Your Stewardship of Prayer: Listening for God’s Voice

Sermon preached Sunday, October 25, 2009 at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lewis Center, OH. If you would like to hear the audio version, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is the Human Condition?

Good morning, St. Andrew’s! Today we continue our series of sermons on stewardship. You recall that we define stewardship as involving more than just our care of money. God has created humans to be stewards of his creation and this means we must be stewards of all his gifts, not just his material blessings. Last week I talked about the importance of our stewardship of prayer because our prayer life (or lack of it) reveals what we think about God and the kind of relationship we have with him. I focused on our side of the conversation (because all real prayer is a conversation). This week I want to focus on the other dimension of our stewardship of prayer: listening for and to God’s voice. In preparing this sermon I am heavily indebted to that old British Methodist preacher and teacher, Dr. W. E. Sangster, whose classic little book, God Does Guide Us, has been a tremendous help in my own stewardship of prayer.

In today’s OT lesson, Job claims to have heard God’s voice. But how did he know it was God’s voice? In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that his sheep know his voice. But how do we know that? We humans are not unlike blind Bartimaeus. We want desperately for Jesus to heal us and we keep calling out to him for help. But the problem is, we usually do not take the time to stop and listen for and to him so that he can work to transform us into his likeness. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes we are worried and distracted. Other times we are not really sure we want to hear an answer from our Lord. And of course we are finite and fallible beings and so when we hear what we think might be the voice of Jesus, we aren’t really sure whether it is, and so we can become discouraged in our listening and stop trying to do so. After all, it is easier for us to do all the talking, but that is manifestly arrogant and rude on our part for two reasons: (1) we are the creatures and God is our Creator; and (2) any conversation requires that both parties participate.

Where is God’s Grace?

But it is the biblical witness that God does answer prayer and speaks with his people. The OT prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah were called prophets precisely because they were recognized to bring an authoritative word of the Lord to his people. The Apostle Paul claimed to bring the word of the Lord to many of the people to whom he wrote. Surely he learned some of that in prayer. For example, in Acts 16, Luke tells us that the Spirit of Jesus prevented Paul from going to Asia to preach, but rather directed him westward into Greece. And of course our Lord Jesus himself spoke authoritatively about hearing God’s voice and doing God’s will, especially in John’s Gospel.

If it is the consistent biblical witness that God does speak to his people through prayer, then we too can avail ourselves of this tremendous privilege, especially if we really want to be his followers. If we really are Christ’s ambassadors as Paul insists in 2 Corinthians 5:20, then it is only logical that we must have our marching orders available from our leader. After all, there is no ambassador in the world who does not receive ongoing orders and direction from his or her government. Likewise, we Christians should expect our Leader, Jesus, to issue us our orders and direction so that we can be his witnesses to a world that desperately needs to hear the Good News.

Where is the Application?

I would therefore offer the following five suggestions to help us better listen for and hear the voice of God in our prayer. First, we must engage in the difficult work of disciplining ourselves to listen for God’s voice in prayer and expect him to answer. Malcolm Muggeridge made the very insightful statement that, “The whole story of Christendom shows, if everything is asked for, everything—and more—will be accorded; if little, then nothing.” How true this is! Be bold in your prayer requests and then listen expectantly!

God tells us through the psalmist that we are to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), but that is not easy is it? We are easily distracted and it is hard to be quiet and listen for God’s voice. But that is exactly what me must do. If you are spending 15 minutes each morning in prayer, you must devote an adequate portion of that time to listen for God’s voice. Let him control your thoughts. As he does, you will often gain a clear insight into a problem or situation, and that is often accompanied by a sense of assurance or confirmation. While this is not infallible, of course, we need to pay attention to those moments. At other times, our thoughts might start moving toward or away from a particular direction. Pay attention to this and take notes.

