STEWARDSHIP OF GOD’S RESOURCES By Roselyn U. Samuels
STEWARDSHIP OF GOD'S RESOURCES
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and
every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ John 15:1-2
Isaiah 5 bears the Lords lamentation about his economy. God’s economy is often typified by husbandry and many scriptures make it clear that God is an investor and his people are that economy from which he expects returns: ‘For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant’ v.7. The lamentation of the Spirit to the well beloved, the father, of his beloved, Christ, touching his vineyard: the church; reveals the greatest of care was taken to position the garden to deliver bountifully.
The work of salvation in our lives: the preparation of our hearts by the Spirit and the importation of grace for salvation, thereby removing us from the evil conscience, blotting out ordinances written against us and taking away the issues of death in our receiving Christ as Lord and Master which are typified by the fencing/plowing, removal of stones and planting with the choicest vine. The tower for watching our lives being the inner witness activity of the Holy Spirit but the scenario is not complete before God without the wine press as his need of the vineyard is the wine. Hence all activity of the Spirit in the vineyard is for the fruit which must be squeezed out and drained into a vat for a sweet and heady drink for the Master of the Vineyard for both his use and his trade. It is all about the Masters use. John 15:1-2 states clearly in the language of the New Testament that the vineyard is Christ and we are his branches emphasizing our or need of dependence and help of grace to fulfil the Lords need for the returns to his investment. God being not vain, could not have done all that he did for nothing! Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (Jam 5:7b). However after it has received the rains, he must call for the accounts. The lamentation is that with all the investment, there was a defective harvest. ‘What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?’ Wild grapes are poison or stink berries, worthless to the Master; not fit for his purposes. Clearly the harvest did not deliver.
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Luke 13:6-9 (ESV).
The scenario of failed expectations is painted again with its attendant repercussion: being cut down. Here three prophetic years given in which the Lord had expected fruit in his economy both within our lives and in the polity or world at large. Three prophetic years wherein the church should have advanced into the expectations of God for his appearing, and when He came there was no readiness. Three prophetic years in the which the Lord kept coming to our individual lives but his expectations not being met in the fig tree, the spirit of intercession negotiates an additional time for a change in the fig tree through more ploughing and more dunging to make the soil a good ground again. There is an expectation of fruit in the first year, there is an expectation for the second and the third year alike for they are not the same, but in all the fig tree was found wanting.
When the plant or branch is cut down, it ceases to be relevant in God’s economy. The motions of sacrifices and offerings or worship and ministry may well continue but the Lord has moved on with others. As men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, people called to be sons, his beloved and precious vineyard, God calls us to self-judgement. May the extra prophetic year, produce a change of heart and attitude in his vineyard that will meet the expectations of the Master or serve the Master his due choice wine in Jesus name.
Hence in our discuss, we see that we are the Lords investment or resources and He is the husband man or farm owner. All the stock of capital or wealth he has put in us through the experiences of our lives including our schooling or otherwise to position us in whatever we are presently involved in; our work and businesses; our life experiences, trials, challenges, victories and toils by which character has been built; relationship experiences; his word within and without; the work of the Holy Spirit in us; and everything that he has put together to build us up and make us what we are constitute his resources for his economy.
Being his precious plant, we need to examine more closely the peculiarity of this relationship.
2.0 The Vine, the Tree of life and the Fruits
The vineyard of God is the church as well as the Christ who is the head of the body. Similarly, he is the Vine and we are the branches; and we are only as fruitful as our abiding and dependence upon him; not seeking our own life. The vine dresser is the Holy Spirit who does the curious work of digging and nurturing and generally working within our hearts to ensure there is good environment for growth and production of fruit. In Rev 22 1-2 , ‘he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations’; shows full grown Christians as the tree of life, having become like Him. The tree of life is seen sustained by the stream of the water of life proceeding from the throne of God and the lamb and as such can bear twelve kinds of fruits, fruiting every
month and being capable for all things. Submission to the Lord, because the water comes from the throne, ensures continual flow and infusing of his life into us hence, symbolizing our abiding upon the vine. The fruit is for the Master’s enjoyment while the leaves fulfill their ministry to the nations, thus bringing healing to it. When the fruit is absent at the right time, the work of the Holy Spirit is doubled in that he goes back to till the hard ground of our hearts and to apportion many helpers to prepare the heart to reactive growth processes. Such is the case when a body of people remain on one cycle of burden with multiple demands for repentance to no end and still no response.
