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Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gift
11/12/2006
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:15;
Track 2 of 4 in the Transforming Story: Getting the Message Out series
Running time: 26 minutes, 36 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Reciprocation and Imitation"

Jim was a part-time county sheriff, full-time father and husband, and part-time student at the college we attended. At Christmas time he gave Gail and me a card with orders not to open it until we got home from church. Jim and his wife had sold the tires off their car for me to be able to continue in school.

We were standing in line at Hardees in Portland, OR. Suddenly, Junior came over to my line at the counter and paid the cashier for our meal. She was in shock, not knowing Junior and I were together, just not in the same line.

This past May when Gail and I were in Boise for the college's preaching program, I lost my cash (temporarily). George handed me a $100 bill to "get us through." When I returned his money (after finding mine), he explained that someone had once done that for him and he felt privileged to do the same.

Their giving motivates me to give. Their generosity has caused me to look for opportunities to "return the favor." I have come to feel honored to help those in need because others have helped me when I was in need.

Paul's appeal to the church in Achaia is based on such motives. The Macedonians had helped the Jerusalem church. Now it was the Achaian's turn to do their part. The giving of the Macedonians was being called upon to motivate the giving of the Achaians.

God is gracious and generous. His giving (John 3:16) should motivate us to give. His generosity (2 Corinthians 9:15) motivates us to be generous. We could give in order to be blessed (God always does so, in some form). Or, we could give to be noticed (condemned by Jesus in Matthew 6). We could give out of a sense of necessity or duty (not a totally bad motive, but it can rob the joy of giving). Or, we could give in imitation of the giving of others, especially God.

We have the incredible privilege of providing the resources needed to meet the needs of those around us. We can help those who request benevolence. We make it possible for the ministry of Madison Park to go on unhindered by financial restrictions. We can provide resources for ministry to occur around the world.

When we receive God's gifts, we reciprocate by giving to others. When we give, others are motivated to give. When they give, still more are empowered to give. In every case, God is honored and ministry occurs. It's a wonderful circle of influence in which we participate.

Heidi H. tells the story of a little child learning to tie her shoes. Soon as she learned she started crying. Her dad asked her what was wrong. It wasn't too hard was it? She said. Oh no I just realized I'll have to do this the rest of my life. Hiedi H. says that the way some people feel when the hear sermons about giving. They make decisions about what they're going do and then all of a sudden it dawns on them they made a commitment for the rest of their life and they are not sure they want that kind of commitment. It is remarkable thing when you hear about people who finish what they start. It is amazing video if you've ever get the chance to see it. There is a gentlemen who has, well in fact our men saw it at power breakfast, there is a fellow who pushes his disabled son in marathons. He's done it multiple, multiple times and has done it incredibly fast. He's also done the Iron Man in Hawaii. Where he has towed his son in a raft, carried him on a bicycle and then pushed him in a wheelchair for a full marathon. He's done it I think eleven times. I'm just thinking starting that would be one thing, finishing it something else all together. Not long ago Don B. told us a story of Mark Twain, who I don't know if you realize went bankrupt at one point in his life because of a number of bad decisions he made. In a decision to finish what he started Twain took a tour of Europe until he had earned enough money in order to pay back all of his debt. He missed the death of his daughter in that time frame, he was not able to come back to the United States for her funeral. But he had determined in his life he was going to finish what he started. There's something about that has incredible power and might be the label you would put over our text that we are going to look at, 2 Corinthians chapter 8. Finishing what we start.

