Thanksgiving service - 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
It might seem like a distant memory, but Christmas was only 3 weeks ago. So maybe youíve forgotten, but I wonder what you got for Christmas. What was your best present? The socks. The jumper. The new TV. Or maybe the fact that someone else cooked the dinner or looked after the kids. Maybe your best present was simply a rest. So let me ask you: what was your best Christmas present?
Even as Christians, weíre so easily distracted from the main thing. So if youíre not already there, please turn back with me to 2 Cor 9 and look with me at the last verse: v15:
2 Cor 9:15: ďThanks be to God for his indescribable gift!Ē
What gift is the apostle Paul talking about. Is it the socks or the slippers. No. As weíre reminded in Johnís Gospel:
3:16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Thatís what Christmas presents are all about. A reminder the greatest Christmas present of all time. The gift of the Lord Jesus Christ. A gift that led to the death of His one and only son on the cross. A willing death. A necessary death. Because each an every one of us by nature has rejected the God who gave us life in the first place. By nature, weíre all sinners. And so, left to ourselves, every one of us would be facing Godís just punishment when we died. Without Godís indescribable gift, every one of us would have been facing an eternity in hell; a just punishment for our rejection of his indescribable gift.
So if youíre a Christian here this morning. That was your greatest Christmas present. Being rescued from a certain eternity in hell. So how does that compare with a pair of socks?
No wonder Paul says back in 2 Cor: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!Ē
And so should we. And that brings us to the first heading on the [handout/ screen]
The Motivation for Giving (v15)
The motivation for giving. The motivation for giving. V15 is the last verse of cpt 9 and concludes a long section which began in cpt 8. And in cpt 8, Paulís been encouraging the Corinthians to be generous. Why? Whatís he want the money for? Well in Europe and especially in Corinth, there was an economic boom. But in the land of Israel, there was a recession. Weíre not just talking about one Birdís Eye factory closing, bad as that is for the people of Hull. No back in Israel, there was a famine. But there was no social security in those days, so the Christians in Israel were literally starving.
There was a financial need because there was a famine. So Paul encourages generous giving. The need was pressing. But the need wasnít the main motivation for giving. No the motivation for giving was the Gospel. The motivation for giving is Godís indescribable gift in the person of His son.
2 Cor 9:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
As a church, we have financial needs and John will be talking about those later. But if our giving is simply to balance the budget, then weíre no different from a tennis club. Our motivation for giving must be the Gospel. Our motivation for giving must be the Lordís indescribable gift to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. And our financial giving should be just one small part of our total whole-life response to that gift. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.
Manner of Giving (6-7)
Thatís the motivation for giving then. The Gospel. But how? And how much? And that brings us onto the next main heading in v6-7. The manner of giving. The manner of giving.
By the time he gets to cpt 9, Paulís already covered some of this, so we need to recap a bit to get the flow. Donít turn to it, but listen to these words from 1 Cor:
1Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
Look back to v6 of 2 Cor 9:
6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Just because giving is meant to be a thankful response, doesnít mean itís a spur of the moment thing. Godly giving isnít an embarrassed fumble for loose change when the plate comes round. No godly giving is planned giving. Which means if weíre Christians, if weíve been gripped by that indescribable gift, we need to sit down, pray through our budgets and plan how much weíre going to give. If youíre not a Christian here this morning, then I hope youíre learnt something about the Christian faith, but the main point of this morning is for committed Christians/ itís for regular members of [SF/ Riverside]. So whether youíre a Christian or not, when the when the plate comes round, you shouldnít be embarrassed because youíve forgotten to bring any cash: because if youíre not a Christian or not regular member, then weíre not expecting you to give anything; but if you are a Christian and consider yourself a member of [SF/ Riverside] then you shouldnít be driven by guilt to chuck whatever loose change you can find when the plate comes round. Why? Because godly giving is planned giving.
But Godly giving is also prudent giving. God has been lavish in His gift to us. But Godís not wasteful. He wouldnít have given His own Son to death if it hadnít have been absolutely necessary for our salvation. God doesnít waste his gifts. And the biblical principle of good stewardship can be applied to our giving. If youíre a tax payer, then when you give to charity, the tax man adds another 28% to your gift. But it only works if you sign the gift aid form. So if youíre a tax payer, and you donít gift aid your giving, then youíre wasting 28% of it. So ,in a sense, youíre wasting Godís resources. And itís the same with one-off as well as regular gifts. If youíre a tax-payer, donít put loose change in the collection plate. Use one these [SF/ Riverside] envelopes and make sure you sign the gift aid declaration. Because Godly giving is prudent giving.
So godly giving is planned and prudent. But maybe youíre asking how much. Well if we were a tennis club, then weíd say that weíve got [26/ 50] regular members, so to balance the budget that works out at about £30 a month each.
But weíre not a tennis club. And the Bible encourages us to be generous. Because godly giving is generous giving. Look with me again at v6:
6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
As a thankful response to the Gospel, weíre called to be generous. So what does generous mean? Well generous is a relative term. As that passage from 1 Cor put it: whenever weíre paid or receive our pension or allowance of whatever, each of us should set aside a proportion in keeping with our income. So what kind of proportion? Well the OT set Godís people the target of 10%, and Christians have often used this target as a starting point. But the NT doesnít mention 10%. It simply commands us to be generous.
