Training for Godliness: Stewardship

Whitney begins chapter eight with these paragraphs,

“Think for a moment. What events have produced the greatest stress in your life today? This past week? Haven’t they involved some feeling of being overloaded with responsibilities at home, work, school, church, or all of the above? Paying bills? Running late for an appointment? Balancing your checkbook? Waiting in a traffic jam on the highway or runway? Facing unexpected car repair or medical expenses? Going with too little rest? Running short of cash before payday?

Each of these anxiety-producers has to do with either time or money. Think of how many day-to-day issues involve the use of one of these two. The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that their role must be considered in any serious discussion of Godly living.”[1]

As we consider Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, NET). There are many expressions of godliness, many of which we have examined thus far. Now we come to an important aspect of godliness that requires discipline (i.e., training), that is stewardship.

Stewardship as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “The responsible use of resources, esp. money, time, and talents, in the service of God; spec. the organized pledging of specific amounts of money etc. to be given regularly to the Church.”[2]

In Whitney’s work, which has provided our outline and substantial amount of help, discusses two primary areas in which we should demonstrate stewardship: time and money.

Stewardship with Time

I want you to imagine life about one hundred years ago. There were no appliances to help with chores around the house. Dishes and clothes would require handwashing. All meals had to be prepared by hand, including their production (unless money/goods were bartered). With no electricity, capitalizing on the light was vital. There was little time for leisure. The people that lived during this period (and before) had to be master stewards of their time just to live.

Today, we enjoy many privileges and helps with these tasks. Just this morning I placed a load of laundry (a daily chore with a family of six) into a washer shortly after awakening. Then, after breakfast, I transferred that load into the dryer. Within two hours, that one load of laundry was washed and dried. Imagine the difference in time as compared to those who lived one hundred years ago! The question is, What I am doing with that time? Am I investing in in growing in my Christlikeness? Or, am I squandering it by glancing through various social media websites, watching TV, or keeping up with the latest election update (it is Friday 13 November as I type this).

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16, NET). Are we taking advantage of every opportunity to discipline ourselves to godliness? We marvel as saints of yesteryear, at their depth of the knowledge of God’s Word, and at their intimacy with our God. Yet, we fail to consider how different we live than they once did. We have access to many advantages of our society. We do not spend hours preparing our meals. We do not have to grow food in our backyards in order to survive. Yet, they in the midst of those things (and many others), advanced in their godliness. Why? I am convinced it is because they took advantage of every opportunity they had. Jonathan Edwards, a man who I consider to be a spiritual hero, constantly read while riding to various places.[3] He was taking advantage of those opportunities!

How can we take advantage of our time? There are so many way! While waiting in an office, we can read or memorize Scripture. While checking out at the grocery store, we can share the gospel. While taking a break from the busyness of the day, we can spend a few moments in prayer. These and an abundance of examples are all worthy of our consideration.

Stewardship with Money

Whitney writes, “The disciplined use of money requires that we manage it in such a way that our needs and those of our family are met.”[4] It requires discipline to manage our money.

We must handle our financial resources in a way that honors God and reflects a generous spirit.[5] Considering the amount of debt that the majority of US citizens have, it is important that believers reflect a different value system. I recommend Dave Ramsey’s helpful work, Financial Peace Revisited.[6] Though I do not agree with everything he writes, he provides a helpful framework for the disciplined to be godly in our financial responsibilities.

Are you disciplining yourself for godliness with your stewardship? One thing that is implied, but we have not discussed, is that idea behind stewardship. It implies that someone else owns the material (or, time, as the case may be), and we simply oversee it. This is biblical truth. God holds our breath in His hand (see Daniel 5:23). He is the Creator and owner of all (Rom. 1:19-20, 28-32). As such, everything we have been given, including time and money, are to be used wisely for His glory and our good.


[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 131.

[2] “stewardship, n.”. OED Online. September 2020. Oxford University Press. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.bju.net/view/Entry/190092?redirectedFrom=stewardship (accessed November 13, 2020).

