Stewardship 2 – 2021 LSB #’s 829, 814, 781
Text – 2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Having All Sufficiency
We continue to study 2 Corinthians 9:8 during this stewardship focus called, “Stewards walking by grace.” Last time, we looked at the 1st part of this verse, all grace abounds. This morning we look at how in all things at all times God’s grace is sufficient.
Stewardship sermons are a time when we receive the abundant gift of God’s grace. I share with you God’s promise that He will continue to bless you in all your days. I tell you how our Father’s grace equips you with a generous heart. From the abundance of His grace, you & I have been given everything we need to participate in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
As with any other sermon, I trust that the Holy Spirit will be our guide to all truth & confidence in Christ Jesus. Yet, due to the controversial nature of stewardship sermons, I wonder how they are received. As we live-stream our services, I don’t want to preach like a greedy & manipulative televangelist.
When Satan throws his temptations before me, I need to remember that I’m called to be your preacher in order to deliver God’s condemnation against sin. And more importantly, I’m also called to preach the deliverance Yahweh promises to you in the good news of His Son Jesus. Stewardship invites you to trust that God wants you to be a part of that good news.
Stewardship preaching should not be about financial spreadsheets, nor should it concern itself with expenses & receipts. Stewardship springs forth from God’s grace, not from the Law, & God’s grace abounds to us from the very beginning of creation. Stewardship is a response to the confidence we have in our heavenly Father. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul affirms that God provides everything we need to be good stewards, who love & care for the closest people in our lives, but also for the people in our congregations & in our communities. The needs are endless, while the resources in hand are not, so how much should we do?
The challenge, as we think about this word sufficiency, is determining the object of our confidence. How do you evaluate, when it comes to helping others, whether or not God has given you abundance & sufficiency? Don’t we tend to evaluate them by the money in the bank, or the students in the school building, or by the # of people in church on Sunday mornings?
Evaluating the sufficiency of our resources in those ways will leave us in doubt & tempted to feel empty. Living in the kingdom of God & joyfully serving our neighbors becomes a frustrating struggle when we measure our glory & strength by the yardsticks of the world. The glories of this earth will always be too scarce.
Do you ever look around at what others have? It’s generally not a pleasant experience. When I look around at what others have & measure the strength of myself by that, it always leaves a feeling of insufficiency. I never have enough if I compare myself to the upper class. In turn, it is difficult to share with others when we ourselves feel insecure & threatened.
That’s what Paul is describing when he wrote about people who sow sparingly & then reap sparingly. It is difficult to share with others when we feel threatened. It is hard to be part of the expanding work of the kingdom when we feel like the safety zone around us is shrinking. Within the sinful heart, sin breeds worry & fear to sow sparingly.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to give money to support the Christians in Jerusalem. This would help to care for the widows & orphans that were in need of mercy. He reminded the Corinthians that they have been gifted by God, & they have been blessed by God for the purpose of being participants in planting the seeds of the gospel. God invites the Corinthians to participate in planting seeds of the gospel in their community. Paul described it like this to the Romans, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (1:16 ESV). The power of salvation is in this congregation, & the gospel of Jesus Christ is our confidence.
Our confidence is not found in any of the things of this world. All of them, you & me included, are passing away. The bottom line in this life is not something uncertain or doubtful. We do not measure glory in the strength of the flesh but in the promises of the Spirit. Jesus teaches that the grace of God continues to abound in all times & in all places.
We trust the Holy Spirit to be at work in the gospel that leads us to see Jesus. The grace of God is sufficient for this day & for all that God allows in this moment. Our own strength will falter & struggle in trying moments, so we must trust in the sufficiency of God’s love & favor for every moment of our earthly life. The writer of Hebrews said:
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, & thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence & awe” (12:28 ESV).
We have received the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Yahweh grants His mercy to us & we find grace in Him which enables us to help others. Giving from our scarcity is frightening. That sort of giving takes the joy out of life with God. Paul does not want anyone to give reluctantly or under compulsion, because that kind of giving is not from the grace of God.
