January 18, 2015
I’m sure you have received the same phone call. “Mr. Steinhart, this is so and so from your local firefighters association. You have been so generous to us in the past; can we count on your generous gift this year?”
All the while I’m thinking, “Wait, I’ve never contributed to the firefighter’s association.” The voice continues, “You know, your gift will help children have toys this Christmas. Can we count on you again?” And I must say, “Not this year, thank you."
Giving! There are so many organizations asking for money. Many of the organizations are doing good things, but you just can’t give to them all. So I usually try to explain how we give most of our money to the church and a few other organizations.
When it comes to Christian giving we recognize that all that we have comes from the Lord and that we are stewards of what he has given to us. It’s our money but in reality it all belongs to the Lord. As Christians we understand that giving to the Lord’s work is very important. So I want to ask you this morning, “Are you a generous giver to the Lord’s work?”
I. GENEROUS GIVING EXPRESSES OUR INTEREST IN THE LORD’S WORK. Phil.4:10-14
When Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he was under house arrest in Rome. His ministry was greatly curtailed. He was not able to travel. People had to come to him. And yet, Paul continued to do the Lord’s work.
Now what is the Lord’s work? In Jn.5 Jesus healed a lame man and the Jewish leaders were upset because they said Jesus was working on the Sabbath. When they questioned him, Jesus replied by saying in v.17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” In Jn.10 Jesus says that he is doing the works of his Father. And remember in Lk.2 how Jesus’ parents, thinking Jesus was lost, and then finding him in the temple, asked him what he was doing there. At the age of 12, Jesus was confounding the Jewish teachers with his insightful questions and answers. He said to his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Many of us remember the old King James translation which says, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Even then Jesus recognized that his calling was to do the work of God.
Jesus went around teaching and preaching about the kingdom of God. Of course he did wonderful miracles. At one point he said in Jn.10:37-38, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
In Acts 13 during a time of worship, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Earlier in Act 6 the Apostles tell the church to select 7 men to carry out the daily distribution of food so that they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. The work that Paul, Barnabas, and many others were called by God to do was to preach and teach the gospel of the kingdom of God and we know that Paul and Barnabas went around planting churches. And those 7 men were also doing the work of the Lord in distributing food.
But it wasn’t just Paul and the other Apostles who did the work of the Lord. In Rm.16:12 Paul refers to people like you and me who he considered to be workers in the Lord. In 1Cor.15:58 Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” In Col.3:22 Paul is writing to Christians who were slaves and he says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” And in Col.1:10 Paul tells us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
I share these verses to show that it’s not just the Apostles, trained pastors and missionaries who do the work of the Lord. Every believer is called to serve the Lord and enter into his work. The work of the Lord is to make disciples of Jesus and to do good works in this world in the name of Jesus.
Now of course there are some whom the Lord does set apart to give full focus to his work. Paul and Barnabas were set apart for the Lord’s work. Here in Phil.4 we learn that the believers in the church at Philippi had regularly sent a financial gift to Paul to help him with his expenses. Giving is an important way of entering into the Lord’s work. It is very interesting to read in v.15 that none of the other churches entered into partnership with Paul. Wow! Why is that? I don’t know for sure. Gordon Fee, in his commentary on Philippians, points out that when Paul was first in Philippi he received support by accepting Lydia’s invitation for him and Silas to stay in her home. But when they went on to Thessalonica, Paul says in 2Thess.3:7-10 that they worked. They took nothing from the new believers in Thessalonica. And they took nothing when they ministered in Corinth.
All of this to point out that Christians are not only called to do the work of the Lord, but Christians have a vested interest in seeing the Lord’s work move forward. After all, all of us came to Christ because someone was doing the Lord’s work and God spoke to our hearts. The church in Philippi was so grateful to Paul for leading them to Christ that they wanted to have a share in his ministry to see others come to Christ. This is why we give to the local church. This is why we give to support missionaries. This is why we sometimes go above and beyond in our giving. It’s because we love the Lord and we understand that his work is of primary importance and we are personally invested in his work.
II. GENEROUS GIVING FACILITATES THE LORD’S WORK. Phil.4:15-16
In v.16 we are alerted to the fact that Paul had needs. At that moment he was sitting in a house under house arrest. As far as we know he did not have any income. He couldn’t collect unemployment and there was no social security of any kind, so Paul was in need. In v.11-12 Paul mentions that he had learned to be content in whatever the circumstances. He had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. He could do that through the strength God supplied.
And yet, what a blessing to receive this unexpected gift from the church in Philippi. We don’t know how Paul used the money. We do see that as a result of their gift, Paul was well supplied.
Please do not put Paul into the context of some of today’s TV preachers. Paul was not stashing cash away for his retirement villa on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Paul wasn’t getting rich at the expense of the church. The financial gift was a great help for Paul.
