“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let that steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” — James 1:2-4
As the clock turned midnight and the new year began, many of us had no idea what 2020 had in store. From a pandemic to unrest to continued division, cancellations and upheaval, this year has been unlike any in our lifetimes. These are heavy days for sure.
The book of James has advice for us when we are going through trying times: “Count it all joy.” But what exactly does that mean and what does it possibly have to do with stewardship?
James tells us that even in the face of difficulty, we can respond with joy as we rest in the knowledge that God is producing something good. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel overwhelmed, sad, helpless or even lost. But, in spite of these feelings, we can find joy. Our steadfast faith makes us complete, even though COVID-19 has upended our familiar lives. God is with us always and we can trust God will provide what we need for whatever comes our way as individuals, families and communities of faith.
Count it all joy. When we view life through a lens of gratitude, even if it’s just identifying one thing from the day for which we are thankful, we become more like the stewards God created us to be. Again, this doesn’t mean we won’t feel grief in the face of all that’s happening; rather, it means:
- Focusing on how God is at work in both the good and the bad
- Recognizing the abundant ways God is blessing us through it all
- Responding with joy and generosity of our own
(Pause for a moment and say a quick “thank you” to God for something you’re thankful for today.)
Learning & growing, together
Your Moravian Ministries Foundation (MMFA) helps individuals experience the joy of stewardship in a variety of ways. One of the main ways we’ve been doing this in 2020 is through online workshops for small groups, such as Sunday School classes, men’s or women’s groups, or even boards. Workshop topics include:
- Identifying your spiritual gifts: What does the Bible say about spiritual gifts, which ones do you have, and how can you use them for God’s work in the world?
- Writing your giving autobiography: Who taught you what it means to be generous? What are some stewardship practices you remember from your childhood? What gifts that you’ve made or received have meant the most to you and why? Through questions like these, the giving autobiography is a meaningful way to reflect on how you learned about generosity and how you’ve experienced the joy of stewardship.
- Exploring how your values impact your spending: I can say I value my health, but if my bank account reveals charges at McDonalds and Krispy Kreme, and my car is full of candy bar wrappers and empty milkshake cups, then what I do with my money doesn’t line up with what matters to me. The values-based spending workshop is a great way to identify steps to ensure your treasure goes towards what’s important to you.
Acting on faith
MMFA also helps you experience the joy of stewardship by working with you to discover and clarify your goals and create a plan to achieve them. Your gift could be something as simple as a bequest, or it could be one made during your lifetime, such as a Donor Advised Fund or Perpetual Fund. It is a real blessing to know your financial stewardship can continue to bless others, even beyond your lifetime. Some plans can provide income for you or others, or a tax benefit.
Would you like to make a gift in your will to preserve what matters to you, your family, your church and your Moravian community? MMFA would be happy to help make your goals a reality.
Have you set up your financial pledge as a recurring gift? Once you decide on the amount of your commitment, it is easy to put your plan into action as a recurring, scheduled monthly gift on the Moravian Giving Portal. Or, you can use your bank’s online services to schedule recurring gifts, just like you pay bills. Scheduling a recurring gift can provide the joy of knowing you are always giving from the first fruits of God’s blessings.
Experiencing joy & gratitude
Count it all joy. What else can you do now, in the midst of the trials, to be steadfast in your faith and experience the joy of being God’ steward? Here are four steps:
- Look upward. The Bible gives us many joyful role models to follow, from Sarah to Ruth to Paul and Barnabas. The Bible is full of examples of people who endured unimaginable hardships but found joy nonetheless. Spend some time reading their stories. Then, remember our joy is complete when it is shared and experienced in community, not when it is kept to ourselves. How can joy flow through you to others?
- Look inward. Make a list of the ways you’ve given of your time, talent and treasure over the last several months. Which gifts meant the most to you? If you’ve been struggling to reimagine your stewardship as in-person opportunities remain limited, spend some time in prayer. How is God calling you to serve and to give back?
- Look outward. Contact MMFA to lead an online workshop with a group in your congregation. Consider who shares your “stewardship joys” and how you might be able to work with that person to do new things. Look at the needs in your church, your neighborhood and your community. Where can your gifts make a difference and bring you joy?
- Set goals. Set three stewardship goals to accomplish or specific actions we’ve mentioned to take before the end of 2020. We encourage one of those to be taking a look at your budget and then taking the faithful step of making a financial commitment to your community of faith for 2021.
Count it all joy. Perhaps easier read than done, but as people of faith, we will try, knowing God is with us every step of the way.
Laura Watson is director of stewardship services for the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America. www.mmfa.info