[3] Incidentally, Edwards preached a helpful sermon on time. See: Jonathan Edwards, rev. and ed. by Edward Hickman, The Works of Jonathan Edwards Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 233-236.

[4] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 139.

[5] Ibid., 144-145.

[6] Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York, NY: Viking, 2003).

Training for Godliness: Serving

Training for Godliness: Serving

Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). We have discussed several examples of this training in previous posts. Today, we are picking our gloves and dusting the equipment off in order to resume our training.

Like an athlete, we work hard to grow in our likeness to Christ. One of the ways in which we can train ourselves for godliness is to serve. Donald Whitney writes this about serving,

“The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be as sequestered as nursery duty. It may be as visible as singing a solo, but usually it will be as unnoticed as operating the sound equipment to amplify the solo. Serving may be as appreciated as a good testimony in a worship service, but typically it’s as thankless as washing dishes after a church social. Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.”[1]

I do not know about you, but when I read that paragraph, I could immediately recognize the deep truth of what Whitney is saying. In fact, I would argue that most service in the church is the kind that most do not observe and for which most will receive little earthly recognition. But this is precisely why it requires discipline.

We enjoy being in the spotlight. We love being recognized for our hard work, our contribution, our giving, or our talents. Too often we mimic the Pharisees more than we do our Savior. It is of these types of people that Jesus speaks, “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven….When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward!” (Matthew 6:1, 5, NET) Jesus warned us against such showy service. Instead, we should follow His example. Consider the Son of God, the Creator of everything, Who donned a towel and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Jesus tells His disciples, “For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:15, NET). This is the example, or the pattern, that we should serve in humility as He has done.

“Train yourself to be godly,” wrote Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). The question is, How do we train through service? Whitney provides two points worthy of our consideration. First, he writes “EVERY CHRISTIAN IS EXPECTED TO SERVE.”[2] Whitney then offers several “motivations” for which the Christian should be encouraged to serve.[3] The truth is, Scripture commands believers to serve. It is not always glamorous, and in many cases is less. However, this does not excuse the Christian from giving his or her time in service to God. This discipline mimics our Lord and Savior.

The second aspect of service involves spiritual gifts. In passages such as Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and chapter 14, as well as 1 Peter 4:11, we read about the various equipping of Christians by the Holy Spirit for His service. Our gifts are to be used in the life and health of the Church. Paul writes to the church of Ephesus, “As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16, NET). Did you catch that? Builds itself up in love, but that only occurs when “each one does its part.” The question is, Are you training yourself for godliness through service?

Far too often Christians attend church for what they can get out of it. This ought not to be so, my brothers and sisters! We should attend church to be feed by the nourishment of the Word, no doubt. But we should attend church equally to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I end this post with the challenging words of Whitney, “The Lord Jesus was always the servant, the servant of all, the servant of servants, the Servant…If we are to be like Christ, we must discipline ourselves to serve as Jesus served.”[4]


[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 116.

[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 117, emphasis original.

[3] Ibid., 118-123.

[4] Ibid., 129.


Lectio Divina: A Wonderful Experience

“Situated between life as we know it and life in its hoped-for fullness, spiritual practices are imbued with a sense of our relatedness to God, others, and the earth.” [Griffth and Groome, 2012]

That is how the editors Colleen Griffith and Thomas Groome begin their section on ‘The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Practices’. In my recent reading of the book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus author Mark Yaconelli writes about “two basic, traditional forms of contemplative prayer to parents and people who minister with young people: lectio divina and centering prayer.” [Yaconelli, 2006] The practice known as lectio divina is of great spiritual value to those who can mine its wealth. Certainly there is wisdom in approaching this carefully, weighing each thought and prayer in balance with the Scriptures. Having that as an understanding, let us move into the practical benefits of lectio divina and the methods.