2.1 Fruits of the tree
The significance of the tree as the symbol of Christ and the church is that it has the capacity to multiply. It is a tree, hence produces seed with its very essence or life to continue its existence. Hence, the tree of life has the capacity to multiply its life by giving life to others because it has life (The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life -Prov. 11:30). Jesus said ‘For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (Jon 5:26). The bible mentions many fruits: fruit of repentance (Mat 3:8); fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11, Jam 3:18); the composite fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26); fruit of giving (Rom:26-29); fruit of the lips (Heb 13:15-16); fruit of our land (Deut 7:13);
fruit of the womb (Ps 127:3); which are both literal and spiritual. Spiritually, they represent the effect of life which is in us as well as the nature and character of Christ that has been engraved or worked into us through experience of suffering patiently; and though spiritual, they do manifest physically. All these are the embodiment of the new man – Christ being formed in us and to which we are growing into (But speaking the truth in love, may grow into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Eph 4:15). ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death’ (Phil 3:10). As we partake of his death, enjoying the fellowship of his suffering with him through self denials or refusing the flesh it’s expression, we partake of the power of his resurrection and so know him.
This principle is further explained when Jesus said: ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.’ (Jon 6:51-58). In eating his flesh and drinking his blood, or participating in the
fellowship of his sufferings, denying self, doing nothing of our own, we dwell in him and he in us and then live by him. This being the principle, the lamentation is that the fruit were not found. The evidence of the Spirit’s work in the vineyard was not evident as to cause the Lord of the harvest to rejoice.
2.2 The spirit of the antichrist and the tree of life
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season. Mat 21:33-43
The passage again shows that the householder, planted his vineyard and handed to householders, the individual members of his body, the church. On expectations of fruits, he could not gain access into his own vineyard to the point that the servants wanted to seize the inheritance from the Son. As in the beginning when Satan withstood the first Adam in the garden and moved to destroy the second Adam, Christ, even so its ministry continues to attempt to prevent Christ being formed in us. Such spirits that tell us that Christ is not come or cannot be manifested in flesh, insist that it is impossible to live without sin, thereby not partaking of the death of Christ. The devil knows that this is the gateway to incorruptibility and immortality and must be overcome for us to gain entrance into our inheritance in Christ. It is said of Jesus: ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’ (Heb. 1:8-9). Hence, the church must by all manner of prayers of intercession and supplication on both the individual and corporate level overcome this gate.
2.3 His Resources
In the dispensation of the church, God does not bypass the ministry as it was in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God comes upon someone then and leaves, and men prophesied without necessarily being dealt with by God as was the case of Saul (1Sam 10:11). Now the Holy Spirit uses our frame, helping our infirmity, works upon us so we can be the word that we carry. He brings everything in us for submission to his will. Thus everything in our lives add up to the element by which God uses us as vessels. They add up to the resources at his disposal which he can deploy for his gains. He does not set aside that you speak in a certain way or act in a certain way because of your native background or education or otherwise, nor does he not acknowledge the position you have in society for having put you there, he waits to deploy his resources for his purpose. Though he does this, he definitely does not accept that we act on our own (flesh). Where you are positioned becomes a place of returns; the money you earn becomes a matter for the returns. How you handle your studies, your everyday life calls for accountability and so on what you do with your money becomes a matter of accounting to him with whom we have to do or render
Let us note that the need of God is the fruit of the vine. Right from the beginning, God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. From the beginning, it has been his desire to populate the world with godly seed, sons, loyal to his purpose.
It is important to begin to examine the basis for this accounting.
The word of God we hear or read becomes a thing to which we must account. There is the responsibility to account for that which we have received.
