes are very pleasing to God. Mark 14:3-9 tells the story of a woman who anointed Jesus' feet with perfume worth a year's wages. Some said it was a waste but for Jesus this act of worship was not a waste at all. We must look at things with God's priorities.
However there are times when as Christians we make wrong decisions which result in wasting God's resources. It is wrong to buy things that bring no benefit to the Kingdom of God – things we don't need. We should spend our money on things in proportion to their importance. Generally, the most important things to spend money on are: (1) Our worship of God, (2) Our families' material needs and (3) The spread of the gospel. It is also important to help the poor, as we have seen.
Some Christians however are called to a special ministry of giving (Rom. 12:8). In order to be able to give more money, they must invest money in business activities, so that they can multiply their money through the profits obtained from wise choices. Sucessful businesses are usually those that provide services people are willing to pay for, and manage resources well. With God's blessing and God's wisdom, a person can become very rich by making right business decisions. King Solomon was an example of this. Abraham was made rich by God, as was Isaac and Jacob and many others. Multiplication of material resources is a promise to those who obey God's covenant fully (Deut. 28:1-14).
Not everyone is called primarily investment and business activity. Some Christians may be required of the Lord not to get involved in it at all (2 Timothy 2:4). But all of us should consider carefully what we invest our money in. We should find out the facts before investing money in some worldly business. Many people, even those who say they are Christians, are dishonest. We should be led by the Spirit in all decisions relating to business, not by our ambition. The Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes should be studied by all. Many times God's leading is related very much to common sense. Don't think that the Spirit always leads us to do things which look crazy. Those who are called to do business in this world so that they can have an influence in that world for God and channel material resources into God's work will need to have common sense, diligence, faith and sensitivity to God to be fully succesful in their calling.
Rich persons will be subjected to special temptations (Matthew 19:23, 24). The desire to be rich is especially dangerous (1 Timothy 6:9). But being rich in itself is not evil. Some people are rich because God made them rich. Those who are rich are called to be rich in good works, ready to give and willing to share. They are commanded not to put their trust in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:17-19). We should never put our security in money. We should seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all the things we need will be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). We should be willing to use the things he gives us for His purposes, and not hold them for ourselves.
In general it is God's will for an obedient Christian to prosper. "Beloved I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers." (3 John 2). The Lord "teaches us to profit, and leads us by the way we should go" (Isaiah 48:17). The blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:13,14) which we receive includes prosperity.
This is not to say there will never be times of testing or moments of material adversity. There may be. It happened to the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:27). But in general it is God's will for us to prosper materially. One of the basic conditions for this is obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1,2). The wilfully disobedient person cannot simply claim God's promises of material blessings as if God is obligated to do what they say.
In general poverty is a curse (Deuteronomy 28:15ff). It is also the result of bad or unwise decisions. We should not consider poverty a blessing. What is good is not to be distracted by riches from the purpose of God. We should never place riches above obedience to God. If our response to riches is to be lazy, indulgent, indifferent to God and lovers of the world then we are better off without them. But if we use riches to glorify God in so many ways then God may entrust them to us more and more. In any case, it is the person who obeys God who is successful in God's eyes. Paul may not have always had lots of money or food but he did more to spread the saving knowledge of Jesus and establish churches in the world than any of the other apostles (2 Corinthians 12:11; 11:23). He did not let material adversities stop him from serving God effectively. Let us never use lack of resources as an excuse for not serving God with all we have now.
People say that time is money, because time can be used to gain money. Just as we must be faithful with money, we must be faithful with our time. It is not good to waste time. We should "redeem the time" (Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16). Sometimes it is worth spending more money on something so as to save time. For example, it costs more to fly across Romania than to take a train. Yet at times a Christian minister should fly so as to use his time to the maximum. In all decisions like this we should be guided by the wisdom which God gives us.
Watching television is almost always a waste of time. It usually means being unproductive, letting our minds be impacted by the propaganda, fantasies and philosophies of unclean and ungodly people. Even watching the news can fill us with worries and fears. We are commanded to renew our minds, meditating on the word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8; Philippians 4:8). If we focus on the unclean fantasies of this evil world we are not only wasting time in the search for pleasure, but we have become idol worshippers.
Laziness is also wasting time. It is not wrong to relax and rest at times, waiting on the Lord to renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31), but laziness and slackness is wickedness in the eyes of the Lord. We should always abound in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The Book of Proverbs is full of warnings against laziness (e.g. Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4; 12:11,14; 12:24, 27; 13:4; 14:23; 19:15). A lazy person is a rebel against God, and a fool. God requires that we make the most of our time for Him. Moses prayed, "Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12).
Managing our time correctly involves a balance of things. Working constantly without taking time to listen to God can result in wasted time, because we might be building in vain things that the Lord is not wanting (Psalm 127:1,2). Sleeping in moderation is not wasted time, for God gives to His beloved even in sleep (Psalm 127:2). God has designed as with a need to sleep. Sometimes, however, we are called to deny our body's desire for sleep so we can watch and pray more (Matthew 26:41).
