My New Years Resolution: Stewarding My Soul
Author: Joel Harney, Student Minister
Stewardship is a sticky word. Automatically our minds jump to our checkbooks and bank accounts. We feel a tension creep up on us when we hear that word because we feel like someone is about to ask us to give more than we'd like or act a little more responsibly than we'd like. But "stewardship" isn't a dirty word; in fact, it's beautiful. The reason we cringe at the idea of stewardship is because we are bent towards sin. Rather than running to what is righteous, we find it more comfortable to cling to what is convenient. The truth is Jesus doesn't want your life to be comfortable or convenient. If everything is perfect in your world all the time you have no need for a Savior or an omnipotent God.
Stewardship is first acknowledging that what you possess is not your own. Be it money, talent, resources, even your very life is not your own.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price..."
Everything that makes you you is a gift.
At the root of the stewardship conversation is your soul. The devil wages war on your heart, mind, and soul. His desire is to have you be consumed with inconsequential pursuits or ventures so that you are distracted from the Kingdom of God. So at times he redirects your priorities with your money and with your time and with your talent, but what he is most crafty with is your soul. If he can starve your soul from fulfillment in Christ, he is winning. If he can get you to gossip, he is winning. If he can get you afraid of what is next or what people might think, he is winning. Make no mistake, Satan cannot win ultimately, but he sure can win some battles along the way.
As Christians, we have to learn how to steward our souls. If we don't, then we will fail time and time again in stewarding our money, time, and talent. Your soul was bought with a price, a high price. Therefore we need to limit what we allow it to consume. Otherwise, it will be consumed.
I'd like to highlight a couple of areas we can be better in stewarding our souls:
Some of us do this well... maybe a little too well. Some Christians are so heavily guarded against "Hollywood" and "liberal media" that they are out of touch with culture altogether and struggle to relate in many contexts. However, there are many who have no protection over their souls when it comes to the things they watch, listen to, expose themselves to, or consume. Both avenues can be dangerous.
When it comes to stewardship of the soul, we have to think balance.
The Psalmist describes the soul as something needing to be nourished just like the body:
"O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water." - Psalm 63:1
Scripture associates the soul with livelihood; something needing to be cared for and guarded. Something to be placed in God's hands.
If I told you I only ate cake, you would laugh at me. Is it possible to survive on just cake? Maybe. I would assume I could handle it for a few days or maybe even a week. After that, the sugar I was consuming would affect my ability to concentrate, my metabolism, even my skin... and it wouldn't stop there. It's not just what you are consuming, it's also what you are not consuming that would make the cake diet unhealthy. No fruits or vegetables. No real sources of fiber. No real source of calcium. Just a lot of sugar.
This is laughable. You would never let your kid do that! But, unfortunately, we have a lot of "just cake Christians". Consuming whatever is placed in front of them without any regard for what it is doing to their souls.
We have ruined our spiritual metabolism, concentration, and overall vitality by not taking in valuable nourishment. We struggle to pray for five minutes or read the book of Galatians in one sitting.
Now, cake isn't all bad, and neither is entertainment. I love movies, certain tv shows, and I especially love to watch sports, but we have to think balance. I'll admit, I'm not great at balance right now, which is part of the reason I felt convicted to write this. I needed to think through this, and I think you probably do too. It's important to recognize what entertainment does to our soul.
I think this is the reason we forsake the church so often, too. We have been conditioned and groomed to be entertained. At any moment we can turn on Netflix on our iPhone, iPad, iMac, Galaxy, laptop, etc. We can watch ESPN anywhere at any time. We have instant access to any entertainment our hearts desire. Because of this, when we walk into the church our first thought is not, "How can I contribute!?" but "How can I consume!!??" If the church we enter into does not meet our entertainment standards thats ok we can just walk down the road to the church that does.
I believe that many American Christians are denying the call that Scripture places on their lives because they have failed to steward their souls.
These days just about any issue is a political firestorm. Gun control, immigration, abortion, police, etc. Is it wrong to be involved politically? No, certainly not. We have incredible freedom in this country and that is something we should value and take advantage of. The problem is that we usually measure our righteousness by what we can stand up for, not by how we are laying our lives down. This blows my mind.
