Today is the first day of a New Year. Congratulations. Whew, we made it. And better than that, it’s the first day of a brand-new decade. On January 1st, many of us tend to make resolutions we never actually keep. Planet Fitness, for example, will be packed tomorrow with people who made a commitment today to get in shape only to find most of them gone by February 1st. Trust me, it happens.
But that shouldn’t be the case for those of us who follow Christ. When we make a resolution, a commitment, or a vow according to Scripture, we should rely on the Holy Spirit to help us finish what we promise to start and not try to grit it out in the flesh. Again, I know personally how futile that can be.
The passage we are focusing our prayers on this first day of the New Year is Ephesians 3:1-2. It reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.
We’ve previously looked at a number of words in this passage, but today we’re going to examine the most convicting of them all, the word dispensation. It’s a strange word seldom used today, especially in Christian circles. In fact, the only time we hear dispensation is usually in a heated discussion between two so-called Bible scholars who have differing views of the end times. But that discussion is for another time and place and is not how the word is used in this verse. The word dispensation (oikonomía) means “to be a manager of a household, or the position, work, responsibility or arrangement of an administration, as of a house or of property, either one’s own or another’s.” In other words, dispensation can be translated steward or stewardship and refers to the management of a house or business on behalf of someone else. A steward, therefore, was responsible for taking care of something not his own, that which belonged to someone else.
When Paul is referring to “the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2) he was speaking about the stewardship given to him by God for proclaiming the grace revealed to Paul for the benefit of the Gentiles. Paul had a calling and a mission, a divine mandate, a fiduciary responsibility as a steward of God, to fulfill the task God had given him to do. And for Paul that task, according to Ephesians 3:2, was to present to the Gentiles the grace of God given and revealed to Paul for them.
Our Duty to God
Do you realize you and I have the same responsibilities as stewards of God to the ministry He has given to us? God has placed us to live at this particular time in history, and in the very family He chose, married to the spouse He ordained, with the children He allowed us to have, born in the nation in which we live, for a reason known only to Him. It was all by His design. Everything.
Many years ago Bill Gothard talked about the Ten Unchangeable Traits each of us has. These are divine attributes God placed on each of us that we had no control over and can do little, if anything, about. And our calling, our mandate from Him, and our stewardship in the dispensation God has given us is to be able to glorify Him within the attributes we cannot change.
The Ten Unchangeable Traits are:
1. Our Parents (we had no control or voice over who our parents would be)
2. Physical Features (no matter how hard I try, I will never dunk a basketball)
3. Gender (contrary to PC thought, you cannot change your gender and it was given to you by God)
4. Brothers and Sisters (see #1)
5. Birth Order (see #1)
6. Ethnicity (that was determined by #1 and we can nothing about it)
7. Place of Origin (remember Joseph was from Nazareth yet Jesus was born in Bethlehem)
8. Time in History (you and I were born in the year God choose, for a reason)
9. Mental Capacity (this is why I have such a hard time reading phonetically)
10. Aging and Time of Death (see Psalm 139:16)
“What does this mean for us on this New Year’s Day?” you ask. It means God has given us something to do and we can’t hide behind our excuses any longer. He has given each one of us grace “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7). He created us how He wanted to, He gave us the family He desired, and He placed us in this town and in this nation in 2020 for a reason. He knows our limitations and yet still has a role for us to play in His divine pageantry.
Now relax, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re to be a missionary in a foreign land, or hold massive city-wide revival crusades, or stand on the street corner wearing a billboard that says, “The End is Near!” It simply means we have a position in His Kingdom that only we can fill. To use a football analogy, some of us may play tight end, some an offensive lineman, and others may play cornerback or safety. It doesn’t matter what position we play as long as we faithfully fulfill the stewardship of trust our Head Coach has placed in us when He drafted us on His team.
Therefore the first thing we must determine is who is in our sphere of influence? Who has God sovereignly placed in our light? Look around you. You have your family, your friends, your co-workers, the people you know on Facebook, the very ones you would call in a tight spot— all of these are in your sphere of influence. God placed you in their midst for a reason. And that reason is to be light in their darkness.
So once you determine your sphere of influence, the next thing is to pray and ask the Lord how you can shine His light into their darkness. And that usually involves opening your mouth and saying something. I’ve never known a lost person to become a Believer by silent osmosis. Have you? It doesn’t happen that way. Yesterday we spoke about the importance of verbally communicating God’s message. If you’re afraid, confess that to Him. It’s not like He doesn’t already know. Then ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to be all Christ has commanded you to be. And know this, He will.
Time to Pray
So on this January 1st, 2020, let me encourage you to spend some time this morning committing your life to Him. All of it. Everything. Ask Him to turn you into someone He can trust, at all times, to remain faithful, connected, abiding, in Him. Ask Him to help you become the kind of “true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Why? Because Jesus said, “For the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). That person can be you. You! Can you imagine what it must be like to be the kind of Believer the Father looks to for true worship? Can you think of anything greater?
Commit your life to Him right now. Ask Him, in faith, to empower you, to draw you closer to Him, and to teach you how to love Him more than you ever have in the past. And then, let’s embrace the future as if our Lord could come at any moment. Because who knows, He can and He might and He someday will.
Come, Lord Jesus.