Balancing our use of time is important. We must take time for work, for study, for prayer, for praising God, for the Word of God, for church, for fellowship, for discipleship, for evangelism and for fulfilling any special callings we may have. We need also to take time for eating, for personal hygiene, for exercise, for cleaning, for time with our families and with our friends. Only the Holy Spirit can show us exactly how we should do it in our situation. The balance may change from time to time. There are different seasons, periods of preparation and education in our lives. The Lord has given us time for everything he wants us to do. And all of us only have 24 hours in the day. That is why we must seek to multiply our lives into the lives of others through discipleship.
We should have a vision and a purpose (Proverbs 28:19). Part of our vision will be the vision of the local church we are part of. We should be in unity with the pastor and the leadership regarding the vision of the church. We may have specific areas of vision, purpose and calling within the life of the church to which we must specifically attend. We may also have areas of vision and purpose which are outside the domain of the local church. The Holy Spirit gives visions and dreams to His people (Acts 2:17). A person without purpose and goals and strategy will tend to waste time, be lazy and fruitless. Therefore if you don't know what God's vision for your life is, seek Him until you know enough of it to be a highly motivated, disciplined person with an unconfused focus. As Christians, the Lord will reward us according to our works if we are building according to His vision and purpose (1 Corinthians 3:14).
Once we have our purpose in seeking God and fulfilling his purpose we should use all diligence to achieve that purpose. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Diligence is a man's precious possession (Proverbs 12:27) and the soul of the diligent will be made rich (Proverbs 13:4). The Book of Proverbs is full of wonderful promises for the diligent or hard-working. All Christians are commanded to be diligent (Romans 12:11), but especially those who are leaders in God's Kingdom (Romans12:8).
God has given to all of us natural talents. It may be that the Lord will want us to use those talents for Him in His service. We should be open to the Holy Spirit in this regard. However, it is also possible that He will require us to put these natural talents aside for a while so that we can concentrate on other things He is wanting to show us and develop in us. One area of natural talent that is highly appreciated in the church is the area of musical talents. We should use these talents to praise and worship God, not to glorify ourselves. However, we must also realise that anything, even Christian ministry, can become an idol if we love and value it more than we value and love God Himself. Therefore the Lord may require us to put our talents aside for a while, so that we can learn to worship Him and develop an intimate relationship with Him first of all.
Another Christian may have an excellent mind. A mind can be used for many things. We should seek God about what to use our minds for. The Lord may want to use our education, our profession to a greater or to a lesser extent. God used the prophet Daniel to be an administrator and a politican in the largest world empires of his day. We should be developing our minds in line with the areas that the Lord is leading us to consider and develop in. We should love the Lord with all our minds (Luke 10:27) and that does not mean leaving them empty. As Christians, we should consider carefully how to creatively and intelligently communicate the gospel in a way that the culture we are in can understand. We should be mentally aware of the kinds of strongholds we are facing so that we can destroy the false reasonings of Satan and challenge the idols in the culture. We should study the Word and think about how it applies to our lives, our work, our society and our mission. There is an incredible untapped mental power in every Christian we need to harness. We should not be afraid to develop our minds in the area of professional life to which the Lord may have called us for a season. We should never confess or believe that we are stupid. Rather we should recognise that in Christ we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). The mind is like a muscle. Its power grows when it is used.
As well as what we have and can develop in the natural and mental realm, we have an incredible spiritual inheritance in Christ. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Our spirits, made new in Christ, have tremendous capacity which should be developed (Philippians 4:13). We can develop our spiritual capacity through meditation on the word, through prayer, and worship, through ministering the Word in the power of the Spirit.
Every Christian has a spiritual calling to serve God in a particular capacity. We are told to walk worthy of the calling which we have received (Ephesians 4:1). Some of the different callings are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30. Some are called to be fulfilling the different functions listed in Ephesians 4:11-13. We can receive different spiritual gifts at different times to serve others (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
To fulfill our calling will require faithfulness. Paul was enabled and put into the ministry because God counted him faithful. (1 Timothy 1:12). We must prepare ourselves spiritually and in other ways so that God can release us into His calling for our lives at the right time. If we don't know what that calling is we must seek God until we know. If we know what it is we must prepare ourselves to fulfil that calling. Note the warning in Luke 12:47. If we are moving in our calling we must continue to do all things faithfully so that the Lord can use us even more. We look forward to hearing the words from our Lord Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:23).
God expects you to use what you have. "To whom much is given, much will be required". If we use what we have we will be given more. All these principles discussed above are true and we should put them to work to the maximum. These lessons can be seen in Matthew 25:14-30, in Luke 19:11- 24 and in many other places in the Bible. Study them in your own time and consider them carefully.
It would be good to make a list of the things that God says you have been given, and the things that the Bible says you can and should do. Many times people discover they have hidden talents and gifts that they never knew about as they get moving and stop believing lies about their being inferior or worthless. You are valuable, loved and accepted in Christ.. With this security, find out how you can serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13). Do it faithfully, and as time goes on the Lord will reveal to you areas of giftedness and calling that you never knew you had. He can even add to you new gifts, talents and resources to you if you are faithful in using what you have now! Praise and glory be to His name!