Giving Gratefully

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Father, speak to our hearts and change us by your Spirit for Jesus sake, Amen.

Introduction

Please take a seat and turn to 1 Chronicles 29:10-22 on p357.

Last week we looked at Giving Willingly from v1-9. We saw that King David himself gave willingly and generously from his own wealth. He gave out of devotion to God and to God's house, and as an example to others who then themselves gave willingly and with a whole heart. One church leader in the US wrote a book to prime the pump for the funding of their new site and to set an example. The advance he received meant he was able to give $100,000. We're still waiting for David Holloway's next book to appear! Though he has just written a new introductory chapter to a republished book. We're also waiting for Alan Munden's latest 600 page blockbuster on The 1851 Religious Census of Gloucestershire (the last one was on Northumberland which you can get from Italian Amazon; and even for my forthcoming series on The Wonders of God's Creation!

Well I'm not sure they're going to be the answer to all our regular giving needs as a church even though it's important for all leaders in the church to set an example! So this week we're looking at v10-22 under the heading Giving Gratefully. Here King David praises God for what has been given (v10-13) and then significantly for us, as we particularly think about the need to increase our regular giving as a church, he asks God for continued empowerment of his people (v14-19). Which is what you and I need too. You see although King David worked hard for Solomon's temple and although we need to play our part and work hard as we go multi-site, David acknowledged that all of his accomplishments came from the sovereign hand of God. David saw himself as powerless and hopeless apart from God's blessing. So first

1. Yours, O LORD, is the Greatness and the Power v11-13

What's your reaction to the miraculous news that almost £2m has been given over and above the regular giving during the last two years? That therefore amazingly almost £4m has been given plus another half a million at least to world mission! Is it to praise God and to desire to grow in generosity - to become more like Christ who gave himself up for you - to be more and more imitators of God and his generosity; or is it well I don't need to give - the church always reaches it's target anyway. Well God wants the whole tithe brought into the storehouse. And giving isn't just about meeting a need or helping a vision become a reality. It's also about giving gratefully and cheerfully as well as willingly in response to what God has done for us in Christ as 2 Corinthians 9 tells us. And about growing in Christ and in faith as Philippians 4 teaches us. Giving generously blesses God, blesses others and blesses you! What's your reaction then to Giving Reviews and to another increased faith target of £1.23m for the year ahead? Is it thankfulness to God for another opportunity to give back to him and to his work from what he's given us to steward; or is it self satisfaction in what's been achieved so far but with a bit of what - another increased faith target - after a near major deficit last year - are you mad?!

Now we should rejoice greatly in what's been given (v9) but there's no room for pride and no time for resting on our laurels as we learn from this chapter. No the work of going multi-site and preparing to reach out to West Tyneside continues. Church growth is costly but it's not impossible and comes with tremendous blessings as we depend on the Lord. V10. Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly.

"Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever."

And he encouraged the whole assembly to do the same (v20). Now don't worry I'm not going to sing in front of you all this evening or lead you all in singing! But we are to humbly rejoice and praise the Lord for his wonderful faithfulness and amazing provision. Why? Because even the generosity of King David and the people in providing for the temple came from God himself. And the same is true of the generous giving for JPC & St Joseph's. His is the greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty. Yes the task ahead is great humanly speaking but the Lord is greater. The fact that it all comes from him should surely increase our joy and generosity. And as God has blessed us we're to be a blessing to others including those who've yet to come to Christ.

Despite what's been happening here over the last two years is our vision of God still too small? Is our vision of what God wants to do here still too small? If so your giving will be restricted. King David's vision was large, his giving was cheerful, willing and generous and his vision grew as he saw God at work. v11:

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

That's the truth about our God. Maybe you're going through some kind of difficulty at the moment. Well, remember God is in control. Maybe you think that if you give generously to God's work you won't have enough left over. Well again remember that God is in control. He will supply all your needs. You can't out give God. Look at v21&22: the next day was a day of sacrificing and feasting - those who give to God receive from him.

How important it is to focus on God's sovereignty and power whether life is hard or good. Whether you have a little or a lot. Wallace Johnson the founder of Holiday Inn and a Christian who stewarded his wealth said: "I'm totally dependent on God for help in everything I do. Otherwise I honestly believe I would start to fall apart in months." When Henry Crowell, founder of the Quaker Oats Company, received Christ he promised God he would honour him in his giving. God's blessing was upon him, and as his business grew, he increased his giving. But after forty years of giving away 60% of his income, Crowell said, "I've never gotten ahead of God. He's always been ahead of me in giving." You may have seen in the media what Stephen Fry thinks of God. I'm not going to repeat it. But the truth is that God is good and giving. Who needs to hear that this evening? And he gave his only Son that you and I and people such as Stephen Fry might have eternal life. You can't out give God.

