In the Bible we often read of stewards. A steward is one who is responsible for goods placed in his care—to the owner—of what is placed in his care. Being a steward is a responsible position and a high calling even in the sphere of man to man, but when we consider being stewards of God’s goods, we feel how weighty the matter of stewardship becomes. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I like to think of this subject in line with II Corinthians 8:5, this part; “But first gave themselves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God.” I know that chapter speaks of the collection being made for the poor saints in Jerusalem by the saints at Macedonia, but there is no reason why we can’t apply this as pertaining also to all the gifts God has given us. And truly who dare to say they have no gifts and talents. God has give to each of us gifts and talents, some of which all of us partake and some in particular.
When God gives us life as Christians, He endows us with gifts in principle. By nature we are all dead in sin and what a wonderful privilege to have been made alive and called from darkness to light. What distinguishes us from those who still walk on in this way, not being able to even see the Kingdom of God afar off.
How we take these things for granted when we have been brought up from our youth in the way of the covenant. Sometimes it would seem we could appreciate it more had we suddenly changed from the completeness of darkness into the glorious light of life; but this should not be the way it is. Our privilege should cause us to rejoice each day and we should also then feel the responsibility of developing and using what we have.
How I praise Thee precious Saviour
That Thy love laid hold on me,
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.
Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me
A clean vessel in Thy hand
With no power but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.
Witnessing Thy power to save me
Setting free from self and sin;
Thou who bought me, to possess me
In Thy fullness, Lord come in.
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power,
Flowing thro’ us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.
What then is our first duty when it comes to developing what we have received? To put things in their proper place, which is to put Christ and His Kingdom as first in everything. That is what the Macedonian Christians did and what we know we should do. The reasons why we make so little progress is because of our failure in just this. Then we so often hear ourselves and others say, “But of course we are only human,” as if we ever even in eternity will ever be anything but human! Certainly not divine! Let us rather say, “We are still carnal in our manifestation and so little spiritual.”
How then must we go about attaining to this higher goal? It is to put Christ’s cause as the first thing in our thinking and doing—literally to build around it as the center of all our thoughts and activities. These early Christians set us an example. “First gave themselves.” How all things would be changed if we would put first things first? Not off in a corner unloved and in the way. How many of us dare to deny that our Christian privileges and responsibilities often are a burden to us and we speak grudgingly of Christian duty. Paul said “To me to live is Christ.” “Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and soul which are His.”
Then let us give ourselves, not just part or something outside ourselves, but our all, our womanhood, our personality, our individuality, our reputation, our character, our mind, our tongue, our example, and our very life. All on the altar as a privilege. How our light would shine forth if we truly applied this principle of stewardship in our lives.
What has God given us?
First—let us look at time. God gives us time. What do we do with it? The apostle says, “Redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Now to redeem means to buy back from someone who has power and control over it. Now we know the prince of this world has things very much under his control and certainly if ever there was a time when we can say, “For the days are evil” it is the present. How almost completely the world with its tasks and toils occupies time. Not always in a specifically—what we call directly sinful way, but earthly. How hard it is to direct our time to things of the Spirit. Sure—each of us has his daily task. But do we use this time as our own or as being stewards? In our tasks do we look upon our secular work as being God’s task for us? Or do we not take time to think, that every place we are put into to labor is God’s calling for us. Not only a minister and missionary or perhaps a Christian school teacher, but each one must serve in our work as being in our God appointed task. And do this consciously.
Perhaps you say to me, “You surely do not know what goes on in the world. I can’t take time to think about that.” Oh no? Are you in the right place then? Does the task of the world so occupy you that God is crowded out? Think of a man like Nehemiah, who held a very important position at the palace of a heathen monarch and how many times we hear that man say “Remember me, O Lord.” Does it bother you that your work crowds God out? It should. What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul? I often think of the man I once read about, who when asked the question, “What is your business?” said, “My business is to serve my King—I mend shoes to be able to keep at it.” If we would view our work in that way we could also be thankful in seeing how the Lord provides and cast all our cares upon Him.
