Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/07/11 Sermon

 

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

 

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy Sight O Lord our strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 

 A college student sent a letter to her parents: She writes:

 

 

Dear Mom and Dad: I'm sorry that it has been such a long time since my last letter, but I didn't want to bother you with the fire in the dormitory and the concussion I received falling out the window trying to escape.  I want you to know how nice the young service station attendant around the corner was.  He provided me comfort all the time that I waited for the ambulance. I'm out of the hospital now, and I'm doing fine.  Especially since the young service station attendant invited me to live with him in his apartment.  He's a very nice fellow and I know you're going to like him very much. I do. And I hope you'll be happy to know that you'll be grandparents in seven months.  Now, in closing, I want you to know that I don't want you to worry -- don't be too concerned about all this.  There really was not a fire in the dormitory. I didn't suffer a concussion. I'm not living with a young man; I'm not even going with one, and I'm not pregnant.  I've told you all this to let you know that I made a "D" in Biology and an "F" in European History, and I wanted you to keep all this in perspective. (Maxie Dunhamesermons)

Today is Commitment Sunday in our 3 week series on stewardship. And as we began this series we spoke about how important perspective is when we talk about stewardship.  Often when we think about stewardship the first thing people think about is their wallet. Their perspective is about giving money to the church.  And yet as weve talked about over the past 2 weeks, stewardship is not about fundraising or giving money to support an organization or institution. 

Stewardship is about identity and a way of life for the Christian. Its about our development as members of the Body of Christ. We give, whether its time, talents or treasures as a result of our faith in Christ.  Stewardship flows outward from within because of who we are and whose we are.  And so the perspective of stewardship is not so much about what we give or how much we give; its rather about why we give.

And thats at the heart of our scripture this morning from Pauls second letter to the Corinthians.  In this letter Paul gets to the root of what the real perspective behind stewardship is all about.

So lets take a closer look at this scripture:

Now the background of this scripture is that there was a great famine, a drought that had struck the land of Palestine. The Christians in Jerusalem were struggling to have enuf to eat. So Paul was rallying the gentile churches to support this relief effort for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  Paul also thought it would be great idea to break down the barriers that were up between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.   It would show the oneness of the Body of Christ thru this offering that in Christ there was no Jew or Gentile, slave or free.they were one big family with each other.

Now as we see in this letter to the Corinthians Paul gives them an illustration about giving using the Christians in Macedonia as an example.  Now these Macedonian Christians were poorer than Jobs turkey. And yet even thought they were poor we see that it didnt affect their giving.  Paul says they were rich in generosity---They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. They were pleading for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lords people.  Now it might look like Paul was trying to put a guilt trip on the Corinthians to give to the cause.   But in reality what we see is that Paul is simply witnessing to this authentic model; this true perspective of what being a steward of Gods treasures is all about.  And its a witness to us today as well, as were talking about the stewardship of treasures on this commitment Sunday. 

So lets take a closer look at how these Macedonians were true stewards of Gods money……….

Now one of the first things we can see about the Macedonians perspective of stewardship is that instead of letting money become their master in making decisions, God remained in charge.  When we look at the example of the Macedonians we see that they were free from the power of money. Even though they were dirt poor that didnt have an affect on their joyful giving.  You know, for many of us money dictates to us what we can and what we cant do. How many times have you looked at your checking account and it told you that you werent going out to dinner that night? Or you werent going on vacation?  Some of us can feel let down, depressed because the lack of money has a power over us.  And even though we give our offerings to God, we do so begrudgingly.  Instead of a joyful giving to God of our first fruits like the Macedonians, God gets whats leftover.

The late radio commentator Paul Harvey told a true story in 1995 about a customer service hotline set up by the Butterball Turkey company during the Thanksgiving holidays.  A woman called in to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years.  The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below zero the entire time.  But the operator warned her that even if it were safe to eat, the flavor would probably be deteriorated and she wouldnt recommend eating it.  And the caller replied. Thats what we thought. Well just give it to the church”…..

When the power of money has a hold of us, God only gets whats left over. Is that what God gets from you?

The Macedonians, in their extreme poverty were rich in their generosity. They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.  For them, God came first, not later, not leftover.  For when God gets our leftovers, it shows that our true Master is money. 

