2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Woodlawn Baptist Church
January 28, 2007
As we turn our attention to the message at hand, I want to remind you of the great task God has given us. Jesus said that “the harvest was great but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers.” Then at the end of His earthly ministry He said, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” You and I are the laborers God has chosen to reach our world for Christ. You and I are God’s chosen instruments through which He wants to communicate His love and grace and mercy. It is this church, this people who have been called at this time to carry on the Lord’s work!
As we go about that work we must think of it in terms of two fields of labor. There is the local field for which we are personally responsible. No amount of money will harvest this field, for it is in the local field that you and I must roll up our sleeves and do the work. But then there is another field of labor in which we cannot work. It is the field that lies outside of our local field, the field that you and I cannot harvest, but to which God has called men to go and do His work. Those are the fields where God has placed His men like Brent Rosendal and David Helmick and Vladimir Robles. Though we cannot work those fields, God gives us the privilege of helping those men as they do carry out the work – and we join together in that privilege by means of Faith Promise giving.
Our mission is to make disciples of all people. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that “the gospel of God’s kingdom will be preached throughout all the world as a witness unto him.” The gospel of the kingdom is about the kingdom of God. It is about the reign of God. It is about the triumph of King Jesus over sin and death and judgment and Satan and guilt and fear. It is good news not that we reign as kings but that our God reigns.
The aim of preaching this “gospel of the kingdom” is that the nations might know King Jesus and admire Him and honor Him and love Him and trust Him and follow Him and make Him shine in their affections. We must come to see that God is passionately committed to upholding and displaying His name and His reputation in the world.
Over and over the Bible declares that God does what He does so that His name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Isaiah 12:4 sums up the central theme of missions. “Make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.” You mark it down and don’t ever forget that God is passionately committed to His fame. God’s highest priority is that He be known and admired and trusted and enjoyed as an infinitely glorious King.
Why do we join together to support the work of men we don’t know so they can reach people we don’t know in places we don’t know? So those people will know the glorious fame of God! I want to submit to you today that it is our great privilege to proclaim that fame and to support the missionaries who are also proclaiming that fame. As we support them we are making an investment in the kingdom of God.
In 2 Corinthians 8 we are going to look at another group of churches that also made that investment, and though it may seem difficult to see how you can give to missions when money may already be tight, I believe you can. In fact, as we look at the people of Macedonia in 2 Corinthians 8 I aim to demonstrate that only three things are required for you to join God where He is at work in the harvest; three things that were present in the people of Macedonia, and none of them require any certain amount of money.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, we read…
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.”
A Willing Heart
The Macedonian believers were suffering from great poverty. These Christians were already in financial straits due to persecution and exclusion, but a series of earthquakes and crop failures forced them into even deeper poverty. However, in spite of their poverty they willingly collected offerings to aid their Christian friends in Jerusalem. Paul was so moved by their love and willing hearts that he taught every church he formed to establish this same form of missionary giving, and here he is scolding the Corinthian church because they were the first church to promise their offerings, but they were not giving those offerings. You see, though they had the resources to do something, they lacked willing hearts, and though the churches of Macedonia were lacking in resources they did have willing hearts.
In the Old Testament record, Moses is preparing the people of Israel to build the tabernacle of God. When it came time to finance the work God could have easily required each family to contribute some dollar amount, but listen to what He instructed Moses to say.
“This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying, take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the Lord…”
In the next chapter these words are recorded for us.
“And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning…And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.”
These were the people who had just left Egyptian bondage! Oh that we would ever come to the place where we have stop bringing offerings because we have too much! All it takes is a willing heart! God will do more with $1 and a willing heart than he can with $100 and a grudge!
I like the words of Peter Drucker. He said, “What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter.” Do you have a willing heart?
An Open Wallet
Not only must we have a willing heart, but we must also have an open wallet. In 2 Corinthians 8:7 Paul told the Corinthian church to “abound in this grace also.” What grace is that? He tells us in verse 2. In spite of their great trial of affliction their abundant joy and deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. In other words, their abundant joy and deep poverty abounded, or burst forth in great quantity to their rich generosity.
