In Experimental Knowledge of the Need
To what end is this? We have already shown that what governs the Lord in His dealings with us, His mysterious dealings, His strange leadings, His unique permissions, is His design of making us stewards. How do these things accomplish such an end? A steward must know the needs of the people to whom he is to minister. He must know of their needs. The man of God is not just an official. He is not someone taken out of a crowd and put into office, and set a daily task which can be learned by studying a manual. He has to have a vital relationship with the whole position, and he must know, in a living, experimental way, the nature of the needs to which he has to minister. Between him and those to whom he is to minister his Master's riches, there must be a sympathy of heart by way of inward understanding. He must know the variety of their needs, for what he would give to one would never do for another; what he might give to quite a number would be altogether out of place to give to others. He will find, as the physician finds, that no two cases are exactly alike, because no two temperaments are exactly alike. A dozen people may have to same complaint, but it may be needful to treat each one differently, because of different temperamental factors in each case. The true physician is one who not only takes the complaint into account, but the person who has the complaint. It is like that with the steward. There has to be an understanding of the need, of the situation; there must be a heart-understanding, a sympathy.
The Lord deals with us in order that we might be able to minister in an apt way. His stewards are to be men of understanding, who can touch the various needs, who can reach the heart, so that the Lord's children are saying: That just fits me! That touches my case! That person must know! That one must have been through it! Who has been telling him about me? Yes, the Lord knows, and He would take you and me through experiences such as will make us stewards in a living way: and that is what He is doing. The steward must understand the universal needs, the variety of need, and must understand in a way that no one can who merely studies from the outside. The Lord's way of training His stewards is to take them though things: and who is better able to meet the need than the one who has known that need himself?
An Experimental Knowledge of the Resource
Then the steward has no only to understand the nature of the need to be met, but he must have an equal knowledge of the resources with which he is to meet it. He must know the quality of that which is at his command, the nature of it, the values that are in it. Here again, we can never know the values of the things of God unless we have gone through experiences in which we have put them to the test, and proved them. No one really knows the value of Divine things who has not proved their value in his own life.
The stewardship of the Gospel is something more than our seeing the Gospel of the grace of God in the New Testament, as a system of truth, as something which embraces in a formula certain matters such as forgiveness of sins, justification by faith, and all the other elements of the Gospel: it is something more than that. The stewardship of the Gospel implies that the Gospel has become wrought into the very being of the steward, and that the steward himself is rejoicing in it. Such a steward can come out of the treasure house and meet the household, and meet those beyond, and say: I have something here of tremendous value; I am rejoicing in it myself; I know it, and I can assure you I am not giving you something that has simply been taken hold of and passed on apart from experience; it is not something that is the result of my studies, gleanings from other minds, what the commentators and "authorities" say. I am up-to-date in my personal knowledge and benefit of this matter.
What is true of the Gospel is true of the many-sided mysteries of God. That is another stewardship f which Paul speaks. You and I are led into the mysteries of God, into the depths, to discover those secrets, in order that we may come out with the treasures of darkness. Ah, but what darkness it is while we are there! No treasures seem to abound in the darkness. All seems death, and desolation. Poverty and starvation seem to reign. But to come out with the treasures of darkness, treasures of darkness, constitutes stewardship. Stewards are men and women who have been through the dark, and have discovered treasures, and have the treasures of darkness to pass on.
How much have you to dispense? Are you sure that you are dispensing what you have? The Lord did not lead you through that trial, through that darkness, through that strange experience, just for your own sake. The Lord has not dealt with you as He has, in order that you should be shut up to yourself, to enjoy the result alone. He has done that to constitute you a steward. If you and I will only allow that fact to govern us in the days of difficulty and trial, it will help us through. We should hold fact to the fact that the trial is to mean enrichment for the Lord's people, and an increase of equipment and qualification for stewardship. There are many who have a measure of spiritual wealth and are not making it available for others; others are not getting the benefit of it. They have a knowledge of the Lord that has come through experience, and if only they would get alongside of others, those others would get some of the good of the Lord's dealings with them, would be blessed, and enriched. Ask the Lord to release you into your stewardship within your measure. We are not speaking of an official, organized service for God, where you have to be continually ministering to others, whether you have the resources with which to do so or not. That is all false, and puts strain upon you; you may well revolt against that kind of thing. We simply have in mind the way in which the Lord creates living contacts. Children of God may cross your path in dire need, and may all the time be looking for the person who can help them. They have been crying to the Lord to meet the need, and have been watching to see how the Lord would answer. They may cross your path, and you talk upon all sorts of ordinary things; they pass on their way, and you have failed in your stewardship. They have not received that for which they have been asking, and the steward has disappointed the Lord, and those who were looking to the Lord. Let us ask the Lord to give us release from our tied-up state, to fulfill this stewardship.