God’s Formula for Great Giving2 Corinthians 8:1-15Theme: Generosity.This week’s lessons teach us that giving is a matter of the heart.
LessonThe reason Paul encourages his readers to give is that when we look to our resources, we really are trusting human ability. And whenever we are trusting human ability, we are trusting that which is inevitably finite and incomplete. Even our trust is sinful. But what happens with the measure of trust we have – if we take a small portion and give it away to the Lord? He will give the increase. When we give out of our poverty – we are not trusting what we have, because we have nothing – we are trusting God to see what he will provide for the extension of his kingdom in the world.
A great example of that is Oswald J. Smith, former pastor of People’s Church of Toronto, Canada. Oswald Smith explains how in the early days of his ministry at People’s Church there was a missionary program already in place. Part of that program was the distribution of faith promise cards. A faith promise card says, “In dependence upon the grace of God, I promise to give the following to his work in the coming year.”
The faith promise is not a pledge; a pledge is something that you say you are going to give out of what you already have. A faith promise is an amount you do not yet have that you will receive on faith; it is an amount that you believe God will give you in order that you can give back to him.
Oswald Smith looked at that card; he had never seen one before. But he read it, and, being a spiritual man, he prayed about it. In his day there had been a depression and nobody was paid very much. He began to think over the giving he had done, and he said that he could remember only one occasion when he had given five dollars to missions. He prayed, “Now, Lord, you know I cannot give very much because they only pay me twenty-five dollars a week. At this moment I have no money in my pocket and no money in the bank. I am really poor.”
But as he prayed, he said the Lord seemed to tell him that that did not settle it at all because God was not asking him what he had in the bank. God knew he had nothing in the bank. God was asking Smith how much he could trust God to give him so that he could give to the mission work of the church. God seemed to confirm his judgment. He said, “Well, if that is what is required of me, how much can I trust you for, Lord?” He said he was almost afraid to ask.
When he finally got it out, the Lord seemed to say to him, “Well, you can trust me for fifty dollars this year.” He said, “What? I have never given more than five dollars at one time in my life, and I gave that only once. Fifty dollars is two weeks’ salary. How will I ever find fifty dollars?” As he waited, God seemed to say, “Can you trust me for the fifty dollars or not?” Finally he said, “Yes, I guess I can.” And so, with a trembling hand, he put down that amount and he returned the card. His testimony is that, to this day, he does not know where the fifty dollars came from. Every month he had to pray for the four dollars that would make up the fifty, but by the end of the year, he had paid the fifty.
His testimony reads like this: “There came to my heart such a fullness of the Spirit that as I paid the final amount, I realized I had received the greatest blessing that had ever come into my life. I trusted God for a certain amount and he had met it. So great was the spiritual blessing that the next year, I doubled the amount and gave one hundred dollars. Then I doubled the amount again and gave two hundred. I doubled it once more and gave four hundred. Later I doubled it again and made it eight hundred. From that day to this, I have been increasing the amount and sending it to the bank of heaven, year by year. If I had waited until I had it, I never would have given it because I never would have received it. But I gave it when I did not have it. I gave a faith promise. And God honored the faith promise.”
I think that is a great illustration of what the Apostle Paul is saying here to the Corinthians about the churches in Macedonia. They did not look in the bank to see how much they had. They prayed and trusted God. They gave out of their extreme poverty and were exceedingly generous as a result. I have often said that the great bulk of Christian work is done by normal people who simply trust God to provide and give even beyond what they are able. As a result, God richly blesses that kind of giving.
Why is it foolish to trust in our own resources?
What did God teach Oswald Smith about providing for the work of God’s kingdom?
How is Christian work best supported?
ApplicationDo you give regularly and faithfully to your church? If not, set up a giving budget and a consistent plan for giving.