The Grace of Giving

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

1 Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.
2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.
4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately, not all church members understand what I am about to say, but ‘Giving’ financially to the support of your church and Christ kingdom is a ministry. Our word minister is translated from the Greek word for ‘serve.’ It is related to agency or instrumentality and in the Christians sense, it is God working through you to serve or help others {8:1}. You have the distinct privilege of helping countless numbers of people by giving.

……………….

Let me give you an example, one that is very fresh. June’s nephew Jason gave Joe David $2,000 for the Guatemala Trip but Joe David already had all the bases covered so they used the money to feed hungry people. The money Jason gave will feed 30 families for three months. God used Jason through the agency of GRACE MINISTRIES to serve, to help 30 Guatemalan families. Jason got involved in the MINISTRY OF GIVING and through the ministry of Joe David’s team and Teddy’s organization thirty families were helped.

………………..

One more example: You can give a dollar to the Gideon’s in memory of Tom and they will purchase and place a N.T. in the hand of a child, soldier, nurse, etc. You can donate $5 and they will place a bible in a hospital room or motel. The Gideon’s are an international agency, in more than 200 countries. They have distributed over 2 billion bibles in 95 languages. My friend Rodney Lamar Browning was saved by one of those bibles in a motel room in NYC back in 1970. My daughter Hannah was saved when a Gideon speaker came to DBC 34 years ago. Here is the thing: if you give a dollar of five, you must give it by faith. You will never know if someone came to know Christ due to your gift, not in this life, but by placing that small gift into the hands of such an effective agency the odds are in your favor. Isn’t this exciting! Not to some Baptist.

So I want to talk to you tonight about the MINISTRY OF GIVING and we will use the Philippians as an example….Note how they gave…

I. THEY GAVE SACRIFICALLY

[v.2-3] They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosityFor I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.

………………..

The Macedonian churches {Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea} were being persecuted and suffering financially from the persecution. The churches were having a hard time financially. I don’t think Paul wanted them to take part because he says himself that they were very poor. I guess someone forgot to tell them their were poor because they not only gave, they gave more than they could afford and far more than Paul expected.

I think you would agree that most people give what they can afford and very few give more. William Barclay says, “It is not always those who are wealthy who are most generous.” Our problem is that we confuse Generosity with the amount. Jesus doesn’t get these confused. In Luke 21 we have an example of what I am talking about….

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Our generosity is determined by what we have left after we give. We are not to give with the motive of getting back. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. For our gift to be a sacrifice, we have to give up something.

………………..

Several weeks ago, I got a call from the precious lady who took care of June and I in Seminary. She will be 90 her birthday. She can’t drive and her grandkids have put her in an assisted living in Metorie Louisana which is a suberb of New Orleans. She had talked her son in to bringing her home for two or three days {Ashville, Ala} and wanted to know if I could come and see her and so June and I went down. Her late husband was a truck driver and made good money but he didn’t save it so all she has is a SS check which isn’t much. When June and I were in Seminary, we thought they were rich because her husband was making $600 a week, a lot of money in 1971. Knowing that she has a hard time and feeling a debt to her for all she did for us, I gave her half of my allowance for gas money. I thought about it before I gave and I felt I should give it without expecting any return so I gave it and I was broke by Thursday of the week. I was at Huntsville Hospital on Friday of that week and all I had was the change in the ask tray of the car. Fifty dollars would be no sacrifice to most folks but it was to me because it meant I had to give up some things in order to give it. I have a friend, a good friend who give $500 per week to his church building fund. This is not his tithe, it is an offering on top of what he already gives. This means he gives $26,000 per year to the building fund, which is a lot more than I give entirely. I’ve been told that he is worth 8-10 million dollars.

II. THEY GAVE FREELY

[v.3] For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

They exercised their free will

The Philippians were poor people because they were being persecuted. Not only did the Jews hate and mistreat Christians, the Roman world was not fond of them either. It had cost the Philippians to follow Christ but they were not complaining. As a matter of fact, Paul was shocked at their generous gift. 

………………..