Now for some of v tight budgets, 10% might be crippling. But for others, 10% would hardly be noticed. Whatís the definition of generous? Well itís up to you. Whether youíre being generous with your giving is between you and God. He knows your circumstances; and if youíve been gripped by that indescribable gift, reflected on the Bibleís teaching and prayed the issues through, then in your heart, youíll know whether youíre being generous or not.
So godly giving is planed; itís prudent; and itís generous.
But thereís more. Look on again to 9:7:
7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Maybe this afternoon you sit down and prayerfully plan your giving, itís a generous amount, maybe even a sacrificial amount; youíve signed the gift aid from so youíre a prudent giver. But what if, during the week, your mind starts thinking about all the other things you could have spent the money on. A better car; a better holiday; some more sports kit. Itís not that sport, cars and holidays are wrong in themselves. But if your giving is half-hearted, if you start to resent your giving, then it wonít be joyful. And it youíre not joyful about your giving, then no matter how much you give, it still wonít be godly. Because Godly giving is joyful giving.
And thatís the manner of giving God is looking for. Planned giving; prudent giving; generous giving and joyful giving. The manner of giving.
The results of giving (v8-14)
Weíve looked at the motivation for giving and the manner of giving. And in v8-14 we see the results of giving. The results of giving.
The giver is blessed (8-11)
And the first result is that the giver is blessed. The giver is blessed. Now we need to be careful here. We donít give in order to be blessed. Even less do we give in order to get right with God. No our motivation for giving is the Gospel. But look with me at v8:
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.
And onto v10:
10Now 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. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,
Now we still need to be careful. False teachers twist these verses; peddlers of the prosperity gospel say that if you give to the church then God will make you financially rich. And itís a dangerous heresy. So if thatís not what itís saying, what does it mean? Well, v10 is saying that, if you give generously, maybe even to the point where it seriously impacts your budget, God is able to balance your budget. After all, Heís the creator of the universe. Nothing is impossible with God. So blessing your budget is no sweat for God. As v8 puts it, God is able to supply all your needs. Not all your wants, especially those fuelled by our materialistic culture. Nowhere does God promise you a 5 star luxury holiday. But God is able and will to supply all our basic needs. And he often does it by helping us to limit our expenditure. He might do it by making that car you thought was on its last legs last a bit longer. He might do it by people giving you second hand clothes or toys for the children. Itís what Kate and I call divine arithmetic when it come to balancing the budget. Especially when we were at Bible college and living on thin air, even though we carefully budgeted, we sometimes didnít know how the budget balanced. Especially when things went wrong like the cooker blowing up. Divine arithmetic.
God doesnít promise to make us rich. But he has said, as a general rule, he will provide for our needs and bless the godly giver. Spiritually bless that is as our needs are met and our faith is stretched. Thatís the first result of giving. The giver is blessed.
Needs are met and ministry is expanded (v12-14)
And in v12-[13/ 14], we see the second result of giving. Needs are met [and ministry is expanded.] Needs are met [and ministry is expanded.] And to understand this we need to remember the context. Remember that Paul was collecting from rich European churches to help the starving Christians in Jerusalem. So what will happen when those Jewish Christians receive a gift from their richer European brothers and sisters in X? Well look at v12:
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.
So not only are practical needs met, but the recipients are driven to thank the Lord for His provision. Because thatís how the Lord normally provides for His people. Yes God sometimes performs miracles. But normally the Lord provides for the needs of His people through the giving of His people. Your giving will supply the needs of Godís people here at [SF/ Riverside] and beyond. When Godís people are in need they pray. And when the Lordís provides, they say thank you.
But thereís more. What are they saying thank you for in v13: itís not only for the material provision theyíve received. No, theyíre also thanking God for the Corinthians' faith. Because the Corinthiansí generous giving is a demonstration of the reality of their faith. Itís a demonstration that, when push comes to shove, their faith isnít some private religious experience that comes and goes. Not theyíre prepared to put their money where their mouth is. Or in other words, when they say their believe the Gospel, theyíre prepared to back it up with hard cash. And so those receiving the cash give thanks. Not only for the cash, but for the reality of Gospel being worked out in the giversí lives.
Ministry is multiplied (v14)
But thereís even more. Look at v14:
14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.
What else happens when these poor Christian in Jerusalem received the money. They not only thank the Lord. They pray for the givers. They get out the Corinthians' prayer letter which came with the cheque and start praying for the ministry back in Corinth. Whatís the result of giving? Not only are the givers blessed and needs met, but ministry is multiplied. Ministry is multiplied.
So it could be that, in years to come, people here in [Dunswell/ Riverside] give thanks to the Lord for your giving today in church; giving that led to an expansion of the ministry, giving which humanly speaking led to them coming to know Jesus. Ministry which saved them from a lost eternity in hell. Ministry that led to Godís people being blessed and God being glorified.
The motivation for giving. The manner of giving. And the results of giving.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.
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