🎼He did not bring us out this far to take us back again,
He brought us out to take us in to the promised land.
Though there be giants on the way, we will not be afraid;
He brought us out to take in to the promise land🎼
3.0 The Concept of rendering account
The tree of life brought forth twelve manner of fruits and they bring forth their fruit every month; ‘was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month’ Rev 22:2. The word yielded means to pay off what is due- a debt or things promised under oath. The fruit must be well developed and ripe not sour or hasty or ill developed, but ready on requirement. The supply from the throne of the pure water of life clear as crystal providing nourishment to the tree ensures its active delivery. The ground of our hearts must be good, tilled up and ever ready to receive this water. ‘For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.’ (Heb 6:6-7).
Thorns and briers: the cares of this world (worries of life), deceitful ness or lure of riches, and the lust of other things entreating in’ (Mar 4:19) so no fruit is produced. There must be complementary effort to be and remain a good ground through prayers, fasting, studying, obedience and sacrifices such that the water of God’s word finds easy permeation into our hearts. In this cooperation with the Spirit, there is continual growth and maturing of fruits.
Let us note that we are this tree not just the Lord. ‘And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper’ Ps 1:3′
Four principles are often employed in the judgement of rendering accounts: constancy, costliness, readiness and multiplicity/ expansion/ profit; and we can find expression to these in our place or calling as king Priests, sons, stewards and as a bride.
3.1 As King Priests or kingdom of Priests
‘The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110:4; Heb 7:14-28). Christ, the Son has an unchanging, unending priesthood as our High Priest ‘who is Holy, harmless, undefiled, seperate from sinners,and made higher than the heavens’ was consecrated forever with an oath. We also being made kings and priests unto our God and his father have been called into this unchanging inviolable priesthood being consecrated unto it by inheritance or calling in Christ. They rule by being priests and because of the oath, grace is made available to sustain the unending priesthood from Gods presence by his help of our infirmities (Rom 8:26). Hence, if there is grace, we must seek it to abide in our responsibility to discharge the provisions that fulfil the oath of the priesthood of the Melchizedek company under which we have received our charge. Even in the Old Testament, this constancy was envisaged though each high priest could not continue by reason of death, nevertheless the ordination offerings show the perpetual nature of their responsibilities.
‘This is the offering of Aaron and of his sons, which they shall offer unto the Lord in the day when he is anointed; the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a meat offering perpetual, half of it in the morning, and half thereof at night. In a pan it shall be made with oil; and when it is baken, thou shalt bring it in: and the baken pieces of the meat offering shalt thou offer for a sweet savour unto the Lord. And the priest of his sons that is anointed in his stead shall offer it: it is a statute for ever unto the Lord; it shall be wholly burnt. For every meat offering for the priest shall be wholly burnt: it shall not be eaten’ Lev 6:20-23.
This speaks of the life of the priest being a perpetual vessel of sacrificial work offering with evidential tokens of his sacrificial living or communion in the sufferings or death of Christ. Fine flour being very costly in the wilderness requiring very stringent grinding of the wheat or barley until it is considered so fine as to pass the test represents the high standard of Christian life to which we must arise unto through daily acquainting ourselves with Christ’s death and resulting resurrected life. The tenth part of an ephah equivalent to the Omer, the same size of the quantity of manna God instructed to be placed in the Ark of the covenant, symbolising evidence of the manna which they partook of. Similarly, this Omer of fine flour made with oil and baked in a pan is a token of the evidence of the work of the Spirit, the Word and the fires of judgement from our fellowship of his suffering to be mad3 comfortable to his will. This cake is to placed on the altar of burnt offering and wholly burnt morning and evening as a sweet savour unto the Lord. It is not to be eaten but wholly burnt unto the Lord perpetually and the fire of the altar of burnt offering must not be put off. It is both costly and perpetual.
