Monthly Archives: August 2014

Giving To Others

Sunday school Lesson

                                             

 

Lesson: II Corinthians  8:1-14                                                                                                  

Golden  Text: How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance  of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their  liberality (II Corinthians  8:2).

I.   INTRODUCTION.   One area that is often neglected in ministry is  giving. Giving faithfully to God is a way of serving Christ and His  church.  It’s something that every believer can do.   However, the subject of money is a touchy one, especially when it  involves the church.  More disputes may arise from the collection  and distribution of money than from any other church activity.  To  make matters worse, the news and entertainment media often give the idea that  all ministers are greedy or financially dishonest.  Many people who  have given to the church think they are giving, but they are really just buying  something.  It may be that they want to be well thought of in the  church (see Acts 5:1-11).  Someone might give to buy the church  organ provided his or her name or that of a loved one is placed on a plaque on  the organ.  When someone gives with strings attached, is it really  giving?  He or she may be trying to buy recognition or some other  satisfaction.  As in all things, we need to turn to the Scriptures  for the proper viewpoint.  In today’s lesson we shall study a good  biblical example of giving as Paul encouraged the Corinthians to give funds for  the support of believers in Jerusalem who were suffering from severe financial  problems.

II.  BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON.  About a year earlier, Paul  asked the Corinthian believers for money to help the poor saints in Jerusalem  (see I Corinthians 16:1).  They were to set aside certain amounts  weekly and let it accumulate until he came back to collect it. He would then  take or send it back to Jerusalem in anyway the Corinthians wanted.   However, it seems that the church at Corinth hadn’t faithfully  responded.  Evidently, some false teachers were suggesting that  Paul was keeping the funds he raised for the poor believers in Jerusalem for  himself.  In addition, some of them had questioned Paul’s authority  and integrity.  Having dealt with those issues, it appears that  Paul felt confident that he could now urge them in the grace of giving.   He did this in both II Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.  In  chapter 7, after expressing his desire that he and the Corinthian believers be  reconciled (see II Corinthians 7:1-12), Paul told them how much he appreciated  how well the Corinthians had received Titus and the confidence he had in them  (see II Corinthians 7:13-16).  This is where our lesson  begins.

III.  BELIEVERS GIVING FREELY (II Corinthians  8:1-7)     

A. A good example (II  Corinthians 8:1-2).  

1. (vs.  1).  Paul begins by saying Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God  bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”  The phrase  “do you to wit” means to make something known.   Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to know “the grace of God  bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.”  The  “grace of God” refers to the preaching of the gospel when God  had graciously sent Paul into Macedonia to declare the gospel (see Acts 16:9-12)  on his second missionary journey.  The churches that were  established in Macedonia as a result of the preaching of the gospel, were in  Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (see Acts chapters 16 and17).

2. (vs. 2).  In this verse Paul continued  to say “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their  joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their  liberality.”  Continuing what he said in verse 1, Paul  wanted the Corinthian believers to know that the churches in Macedonia, even  during “a great trial of affliction” meaning severe persecution  for their faith in Christ, they still demonstrated an abundance of  “joy” and “liberality” or  generosity.  Not only were they experiencing great  persecution, but the Macedonian believers themselves were in “deep  poverty.”  In other words, these churches were very poor  to the point of being destitute as seen in Paul’s use of the word  “deep” to describe their poverty.  Despite going  through persecution for their faith in Christ and being extremely poor  financially, the churches in Macedonia were willing to give freely to help  others.  In light of these circumstances, no one would have blamed  them if they had not given.  But they had so much joy in giving  sacrificially that their joy “abounded” or overflowed into  generosity.  They didn’t have much, but they were willing to share  what little they had.

