Encounter: Find a quiet space or take a walk to read, listen and meditate on God's word found in 2 Corinthians 9:1-15. Underline key words or phrases that speak to you about God's nature, promises and the invitation to live the generous life. If possible drive by a newly harvested field (maybe there's one in your backyard:) and listen or read verses 6-10 again. Ask God what He would like you to see and understand in this passage in regards to your motivations for giving.
One of my favorite shows on TV is Antiques Roadshow and I come by it honestly. My family is from a long line of antique dealers and so an appreciation for old treasures was passed on to me from an early age. When I was old enough to start my own collection, the vintage royal blue swirled pots and dishes drew my eye. I gathered many different types of granite wear but my favorite piece was an old soup kettle because the color was preserved perfectly and it looked beautiful just sitting on my kitchen shelf.
I decided one day to take my pot to a local dealer to have it appraised so I put it in my trunk with some donations I was dropping off at a local shelter. Without thinking about it, I pulled up to the drop-off site and some workers came out and emptied my trunk and I drove off, happy to have helped a needy cause. Only after I stopped at the antique dealer did I realize they had taken my favorite soup pot as well. Unfortunately, when I went back to find where it was, it had disappeared and no one seemed to know what happened to it. I cried.
Looking back I think how silly some of my attachments to certain things were, but in this instance I now see how I was quite willing to give away some things I no longer valued and keep to myself what I valued most (even if it was an old rusty pot). I call it displaced loyalty.
Displaced loyalty is loyalty placed in other persons or organizations where that loyalty is not acknowledged, is not respected, is betrayed, or is taken advantage of. It can also mean loyalty to a malignant or misguided cause. We find Pastor Paul trying to communicate to the church in Corinth how important it was for them to examine why they were holding back what they had promised when God was ready to fulfill His promises to them. "For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes! you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous."
Jim Elliott, a missionary who sacrificed his life to share the Good News with the Huaorani people of Ecuador wrote shortly before he was killed, “
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Not all of us will give our lives on a foreign mission field, but as we follow Jesus we are all invited to God's EPIC journey to use our freedom to partner with Him and witness to His great grace, love and generosity to our neighbors close by and half way across the world. To give what we ultimately cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose. God's amazing Kingdom!
This Sunday we will look at four practices that will help ground us and stay with us beyond the No Strings study and this series. What we put in practice going forward will not only cause thanks to be given to God because of our generosity but will come back to us through love from others and God's overflowing grace. It's a win win:)
Jim Elliott also urges us, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” Together Eden Church, let us be all here!
Reflect: What thoughts and feelings do you have as you read Paul's words to the Corinthian church regarding their financial giving and the spiritual effects of their gift? What difference do you think it makes whether someone gives a gift for God's kingdom grudgingly, reluctantly or in response to pressure as opposed to giving it freely and cheerfully?
Encourage: Ask God if there is a need you can give generously to that would cause someone to joyfully express their thanks to God? It may be with your time, gifts or treasure. Trustees Fall clean up day? Helping with the Habitat for Humanity build? Pray over and make your commitment to Eden's Ministry Investment Plan on Grace in Action Sunday? Serving where your gifts are strongest (see the list coming to you in the mail). Serving one of our partner organizations in town? Maybe a friend in need?
Gather: Discuss in your small group what difference it makes in your lives when you purposely invite God's input and perspective into your giving, become aware of your emotions before acting, financially plan in light of who God reveals Himself to be, and release ultimate outcomes to God trusting him to do with His resources whatever He likes.