‘For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick;
thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, an
d sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen. Mal 1:11-14″
Malachi shows clearly that there is a relationship between the quality of the meat offerings and the dreadfulness of God among the heathen. Our poor quality meat offerings are the reason his hand is not made mighty upon the earth. We think God should be happy that we have even answered the call to be here. We think people should be grateful that we found time to come to fellowship, but we do not know that the Lord is asking for the account to be rendered. There is no blessing to the work if God is not given his exulted place in our lives. There is no victory on the large scale we expect if the Priest’s travail is not the Lord and his business, for upon ordination as a priest, he is wholly burnt up or consumed in the Master’s business. Everything he does must be in relation to the matters that please the Masters. All travail or work is God’s business, wherever we are must be his ordered positioning going forward. If we have the capacity from God, if we have the resources from God, but continually vow and sacrifice to the Lord an offering that costs little or nothing to us, we are termed deceivers: deceivers because we say we want the Lord to be mighty, we say we are growing to mature sons, we say God has shown us the way- death to self, we say the Lord is king over us; but we are not willing to put our resources where our mouth is. Our resources of time, gifts and money remain ours, responsibility of helping one another, forbearing one another, living honestly and blameless in the world, working diligently to be a provider to many, learning both abasement and prosperity , giving to the kingdom work and spread of the gospel are becoming a rarity. But we are not our own, we have been bought with a price and must render esteem to God in your body and your spirit which are Gods (1Cor 6:19b-20).
3.2 As Sons
‘For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth’ Prov 3:12.
‘A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?
saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that disesteem my name Mal 1:6
‘The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand’ Jon 3:35.
‘Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel’ Jon 5:19-20.
The father is doing his work. We are to be in tandem with the father. It is about what the father wants to do. So we do what we see the father do or is doing. This is non stressing or self exertion. Whatsoever the father doeth, so doeth the son likewise. The beginning of sonship is when we do what the father doeth. Jesus constantly stated: the father worketh hitherto, and I work; hitherto, thus far and the opposite is hereafter implying that a people such as we are do work ahead of the father and so he cannot show us what he is doing or actively continuously doing. The love of the father for the son is expressed when the son does nothing of or by himself. Jesus said of myself I can do nothing. If the son keeps this condition of heart, the father will show him greater works. He will do mighty things! This church is capable of mighty works and all things can be in our hand; the power of decision making for nations and community and our own lives and those of one another are in our hand, and can be in reality be in our hands. If I then be a father, where is my honour? Where is my esteem? When He corrects us, why do we rebel and stop fellowship with God and the brethren? Why do we harden our hearts, thus missing his next visitation and it’s purpose? ‘…and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit’ Jon 15:2b. When He chastises us, it is evidence that we are his sons. If we do not receive corrections, and we know we have not been perfected, then we are non of his. ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement (tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication, disciplinary correction: instruction, nurture) whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons’ Heb 12:6-8.
3.3 As bride (Mat 25:1- 13)
‘But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut’ Mat 25:9-10.
Constancy because of longing expectation begets readiness. There must be continual expression of the first love. This prayer and supplication offering must be continually offered to sustain an ever living flow of love for our Lord. This sustains the candlestick in our midst because we long for him as much as he also longs for our fellowship.
To the very ‘deep in spirit and knowledge of God-Ephesian church
, he says: ‘Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent’ Rev 2:4-5. There must remain a perpetual cry in our hearts for the abiding of this first love, because it makes no sacrifice to be too much for our Lord, the love of our life. They follow him withersoever he goeth (Rev 14:4), they maintain the tempo of the first works of love and devotion: personal devotion or quiet time, long periods of personal studying the word, personal fasting, personal night vigils, personal evangelism, personal visitations, offerings and vows as well as giving to Gods work and needs of the brethren according to ones capacity.
To the Laodicean church he says: ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see’ Rev 3:17-18. Just like the foolish virgins, they must spend much to buy at the late hour, what they could have bought much earlier. The work of God in our lives and that which has been put in our hands must be accounted for. May God grant us the wisdom to spend today to buy what may be too costly to obtain in our time, responsibilities to fulfil the charge committed to our hands, to have Christ formed in us to the stature of growth expected at this time in keeping with the trumpets coming to us in these times. May God help us.
