THE GENEROUS CHURCH

 

II CORINTHIANS 8:1-8

 

Tonight, we begin in our Stewardship Emphasis time for 2005.  Our theme is “Generosity, the true mark of Christ-like giving.”  Generous giving flows from the heart and is rewarded generously by God.

 

Throughout history God’s people have always been generous people.  In the Old Testament, the faithful were encouraged and exhorted to have a warm heart and a ready hand to the less fortunate:

 

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor. 

Proverbs 22:9

 

The Levitical Law was very specific in its instructions concerning giving to the poor:

 

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. 

And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. 

Leviticus 19:9-10

 

This truth was so important that God gave it His personal signature.  God’s wants His people to be generous people.  The poor and strangers of the land knew they could always find something to eat in the fields of God’s people.

 

Their minds and hearts were to be on those that were less fortunate than them.  Generosity is an essential part of following God.

We represent God on this earth and when people look at us, they are to see something of the character and heart of God.  What they need to see is generosity.

 

In the New Testament the teaching of generosity is continued. 

 

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.

And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.

And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength.

And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.

And all the people saw him walking and praising God:

And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

Acts 3:1-10

 

Why was this man sitting outside the Temple?  Why didn’t he go to the market place, or to city Hall, or sit in front of the bank?  The answer is simple.  Those in those other places were not like God’s people; they would not have even tried to help him.

 

He knew that God’s people had a reputation of generosity.  The probability of getting help was greater at the Temple than at those other places.

As soon as Peter and John saw this man in need, they reached out to him.  These were the disciples of Jesus; He had taught them to have compassion on and be generous to others. 

 

Generosity was the motive of Jesus and it is the motive of those that follow Him.  Because of their generosity, a healing miracle occurred, a man’s life was changed forever.

 

As modern Christians we must ask ourselves if the world sees us as a generous people.  I wonder what they would think about the way you give?  I wonder if they know how we view people with legitimate needs?  Would they call us generous?

 

The Church today is to follow the model and example of the early New Testament Church.  That Church was generous in every way.  Their giving by faith can be traced all through the Book of Acts and the writings of Paul.

 

The local community looked upon the people of the Church as open handed and liberal givers.  May that be our testimony today!

 

1 – GENEROSITY RESPONDS TO NEEDS

 

In the Scripture we read as our text we find that the early believers were experiencing a time of adversity and suffering.  Famine had come to the land and the Church was being persecuted for its faith.

 

Paul sent out a request to other Churches outside of Jerusalem for help for this suffering Church.  He wanted them to send an offering.  As each Church received the request, they had to decide if and how they would respond.

 

Some Churches helped and some did not.  Paul used these verses to commend the Macedonian Church for their help. 

 

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.  2Corinthians 8:1-2

 

The Macedonian Church was also in the midst of suffering, yet they responded in a generous way to the need.  At a time when they needed help themselves, they gave to help others. 

 

Paul knew of their sacrifice and praised them for their generosity and held them up as an example to the other Churches.

 

God help us to look at and profit from their example.  We must not allow our personal needs to make us blind to other needs.  Many times we hear people say, “Why should I give when I have needs of my own?” 

 

We don’t give because we have plenty; we give because we are Christians, following the example of Christ. 

 

2 – GENEROSITY IS AN ATTITUDE

 

What made these people do what they did?  What made them different from those other Churches that did not respond?  How could they think of others when they had needs of their own?

 

They made a decision to be generous.  It is obvious that these people were habitual generous givers.  It was giving that gave them joy and they chose to continue to do that which made the happy.

 

Some lose their ability to maintain their joy because they quit doing what brought them joy in the first place.  When people first get saved, they are generous.  That is part of the joyous salvation experience.

 

They were financially strapped and they could have thrown a pity party and no one would have criticized them. 

 

They could have been justified in excusing them from giving; that is what others probably expected.  But they did the unexpected, they responded in a liberal way.

 

I have seen that recently in this Church.  There are several that have this attitude and it is always a joy to watch them respond to needs and see the joy that it brings to them.

 

We need to have the attitude that we will allow the joyful attitude of our hearts to overrule the lack of our pocketbooks.  The results will be an overflow of liberality. 

 

These people may have been poor monetarily, but they were wealthy in attitude.  Have you ever heard or maybe said it yourself, “It’s the thought that counts.”  That is exactly how God sees our giving.

 

The attitude of these people allowed God to enable them to give.  Not just give, but also give generously.  Attitude is everything; it motivates our actions. 

 

Too many make the mistake of thinking that only the rich can be generous.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Generosity is all about attitude, not amount!

