2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 35
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|We’ve been in chapter 8 and chapter 9 talking about the grace of giving. And today our title is going to be “God is Able.” You know we’ve a saying God is good, all the time, all the time God is good. Let’s change it: God is able all the time, all the time God is able. Don’t ever forget that: God is able.|
The Gift of Giving (2 Cor 9:8-15)
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 9, and today we’re going to finish the chapter, verses 8-15. We’ve been in chapter 8 and chapter 9 talking about the grace of giving. And today our title is going to be “God is Able.” You know we’ve saying God is good, all the time, all the time God is good. Let’s change it: God is able all the time, all the time God is able. Don’t ever forget that: God is able. Now, man’s inability has always showcased God’s ability. It’s like a pitch black backdrop that you take a beautiful diamond and put it up against that black backdrop and you put a light on it to enhance the beauty of that diamond.
It was David’s inability when he went up against the giant Goliath in 1 Samuel that highlighted that it enhanced God’s ability. It was the inability of Gideon in the book of Judges when he was outnumbered by the Midianites that highlighted God’s ability. It was the inability of the disciples in the Gospels to feed the 5,000 that highlighted God’s ability. It was the inability of the believers’ minds on the road to Emmaus first of all to understand the resurrection and secondly to even accept it that highlighted God’s ability. And on and on and on.
And in our text, 2 Corinthians 9, it is the inability of man, first of all to even want to give, and then secondly to give generously that simply highlights the ability of God in every believer. The most common excuse that you hear when it comes to giving is this: “I just can’t do it. I’m not able to give.” But as you’ll see in our text today, God is able and that excuse really won’t hold up.
Paul has instructed the Corinthian church first of all in how to start giving, but also the heart that has to be behind the giving. In doing so he gives us all a way to start. He starts talking about the attributes of grace giving and we saw that in 9:6. He says, “Now this I say, he who sows.” Now there’s an implicit picture that begins to emerge here. Paul draws the picture of a farmer who is going out to sow seed. In our context the sowing of the seed is the money that we give and when it’s given it must be like the seed, totally released; totally released. It is out of our hands the moment that money is sown, the moment that seed is sown.
The farmer who sows generously is the farmer who trusts God. He trusts God to do only what God can do. He knows what he can’t do himself. Even in the midst of the dangers of disease and weather and insects, he knows what can happen to that seed, but he sows it generously and abundantly knowing that God can do something here that nobody else can do. To a farmer, trusting God is always the key to releasing the seed and in expecting a harvest. So unhindered trust in God is an attribute, an inherent characteristic of grace giving.
Now this is going to be reflected. When a person is unhindered in his trust for God, this is going to be reflected in unparalleled generosity when he gives. He’s going to give abundantly just like the farmer sows abundantly. It says in verse 6, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Now Paul contrasts two kinds of giving. One sows sparingly which means, we’ll just simplify it, we’re not going to go back and repreach it, but to simplify it, it means he sows with doubt. He sows with hesitation, with restraint. He’s unwilling to trust God with the seed; he’s unwilling to release it and let God do with it what only God can do. And the downside is he’s going to reap sparingly. Not only in this life here but one day when he stands before God as you’ll see later in the message.
Well, the opposite is also true. It says “he who sows bountifully,” and all of this sowing is in the present tense which means a lifestyle, “will also reap bountifully.” We saw how the word “bountifully” is the word eulogia. It’s interesting how it is translated. It does mean generously, but it’s much more than that. It’s the word which means blessing or praise. It’s in the plural which refers to the overflowing blessing one has when he’s walking with God. He’s just overwhelmed with who God is.
The one who sows on the basis of abundant blessings in his life will reap abundant blessings in his life. And that doesn’t necessarily mean material things. That’s not even on Paul’s mind. It’s the spiritual enrichment that comes when a person is being about the things of God.
The third attitude of grace giving that we looked at last time is unyielding resolve. In verse 7, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart.” Now Paul shows that grace giving involves planning, like he said in 1 Corinthians 16; weekly, setting aside that which you’re going to give. And as I threw in my two cents worth, I think the best place to start is the tithe, weekly given to the church. You see, the giving gets far beyond that. It’s over and above that. Like in Malachi, he says, “Bring your tithes and your offerings.” That’s over and above that.