3.4 As Stewards or servant
‘For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.– His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness’ Mat 25:14-30.
In consideration of this area we must, first and foremost, know that we are the Lords bond men or slaves or servants who await his constant instructions. The kingdom of heaven- the church and how it is organised is that the master left talents in the hands of his able servants. The bible says he gave them talents according to their several ability or capacity. The word ability means:
inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth; Power for performing miracles; moral power and excellence of soul; the power and influence which belong to riches and wealth; power and resources arising from…probably position or capacity. For the church this word ability has begun to take the meaning of less than a whole lot. But rather, it means that they had intrinsically by virtue of their nature, power for miracles, riches, wealth, moral character, influence. Several means individually, their own meaning that each servant had his own proper are of power, wealth, influence etc according to each resident capability. God is the one that administers the sharing but to each there is that to which we have been equipped. All the servants with two, three and five talents traded and gained profit thereby multiplying their talents by two except the one with one talent, who hid in the earth and did nothing. His wicked heart convinced him God was trying to use him for his own purpose and slothfulness kept him from trading with his talent. No sacrifices offered to trade our comfort and ease for the greater and weightier matters of the kingdom has kept us at par with this servant. As a result we have envied one another, slandered, murdered and torn one another in bitterness and strife. Much power and ability that will be useful as resources for the temple will come from willing servants who have consecrated their lives to his service. Consecrated life begets consecrated money and service and so becomes a sweet smell to the master and qualifies for his use. If I be a Master, where is my esteem?
Rendering account is therefore the requirement to from time to time express mature fruit as may be needed by the Lord at his instance. It is to express in our lives a return of fruitfulness, readiness and fitness for required service brought about through constant loving devotion before God such that the fruit is mature on demand for the Masters use. This is a fundamental requirement for the expression of the covenant and divine life itself. We will seek to consider our commitment next.
Commitment is an essential attribute in outlasting the different challenges in the walk with God. ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivereth him out of them all’ Ps 34:19. Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica that ‘That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain’ 1 Thess 3-5. Afflictions of financial stress, sickness, persecution, accusations against the work of God, spiritual and physical work related issues like lack of promotion, no job or failing business, non availability of wherewithal to meet daily life and challenges, death of beloved brethren and loved ones, mistakes, errors of judgement and actions, and in some cases, actual withstanding by the enemy through all these areas and more could have instead of strengthening our faith brought weariness, discouragement, apathy and a turning away from the plow. The brethren involved in the building of the temple of Zerubabel had similar experiences of afflictions and these were recorded in the books of Haggai and Ezra. The Lords’s lamentation on the effect of discouragement was recorded in Haggai thus: ‘Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the Lord. Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the Lord. And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,’ Hag 1:3-14
The prophet Haggai gave this prophesy when some Jews had come back at the command of Cyrus the king of Persia to build the temple of the Lord God in Judea. Those whom the Lord had stirred up their hearts obeyed and left Babylon for Judea. Arising and building, they came to a stage and were wearied, discouraged and distracted by other affairs. This is not too different from our situation. For we rejoiced at his voice and with great joy, followed the train out of Babylon; but along the way, we have become weary and much distracted. We wander as though without a clear perspective of who we are and where we are going. Wallowing in this discouragement, the book of Haggai tells us to go up to the Mountain and bring wood; dig deep, ascend into our most holy faith, go up into higher moral
Ground, go up into higher spiritual ground, and find grace to return to the plow and bring forth the material for the building, that resource which is in you placed there for the masters use. When we pursue our cieled houses or personal kingdoms, not too long, the heaven over us will shut off and the land will become non fruit bearing. It is no wonder that there is dryness and much poverty in the land. No doubt as it was with the Jews who returned to build the temple, much weariness and ceasing of the work occurred due to evil machinations with the authority of their day and evil counsel of the enemy to weary them in the building until the work of the building of the house of the Lord was brought to a stand still (Ez 4). However, God stirred up the spirit of Zerubabel (of the lineage of David, the king) and Joshua the high priest to arise to build the house being assisted by the prophets (Ez 5:1-2). It takes a king/Priest company to build the temple. Even though there was indeed a satanic invasion to weary the brethren with all manner of problems and issues, yet we must find mercy to obtain grace to arise and build as we acknowledge the need of prophetic grace in the blowing of the trumpets for our day.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Rom 8:37-39. We must ask for the grace to stir up ourselves to see the goal set before us: the goal of sonship, reigning with him, immortality. We need to call up these truths of our destination. The Bible says: ‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ Heb 12:2. We find that a human being can hardly be committed to something that is not valuable. Hence, the glorious and blessed hope of the believer must be the focus of every individual so as to revive our appetite for the journey.
