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Growing in the Grace of Giving
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Track 4 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 25 minutes, 14 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.

Sermon for Sunday, May 25, 2003
"Growing in the Grace of Giving"
(1 Corinthians 4:1- 5)
G. Charles Sackett

I walked into the Dairy Queen in Garibaldi, Oregon one day and Governor, the owner of the place, said to me. If I hear one more sermon on giving I'm not going back. Now that was a distinct problem in light of the fact that an hour before I went to the Dairy Queen I'd been to the preacher's office and he had said to me, I'm about to do my seventeenth, but final sermon on stewardship this Sunday. So here I was trying to figure out how to say to Governor, stick around one more week.

We're not going to do seventeen! This is number four and this is the last one. But, it is such an important topic, this whole issue of stewardship. Larry was correct, what we're talking about is not just money. It has very little to do with money. It has to do with the whole life experience of our relationship with the "stuff" that God has given us - the things that he's placed in our care.

You saw on the screen, that we're supposed to look at 2 Corinthians 8 - we're not going to - don't even go there. Go to 1 Corinthians 4. The folks who did that kind of stuff didn't know that I was going to change my mind. I reserve that prerogative.

1 Corinthians, Chapter 4 where Paul was talking about his own experience with people in the sense that he is being judged as an apostle. But inherent in this text is this really strong statement that has to do with our stewardship. He says in Chapter 4, Verse 1, 1 Corinthians.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

That second verse says so very much about who we are in relationship with what God has given us. He says, it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Paul says - I'm not concerned what other people think of me. It's not a concern to me if other people judge what I'm doing. In fact, I don't even judge myself. My concern is that one day, I will stand before God and God will judge the way I handled that with which I was given. In his particular case, he was talking about those mysteries - that message of Verse 1. In our case, there's just a whole range of things for which we may be held accountable where God is gonna say, in essence, what did you do with what I gave you. Here's the bottom line principle that has to do with all of the stewardship issues that we talk about, that we are called to be faithful with that which God has entrusted us. We're called to be faithful - to take care of the stuff that we've been given.

Now that includes such a huge range of things and I'm going to narrow it down and just give you a brief list - not necessarily arbitrary, but certainly not in any way comprehensive. But we could start here, for example, we're to be faithful in our work. Ya know, do you ever ask yourself this question? Why in the world do you have a job? Why do you work? What do you do for a living? How does it fit into who you are? There are a lot of reasons to work. One of the reasons to work is so we can take care of our families. I mean, that's a legitimate reason to work. Scripture is very clear - that we ought to take care of our own. Maybe you work, ah, just because it's the right thing to do. You know, well, that - Paul said it to the Thessalonians, that if a man doesn't work, don't let him eat. It's just the responsible way to live. Sometimes we work because God works. We simply reflect the fact that God worked and he gave that as a kind of human trait, that it's natural for us to work. It's God-like for us to be employed - work when we can.

I'd like you to turn over to Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verse 28 where there is this interesting text about why we work, one of a number of reasons why a person, who as a Christian, would want to have employment, earn a living, as much as possible. Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verse 28. In this context kind of laying out the way that a Christian lays out their Christian experience - the practicality of just the Christian life.

He says in Verse 28 - He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

I remember when one of the ladies in our church asked me if I would preach a sermon on purloining. Ha-ha - I remember standing there smiling at her like - I have no idea what you're talking about. I went home and got the dictionary out - to purloin means to steal from your workplace and I thought, ya know, I really don't want to preach that sermon, so I'm just not going to. But it did lead me to this particular text which I found myself looking at and thinking you know, now there's a good reason to work, so that I'll have something to give to those who have need. It's a very selfless reason for having a job, so that I'll be able to help other people.

My father was not a Christian. But my father understood this verse. I'm quite confident that my father never read this verse. I'm not sure my father ever read anything in a Bible, but he knew this verse. He was gifted with things in order to turn around and give those things away - I've seen him - I've seen him do it. Take his shirt off and hand it to somebody who didn't have one. I watched him feed people in his restaurant on this promise - we'll send you the money. Ya know, one time in all the time I knew about, somebody actually did that. Didn't seem to bother him - he just did it cause it was the right kind of thing to do.

I had the privilege a number of years ago to teach part time in St. Louis Christian College and at that time, their business manager was a fellow by the name of Mr. Maynard. Delightful older fella, well past his sixty-fifth birthday, continuing to work for one simple reason - he realized that if he stopped working, he wouldn't be able to give as much. And he wanted to maintain this level of contribution, so he just continued to work well past his retirement years. But he did something else, which was really fascinating and has left a profound impression on me. Thanks to the U.S. Government, they have these things called IRA's. He took out an IRA in the name of the church, and he contributed to that, knowing when his income went down he would have to have his finances go down, he wouldn't be able to give as much so he set it up in a retirement account so his giving would be maintained even though his income wasn't. There's a man who understood why we work. One of the reasons we work is because we want to be able to give to those who have need.