Yaconelli defines lectio divina as “holy reading”. [Yaconelli, 2006] There is a brief mention of this practice in Scripture (see Acts 8.26-39), and Schneiders describes it as “a rich practice of biblical spirituality of transformative engagement with the Word.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012]

Schneiders continues, “Lectio divina is a four-step process that begins with the slow, leisurely, attentive reading (lectio) and rereading of a biblical text. Often the text is committed to memory in the process. By internalizing the text in its verbal form, one passes on to a rumination or meditation on scripture bear witness to both the spiritual depth and the imaginative breadth to which the process could lead.” [Griffith and Groome, 2012] Schneiders description is brief, and unfortunately does not provide much practical advice.

This is where Yaconelli comes in handy. He provides a five-step method which I shall reproduce for you.

  • Preparation- find a passage of Scripture that can be meditated, contemplated, mined for its wealth. Set the ambiance, light a candle, place a cross or crucifix before you. Use bread and wine. breadwine-63ed983aThese are all symbols (and there are much more) that can bring to mind a thousand thoughts and accounts from Scripture.
  • Silence- Yaconelli recommends finding a quiet place in which you can communicate with God without noise or distraction. The Psalmist recommends being still (Psalm 46.10 uses a word that denotes a complete cessation of activity), so this is the first step.peaceful-place-park
  • Reading- This one seems to stand without saying, but lectio divina requires reading. This reading is different than our normal reading. Sometimes we read for information, other times for leisure. But for this we are “seeking to be with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006] So a short Psalm, a few verses in an epistle work perfectly.
  • Meditation- This step allows the truth of the Scripture to speak through the Holy Spirit about your life, your thoughts, your successes, your failures, you.
  • Oration- This is where you begin to speak to God, you thank Him, beg Him for help. “Honestly express your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires in a dialogue with God.” [Yaconelli, 2006]
  • Contemplation- I love how Yaconelli describes this last step. “Finally, allow yourself to simply rest in God, like a child resting in her mother’s lap.” [Yaconelli, 2006]

There is a mystical beauty in this practice. Sometimes it may be hard, especially for our western, fact-based thinking. But I close with the story he offers as a magnificent description of lectio divina.

“My wife and I dated in college before the days of e-mail. During the summers, when we were apart, we would write letters to each other. I still remember the excitement of running to the mailbox after each workday, hoping to see a letter with my name written in Jill’s handwriting. Each time I received a letter from my beloved, I would run down to my room, close the door, and then slowly pore over her words. When I read a letter from Jill, it was very different from other forms of reading. I wasn’t seeking to catch up on the news as much as I was seeking to experience Jill. I was seeking to meet her in her letters, to receive her love, to feel her presence and be with her in some way.” [Yaconelli, 2006]

Discernment: A Vital Gift

A tree is one of the most beautiful aspects of creation. There is one stem, one trunk, and then there are so many branches and leaves. Each leaf is unique, a incredible work of art. The tree can teach us much. The lesson I want to learn today, however, is that of unity.

Donald Bloesch, a scholar and theologian, writes, “….Christians sorely need the gift of discernment to make the proper evaluations.” [Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts, 145.] He is dealing with different variations within Christendom that view the Spirit in diverse ways. 
His comment is so vital for today. There are so many variations, so many denominations, so many view points. Which one is correct? Which one is wrong? The spirit of discernment, mentioned in 1 Corinthins 12.10, needs to be exercised today. We need to discern, to judge in order to determine which view is correct and which view is not.

Another point Bloesch makes is to differentiate between heterodoxy and heresy. He defines the two, “Heterodoxy signifies the elevation of what is peripheral over what is essential in the faith, while heresy leads to a denial of what is essential.” [Bloesch, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts, 145.] It is imperative that, in Christendom, we learn to do this. Is it difficult? Yes. Will it be messy? Of course. But if we are to follow Christ, then we are to seek unity. Harmony, oneness, and “a complex or systematic whole” are words and phrases that describe what we should be seeking.

Too often we make peripheral issues the main focus and lay aside essentials.

I end with these words from the Messiah, and pray that believers may be one, אחד, a God-glorifying harmony.

John 17.20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.