Stewardship of Grace
John Telgren

With all of the struggle that the Apostle Paul went through in his life, it is amazing that he did not suffer from severe depression. Instead, he often speaks of joy. How is it that one who has been thrown in prison, stoned and left for dead, hungry, shipwrecked, and mobbed by angry crowds was able to keep a positive attitude in the midst of it all? When he wrote his epistles from prison, he said things such as,

"For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus… (Eph 3:1)."

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord (Eph 4:1),"

"…so that my imprisonment in Christ … (Phil 1:13)"

"praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned … (Col 4:3);"

"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with {me} in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God … (2 Tim 1:8)"

"Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus … (Philem 1:1)"

Notice what Paul did not say. He never says, that he is a prisoner of Romans, or a prisoner due to the Jews, or any other such thing. He never saw his imprisonment or his hardships as a result of anything other than his commitment to Christ. The reason he faced hardship was because of his stewardship of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:15-17). In fact, he refers to the grace he received as a stewardship (Eph 3:2). He didn't see his salvation as a just a gift, but also as a commission.

In other words, his salvation was also his calling and defined his life. He saw everything in his life through those lens. Whether it was hardship, persecution, or good times, he filtered it all through the filter of his calling. This is what led to his positive assessment of his imprisonment.

"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in {the cause of} Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear (Phil 1:12-14)."

That is the way it should be for all of us. When Paul discusses his stewardship of grace, the end result is to make known to all people the stewardship of the mystery and for the manifold wisdom of God to be made known through the church (Eph 3:9-10). Like Paul, everything in our life should be seen through the lens of our calling from God. God's grace is not meant to merely be accepted, but to transform our minds and our lives.

We all have a stewardship. This transforms our school, job, house, and our relationships. Even if we encounter hardship, what counts is not that we have or don't have hardship, but that we are carrying out God's purposes. Like Paul, this will keep us grounded in both hardship and prosperity.