Giving reluctantly or under compulsion is described, a few verses before 2 Corinthians 9:8 with the imagery of a sower who sows sparingly & reaps sparingly. But how does a person transform from being a reluctant servant in the kingdom to a cheerful participant?
If we give from our own strength, our own flesh, our own glory, then we will find the resources scarce. We will plant the seeds reluctantly because we guard & protect what little we have from being unfairly taken away. When the source of strength changes from our own flesh to the grace of God, then we sow abundantly & we reap abundantly. Do you remember who gives the seed & the amazing grace with which He loves? Paul tells us:
“He who supplies seed to the sower & bread for food will supply & multiply your seed for sowing & increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10). The call to action as stewards walking by grace is not about meeting a bottom line on a church budget. The call to action is about sowing, in our communities, the seeds of the gospel, of life & of hope.
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that transforms our glory from one built on the strength of the flesh to a glory that embraces the mercy of God. People need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. People need to experience the mercy of God.
Paul asks the Corinthians to rejoice that they are part of how God brings that gospel into the lives of people who need this good news. Rejoice today as brothers & sisters in Christ with the Corinthians that you also are being invited to be part of God’s work in this world.
Set aside the scarcity of this world’s majesty. You’ll never have enough of that kind of majesty if that is your glory. Seek the things that are above & not the things of the flesh. The things of the flesh wear out & rot. The things above, the grace & mercy of God, will always be sufficient for this day.
When you decide to give an offering, call upon the Holy Spirit to work through you so that your offering is cheerful & freely given. The spiritual discipline of planning your giving as a first-fruit offering is an important aspect of living the Christian life. It’s one way that we push back against Satan & his temptations.
Everything we need for salvation, & for living in the blessings of the kingdom of God, is provided by God. It is He in whom we find our confidence for everything we do in life.
O bless the Lord, my soul! Let all within me join & aid my tongue to bless His name whose favors are divine. O bless the Lord, my soul, nor let His mercies lie forgotten in un-thankfulness & without praises die! He fills the poor with good; He gives the sufferers rest. The Lord hath judgments for the proud & justice for the oppressed. His wondrous works & ways He made by Moses known, but sent the world His truth & grace by His beloved Son. Amen. LSB 814:1-2, 5-6.
Text – 2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
All Grace Abound to You
We’re beginning a three-week Stewardship emphasis to consider the blessings that God provides. The Bible verse we will focus on was just read. Today, we look at the 1st part of this verse, “God is able to make all grace abound to you.” Next week we’ll look at the topic of sufficiency. Is there enough grace to go around? The text says, “In all things, & at all times.”
A text speaking of all grace abounding to you provides me an opportunity to talk about what grace means. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a well-known place to go for a foundational definition of the word grace. We are saved by grace through faith & not by works so that no one can boast. Grace is a gift that God gives to us without merit or rank, & we receive it by faith.
You may have already heard of this acrostic of the word “grace” = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is free to you & me, but comes at the price of Jesus’ death. We receive all the treasures of the royalty of Jesus. We receive the access that Jesus has to the Father.
You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation of people called by God according to His
promises (1 Peter 2:9). This gift is given to you through the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. From the Holy Spirit, we receive Jesus & all of His grace by faith in Him. Today I ask you to trust that this wonderful gift of grace has been present in the world from the very beginning.
At Genesis 1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens & the earth.” Yahweh did not have to. There was nothing that required Him to do this work of creation. Grace is something that God does freely & with joy for you. Creation was an act of grace. Creation continues to be an act of grace as daily God provides everything we need for this life. He continues to graciously give us His creation as He provides our daily bread. Generation to generation we build on the promises of God’s grace. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a great place for parents to remember that from generation to generation you are sharing this pillar, this foundation of faith in Jesus, with your children.
When your children rise up, when they walk, when they eat & when they sleep, you are talking to them about what God’s grace does for life. Grace begins this world, & it remains the pillar upon which our life is built. The foundation upon which we stand in a right relationship with God is His grace.