I want to urge you never to forget the church. Any missionary organization that would take any kind of money with integrity as we said last time would always encourage you first of all to take care of your church. Why? Because they know something. They know if the church in any way fails to continue on, then they’re not going to continue on. That’s what sustains missions. That’s what sustains ministry; that’s where it’s birthed and that’s where it’s sustained. The word “purpose” there means to resolve to do something: make it a priority. Determine to do it. That’s what Paul told the Corinthians. That’s a great place to start.
The fourth attribute that we saw of grace giving is unmistakable cheerfulness. I love that. Cheerfulness is simply the reflection of how one lives. Listen; and I’m telling you I don’t ever say much that’s profound, but I believe this is profound so you might want to write this day down. We will give, and I promise you this, the way we live. The way a person lives is the way a person gives. Paul says God loves the cheerful giver. And we put the emphasis on cheerful. No, the emphasis is on the verb: He loves. Present tense, He is loving, agapao, which means He’s committed. He is working in his behalf. He’s working in the believer’s behalf to make sure his life is overflowing with spiritual blessings out of which he will give. If we live in the fullness of what is offered to us in Christ, if we live dead to self and alive to Him, yielded to Him, we will be so overwhelmed with spiritual blessings that we will simply give out of the overflow and that’s what he’s talking about. God loves; He is loving the cheerful giver.
Well, today we come to the last message about this topic. See, I’m not preaching on the topic of giving, I’m just preaching 2 Corinthians, and we’ve been in chapter 8 and 9 and that’s been Paul’s topic. Next time we come together and I’m with you we’ll be in chapter 10 and it’ll change gears altogether. But today we’re going to talk about God’s ability. God is able all the time, all the time God is able. And we need to see this today in Scripture in verses 8-15.
So let’s start off with the principle: God is able, verses 8-9. He says in verse 8, “And God is able,” always able, continuously able. The phrase or similar phrases is used all through Scripture to point to the ability of God to do what a man could never in a million years do. For instance, He’s able to save and He’s able to destroy. James 4:12, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” And then in Romans 16:25, “Now to Him who is able to establish,” that word means to strengthen us as believers, “you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.”
He is able to keep us from stumbling. Jude 24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” Wow, and if you wanted to just sum them all up because there are so many, I didn’t put them all down, but to sum them all up, Ephesians 3:20 I think sums them all up. It covers every base. It says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” So God is able. Paul is recalling their attention to this. In our context He is able in the matter of our giving. He is able; we’re not. He is.
Paul answers the question that most believers struggle with from time to time. All of us have said, I’ve said it, you’ve said it, at some time in our life when it comes to giving, “I want to give and I see the need to give, but I just can’t afford to give. I just can’t do it.” And Paul seems to be anticipating that type of statement when he said “God is able.” You’re not able, but God is. How many times have I said “I can’t, but God never said I could; He can and He always said He would.” And that’s exactly what’s being worked out right here in our text.
Grace is God’s enabling us to do what He demands of us. Paul says in Galatians 2:20-21, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith,” which means trusting God. And then he says this kind of lifestyle doesn’t frustrate the grace of God, which is His enabling power. The word “frustrate” means to set aside. He says, “I don’t set aside the grace of God. I don’t for one second think I can do it in my own power. I walk by faith. I trust God to do what I know I cannot do.”
Verse 8 says “And God is able.” But what does he says He’s able to do? Well, let’s keep reading: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.” Now the grace he speaks of covers every aspect of giving. He’s speaking of grace giving here. And God is able to cause us to want to give. God is able to meet our needs in the midst of our giving and God is able to so supply us abundantly that we have left over to give to others. We give to get to give to get, it’s continuous. The moment a person starts giving to get, at that very moment the process shuts down.
“I’m not so sure that’s what the Bible says.” Well, let’s just see what it says. Let’s just let it explain itself. He says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything.” You’re never going to lack in your needs in life if you’re giving. The word “sufficiency” is the word autarkeia, which means self-sufficiency but in a good way. What it means is I don’t have to go outside of the One who lives within me to take care of myself. I don’t have to be sufficient the world’s way. I’m sufficient in Him. He is able to take care of that.