For example, earlier this week, I was really sweating about what to preach about stewardship in light of today’s lectionary texts. I usually start reading texts about 2-3 weeks in advance and as I read and reread the texts, I grew increasingly desperate because I really could not see how I could draw out the theme of stewardship from today’s texts. But last Sunday right as I was reading the texts, the Lord told me to preach about listening for his voice in prayer, pointing me especially to today’s OT reading. Now let’s be clear about this. I did not hear an audible voice telling me to preach about this topic. But suddenly I had a keen insight and a door was opened up for me. Imagine that. God answered me before I even asked! This insight was accompanied by a sense of assurance, and I have learned that this assurance is usually God’s assurance. I cannot explain it to you but I know it to be true.

Then on Monday morning during my morning devotions, I was reading some devotional texts and received an additional insight about what to preach as I read them. Again, no audible voice, but a clear insight that was accompanied by a sense of assurance that led me to believe it was God’s voice speaking to me as I was being still before him. You’ll learn about this insight when we get to my fifth suggestion below.

What about those times when we listen for God’s voice but don’t hear anything? In some cases we must simply be patient and wait for God; it is his time, not ours. If we are asking God for daily guidance and do not hear anything in particular as we are still and listen for him, it can be helpful to assume that nothing new has changed from our previous marching orders and so we should keep doing what we are doing. After all, the older our children get, the less we have to remind them about their duties or tasks, at least on a daily basis. Likewise with prayer and our growth in Christ. And like exercise, the more we practice being still and listening for God’s voice, the better we get at hearing it.

Second, and related to the first suggestion, we must learn to listen for God’s voice with a sense of humility. As we become still before God in prayer, we must remember he is the Creator and we are his creatures. He is omniscient and we are not. This perforce dictates that he must lead the conversation, not us. Certainly he bids us to bring our cares and concerns to him, but how we do so is important. For example, if we ask God (or worse, demand of him) to explain to us why this or that is happening in our lives, we will often not get an answer because as Job vividly reminds us, we are not going to ever be privy to all of God’s knowledge and will. But if we humble ourselves and ask God how we can serve and glorify him in our present circumstances, there will always be an answer because that is why he created us: to have a relationship with him so that we can bring him praise and glory in our lives.

Likewise, when you ask God to guide you in making decisions, it is important that you not bring to him the decision you’ve already made and ask him to confirm it. Obviously, doing so is not asking for guidance at all; rather, you are essentially saying that you know better than God does regarding your decision and you want him to simply confirm this. A more satisfactory approach would be to lay out your reasons for reaching your decision to God and ask him to give you insight into the validity of your decision making.

Third, we hear God’s voice through God’s word, the Bible. This should make perfect sense to us. If we believe the Bible is God’s definitive Word to us, then why would we not read it to hear God’s voice? We can use the Bible as a standard by which we can assess what we hear from God when we are still before him. This, of course, requires that we read our Bibles regularly and become familiar with what it has to say. Otherwise, we do not have an authoritative standard by which to assess our listening. For example, if we “hear” God telling us to commit murder or mayhem, we immediately know this is another voice speaking to us, a far more malevolent one. Why? Because we know that this is against God’s holy law and we must respect that. As we read our Bibles each day, a good question to ask is, “How does this passage apply to my life or situation?” or “What new insight have I gained by reading this passage?” God speaks to us through Scripture and we deny ourselves a wonderful opportunity to hear his voice when we fail to listen to him through it.

Fourth, we hear God’s voice through Christian fellowship. God can and does speak to us through other faithful Christians. It might come as a word of encouragement or an insight offered by a trusted Christian friend that gives us clarity to a problem or issue we face. It might come as an exhortation or warning to stay our hand or turn us away from a particular course or action. It might come simply by our friend being present in our time of need. Whatever the situation, we miss the opportunity to hear God’s voice if we do not pay attention to our trusted Christian friends. This, of course, makes small group fellowship even more important to us as we seek to hear God’s voice in our lives.

Fifth and finally, God’s voice will always produce in us holiness and a sense of servanthood. As we learn to hear God’s voice in our lives and seek to obey his guidance, this will naturally lead us to holy living. We will seek to live our lives in ways that bring glory to God and we will find joy in doing so. Our holy living will also inevitably lead us to a life of servanthood. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a special calling or ministry. Your service might take place in the context of your regular work. Oft times it will lead us to serve the least, the lost, and the downtrodden. However our service manifests itself, we can be sure God will show us where and how we can serve him by serving others, and we will have a sense of joy in our service. This holy living takes a lifetime to develop but it is the clearest evidence that God is guiding us and transforming us into his likeness.


Our stewardship of prayer involves both talking and listening. Learning to hear God’s voice is not easy and we must be very intentional about it. It involves daily discipline and takes a lifetime to learn to hear God’s voice, but it is indeed possible to do so. After all, the best things in life never come easy, do they? Being still before God with a proper sense of humility, hearing his voice in Scripture and fellowship, and having our lives transformed into holy living and servanthood are common ways in which we can learn to listen for and to God’s voice.

It is an awesome thought, isn’t it? The Lord and Creator of this vast universe condescends to have a conversation with each one of us if we are willing to reciprocate. This is the same God who loves us so much he took on our flesh, suffered and died for us, was raised to life, and sent us his Holy Spirit to be with us until he comes again in glory to finish the work he started from all eternity. And when we learn to recognize his Voice, he promises to transform us into his very image as our lives bring him honor and glory. That’s good news, folks, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Do You Really Love God? Look at Your Stewardship of Prayer for the Answer

Sermon preached Sunday, October 18, 2009 at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lewis Center, OH. If you would like to hear the audio version of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Job 38:1-7, 34-41; Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is the Human Condition?

Good morning, St. Andrew’s! Today we continue our series of sermons on stewardship. You recall that we define stewardship as involving more than just our care of money. God has created humans to be stewards of his creation and this means we must be stewards of all his gifts, not just his material blessings. Today I want to focus on our stewardship of prayer because our prayer life (or lack of it) reveals what we think about God and the kind of relationship we have with him.

We take our cue from today’s Epistle lesson. The writer of Hebrews tells us that, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears.” Like the Gospel writers who remind us repeatedly about Jesus’ prayer life, the writer reminds us that prayer was important to Jesus. If prayer was important to our Lord, it should be even more important to us. Because unlike our Lord, who was sinless, we are sinful, rebellious, and disobedient people.

We see this fact illustrated in today’s OT and Gospel lessons. Job has asked the Lord to explain himself, to explain to Job why he has been made to suffer. In today’s passage, we get God’s rather abrupt answer. In a series of rhetorical questions, God reminds Job that God is God and Job is not. Job therefore has a choice. He can choose to trust God, even in the midst of his suffering, or he can continue to be uppity. Implicit in this exchange between God and Job is the perverse idea that somehow humans (God’s creatures) are equal to the Creator. In a series of questions, God puts to rest that folly in quick fashion. I remember that when I first read God’s response to what I thought were perfectly reasonable questions from Job, I got very irritated. “What kind of answer is that?” I asked myself. What I didn’t realize at the time is that my irritation betrayed a sinful hubris, like I was actually capable of completely understanding God and all his ways! Precisely the point God was making to Job.

Then in today’s Gospel lesson, we see our sinful human desire to make it all about ourselves rear its ugly head when James and John ask Jesus to allow them to sit next to him when he comes in glory. This, of course, earned them a swift rebuke from Jesus and our Lord went on to remind them (and us) that anyone who wants to follow him must be a servant rather than a master. Given the human condition, I am quite sure that went over like a lead balloon because we humans like to be served rather than to serve!

Where is God’s Grace?

And so we find a consistent biblical mandate to pray because prayer is our vital breath if we hope to develop and grow in our relationship with God. Scripture reminds us that God finds it grievous when we do not pray (see, e.g., Isaiah 43:21-22), that many evils in life are attributed to a lack of prayer (see, e.g., Daniel 9:13-14), that it is a sin to neglect prayer (1 Samuel 12:23), that to continue to pray is a positive command (see, e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2), and that prayer is God’s appointed method for us to obtain what he has to give to us (see, e.g., Matthew 7:7-11). Besides our Lord, the apostles themselves thought that prayer was the most important thing to which they could give their attention and time (Acts 6:4).

Prayer is where we can learn God’s will for our individual lives so that we can be transformed by him and grow to become like him. In prayer we offer our thanksgiving and praise to God and bring to him our hopes and fears, our needs and desires, and our concerns about our world around us and those we love. We can approach God with boldness in prayer because of the work Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit creates in us a desire to pray and then helps us in our prayers because as Paul reminds us in Romans 8, we do not always know what we should ask for.

