2 Corinthians 9:6-15
I love hearing stories of faith. I especially love the ones in which someone up against incredible odds puts their faith God, and follows the Lord's plan rather than their own. That takes courage.
Many of you will remember the story Del Wergeland shared with us. For those of you who don't know her, Del is a nurse and committed believer who went with a group from her congregation, First Nazarene Church in Victoria, to Honduras following Hurricane Mitch. They pitched in to help, and then came back to report on what they had seen. She was so moved that she began a local drive to collect relief materials and then deliver them to the people of Honduras. Her willingness to go all-out for God has led to the establishment of Victoria's Compassionate Warehouse ministry1. Through multiple miracles of God, Del and her volunteers annually send out hundreds of tons of supplies around the globe. I cannot begin to tell the numerous stories of God's incredible and really miraculous grace that seem to be commonplace with Del and her group.
Consider the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The Catholic Church has fast tracked her for sainthood. To be a saint, there has to be, among other things, tangible proof of two miracles. I am not sure what constitutes an official miracle, but I think that her life is one. Convincing someone to give themselves every day to the collection of the dying from the filthy streets of that city is a miracle. Having hundreds give up their lives of comfort to come and work alongside you is a daily miracle. Once the miracle of converting my will to God's will takes place, then the tangible effects generally show up like dandelions on a mid-summer lawn.
Convincing people in a hedonistic, self-saturated culture like ours to take out their cheque books and every week make an offering on nothing more than faith in God is a miracle. God intervening into the warp and woof of creation is simple for its creator. A major change in attitude in my heart and mind is much more difficult than parting the Red Sea. The forces of nature are obedient to their creator. You and I are not, and God has allowed us to choose as we will.
And so, for me stewardship is about the miraculous, and is a battle with our adversary for our hearts, minds and bank account. If Satan wins the battle of your bank account, he has you in a corner and your life is already less effective. If God wins the battle, you are free to move about God's wonderful dimension of faith and experience the miraculous. If you want concrete tangible proof, visit with Del Wergeland at her warehouse.
God Loves a Hilarious Giver
Generosity does not come from our wallet, it comes from our heart.
Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7
Giving is an important spiritual principal, and I believe that the Bible teaches the practice of the tithe as the standard. Valerie and I are committed to tithing. However, what is most important is that whatever we do, we do for the right reasons. God loves the giver and the gift when it comes from a willing heart. In fact the word, "cheerful", could best be translated as "hilarious". The Lord loves a hilarious giver.
Hilarity in giving? Now there is a concept. Don't you love the occasions when you have chosen exactly the right gift for someone important to you, especially a gift they could never anticipate in a million years? Then the occasion comes and they begin to unwrap what to them is a mystery. Now capture that feeling of almost hilarious expectation you feel, waiting for them to see what you've given. That's a hilarious giver. God loves that too. The reason: because God is a hilarious giver. When we give, especially to people in need without any expectation of getting anything back from them, we are mimicking God's own nature.
One reason we don't give is the fear what we give is lost to us. When you give that perfect gift, is it lost to you? Of course not. It is simply invested in a different set of priorities. What we give happily to God is never lost, because we know in Whose hands we have invested.
We reap as we sow.
We understand the principal in the material world. Investing for the future means investing regularly, investing in value, and investing as much as we can. It does not mean every mutual fund is guaranteed, or that every crop of beans is guaranteed either, but over the long haul, if we don't plant much, we don't harvest much. But what do we reap when we are good stewards? The answer is I cannot give you an answer, or at least I can offer only a partial answer. One thing I can say, which I think you know is that this is not a scheme for getting rich. James speaks of expecting from God for bad reasons:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3
What do we reap when we sow? We reap life. We may give money and receive joy. We may give time and energy and receive a greater sense of God's care and guidance in our lives. But we may also give money and receive money back in return. As long as we are giving because it is our privilege and pleasure to do so, and out of care and compassion for others, God will tailor the harvest for our needs. When we give and turn our gifts over to God, then God is free to fashion the response to us.
There is another matter. What if I just don't have much? The context here is not "how big is the gift", but "how big is my heart". A poor person cannot give much, and in fact; a much smaller gift from someone who has little counts for more in God's eyes.
Jesus says about the poor widow who only gave two pennies to the temple offering,
Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them;
for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had. Luke 21:2-3
I always wondered what happened to the poor widow in Luke's gospel who gave the few pennies she had. One thing we know is that her gift has become a model for hundreds of generations. I also think God saw to it that her needs were met even though she gave all she had.
You will always be rich enough to be generous.
Now there is a promise. What he is saying is that once you decide to give generously and cheerfully, God will see to it that you have something to give. It may not seem like a fortune, but gifts have a funny way of multiplying. One day a crowd gathered to hear Jesus speak. Apparently no one had notified the caterers of the convention and there was no food when dinner time came around. Well not much food anyway. One boy had five dinner rolls and a couple of fish--a decent meal for a boy, but not much for a crowd. Jesus asked for them, and they were brought. Now there is an exchange here we are not told of--the moment the boy was asked for his dinner. I don't believe it was taken from him. He had to make a choice. His meal was enough for him, and maybe a friend. But he was giving it all away and logic told you it was gone and he was going to be one hungry boy.
We can all understand what it took for him to give up his dinner. We don't know exactly why he did, but we know it took some faith and was a major sacrifice, especially if you have ever been around a hungry teenager who discovers dinner isn't going to be served anytime soon. I wonder how much he ate. Do you suppose he took exactly five loaves and two fish worth back in return? I wonder. There was plenty left over so I suspect he did not go home on an empty stomach.
He didn't have much, but he was rich enough to be generous, and what a difference it made.God promises that when we decide we want to be generous, we will always have enough to give. And the result? I couldn't possibly predict what it would be, and it would be a shame if I could.
Remember the time you gave that wonderful perfect gift. Who could have predicted that?
Let's be like God in our giving and give God a chance to be an extravagant hilarious giver in return.
Del Wergeland discovers it almost every day.
Jesus promised it
Paul lived it and teaches it.
Let's just do it.
Preached November 9, 2003
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia
1. The official web site of Compassionate Warehouse
A list of 2003 projects
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