How did the Philippians come to be so generous? {ANSWER} They choose to of their own free will. Why was Tom Bennich generous? At some point in his life, he made a decision, “I want to be remembered as a generous man.” No one forced Tom to be generous and no one is going to force you. I told Edith last week that Tom had a disciple that he didn’t know anything about. Tom’s generosity so impressed a certain young man that he said, “I want to be like Tom.” Actually two men made a huge impression on this young man, Tom’s impression was on the positive side but the other man was a miser. The young man looked at the contrast and he said, “I want to be like Tom.”

………………..

If you are saying “Its too late,” you could be right or you could be wrong, that too is up to you. Ebeneezer Scrooge was an old man before he learned to give and so was John D. Rockefeller. The doctor told Rockefeller to prepare for his death because he could not digest food. Once Rockefeller realized that the doctor was serious and that he was going to die, he made a change and began giving money away. Without him being aware of what was going on or what made the difference, he began to digest his food and get better physically. Greed was literally killing him and he lived for many more years.

………………..

So who makes the call, who determines whether or not you are going to get into the MINISTRY OF GIVING?  [ANSWER: You do! By exercising your free will] Look at 2 Corinthians 2:9, You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a cheerful giver.”

III. THEY GAVE THANKFULLY

{v.4} They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 

They understood the privilege of Giving

I gave $500 to the Mission Offering last Sunday and I enjoyed every minute of it. The check I put into the plate came from Edith Bennich. It was as easy as falling off a log. I was never tempted to keep the money. I was simply giving for someone else. Edith used me as an instrument, an agent to give in her behalf. I was having so much fun in the process that I had a thought: giving someone else’s money is easier than giving your own. Then I had another thought: every dime I have given belonged to someone else.

………………..

The only reason I can give, the only reason you can give is because God has given to us first. He is allowing you the privilege of being His agent in the ministry of giving but it is HIS MONEY that you and I are giving. God could very easily take away your privilege to give by taking away your ability to give. The Philippians did not want to miss the privilege of giving to the Christians in Jerusalem. They wanted a part in this ministry. Evidently, Paul didn’t ask them to participate because their condition was as bad or worse than that in Jerusalem. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.

IV.  THEY GAVE SPIRITUALLY 

{v.5} They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

How do we give spiritually?

  1. Pray about what you are to give. Let God direct you in your giving. You will give what you can afford but sometimes God will challenge you to give more than you can afford.
  2. Commit your life to him before you give money. God does not want your money or necessarily need it, He wants YOU. Money is easier to give than “self.” Those who pretend to be committed yet do not give are only fooling themselves. Giving is a test of your love, to see if it is genuine. You cannot stop love from giving. You can give without loving but you can’t love without giving.
Advertisements

What Is In It For Me?

Text: Matthew 19:27-30, NLT

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

INTRODUCTION

We live in a “Me Culture”. If we would take the time to look into our hearts, we would see that our ultimate concerns are about our self. We are preoccupied with our comfort, entertainment and bank accounts. None of these things are worthy of our devotion and yet we exalt these temporal things to the level of deity. These things become our god. John warned us {I John 2:15-17, The VOICE}…Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s willthat person will never cease to be. Wow, this needs no commentary. Don’t fall in love with this Christ hating culture. The only thing they can offer is [1] seduction to sin [2] a passion for greed [3] and a spirit of pride.

When Peter witnessed Jesus in conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, his first question after the young man walked away stunned and in grief was: We have left everything to follow you, what’s in it for us.” That guy just refused to leave his possession behind but You promised him a treasure if he gave them up, well that is what we did, we gave them up. Now what should we expect?

Three things I want to say about this selfish question…

[1] I am not amazed at the question but I am amazed at Jesus response. It is a self-centered question that reveals a selfish motive.  I am shocked and stunned that Jesus did not chew Peter out for being so self-centered. I suppose Jesus understood that Peter was simply articulating what all of them were thinking. We have given up everything, what are we going to get in return? Do you ever think such thoughts? What is in this for me? I concluded years ago that either I am a lot like Peter or else he is a lot like me. I talk too much and listen too little. I always have an answer even if it is wrong. Remember the proverb, “Remain silent and folks may think you are a fool but if you speak up, you remove all doubt.” Hey, I remove the doubt. In this story we have impetus Peter at his best, talking before thinking. Surely had he given thought and meditation to what he was thinking, he would not have asked Jesus such a selfish question. I bet the other disciples cringed thinking…Peter is fixing to get it again. The last time this happened, Jesus told him he was full of Satan. But Jesus does not rebuke Peter. Maybe this is a question that we humans cannot help but ask: perhaps it is our nature. Whatever, Jesus does not go off on Peter.

