“The Joy of Giving”
2 Cor. 8: 1-12
February 21, 2016
Intro: Comedian Flip Wilson told a story about a preacher and his church. A preacher was trying to get his people to be more enthusiastic about their church. The preacher said in his sermon: "If this church is going to get anywhere, it has to learn to crawl."
-The people said, "Let it crawl, Rev., let it crawl!" Then he said, "And after it learns to crawl, it has to learn to walk." And the people said, "Let it walk, Rev., let it walk!" The preacher got excited and said, "After this church learns to walk, it has to learn to run!" The people shouted back, "Let it run, Rev., let it run!"
-Then he said, "And if this church is going to run, it’s going to take money!" And the people said, "Let it crawl, Rev., let it crawl.” There’s a lot of truth in that story! We like the idea of running as a church. We like the idea of making an impact; of being a people of faith. But when you find out that there’s a cost that comes w/it, we start finding out how bad we really want to run.
-It’s like exercise. I like the idea of being in shape. I like the idea of having 6 pack abs. But when I find out the cost that comes w/it I start thinking, “You know, it’s really not that bad having a marshmallow body.” Today we’re concluding our series “Give.” By the way, if this is your first time at VillageChurch, I want you to know I don’t preach on this every week.
-We normally dedicate 3 Sundays a year on this subject. But for many people, this can be an uncomfortable subject. And many times it’s uncomfortable b/c it’s a subject that hits us where we all live, which is being faithful to God’s commands in ALL areas of our life, and this includes the area of our finances.
Sermon Idea: Today in our passage of Scripture the Apostle Paul points out the positive side of giving, the positive side of generosity. He shared w/the church in Corinth that there is JOY that comes w/giving; that there is JOY in generosity. Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
-The question is this: Is that actually true? In our text Paul shared w/us how we see joy in our giving.
TEXT: 2 CORINTHIANS 8: 1-12
Bckgrd: The background to this story is interesting. The church in Corinth had made a promise to give an offering to assist the Xians back in Israel. But the Corinthians hadn’t followed thru on their promise. Why? My guess is they were like many of us. It’s a whole lot easier to talk a big game than it is to actually perform in it! It’s easy to make big promises, but when it comes time to fulfill those promises it’s easier just to skip over them.
-So Paul, instead of beating the Corinthian church up for not following thru on their giving, inspired them. I really believe people are more motivated to give when they’re inspired than when they’re being guilt-tripped.
-How did Paul inspire the Corinthians. He shared how the church in Macedonia gave. And he basically told them that their motivation for giving was love. And real giving, giving that carries w/it power and influence, alway involves love. Let’s look at a few examples of how love plays out in our giving.
-First, love is demonstrated in our giving when:
DIV. 1: WE GIVE IN SPITE OF CIRCUMSTANCES (vv. 1-2)
Exp: Why does it take love to give? B/c when it comes down to it, everything hinges on $. The house you live in, the car you drive, the food on your table, requires money! And when you take away from those things, then it means LESS $. And a lot of people are living w/LESS $ these days.
A.Last week I mentioned the average American carries a debt of $225,000. And if you’ve been watching the stock market over the last month you’ve probably thought, “I’m going to have to work until I’m 200 before I can retire!”
1.So when it comes to giving, it’s very easy to start making excuses as to why we CAN’T give. But Paul pointed out a church in Macedonia that didn’t allow their circumstances to interfere w/their giving.
a.You might think, “Then their circumstances must not have been that bad!” If you look in v. 2 Paul said they went thru a severe testing by affliction. We’re not specifically told what affliction they were going thru, but we might get a hint of it when Paul wrote @ his journey to Macedonia in 2 Cor. 7: 5.
b.He wrote, “In fact, when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears inside.” More than likely, they were being persecuted b/c of their faith. That used to seem like such an impossibility to me.
2.But in today’s climate, that possibility seems more and more likely to me. The Macedonians were also experiencing “deep poverty.” What does “deep poverty” mean? It was a word that described a beggar who had absolutely nothing and had no hope of getting anything!
a.That’s the condition the Macedonians were in. But here’s what’s incredible. They didn’t use their circumstances as an excuse to NOT give! How would that even be possible? B/c God gave them the courage, in spite of their circumstances, to step out on faith and give. You don’t see them making any excuses.
