Giving Willingly (in testing times)

Please have 1 Chronicles 29.1-9 open and let’s pray:

Lord in these testing times speak to our hearts and change us by your Spirit for Jesus’ sake Amen.

1 Chronicles 29.9 ends with great rejoicing for all that is given for the glory of God, and I want to begin by giving thanks to God both for his provision for us as a church in 2020, and also for you, for your willing generosity throughout this testing time, which has enabled new forms of largely online ministry to emerge.

It’s different to the severe test of affliction the generous Macedonian churches faced in 2 Chronicles 8, but still a testing time and the grace of God has evidently been at work overflowing in a wealth of generosity. The challenge now, as Paul says in 2 Chronicles 8, is to keep on giving willingly and generously for the growth of God’s work here among every age group. But perhaps especially the under thirties, the vulnerable, and the young children and their parents who face great challenges now and ahead - to prove our love for them says Paul. And indeed not just to keep on giving but to excel in the grace of giving, not to earn favour with God, but in response to the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As the crisis continues some who are watching us online are praying for JPC to continue to be faithful and to grow, for the sake of those who need to hear the gospel. A couple wrote to me saying, ‘We thank the Lord for the faithful witness you seek to maintain and grow at JPC’. And growth requires willing giving. The work is great in such tumultuous times but God is with us.

1. The Work Is Great

1 Chronicles 29.1:

And David the king said to all the assembly, “Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God.

From 1 Chronicles 22 we see King David's preparations for the temple, which wouldn’t be built during his reign but by his son Solomon, according to God’s will. Solomon, says David (1 Chronicles 22.5):

is young and inexperienced and the work is great and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will there - fore make preparation for it.

So David provided for the future before his death. Get this King David was willing, even though God had told him that he wasn’t to build the temple, to make preparations, to pass on plans that he’d received from the Lord and to give generously towards the project that was to be carried out after his death by his son. Are we willing to plan (including making a will) and give sacrificially in terms of time and money towards the growth of gospel ministry, towards the building of the Lord's church here and beyond even though we might not see things come to fruition? Whether that's because we move away or go home to be with the Lord. For example, if you're a student who’s benefited from Focus etc. but you have to move away, you could still give to support the growth of the student work after you've left.

"The work is great", says David, "for the palace is not for man but for the LORD God." The task is great today too, the task of playing our part in growing the church now and after the vaccine roll-out, making disciples of all nations and building up the body of Christ now, fighting the wolves and being salt and light.

Many of us will be or feel like Solomon (young and inexperienced), but rather like Solomon God has chosen you, to be here and to play your part in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the true Temple, and building his church. Yes it’s God who gives the growth but are we willing to play our part? Are we willing to plant and water? Are we willing to resource it with what God gives us? For it will cost in both time and money. Growth is costly. It’s unselfish to grow a church. Under God we’re to seek to grow, for Christ's love compels us. What is God doing during the pandemic? The Bible teaches that what God is doing is bringing a wayward world back to himself, and we’re to be ready.

It’s going to be a ‘both and’ future for JPC. Both in person and online. God has extended the reach of our ministry and as soon as is possible we want to be livestreaming both morning and evening from the building. This will cost. And Christ and his church deserve our best not our second best, our first thought not our second thought, our first standing order so to speak not our last. Now we don't give to earn eternal life. We can't. Eternal life is a free gift through faith in Christ alone. We give in response to what Christ has done for us. And in response, we’re to give ourselves first to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 8.5) William Colgate of soap and toothpaste fame gave his life to Christ and later devoted the whole of his yearly income to the Lord. He gave himself first to the Lord:

The work is great, for the palace is not for man but for the Lord God.

Buildings are important. HTG, SJB and the pandemic have taught us that. Many of us are longing to meet with everyone in person again. This need is so vital for children’s, youth, student, 20s&30s, and Primetime ministry. And today the buildings need a degree of maintenance which will cost. But covid has also shown us that it’s not all about the buildings. The church is essentially the people of God, and while the church is to be a witness and help one another to mature in Christ, ultimately it’s for the Lord. The church is the bride of Christ. He died for the church. So we’re not to treat it lightly but rather willingly give ourselves and our resources first to the Lord and to his church. And the Lord will be with us, as David tells Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28.20-21:

Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished. And…with you in all the work will be every willing man who has skill for any kind of service...

2. David's Example And Challenge 1 (Chronicles 29.2-5)

King David was also willing to put his money where his mouth was. He’d already given willingly and generously to the work. 1 Chronicles 29.2:

So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver etc.

In fact 3,450 tonnes of gold and 34,500 tonnes of silver. And now in 1 Chronicles 29.3-5 he says he’s also giving his personal treasures for the glory of God:

in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God…and for all the work to be done by craftsmen. Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the Lord?

So he not only gave large amounts from his Kingly coffers but also from his personal treasures. With all his resources he provided for the temple of God. Are we willing to provide for God's work with all our resources however great or small they may be? There’s no wiser investment than storing up treasure in heaven by giving to the Lord’s work. King David's heart was in God's plan and work. He was willing to give upfront with all his resources at the planning stage knowing he’d never see the result. He gave according to his means. He’d consecrated himself to the Lord. He led by example.

When preparations were being made for the construction of JPC in 1856 the leading members of the project promised one third of the cost at the initial meeting. One pastor, at the start of a building campaign said that he was pledging £50,000 to the project. He didn't have £50,000 so he wrote what became a best-selling book and received that sum as an advance! He led by example. He consecrated himself to the Lord and stepped out in faith. We're still waiting for David Holloway's next book and Ben Cadoux-Hudson’s new one!

Where is your treasure? Where is your heart? How do you use the resources that come from God? 1 Chronicles 29.14 reminds us that everything comes from God, and we give to him only what comes from him. Are we willing to follow David's example and respond to his challenge today? To imitate God's generosity to us? In response to Christ's death on the cross in our place are we not willing to offer all that we have to him? "Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?" To the Lord who willingly gave everything for you.

3. The Willing Response Of The Leaders (1 Chronicles 29.6-9)

The leaders were willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord that day 1 Chronicles 29.6-9:

Then the leaders of fathers' houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king's work. They gave for the service of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron. And precious stones…Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

The leaders responded in both quantity and quality. With all their resources they provided for God's work. 1 Chronicles 29.6 says they gave willingly. 1 Chronicles 29.9 tells us they gave wholeheartedly and freely to the Lord. Their sacrificial generosity arose from a wholehearted devotion to the Lord and they gave to the Lord, not just a project. So the people and King rejoiced. Sacrificial generosity to the Lord and his work causes great rejoicing among his people. But what about us – JPC leaders - whether in creche, CYFA, Focus, JPCi or Small Groups? Will we consecrate ourselves to the Lord, give freely and wholeheartedly to the work with all our resources, be an example and cause great rejoicing? 2 Corinthians 8.7-9:

See that you excel in this grace of giving also. I say this not as a command, but to prove that your love is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

4. Our Response

What’s our response whether we're leaders or members? It wasn't just the leaders who were to give willingly. 1 Chronicles 29.9 tells us that the whole assembly was present, comprising the whole people. Their response was practical and immediate. What will ours be? Complete the response form you should’ve received and, if you're a taxpayer, the Gift Aid declaration. Don’t miss the Chancellor’s generosity. The growth of Christ's church here and beyond needs your support, whether you’re in CYFA, a student, 20s&30s or older. "Now, who’s willing to consecrate themselves today to the Lord?"

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