We pray to God because we believe that he is a personal God, that he cares about each of our lives. We pray to him because we believe he is a sovereign God and there is nothing too great for him to handle. We pray to God because we remember that he is God and we are not, at least in our best moments.

On the other hand, if we do not believe God hears or answers our prayers or is incapable of doing so, praying does not make much sense, does it? In fact, it seems to be downright silly. So our prayer life (or lack of one) can tell us a lot about how we feel about God and the state of our relationship with him.

Where is the Application?

So how is your stewardship of prayer? How is your prayer life?  Do you pray without ceasing? Is your prayer life robust, so that God is using it to transform you? Do you approach the throne of grace with boldness and a sense of awe and expectation that the Creator of the universe wants to have a conversation with just you? If you have that kind of prayer life, it is a safe bet that you are committing the time and effort to develop your relationship with him and are growing in grace. Keep it up and share what you are doing with the rest of us!

But many of us do not have that kind of prayer life. We are simply not good stewards of prayer for a variety of reasons besides the ones we have already mentioned. If you are struggling in your prayer life, I would offer you these suggestions. Start by asking yourself if you are committing adequate time to pray. We all have busy lives but prayer must be a priority if we ever hope to grow in our relationship with God. Toward that end, start and end your day with the Lord. Start where you are and go from there. Surely each of us can commit 15 minutes at the beginning and end of our day to have a conversation with God. There are 1440 minutes to each day. Can you give at least 2% of that to God? Start your day by thanking God for giving you another day of life and ask him what he would have you do that day.

If you are not sure what to ask for or how to talk to God, use the Lord’s Prayer as a model to follow. If we look at that prayer, we see the first half is focused on God and his goodness and sovereign power. This is a good place to start because it reminds us that we are created to bring glory to God and that he is big enough to handle anything we throw at him. If you do not think your God is not big enough to handle your problems, you will not likely bother with him. Focusing on God and his greatness as you begin your prayers is a good antidote to remedy that problem.

The second half of the Lord’s Prayer focuses on humans. Ask God to provide you what you need for the day. Lay out those needs and ask him if he agrees with you. Ask him to correct you where you are wrong and reinforce those things which are good and right for you to ask. If you know you are going to have a tough day, ask God to give you grace to meet the demands of the day.

As you go through your day, learn to pray on the fly and ask God briefly for grace to meet your daily needs as they arise. For example, if you know you are going to have a meeting with a difficult person, ask God to guide you both in your speech and conduct as you go to your meeting.

When your day is done, review it in light of your morning prayers. Did you meet the mark or go astray? It’s likely that you will do both and so give thanks to God for allowing you to meet the mark and ask his help for those things in which you missed it. Think about how you were able to bring glory to God during the day. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular, you know. It can be as simple as living a faithful life because you want to please the Lord. End your day by giving thanks for your life and the day just lived, and ask for God’s protection over your household as you go to sleep.

As you grow in your prayer life—and this will not happen overnight so do not be impatient if you do not see dramatic growth in your stewardship of prayer right away—learn to incorporate praise and thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and supplication. Praise God first and thank him for his many blessings in your life. This will get you ready to confess your sins to him and help you to believe that because God is loving and merciful, he will forgive you your sins. Learn to pray for others, especially those EGR (Extra Grace Required) folks who are like fingernails on a chalkboard for you. Ask God to help you be a blessing to them. Finally, bring your own needs to God. Supplication is where we talk to God about our own personal needs. Make that the last thing you do in your prayer so that you learn to put God and the needs of others first.

Like anything else, the more we practice prayer, the better we get at it. Here are two things that can help you see if you are making progress in your prayer life. First, are you growing in your trust in God? Can you start to see that no matter what the circumstances in your life, you are always under God’s care and protection, that he is never far off? As we get to know God more intimately and really start to believe he knows far better than we do about the living of our days, and as we continue to remind ourselves about God’s great love and sovereign power in our praise and thanksgivings, this becomes easier to do.