Psalm 19:1 describes it this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God, & the sky above proclaims His radiance.” From Romans 1:20, “…His invisible qualities, namely, His eternal power & divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
The truth for each day is that we depend on God’s grace. We stand on the grace of God. While His grace remains strong & persistent in our lives, we are sinful & weak. We knock down this pillar of grace. When we try to stand in the world without God, without grace, we slander its reputation & tarnish its image in the minds of others.
What pillar do we try to stand on instead of grace? On our own confidence, by which we think we can accomplish whatever we desire. Yet, to think we have enough, that we are good enough, or that we have accomplished enough is an illusion. Standing on our confidence & moving forward on that basis, we end up standing on the pillar of fear.
We worry that what we have will be lost or taken away. We end up on a pillar of anger because resentment in us grows when we look at the unfairness of what someone else has versus what we have. Instead of standing on the pillar of grace, trusting God to give gifts according to grace, in sin we try to stand on a pillar of our own doing. When we stand on our own doing, then it’s something we have to keep & protect, & preserve. Then it becomes something we worry about, or we fear losing our grip. The pillars of fear, worry & anger are going to crumble. They will fall down. Relationships built on them have nothing to persevere through tragedy.
Where can we find in Holy Scripture a good place to illustrate the contrast between fear & grace? Standing on the pillar of grace, we trust God will be with us to preserve & protect us. On that pillar we can be reckless & wild in our love for others, versus standing on something of our own making. In Genesis 12, Abram is called to stand on the grace God will provide:
“Go from your country & your kindred & your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, & I will bless you & make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, & him who dishonors you I will curse, & in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Abram, his wife & servants, they get up & they go from this land that Abram’s family has been in. They follow the call of God & arrive in the land of Canaan. Abram took with him his brother’s son, Lot. In Genesis 13, the servants of Abram & the servants of Lot have gotten into more & more conflict as the herds of goats & sheep keep getting larger.
Trying to find places of pasture controversy is brewing between the servants of Abram & Lot. Abram has a moment of conversation with Lot, to confess that this is not working:
“Let there be no strife between you & me, between your herdsmen & my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8-9 ESV)
Lot lifts up his eyes & looks around. What an opportunity. It’s like – someone else is cutting the cake, but you get to pick the 1st piece. Lot takes the best. Abram is looking at the land of leftovers. It’s not as green; not as vibrant. It’s not as beautiful with blessings. His eyes are cast down. Lot has shown us that he is going to set his life on what he can build with his own hands. Abram is left with what? His downcast eyes tell us his future looks like dust. His future has collapsed.
But the Lord said to Abram, after Lot separates from him, “Lift up your eyes & look from the place where you are, northward & southward & eastward & westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you & to your offspring forever… Arise, walk through the length & the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-15, 17 ESV)
Abram is told by God to lift up his eyes & walk the length & the breadth of this land. His eyes revealed no blessing, so Abram depended on God’s grace by faith. If Abram builds his life on a foundation of grace, then he builds his life on a foundation that God will preserve & protect him. Abram walks into steps that are yet unknown, & believes his steps will be guided by God.
The land chosen by Lot did produce for a while, but it also produced a recklessness that abandoned God. The land of Lot collapsed. Sodom & Gomorrah fell apart. Abram’s life did have hiccups where he struggled, but he continued to find his life restored by a grace-filled relationship with Yahweh.
The stewardship theme is called, Stewards Walking by Grace. I illustrated that from Genesis 13 to show how Abram walked by grace. I want you now to think about St. Paul walking by grace. At Philippians 1:12 we can see what it means for him to walk by grace.
Paul had been arrested. He was in jail & trying to encourage the churches that he started. He can’t visit them, but was asking them to still trust that God is with them. He wrote in verse 12, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Paul looked at the world that others believed was collapsing, & he went forward trusting that these were moments anointed by God’s grace. For you & me, to use the gifts that God has given to us, we do not look at the world as Lot did. We walk every step, even when the steps are unknown, trusting that the length & the breadth of our days are measured in God’s grace. Our very lives are measured by the undeserved love & favor of God.