Well, it's not just our work, we're to be faithful in our world. Back in Genesis, there is this interesting text in the creation account. Genesis, Chapter 1. Versus 27 and 28 and then one Verse over in Chapter 2. Genesis 1, Verse 27.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

The theologians among us call that the dominion mandate - that man is higher than creation and therefore has responsibility to take care of creation.

Chapter 2, Verse 15 puts it this way.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

It is very Christian to be concerned about the world in which we live. It's thoroughly Christian to be an ecologist. Now I gotta tell you the honest truth, I don't take that as seriously as I probably should. I've not gotten into recycling. I still use Styrofoam and then I feel guilty when I throw it away, knowing it's going to take forever for it to decay. But there's something in me, ya know, if you come early on Sunday morning, and you park out near where I am and walk with me, you get to join me in cleaning up the place. Something in me says pick that up! I cannot step over trash. In fact, when I'm driving down the road - (are you ever tempted like I am) someone rolls the window down, tosses something out the window and you want to drive up and go-- PICK THAT UP! There's just something Christian about taking care of the place. We've been given it as a wonderful world and he says BE RESPONSIBLE - MAKE IT LAST.

We have some new landscaping on our campus, in fact, in front of the old gymnasium, now called Henderson Hall. There's beautiful new landscaping and we had a meeting there Friday, the last presidential kinda get-together with the faculty and I noticed my friend, J. K. Jones, who manicures his lawn perfectly, walking along pulling weeds out of this newly landscaped area. We just take care of the place--ya know! My dream is that this will be the kind of place that you'll want to take care of - that when you're walking in off the parking lot, you'll want to pick up the trash! Really, it's okay. We have trash cans in here. We'll throw it away for you. I'm dreaming of the day when we have flowers and trees and plants and the place just looks like it's an inviting place. Because it's the world that we want to represent before God. We've been given that responsibility. It's a stewardship issue--to take care of the world that we live in.

Well, we're faithful in our work. We're faithful in our world. We're supposed to be faithful in our witness. You remember that text in 1 Peter, Chapter 3? - that we're to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and be ready always to give an answer for the hope that lies within us, to do so with meekness and gentleness. There's this little one page letter that Paul wrote to his friend Philemon and in Philemon the sixth verse of that little book of Philemon he says, be ready to share your faith. You know you're here because somebody took that seriously. They sensed a stewardship responsibility for the faith that they had been given and they turned around and gave it to you.

I will be forever grateful for a man that you'll probably never have a chance to meet this side of heaven. But Dan Rainier (??) came across the proverbial railroad tracks in our little town and he befriended the bartender's son and I'm a Christian today. Because he was a steward of his faith. He was a steward of his witness. And I find myself asking, what railroad tracks do I need to cross to build that bridge with somebody else who needs to have what I have? I have this wonderful privilege of being a Christian.

You know, I don't know if the poll is totally accurate or not but this is what they say. I don't know the exact figures because I couldn't find them, but it's the vast majority of Americans polled said-- they would come to church if somebody would just ask. It's just that easy. There's a world full of people out there who do not know Jesus, who do not go to church regularly, who say when they're polled, I would go if somebody would just ask me. Now of course, the chances are the first five people you ask will say no and then you'll think I'm lying to you, but, but that's what they say. That it's as simple as offering an invitation to come and see what we have.

Well, there's so many things about which we might be faithful, he says we're called to be faithful with our gifts, the talents, the abilities that God has given us.

Back in 1 Peter, this one verse that is probably the simplest statement of all of the texts about being gifted--ah 1Peter, Chapter 4, Verse 10.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

Do you hear that stewardship language? We are to faithfully administer that which God has given us. We use these gifts that we've been given in order to serve people. By the way, if you're sitting here and you are a Christian, you've been gifted. It isn't something that you get to debate. It's just the truth, you've been given a gift by God to be useful to other people. In fact, there are literally hundreds of people in this building right now or who have been in this building today who have exercised their gifts. They've unlocked the doors. They've turned on the lights. They are running the sound system. They play the instruments. They've been up here on the stage. They are in the back teaching your children. They are over there in the Fellowship Center with Children's Worship. They and it's just not on Sunday. There will be people here exercising their gifts when we remodel the warehouse. There were people exercising their gifts on Monday when we walked through the Westoff's fields. There are people who simply take what God has given them in the way of a gift and said, I want to turn around and I want to use that because that's what I've been asked to do, I'm a steward of my gift.

And some of you are saying, I don't know what my gift is. That's okay! Discovery is part of the fun. In fact, this Saturday, this Saturday, like this one coming from 8 to 12, here at the church building, continental breakfast included our 301 class will meet and Brian will help you figure out what your gifts are. Did I mention that? Saturday this Saturday 8 o'clock to 12 o'clock Fellowship Center "A Gift Seminar". In case I forget to I'll tell you that later!