4.1 Commitment to the Covenant
Commitment to the Covenant is key to the bearing of fruit meet for the master thus bring pleasure to God.
4.1.2 The Oath of separation
Righteousness is key to everything because sin was key to death and retrogression; hence righteousness is the key to fruit bearing in bringing forth glory and immortality. We have to walk according to the righteousness we have received as a free gift of God. Our righteousness must exceed those of the Pharisee. He that is born of God cannot sin because the seed of God abides in him. We must arise to our most holy faith on high moral ground. Fornication, adultery, pornography, corruption in offices and daily life will not bring about the manifestation of the sons of God; saviours will not arise from a people who have not overcome sin. We must overcome to enter into incorruptibility so that mortality can be swallowed up in victory. Hebrew 11 chronicled men and women of faith who in reality were covenant keepers and God acknowledged them as having kept the faith even though many died without receiving the promises, they trusted him through all manner of experiences in their lives.
‘Come out from among them and be the separate-Touch not the unclean thing. It is expected that we live in righteousness and holiness for ‘if we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25).
4.1.2. The oath of Consecration and Obedience
Consecration is to be set for service through increased obedience. The saints of old frequently referred to themselves as the Lord’s bondmen or bondservants: slaves to do his bidding. They do not serve or wish to serve themselves or their desires but the Masters will. Hence they will abide as sons in the fathers house exercising great authority for ‘the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed’ John 8:35-36. Such authority to set free on the utmost level will be released unto such that will walk in the Oath of Consecration. This principle of consecration is captured in the slaves of Israel: ‘Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever’ Ex 21:1-6.
‘And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise’ Deut 15:16-17. Though he should go free at least in the Jubilee, but rather he says: I love my Master and my Masters house and rejects freedom for slavery, then his oath of obedience will be depicted by the boring or opening of his ears at the door in a public manner.
Jesus portrays the same act of obedience: ‘Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation. Ps 40:6-10. Jesus further clarifies that obedience is better than sacrifice of any magnitude. He too as a Son had his ears opened and he clearly stated- a body has thou prepared me……Lo I come …… to do thy will oh my God. We have no better example and a servant is not greater than his master.
4.2 Commitment to the work of ministry
We must be released from our former master befored we can be consecrated to serve the new master. We cannot serve God and mammon. We must overcome unrighteousness for Consecration to his service so the gospel be ridiculed. This is a major snag in the work of the ministry in the emergent church as able bodied men and women are squanders in the grind and rat race of the systems of men. The colt must be conscripted and we must be released to serve our true Master.
4.2.1 Conscripting the Ox or Ass
‘So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. 20 And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? 21 And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him’ 1 King 19:19-21.
When Elijah came to conscript Elisha to be the next Prophet of Israel, he met him him plowing his field with twelve yoke of oxen and he was directly handling one aspect of the plowing using the twelfth yoke of oxen. Immediately Elijah touched with the mantle, he understood and symbolically slaughtered the oxen, gave people and neighbors, saluted his parents and went off to be with Elijah. This was a man with many desires before God and we were to spy into the heart content only when Elijah was departing from the scene in his request and tenacity of purpose to obtain all that was required to obtain the prize (2Kings2:1-18).
Oh may God make us fervent, focused and determined like Elisha who requested that a double portion of the spirit of Elijah be upon him and followed through to obtain. The account is worthy of our attention.