Now the work of the Lord through the church is very important. Over the many years of church history the ways in which the Lord’s work has been carried out have changed. In the beginning there were house churches. Today we have buildings. In the beginning there were probably few paid church workers. Today we have full-time pastors and others who serve on church staffs. In the beginning of the church singing was probably done with small instruments or none at all. Today we have pipe organs, guitars, keyboards, and drums. In the beginning of the church, missionaries traveled by foot or boat. Today missionaries fly all over the world.
In the beginning ministry was church based. Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church in Antioch. Today, we have many parachurch ministries. These are ministries that are not directly connected with any particular local church. Prison Fellowship and Samaritan’s Purse are just two of hundreds of parachurch ministries. What is true for all ministries is that there are many needs.
Here at our church there are needs. Our building is old. There are always maintenance issues to tend to. Through the Lord’s good hand and our generous giving, we are just about at the end of our building project. It has been a challenging experience but we are almost there. The parsonage has maintenance issues. I try to do what I can, but there are things that are beyond my abilities. This past week we had Bob Baumgart over looking at some wiring in which the insulation was falling off and the wires were shorting out. Well, that’s what happens with an older home. Part of the Lord’s work here on Harlem Ave has to do with keeping things in working order. But we don’t exist just to maintain buildings. The buildings provide a place for corporate worship, teaching, and serving. The buildings provide a statement of presence in the community.
In the December 31 issue of the Forest Park Review, Tom Holmes, the former pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran church wrote about the top 10 religion stories in Forest Park in 2014. Number 1? Baptist Church Addition. He writes, “The addition is evidence that the 125 year old congregation is holding its own in the midst of decline in all of the older churches in town.” The number 7 top religion story is, “Decline of Traditional Churches.” He writes, “Forest Park Baptist Church is an anomaly in town. It is the only old congregation (started in 1890!) which is holding its own in terms of membership.” And then he goes on to list churches in Forest Park that have closed. There is such a thing as a ministry of presence. We pray that the Lord will continue to keep this a biblical, viable, and friendly congregation in which the gospel is clearly proclaimed and believers are faithful to Christ.
Is there an ongoing need for generous giving? Absolutely. We don’t promote giving for personal gain. It has never been my goal to see how much money I can amass for myself. Apart from the trip that the elders took to Hawaii for an elder retreat last February, we try to be very careful of expenses (Only kidding). Brothers and Sisters, without the generous giving of our congregation, it would be very difficult to continue.
Now I don’t know what you give to the Lord’s work at the church. I make it my business to not know what anyone gives. What I do know is that what we do with our money is a reflection of what is important to us. Our giving is an indicator of how much we value the Lord and his work. This is really not a matter between you and the church. It is a matter between you and the Lord. Our giving says something about our love for the Lord and his work, and our faith in the Lord.
III. GENEROUS GIVING BRINGS THE LORD’S BLESSING. Phil.4:17-19
Where the Bible addresses the subject of giving, it is very common to read a statement of blessing for the generous giver. This is true in Mal.3 and 2Cor.8-9. According to Acts 20:35 Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Here in Phil.4 Paul talks about the blessings that come with generous giving.
It’s interesting in these verses because, while Paul is thankful, he wants the Philippian believers to know that he is not after their money. In fact, Paul goes to great lengths to let them know that their generous giving is a sign of their love and obedience to the Lord. He characterizes their offering as a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. He is grateful to receive the gift because of what it is doing in their lives. Their giving promoted the work of God in their lives.
You know, that is still true today. When we are intentional about giving to the work of God from a grateful heart, God is pleased. Our hearts are naturally selfish and stingy. We don’t like to part with our money. So when we quietly and generously give to the Lord’s work the Lord is working in us.
But there is another blessing that Paul mentions. He says in v.19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” These are not just nice sounding words that seemed appropriate for Paul to say. These are words that Paul knew to be true from his own experience. God is only too happy to provide for the needs of his children who trust him enough to give generously to his work. So what do you need this morning? Do you have a material need? God will either give the thing you need or he will give what is needed to do without it. Do you have an emotional need? If you will trust in God he will help you through the emotional struggles of your life. The other day while I was praying I was thinking about various times in my life when I faced circumstances that seemed impossible to me. But as I thought about it, I realized that I came through all of those circumstances. It was difficult but God brought me through. He gave what I needed and I’m not even sure what was needed in those moments. Do you have a health need? God knows how best to help you. But let me clarify that our generous giving does not buy God’s blessings and provisions. That kind of giving is not generous giving it is negotiating with God. God will supply your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Now maybe you are wondering, “What defines generous giving.” I will just say that in the Old Testament God commanded his people to give 10% of their income. And while I don’t think this is a law for Christians, I do think it is a good bench mark for our giving. Most Christians do not come close to giving 10% of their income. They think that is too much and they don’t really believe God will supply what they need. I would just say that God knows better what is too much. And God has far more resources available to draw from to supply what you need.
Are you a generous giver to the Lord’s work? Is your giving a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God? Amen.