God’s grace enables the necessities of life to be met in our personal lives. We’ve already seen that in chapter 8. He just rehearses it again for us. But God’s grace goes even further than that he says in verse 8. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” God gives us an abundance, over and above what we need. He gives us more than we need so that we can meet the needs of others; “an abundance for every good deed.”
Now understand good deeds, because a lot of people think that the flesh can manufacture good deeds. No. The word “good” is the word agathos, and it means benevolent good, that which comes out of a heart that loves and wants to give and help somebody in their need. It’s the character of God in us to be benevolent to want to meet the needs of others. How do you know that? Galatians 5:22 starts talking about the fruit of God’s Spirit working in a believer’s life. It takes the root word “good” and makes the word “goodness” out of it. It says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love,” now how do you qualify God’s love? “joy, peace, patience,” you know God’s loving through you when these things are present, “kindness,” and then he mentions “goodness.” You see, that’s the well that all good deeds come out of. The fruit of the Spirit has to initiate it. So when a good deed in biblical terms is not something a man can come up with and ask God to bless. It has to be first of all originated in the heart of God that works within him. And not only inspired and initiated but also enabled by the Holy Spirit and qualifies by the way when it happens, it qualifies as a true work of righteousness. When God speaks and we obey with a yielded heart then good deeds and the synonym is righteousness, righteousness takes place. That’s the result.
In this case the act of righteousness is grace giving which begins and ends with God. He starts it, we don’t start it. Now Paul calls on the Old Testament, a passage in the Psalms to show that this is what he’s talking about: that giving is an act of righteousness and it will endure forever. It says in verse 9, “as it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, his righteousness abides forever.’” Now some people believe that’s a picture of the Lord Jesus. Whether it is or not, it’s a good man. This is a quote from Psalm 112:9 and speaks of the character of a good man in the text who fears the Lord.
Let me read from Psalm 112:9 what he’s quoting from. It says, “He has given freely to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted in honor.” The word “poor” in the Greek, which is in our text in 2 Corinthians 9:8, is the word penes, which is the word that means somebody is so poor they have to ask for help. They have to actually beg for money. It was used that way. The man who fears the Lord, who walks with God, is the one who has a heart for somebody in need and who freely gives to those people. That’s God working in his heart. This act of giving is an act of righteousness and the psalmist says that the righteousness will last and endure forever.
Do you see what he’s saying? One day when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, what a great day. We’re not going to be judged. We were judged at the cross. This is a day for rewards. This is the day the works will be tested by fire. That which was of the flesh that we call good and that which is of the Spirit that only God can call good, and he said that these acts of giving as we walk with God, as we give out of the overflow, are going to end up being acts of righteousness that will remain, they will be the precious stone, they will endure forever, they will have everything to do with our eternal reward when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ. Wow.
That ought to excite everybody in here. You mean to tell me God gives me the money to start with and He just tells me to do with His money what He wants done with it and after I have done it that qualifies as an act of righteousness and then I’m going to be rewarded for it someday? Absolutely. How great a salvation. Now, if that doesn’t light your fire your wood is wet. This is what he’s trying to get across. You see, I’ve been saying it since chapter 8: giving is never a money problem; ask the widow who gave her mite. That’s not a problem. Giving is a heart problem; it’s a problem of whether or not we believe that God is able. Whether or not we trust Him when He tells us to do what He tells us to do.
A believer that fears God, that lives in awe of Him, will want to give and he’s going to experience God’s grace in having what is needed to even give more. He’s going to discover for himself God is able. It’s not about finances. It’s about the stewardship of one’s life. Money just fits way down here somewhere.
Last week one of the teachers of a class on finances came to me, tears flowing down his cheeks, and he said, “You won’t believe it.” He was really coming out of the message and he was trying to say “I’ve got an illustration for you.” I said, “What is it?” He said a lady in his class, they’d been giving but they upped their giving. They just believed they weren’t giving what God was telling them to give. They were giving with restraint. And so they gave their gift, their tithe or whatever it was. And he told me on the middle of the week her boss came to her and said, “Have you looked at your check?” And she said, “No, why?” Kind of fearful. And he said their fiscal year is like ours as a church: July to July. And he said “We normally don’t give raises in the middle of the year, but we’ve had such a good year, look at your check.” And she looked at her check and it was more than what she normally got. But listen, this is the thing: in her check was the exact, to the penny, raise that she had just given three days before. Now you ask that little lady if God’s able.