There was a famine that went on in the area of Judea, Jerusalem the church was suffering and the churches outside of Jerusalem had made commitments to take up an offering to relieve the famine situation in Jerusalem. That's the context in which this text occurs. 2 Corinthians 8-9. About this relief offering, that these gentile Christians were taking up to help their Jewish bothers and sisters. That in and of itself has its own element of unusualness. Which we don't catch. Gentiles taking up offers to help Jews, would not have been a first century kind of event . It would be a bit like somewhere in the late 1800's African American congregation in Alabama taking up an offering to help a church in northern Illinois. It had that kind of ramification. that's the implication of what is about to incur in the text. We are going to read the text in peaces. I encourage you to follow along. We are going to stay primarily in this test and highlight just some of the verses here. There is so much here, that we will not be able to cover it all. Lets just start here. 2 Corinthians 8:1... "And now brothers we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial their over flowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able. And even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege serve with us for the saints. They did not do as we had expected. But they first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. And so we urged Titus since he had earlier made a beginning to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part." If I were to label that particular section of this text. I would label it this way… 'our giving starts with the gift of ourselves. ' The very first thing that has to happen in the life of any disciples who takes their responsibility to other people seriously, if the take it their responsibility as stewards seriously is the recognition you can give a lot of things in your place. But you can only give your self if you really have a contention and a commitment. It starts with the gift of you. That is verse 5. They first gave themselves to the Lord. That kind of commitment is required if stewardship is going to make any sense in your life because otherwise it is going to sound like some preacher someplace trying to taking money away from you that you could otherwise use quite nicely for yourself. Steward ship is a tough issue for anybody who has not first committed themselves to the Lord. So if is a trouble something then you ought to look first at your heart. If talking about stewardship, I'm talking about the use of you resources, whether it is your time, your money or your energy. If it is a troublesome thing, then it typically indicates that there is something in us that has yet to be surrendered entirely to God.

It's interesting this text. It was out of their extreme poverty that they rose to this challenge. And the amazing the thing is that here two thousand years later that is still true. Every piece of information that you look at indicates that those who are poor by percentage give a far greater percentage of their recourses than do those who are wealthy. In an American demographic article that came out in 2002- here is the comment. People earning less than $25,000 contributed an average of 4.2% household income to charitable groups. Will those making $100,000 or more shell out an average 2.7% of their earnings. This trend has been consistent according to a Washington, D.C. based independent sector that has been tracking charitable giving since 1987. That is true across the board , even in Christian organizations. Among churched people those who make the least by percentage give the most. Out their poverty these people demonstrate they have this heart to see that other people well cared for. Maybe this is my speculation. Maybe those who are in need understand what it feels like and they want to help people get out of there. While those of us who live fairly comfortable lives tend not to feel the needs of other people as much because it has never been or has along time been since we ever felt that kind of thing. Well the first thing that happens in any kind of steward ship growth in the life of a Christian is first thing that has to happen is the commitment to give yourself. So what ever comes along , whatever God asks is something comes fairly natural to you. Because you have first committed yourself. Then after that what ever God comes along with seems to make better sense. Lets go on in this text. 2 Corinthians 8:7 if I was going to label this next section. I would label it something like this. Out giving grows as we imitate God. We'll take a particular look at verse p. lets go back to verse seven. Just as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us, see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Do you notice that you can have a lot of things going right in your Christian life, you could be making great progress as a disciple. You can be commended for faith and speech and knowledge and ;love and earnestness and yet still need to excel in another area. So he says in verse 8 "I'm not commanding you, rather I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with earnestness of others . For you know that the grace of our lord Jesus." By the way this is gonna be unfair. I just want you to know right up front Paul is not being very nice here. I probably should forewarn you he's got done saying the way I'm gonna challenge your giving. I want you to compare your giving to somebody else's. That wouldn't be so bad, you know. If you said we're going to test your golfing prowess and the way we are gonna do that is we are going to compare your golf score to Kyle's. Well he's still gonna win, but it going to be easier if he had said we are going to compare your golf score to Tiger Woods. That some how there is an unfair comparison going on here. I want you to look at this, read this text. I want to compare it with the earnestness with other. For you know the grace of our lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor. So that you, through his poverty might become rich. Now that's not fair. The giving he compares your giving to, the earnestness of which you give not the amount but the earnestness the intention the heart with which you give is laid along side the heart of Jesus. I as might as might as well tell you upfront , your not gonna compare well here. Because he gave up absolutely everything. In order that you could have everything. But that's the context of the stewardship. The context of our resources being used for God lies in this context that Jesus himself who had everything going for him became absolutely poverty stricken so the those of us who are spiritually poverty stricken could be come wealth in spiritual things. That's the comparison . He says in verse 10 "and here is my advice about what is best for you. In this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but to also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work. So that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of at. According to your means. For if the willingness is there then gift is expectable according to what one has not according to what does not have." Can I just stop long enough to say this, cause I'm afraid some of you are going to think I am saying the same thing to all of you. And you all have to hear this differently. I has to do with the heart not the check. Are you with me here? Please do not step out of this sermon. You can quite listening later. But listen right now. What ever you are doing listen right now. God is not expecting those of you who do not have to give at the level of those who do. So if some of you are thinking I wish he would get off this topic he has no idea how hard it for us to make ends met. I am speaking directly to you. God is not expecting you to give at the same level he is asking other people to give. You give according to what you have not according to what you don't have. It's a matter of the heart. Not the dollar sign. Well let me turn that over. For those of you who have he's expecting you to give according to what you have not according to what you don't have. If you have more, more is expected of you. So he says finish this work, our desire he says in verse 13, "is not that others might be relieved will you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need. So that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality. As it is written he who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered a little did not have too little." What he is trying to say there is gonna come a time those of us who have when we may need to receive. And those of us who are currently on the receiving end there will come a time when we will have and will be able to bless others. It's a heart issue. There's a capital campaign that runs around that is very fascinating. No not equal gifts but equal sacrifice. And that's it's whole premise. That we are not asking people to give the same amount money we are talking about the same heart that responds out of a spirit of generosity based on what we have to give not on what we don't have. And its built on this image. That those of us who do have will help those who don't . when we discover their needs.