So consider now words of Scripture often heard at Christmas. These passages are filled with promise & hope. The Bible shows us what it means to walk by grace. In 2 Samuel 7:16, the Lord told David that he is going to build a great house in his name. It’s going to be a kingdom that will last forever.
What does David experience? The death of four children, including Absalom, who tries to revolt & steal his father’s kingdom. It can be hard to believe God’s word when your own family is destroying you. Yet David holds onto those words & continues to build each of his moments & days on the grace of God.
When David had a chance to celebrate the death of Absalom, his son who had revolted against him, he does not because he is going to walk by grace rather than by a pillar of anger.
In Micah 5:2 where we hear, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
For generations people look at that promise & think how ridiculous is this because there is nothing coming out of Bethlehem. It’s just a small village next to Jerusalem. Yet Mary & Joseph traveled there, & when the time came for her to give birth, she gave birth to her first-born son. For everyone else, that Bethlehem promise looked like a dead end.
But Joseph & Mary, walking by grace, not knowing how all of their steps were going to be part of the fulfillment of God’s promises, went forward into those steps that were unknown.
In Isaiah 7:14, is a promise that a virgin is going to conceive & give birth to a son, & we are going to call that son Immanuel. From a woman who is unknown, will come a Child who knows all – an amazing promise. God’s grace works in the impossible moments to provide us the faith to go forward into our own impossible moments.
The Bible is filled with promises that only make sense when you know you neither deserve it nor earn it. Our lives are entirely given as a gift beyond what the world would recognize as obvious or clear. As Christians, we walk by grace trusting the promise of God. Even in the midst of our weaknesses, we believe that this grace will be sufficient for us.
We navigate across the centuries. As Christians we have the long view of what it means to walk by grace. We know the journey will seem incredibly long. Yet we will trust from generation to generation like Deuteronomy 6, raising our children from when they rise, when they walk, when they eat & when they sleep. We will raise them knowing the Lord.
Stewards walking by grace through faith still see the divisions of this world as Lot did. And even now it will seem like others get more than they deserve. But we also hear the call of God to Abram in Genesis 13. We arise to look eastward, westward, northward & southward. We walk the length & the breadth of our days trusting that they are the promise of God.
Stewards walking by grace. We will walk with the word as a light on our path. Amen.
What God’s almighty power has made, in mercy He is keeping. By morning glow or evening shade His eye is never sleeping. Within the kingdom of His might all things are just & good & right. He never shall forsake His flock, His chosen generation; He is their refuge & their rock, their peace & their salvation. As with a mother’s tender hand, He leads His own, His chosen band. All who confess Christ’s holy name, give God the praise & glory. Let all who know His power proclaim aloud the wondrous story. Cast every idol from its throne, for God is God, & He alone: To God all praise & glory! Amen. LSB 819:2, 4-5.
19th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 22) LSB #’s 869, 695, 685
Text – Mark 10:6-9
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male & female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
GOD’S DESIGN – GOD’S WILL
We had a rule of thumb among the engineering crew I served with on the submarine. It was 50/50 – 80/20. What it meant is this – even if you had a 50/50 chance of getting something right 80 % of the time you would guess wrong. It’s just how life seemed to work.
Though we didn’t talk about it as the result of sin, that’s essentially what we were recognizing. Sin has corrupted the mathematical formula of 50/50 & turned it into an 80 % failure rate. The crew I worked with believed that you were better off putting in the effort to know the answer than to guess.
Submarines are designed to work a certain way. If you refuse to follow the design you will die. Yet, if you follow the design they are incredible machines capable of doing amazing things. Likewise, human beings are incredible creatures capable of doing amazing things.
Last month, a friend from the submarine called, & one of the things we talked about was the training we received. After 40 years, we are still amazed at what the human mind can be taught to do, especially under pressure, when your very life depends upon you & the people with whom you are working.