That’s what Paul is saying. God is able. I had a youth pastor that worked with me; I was in youth work for 17 years so I understand youth workers. Sometimes they’re a little slow and so he was talking to me one day and he was really griping because he didn’t make what I made. And of course everybody wants it when they’re young and it took me forever to get to the point that we make what we make today, and he said, “I can’t give. You can give because you have this and you have that” and I said, “That’s not right, it’s your heart. Do you believe God? Do you trust Him?” And we went back and forth and back and forth. We walked out in the parking lot and he had not yet come out of the building and I’m standing there pondering the answers I had given to him. Hopefully I had helped him. And about that time I saw something blowing across the parking lot. It was wadded up and I’m standing before God today so this is not something I’m making up. It blew up on my shoe. I reached down, picked it up off my shoe and it was a twenty dollar bill. Where did it come from? I don’t know. I looked around and quickly put it in my pocket. I didn’t know where it came from.
I stood there for a second and here comes another bill rolling across. Three times standing there in the parking lot a bill rolled up, the wind blew it, on my shoe. And about that time the youth pastor walked out of the door and I said, “Come here. Man, if you need it, if necessary, God will blow it up on your shoe in the middle of a parking lot.” God is able. Man, we don’t believe that, do we?
Well, He doesn’t know my situation. Right; God is able: that’s the principle. Now he’s going to give an illustration here. He wants to make sure we get this down real good. Verse 10, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food.” What an illustration Paul gives here about God’s ability, what God can do. And it shows you that God is the ultimate provider and creator of all things. First of all He supplies seed to the sower. Now, some people, their education exceeds their intelligence. They think man can come up with a seed. This always baffles me. Have you ever made a seed? Said, “I’m going to make a seed.” Reminds me of other people I know. You’re going to make a seed.
What farmer is proficient enough and has the ability to come up with the seed itself? God came up with that. Now God makes the seed and what does the farmer do? Where is his importance in this? Well, all he does is take what God already came up with and just releases it. Well, that’s real hard, isn’t it? He just releases it and when he releases it then God steps in again. Farmer can’t do a thing. And God is the One who causes the seed to die and to germinate and to bring forth life to come up with wheat or barley or whatever it is which provides bread for the farmer to eat.
“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food.” Now listen, not only will the sown seed that God provided provide bread for the farmer, but the farmer will have more than he needed so that he can give to others. There’s your illustration right there. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food,” watch carefully, “will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” God promises to do the same thing with our giving that He does with the seed that the farmer sows. And it all starts with God providing the money that we have. It’s His money; it’s not ours. He’s the One who owns it.
Now make sure you understand this: God is the provider. It took me years to realize this. When I was in youth work we got paid less than the janitors and I can understand that. And I couldn’t even take my kids to McDonalds. Didn’t have enough to do anything. And I really struggled with this. How come the church pays this guy this much and pays this guy this much? Our pastor, they gave him a brand new car every year and paid his gasoline. And I couldn’t even take my kids to McDonalds. He’d drive that brand new car, five years younger than I was and I played ball with him in college and he got all the technical fouls, and drive up in my drive-way and you know what I wanted to do? I was real spiritual. I wanted to spit all over his car. That’s the way I felt about it. The church didn’t provide that for me.
And God broke me of that one day. He said, “Son, what in the world are you doing? Your church is not your provider. I’m your Provider.” Listen, your employer, whoever it is, I don’t care who it is, they’re just a vehicle God uses and it’s not the only source. He’ll provide for you in ways that you haven’t even thought about before if you believe that he is able and if you’re willing to trust Him in your giving. It is the money that God provides that allows us to buy food that takes care of our families.
