Years ago I baptized a retired fighter pilot. His family faithfully attended and participated in church activities. But he thought no one would know that he secretly continued to smoke tobacco. A short time after he was baptized, his daughter started first grade. As he walked her to the school bus on the first day of school, she looked up at him and said, “Daddy, I‘m sure glad you don’t smoke anymore.”
“Pastor,” he later told me, with a serious look on his face, “I was holding a pack of cigarettes in my pocket to smoke one on the way home, but the voice of God spoke to me through my little girl.” He relaxed and chuckled like he always did. “I threw them away and told God out loud, ‘I will never smoke again.’” Years later that little girl, all grown up, introduced herself to me after church. I asked if she remembered what she said to her father that day. She smiled and said, “Yes, Pastor, and my dad never did smoke again.”
My friend learned on his daughter’s first day of school that Christ was the Keeper of his heart and would work in an unexpected way to help him in his journey of faith as a new Seventh-day Adventist. In the coming months he started sharing his story at stop smoking clinics to encourage others to stop smoking. As time went by, I saw his character of generosity. One day he came to me and said, “Pastor, I want to buy an organ for the church.” When the congregation bought the adjacent vacant lot to build a larger church, he enthusiastically gave, taking the lead, so the project could become a reality.
A steward’s walk of faith is never disconnected from Christ, the Keeper of our hearts. During the journey we develop and nurture our character. We manage what has been assigned and entrusted to us, and our stewardship is a reflection of God’s character. This is not done by human willpower or accomplished in a vacuum. It involves understanding the relationship between the Christ of the sanctuary and the steward. Simply say, “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand” (Ps. 121:5, NKJV). Christ keeps us “as the apple of” His eye, hides us “under the shadow” of His wings (Ps. 17:8), and “will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Is. 26:3, NKJV).
This all takes place as we live out the principles of Scripture, are obedient to God’s directives, and manage the tangible and intangible possessions in our daily lives. In 1914 Ellen White said to Clarence Crisler, “I have had a great deal to contend with, but I thank the Lord with heart and soul and voice. I will praise Him, He is my keeper and my conqueror” (Arthur L. White, The Later Elmshaven Years 1905–1915, vol. 6, p. 409).
Stewardship is about regularly experiencing practical sanctification—recognizing how all the practical aspects of our daily lives are affected by our salvation in Christ. Being God’s steward means accepting no failure in the Christian life. We understand what we are to do and succeed just as Christ did when He came to earth to save us.
Sometimes fear may grip our hearts when we look ahead to a walk of faith. How can we ever be successful stewards? Relief comes from the Keeper of our hearts. We can rest in Him as He guides our steward’s walk of faith.
John Mathews is the director of the Stewardship department for the North American Division.