B. A  desire to help (II Corinthians 8:3-4).  

1.  (vs. 3).  Still  referring to the churches in Macedonia, Paul said  For to their  power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of  themselves.”  With  the phrase “I bear record” Paul was saying that he wanted to go  on record acknowledging the generosity of the Macedonian believers.   He bore testimony to their liberality.  The words  “For to their power” means that they gave what was  in their power, or what they were able to give.  But Paul went even  further.  He said that they gave “beyond their  power.”  The Macedonian believers not only gave what they  were able to, but they even gave above their power or ability which was  certainly more that anyone would expect them to give.  These  believers didn’t have to be begged to give either.  They gave  “willing of themselves” meaning they gave willingly without any  prompting from Paul.  Note:  God doesn’t expect us to give what  we don’t have, but He does expect us to share what we do have.  The  wise man of Proverbs teaches us that when we give to the poor, the Lord will  give it back to us (see Proverbs  19:17).

2. (vs. 4).  In this verse Paul said that  the Macedonian believers were “Praying us with much intreaty that we  would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to  the saints.”  The phrase “Praying us with much  intreaty” means that the believers in Macedonian urged Paul and his  companions with great intensity.  Paul said that they literally  begged the apostle to “receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship  of the ministering to the saints.”  These Christians  wanted desperately for Paul and his companions to take their gifts and get them  to the poor saints in Jerusalem.  Today, it’s hard to imagine  anyone begging to have a part in helping other believers who are needy, but  these saints did.  They saw this as way of taking part in  “the ministering (or service) to the  saints.”

C. A personal commitment (II Corinthians  8:5-6).

1. (vs. 5).   The apostle continued to say 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.”   Paul had “hoped”  or expected that the Macedonian believers would give to the collection  for the needy.  He said “this they did, not as we hoped”  or expected.  But they went far beyond his expectation and  “first gave their own selves to the Lord.”  Their  gift of money was a testimony to the fact that they had given themselves unto  God first.  When giving is done out of poverty or sacrifice, the  person giving shows total dependence on God.  They were committed  to God before they did anything else.  They understood that God is  much more concerned that believers surrender themselves, body and soul to Him  than He is with having anything we may possess (see Romans 12:1-2).   These people dedicated themselves to the Lord and then Paul said that  they also gave themselves “unto us by the will of God.”  It was the will of God that these Christians first give themselves  to God and then offer themselves to Paul and his companions for any Christian  service they might need.  Note:   Try to think of how much joy many pastors  would experience if their members demonstrated the same unity as these churches  did and followed their leadership with the same excitement.   The churches in Macedonia—Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea  had given more than Paul expected or hoped for.  This was  sacrificial giving for they were poor themselves, but they wanted to  help.  The point of giving is not so much the amount we give, but  why and how we give.  God doesn’t want gifts given  grudgingly.  He wants us to give as these churches did, out of  dedication to Christ, love for fellow believers, the joy of helping those in  need, as well as the simple fact that it was the good and right thing to  do.  

2. (vs. 6).  In this verse, Paul went on to say  Insomuch that we desired  Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace  also.”  The  word Insomuch” refers to the encouragement that Paul received from the  Macedonians’ willingness to give. He was so encouraged that he said “we  desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same  grace also.”  Titus had visited Corinth earlier (see II  Corinthians 7:6-7, 13-15) and on that visit the phrase “as he had begun”  seems to indicate that he started the collection process for the poor  saints in Jerusalem, but for some reason it was never finished.   Because of the eagerness of the Macedonian churches to give, Paul told  the Corinthian Christians that just as Titus had begun to collect the money on  his previous visit, he “desired” or urged him to “also  finish in you the same grace also.”  It was essential that  the Corinthian believers continue the work of collecting the money for the needy  in Jerusalem so that the project could be completed.  The word  “grace” here refers to the collection for the poor saints in  Jerusalem.  It was called a “grace” because the  ability to give is an indication of God’s favor on the giver.  In  this case, God had shown favor to the Corinthians in that they had plenty to  share.

