Let me remind you that our staff and ministry directors have established a new mission statement for the Christians at Teays Valley Church of God to prayerfully adopt. It is: As people on mission to glorify and obey God we are Becoming disciples, Blessing our community, Building up God’s Kingdom and Bringing all to ChristWe are becoming disciples. Who we are becoming translates into action. Our actions to bless our community and build up God’s kingdom will bring all to Christ.
Last week, we talked about one way to bless our community which was through doing good works. We read the encouragement from Gal 6:9-“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Disciples do good works.
Disciples also make good investments. Good works and giving go together. Listen to Deuteronomy 15:10. “Give generously…and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and everything you put your hand to.”
Where we invest ourselves and our resources speaks to the idea of building up God’s kingdom. What we do with what we have will tell us if we are building up God’s Kingdom or if we are living for ourselves.
Will you stand for the reading of God’s Word?
II Corinthians 8:1-7
1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 6 So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
The churches of Macedonia were the churches in Thessalonica, Phillipi and Berea. They had given liberally to the collection that Paul had taken up for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. Paul was using their example to encourage the Corinthian churches to take a look at their giving record. Were they living for themselves or were they building up the kingdom through giving?
The sense is that although the Macedonians, had gone through tough financial times, and had been persecuted, they rejoiced in giving to others who were in need. They couldn’t wait to give. They begged to have the opportunity to give.I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a church service where someone came so eager to give that he or she disrupted everything to beg that we simply take the offering first. Or that someone might be so into the idea of giving of his own resources that he says, “Hey wait a minute, let’s pass that plate again, I didn’t give enough the first time.” Yet, that is seemingly the attitude of these Macedonian churches. Though they had some needs, they didn’t quit giving just because they were in need, and they let their view of kingdom life and their love for God cause them to give generously to others.
Any kind of building requires resources. Those of you who have built a house can testify that it always costs more than you budgeted, but once the foundation is poured, you are committed. You simply move ahead with your commitment to build the house. You make good decisions about what it should look like. You sacrifice a sky light or a Jacuzzi tub along the way, but you stay with the project until it is finished.
Kingdom work is similar. Building the Kingdom requires financial investment. It requires effort, commitment, good decision making and sacrifice. One of the main differences, however, is that until Christ returns, our job as Kingdom Builders is never finished. Therefore, giving to God’s Kingdom is an ongoing effort, an ongoing commitment, and ongoing sacrifice.
I want to offer three principles regarding building up God’s kingdom through giving:
1. Kingdom Building Through Giving Requires an Undivided Heart.
We read in Deuteronomy 15:10, “Give generously…and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and everything you put your hand to.”
The story is told about George, an elderly gentleman, who would split his donut at the weekly men’s Bible study with a little boy named Stevie. One Sunday Stevie went to church with a sandwich bag full of Cheerios. George leaned over and asked Stevie if he could have some. Stevie reached in his bag, pulled out a Cheerio, and split it in half, giving George half a Cheerio! Stevie was so proud of himself for sharing. I think our view of our own generosity is skewed like that! God gives us so much, and we give Him back half a Cheerio!
We can’t expect God to bless the good works we do if they are done with a grudge in our hearts or a chip on our shoulders. After all, God isn’t asking us to give what we don’t have in order to build His Kingdom. He’s asking us to give what He has already given us, what we already have access to.
A pastor had a farmer friend in his congregation and they were talking over the fence one day. The pastor asked the farmer, “Abe, if you had one hundred horses, would you give me fifty?” Abe said, “Certainly.” The pastor asked, “If you had one hundred cows, would you give me fifty?” Abe said, “Yes.” Then the pastor asked, “If you had two pigs, would you give me one?” Abe said, “Now cut that out, pastor; you know I have two pigs!”
Building the Kingdom of God isn’t about committing to give funds if we inherit money or if some big windfall comes our way. It’s about consistently, faithfully, obediently giving what we already have with a cheerful heart.
The Macedonians were joyful, happy givers. They asked to give. Why could they have had that ridiculous attitude, ridiculous in the world’s sense-why could they have had that kind of attitude about giving? The key is found in II Corinthians 5-“And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
We can do that which is unexpected when we first devote ourselves to the Lord. Matthew 6:24 says, ““No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Your heart will be pulled in two directions until you settle just who your master is. You won’t be able to give ridiculously with great joy and become eager to do it until you settle who your master is. Kingdom Builders are disciples who have their hearts fixed on following Jesus. Period.
Matthew 6:19-21 and 24 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.There is nothing wrong with stuff. There is nothing wrong with taking vacations. There is nothing wrong with having a nice car or nice things. There is nothing wrong with hair, nails, and country club memberships. There is nothing wrong with electronic gadgets and the latest tools. If, however, the pursuit of those things and the possession of those things keeps you from being a ridiculous giver to the Kingdom of God, then you have a heart problem.
It doesn’t matter what your income is, if you’re living for that which you can’t afford and you are owned by your stuff because you are in debt to what you have, then you can’t give ridiculously with eagerness and without a grudging heart. Kingdom Builders are focused not on the here and now, but on building the Kingdom so that as many people can be a part of the Kingdom as possible.
Your heart is either ruled by God who transforms it into a GENEROUS HEART or it is ruled by sin that conforms it to the pattern of this world and makes it a GREEDY HEART that cannot enter the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5). “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” The opposite of generosity is greed, and this verse in Ephesians warns us that it can keep us from the Kingdom ourselves.How well you build the kingdom by investing your time, talent and treasure will be determined by who or what rules your heart. “God wants your heart. He isn’t looking just for donors for His kingdom, those who stand outside the cause and dispassionately consider acts of philanthropy. He’s looking for disciples immersed in the causes they give to. He wants people so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money, time and prayers where they will matter most.” Randy Alcorn.
In speaking to these Corinthians churches, Paul wanted them to take a look at their hearts and evaluate their own sincerity. Listen to verses seven and eight: 7 But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
The first part of our mission statement says we are “becoming disciples.” Disciples are those who regularly measure themselves against the standard who is Christ Jesus. How devoted are we? How sincere are we? Does the way we give reflect the true love of God? If our giving is the result of guilt rather than grace, then what is in our hearts needs to change. You see the Macedonian churches gave not because someone told them they should or must, but because they wanted to. Their giving was voluntary and they were eager to do it. You see, grace not only frees us from our sins, but it frees us from ourselves. The grace of God will open your heart and your hand.
2. Kingdom Building Through Giving Reflects God’s Grace
I don’t think I’ve ever seen greater productivity out of our children than when we have shown them some kind of special grace. When our kids deserve some major punishment and for whatever reason, we have a compassionate moment or a complete lapse of judgment that causes us to remove or lighten their sentence J, our kids become so sweet I’d recommend them to be ambassadors from the US to any country. All of the sudden it’s, “What can I do to help you, mom?” “I love you, mom.” “Mom, can I rub your feet?”
Listen, when you have experienced the grace of God in your life, when your sins are forgiven when you should have been flattened by the judgment hand of God, your behavior reflects that you have been given that grace. There is a change of heart, an altering of your attitude because of a gratitude and gratefulness in your spirit that just oozes out in the way you behave. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, you are just so thankful for grace instead of judgment that you can’t help but show it in the way you begin to look for opportunities to be a blessing.
Our kids will do all kinds of things after they have received grace that they would never have wanted to do and would have complained the whole time they were doing them. If I give Josh a “get out of jail free” card and show him grace in lessening some kind of discipline (which doesn’t happen often), that boy will wash the baseboards and wipe down the kitchen cabinets inside and out. Prior to receiving grace, it’s hard to get that boy to carry his clothes which I have washed and which I have folded, to his own room. But you give that boy some grace, and he is so grateful he’d use a toothbrush, get on his hands and knees and scrub anything you wanted him to.
