It’s been a while since I had an enjoyable road trip like the one we had yesterday. It felt long, tiring and with a great sense of adventure as we travelled to and back from Kamba land. I want to thank you all for your love and support towards Our Deacons as they laid their father to rest yesterday. This is the essence of being The Church Next Door, Stronger and Better Together. Thank you. I am grateful and proud of this community.
The sense of adventure came not only as we drove through the long windy and at some point washed river beds and floods over the bridges, but when we were travelling back several vehicles got stuck in the mud. It was exciting to see the community energy as we stopped, waited and got in the mud to push out the stuck vehicles. Noteworthy among the crowd, there were good spectators and those of us who chose to get dirty. That was a true feel of community.
We have had a great year as we explored our 2017 theme “Church next door”. We celebrate our growth and Transformation in the Lord and our influence around Syokimau. We thank you for being part of the journey. As we wind up the year, Traditionally, November is our Leadership/Commitment Month when we reflect on our journey together and review our vision as a family of faith and our personal commitments to God’s mission at Lifespring Chapel.
Last week Pst. Mwende begun by looking at the area of serving and considering your SHAPE. How has God SHAPED you as a believer to serve and be a significant member of the body of Christ? As you consider your Spiritual Gifts, Your Heart’s passion, Your Abilities, Your Personality and Your Experiences Please consider and sign up to serve in the various ministry opportunities available. Again we have this online- join our telegram group for more, especially as we consider next year?
Today I remind us on the subject of Generosity and Active participation in the work of God in this community through our Giving.
As a reminder From Eph 1, the Church is not Man’s Idea, Set up by God himself, the church is God’s own divine choice of people, called to bear and Know His LIFE through Christ. The church is faith and love driven. Faith built on God’s revelation of himself and not human effort, wisdom to figure God out as a form of religion. The church is driven by Love, Love that sees people the way God sees them, People with hope, with riches in Christ and who operate on resurrection power.
In these politically dynamic and end time culminating days. Yes there has been a lot of holding back, selfishness and self-centeredness- the church can only sustain itself through the unchanging LIFE of God in us that expresses itself in sacrificial giving and serving as the Lord gave himself for us on the cross. Giving and Generosity is not only the core of the foundation of our Faith, but also the core for Propagating our Faith.
Again consider this picture of the church in Acts 2:42-44. The one major barrier and threat to this Church is self-centeredness resulting to selfishness and stinginess especially while letting others carry the entire load. A stingy community will not break bread together, a stingy community does not have things in common, some have some don’t have, a stingy community will have those complaining, comparing and stealing, a stingy community will not invite each other to their homes, a stingy community will not eat with glad hearts, a stingy community does not give cheerfully but grudgingly, a stingy community does not experience God’s favor and thus a stingy community will not grow. A stingy community is weak and divided. A stingy community is full of spectators and not ministers.
Over the years, the Grace of giving and sharing which is one of the strongest demonstration of the church’s character, drawing right from the heart of God remains an area of greatest challenge given the manipulation seen in many places including the world today to extort money from people.
So giving of offerings can be the low point of a worship service. It can easily be ignored, tolerated and sometimes resented by many. It is robbed of it’s power as a meaningful expression of our worship and walk of Faith. Not only so, the idea of giving is in conflict with the many existing demands of our budgets, dreams and desires.
There is a place to be reminded about this Grace of Giving. As we look at next year and the plans we believe God has placed in our hearts to grow and touch people in this community and beyond through us, for some we must have a change of heart and attitude about Giving, For some we must challenge ourselves to Grow in this Grace, For some we must move from spectating to active participation in God’s mission.
This is an area of growth for all of us, Yes even I. The Bible actually calls it the Grace of Giving in contrast to the Law of Giving.
Our Text in 2 Cor 8:1-15 (Read)
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul addresses key issues that this young church he was pastoring was facing concerning order of worship, spiritual gifts and marriage relationships. However in the course of time, there arose those who opposed Paul in this church and questioned his authority as an apostle. So in this second letter he writes to defend his authority by explaining his actions, defending his ministry including the right to ask of their resources.
In these chapters, Paul writes from Macedonia, encouraging the Corinthian church with the generosity he had experienced. During his third missionary journey, Paul had collected money for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem (The church in Acts 2:42 as a result of persecution). The churches in the Macedonian province including Phillipi, Thessalonica and Berea had given money even though they were poor. They had sacrificially given more than Paul would expect. Verse 4 almost sounds unreal- They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
In deed the Kingdom of God spread through the believers concern and eagerness to help each other. Several churches joined hands to support other believers. At one time the church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42-44) had much but as a result of the persecution by the anti- Christ- emperors, this church was now impoverished and could have been facing extinction. This is the kind of church back ground that got us the gospel today. Right from God who gave his son, disciples who gave up their lives, the apostles who gave up their rights, the churches who gave their resources, the church fathers who gave up their blood, the missionaries who gave up their resources and lives…today we have the Gospel, because God has preserved it through the Grace of giving.
It appears that about one year ago, the Corinthian church had begun in this grace, but over the time, their zeal and enthusiasm died down. In fact they are the ones who begun this initiative among the churches but now they had unfulfilled pledges.
So Paul sent Titus and a certain brother, ahead of him to prepare them for this generous gift. In verse 7, The Corinthian church excelled in everything- They had faith, gifted speakers, knowledge and enthusiasm and love, but Paul encouraged them to excel in the grace of giving. In the same way, I encourage us as a community to excel in the grace of giving.
In this strong appeal there is one principle that Paul dwells on- that it is not the amount we give that’s important but why and how we give.
1. Our giving is a reflection of our trust and submission to Christ as Lord.
It expresses our Gratitude and Faith in God. Please note verse 5, after giving themselves first to the Lord and to each other, the result was the joy and enthusiasm we see. Indeed just like the rich young ruler who was thought he had fulfilled all law, Jesus asked him to go and sell all his possessions and come and follow. When we give ourselves to the Lord, something in us should change. Having been set free from the bondage and duty of the Law of Giving, Paul Calls them to the freedom and generosity of the Grace of Giving.
Our grip on things changes, loosens, Paul says what I considered profit I now consider loss for the sake of knowing Jesus. We give up our insecurities for Kingdom purposes. Our grip on small life loosens and we take hold and Grip tightly on God’s LIFE.
Not only so, but when we give ourselves to the Lord, We give ourselves to the one who owns the earth and all that is in it. Not just something we recite but a conviction we have Ps 24:1- The earth is the Lord’s the world and all who live in it. We come to Jesus, for whom all of the world’s gains are losses compared to knowing Him.
When we give, we express our faith in God to take care of us in the future? Not in our Savings, but in the heavenly riches stored up for us. His abundant LIFE available for us every day. There is no place for stinginess for those who have encountered Jesus.
Question is how does your giving measure up to the standards of the Macedonian Church? Are you stuck at the Law of Giving- Still calculating gross or net, wages or salary, before tax or after tax , or still stuck at 10%, Is your giving characterized by fear of the future and anxieties Or are you growing in the Grace of Giving- Which is about Not how much I have but How much I love? How much God has given?
How does your giving reflect a transformed heart as a result of giving yourself first to the Lord?
2. Our Giving Creates COMMUNITY- Giving promotes and enhances a LIFE community. Our giving and sharing is a reflection of how we trust and have given to each other. But they also gave themselves to each other. These early churches belonged to each other. I belong to this church and so I freely own and freely give. All insecurities jealousy, selfishness and ill intentions were dealt with. They trusted each other in fact in verse 8:20; Paul suggests that they strived to be accountable, by guarding against criticism by how they handled the gift.
First to Thank you for your giving this far. It affirms our mission, vision, volunteers and the leadership. You have no Idea but your giving has not only helped me and others to stay on but also to draw in others to the faith. If you are like me, you have received something, care, friendship and much more from someone in this community and that’s why you are still here. So thank you.
Thank you for giving to the church, for giving to the facilities, for giving that ride in your car, for giving that helping hand, for giving your houses, for giving your time, we are here because God has used you. “Your generosity… not only provides for the needs of God’s people, but also produces prayers of thanksgiving to God.”
Our giving and sharing is a reflection of how we trust and have given to each other. How we trust the leadership and vision of the church, how we trust one another. How we trust the church to be accountable with these gifts. How we trust the interns to use these resources as intended, how someone trusted the vision of the church and gave towards funding the facilities and building projects. Where people have not given themselves to each other, you cannot give freely.
3. Giving DEFEATS MATERIALISM of the Temporary and INVEST IN ETERNITY
Generosity not only builds community but frees us from the lies of materialism in the world. Churches are not built by money but generous hearts. Those lies- like money make the world go round, no money no love, No romance without finance, cash rules everything around me, no money more problems no longer have a grip on us. We are light hearted free to own and free to give, in the light of the real owner. In exchange we now have other slogans that are infused and defined by God’s LIFE. No LIFE no Love, No Romance without God’s LIFE, God’s LIFE makes the world go round, God’s LIFE rules everything around me, I can do all things, I can become all things, I own all things through Christ who has given himself for me. What an attitude. “You cannot serve both God and money.” Matt. 6:24 (NIV)
We don’t just give to a charity, but we give to the most worthy cause in the entire world. When we give, God gives us the privilege to invest in His God’s dream, and that dream is to have his LIFE fully lived out in every one, those in Syokimau and beyond. These people matter to God for eternity. Think of the many that you may not know now, but who will join and sing this song in heaven-
Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was saved, thank you for giving to the Lord, I am so glad you gave and because of your giving I am in this side of heaven. Because of others giving you are in this side of heaven.
4. IT BLESSES ME IN RETURN: How has God chosen to bless you? When you bless others. Now I need to warn, giving is not doing trade with God. We cannot do trade with God- His blessings have no price tags, His LIFE is abundant and freely available to all. We could not ever afford his blessings, the ultimate price was paid by himself- as we say here we cannot out give God. Instead God rewards us, meets our needs. And his blessings are not weighed by small life scales (double double) his blessings are in overwhelming abundance.
Read verse 9:8. I believe God has blessed me because of this. God takes note of every time I give someone a ride, every time I give someone bus fare, every time I give. Not only do we give, but also receive responsibly- receive heartily, receive carefully- It is God’s gift. A cheerful heart remains cheerful when it remains giving.
HOW CAN I PRACTICE GENEROSITY? “If you’re really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give.” 2 Cor. 8:12 (NLT) “You must make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Cor. 9:7 (NLT)
A. THOUGHTFULLY: The grace of giving develops when there is intentionality. Plan your giving. Set aside what to give. Knowing our fallen nature, pray first that God would break loose your hold on small life and that God would empower you to give through his LIFE. It is not in us to practice generosity so seek accountability in your giving. Set goals, plans, budget, reminders, and targets. As you save for your retirement with old mutual or buy medical insurance- set it in your heart and mind to give.
B. ENTHUSIASTICALLY: Celebrate your giving not just by how much you have given, but celebrate in the people your giving has transformed. Celebrate with the interns, the church. Celebrate with your wife. Celebrate God’s blessings in your family. Celebrate the community you are in. Celebrate new targets you have broken, consistency in your giving, celebrate the giving reports. In this way we cultivate a heart of cheer not grumpiness. Associate your giving not with scarcity but abundance of life.
Let’s Pray- What is God saying to you…
1. How do you compare your zeal for giving with thw churches of Macedonia?
2. Share any new insights on giving from this passage. Are you stuck on the law of Giving or are you growing in the Grace of Giving.
3. Share some fears, experiences and concerns you have on this subject.
4. What possible commitments/growth targets or decisions can you make and ask someone to keep you accountable.
5. Pray for one another around these questions above.