D.  A reasonable challenge  (II Corinthians 8:7).  Now the apostle says  “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.”   Even though the saints in Corinth had many  problems, Paul declared that they still abound in every thing.”   The word  “abound” here has the idea of “excelling in something.”   Note:  Paul didn’t say that the Corinthians had excelled in  “every thing.”  They only excelled in the things he listed: faith,  utterance, knowledge, diligence and love.  It should be noted that  in the King James Version, the words “thing” here, and “in” occurring in the  remainder of the verse are italicized, meaning they were added by the  translators to give better understanding.  The word “every”  describes the five things named: faith, utterance, knowledge, diligence and  love.   They abounded in those  things because of God’s grace.  In this  verse, Paul was giving a second reason why the Corinthian believers were to  continue to raise a collection.  The first reason he gave was that  the churches in Macedonia had already done so.  Their example was  to motivate the Corinthian Christians to do as the Macedonians had done.   The second reason given was that the Corinthian believers abounded or  excelled in a number of other Christian graces.  In other words,  they were spiritually gifted.  First, they abounded “in faith,” which probably refers to  both the faith they showed when they responded to the gospel message and  accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, as well as the faith they showed in daily  living.  Second, they abounded in “utterance.”   This refers to their speech and can include their ability  to preach and teach.  Third, they abounded in “knowledge,”  the understanding and application of spiritual truth.   Fourth, they abounded in “all diligence,” or earnestness  and eagerness.  Fifth, Paul said they abounded in their  “love to us.”  This refers to the love that the  Corinthian Christians had for Paul and his companions.  Paul  then said that they should also “abound in this grace  also.”  This again is a reference  to the grace of giving.  Just as they abounded in the other five  graces he mentioned, Paul urged them to also abound or excel in giving to the  poor saints in Jerusalem.  They were lacking in this  ministry.IV.  BELIEVERS GIVING WILLINGLY (II Corinthians  8:8-14)       

A. Follow the example  of others (II Corinthians 8:8-9).  

1. (vs.  8).  In this verse Paul  says I speak not by  commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the  sincerity of your love.”  Paul had apostolic authority (see II Corinthians 10:8; 13:10)  and could’ve used it to command that the Corinthians to obey his  instructions.  However, when we remember that he was writing to  some who had questioned his authority, we can understand why he chose not to use  it.  The apostle wanted his readers to give to help the needy in  Jerusalem not out of compulsion, but “to prove the sincerity of your  love.” Giving should be done out of love for Christ and  for others.  Instead of compelling them to give, Paul chose to use  the Macedonian believers as an example of giving in love.  This is  what he meant by the phrase “by occasion of the forwardness of  others.”  The word “occasion” refers to  the time that the Macedonians gave, and “forwardness” refers to  the earnestness or diligence of their love.  Of course, the word  “others” is a reference to the Macedonian Christians  themselves.  Note:  True love is demonstrated in deeds.  If a  person says he loves but doesn’t do what he or she can to alleviate suffering,  especially among God’s people, there is reason to question that love.   Paul was putting the Corinthians to the test.  Did they  really love God and those in need?  The way to prove it was to give  an ample offering for the needy saints (see II Corinthians 8:24).   The Macedonians were the example Paul gave for giving to help the  needy.  They were truly giving as they purposed in their hearts,  not reluctantly or being compelled.  Therefore they were  demonstrating the truth that God loves a cheerful giver (see II Corinthians  9:7).