Listen, these Macedonians were seriously thankful. Verse one of II Cor. 8 says they had received grace from God. Now, I don’t know how this grace came about, but since Paul links this received grace in verse one to trials and poverty in verse two, I’m guessing that these people had learned something about the goodness of God, the provision of God and had learned a contentment from just knowing God that didn’t depend on their circumstances that provided them with grace that motivated them to be grace agents in their world.
I’ve heard many people say that when they were first married or during a certain time in their lives, they were so poor that they didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but that as they looked back on those moments they were some of the best of their lives because it brought them closer together and taught them to trust more fully in the provision and plan of God. Trials and hardships can do that.
Listen, when God’s grace comes into our lives, it stabilizes us and motivates us like nothing else. We are motivated to put that grace on display and just like the Macedonians, we find ourselves doing and being things we never thought possible. What does II Cor. 8:3 say, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected . . .”
I’m telling you that the grace of God can enable us to do things that are ridiculously beyond ourselves. We’ll find ourselves in situations where we’ve accomplished something that can only be explained by pointing to God and saying, “He did it.” Turn to your neighbor and ask, “Are you ready to get ridiculous for God?”
When we began our “Let’s Build the House” building campaign to add on to our lobby and create two new children’s ministry rooms in early 2008, we asked everyone to consider giving financially to the campaign. Thom and I talked about our giving, but we never discussed an amount until the night before the pledge. We had prayed about it, and we had come to two different conclusions. His figure was slightly higher than mine.
I was crunching numbers, trying to determine what we COULD do based on our income and lifestyle over the next 21 months and Thom was moving in God’s grace and was asking what God would do through us if we trusted Him for the money. So, by the grace of God, we made a ten thousand dollar pledge in March of 2008. Let me tell you how ridiculous that was. We had never had ten thousand dollars in our savings account in our whole married life, so I knew we didn’t have the ability to acquire ten thousand dollars on our own. But I’m here to tell you that exactly one year later, not every twenty-one months later, in March of 2009, our ten thousand dollar pledge was paid off and we didn’t miss a beat. It was so thrilling, so exciting to see the grace of God at work in our giving which was over and above our tithe.
When you experience God’s grace in a profound way, you will be able to do the unexpected, you’ll be eager to do the unexpected, and you’ll want the thrill of living beyond your ability to see God’s miracles on display.
Remember, the Macedonians didn’t give out of their wealth. It wasn’t the best time for them to start sharing. It wasn’t a convenient time to excel at giving when they were hurting financially. Listen, when you rely on the grace of God, you can give to His kingdom whether times or good or times are bad. You don’t have to wait for your circumstances to change in order to start giving, and you don’t stop giving when your circumstances go sour. When your heart is undivided and God is your master, He’ll give you the grace you need to do beyond what you can do and you’ll become an example to others of what God’s grace looks like.
II Corinthians 9:6-8 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. 8 And God is able (Say God is able) to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
I think of sowing sparingly as doing what you think you can manage to do, doing what is safe to do, doing what you believe is within your ability to do. Sowing generously, however, gives God room to work because it requires faith and the gift of God’s grace. What does verse eight say? God makes grace abound to us when we give generously with a cheerful heart. We’ll have what we need and we’ll abound in the good work we invest in.
This is a crazy time in our country’s history to start giving to God’s kingdom or to increase your giving to God’s kingdom. People would tell you to play it safe, conserve, and pull your investments in. Listen, if you wait for more prosperous times to start giving to God’s kingdom, you’ll miss an amazing grace at work in your life.
Grace giving is an evidence of love. When we give through God’s grace, we are building His kingdom in love. People will be drawn to love and grace on display. When our generous hearts are overflowing through our generous hands, people will notice, and they can trust open hands because that position makes it likely that they will be embraced. Non-Christian people will risk entering a place where hearts and hands are open.
