1. A POWERFUL MOTIVATION
a. What can the Christian steward learn from the apostle Paul’s motivation? 1 Corinthians 9:16–19; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
b. What exhortations are given to motivate us in turn? 1 Peter 1:22, 23.
“ ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ [Matthew 7:12]. Blessed results would appear as the fruit of such a course. ‘With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again’ [verse 2]. Here are strong motives which should constrain us to love one another with a pure heart, fervently. Christ is our example. He went about doing good. He lived to bless others. Love beautified and ennobled all His actions. We are not commanded to do to <em>ourselves</em> what we wish others to do unto us; we are to <em>do unto others</em> what we wish them to do to us under like circumstances. The measure we mete is always measured to us again. Pure love is simple in its operations and is distinct from any other principle of action. The love of influence and the desire for the esteem of others may produce a well-ordered life and frequently a blameless conversation. Self-respect may lead us to avoid the appearance of evil. A selfish heart may perform generous actions, acknowledge the present truth, and express humility and affection in an outward manner, yet the motives may be deceptive and impure; the actions that flow from such a heart may be destitute of the savor of life and the fruits of true holiness, being destitute of the principles of pure love. Love should be cherished and cultivated, for its influence is divine.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 136. [Emphasis in italics in original source.]
2. THE FRUIT OF CHARITY
a. How did Paul’s unselfish love bear fruit under the most forbidding circumstances? Philippians 1:12–14; 2:15–17.
“Not by Paul’s sermons, but by his bonds, was the attention of the court attracted to Christianity. It was as a captive that he broke from so many souls the bonds that held them in the slavery of sin. Nor was this all. He declared: ‘Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear’ (Philippians 1:14).
“Paul’s patience and cheerfulness during his long and unjust imprisonment, his courage and faith, were a continual sermon. His spirit, so unlike the spirit of the world, bore witness that a power higher than that of earth was abiding with him. And by his example, Christians were impelled to greater energy as advocates of the cause from the public labors of which Paul had been withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle’s bonds influential, so that when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, and to all appearance he could do the least, then it was that he gathered sheaves for Christ in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 464.
b. How can we all be inspired and strengthened by Paul’s courage? 2 Corinthians 4:5–10; 11:24–28.
“Patience as well as courage has its victories. By meekness under trial, no less than by boldness in enterprise, souls may be won to Christ. The Christian who manifests patience and cheerfulness under bereavement and suffering, who meets even death itself with the peace and calmness of an unwavering faith, may accomplish for the gospel more than he could have effected by a long life of faithful labor. Often when the servant of God is withdrawn from active duty, the mysterious providence which our shortsighted vision would lament is designed by God to accomplish a work that otherwise would never have been done.
“Let not the follower of Christ think, when he is no longer able to labor openly and actively for God and His truth, that he has no service to render, no reward to secure. Christ’s true witnesses are never laid aside. In health and sickness, in life and death, God uses them still.”—Ibid., p.465.
3. VICTORIOUS CHARITY
a. How can the Christian steward gain the victory over wrong words and attitudes? James 3:2, 10–12; Ezekiel 36:25, 26.
“The most careful cultivation of the outward proprieties and courtesies of life has not sufficient power to shut out all fretfulness, harsh judgment, and unbecoming speech. The spirit of genuine benevolence must dwell in the heart. Love imparts to its possessor grace, propriety, and comeliness of deportment. Love illuminates the countenance and subdues the voice; it refines and elevates the entire man. It brings him into harmony with God, for it is a heavenly attribute.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 559, 560.
b. Through what experiences can we learn the unfailing power of love? 2 Corinthians 8:1–5; 1 John 5:1–4.
“The opposition we meet may prove a benefit to us in many ways. If it is well borne, it will develop virtues which would never have appeared if the Christian had nothing to endure. And faith, patience, forbearance, heavenly mindedness, trust in Providence, and genuine sympathy with the erring, are the results of trial well borne. These are the graces of the Spirit, which bud, blossom, and bear fruit amid trials and adversity. Meekness, humility, and love always grow on the Christian tree. If the word is received into good and honest hearts, the obdurate soul will be subdued, and faith, grasping the promises, and relying upon Jesus, will prove triumphant. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith’ [1 John 5:4].”—The Review and Herald, June 28, 1892.
“Unexpected disappointments will come. Jesus was often grieved at the hardness of heart of the people, and you will have a similar experience. Your prayers, your tears, your entreaties, may fail to awaken a response. Hearts are dead in trespasses and sins. There seems to be no penitence, but only indifference and opposition, and from some even contempt, when you looked for certain victory. But you are not to relax your efforts. If one refuses, turn to another. Have faith that the Comforter will do the work which it is impossible for you to do. Have faith in all the blessed promises which Christ has given you. Work with charity and invincible courage, for you must do this if you would succeed. ‘Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not’ [Galatians 6:9].”—The Signs of the Times, November 30, 1891.
4. ENDURING LOVE
a. What is unique about the plant of charity? 1 Corinthians 13:8 (first part).
“We are to see in our fellowman the purchase of the blood of Christ. If we have this love one for another, we shall be growing in love for God and the truth. We have been pained at heart to see how little love is cherished in our midst. Love is a plant of heavenly origin, and if we would have it flourish in our hearts, we must cultivate it daily. Mildness, gentleness, long-suffering, not being easily provoked, bearing all things, enduring all things—these are the fruits upon the precious tree of love.”—The Review and Herald, June 5, 1888.
“In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which ‘seeketh not her own’ has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 20.
b. What should encourage the Christian steward in laboring for souls purchased by the blood of Christ? Galatians 5:1.
“[In the school of the hereafter] all who have wrought with unselfish spirit will behold the fruit of their labors. The outworking of every right principle and noble deed will be seen. Something of this we see here. But how little of the result of the world’s noblest work is in this life manifest to the doer! How many toil unselfishly and unweariedly for those who pass beyond their reach and knowledge! . . . So gifts are bestowed, burdens are borne, labor is done. Men sow the seed from which, above their graves, others reap blessed harvests. They plant trees, that others may eat the fruit. They are content here to know that they have set in motion agencies for good. In the hereafter the action and reaction of all these will be seen.
“Of every gift that God has bestowed, leading men to unselfish effort, a record is kept in heaven. To trace this in its wide-spreading lines, to look upon those who by our efforts have been uplifted and ennobled, to behold in their history the outworking of true principles—this will be one of the studies and rewards of the heavenly school.”—Education, pp. 305, 306.
5. THE BOND OF PERFECTION
a. Why is charity necessary in order for us to perfect Christian character? Colossians 3:14; 1 John 4:7–12.
“In our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy and the highest education are in service. And in the future state, untrammeled by the limitations of sinful humanity, it is in service that our greatest joy and our highest education will be found—witnessing, and ever as we witness learning anew ‘the riches of the glory of this mystery;’ ‘which is Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).”— Education, p. 309.
b. What is the greatest illustration of unfailing charity that will shine on throughout eternity? Zechariah 13:6.
“Our Redeemer will ever bear the marks of His crucifixion. Upon His wounded head, upon His side, His hands and feet, are the only traces of the cruel work that sin has wrought. Says the prophet, beholding Christ in His glory: ‘He had bright beams coming out of His side: and there was the hiding of His power’ (Habakkuk 3:4, margin). That pierced side whence flowed the crimson stream that reconciled man to God—there is the Saviour’s glory, there ‘the hiding of His power.’ ‘Mighty to save,’ (Isaiah 63:1), through the sacrifice of redemption, He was therefore strong to execute justice upon them that despised God’s mercy. And the tokens of His humiliation are His highest honor; through the eternal ages the wounds of Calvary will show forth His praise and declare His power.”—The Great Controversy, p. 674.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How should the Christian steward understand Matthew 7:12?
2. What results can charity achieve, even amidst difficulties?
3. How are we to benefit from trials?
4. Why is loving service never lost?
5. Where is life’s greatest joy and highest education found?