2. (vs. 9).  Paul continued to say in this  verse “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he  was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might  be rich.”  The challenge the apostle gave the Corinthians  to resume their collection for the poor included the example of the Macedonian  saints as well as the Christian graces God had given them (see verse 7).   But an even more important reason for giving was the example of love  demonstrated by Christ.  He said that the Corinthians knew  “the grace (or love) of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   That love was demonstrated in the fact that “though he  was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.”  The Lord  Jesus, who had been rich, incredibly rich, didn’t let riches hinder showing His  love for people.  For the sake of humanity, Jesus “became  poor.”  He didn’t cleave to His heavenly riches (see  Philippians 2:5-8), but instead He became poor by setting aside His rights as  God and becoming human.  Paul told his readers that Jesus became  poor so “that ye through his poverty might be rich.”  In other words, Jesus became poor by laying aside His divine  attributes for our sake so that we, sinners, might become rich by receiving  salvation and eternal life.  Note:   We know that Christ was deprived of much  while He lived on earth.  He was born in a stable.  He  had no place to call home, no place to lay His head (see Matthew 8:20).   But it wasn’t these aspects of poverty that Paul had in mind.   Instead, he was describing Christ’s act of incarnation, or becoming  human.  Jesus was poor because He embraced humanity, but He never  stopped being God.  He humbled Himself and learned the cost of  obedience.  Before He became poor, Christ was rich with all the  bounties of heaven.  When He came to do the Father’s will, He  didn’t give up His deity, but He did clothe Himself in humanity, thereby giving  up the independent use of His divine attributes.  This was all part  of His great humiliation.  As sinners are convicted by the Spirit  of God and exercise faith in Him as Saviour, they become rich.  The  great work of redemption displays the grace or love of Jesus Christ.   Paul told the Corinthians that they knew about this.  Christ  gave Himself for them; now they were to give to His needy people and His  work.

B. Finish what you started (II Corinthians  8:10-12).

1.  (vs. 10).  In this  verse the apostle said And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for  you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year  ago.”  When Paul  said “herein I give my advice,” he was giving his conviction or  his strong opinion on what they should do about the collection for the  poor.  It appears that the apostle was doing his best not to  directly command the Corinthians about this matter.   Paul believed that it was “expedient” meaning it was to  the advantage of the Corinthians to resume the collection which they had  “begun before” or already started.  They needed  “to do” or continue taking up the collection that they had  “forward” or willingly begun to do “a year ago”  meaning a year earlier.  They had stopped the collection  effort for the poor saints in Jerusalem most likely because of questions about  Paul’s apostolic authority.  Paul’s advice was that they should  pick up where they left off.  They had shown the willingness to  give, but now their willingness needed to be transformed into  action.

2. (vs.  11).  Paul continued to say “Now therefore perform the  doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a  performance also out of that which ye have.”  Paul  encouraged these believers to “perform the doing of it.”   We know that we should give to God’s ministries; that’s not the  problem. The problem is doing what we should do.  Paul encouraged  them to “perform” or complete the collection.  The  phrase “that as there was a readiness to will” means that they  were at one point eagerly willing to give.  Since they were  willing, there also needed to “be a performance also out of that which  ye have.”  In other words, they needed to complete or  finish taking up the collection “out of that which ye have.”   This means that they were to give out of their abundance or what  they had.  The Corinthians were better off financially than the  believers in Macedonia therefore they could give more financially.   Paul’s instructions here put the responsibility of giving  above any legal amount or stipulation.  It put the amount of the  believer’s giving on a higher level—that of  grace.