 

And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. 

And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. 

And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 

For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.  Luke 21:1-4

 

In the eyes of the world her gift was not generous, but it God’s eyes it was, because it was all she had to live on.  These other people thought they were generous because they gave much out of much surplus.  But they did not even compare to the generosity of the poor widow.

Jesus said that she was the greatest giver.  How could that be possible?  It was her attitude; she loved the Lord and had a generous spirit.  The amount had nothing to do with God’s approval.

 

Everyone seems to be looking for their fifteen minutes of fame.  How about this poor woman?  Her influence will be remembered and honored for all time.

 

3 – GENEROSITY INVOLVES ACTIVITY

 

There are many that may say they are generous, but as my Mamma used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”  The Macedonian givers proved their generosity by their liberal gift.

 

In verse four, Paul says that they literally begged for the opportunity to give.  Paul, knowing their hardship, probably told them to keep their money, but they wanted to give.  They did not just feel sorry for those in need, they wanted to do something.

 

Their sacrifice was a blessing, not a burden.  They considered it an honor to give.  That is what made it a blessed activity. 

 

They gave of their own accord; no one had to Preach to them or beg them.  There was no pressure; it was a natural response.  Their hearts were warm toward God and the needs of others. 

 

Generous people never need arm-twisting.  It is a joy for them to give. 

 

Then Paul says that their giving was according to their own ability and beyond.  That is the real definition of generosity.  Those that are generous give what they feel they can give and then give a little more.

 

Generous people always look at the need and then ask what would be the generous thing to do.  They want to do more than be a blessing: they want to be the greatest blessing they can.

 

Generosity is usually not proven until the tight times.  When people are under personal pressure, that is when they show what their real attitude is. 

 

That’s why I never count on those that say, “as soon as the Lord gives me an abundance, I will be a blessing to the Church.”  If their habit is not giving now, it will not change later. 

 

If they are generous when they have very little, it does not need to be said that they will be generous when they have much.  Their present activity is a clear indication of their future activity.

 

If it is a joy to give when you have a little, just think how much of a joy it would be to give when you have a lot. 

 

A lack of faith keeps many from the activity that God wants them involved in.  When we have the right attitude of faith, it will overcome the facts of adversity and hard times.  Faith always has a way of altering the facts!

 

4 – GENEROSITY IS GIVING TO GOD FIRST

 

Where did the Macedonians get their attitude of generosity?

 

And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. 

2Corinthians 8:5

 

Paul was amazed by their generosity.  He did not expect it from these poor people.  But they gave because even before Paul informed them of the need, they were giving to God.

 

Their highest motivation was to bless God and then to bless others.  When we have a habit of giving first to God, it is easy to give to the needs of others. 

 

These people considered all giving to be “To the Lord.”  God just allowed it to be directed by Paul.

 

When our hearts belong to God, it is easy to be generous like Him.

 

5 – GENEROSITY IS BLESSED BY GOD

 

God always notices and rewards the generous:

 

Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 

Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. 

I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 

2Corinthians 8:6-8

 

After the seeing the generosity of the Macedonians and seeing how God had blessed them, he exhorted the Corinthians Christians to imitate their example. 

 

It was not because Paul wanted more money, but because he wanted all the Churches to be blessed by God.  He told them that they had been blessed by God and that they needed to be sure they were blessed in this area also.

 

There is nothing that will evoke the blessing of God more than proving our earnest and sincere love to Him. 

They were blessed because of their obedience

They were blessed with satisfaction.

They were blessed by being a good example.

And they were blessed because God gave them increase.

 

Generous attitudes and actions always get God’s attention.  I want the people of this Church to get God’s attention.  Let’s get His attention for blessing instead of chastisement.

 

I want God to use us as an example.  An example for good and encouragement, not an example for bad. 

 

I want other Churches to say, “Victory Baptist Church is a generous Church and is filled with generous people.”  Remember, Generosity is the true mark of Christ-like giving.”

 

We are never more like Christ than when we are giving.  As the Macedonian Church was a shining example of generosity, may we be like them.  By God’s grace, we can be.

 

Tonight, every member of this Church needs to examine their heart and decide that they will be a generous person.  Make a commitment to study the Word, pray, and meditate upon the principles of generosity.

 

May every one of us purpose in our own hearts that we will first give ourselves to the Lord and then generously respond to the needs of this Church and God’s work.

 

As God leads, may we be known as the generous Church.

 

PRAY!

 

 

4/10/05 PM

 

 

 

 

 




SERMON OUTLINES