For example, my father-in-law is struggling mightily with health and infirmity issues right now. Each day seems to bring more bad news on that front and it is easy to get discouraged as we watch him struggle. He recently went back into the hospital and it looked like this might be the end for him. Now it would have been easy for me in my prayers for dad to challenge God and ask him why he is allowing this to happen to dad. But I am learning not to do that because that is making my prayer about me, about my wishes and wants. It betrays in me a lack of trust in God’s sovereign power and love for my father-in-law, and it implies that I know better than God. That would earn me the rebuke Job received in today’s OT lesson. Instead, I am learning to trust God’s power and will for my life and the lives of my loved ones, and so I simply prayed to God that if it were dad’s time, that God take him quickly and mercifully. But if it was not dad’s time, that God might bring healing and bless him with a modicum of quality of life for the rest of his days.

Regardless if God answers my prayer in that manner, I know that my father-in-law is going to be all right, irrespective of how it turns out medically for him. In one sense, I already know how it is going to turn out for dad. He’s going to die because the wages of sin for each one of us is death. But I also know there is more to this than his physical death. I know from reading Scripture diligently, from my own personal experience, and from the testimony of others in my life, that God is in control, that he loves dad, and that dad has a glorious future ahead of him because he too believes the promises of God in Christ. Like Paul, I am beginning to really believe that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Not life or death, not sickness or infirmity, not powers or principalities, not things present or things in the future. Nothing can separate us from God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39) and that is helping me trust God as I watch my father-in-law struggle and my family grieve as they watch him do so.

Make no mistake. This doesn’t mean that I do not grieve or that I am not sad about the prospect of losing my father-in-law to death. Yet even in the midst of my sadness about this, I know that dad is going to be all right and that helps me be patient and persevere in the midst of adversity. It has taken me years to develop this level of trust in God and there is still much room for improvement, because some days I get overwhelmed by it all. But I am convinced that God is far, far greater than my puny mind to comprehend God and his great love for each one of us.

Second, are you focusing more on God and his greatness than on your own wants in prayer? Are you beginning to see that you deserve absolutely nothing in this life and that the blessings you do enjoy are gifts and a sheer act of grace on God’s part? This is closely related to the first indication of progress in your prayer life because doing so will help you grow in your appreciation for this vast and awesome God who condescends to have a relationship with each of us. As you focus on God’s greatness and his wonderful love for you, and realize that the blessings we enjoy are a result of God’s bountiful grace and generous Spirit toward us rather than something we have earned or deserve, it becomes easier to trust him and give your life to him. It becomes easier for you to want to follow his will rather than your own because you understand that things will be much better for you in the long run if you do.


God created each of us to have a relationship with him, one in which we acknowledge God is God and we are his creatures. He has ordained prayer as the main way of developing our relationship with him and if we are serious about developing that relationship, we must take our prayer life seriously. This is not easy for us to do because as Augustine reminds us, each one of us are “cracked pots” who are wayward and rebellious. But God has taken care of that problem for us. He has taken on our flesh, died for us, borne the punishment that we rightfully deserve, and by his death and resurrection has given us our one and only chance to live with him forever. He has also given us his Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness and our prayer life. The rest is up to us. If we believe in his promises and mighty acts, we will respond to his gracious invitation with love and gratitude and work hard to develop our prayer life because that is the primary means of grace to help us do so.

Are you ready for that kind of relationship? If you are, God promises that you will not be disappointed. You will have the joy and peace as well as the strength and perseverance to live out your days in his wonderful Presence. And when our bodies die, we will get to live directly in his Presence forever, eventually with new resurrection bodies and in a New Creation where there is no more sorrow nor sickness nor suffering nor death. What a glorious vision! That’s good news, folks, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Your Stewardship of Time is a Window Into Your Relationship With God

Sermon delivered on Sunday, October 11, 2009 at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lewis Center, OH. Due to technical difficulties, no audio version of this sermon is available.

Lectionary texts: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is the Human Condition?

Good morning, St. Andrew’s! Today we continue our series of sermons on stewardship. You recall that we define stewardship as involving more than just our care of money. God has created humans to be stewards of his creation and this means we must be stewards of all his gifts, not just his material blessings. Today I want to focus on our stewardship of time because it can give us keen insight into the state of our relationship with the Living God.