3. (vs. 12).  The apostle went on to say in  this verse “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted  according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”   The important thing about giving is doing it with a  “willing mind.”  Where eagerness and willingness  to give is present, the gift “is accepted” by God  “according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath  not.”  God does not hold a person responsible for what he  does not have.  Instead, each person is responsible before God for  what he or she does have—the ability to give.  God’s blessing  accompanies a gift given in the right spirit whether it is large or  small.  I like the Living Bible translation of this verse: “If  you are really eager to give, then it isn’t important how much you have to give.  God wants you to give what you have not what you don’t have.”  Paul’s teaching is that when we sincerely wish that we could  give more, God is pleased with what He sees in our hearts and He accepts  that.  What’s important is our willingness to give and following up  on it instead of the actual amount we do give.  When we drop that  check or cash into the offering plate, we must do it with an attitude of  cheerfulness and willingness.  That’s what God considers the most  important thing in giving.  We must also be careful when pledging  to give a certain amount (see Ecclesiastes 5:4).  We shouldn’t and  can’t pledge to give what we don’t have thinking that God will supply what we  don’t have.  Neither can we give to get back so we can give  more.  That’s putting God in a position that we aren’t authorized  to put Him in, and He may not honor it.   Note:  How do  you decide how much to give?  What about differences in the  financial resources Christians have?  Paul gives the Corinthian  church several principles to follow: (1) each person should follow through on  any promises they’ve made to give (see II Corinthians 8:10, 11; 9:2-3); (2) each  person should give as much as he or she is able (see II Corinthinas 8:12; 9:6);  (3) each person must make up his or her own mind how much to give (see II  Corinthians 9:7); and (4) each person should give in proportion to what God has  given him or her (see II Corinthians 9:10).  God gives to us so  that we can give to others.  Paul says that we should give of what  we have, not what we don’t have.  But let’s be clear, sacrificial  giving must be responsible.  God wants believers to give  generously, but not to the extent that those who depend on the givers (for  example their families) must go without having their basic needs met.   Give until it hurts, but don’t give so much that it hurts your family  and/or relatives who need your financial support (see I Timothy 5:8).   Notice that Paul doesn’t mention the tithe.  That’s because  tithing was given to the Jews as part of the Old Testament way of giving.   In the New Testament, tithing is only mentioned in the Gospels which take  place while the Law was still in effect.  The Law observances were  abolished for the church when Jesus was crucified (see Colossians 2:13-17,  20-22).  As a result, tithing is not mentioned in any of the New  Testament epistles.  Each person in the New Testament church is to  give “as God hath prospered him” (see I Corinthians 16:2).  If  people gave as God has blessed them, in most instances they would give more than  the tithe or ten percent.  When deciding what to give, the tithe is  a good place to start, but if you don’t have ten percent, but a heart to give,  God will accept what you give.  

C. Find a balance through giving (II  Corinthians 8:13-14).  

1. (vs.  13).  In this verse Paul says  For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye  burdened.”  The apostle wanted the Corinthian saints to  know that in his request for them to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem, he  didn’t intend for them to be “burdened” or hard pressed while  “other men” probably a reference to the poor in Jerusalem, were  “eased” or relieved.  In other words, Paul was  saying to the Corinthians “Of course, I don’t mean that those who receive your  gifts should have an easy time of it at your expense.”   The point  Paul seems to be making was that Christian giving must not encourage laziness on  the part of those receiving the gift.  The goal was not to make  things easy for the Jerusalem church at the expense of the Corinthian  believers.  The goal was that all the churches would be equally  provided for during difficult times as we shall see in the next  verse.

2. (vs. 14).  In our  final verse Paul says “But by an equality, that now at this time your  abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a  supply for your want: that there may be equality.”  When  Paul said “But by an equality” he was encouraging an equality  in which those who had much, in this case the Corinthians, would share with  those who had unusually great needs, meaning those in Jerusalem.   What is meant here by equality is giving to relieve a need, not an  artificial equalization of property.  Verse 15 is not part of our  lesson, but in that verse Paul used Exodus 16:17-18 to illustrate his point of  equalization.  In gathering manna, the person who gathered much  really had only what he needed.  By the same token, the person who  gathered little ended up having all that he needed.  Everyone  gathered according to his needs.  Note:  The equality mentioned here may  also be broader than this.  It may refer to both spiritual and  economic equality.  As the Jerusalem Christians shared God’s truth  with the Corinthian believers, the Corinthians, in turn were to minister to the  physical needs of the Jerusalem saints (see Romans 15:26-27).    Paul wasn’t expecting a full equality of financial or material  holdings.  He was aware that God in His sovereign wisdom has  blessed some with more wealth than others.  The point here is that  when a need is present, we should be willing to chip in and help fellow  believers with what we have.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we  should care deeply for one another. The reason Paul gave  for the Corinthians to share with the saints in Jerusalem was so that  “now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that  their abundance also may be a supply for your want.”  In  other words, if the Corinthian believers ever found themselves in need, other  churches would share with them; then there would be equality in giving.  