3. Kingdom Building Through Giving Requires Total, Ongoing Submission
I love what Pastor Dave shared last Sunday before prayer time when he talked about praying for his wife to be healed and yet the Lord took her in spite of his fervent prayer and the fervent prayers of so many others. And when he asked the Lord about that, he heard God clearly say, “Stay bowed down.” Stay in submission to me. Stay in my love. Stay in my will. Continue to worship me and work in my name. In other words, when we are about Kingdom Business, we will stay submitted to the Master regardless of our circumstances.
The Macedonians didn’t give because they got a bonus. They didn’t give because something unexpected was deposited into their bank account. Rather, out of their poverty, they gave and they continued to give and they excelled at it! The Macedonians stayed bowed down. That’s why they could continue to give. And here were the rich Corinthians who had pledged just one year before to contribute to this offering and they hadn’t made good on their promise.
In Luke 21:1-4 a poor widow arrived at the temple with an offering for the Lord. She put two copper coins in the offering plate that day. Jesus told the disciples, “3 “I tell you the truth,” 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.”
Compared to the gifts of the rich men, her two copper coins seemed insignificant, but Jesus said that she gave more than all the others combined. “The widow’s mite” does not represent the least we can give, but the most, our very all. When we sing, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold,” we are telling God that everything we have belongs to Him.
When it comes to our giving, God sees more than the portion; He also sees the proportion. Men see what is given, but God sees what is left, and by that He measures the gift and the condition of our hearts. It’s not about what we give, but about the willingness of our hearts, the submission of our hearts. II Corinthians 8:12 says, “…if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Christian living requires submission to God in all things.
Paul seems to indicate that having great faith and knowing God’s Words wasn’t enough for the Corinthian churches. Paul celebrated the fact that the believers at Corinth had experience in excelling. They had excelled in faith, word, knowledge, earnestness and love for Paul. They had demonstrated these in their lives. These are things we too emphasize and want to excel in. Be in order to build up God’s kingdom, we also need to excel in our giving.
What would happen if each of us excelled at the grace of giving? The truth is, money translates into ministry. Many of you are excelling in the grace of giving. I know that because God continues to be glorified in our church’s finances which has enabled us to build staff and do outreach and increase our giving locally, statewide, nationally and to foreign missions across the seas.
But what would happen if every Christian allowed God to control their finances? Here are some ideas.
The real felt needs of people within and outside of the church would be met in a way they would experience first-hand the love of God.
The full scope of ministry God has intended for us to do would be financed and we could realize those ministry dreams God has placed on our hearts like the development of Teays Valley Acres, our church property one mile from here that we want to develop as a recreational park and community center for Putnam County.
The church of Jesus Christ would flourish and be a greater source of divine power in our world.
Our world would be transformed as people came into a saving relationship with
A father once gave his little boy a half dollar and told him he might do with it as he pleased. Later when he asked about it, the little boy told him that he had lent it. “Did you get good security?” he asked. “Yes, sir!” said the boy. “I gave it to a poor beggar who looked hungry!” “Oh, how foolish you are. You will never get it back!” said the father. “But, father, I have the best security; for the Bible says: he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord!” (Proverbs 19:17)
Kingdom building simply means that I use everything I have to see that everyone I can finds Jesus. That means my heart has to be devoted to Christ and the building of His Kingdom. It means I am motivated by love and grace to let God do more in my life and with my life than I could do with it myself. It means that I stay bowed down and let God direct how I use my life and my resources.
The Kingdom is a place of miracles. It’s a wild ride of living by faith and riding on the waves of grace. It’s a place where those who sow generously reap generously. It’s a place where those who give ridiculously receive grace that prompts them to keep going. Kingdom building is front line ministry. Resourcing God’s Kingdom with our finances is a blessing and a privilege. Are you excelling at this grace of giving?
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