Even though they appeared to have nothing to offer those believers were generously giving. You’ve no doubt heard about the pastor who stood up and told his congregation, “Folk, today I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that we have all the money we need to do the work of God. The bad news is that it’s all in your wallets.”
Do you believe in the model prayer? Jesus taught us how to pray. Do you believe that’s really how God wants us to pray? And do you really want what that prayer asks for? Good! Now, I want you to do a simple exercise with me this morning. You’ll feel a little funny doing it, but I want you to do it anyway. Get your wallets out, or your checkbook or whatever it is that you carry your money in and hold them open in front of you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to take anything out!
Now, in the model prayer Jesus prayed this way: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…” Would you agree with me that Jesus taught us to pray that the kingdom of God would be a reality in our present day and that we are to pray that God’s will would be done in our lives? Good! Now say this little prayer with me.
“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed and holy is your name. I want your kingdom to be real in my finances. I want your will to be done in my wallet just as you would have it done in heaven…”
Now, what are we praying? We’re praying that God can do whatever He wants to do with our finances. They all belong to Him anyway, right? So what is the will of God for your wallet? How would your spending look if it were done from heaven’s perspective? “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
Open your wallets for God! Be generous with your offerings. Be like those Macedonian Christians who in their deep poverty and overflowing joy gave richly. In fact, Paul said they gave according to their ability and even beyond their ability to give. Why? Because they had willing hearts and open wallets. But there is a third, perhaps most important thing that must be present in your life.
A Move of Faith
What would move a people who have nothing to give something so generously? It is faith: faith in a God who has promised to meet all our needs. The Macedonian believers had that kind of faith. The Corinthians didn’t. I want to read to you from 2 Corinthians 10:9-16. You follow along as I read from a paraphrase of the text. Listen carefully to what Paul says to this church.
“And I am not trying to scare you with my letters. Some of you are saying, "Paul’s letters are harsh and powerful. But in person, he is a weakling and has nothing worth saying." Those people had better understand that when I am with you, I will do exactly what I say in my letters. We won’t dare compare ourselves with those who think so much of themselves. But they are foolish to compare themselves with themselves. We won’t brag about something we don’t have a right to brag about. We will only brag about the work that God has sent us to do, and you are part of that work. We are not bragging more than we should. After all, we did bring the message about Christ to you. We don’t brag about what others have done, as if we had done those things ourselves. But I hope that as you become stronger in your faith, we will be able to reach many more of the people around you. That has always been our goal. Then we will be able to preach the good news in other lands where we cannot take credit for work someone else has already done.”
Notice in your KJV that verse 15 says, “when your faith is increased…we shall be enlarged by you…to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.”
Isn’t that what its all about? Paul and his companions were just waiting to travel and proclaim the fame and the glory of God. And what were they waiting on? They were waiting on these people to grow in their faith so they would finance their mission endeavors. In short, because these believers were not exercising faith in God the work of God was being hindered somewhat.
God forbid any of His work ever be put on hold because we lack the faith to open our wallets for Him! Curious thing about faith though. The only way for you to grow in your faith is to move. You cannot do nothing for God and grow any more than a bodybuilder can sit on the couch and grow muscles. An athlete grows through resistance. In order for you to begin giving and to begin giving more than what you have been you will meet resistance, but you have to work it out in order for the growth to come.
Listen, your greatest resistance is not going to be Satan. It is not going to be lack of money. It is not going to be a bad job or your spouse. Your greatest resistance is going to be you – you lacking the faith, the willing heart, or the desire to see the will of God done in your wallet. And so Paul says to each of us today,
“Therefore as you abound in everything else, such as faith, utterance, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love toward us, see that you abound in this grace also.”
I earnestly believe your desire is to abound in the grace of giving to the work of God. Offer yourselves to Him today.