I think I’ve told you this about the elderly lady that one day came into her apartment, she loved Jesus, she was praying out loud and she said, “Oh, Lord, I don’t have any groceries, don’t have any food, but You’re my provider. If you want me to eat You’ll provide it.” Her landlord was evil. He overheard her prayer somehow and he said, “I’ll show her who’s her provider.” He went to the grocery store, brought all kinds of groceries. Set them on the table while she was gone and then he hid in the closet. She came back and had a praise fit. She was just praising God, shouting, and he jumped out of the closet and said, “You Christians. You think God provided this. He didn’t provide that. I did it.” She said, “Now listen to me, you have to understand something. I bowed my head before the Lord and I prayed and I asked for Him to provide for me. Now, I had no idea He’d use the devil to bring it, but He provided those groceries for me.”
When are we going to understand that God is our provider? Stop worrying about the government and Social Security. Start understanding God is your provider. God is your provider. When we trust God like the farmer we’re going to have more than enough for our needs. So much more that we can give to others. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” That giving act which is a righteous act. He will multiply your seed.
And again, why will He multiply your seed? So that we can give to others. Well, you take a seed of corn and your drop it in the ground. And after a while it germinates and begins to come up and a stalk comes up. And here’s the beautiful illustration: on that stalk are how many ears of corn? And on every ear of corn how many grains of corn are on that ear? That’s the law of the harvest. You get later than you’ve sown, you get exactly what you’ve sown, but you get a whole lot more than you ever sowed. And that’s the law of the harvest. And that’s the way God works on our giving. Do you see the illustration?
You know, we’re preaching this and I’m enjoying this because I’ve understood it for awhile and I’m still understanding it, but I’m just praying that you’re understanding it. Giving is not because the budget is low at the church. Giving is something far beyond that. Giving is God’s way of reflecting His love out of and through your heart. It’s an expression of that. When you sow God’s seed God’s way, hearing Him and trusting Him, willing to release that which He tells you for the needs of others, write it down. The adventure is about to begin.
I still like Stephen Curtis Chapman’s song, “Saddle Up Your Horses.” How many of you remember that song? You ought to listen to it sometime. I know the beat will challenge some of you. But it says, “Get up on your horse.” It’s like starting the day off and I just get that in my mind. Just get up in the morning, a man plans his way, God directs his steps. Oh God, what an adventure walking with You today. What are You up to today? That’s the adventure and when you start understanding giving from God’s perspective, look out and strap your seatbelt on.
He further explains in verse 11 in case you’re doubting that this is what he’s talking about. He says, “you will be enriched in everything,” why, “for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.” The word “enriched” is the word ploutizo, which means to be supplied abundantly. The verb is present middle passive. Present tense means it’ll be a continuous thing that is going on in your experience. The middle passive means that as we’re giving actively, God is active in enriching us for the purpose of giving to others. He’s busily working in our life. You will be enriched in everything, he says, for all liberality.
‘Everything” is the word pas, which means “in each and every act” of giving, whether it’s money, time, love, whatever. We will be supplied abundantly for every act of giving for all liberality. Now the word “liberality” can be translated generosity but that’s really not the meaning of the word. The word is haplotes, and it means “to give with a single minded focus, to give with no strings attached,” no fleshly agenda. Oh, I know, I’ll just withdraw my tithe and I’ll show it is around here. I’ll keep my money to myself. That’s an oxymoron: your money. Isn’t it interesting that when we choose to think it’s ours and we choose to withhold it for whatever reason, God says, “I’ll get it some other way.” How many of you have discovered that in your life so far?
God knows how to do that. God knows exactly what to do with that. The bottom line is that when we give and our motive in giving is pure without any fleshly agenda, the provision will always be there to give more. I came across an illustration that might bless you this morning. Lyle Eggleston served as a missionary; he was from the States, for many years in a little town on the rocky coast of northern Chile. In time the congregation grew to be about 80 adults and Eggleston was concerned that the Christians in that area didn’t seem to be able to support their own national pastor. Now he was there to assist that national pastor, to help that church get on its feet, then he moves on. He’s taken care of by missions giving in the states.