ILLUS: The fact is, I like excuses b/c they keep me from having to blame myself. I get to blame others. In sports, the greatest excuse making team I could think of was the Chicago Cubs. They haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Now you might think they haven’t won a Series since then b/c their teams haven’t been good enough. But it’s not that simple. Most fans will tell you the reason why is b/c of a CURSE (I’d prefer to call it an excuse).
-What’s the excuse: a goat. Back in 1945 a bar owner in Chicago tried to bring his goat into Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field, only to be turned away. B/c of this the owner put a curse on the Cubs and said that they’d never again play in the World Series again.
-The curse isn’t WHY the Cubs haven’t made it to the World Series in over 70 years. It’s not even Steve Bartman’s fault! The reason why is b/c the Cubs haven’t been good enough to make it! But it’s easier to stay away from that reality when you say it’s a curse.
b.The people of Macedonia could’ve made excuses for not giving. But they were willing to give IN SPITE of their circumstances. Why? When you’ve seen God move and change lives, it gives you courage to trust Him. VillageChurch is an example of this. When VillageChurch started it was NOT an ideal time for the church to start. My very first fundraising meeting was Sept. 11, 2001 at 10 a.m. During my meeting, while the TV was on, the towers fell.
B.The very first people who attended our church had no outside reason, from a human perspective, to come and support our ministry. We met in a gym where you could barely hear the message. Everything we owned was literally encased in a trailer.
1.When we started building on this land, the housing market bubble was bursting. It was a horrible time for us to be going thru a capital campaign and building a worship center.
a.But you to gave ANYWAY! Why? B/c of love. B/c we’d seen God’s faithfulness as we moved from one school to another; as we saw more and more people’s lives being touched by the ministry of the church. And when you start seeing God move, you want to see MORE of it.
Reit: Love is demonstrated by our giving when we give in spite of circumstances. 2nd, love is demonstrated by our giving when:
DIV. 2: WE GIVE WITH ENTHUSIASM (vv. 3-9)
Exp: The key section I want you to look at is in v. 4 where it says, “they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry of the saints.” The church in Macedonia, which was desperately poor, was begging Paul to let them give to the church in Israel.
A.I’m surprised Paul didn’t just keel over. I can’t think of too many times when I’ve had someone BEGGING me to let them give. But how cool is that? It’s incredible these people were so enthusiastic b/c they were in a hopeless situation.
1.More than likely they’d been blackballed in the community b/c of their faith. This would’ve caused them to be in dire financial straits. And yet they were eager to give. That’s what Jesus does in a person’s life. He takes us from wherever we are and He gives us hope. He takes people who are broken and enables them to be people who can bring healing into the lives of others.
a.When you’re given hope, when you’re given a cure, the one thing you want to do is share it. You want to spread it around. I look at this and think, “But they didn’t have a lot to spread around. They were desperately poor!
b.Doesn’t seem like their offering could’ve made that much of a difference. But remember a couple of weeks ago what Jesus did w/a boy’s 2 small fish and 5 loaves of bread? He fed a crowd of @ 15 to 20,000 people w/it!
2.God’s not interested in the size of your gift. He’s interested in the heart you give with. In the next chapter Paul told the Corinthians that God loves a cheerful giver. Remember when Jesus was w/His disciples outside the Temple and people were coming by dropping their offerings in the money box? He only commented on one lady’s offering. Her gift was less than a nickel. What did Jesus say @ her gift?
a.Luke 21: 1-4 says, “He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. “I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” It’s hard to give w/enthusiasm when you’re hanging on too tight.
ILLUS: The most frustrating sport I’ve ever played is golf. In so many ways it’s counterintuitive. If you want the ball to go farther, one of the best things you can do is NOT to grip the club too tightly. You want to grip it lightly. Too much grip pressure puts tension into your arms, and prevents you from keeping your wrists cocked on the downswing. Most importantly, a tight grip encourages you to swing with your hands and arms instead of your big muscles in your lower body. This dooms your swing before you've even begun.
b.The same idea is true w/giving. When you hang on to tight it’s hard for you to let go. And when you’re not willing to let go, you sap the strength from the potential of your giving.
