Sermons

Having the Grace to Give

November 8, 2015 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Miscellaneous

Topic: Giving Passage: 2 Corinthians 8:1–8:12

By now you know that we are talking about giving today. I think many people kind of panic when that topic comes up. Most everyone feels they struggle to make ends meet, to get house payments made and keep the cars running and all that. And to think of one more place for money to go causes panic. Also most Christians have heard some really harsh, threatening, even heartless and mean things said about giving. And when you have been beaten up you tend to not want to go back for more. We're not going to do that but...I would like to have a heart to heart talk with you this morning about giving money. This is something I feel we have a need in, as a church. And I want to talk about the very practical area of giving to the church.

There are many people and organizations to give to, and I cannot give you a rule book on who you ought to give to. We are to give to the poor and hungry. We are to support those who labor in preaching the gospel and planting churches. I strongly believe in supporting missionaries like Brian and Mandee, or Rami Haselah, Jean and Tiesa, or Gospel for Asia missionaries in India, ministries like Compassion that feed and help the poor, ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, who support persecuted believers. I believe in giving soap or jam or bringing meals to one another, all that is right and good...

But there ARE Biblical reasons for ALSO giving to your church. Galatians 6:6 says, “Anyone who receives instruction in the Word, must share all good things with his instructor”. NASB puts it this way, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with him who teaches”. IE you give materially to where you are blessed spiritually. If someone is sowing spiritually into your life you share back with them what you can give them. If a ministry is blessing you spiritually you share with them materially. If Real Life Church is blessing you, feeding you, encouraging you, teaching you, then you give something back.

Another reason for giving to your church is found in 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the scripture says, … “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain” and, “The worker is worthy of his wages”. Very plainly, believers are to give to their local churches so they can pay a proper wage to the elders who preach and teach. A person who teaches school is worthy of being paid for it. A person who drives a truck is worthy of being paid. A person who work in an office is worthy of being paid for it. The Bible says an elder, who teaches the word is worthy of being paid. In order for that to happen people have to give money to the church.

Sometimes elders are not paid, and personally, I am not paid anything from RLC. Sometimes, like the apostle Paul, elders are tent-makers, and they provide for some, or all, of their own income. Josh supported himself like that for several years. But a couple of years ago we made the move to have a paid pastor.

So we pay Josh a modest salary, especially when you consider that out of the amount paid, he must pay his own health insurance, employment taxes, retirement and other benefits that employers generally cover. Luke is paid a small allowance for his hours of work as worship leader. We pay Brian and Mandee monthly as a church, in addition to what monthly support many of you give to them. Then we have rent expenses, that's a big one, $33,000 year. Last year we had charitable contributions of about $10,000, church van expense, insurance, on and on. I am not going to get into the details of the church budget, but just want to make the point that it takes money to exist and function as a church.

Someone might say, the church is not about buildings and money. And there is truth in that! Our core purposes is to proclaim Christ and to present every person mature in him, but just like during the days of the NT church, it takes money to do that. Your family is not about houses and money YET it takes money to have a family. All ministry takes money to function. Even Jesus and the disciples had to have money to travel from town to town as they did. Luke tells us a group of women traveled with them and supported them from their own means.

The reality is, if we want to have a building and a pastor, we have to give dollars to make that happen. If we want to have chairs to sit in, bathrooms to use, we have to give dollars to make that happen. If we want places to park, rooms for Sunday school, youth praise band and on and on, it takes many people giving regularly and substantially to make that happen.
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We have never coerced people to give. We have never made money a big issue. We have never wanted people who could NOT give, feel that they were not welcome here. There ARE churches that are always pressuring people for money, always reminding people how far their giving fell short of the budget, there are churches that send people to your house to get you to promise to give so much. Many churches use professional fund-raising techniques to maximize contributions. We don't do that and won't do that. But we CAN go too far the other way, thinking it is somehow inappropriate to talk about giving to the church. It is something we need to talk about, so that you will NOT miss out on the blessing of giving!

Now before I go any further, I want to say this: At some point in many of our lives all we can do is receive. All we can do is let others carry the financial load. And if that is truly where you are, I place no burden on you this morning. But for most of us God's plan is that we move to a place in life where we not only meet our own needs but have something left over to give. And part of our responsibility as elders is to bring you to maturity, in all areas, including the area of faithful, planned, regular giving to the ministry.
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Now with that background, I want to talk from 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 about giving. There was a specific, crucial need that had arisen for the Christians in Jerusalem. This was not a regular church offering. It was an emergency offering for people in dire need.

The Jewish believers in Jerusalem were experiencing persecution and poverty. They were outcasts, despised by the Jews. Their property was confiscated. Their businesses failed and their families disowned them. And, on top of all that, there was a famine. So many of the Gentile churches decided to take up a collection to give to their persecuted Jewish brothers and sisters. The Corinthians had a great enthusiasm to help these saints, they had promised a gift, but had not actually ever got around to making their contribution. So Paul seeks to stir them up and help them to complete their good intentions. Part of the way he does this is to tell about believers from the Macedonian churches who also gave to this need. In these two chapter we find some of the richest truths in the Bible about giving. I am going to pull these out and share with you as the Holy Spirit helps me to do that.
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*It takes grace to make us givers! 2Cor 8:1 “And now, brothers we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian Churches.” What grace did God give the Macedonians? The grace to give money. Grace causes us to say no to sin, it moves us to love God and other people. It also makes us givers. Vs 7 calls this the “grace of giving”. It is a work of God in your heart to enable you to do something you ordinarily wouldn't do.

Only grace can liberate us from the natural tendency to CLING to our money.
We are self protective by nature. If it is 10 below zero we go inside. It is human instinct to protect our selves, our money and our possessions. That's why you deposit your money at the bank, or put it in your billfold, or your purse. It is not natural for us to want to part with our money. It is natural to think only of our own needs. It is natural to never think we have enough money. Therefore, We never think we have enough to give. But God's grace makes us givers of money. It is instinctive in the heart of every born again person to be a giver.

*Because it is a work of God, Grace giving cannot be humanly explained.
8:2,3 “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” Robertson - Apparently Paul had been reluctant to press the Macedonians because of their manifest poverty. They demanded the right to have a share in it.

From a human standpoint they don't have enough to give! They are in severe trial. Only “the grace God gave them” can explain what they did! I am all for planned, logical giving! But yet our giving should not always be restrained by careful human logic and reasoning. We need to let the grace of God teach us to give.
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*Giving is to over-flow out of giving ourselves first to God
2 Corinthians 8:5 “And they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.” There is no reason to talk about giving money until you give yourself to the Lord, then giving comes out from that. Until we abandon ourselves, our future, our plans, to the Lord every dollar is a battle. But if you give your life to the Lord, then giving in big and small ways flows out of you according to the will of God.

***We should seek to excel in giving.
Vs 7 “But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in earnestness, and in your love for us – see that you EXCEL in the grace of giving”.

We want our kids to excel in school, or sports; do you want them to excel in giving? You may be very good at sales or coaching or parenting or cooking, or fixing up things; do you want to excel in giving? You may even excel in faith, or in speech (maybe you are a good teacher), in knowledge (know the word..)... But Paul says, “Whatever else you are good, also do well in this area of giving!!”.
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***Grace giving cannot be coerced or forced.
Vs 9 “I am not commanding you”... NASV “I give you this not as an order”
Grace giving cannot be under compulsion. Even under this dire situation of need!

Paul doesn't pull out the OT law of the tithe. Grace giving is not externally imposed but inwardly motivated by the Spirit of God. Terry Virgo said, “The New Covenant did not change believers giving from 10% to 15% or cut it to 7%. The powerful New Covenant produced people who were joined to one another in love. The grace of God knitted their hearts so profoundly that their pocketbooks were touched and generous sharing characterized them.”

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. It matters to God whether we give reluctantly or cheerfully, grudgingly or eagerly, under compulsion or willingly. God wants Cheerful, eager, willing givers! In 9:2, Paul said to these believers “I know your EAGERNESS to help” and “your enthusiasm has stirred others to action”. These are the things he commends! Those at Macedonia “gave entirely on their own”, they “urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints”! That is what God wants!

Giving that is demanded and commanded ruins the VERY thing God is looking for in our heart! So many offerings are collected through pressure and guilt and manipulation. I listen to a lot of Christian radio and over the years gave regularly to some of them. But I always am a little concerned if a program is regularly saying, “If you don't send in money today to me, my ministry is going off the air”. In certain circles, when an offering is collected the person up front will turn it into a kind of “guilt laden séance”. “Every head bowed, every eye closed. I sense that God is telling someone here to give $10,000 and if you don't do that your business will fall apart.” It is interesting that in Corinthians it doesn't say to listen to what God tells us to give. He says decide in your own heart. He wants a willing, eager gift.

