“Empowered by God — Responding by Grace”
“ . . . as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Cor. 8:7).
Over the past few weeks, we have considered various aspects of our annual stewardship emphasis, “Empowered by God — Responding by Grace.” We’ve seen how God’s power provides salvation through faith in Christ and how we receive power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We recognized that God’s power which created and sustains the world empowered men and women of God in Bible times. And we realized that God’s power to accomplish His purpose in our lives is available to us.
We also examined the Macedonian Christians who gave out of their poverty and far beyond their ability because they first gave themselves to the Lord. And we considered the importance of using our time and talents as two primary ways of demonstrating total stewardship.
Today, not surprisingly, we come to the financial aspect. This is where many Christians get “turned off” to stewardship matters. They don’t have a problem with “time” or “talents” aspects of stewardship, but they take umbrage when it comes to the “treasure” aspect. In doing so, they must not realize that there are more verses in the Bible concerning money, material possessions and giving than verses dealing with heaven and hell combined. In their concern that the church “talks too much about money,” they must have forgotten that Jesus spoke about money, material possessions and giving in half of His parables.
Don’t be confused. Money is not the most important aspect of total stewardship. What is most important is that like the Macedonian Christians, we first give ourselves to the Lord. You see, giving that responds by grace to God’s blessings does not begin with the movement of the hand to the wallet, purse or checkbook. Giving that excels by grace begins in the heart. When our hearts overflow with the love of Christ, then our financial resources will follow.
Sad to say, the opposite is true as well. If we neglect to give ourselves first to the Lord, then we will fail to give generously and cheerfully of the money that God has entrusted to us. Some Christians become downright stingy when it comes to giving back to God that which was rightfully God’s in the first place. In fact, they remind us of Farmer Smith’s cow. “How much milk does that cow give?” asked a visitor to the farm. “Well,” replied Farmer Smith, “if you mean by voluntary contributions, she doesn’t give a single drop. But if you can get her cornered so she can’t hurt anyone, an able-bodied man can take away about eleven quarts a day from her.”
Stop and think for a moment. The Scriptures are replete with verse after verse indicating God’s ownership of all things. God has never relinquished His title deed to the world. God owns it all! God could have chosen Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, or some other fine investment firm to handle His resources, but He chose you and me. It is, therefore, a privilege to manage God’s resources in His behalf. It is a privilege to be able to give back to God that which is His.
As we come to the conclusion of our annual stewardship emphasis, “Empowered by God — Responding by Grace,” my prayer is that you will give your heart to the Lord, that you will put Him first in your living and in your giving, and that you will make giving to the work of the Lord here at @@ a priority in your life in the months ahead.
Remember our key verse from Second Corinthians 8:7 which we read a few moments ago: “ . . . as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also.”