Stewarding your soul means limiting your exposure to any news network, whether liberal or conservative; both can bend you out of shape. It means limiting your time on Facebook or other social networks. I see incredibly horrendous things said by Christians on Facebook. No wonder people in the world don't really know who Jesus is: Christians don't even know who Jesus is. The problem is that we have constantly fed our souls with political ideology and empty rhetoric. We regurgitate the arguments we hear on Fox News or CNN because we like what they had to say and we feel we can win. Satan has fooled you!
The Kingdom is everything or nothing. If you believe that you are doing something righteous by responding to the article about gun control somebody you went to high school with posted, you are mistaken. No matter what your political stance, you are not advancing the Kingdom of God by responding on social networks to things that you disagree with politically. Any time you advance any agenda other than Christ's, you are forsaking the call the Gospel has placed on your life. "YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN; THEREFORE HONOR GOD." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Social networks don't just expose us to empty arguments, but to empty feelings about ourselves. It's dangerous to spend hours of our day on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. More often than not, we are viewing everyone else's highlight reel and then subconsciously comparing our own lives to them. We suddenly feel a void in our lives because we don't have that new gadget/NorthFace/car/girlfriend/puppy/etc. The devil plays us right into this comparison trap. 1 Peter tells us that sinful desires, "wage war against our souls." It's not bad to have nice things or to want nice things, but it is incredibly devastating to your life and to the church when those things are of higher priority than Christ. And if we are being honest, this happens far more often than we'd like to admit.
We also expose ourselves to all kinds of thoughts, opinions, and practices in our relationships. Things that do not feed our souls and do not help us maintain the right perspective, approach, or mission. It's easy isn't it? We sit down and begin to talk about "her" or "him". "Can you believe that? Do you know what she said/did?", "He did what!?" ,"I heard..."
Gossip is a real problem, Church. Here is the issue: it does not only hurt the person being discussed, it always hurts those discussing! It is damaging to your soul. The call that the Gospel has placed on your life is to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), but we struggle with that because we constantly expose ourselves to damaging perspectives on others. It's Satan's way of entrapping your heart in the snare of selfishness. What is the easiest way to make yourself feel better? Make someone else less.
As soon as you're done reading this, read Romans 12 - the whole chapter speaks plainly and directly to this issue. Paul is incredibly concerned with the unity of the church.
Through gossip we subconsciously limit our ability to love and we train our souls to elevate themselves over others, things that are incredibly contradictory to the Gospel.
If we could learn how to better steward our souls, we could become better stewards of our money, time, and talents. We would no longer breed selfishness, pride, envy, and anger within ourselves. In fact, we could live grace filled, peace filled, Gospel-centered lives that can and will transform our community.
So what do we do? How do we change?
Confess - Own up to the fact that you haven't been a good steward of your soul. Cry out to God and ask for his deliverance from your sin (1 John 1:9). Thank Him for the gift He has given you in the death of Jesus. Your honest admission of your need for God's saving will do incredible things in your life. It rightly positions you before God and takes the pressure off by removing your need to perform. It changes everything. Frankly, we need to do this daily.
Commit - Make a decision to not be subject to the ever-shifting landscape of politics and opinions, to not just consume every medium of entertainment available. Commit to feeding your soul with things that will nourish it. Start with the Bible and then add blogs, books, and podcasts that help keep your soul fed (I'll include of list of resources at the bottom of the article.) Commit to being a contributor. It's time to stop playing Christian and start being a Christ follower. Come to church more than just a few weeks a month. Feed your soul through serving. I think the reason so many people are unsatisfied with life is because they haven't learned how to shift the focus from themselves onto others. Don't come to church expecting to be entertained, but come ready to engage.
Imagine with me for a second a church full of people who truly follow Jesus, who don't look at anyone else as less than themselves, who are committed to Christ and His mission and who, as a byproduct of their Kingdom commitment, live incredibly fulfilled lives. I want to be a part of that kind of church. I think you do, too.
These are just things that I use - there are certainly other options out there. Not all of these align directly with my theology, but they are still powerful, thought provoking, and useful.
The Bible - I like the NLT, ESV, or NIV. - Start in Psalms, one of the Gospels, or just at the beginning. - Download YouVersion on your phone or tablet, its free! Pick a reading plan from that app.
Blogs: Relevantmagazine.com - desringgod.org - thegospelcoalition.org
Books: C.S. Lewis!! (Anything by him is great) - Jesus Prom - The Hole in Our Gospel - Radical - Crazy Love - Jesus is:______
Podcasts: Southland Christian Church - North Point Community Church - TedTalks - Relevant Podcast - Tim Keller.