As Jesus said in Matthew 6: 24  you cannot serve both God and money. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

The Macedonians were free to give abundantly with joy even in their poverty because they were free from the power of money.

Can we say the same?

Now another thing we can see about the Macedonians perspective of stewardship is that being a steward of Gods treasures has purpose.   In verse 4 we see that the Macedonians gave out of a privilege of sharing to the Lords people.  Giving to them had a purpose; a purpose that was going about Gods kingdom ways. They were giving to God and giving to others.---loving God and loving our neighbor.    You know one of the main reasons churches struggle with finances is because the church has lost its focus and purpose of making a difference in the kingdom of God.  For many church people, giving their offering is about paying their membership dues to some organization. (building upkeep, oil, salaries of staff).  And so the purpose of the offering is going to the institution itself in order to survive.  But when thats the focus on where the giving is going, the passion and willingness to give abundantly is missing.

God created us to love others. Our great joy comes when our purpose is about healing the sick, comforting the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry.  All you have to do is look at some of the ministries going on here like Divorce Care and the Prayer Shawl ministry. These selfless ministries that cause our hearts to be filled with joy.  Theres passion to give abundantly of our time and talents and treasures when the purpose is about serving the hungry and the broken.  When we see new life from those who have been walking in darkness, when we witness tears of despair turn to tears of joy, when there is resurrection in someones life as a result of our faithfulness to God we will gladly open up our wallets.

When our purpose as a congregation is unified and focused on doing the work of the kingdom of God the passion to give goes up.  We will gladly open up our wallets like the Macedonians did, when we see the eternal difference were making as the Body of Christ rather than supporting an institution.

Now the last point I want to make about the Macedonians perspective of stewardship is that they saw it as a response of love and gratitude for Gods grace.

In Pauls letter to the Corinthians, he reminds the church in Corinth of their earlier desire and willingness to do just as the Macedonians had done.  He reminds them of what inspired them to do so in verse 8: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  Paul is reminding them of the gift of salvation that had been given to them as a result of Jesus dying for their sins.  He calls on them to remember that, to reflect on it, to take it in and act on it. Thats what the Macedonians did.  Because of what Jesus had done for them, they knew that all they had and all they were, and all they were ever going to be was because of Jesus.

Jesus was their everything

Gordon Cosby, before he founded the Church of the Savior in Washington DC, was ministering a small Baptist congregation in a poor railroad town near Lynchburg, Virginia.  And one day he got a call from a deacon who said he needed his help.  The deacon said, "We have in our congregation a widow with six children. I have looked at the records and discovered that she is putting into the treasury of the church each month $4 thats 10% of her income.  Of course, she is unable to do this. We want you to go and talk to her and let her know that she needs to feel no obligation whatsoever, and free her from the responsibility."  So Cosby went and told the woman of the concern of the deacons.  He told her as graciously and supportively as he knew how that she was relieved of the responsibility of giving.  But as he talked, tears came into her eyes. And she said, "I want to tell you that you are taking away the last thing that gives my life dignity and meaning."

When we come to the place where we know that all we have and all we are and all we will be are a result of what Christ did for us at Calvary we will open up our wallets and checkbooks and gladly hand it over.

For Gods grace in Jesus Christ is our meaning in life; hes our everything.

Now today..we are inviting you to a commitment in response to Gods grace.  Today is a call to offer unto God the time and talent and treasures that God has given and entrusted to you and me.  Now.after a moment of silence, Im going to ask Bill Jones to sing a song titled Broken and Spilled Out as a call to offer our commitments to Christ.  And as he sings these words that call us to give ourselves as a result of Jesus giving himself for us, you are asked to come forward and put your commitment forms in the basket at the foot of the cross.

In closing, let me again remind you about the proper perspective of stewardship.

Stewardship is an identity; its about who we are and whose we are.

Its about remembering that all we have been given (time, talent and treasures) are simply on loan from our Master.

Let me close with the words in the earlier hymn we sang:

        We give Thee but Thine own,

               What-e'er the gift may be:

               All that we have is Thine alone,

               A trust, O Lord, from Thee.

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen