Life Through Death Sermon Series Sermon #3 January 10, 2016
Sermon: “Gaining Through Giving” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Do you see yourself as a generous person? If you do, let me ask you two questions:
First, what is your standard of generosity? That is, who are you comparing yourself to?
Second, what motivates your generosity? Why do you give some of your money away?
Let me suggest that your generosity will depend on two things:
1. Do You See God as a Taker or as a Giver?
2. Do You See God’s Blessings as Things to Store Up or to Sow?
1. Do You See God as a Taker or as a Giver? (9:8-10, 14-15)
8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness….. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
If you are giving to the church and to charities, there are two different motivations for your giving: You can give out of guilt, out of compulsion; you can give stingily, sparingly, and reluctantly. Or, you can give generously, sacrificially, willingly, lavishly, even cheerfully! You can ask yourself, “How little can I give away, because I have to?” Or you can ask yourself, “How much can I give away, because I really want to?”
What makes the difference? One reason is how you view God. So let me ask you: “How do you picture God? Do you see Him as someone who takes from you, or do you view Him as someone who gives to you? Do you see the Lord as Someone who demands from you, or as Someone who has lavished good things upon you?”
If you view God as a taker, then you will be, at best, a reluctant giver, but if you see God as a bountiful supplier, then you, in turn, will be a generous and cheerful giver! Do you know why that’s true? Because the Biblical principle is that you become like the God you worship and serve. (Ps. 115:8 – “Those who make idols will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”)
A. W. Tozer famously said, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about you.”
So the bottom line is that if you think God has withheld good things from you in your life; that He has taken from you what you desired or deserved, then you will be a begrudging giver; you will be more concerned with what you can keep and hold on to, instead of what you can give.
But if you view God as One who has blessed you and given you far more than you deserve, then you will be a joyful giver; you will give bountifully from a heart that wants to share things.
So how you view God will largely determine what kind of giver you are. Do you see God as a drain, who wants to suck stuff out of you, or do you see him as a fountain who is always there to replenish you? Let me ask you: “Have experienced the generous, undeserving grace of God in the inexpressible gift of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ?” Has God given you a heart transplant, and removed the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge and replaced it with the heart of a benevolent philanthropist?
What is your view of God: a taker or a giver? Which of these hearts do you have this morning?
Make a list of all He’s given you, and ask Him to enlarge your view of Him, and to enlarge your heart as well.
2. Do You See God’s Blessings as Things to Store Up or to Sow? (vv. 6-7, 10). Do you stockpile and stash away what God gives you, or do you share them and spread them to others?
6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver….” 10 “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”
We saw last Sunday that when you “sow” vegetable seeds in the soil, they appear to be lost. You can’t see them; you’ve buried them; you’ve given them away. That’s how it appears. But what has actually happened is that by giving the seeds away, you have begun a process whereby those seeds will develop into large plant, and that plant will produce hundreds of delicious vegetables, each containing the seeds to produce a thousand more plants! So by giving the seeds away, by losing control over them, you actually turn them loose to produce a garden that will feed many families! Brothers and sisters: Giving away your money and your possessions to the Lord and His work is like joyfully planting seeds in the ground, anticipating the harvest to come!
Have you experience this Biblical principle? Lynn and I have seen God at work this way throughout our 40 years of marriage. For over a decade we lived on a pastor’s/ missionaries’ salary alone, as Lynn stayed home to help raise five sons, and we put them through Christian schools, and sought to give generously to the Lord and His work. Often when I finished writing the checks for our tithe and offerings and our school bill, there was barely anything left in the checkbook. But God always supplied our needs, and more. Twice He did it through our car being hit, and we used the insurance money to pay for tuition at seminary. Sometimes there was an unexpected check in the mail. But we trusted that whatever God gave us we were not to store up, but to spread to others, and He proved Himself faithful over and over again. It was a testimony to us and to others!
Look at Prov. 11:24-25 “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” God’s principle here is that one must sometimes “lose” something in order to “Gain.” It sounds like an oxymoron; it seems paradoxical, but it’s true, and God is glorified in this process. We learn to trust God with everything we have this way. God teaches us to walk by faith, not by sight, through this paradox.
And this principle applies not only to our finances, but to everything we have, even to our time, our talents, and our hearts. For instance, think about the times you give up your time to volunteer for a ministry or to help someone. Aren’t those the situations that bring you the deepest joy? As Jesus said in Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” God has wired us so that some of life’s greatest happiness comes from giving ourselves away.
The bottom line is that God calls us to live in a constant state of “glad generosity,” of “blissful bigheartedness,” because that’s who He is, and that’s what His blessings are for.
Let me finish with the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zeraphath (1 Kings 17:7-16.)
“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ ” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”
None of you can give away the amount of money that Bill and Melinda Gates gives away. Most of the time our generous giving doesn’t seem to change the world, or even one missionary.
But we can rejoice in God’s choice of who He used to keep the prophet Elijah alive, so that in the very next chapter, God uses Elijah to challenge and overthrow the 450 prophets of Baal, in that dramatic encounter on Mt. Carmel.
God didn’t choose a rich Jewish merchant, but rather He set His love upon a poor, destitute, gentile widow, to minister to the prophet. God made this humble woman both able and willing to sustain Elijah through a terrible famine, even though she was down to her last meal. In providing for the Elijah in his need, she risked death for herself and her son. Nevertheless, she gave of what little she had, for the sake of a stranger, and spared not even her only son. [By the way, Jesus took note of her actions, in Luke 4:25-26.] You see, it is God’s way, and it is for His glory, to use of the weak and foolish things of the world, so that all the glory and honor goes to Him.
This widow viewed God’s meager blessings to her not as something to store, but as something to sow, to give away. This widow believed the prophet’s word that she would not lose by giving her food away, but that God would provide her with a continuing source of food. The flour and the oil were multiplied, not in the hoarding of them, but in the spending; not in the storing of them, but in the sowing of them.
From this we learn that God can use any of us, with the smallest of resources, to accomplish his purposes… even as Jesus did later on with a boy’s few fish and few loaves of bread, to feed thousands.
All of this is one application of the Life through Death principle.
It is in dying that we become life-givers.
It is in losing that we find reward.
The way to fruitfulness lies through death.
There is great gain in giving away.
The seed must perish for the harvest to be produced.
It was true for Jesus, as He gave His life for us on the cross, that we might have eternal life. It is true for us today.
So how do you see God? As a taker or as a giver?
And how do you see God’s blessings? As things to store up and stash, or as things to sow and spread to others?