/ Timothy McCracken

stewards of manifold grace

In this some-days-late article, may I share with you two verses from 1 Peter 4 that have been a source of refreshment when I've gotten bewildered about ministry?  (Note: In using the word ministry here, I’m not referring only to the specific category of ordained teaching and shepherding but to the whole cause of hoping to be a blessing in this world for the sake of the Gospel.)

When my thoughts begin to enumerate the needs around me - needs that call for compassion, for help, for discipleship, for involvement, for co-labor, for time, for discernment, communication, insight, perhaps admonishment, for rejoicing and for weeping - the list only keeps expanding.  And when I think of my own capacity to be a blessing – when I contemplate my limited understanding, intuition, perception, strength and ability - the needs often loom before my consciousness as larger, weightier, and more complex than I can hope to address.  I experience a vulnerability to discouragement and to a sensation that the prospects for blessing are minimal.

It's just there that the words given to Peter lift me to a brighter hopefulness.

There is much implied in that phrase stewards of the manifold grace.

God is, of course, able to bless redemptively without involving us, but here we are taught His will to bring us into the plan.  The grace is in Him, the grace has multiple aspects, the will that it be poured out is His, and He chooses to gift us from the resources of His grace so that it might be administered.  The verse has to do with His will to bless, and it implies that He will accomplish what He intends.

How does that truth and reality lift and encourage?

Though I’m not in a position to determine what exactly the fruit of ministry will be; though not all things longed-for by me will be in God’s design for outcome, and though I weep in the process, I may engage that which the Lord sets before me with the knowledge that fruit of redemptive blessing is definite in Him according to His understanding, goodness and bounty.  I may know that my assignment is not to every possible need I can imagine, but to particular needs He has in mind and plan.

I may also engage with the understanding that every capacity to bless comes from the resource of grace that is in Him.  He is about the business of endowing His people with manifold aspects of His grace, so as to redemptively bless.  As the verse that follows next implies, the strength to minister is a provided strength, and the goal is that God’s worth and goodness be more and more seen, recognized and appreciated.  Also, it is a Gospel goal because it is glory spoken of as being through Jesus Christ.

This framework of thinking and believing that I am seeking to describe is cause for engaging ministry with hope.  It is reason for waking up in the morning with anticipation concerning what God will do.  It is fuel for pressing on.

May the words be that for you today.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.

                                                                                                             - Ephesians 3:20-21