An opportunity to discover who am I and what do I do and what has God given me the privilege of turning that around and putting it into practice.

Paul says in Romans, if you have a gift, use it. That's not hard to understand. That's pretty plain teaching in scripture and I frankly, have this dream, that one of these days when you drive on to our parking lots, some people who are gifted in hospitality are going to greet you out there on the lot. You don't even have to get into the building. They're just going to be out there greeting you when you come in and they're going to say, oh, by the way, we have parking back here behind the building, three or four spaces over here. Now if you've ever tried to get into this parking lot for second service, when first service is running a little late, sometimes it can be a real pain to find a place to park.

Now, we have another gift that we can offer you. You can park out there where the rest of us do and then you don't have to join the health club, because you get plenty of exercise from just walking in from the far corner. Bring a lunch, make a day of it. It's a pretty good walk! But on days like today, it will get your heart rate up and make you feel better.

Can't you imagine what it would be like for the very first impression for somebody new to our congregation to be greeted by a smiling, helpful person in a parking lot? So they can find their way in and that first impression is that positive statement that we have something that we want to share with you. What is that gift that God has put in you that he is simply waiting for you to put into practice? To say I want to exercise this gift and it doesn't have to be in the building and it doesn't have to be on Sunday. Where can I plug in and use the thing that God has given me to serve others in his name?

Well, he also says that we're to be faithful with our "STUFF". You remember that parable back in Matthew 25? Where Jesus tells the story of a man giving a certain amount of things to people and those who did good with it were praised and then there was that one who didn't know what to do with it so he just hid it and gave it back, and he said, that's not a good thing You know, we all have an awful lot of STUFF.

I've been tempted to get that library book. Have you seen this book where a photographer went around the world and ask people to bring all of their possessions and put it on the front lawn and he took a picture of it? Some of those pictures, you've got to have the wide angled lens, man. And in some you could put, literally, right here in the space occupied by our communion table. We just got a lot of stuff. If you don't think that's true when you leave today, look out behind our building and you know what you're going to discover? A whole row of storage buildings. Those things are cropping up all over the United States. You know why we have those things so prolific now? We got too much STUFF!

He says, what are you gonna do with your STUFF?

You know if this were school and you were students, I would be harassing you and you'd have to listen. You don't have to do anything about it but you have to listen. And I would--at this juncture of the semester, I would be saying you guys have too much stuff. You've got closets full of clothes you can't wear. You think you're going to get back into them. And those students would literally send truckloads of clothing to an inner-city shelter, or box them up and send them overseas. I mean literally, a truckload full. Because they come to grips with the fact that they've got stuff they have no need for it. Why not give it to somebody who has a need for it?

At graduation last week, my friend Carl graduated. He didn't come to graduation. He wasn't able to be there but he graduated I'm so proud of him he's a non-traditional student really paid the ultimate price to get through school to be a preacher. And I remember one cold winter morning this year, he was late to our early class. He came in and here's what he said, basically. My, my, my - hee hee heater doesn't work. The poor guy was freezing. I mean he was cold. Frankly, my, the heater in my car works. I don't have this experience very often, but I had this deep prompting you need to do something to help this guy, so, I took out my checkbook and I started to write a check and I couldn't figure out what to write. Every time I changed the dollar figure, it came back to one particular prompting--write--so I did. Two days later he came back and said, Your check was within $2.77 of being exactly what I needed to pay for my heater.

For once in my life I felt like I finally listened effectively to what God was telling me to do with my STUFF.

See. Stewardship is so much bigger, so much broader than just money. It's not about money. It's certainly not about Madison Park's budget. It's about our whole life. It's about who we are before God. It's about our faithfulness with the thing that God has given us LIFE Not just possessions, but everything about us, who we are, our families, our abilities, our time, yes--even our treasure. But being a steward is doing nothing more than being God-like--being faithful. You recognize that one of the most significant phrases in all of scripture is this phrase; God is faithful. And all he's asking us to do is be like him. Be faithful! Be faithful with your marriage. Be faithful with your children. Be faithful with your behavior. Be faithful with your STUFF. Be faithful with what I give you. Just take care of it and give it back to me the way I've given it to you. In faithfulness. That becomes our driving passion. To simply give back to God what he has already given us and to be faithful doing it.

Let me pray.

Father, this is an enormous world. And you have given us so many wonderful things--life, good family, a church, freedom. All we want to do is be faithful with it and give it back, so we bring our lives to you and we voice to you our commitment to simply be like you - faithful. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen

We're gonna invite you to sing with us a song that I hope reflects that driving passion of yours to simply be like him. Stand with me.