Summary: God’s plan for man is that he should develop all aspects of his being: the physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. They are all interrelated. In this article, you will look especially at the life of Joseph and how his personal relation-ship with God, despite his hardships, helped him to grow a character that in turn heightened his emotional maturity.
For a long time stewardship principles were presented as "the Four T’s": Time, Talent, Temple and Treasure. By doing that, we were paying "lip service" to the notion that stewardship covered different aspects of our lives. This being said, most of the material developed by the stewardship department between the ?70’s and the ?90’s was reduced to the fourth T: tithes and offerings.
Although the results were quite striking at the beginning of this emphasis and there was a remarkable growth in tithe, there followed a constant decline in giving patterns. Unfortunately, our denomination has followed the same trend as any other Christian church: George Barna’s research on the matter speaks for itself (See www.barna.com).
Few stewardship leaders felt the need to present, let alone develop, material on the other three dimensions, although one could question if stewardship is really limited to four T’s. What, for instance, about our responsibility toward the environment? Was it not the first task God gave to Adam?
The Stewardship Council of the Franco-Belgian Union worked for years to develop material on spiritual gifts, then on time management, and finally on "the temple principle." It took them over two years to decide what approach to take. It was out of the question to write another health book, although they reviewed dozens of Seventh-day Adventist health manuals to figure out what did exist. They were not in competition with the Health Department.
Besides, they had no qualifications to write more volumes on health, and our church already had an abundance of material. But in their investigation, they discovered that an important aspect of the Christian life was missing in all our literature—the topic of mental health.
The only way to grow
As Church leaders, how can we explain why some of our members have nervous breakdowns and why some think about committing suicide? What kind of faith can one have, to go to that kind of extreme? We may wonder, "Where is God?" and "What role does God play in the life of a Christian who is about to commit suicide?" Why isn’t the assurance of salvation transforming his life? If this is not the case, what is wrong with his real belief?
In Ephesians 4:13, Paul describes the goal of a Christian: "to be mature, as Christ was mature." In other words, God’s plan for man is that he should develop all aspects of his being: the physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. They are all interrelated. Just like the body of Christ; when one part is hurting, all are suffering. To be able to do this, the first task of a steward is to connect to the only source of knowledge and strength that will allow him to grow and be like Christ. That is Christ Himself!
A needed ministry
But man does not live in a void. He is and was created to be in relationship. First, with his Creator, and, secondly, with other beings. The Bible does not promise us that inter-personal relationships, Christian or not, will be without problems. In fact, there is no promise that Christians will be spared the difficulties of this world. Most of the time we find the opposite to be true: as soon as a new believer decides to follow Christ, problems arise. And when those problems come, the type of relationship a person has with God will determine his response to the problem he has to face.
This is why the Council felt it necessary to develop materials to minister to the emotional health of church members. And for the same reason, I am not going to talk about formulas or physical training you should follow to stay healthy; our good doctors of the Health Department are better equipped than me to talk about that! But talking about our inner equilibrium is just another way to study character development or to consider how we may integrate God into all aspects of our lives. To help follow the thread of this kind of spiritual growth, the biblical character of Joseph was chosen. This is how the seminar "Joseph’s Journey into Egypt: Learning to Walk with God" came into being ("Itinéraires de croissance" Vie et Santé).
Is blind and naked good?
We learn much about Joseph’s character when his brothers plan to do away with him and he has to face the hard realities of life. First of all, he is deprived of the only item that showed him to be different from his brothers—his colorful coat. All of his distinction is gone and he is like everybody else—almost a non-entity. Next, he finds himself at the bottom of a pit. From the light of day to a dark-bottomed pit! He must have felt nearly blind. These two events, being naked and deprived of everything, and being blind, are metaphors of what one has to go through in life in order to find God. Some have to go through that experience several times before finding true meaning in life.
Joseph’s coat represented all of his childish dreams as his father’s favored son, his advantage over his brothers, his selfish dream of power, and his being the probable heir of his father’s estate. It represented his plan for his life: "I have enough stored away for many years to come" (Lk 12:16-20). Isn’t this the tragedy of our postmodern world? Showing off, relying on our own merits, and on the material things we have?
Ready to grow
In their blindness, Paul and Samson had to go through the same experience as Joseph for them to realize that the essentials in life are invisible. As long as we have not personally experienced the invisible presence of God, we are not ready to grow, and we are missing a fundamental ingredient in our life. We are not ready to walk with Him (See Courageous Leadership: Zondervan, Bill Hybels, p. 102).
It is when Joseph is broken, naked, and blind—when he relies entirely on God—that he is ready to grow in his relationship with Him. Not a word of complaint comes out of his mouth. He is ready for his journey with God. He is ready to learn and to face the trials that lay ahead of him.
I believe each one of us should undertake this kind of journey so that we may have a relationship with Him that will see us through the tests of this life. Are you ready?