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News for Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sunday School Lesson — Bible Studies for Life
March 30: Work Your Plan
By Alec Cort
3/25/2014
senior pastor, Bethel, Greenbrier

Focal Passage: II Corinthians 9:6-13

The church needs money for payroll, bills, home missions, foreign missions, love offerings, camps, conferences, benevolence, helping church members, etc. Few weeks go by that someone doesn’t call or come to the door needing financial assistance. May I say that I am very proud of Bethel Baptist Church in Greenbrier. We are the “Little Church that Can,” giving above our means to provide for the aforementioned things. Like many churches we rarely make budget and that is often a source of concern but then I think of how much we give beyond the Sunday collection and I am encouraged. Paul wanted Corinthian Christians to give to the famine in Jerusalem. In this Scripture (vv. 6-7) he is not teaching them to give for personal gain but to give in accordance with how much they wanted to bless others. When we give generously the money is gone but what seeds have we sown in the hearts of those who received the help? 

Back in the 1990s I was a poor college student. Steve and Ann Burns from my home church sent me a card with a generous financial gift every birthday. These gifts were precious to me. Not because of the money (which I greatly needed) but because I knew that God was providing for me through them. This strengthened my faith. That is what Paul wants Corinth to do for Jerusalem and it is what God wants the church to do for believers and their communities. Paul instructed Corinthian Christians not to give reluctantly. The other side of giving is the increase of joy in our own hearts as we see what God can do through our generosity. If I give under compulsion or obligation, I won’t experience that joy. I’ll have given my money but gained nothing spiritually. Like prayer, the study of God’s Word and serving others, giving is a spiritual act of worship and is intended for our growth. 

A word of caution is in order. There are those who will take advantage of a cheerful giver. It is often trickier to discern who the poor are in modern day America than it was in first century Palestine. Today folks will run the church circuit with convoluted hard luck stories in hopes for a handout that is spent irresponsibly. Many associations now have a network to avoid such pitfalls. We must pray for discernment so that our giving does not become enabling. Still, the legitimate poor and hungry are among us and according to this Scripture (vv. 8-9) God would have us provide for them so that they may see Him through it and we may excel in good works. Last Christmas Bethel helped a family with food, gifts for children, and bills. I’ll never forget the father weeping as we prayed saying, “This is so much more than we deserve.” He was touched by the grace of God. A grace he recognized through the generosity of God’s people. 

Where Paul hits home with me most is in the area of contentment. Ever known a collector? The true collector is never content hence the continued collecting. Some will come to financial ruin before realizing this folly. Being content with what we have frees us to give to others because we are not hoarding money or stuff for ourselves. God won’t provide for our materialism but He will always provide when we have a heart to give generously (vv. 10-13). When I stop spending selfishly on things I don’t need, I find I have funds to help others who do need it. Now I can encourage the recipients, not to thank me, but to thank the God who provided through me. His righteousness will never abound through my selfishness, but always through my generosity.

— Cort is senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Greenbrier.

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