I missed this article some how last year it came out the anniversary of 9/11 and I missed it. I had heard of this information, but I hadn't heard it all I was so impress- for the generous gift you had promised and then it will be ready as a generous gift not as I grudgingly given. Here's the text that most clearly talks about our giving require, determines our finishing what we start. They made this promise that we are giving a generous offering and now it was time to actually come and collect it. All I'm saying is I'm gonna send some one in advance -to make sure the offering is ready or you and me both are gonna be embarrassed when we tell people the offering is there and it isn't.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to Start stuff? ...and not finish it? I'm notorious for that. I am a starter. And I like to get stuff--oh--about half done so that it looks good on one side. I don't care what the other side looks like. My wife wanted a our kitchen redone a couple doors moved, I took care of that. Covered up that side, we wallpapered, painted took care of that. On a couple of occasions I suppose she might have mentioned it might have been nice that the wall on the other side was also made to look half way decent since it was in the downstairs bathroom where I guest came . Well I don't ever use the downstairs bathroom. I never saw the fact that it was the back side of an unfinished wall. I did get to it exactly ten years later. Every time somebody come over she would call attention to the fact that that was yet unfinished. You know you can't embarrass me into doing things. Do you have the need to finish what you start. I recognize there are times when external circumstance actuating circumstance come into our life where we simply cant do some of the things we started to do. But I encourage those of you who make commitments for our capital campaign to pay off the addition to our building which has allowed us to move forward in our ministry. If you haven't finish that m you haven't stayed with that would you consider taking another look and getting with it. If you've tried tithing and you quite because it just seemed a little uncomfortable can I encourage you to try it again? If growing as a disciple in the area of your giving has proven to be harder that you thought it was gonna be, step back and take another look and say ok this is gonna more challenge than I thought but ill do it. Ill will give it one more effort.