The people were very poor; the church’s offerings amounted to no more than $6.00 a month in our currency. One day Eggleston brought the problem to the Lord during a definite time of prayer. “Lord, You just need to take care of this.” A few weeks later he stopped to visit a middle-aged couple, new converts, and they had just begun the habit of getting into God’s Word every day, reading through the Scriptures. They came to that little word “tithe” and so they asked him, “What does the word “tithing” mean?” It was a little fellow by the name of Manuel. “We ran into it in our reading and we don’t really understand it.” Eggleston didn’t really want to answer the question, for he knew that Manuel and his wife were unemployed and on the verge of destitution. They were somehow managing to feed themselves and their 25 Rhode Island hens on the income from the eggs laid each day. Nevertheless, they insisted he explain and so instead of going to Malachi and the Old Testament, he just took them to 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8-9 where Paul urged believers to lay aside each week a portion of their income and give it to the Lord.
The following Sunday Manuel handed Lyle an envelope and smiling said, “That’s our tithe.” Inside were a few bills amounting in their currency to our currency about 19 cents. Next Sunday afternoon the couple flagged down Lyle as he rode his bicycle past their house. They had some exciting news. The Tuesday morning after they had given their tithe there wasn’t a bite for breakfast nor any money. Their first impulse was to take a few of the pesos they had accumulated, a little box they called their tithe box, but on second thought they said “No, that’s God’s money. We will go without breakfast this morning.” There was nothing to do but to tend to the hens.
Much to their surprise there were eggs in the nest at that time of the morning that at that hour was usually empty. Later in the day a little man came along with a pushcart wanting fertilizer. They cleaned out their henhouse and the manure from those hens brought a good price. After buying groceries there was enough left over for the wife to purchase a pair of shoes, so she rode the bus 12 kilometers around the bay into a larger town. Then she bumped into a nephew in town she had not seen in five years and who, to her utter surprise, owned a shoe store. She went in, found the pair of shoes she wanted, he wrapped them up for her, she tried to pay him and he said, “Absolutely not. We’re kin, this is a present. I can’t take your money. This is a gift from me.”
The following week Manuel got a job on a project that would last for two years and soon the little couple was tithing on a much larger salary. Word got around the church and others began experimenting with giving. Soon the church’s income began to rise dramatically and they were able to pay their own rent and utility bills, support a national pastor who was working with Indians and in short time they were able to call and finance a pastor of their own. And Lyle Eggleston and his wife were able to move on to a new location and start a new work as the little church grew in numbers, size, property, and faith.
And here was his testimony. He said, “You know, we offered up a little bit of prayer and 19 cents and God took care of the rest.” Isn’t it incredible? That’s what happens. I love it in Malachi when he says, “You want to test Me, come on. Open the windows, give your offerings, give your tithes and you just see what I will do. I’ll pour out a blessing you haven’t even thought about yet.” Isn’t it incredible that God says, “I’m waiting on you.” But so many people say no, Social Security isn’t good, we’re all going to go bankrupt, I’ve got a store. Remember back at Y2K? I had a good friend who said he went out and bought gold and did all this other stuff because it was going to get bad. He had generators and everything else because Y2K was going to be a disaster.
Where’s the trust in God? And he came to me and said, “Why aren’t you doing that?” I said, “Well, you’ve got a big house. If it happens, I’m coming over to your house. You’ve got all the stuff.” There were some people on the day after Y2K that went, “oops.” Where’s trusting God anymore? “We’ve got to help Him out. He’s old; He’s been busy.” Oh, wow.
The result is thanksgiving unto God
Well, the result. The principle, the illustration, the illustration is the farmer sowing the seed. God provided the seed, the whole thing. But now the result. What’s the result of all of it? It’s thanksgiving unto God. Verse 11, “you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.” As Paul witnessed God enriching the Corinthians so that they could give generously as they had determined to do to the needs of the poor in Judea, this produced a thanksgiving unto God.
The word “thanksgiving” is the word eucharisteo, which is the expression of one’s gratitude to God for what only He is able to do. This word “thanksgiving” is a grateful response to God for His grace and for His mercy that a person has just experienced for himself. It’s hard to give thanksgiving for what you’re not experiencing. Verse 12, “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” The offering that was being taken for the poor in Jerusalem wasn’t just so that their needs could be met but so that God would be praised. All people giving thanksgiving to God. That’s what thanksgiving is all about; overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. The people of Achaia, the people of Macedonia, the people of Corinth rejoicing to see what God did because they were obedient to what God had told them to do.
