Stewardship 3 – 2018
Text – 2 Corinthians 8:3-5
For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, & beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – & this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then by the will of God to us.
embracing a lifestyle of giving joyfully & generously
Do you ever think about how much in life you take for granted? I can tell you some of the things I take for granted – clean water, good health, personal transportation, food, clothing, shelter. Yet one of the problems with taking things for granted is the fact that, by definition, we are not aware of the things we’re taking for granted, or we would not be taking them for granted.
I’ll tell you what else I often take for granted… it is the things God is doing here at our church through all of you – through your faithful gifts of time, through your talents & abilities, through your offerings, through your love & concern for other people. I decided to take a look & see what our Heavenly Father is accomplishing through you, His dear children.
However, in each of those situations, the power of our heavenly Father’s almighty word is coming to bear in the lives of real, living & eternal children of God. The central problem of our very existence is not that we take church for granted, or the schools, or Sunday morning Bible study. The heart wrenching pain that Jesus Christ has to suffer with is the fact that we take the universe creating, & eternal life-giving, Word of God for granted! As unbelievers we were dead in our sins & dead people can never earn eternal life.
To save us, our Creator had to give us that gift by His mercy & grace. Since we did nothing to earn it, it is natural for us to take it for granted. Often, I completely forget that without Jesus – life here on earth, & especially life after death – would be a source of fear & hopelessness. Isn’t it the same for you? Life gets busy. We forget Jesus!
It’s a blessing to hear the news of our forgiveness every day, because every day we forget to cherish it. So here is that Good News.
Jesus humbled Himself to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life in our place. He paid the price for every one of our sins on the cross of Calvary. He died there on our behalf. He defeated death for us when He rose again & ascended into Heaven. He promised to return & take us to be with Him. Who is Him? It’s the only-begotten Son of God, our Savior.
Just like everyone else, I need to be reminded every day that my eternity, my “forever & ever, amen,” has been changed because of Christ Jesus. Sinful beings take things for granted. We need reminding that every good thing comes from our Heavenly Father.
How do we get that reminder? It is through time spent in God’s Word. It is through deliberate action, led by the Holy Spirit, to be a disciple – to be striving to be more & more like Jesus. When that takes place, the feeling of entitlement, which Satan works within, will be turned into its opposite – Gratitude.
When God’s Word turns me away from my sinful attitudes I am grateful for all the things, large & small, in my life. I am grateful for my redemption & salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. And I am grateful TO someone: to our Heavenly Father. Living a grateful life is what this stewardship series, “Embracing Great Commission Stewardship,” is all about. It is about the connection between discipleship & stewardship.
In week one, I spoke with you about our calling as disciples of Christ. Last week, we talked about committing ourselves to God’s strong Word. By the power of the Holy Spirit, those things lead to a life of joyful, generous giving. That kind of giving flows out of gratitude. Gratitude is not taking things for granted.
Gratitude gives thanks & celebrates what God does for us every day of our lives. And then gratitude responds in a meaningful way as we embrace a lifestyle of giving joyfully & generously. A grateful heart is a gift that our heavenly Father longs to give to all His children.
One way I’ve seen that in action these past few months is the volunteers who’ve been helping to change out all of the old fluorescent lighting. It’s been a joyful & generous group that has put in many hours to retrofit so many light fixtures. And yesterday there was the group of people working for church cleanup day. Again & joyful & generous group.
There are literally hundreds of other projects being done, each & every day, to keep the school & the childcare programs running, & the building functioning. Offerings are being given & bills being paid. There are people praying for all of this. There are people doing all of this. It’s like the picture St. Paul painted for us in 2 Corinthians 8:3-5:
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, & beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – & this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then by the will of God to us.”
You could define discipleship by the last verse – gave themselves 1st to the Lord & then to us. Discipleship led to what we read in verse 3 – they gave beyond their means. They gave generously. And in verse 4 – begging earnestly to take part, they gave joyfully. Discipleship leads to gratitude, which leads to joyful generosity. God ties all those together in your heart through faith in Jesus as your Savior.
As we become more & more like Jesus, our lifestyle becomes one of giving joyfully & generously. That is the gift of life that our Creator gives. It’s not something to be afraid of. That’s what it is to trust in God. Here’s a story which I hope will build trust in your heart that the work God is doing through all of us here is powerful, effective, & eternal.
A young man graduated from one of our Concordia Universities. He started as a missionary in Southern California & was working with a boy named Enrique. Enrique was about 12 or 13, & most of his family had been into drugs & gangs. There were two or three success stories in his family, but eventually most of the family members got into drugs.
The missionary got to know many of the gangbangers in the area because some were part of Enrique’s family. It’s a crazy & dangerous life. Enrique’s dad was deported 5 years ago & he talked about him all the time. They used to go fishing & motocross riding.
The missionary found that he made the biggest impression, & the best opportunity he had to share Jesus, when he took Enrique fishing. It was the 1st time since his dad was deported. The relationship changed, & Enrique began attending church faithfully.”
There are two points to take from that story:
That is what God does through each of us & all of us at our church. We have much to be grateful for, the offerings, the commitment of time, the gifts God has given us which we freely share within the ministries here. Consider what’s happening: Children, young people, couples, families, grandparents, all are hearing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ every single day. In all different ways, the Holy Spirit, through us, is carrying the Gospel into the world.
Let’s pray: We praise you forever, Lord! You are king of the universe, & You rule with strength & power. We thank You & praise you, but why should we be impressed that we have given You offerings? They belong to You, & we’ve only given back what is already yours. Lord God, we bring offerings for the blessed work of church & school. They belong to You, & You gave them to us. We share the love & the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ with great joy, knowing it is Your Holy Spirit who is enlivening & blessing our work. Heavenly Father, always make us eager to give, & help us be faithful to You. We pray this by the mighty power & in the holy name of the One Who saves us, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord, our Savior & our King, unto life, joyfully & generously, everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet