Three Ways Steward Leaders Break the Cycle of Abundance
How to lead faithfully in times of abundance
In times of scarcity we, as godly leaders, spend time on our knees, trusting God to be our provider, leaning on him for all of our needs, and surrendering our organization and it’s future to him. This is a God-pleasing posture, attitude and spirit for a steward leader and the organization he or she leads. However, too often in times of abundance we get off our knees and stand on our own two feet, look into a mirror with a sense of pride in our own accomplishments, trust in the skills and abilities of ourselves and our team, pat ourselves on the back for what we’ve accomplished, and place our security in God’s blessings instead of in God Himself.
Charles Spurgeon warns,
“The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought through the very mercies and bounties of God!” (1)
I believe more leaders and their organizations have been ruined by abundance than scarcity. More sins have been caused by self-reliance due to God’s abundance than through full reliance on God in times of scarcity. Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote sums this up, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”(2) With abundance comes the opportunity to exert control, and control is power.
This is what we might call the ‘abundance cycle’. It looks like this. The cycle usually begins in times of scarcity when we pray for God’s provision and deliverance. When we have been tried in the fire God responds by blessing us and we find ourselves enjoying a season of abundance. However, instead of investing our resources as frugally and faithfully as we did when in times of scarcity, we fall to the temptation of spending more than we need to, storing up treasures in which we put our trust, and letting our abundance lead us away from total dependence on God. In order to correct us, bring us back to our knees and re-focus our full attention on Him, God blesses us with yet another time of scarcity and holds us there until He once again has our complete trust and obedience. Once that happens He may choose to bless us again with abundance to see if we are prepared to steward it faithfully. If we fail, the cycle starts again.
Put another way, in times of scarcity we get lean, focus on mission, and learn to do more with less. We become more efficient and are more faithful stewards of the precious resources God gives us. However, when we face a time of abundance we are tempted to move off of mission, spend money and time on things we normally wouldn’t, become more lax in scrutinizing our spending policies, and store God’s abundance for ourselves as treasures on earth in which we place our security in place of God.
How do we break the cycle? We need to be faithful stewards of our organizations in times of abundance. Here are three keys for how steward leaders can lead faithfully in times of abundance.
1. When resources increase don’t decrease your spending scrutiny.
Abundance breeds discontentment. What was satisfactory and wholly acceptable in times of leanness can become intolerable when we are blessed with abundance. When resources increase we can long to replace things that once were fully adequate with things that we do not need, convincing ourselves that we do.
I worked with an organization that had a choice between two different proposals for an important process. The less expensive one was fully adequate, and they were convinced it would supply everything they needed. Even though the more expensive proposal included some nice extras, everyone agreed the right decision was to go with the less expensive proposal. Then they found they were coming into a time of financial surplus and what did they do? They chose the more expensive proposal just because they could. This is the danger of letting abundance overrule sound management and the wise stewardship of God’s resources. It’s the beginning of the downward cycle.
Steward leaders guard against such tendencies and lead their organizations with biblical integrity in times of abundance, faithfully managing all of God’s resources.
2. Revisit your mission, your core values, and your strategic plan more often.
Mission creep is a great temptation in times of abundance. Those programs or efforts that were rejected in times of scarcity because they did not further the core mission now become tantalizing temptations when money is available. In times of financial shortage, organizations often trim extraneous programs and find at the end they are more mission-focused as a result. Be careful, steward leader that you do not allow your organization to get outside of its mission and core values just because resources are available.
Steward leaders take this is the time to be vigilant and ensure that every resource is spent furthering the core purpose for which God called you.
3. Publicly and privately give God the glory for your abundance and watch for every small instance of shifting security to the blessings instead of the provider.
This is perhaps the most insidious temptation in times of abundance. When we take those blessings that God has provided and put them in warehouses in order to provide us with a sense of security for the future, we run the very real risk of shifting our trust from the provider to the resources. While some level of savings and even modest endowment might be defensible, far too often in times of abundance organizations build up earthly storehouses instead of releasing God’s abundance fully into God’s work. Remember, the same God that provided this abundance can be trusted to provide it again in the future.
“And my God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Steward leader will resist the temptation to shift trust into our bank accounts, and instead will ensure that God’s resources are used as God leads.
Be careful to guide your organizations away from every spirit that wants to store up treasures on earth and place our trust in them. When we do, the cycle begins again.
How will you steward your organization to be sure you break the cycle of abundance? Will you remain on your knees in full surrender and trust in God even when the resources are plentiful? Will you help your people keep their trust and focus on God as the provider and never let your organizational security shift from the One who blesses to the blessings themselves?
We will let Charles Spurgeon provide a closing word of warning.
“It is a divine lesson to know how to be full, for the Israelites were full once, but while the flesh was yet in their mouth, the wrath of God came upon them. Many have asked for mercies that they might satisfy their own hearts’ lust. Fullness of bread has often made fullness of blood, and that brought on wantonness of spirit. When we have much of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the bounties we have received. We are full and yet we forget God: satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven.” (3)
- Charles Spurgeon, Daily Devotionals: Morning Devotions for February 10, 43rd Element, LLC, Version 2.1.5, 2012
- Abraham Lincoln. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin101343.html, accessed February 10, 2016.