There is something important about finishing what you start. You know that is half the reason for college, most employers don't care a lick for what your degree is in...they just want to know did you finish. Did you have what it takes to finish. Lots of people start lots of things. Not many finish what they start. The commitment to be a Christian and to grow as a Christian is to that daily battle to carry this thing out and to live it out faithfully. For the rest of your life. Well the text ends up in verse 16 talking about the heart with which we give. We are gonna come now to verses 6-the end of chapter nine. The label I would put over this is simply this our giving reflects our heart. Remember this who ever sows sparingly, will also heap sparingly. Whoever sows generously , will reap generously. Each man should decide to give what he has decide in his heart to give not reluctantly, nor under compulsion. So what ever you do don't give because you feel like you have to. No that's different than feeling like you need to give because you need to do it for your own discipline you need to do it to honor God, you need to do it to grow. But don't feel like somebody is standing there twisting your arm saying if you don't give you . Give because you're a cheerful giver he says . That is the word that shows up in this particular text. God loves a cheerful giver. Now I write fifty two checks a year. We give weekly with the envelope. Most of those fifty two I smile at, once in a while I look at that check and think again. Yep. Fifty two weeks and I'm still learning how to cheerfully give all fifty-two of them. Some of you are already there. You love giving. That's what God wants. Cheerful givers. Well he says God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all that you need you will abound in every good work. Somehow when we give God does things in out life to make possible lots of other things to happen. As it is written he has scattered aboard his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase you store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of you righteousness. You will be made rich in every way. So that you can be generous on every occasion. And through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. If you give, God will make it possible for you to give it in every way. You may not always have every financial need that you have to have. You nay not have every deep pockets sort of sense of finances , but you will always be able to give something. If you a generous give . He will make you rich in every way. Rich in a spirit of generosity with rich in a spirit of encouragement, rich in a sense of heart rich with eye that notice the world that is hurting, rich with the desire to be a giver like Christ. Is the a giver and some of you may actually give you lots of money. There is no promise of that. Because he realizes that the gift of finances is a great temptation. But those who are faithful with what they have God often continues to give them resources that they may give out a level that the rest of us would only imagine being able to do. He says this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people it is not just, he says that needs get met you have to take into consideration that this brings expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies yours confess of the gospel of Christ. And for you generosity with sharing with them and with every one else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. What's described here are deliberate givers who have thought about what they want to give. Cheerful givers. Who love the privilege of sharing with other people and knowing that the gospel is advanced because of their sharing. This is about liberal givers. Whose scattered the seed of their resources widely and deeply because they know that the more that they sow the more that God has an opportunity to bless both them and others. This is about people who want God to be honored and to be thanked and wants His named to be praised they don't care if they get any credit. They know that when the church advances and needs are met people think God. It happened as early as this morning. As recently as less than an hour ago. People standing here in this building praising God because somebody had helped met a need in their lives. that's what ultimately happens. God loves cheerful, deliberate, responsible people who take seriously to need to finish what they started. To grow and excel. He says in this area of responsibility. You may have noticed that image changed and I don't want you to pay much attention to images, but it was a broken wheel but now it is complete. There is a sensed in which our offering of ourselves before God helps bring wholeness, completion in our lives. I'm just gonna come back full circle to where this all started . How this question has haunted me. In 2 Corinthians answers this, how do poverty stricken people give abundantly. And the text says, they gave themselves first to the Lord. And every thing about stewardship, everything about advancing the gospel. Everything about partnering with Jesus fell into line . Because the first most critical offering was the offering of self before God. We are going to invite you to stand and we are going to sing a song about that very kind of thing, where we give ourselves, we give ourselves wholly, completely to God. Maybe you never made a decision for Christ and you don't even know what is next in that process. How to give yourself to the lord. If that is true we need to come see us. Maybe you know what the next step in your journey is , it is repentance from the sin. If you need for us to pray for you. We are here to do it. If you are a faithful repentant person who has never identified with Jesus by being immersed in Christ we are here to help you with that process. We invite you to make this you life. Your first and primary offering before God. And then simply watch as everything else falls into place. If you discipline your self to grow in the grace of the lord. Lets sing this as an offering.

[Transcribed by SC2]