Then too, we would not be so crowded as to find all Christian work pushed off in a corner with “I’m too busy,” but would be happy when called upon to accept the privilege of a small part in some special Christian work. What would we quit? Church work—so easily done, or the other? Remember! What profits?
Then what about our leisure? Is it wrong, for instance to have hobbies or physical recreation? Surely not within its proper proportion. But Paul says, “Bodily exercise profiteth little (or for a little while) but godliness if profitable unto all things, having the promise for the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
There was a missionary who went to India and found quite a number of army officers and government employees who were ardent tennis fans. Being fond of the game, he found countless opportunities to play. But after a while they noticed he had stopped playing. One of them asked him, “Do you think it is wrong to pay tennis?” “Not at all,” was the reply, “but I found that tennis was absorbing such a large part of my time and claiming such an amount of my thoughts and attention that my Bible study and prayer time was suffering. I realized that my love for tennis could stand no halfway measures, so I determined to give up the game, not because I think anything is wrong in tennis, but because I realize something is wrong in me, that for the present, at least, makes it unwise for me to indulge in that hobby.” When we are willing to let the Lord have such control in our lives we shall find that our lives are not impoverished, but on the contrary deeper and richer and stronger than it could possibly be under our own direction. Do our hobbies rob us of time which is not ours but God’s?
Then too, let us sue our leisure for some part of the free life of the church, especially also where we are expected to make study of God’s word as for instance Society, Catechism or Sunday School. Ask anyone who for a time steps out of that type of leisure time-occupying work, how they easily neglect also the study of the Word. Too busy. Dare we tell that to Christ Who said, “It is My meat to do My Father’s will” and Who after a most busy day spent the night in prayer? Does our business (being busy) lead us to prayer?
So much for time, God-given.
Now let us look at talents, over which we are His stewards.
“I have none.” Did I hear you say that? You know that is untrue and if anyone else should say that to you, you would be insulted. Are you sure? I am sure God did not make any Christian without a talent.
When we read the parable of the talents, it sometimes appears to me that we in our minds almost like to excuse the man with the one talent for hiding it in a napkin, feeling as if, had he had five or two, he might have used them, but one—no we almost excuse him for hiding one. This is very wrong. After all, Christ does not ask of us what we have not received. “For if there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath, not according to that he hath not.” II Corinthians 8:12.
Think of a small candle, how much light it can throw in just the right place. If such a candle should say, “Because I am not a big three-way bulb in an indirect lighting floor lamp, I won’t shine.” Say for instance, a fuse blew! The first thing to be used would be the little candle to find the fuse box so the big lights might again be put to work. How important! Why not be a little candle shining ever so brightly. And then too, put many little candles together—what a cheerful, pretty light they shed.
Then on the other hand, how sure are you that your talents are as meager as you think. Talents unused and untried do not gain. What a privilege to have a place and opportunity to develop our talents. Perhaps you may be called upon in society to explain a portion and you feel so dissatisfied when it is all over and say, “Never again.” Are you sure there was no result? Perhaps what you said struck someone just right, or else, your trying gave someone else the courage to also try to do their best. Anyway those who have the most to say are not always the best members of society. Perhaps such do not always appreciate others enough and fail to give encouragement to the leader. That may be your talent, to boost those who have the hard work to do. Do you ever give your president a boost? Just ask her whether she needs it. Believe me, I know as any other ever has, how low one can get (under the juniper tree) and how someone in a real quiet way can give you a word of encouragement and help—life you out of the dumps. We can appreciate that as a real talent, if truly exercise. Now don’t all say, “O.K. from now on I keep silent in discussion and will do my saying in quiet.” Oh, no! Try to find out what talent or talents you have and develop them and it will surprise you how you gain.
You say, “I get so nervous when I even have to read a Scripture portion or read a poem for the program or sing.” What of it? Do you think that is strange? Even very noted preachers when they began shook in their boots. I was reading of a very prominent preacher who was to take part in a service for the first time and his part was to read Romans 5. As the time approached he became so nervous he went into the hall outside and knelt down for strength to be able to read it. When he came back he read the chapter beginning “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” etc., and later was told the reading so touched a man’s heart that God used it to lead him to a definite point in his conversion.
Dwight L. Moody at one time had to preach in a large auditorium in London where even members of the royal family were in attendance. He began to read from Luke 4 and when he came to that portion “And many lepers were in Israel at the time of Eliseus the prophet” he came to the name “Eliseus” and stumbled on it. Began the line again and stumbled—tried again with the same result. He put down the book and prayed “O Lord use this stammering tongue toothy glory and purpose” and preached a most marvelous sermon which long was remembered because of its effect.
There was a man who was called to service, but who did not have all the background which might have been desired. After one sermon, a man came to him and said, “You made eleven grammatical errors tonight”. “No doubt” he said, “I could wish to have had all the proper schooling to be able to speak faultlessly, but God has called me with the talents I have and I will use them”. “Be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear”. I Peter 3:15.
Then there is the matter of leading in prayer. When asked do you refuse? Dare you refuse? Perhaps you surely say then, “I’m too nervous”. Granted! Who here does not recall the trembling knees and quivering voice until you are sure it isn’t even your own voice and perhaps you just said “Amen” when you weren’t even at the end. Then you said, “Never again—that isn’t praying”. And truly, praying is always a difficult art and in public even more so. But does that excuse you from ever trying again? You are ashamed. Of whom? Others—or God? Those who cannot sympathize and pray along, are those who never do anything themselves. And James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of GOD who giveth liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, never doubting.” Then a good way to overcome this feeling of fearing to hear your own voice in prayer, is to practice saying your private prayers aloud. Enter into the closet and pray and tell the Lord about it. He can and will give strength. And keep trying. Don’t pass it up, because by being asked, the opportunity is presented to you to develop also in this art and glorify your Father in heaven.
In matters secular, when opportunities are presented to us to try for higher positions and duties, do we just pass it up with “No thank you”? If in our development of spiritual talents we were as eager and alert as in the natural, what a power we would show forth.
Therefore, all of us here tonight who are members or former members of Talitha can say, thanks to God for the privilege of membership in a society where the opportunity was given us to develop also the talents, God-given, among others of our kind, who were or are just as timid as we. Many now are busy mothers in homes and also in teaching their children from God’s Word, perhaps can recall some things learned here and association made here are helping you on your way now, also in leading in prayer in the midst of your children. What an example!
Or didn’t you get anything out of membership in Talitha? Did you put anything in? “He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.” Then many graduates from Talitha now are in Priscilla and I dare say reaping also from the fruits gathered here and using the talents developed here.
Giving my personal testimony, I am thankful for my associations in Talitha and regret that at times certain things would get me down, but feel that belonging and partaking of the free life in the church has added to my love of the Church.
Everyone should have some part in the society life in one form or another in the church. Never to place it, of course, above the official church attendance, etc., but I’m sure that good members in the societies are also some of the most faithful in attendance at divine worship and feel keenly also the communion of saints. Having also our social life centered in the activities of the church and appreciating the friendships made therein is something which we shall always cherish as pleasant memories and I’m sure will also bear fruit even into eternity.
Let our lives then show that we realize our stewardship with its privileges and responsibilities.
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The above article was rendered by Miss Dykema at the second annual Alumni meeting of the Talitha Society of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. Miss Dykema holds the honor of having been one of the charter members of this flourishing society which was organized in 1925.
For a number of years Miss Dykema held the honor of being president of the Talitha Society, and later served as its vice president. Besides holding these offices, Miss Dykema is considered today as having been one of its most faithful members.
Another of the distinct honors that is held by the writer of the feature article of this issue is that fact that in the current season the Sunday School of our church celebrates the 25th year of her services. Beacon Lights wishes to congratulate Miss Dykema for her 25 years of faithful service to the Lord in bring the lessons of the Word of God to the children of our church.