Another story is worthy of note; ‘And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. We cannot have two owners. It must be a colt no man has sat. Even if before now it is not so, in entering the covenant of Consecration and separation, we can become again as the colt separated and dedicated for His purpose. Long standing in the place where two ways meet, plowing without purpose, delays in committing to Gods Ownership and authority over our lives is a major hinderance in our walk with God; for we are his colt and oxen for his work.
For many of us, the good job or business God has given us has become our new father and mother that has occupied us completely both in heart and time. We no longer have time or heart for the Lord’s business or his devotion.
The Bible encourages us to ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’ 2 Timothy 2.
Paul wrote, ‘And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it’ Col 4:16.
We must show Faithfulness to Body Ministry and the work of ministry in particular. Paul said, ‘Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. — Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God’ 1 Cor 4:1-5
As a steward of God’s resources, how does your scorecard look like?
Being custodians of the great purpose of God on earth, we have been given talents or resources to enable us prosper in the work assigned unto us in the building of his temple upon the earth. These resources are the wealth of character and graces that have been amassed in our lives through tutoring and discipline of the Spirit using both the word of God, trials, temptations, corrections, afflictions and various experiences which if we patiently endured, enabled us to enjoy the fellowship of his suffering, being made malleable enough to conform to the image of Christ. Through obedience to his dealings in our lives, from time to time, God finds fruit that gives him pleasure thus qualifying us to be fit for his use in different areas of life where our mature fruit is needed. Fruitfulness is the very essence of the Christian life and it is only possible if there is a daily active identification with the death of Christ and a full dependence on him for every thing. Except a grain of wheat die it abideth alone but if it die, it brings forth much fruit (Jon 12:24).
In the priesthood, priests operated
in their courses. Everyone knew his time and place of service and non broke the rank or worked out of due order. Many priests fulfilled their charge creditably while some didn’t fulfill their calling from God. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, without reverence and died. Abiathar failed in the matter of Adonijah who made himself king instead of Solomon and without his father David. Eli failed and the light almost went out of the temple of God in his time and God said the iniquity of his priesthood would never be cleansed with any sacrifices or offering. Hophni and Phinehas failed due to unbridled appetite in fornication and could not keep themselves from contending for God’s glory and right over his people in the offerings; and died in the field of battle losing the Ark to the philistines.
In the time of the Apostles, Peter, Luke and other disciples were sent to the Jews while Paul and Barnabas to the gentiles. Everyone knew what they were called to do. They fulfilled their calling. Paul said: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing’ 2 Tim 4:7-8. This should also be our position at the end of our course. This implies that the knowledge of the calling was clear and it was followed up with strategic action to fulfill it, backed up with accounting and constant proving before the Lord.
Additionally, the issue of quality of fruit comes to question. Every mans work without exception: whether male or female, young or old, elder or not, every man’s work will be tried In the fire of God’s judgement. What is the quality of the returns from Gods investments in our lives? Will the works stand the fire or will they be burnt up? ‘Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire’ 1 Cor 3:13-15.
As the age draws to a close, we see time and time again, certain disasters averted because we perceive the church is not ready to rule. But the kingdom of God suffers violence and there are many pressing into it; and there is time no longer. The slothful and indulgent servant or the foolish virgins may soon find that the gate can be shut. It is time indeed to arise and take up the responsibilities that has been entrusted unto us as individuals and as a corporate
body. There needs not be empty store houses or laziness or hunger in our midst. The work of God need not be held back because of funds. There need not be spiritual malnourishment in the fellowship houses and there need not be the over labouring of a few. More brethren must come to some maturity and capacity. Each of us must arise to our duty of care for the house of the Lord; and with passion wait on our ministries, discharging our duties with confidence and yet fear. We are sitting on great wealth of resources; let us not continue to squander the graces of God in our lives or waste the time we have, as we will definitely be called upon to render account from time to time. Be instant in season and out of season. If you are young, let no man despise thy youth , work with all heart and zeal and use your strength now you have it. May we find mercy to obtain grace to help us in this time of need. May God help his people in Jesus name