Maybe you remember this motto, created back in 1972 – “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” After being adopted by the United Negro College Fund, it became one of the most widely recognized slogans in advertising history.
However, long before the advertising firm Young & Rubicam created it, the Creator of the human mind was inspiring St. Paul to write these words: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life & peace.” (Romans 8:5-6 ESV)
Across the entire human race there is a vast range of individual decisions, but if you boil them right down, isn’t everyone in our world trying to find life & peace? My approach to that may seem crazy & selfish to you, & vice versa, but essentially we are all searching for the same result – life & peace.
Sin brought death & anxiety, not just into the world, but into our very heart & soul. Sin has turned our minds away from God’s design. If we set our mind on the Spirit of God there is life & peace. In the world we live in those are incredible & amazing outcomes.
However, if we remain where sin has left us, with our mind set on the things of the flesh, that is death. Listen to the conclusion in Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” We could say in the context of that verse, that God’s law is essentially the same thing as God’s design.
If we set our mind on the flesh we are choosing death even when we believe we are gaining life & peace. And the devil certainly makes his temptations very appealing. The majority of people in our world are chasing after them. Most of what we hear & see in the news are the horrible results of death that come by not following God’s design.
Human beings are incredible creatures capable of doing amazing things – if we follow the design of our Creator. It is absolutely true that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, & so much of our own lives is filled with that waste, because we too are not always following God’s design. What’s on your mind this morning? PAUSE
From the Gospel reading in Mark 10, we know what’s on the mind of the Pharisees.
They have come to test, or to trap, Jesus. They firmly believe that they are gaining life & peace, but Satan has deceived them & they don’t know it. What they do know, is that this Jesus is staking out a very different path. They are not happy with it. He’s been bringing the truth & He’s getting pushback, but He does not stop revealing God’s design. Jesus said to them:
“Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male & female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:5-9 ESV)
That is God’s design & God’s will. When we submit to that we find life & peace. God’s Spirit can work in us. When we refuse to submit to that we find anxiety & we find death. As the opening line of the Introit said this morning, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a ESV)
As the book of Hebrews stated, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1 ESV) Those words apply not simply to how you & I were designed to live. Yes, all of us fall short of the glory of God, by far, & hearing about that is depressing news. But those are not the only words to which we should pay closer attention.
After Jesus deals with the question of divorce by going all the way back to God’s design for marriage at creation, Jesus then welcomes the children to come near. The illustration for us is that no matter how insignificant we are, even because of our sins, Jesus still welcomes us. No matter how much of God’s design we have broken, He is waiting for us to return to Him.
The author of Hebrews reminds us that in addition to the recognition of our failures & sins, God also bears “…witness by signs & wonders & various miracles & by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will,” (2:4 ESV) that Jesus has submitted to the heavenly Father’s will on our behalf. Jesus has not rejected God’s design, but embraced it, perfectly. For since the foundation of the world it was the heavenly Father’s design that Jesus should take our place in punishment for our sin. He took our place in order that you & I could be set free. That is also part & parcel of God’s design & God’s will, & they come together in one package.
Repenting of our sins & believing the good news are in some respects, one & the same thing. We can’t do one without the other, & it takes a miracle of God to work both of them in sinful creatures like we are. God’s design & God’s will are both blessings to us, but often it takes our failures to humble us so that we can see with the eyes of faith.
Whether it is marriage, or any other of the countless circumstances we find ourselves in, God is faithful, as demonstrated in Jesus, no matter what. We can count on Him to humble us & to rescue us. When He does that He empowers us for another new day of living out His design & His will. I pray that this news will be on your heart & mind throughout the week. Amen.
Love is humble, love is gentle, love is tender, true & kind; love is gracious, ever patient, generous of heart & mind: Never jealous, never selfish, love will not rejoice in wrong; never boastful nor resentful, love believes & suffers long: In the day this world is fading faith & hope will play their part; but when Christ is seen in glory love shall reign in every heart: May love be ours, O Lord. Amen. LSB 695:2-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet