Summary: The world values success while God values faithfulness.
I have often wished that the world had some kind of popularity contest on the value we place on certain words in our English language. I would especially like to see a popularity contest on two words: “success” and “faithfulness”. I am quite sure that “success” would win out overwhelmingly. Everyone in our modern society wants to be successful. There are literally hundreds of books out on “How to be Successful,” not very many on “How to be Faithful”. We all want to know how to be successful, don’t we? We want to be successful in our marriage, successful in our vocation, successful financially, successful in family life and the rearing of our children – we all want to be successful.
The Scripture text we are looking at today tells us that there is something more important in this world than being successful and that is to be faithful. ILL: Mother Teresa was a great spiritual figure who inspired millions around the world during her lifetime spent among the poorest and most desperate people on earth – the poorest of the poor in India. Mother Teresa was once asked by a visitor how she could keep working patiently for so many years among these poor and desperate people with such meager apparent results. She answered, “We are not here to be successful. We are here to be faithful.”2
ILL: In a book of his, Thomas Rainer tells of an interview Billy Graham had with an interviewer. The interviewer was fascinated by Graham’s success and asked if he anticipated being given great rewards in heaven for the millions of lives he had impacted through his worldwide ministry.
Billy Graham said that he was not sure of the extent of his own rewards, God is the final Judge, but he was certain that others would have greater rewards than he. He went on to say that there is a faithful elderly woman whom he knows, who is right now on her knees praying for her little country church, her family, and her nation. For nearly 80 years, the sweet lady has been faithful to her Lord. She has been constantly praying, and reading the Bible daily. To Billy Graham, that lady and many others like her, will receive the greatest rewards in heaven.
At the close of the interview, Billy Graham said these last words: "You see, we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful." 3
The Bible has much to say about faithfulness, very little to say about success. My Bible concordance reveals that the words “faithful” and “faithfulness” appear 101 times in the King James version while the words “success” “successfulness” and “succeed” are used only 3 times in the entire Bible. That says to me that God is not very concerned about our “success” in life but He is very much interested in our faithfulness or our being faithful to Him. He does not say in His word, “It is required in stewards that a man be found successful” but rather “that a man be found faithful.”
Everybody is after success these days. Even pastors and churches are caught up in this mad rush towards success.
So, in the kind of world we live in today, what is meant by this word that has become a strange and forgotten word in our time: “It is required of stewards that a man be found faithful?”
And, just what is a “steward” in the biblical sense?
1. First off, just what is a steward, anyway?
A steward and a slave are a bit different in the New Testament. The apostle Paul describes us all as slaves – slaves of Jesus Christ. We are bought with a price. We are not our own. We are committed to complete obedience to our Master, Jesus Christ.. All of us who are Christians are considered “slaves of Jesus Christ.” A steward is just a bit more. A steward is usually a slave with additional responsibilities. He has been placed in charge of his master’s estate, his belongings. They do not belong to him but he is responsible for the administration of them. Paul considered himself a steward, but he also called himself a slave, a slave of Jesus Christ. Look at verse one: “Let a man so consider us, as servants (slaves) of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” If you are saved, you are a “slave of Jesus Christ.” If you have anything in your care, you are also a steward, a person in charge of a treasure left in your keepiing. If you have nothing, absolutely nothing in your hand, no money, no bank account, no family, no possessions, no land or houses, no livestock, no tangible assets, no talents, no abilities, I suppose you are only a “slave of Christ” But the moment something comes into your hand, into your possession, you are from that moment a steward, one charged with a responsibility to be faithful to God in the wise use of whatever you have in your hand. And in that capacity God requires of you faithfulness. You continue to be a slave of Christ but you are also a steward, a manager of a portion of your Lord’s resources. In relation to Him, you still own nothing, it all belongs to Him. “The cattle on a thousand hills are His,” says the Bible. You are merely the steward, the caretaker, the manager of all that God has placed in your hands.