B.The Macedonian church was able to be a great example b/c even though they didn’t have much they were willing to let it go to. So why were they willing to release what they had?
1.B/c of love. Their giving, and ours as well, demonstrates what we love. Jesus said in Matt. 6: 21, “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” No matter what we have, we always give to those things that we love the most. Let me ask y’all a question. This past X-mas, who did you buy gifts for?
a.You bought them for the people you love and care @. You didn’t go out and buy gifts for people you don’t know all that well. You bought gifts for the people you’re closest to; the people you love the most. And when you love God, you give to Him.
Reit: Love is demonstrated by our giving when we give in spite circumstances. Love is demonstrated when we give with enthusiasm. And finally, love is demonstrated in our giving when:
DIV. 3: WE FOLLOW THRU (vv. 10-12)
Exp: Paul’s counsel in verse 10 is finish what you have begun. “Now I am giving an opinion on this b/c it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it.”
A.Paul states that he give his “opinion on this matter.” He was giving advice on giving. He reminded us that giving must always come from a willing heart, it cannot be coerced or forced. But Paul doesn’t simply want them to give, but “to desire to” give. Desire primes to pump for giving.
1.Paul encouraged them to follow through and turn their desire to contribute
into action in verse 11. “finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have.”
a.The Corinthian Christians had been the first to agree to the giving project (1 Cor 16:1–3) but still hadn’t followed thru. Paul wanted them to know that the desire to help wasn’t enough.
b.Willingness and desire though are never substitutes for doing. Many people make noble and good resolutions but never follow through with them. We all know the old proverb "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Paul's advice was to immediately put into action the desire God had placed in their hearts.
2.Sometimes our willingness to give often needs to be encouraged. God desires us to put our good intentions into concrete actions. If you look at v. 12 it encouraged the Corinthians to give according to their desire and means. “For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”
a.God doesn’t expect us to give what we do not have. They were expected to give according to their ability. Sometimes I think, “If I were a millionaire I’d do this and that.” But here’s the deal. God is not concerned with what I would do if I had a million but what I do with what you have.
b.God doesn’t see the portion but the proportion. If we could give more but don’t, God notes it. If we want to give more and can’t, God also notes that. God sees the heart gift and not the hand gift.
B.When we have given willingly according to what we have, we have practiced faith; we’ve practiced love.
ILLUS: A couple of months ago during our V Group, my wife Emily told a personal story @ how she’d seen God work in her life. Emily and I both grew up in homes where our parents taught us from an early age the importance of giving; the importance of giving our tithe to the church.
-Now that was easy for us to do when things were going well. But it gets a little harder when finances start getting tight. And when we started VillageChurch 14 years ago, things were tough. We’d moved into a house that was a black hole. And Emily said she remembered we had a bill to pay that we just didn’t have the $ to cover.
-As she looked at that bill she was praying that somehow God would provide for us. As she unfolded the paper for the bill, a check fell out. The check was from our mortgage company that we hadn’t cashed yet. It had fallen out of the envelope and had slipped lodged in the bill we were required to pay.
-When Emily looked at the check and the bill we owed (that we didn’t have $ to pay), the check more than covered the bill.
b.You know what the result of that has been? It has become easier for us to trust God b/c we can look back on that time in our life (and many others) and say, “I know it’s a little sketchy right now, but God provided for us in the past and I trust He’ll do so again in the future.”
1.That makes it easier for me to “finish the task.” When God calls me to give, I know I’ll be able to do it. But the only way you’ll discover God’s blessings and faithfulness in your giving is when…well, you give.
a.Most people talk @ how much they want to give; how they desire to be supportive. Let me challenge you to just do it. What you’ll discover is that giving is worth it. And it’s so powerful that it won’t matter what the circumstances are; it’s so powerful that you’ll be enthusiastic @ doing it; and it’s so powerful that you’ll follow thru on your giving.
Conclusion: We find out what’s important to us by examining what it is we give to. There’s nothing greater you can invest in than the work of God’s people. Jesus told Peter in Matt. 16: 18, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.”
-We need a bulwark that will stand against the world’s march towards self and secularism. And that bulwark is God’s church. And it is the greatest mission you can support b/c you can know that God’s church is going to stand.