Have you ever felt like Job or the psalmist in today’s lessons? Even the most devout among us have had these moments of desperation, haven’t we? Right now in the Maney household we are dealing with health and infirmity issues of various family members, and it is heartbreaking to watch. We’re still dealing with vocational issues and job loss, and it seems that my prayer list for folks here in church grows each week. I expect that I am not alone, either. Many of you have serious issues with which you are dealing and so we can relate to both Job and the psalmist, can’t we?

But did you notice the wonderful note of optimism and deep faith that runs through both readings? Despite the severe tests and struggles over which the writers lament, there is a deeper confidence in God and his providence. Job speaks of the fact that although God is almighty and ultimately unknowable by humans, he trusts God to hear him, reason out his struggles with him, and acquit him. Likewise, the psalmist expresses a deep trust in God to deliver him despite his severe troubles because God knows him so intimately and has always been with him, even before he was born. Would you like to have this kind of deep faith that sustains you during life’s most difficult times? You can if you are a wise steward of time.

How so, you ask? Just this. We do not develop this kind of trust and faith in God if we only have a casual relationship with him. The kind of trust and faith exemplified in this morning’s readings is a product of a deep and abiding faith in God, the kind that can only develop over time and by virtue of having an intimate relationship with God, and that takes time and intentionality, just like any relationship does.

We see a negative example of this in today’s Gospel lesson. Here is a rich man who approaches Jesus with some imprudent language. “Good teacher,” he says, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response may seem a bit abrupt to us, but he is simply reminding the young man to consider carefully what he is calling Jesus. Does he really think Jesus is God? If so, is the man ready to do what it takes to really be a follower of Jesus? This kind of language, of course, betrays a casualness the young man has in his relationship with God. In addressing Jesus as “good,” the young man gives evidence that he has not thought through the implications of who God really is and what it means to address or follow him.

Moreover, in asking the question of Jesus, the young man seems to believe that eternal life is something that he can earn by doing good works. He doesn’t seem to understand that eternal life is a free gift given us by the sheer grace of God. Consequently, it is not unreasonable for us to believe that this young man spent a good deal of his time trying to perform good works so he could be in good standing before God. His stewardship of his time was driven by what he believed to be important in life, just as ours is.

Despite all this, Jesus sees that the young man is sincere in his questioning and responds to him in love. He did this by telling the rich young man that he must give up that to which he has given his ultimate loyalty—his wealth. You see, Jesus loved the man enough to accept him just as he was. But he loved him more than that because Jesus invited the man to enter into a transforming relationship with him so that the man could become all that God created him to be. Mark tells us that Jesus’ answer shocked the man and he went away grieving. The man was not willing to put his whole hope and trust in Jesus. Instead, he trusted in his wealth, not God, and as we all know, wealth cannot give us life or raise us from the dead. Only God can do that.

In this story, then, we can again infer that the rich man was not being a wise steward of his time. He was apparently satisfied to pursue good works because he felt they would earn him a place in God’s kingdom, or what Mark here calls “eternal life.” Furthermore, he apparently spent a good deal of his time pursuing wealth, or at least managing it, because he could not come to give his ultimate trust to Jesus. And so we can see this man’s priorities based on how he likely used his time.

Unlike Jesus, who spent much time in prayer and dedicated his whole life to doing the will of his Father, as today’s Epistle lesson reminds us, this rich man apparently did not spend his time wisely to deepen his relationship with God so that he knew all that God called him to do and be. Instead, he apparently spent his time pursuing superficial and temporary things. Good things, perhaps, but temporary things, and so he robbed himself of a life-giving relationship with the Source and Author of all life. It is a grievous thing to behold and none of us should find any kind of satisfaction in a story like this, at least when we consider the rich man’s perspective. Unlike Job and the psalmist from today’s lessons, it is not unreasonable to think that when life became very tough for this rich man, he would not have the spiritual resources he needed to help him withstand the severe trials that inevitably come our way. He had not spent enough time in pursuing the One Thing necessary for the living of our days (and eternity).