Warren Wiersbe said, “During my years of ministry, I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed and threatened (into giving), and more than once I gave less than I planned because I was so disgusted with (this kind of) worldly approach.
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***Grace Giving can (and should) be stirred up.
Because we do not impose compulsory giving does NOT mean we are NOT to stir up the practice of giving. Grace does not mean no exhortation!! People confuse this all the time. If someone is corrected or admonished or challenged, in our church culture, they say, where's the grace? We are to give outward promptings to go with inner promptings of grace. The main way Paul stirred up these Christians at Corinth was by sharing the story of how others gave out of their severe trials and poverty. He shared about the earnestness of others! He shared how those at Macedonia gave with overflowing joy.....he did that to stir up the grace of giving.

A guy I knew named Mike Merit took on an extra job. I was a little surprised, he was plenty busy. So I asked him why. He said, “So I can have some extra money to give”. I thought man this guy takes giving seriously! The affect it had on me was to stir me to give!

Grace giving will be stirred up as we think of the example of Christ.
Most of us have heard 2 Cor 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you might become rich.” That verse was give to stir up the grace of giving money! Jesus left the riches of Heaven and experienced the poverty of suffering and death on a cross for OUR sakes! We are rich in peace with God, we are not condemned, we are not facing penalty for our sins, we have the riches of Christ's righteousness. His generosity is to move our hearts to generosity!
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***Grace giving means we actually do give! Some people have the mistaken idea that grace means never doing anything! “Man I am just living by grace, not committed to anything or anybody!” The Christians at Corinth had heard the need of the believers in Jerusalem, they had a desire to give to it, they had promised to give. But time passed and they had done nothing. So Paul wrote to them 2 Corinthians 8:11 “Now finish the work, (of giving) so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it according to your means”.

You may be stirred to give, motivated, you get this warm feeling in your heart when you imagine giving (to that person or the church or some ministry). But there has to come a time when you actually pull out the check book! Or open your billfold.
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*Giving is to be proportional. 1 Corinthians 16:2 says, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money, in keeping with his income, saving it up so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”. Or “As God has prospered you”. Or “In proportion to what you have”.

2 Corinthians 8:11, 12 says, to give “according to your means” and your gift is “acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”.
God is not asking you to give what you do not have! He knows, he sees.

Those with more money can and should give substantial amounts. But some, who “give out of their poverty”, may be only able to give a small amount of change or a few dollars. God is pleased with both.

***GIVING IS LIKE SOWING SEED!
When you give you have less, right? You had $200. If you give $100 you have $100 left. You will never see it again! NO. It is like sowing seed: You lose it for awhile in anticipation that something greater will come back. If you sow more you will reap more back from God!

Vs 10,11 “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion...” It says you will be made rich in every way. What does that mean? Just what it says! And so that you can be even more generous on more occasions.

Most people approach giving by thinking, “After I have finally make enough money for myself then I can give”. But that never happens, so giving is always postponed. God says the way to have abundance is to give generously. Giving is a statement of faith. Giving is saying, I believe that God exists and I believe that he is a rewarder! I believe what he says about sowing and reaping.

One of the reasons I want to talk with you about giving is so that you will not miss out on a reward. We do not preach a prosperity gospel, that says God wants every Christian to be rich. But in reaction against that we have to be careful that we do not downplay the scriptural truth that we will be blessed in giving. The statements of the Bible about being blessed for giving, are almost to numerous to know where to start. 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”. Unless we spiritualize that, he is talking about sowing money and reaping money.

God bless the Navigators – one of the firsts verses they had us memorize was Proverbs 3:9 “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine”. Here is an example not only of reward for giving, but of the principle of faith in giving – you give of the first... believing God will bless the rest.

Some say you should never think of being blessed for giving but the scripture is full of verses that say give and you will be blessed. So are we supposed to ignore that part of the verse? Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. (Who does not want that?).. For with the measure you use, it will be measured BACK to you.” I know people have abused these truths and told people you give to my ministry and you are going to get rich. But we should not deny the plain meaning of verses because some have abused them.
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Plan your giving. 1 Corinthians 16:2 says, “Now about the collection for God's people; Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money, in keeping with his income, saving it up so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”. You look at what God says. You talk it over with your spouse. You decide in your heart, and you do it. Planned regular giving is biblical way to give. It becomes just as much a part of you as paying your rent or you house payment.

Start somewhere. I know some people would have problems with this but Larry Burkett would tell people if you have never given before give 3% and then see if you are not better off, in every way, at the end of the year for having given to the Lord. Then increase that amount..... The point was to start!

We plan, Lord willing, to move into a our own building early next year. We close on the building January 1st but it will likely take about 3 months to make some of the changes we have to make to meet code and have it ready for us to use. I would love to see our hearts stirred up as a church, overflowing in generosity, to give big and small gifts, to pay off the building and order chairs and make the needed changes.

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