            

V.  Conclusion.   Christians are called upon by God to exercise the grace of  giving.  That’s what this lesson was all about.  The  Corinthian Christians needed a lesson in giving to the Lord’s work.   Paul gave them that lesson.  He used the Lord Jesus and the  Christians in Macedonia as examples of giving.  Giving should be  done joyfully and lovingly.  We should give out of an appreciation  for all that the Lord Jesus Christ did for us.  We should be  willing to receive from God’s people when we have a need, and we should be  willing to give to others when they are in need.  May the study of  this lesson help you examine your level of giving.  In doing so,  here are some questions that you might need to answer: Do you give willingly and  abundantly, or do you let other people do most of the giving?  Do  you give as the Lord has blessed you?  Or do you give as little as  possible?  Do you give out of love for the Lord?   Remember, Christ gave His all for you.  The least we can do  is give of what we have to help others.

 

 

For The Long Haul

Mark 13:13 “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”.

 

The life of a Christian is not a Sunday morning thing, it is a life long commitment. It is a life of total surrender. Once you confess Christ there is no turning back, for whosoever put his hand to the plough and look back is not fit for the kingdom of heaven; so we must be sure to count up the cost before we begin this journey. This is not easy. It is a long uphill journey on a narrow road, but it is the road that must be traveled if you want to be with Jesus.

 

When you confess Christ, I mean truly give your life to Jesus, you will find that many who said they were your friends and family will begin to stray away. They will blame you by saying things like, you think you better than us, or you changed, you’re so holy you are no fun. But don’t be discouraged by how others act towards you, just make sure you act like Christ towards them. Jesus warns us that we will be hated for His name sake, He didn’t say to hate them back, He said to endure to the end and you shall be saved. Don’t let the way others treat you, dictate how you treat them. My mother use to always say, “you be the Christian if no body else will”. It is not you they are hating it is the perfection which lies within you, that now exposes the imperfection of their lives, it is called conviction of the heart, and this must take place before there can be conversion of the soul.

 

So as you make this journey there are times when you might feel like you are all alone, but remember Jesus said He will never leave you nor forsake you, so hold to His hand and trust in His word and endure unto the end and be saved.

Sworn Testimony

John 1:8 ” He was not the light, but was sent to bear witness of that light”.

 

The world is dying of sin and guilt, and is in desperate need of a savior. The good news is there is a savior of the world; The word of God says that “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. Now there are many who have bore witness to this truth but the problem is few are willing to give a sworn testimony. Few promise to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

 

Many in an effort to be friends with this world, many who  have been blinded by the joys, toys and false pleasures presented in this world, that they have lost credibility as a sworn witness. They have been bribed and their testimony is not believable. We  have been sent by God to bear witness through our sworn testimony that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. We must be careful not to let our testimony be bought off with selfish ambitions and personal desires. Let us make our meat to be about our Fathers business that none will perish. Let us tell a dying world the good news of salvation in our walk and our talk. Let ours be a sworn testimony.

 

Do you promise to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

He Heard My Cry

Psalm 120:1 ” In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me”.

 

Who can you call when the world comes crashing down on your head? The world of God tells us “To call upon the name of the Lord in your day of trouble, and I will hear you and deliver you”. Yet there are many who have refused to call upon Him. Many believe they can make it with the bank accounts, positions, or on their own, but the truth is Jesus Christ is the only way.

 

When the cares of this world makes you a prisoner of distress, as you are held captive to lying lips, and a deceitful tongue, no that there is one who awaits your call. When your personal desires, and need for self elevation leads you away as sheep without a shepherd, no that He is the good shepherd who will never leave you nor forsake you. He tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us. God wants us free from worry that we can go out share the good news of salvation to a dying world.

 

Let us not look to the hills for our help, let us look to the Lord, He is our help. Cry out to Him, He will hear you and he will save you. Jesus saves…………….