I thank God for the wonderfully generous giving at JPC but do some of us need to seriously review our regular giving to our great God and his great work or even start to give regularly? Does our regular giving reflect our regular commitment to him as well as our vision of him? Now we don't give to earn salvation. No, salvation can't be earned – it's a gift. It's only by grace through faith in Christ that we're rescued and not by works. We give in response to God's inexpressible gift – his only Son – who gave himself for us on the cross. And the Bible teaches we're to excel in the grace of giving in response.

At the end of the film Schindler's List there's a heart wrenching scene in which Oskar Schindler – who bought the lives of many Jews from the Nazis - looks at his car and his gold pin and regrets that he didn't give more of his money and possessions to save more lives. Schindler had used his opportunity far better than most. But in the end, he longed for a chance to go back and make better choices. Unbelievers have no second chance to relive their lives, this time trusting Christ. But Christians also get no second chance to live life over, this time doing more to help others and invest in God's kingdom.

John Wesley said: "I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity." Missionary C.T. Studd said, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last." Five minutes after we die, we'll know exactly how we should have lived. But God has given us his Word so we don't have to wait to die to find out. And he's given us his Spirit to empower us to live that way now. So why not spend the rest of our lives closing the gap between what we'll wish we would have given and what we really are giving for the glory of God. When you leave this world will you be known as one who accumulated treasure on earth that you couldn't keep or will you be recognised as one who invested treasure in heaven that you couldn't lose?
It's also important to focus on God's sovereignty and power if you're already giving generously or if you're wealthy. Because it's so easy to fall into the trap of pride both individually and as a church. King David, v12, was keen for all the people who'd just given sacrificially and generously to focus on God. We too need to realise that wealth and honour come from God and therefore also the ability to create wealth. So he's the one who's to be ultimately praised with both lips and gifts. Look at v12&13:

Both riches and honour come from you; and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now, we thank you, our God and praise your glorious name.

2. All Things Come from You, and of Your Own Have We Given You v14-16

"But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your Holy Name, comes from your hand, and is all your own."

Three things we learn here. First, when there's generous, grateful giving, this is ultimately due to the grace - or the giving - of God himself. So when there's generous giving and our multi-site church's needs are met, we must thank God. It's not a cause for pride. For it's God who's the prime mover. He's the great motivator. We can't take the credit ourselves. Yes, he may use all sorts of means but it's God who causes money to be released. So we need to pray that God works in our own lives and the lives of others to release his money regularly that he's allowing us to steward. We need to be both a giving church and a praying church.

Secondly, this passage says that when there's generous giving we should remember that in God's sight we're like "aliens and strangers". We should remember that relative to the glories and wonders of heaven "our days on earth are like a shadow". Even the best service we offer will be so small, relative to eternity and the greatness of God. So we're not to boast.

Thirdly we're all to remember that nothing we have belongs to us. Finally

3. Keep Our Hearts Loyal to You v17-20

As well as giving that springs from a vision of the greatness and goodness of God and that takes regular ongoing stewardship seriously and is focused on heaven, King David now highlights giving freely and joyously as pleasing to God (v17):

I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

As 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, God loves a cheerful giver.

And that's stated in the context of v6: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

If you really believe that then surely you'll be a willing, grateful giver. The founder of the Tropicana Orange Juice Company believed that and gave 50% of his profits to the Lord and provided free orange juice for many U.S. Bible Colleges. That was his grateful response. But what about us whatever amount we're able to give?

God tests the 'heart' and is pleased with uprightness or 'integrity'. God knows about our giving. God is looking for willing givers with honest intent – givers who want to please him and forward his work. The devil wants the opposite. He works to make God's people greedy and materialistic so that funds will dry up for God's work. So David prayed v18:

"O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts towards you."

If you're one of God's people David prayed for you. He prayed for God's "people forever". For God to keep this desire in his people's hearts and for their hearts to be kept loyal to God. Do you have that desire to give regularly to God's work and to see his work grow? Where is your heart? v20:

"Then David said to all the assembly, "Bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers; and bowed their heads and paid homage to the LORD and to the king."

I thank God for the time and talents you give as well as the treasure. May we continue to bless the Lord with all that he's given us so that the ministry at JPC & St Joseph's can move forward in the power of the Spirit, grow, inspire Godly living and change in this nation. And not just for now but for the generations to come. This city and country is in desperate need of a clear Christian witness and presence now and for the future. King David provided for the future. The new movie Selma shows that Martin Luther King saw this in 1960s America and he and others were willing to give their lives for the end to racial segregation and voting rights for all, especially for future generations. It's what God had called him to do. Jesus call us to give our lives for the growth of his church.

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