Where is God’s Grace?

But that is not what God wants for us. He wants each of us to pursue him as madly as he pursues us. He wants each of us to give our lives to him and love him as much as he loves us. But to do that, we must be wise stewards of our time and use it to develop a deep and intimate relationship with our Lord. That will not happen unless we give God first priority of our time. What does that look like? It requires that we spend some time each day reading the Bible in a systematic way so that we can better understand God’s will for his people and creation. It means that we learn to pray constantly to God and spend time listening to him so that we know his will for our individual lives. It means that we get connected with other faithful Christians in small groups so that they can be God’s presence to us in our faith journey and we can be God’s presence to them. It means that we come to church every Sunday to worship God and give him thanks for all that he has given us, especially in the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. All of this takes time. Your time.

But, you say, I have a job to which I must attend (hopefully), and/or a family to raise. I have a gazillion other things to do and they all demand my time. Fair enough. But who do you think has blessed you with all these things? We are not the owners of our gifts; rather, we are the stewards of them, and we must seek constantly to be stewards of God’s blessings in ways that are pleasing to him because after all, we and our gifts and resources are God’s. When we start to really understand this, we can begin to think carefully about how we use our time because we will all have to give an accounting of it one day (see, e.g., the two parables in Matthew 25:1-30).

Moreover, as we begin to prioritize our time and use it to develop our relationship with God, we will find that we are better able to hear his voice and feel his sustaining presence during life’s most difficult moments. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us today, we can approach the throne of grace with boldness because we have a great High Priest in Jesus who knows exactly what it is like to have human weaknesses. Because Christ is fully human and fully God, we can have confidence that he will be merciful and we will receive grace to help us in our time of need, not unlike Paul found when he pleaded to the Lord to take the thorn from his side (2 Corinthians 12:9). This knowledge and this faith does not come without effort and intentionality, and that will only happen if we are wise stewards and prioritize our time to be open to God’s grace so that he will help us grow in our relationship with him. Then like Job and the psalmist, we will have the needed resources to help us when we need it the most.

Where is the Application?

How is your stewardship of time? What does your use of time say about your relationship with God? If you see that you are continuing to grow in grace and faith, then I encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing and share it with others so that you can help us! If you are struggling with prioritizing your time, I would offer you two suggestions. First, make an intentional effort to start your day and end your day with the Lord. When you get up in the morning, make it a point to spend some time with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading. We can all find an extra 15 minutes each morning to do that. Ask the Lord what he wants you to do today and then take some time to listen and read Scripture. Look and listen for answers as you do.

When you go to bed at night, review the day in light of your morning prayers. Did you accomplish what you asked for in the morning? If so, give thanks and ask God to watch over you and yours as you sleep. If you did not accomplish what you asked for, seek to find out why. Are you spending too much time on some things and not enough on others? Do you need the support of other faithful Christians? Whatever it is, ask God to help you overcome the difficulties you are experiencing and then expect him to help you.

Second, as you go about your day, try to do those things that bring you closer to Jesus and avoid those things that cause you separation. Resolve to ask the Lord for help throughout your day. Make it a point to talk to him on the fly and maybe memorize some Scripture verses to help you get through difficult periods of time in your day (like when the priest goes a littler longer in his sermon than you would like). Don’t get ahead of yourself. Take it one day at a time. Doing so will help you begin to pray without ceasing as Paul encourages us to do (1 Thessalonians 5:17).


How will you spend your time? The choice is yours. Will you spend each day in pursuit of things that are temporary and which cannot give life or will you make it a priority to pursue the Source and Author of all life? Remember, he took on our flesh, died for us and was raised to life again, thereby giving us our one and only hope and chance to live with him forever. He has given us his Holy Spirit to help us in our weaknesses and allow us to give him thanks during the good times of our lives. He has promised never to leave or abandon us and we can always have confidence when we approach his throne for help. It is a throne of grace and mercy, offered to us freely because he loves us. All we have to do is respond to this Good News, in part by being good stewards of our time, so that he can transform us to be the creatures he created us to be. That’s good news, folks, now and for all eternity.

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.