Not only would the Christians in Jerusalem rejoice, but the believers who gave would rejoice. The whole thing, overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. The One who provides the seed to the sower and the One who provides the bread for the farmer, and the One who gives so abundantly that the sower will have plenty to give to others to continue to sow is always to be praised: that’s what giving is all about. It comes back to Him, not to us. But also he says one other thing will happen. Not only will He be praised, but your testimony as to being a believer will be confirmed in the hearts of others.
Verse 13, “Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all.” You see, giving confirms our testimony. We’ve seen that over and over in chapters 8-9. You find a Christian that will not give and you’ve got an oxymoron. You’ve got one confusing message. Nothing confirms the fact that he has trusted God for his salvation but he’s not willing to trust God with his money. You see, something is messed up there. It frustrates the testimony.
And verse 14 says, “while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.” They wanted to be with them, just wanted to be around them because of their willingness to do what God said. The principle, God is able all the time; all the time God is able. If you want to give, God will see to it not only that your needs will be met, but you’ll have to give more. The illustration: God provides the seed for the sower, the bread for the farmer to put on the table. But not only that, He gives in such abundance, just look at an ear of corn, He gives in such abundance that you have more to sow. And the result is that all thanksgiving and praise go back to Him and that our testimony that we really are what we say we are will be confirmed.
Grace giving always has to point back to God or it’s not grace giving. If there’s somebody who gives a token because he’s wealthy and thinks he gets the credit for it, he’s missed the whole point. It’s to go back to God. God gets the glory, whether it’s the rich man’s gift or the widow’s mite. He’s the One who is to be praised.
Verse 15 tells us that; “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” “God so loved the world that He gave”—what did He give? Did He give a token? —“His only begotten Son” —Why? —“so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And that same heart is in us, resident in the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Christ Jesus and when we say yes to Him, that’s where the giving begins right there. It’s Him initiating, sustaining and being glorified for what takes place. God is able.
Well, you want to start giving, I think we’ve learned, start tithing. I think that’s the greatest place to start. To the church first. We have all of our missionary salaries are in our budget, so whenever the budget is low, the salaries are suffering in that area; so give there first. You’ll find that giving is far and above that. Give to it, start there, and your journey is just going to begin.
I love W.A. Criswell; he’s in heaven now, but don’t you love W.A. Criswell. They said when he finished his sermon, for years he would quote this at the end of his sermon:
John Rascus put $300 in the collection plate when it passed and he said softly, “I’ll see you in heaven.” Those around him said, “Oh, John is getting senile. He says he’s going to see the $300 in heaven. He may meet his Maker over there, but he’ll never meet his money.” Now the church treasurer used some of that $300 to pay the electric bill so the lights could be on. He gave some of it to the preacher to buy gasoline so he could get around. Some went to ministerial students and some went to the mission field.
Early one morning John Rascus died in his sleep. On that first Lord’s Day in glory he walked down the golden streets and a young fellow came up to him and said, “Thank you, Brother John. I was cold and lonely, it was a dark night. I saw the lights on in the church. Just to get out of the dark I went in. While there, the darkness left my soul and I found Jesus.” Another came to him and said the preacher came to the filling station to get gas. “As I filled his tank he told me about Jesus and I gave my heart to the Lord.” Next John met a throng of people who said, “I want to thank you for those students you helped. They preached the gospel to my family and we found the Lord.” He next met some people of different languages and said, “Thank you, Brother, for sending us the gospel across the seas.” Finally, John came to Hallelujah Square and turning to an angel he said, “I feel sorry for you angels. You have never known what it is to be saved by the blood of Jesus my Lord.” John Rascus mused a moment and then added, “And you do not know what it is to transform the possessions of earth into the treasures of heaven.” “Sir,” replied the angel, “you’re right. All we get to do is just watch it from the streets of glory.”
Let me ask you a question today about grace giving. Have you learned to transform the possessions of this earth into the treasures of heaven? Do we have a clue that if we learn grace giving, that God would use us to reach our arms around the world for the sake of evangelism and missions and what He wants to do? But it all starts, “Do I really trust God?” Is God able? Times are hard. Listen, a man told me one day, “Wayne, you start wringing your hands when you see God wringing His.” I like that.