About three years ago our staff was traveling together, two men and two women, and we stopped to eat. Of course it was my favorite restaurant and I knew what I wanted. The waiter got our drinks {tea and coke} and came back to take our order. “Are you ready to place your order or do you need more time?” I blurted out, “I know what I want,” and my son who is my associate gave me a funny look. I said, “What?” By this time both the ladies in our party are laughing. So I repeat, “What is so funny, what did I do?” My son said tactfully, “Its customary to let ladies order first.” Then I said, “But I am paying for the meal.” He said, “It doesn’t matter who is paying, to be polite, you let the ladies order first.” I didn’t like what he said but I knew he was right and I felt a bit of shame, very little,  I suppose, because it did not effect my appetite. So, I decided that day to make a change. LORD, with your help, I am going to give preference to others and go last. Long story short, it has been a struggle.

So Peter ask a self-centered question that reveals a self-centered nature. It is not like we are shocked but the gentle way that Jesus deals with Peter is amazing.

[2] I am equally amazed that Christ would share His kingdom. Jesus said, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact we find an amazing verse in Luke 12:32…“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Can you believe this? God has already made a decision to give us the kingdom. Luke 22:28-29…You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Tonight we are going to get into Chapter 20 and the story that Jesus tells to illustrate the Father’s nature in giving. The parable is an illustration of God’s infinite and gracious generosity. God is generous to the infinite degree. Let’s say that together…God is generous. God gives and gives and gives again. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9…You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul teaches us about giving… Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You cannot out give the LORD of the Harvest. You have no chance of being more generous than God. The more you give, the more He gives and He has deeper pockets.

I like 2 Corinthians 9 in the VOICE…The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God.

I want you to think about the resources that God has blessed you with.

There are over 7 billion people on earth: 68% have a net worth that is less than $10,000…23% have a net worth of less than $100,000 which due to debt would include some of us…7.5% are under the 1 Million dollar mark and .5% are over 1 Million. I’m not sure how accurate these stats are: we have several multi-millionaires in Morgan County.

Anyway you cut it, we are rich. The Democratic Republic of the Congo {Zaire} has an average annual income of less than $300 per year for a family. You are rich and so am I. Why did God allow us to have such wealth? For the same reason He gives us the ability to work, it is so we can give. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul said, If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. God has blessed us with wealth so we can give generously. We are never more like Christ than when we give generously. {Block Party}

[3] The third thing that amazes me is the rate of return that Jesus promised-100 fold. No one pays those kind of dividends. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “I will multiply your investment into my ministry 100 fold and then I will throw in ETERNAL LIFE as a bonus. Folks, you cannot beat an offer like that. If you have $10,000 in your 401-K and you got blessed 100 fold, you would have a million dollars. If you have $100,000–you would have 10 million dollars. Before you misunderstand, I need to clarify something, Jesus seldom pays in cash but He is good for His word and you will reap 100 fold.

I left home when I was 22 years old. I moved from Athens, Alabama to New Orleans, La. where I enrolled in Seminary. I’ve been gone 43 years. My Father retired the year after I left and he lived 20 more years after retiring. I missed his retirement years but fortunately I was only 45 miles away. All my siblings see each other every Sunday, I see them about 4 times a year. When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a sacrifice but looking back, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all. I can say that Jesus has blessed me 100-fold. I’ve had a mother on every church field and a good one. I have had father figures on every field and some very good ones. I have countless brothers and sisters. I pastored a church in rural Mississippi for 18 months way back in 1973-4 and just last month, three of my dear sisters came for a visit. I talked to another friend in that same church today. Just last Friday, the church I pastored right out of Seminary called and ask me to meet them at the Amish Restaurant which is near Danville. I went up and spent more than an hour with these friends.

We are going to talk about God’s generous nature tonight but let me say in closing: you, nor one billion like you are going to out give God. Your pockets are not deep enough to out give Jesus Christ. Listen, everything in this creation belongs to HIM. If He wants something, He can take it or create it out of nothing. You and I are not trying to bail God out when we give to His kingdom. What He really wants from us is our heart. He wants a clean and pure motive. He does not want us to give to get but to give to get to give again so we can be like Him.