Are You a Steward Of The Flame?

Do you consider yourself a steward? What’s the gift with which you’ve been entrusted?

This week I’ve been writing about a story I heard a few weeks ago called Tending The Flame. Yesterday we looked at How To Combat Burnout, some practical ways to keep the flame alive and get it to its destination.

Today I want to look at two extremes I’ve encountered (and been) within the church.  The story tells us about Runner Without A Flame, so let’s contrast that guy with Perpetual Flame-Tender.

Runner Without A Flame

Have you ever wished you could sit with Jesus around the campfire at night? Ever wished you could ask those questions, experience that physical presence, be right there to hear first-hand everything He was saying?

Judas Iscariot received an amazing blessing, called as one of the chosen twelve who got to be closer to Jesus than anyone else.

And Judas had a plan. He knew—or thought he knew—exactly what Jesus should do to maximize His impact. He also had some selfish motives mixed in as well, so it’s difficult to know exactly what he was thinking.

But in the end, he did it his way. We’ll never know whether he was seeking only to profit from his relationship to Jesus or actually thought he could push Jesus into action. Either way, at least he didn’t just sit and wait. He pressed the issue.  He took a huge risk to get his plan down the road.

Problem was, he didn’t understand the mission. He was running his own race, but he forgot about the flame.

It’s easy to condemn Judas. He’s about the easiest target imaginable. I wonder if he and I have anything in common.

  • Opportunity to listen to Jesus’ teaching.
  • Chosen to assist in spreading the word.
  • Sometimes certain I see a better way than Jesus.
  • Mixed motives.
  • Tendency to insist on my own vision.
  • Occasionally compromises eternal principles for short-term results.
  • Gets caught up on doing the work, sometimes forgets whose work it really is.

Do you know anyone like that? Have you ever seen any of those characteristics in the mirror? Any places where you’re a Runner Without A Flame?

Perpetual Flame-Tender

  • A missionary friend once remarked about his frustration at having to frequently travel back to and within the U.S. in order to raise support, much of which had to be spent on the travel itself.
  • Another friend oversees a significant ministry whose board seems obsessed with achieving financial sustainability. When he presses them for a reason, they reply that sustainability is critical “so they don’t go out of business.”
  • I recently listened as a speaker told of leaving a well-known Christian organization that had become paralyzed by fear of taking risks. They turned inward, focusing entirely on existing, proven programs that had lost some relevance.
  • A denominational magazine to which I subscribe focuses almost exclusively on internal matters of governance, maintaining traditional church order, and political squabbles among factions. Entire sections are devoted to debating and compromising on fine points of theology. I read a number of similar publications, and this particular denomination isn’t unique.
  • I listen with despair as a pastor from a “traditional” denomination complains that a local community church grows at the expense of his struggling congregation.

In my mind, these are examples of excessive flame-tending. So much time, energy, and resources are invested in keeping the flame alive, but it’s almost an afterthought to keep the torch moving down the road.

Any places where you’re a Perpetual Flame-Tender?

Who Am I

I’m pretty messed up, so I make mistakes in a variety of directions. If you can think of a wrong turn, I’ve probably taken it a number of times.

So I sometimes find myself rushing madly down the road in pursuit of my own limited vision, carrying a darkened torch that’s not going to do much good for anyone. Suddenly I encounter myself sitting by the road, carefully guarding that part of the flame that’s safe and comfortable and doing okay.

So I’m a Runner Without A Flame with a propensity to trip over myself as Perpetual Flame-Tender.

Every organization seeks to perpetuate itself, but flame-tending isn’t the runner’s ultimate purpose. You need to nurture the flame as you run, but you can’t stop running to care for the flame. As I said yesterday, a torch-carrier sitting by the road, afraid to move, is as useless as one who arrives with an extinguished torch.

In The Parable of the Talents, Jesus teaches an important lesson about stewardship. The servant paralyzed by fear was chastised–too much flame-tending.

The torch-carrier is a steward, just as we’re each stewards of the gospel. Let’s not be afraid to share it.

Remember, the flame will continue to burn without you. God is in control. If you do what you can, He’ll help you do what you need to do.

Do you tend toward being a perpetual flame-tender or a runner without a flame? What’s something you can do today to find a better balance?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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