MORE THAN ENOUGH
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch Text:
Exodus 36:1-7, II Corinthians 9:8
May 6, 2018
Exodus 36:1-7, II Corinthians 9:8
I invite the children to come up and join me for few moments.1
Today I want to tell you about Paul, that guy that lived way back when Jesus was on earth. He wrote lots of letters to the first Christian churches and we can read those letters in the Bible. In one letter, he talks about a church in Jerusalem that was really poor – and they needed help from other churches, just to be able to feed their people and live. So Paul went around and asked churches to give some money to help this church in Jerusalem. Now, it would make sense if Paul went to churches who had a lot of money, right? People who had enough so that they could share some money to help people in need, right? Well, here’s the interesting story. There was a church in Greece called the Macedonians. They were a really poor church – they really didn’t have enough. You wouldn’t think they would give money to help other people. But guess what – they really wanted to give. In fact, they begged Paul to give! Paul says that they first gave themselves to God –saying, “Use me Lord” – and then they had so much joy in their hearts and so much love for Jesus, they were very generous people.
Now I know that many of you don’t have much money, right? In fact, all the money you have is because of your parents, right? But you know what – I think I know that you all love Jesus – and you can give yourself to Jesus to be used by Him. You can be very generous with your time – and your love.
Let’s see if we can come up with some ways that you can give generously with some of the items I have in this bag.
1. Measuring Cup: This is a measuring up. It represents helping prepare dinner for your family or washing the dishes – with joy.
If you think you could give that way, give me a thumbs up!
2. Toy: This is a toy. You could give by donating your toys that you have outgrown or don’t use anymore to someone younger – or to someone who doesn’t have many toys. Give me a thumbs up if you could give this way.
3. Watch: This is a watch. It represents giving your time. You could invite a friend for a playdate, or include someone in your game on the playground at school. Another way you could give is to go visit someone with your family that is sick or someone in a nursing home. You can sit and listen to them tell stories and show them you care. Can you give your time?
4. Marker: Here’s a marker. Maybe you have some talents you can give to others. You might be able to color or draw great pictures – or maybe sing – or maybe give great bear hugs. Give a thumbs up if you can share your talents.
5. Church: Here’s a picture of the church. Maybe you can invite a friend to church and youth group.
6. Can of food: Maybe when you are out with your family grocery shopping – you could use some of your allowance to buy a can of food and put it in the food pantry to help feed someone who is hungry.
There are all sorts of ways you can be generous and show the love of Jesus to others. Be like the Macedonians and give with great joy!
Have you ever heard of a sermon entitled, “Stop giving! We have more than enough”! Or have you ever heard of a church telling is members, during a stewardship campaign, “You don’t need to bring any more offerings. We have plenty now! We have more than enough for our financial obligations. More than enough money for all our outreach projects. More than enough for all the building projects and more than enough for all the new ministries we are planning. You don’t need to give anymore!” I can’t imagine hearing that, can you? But that is the message from Moses in our text for today.
I invite you to get your Bibles out and turn with me to Exodus 35. Exodus is near the very beginning of the Bible. This story is of Moses and the Israelites, who had escaped slavery, at a moment’s notice they had left Egypt and were now wandering in the wilderness. God had given them the 10 commandments and they are called to worship God on the Sabbath. But they needed a place to worship. So, God instructs Moses to take an offering to get materials together to build a tabernacle. In Exodus 35:5, God says, “let those with generous hearts present the following gifts to the Lord”…and then He lists things like gold and silver, blue, purple and scarlet thread, olive oil and gemstones. Look down at verse 20. It says that the people heard about the need – and all whose “hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved, came and brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals and for the sacred garments. Both mean and women came, all whose hearts were willing.” The chapter goes on to describe all the varieties of things the people bought. And then, verse 31 tells us that God chose two people Bezalel and Oholiab to be filled with the Spirit of God, giving them wisdom and ability and expertise to be craftsmen and teach others how to build the Tabernacle.
Now look at what happens that is absolutely amazing! Look at verse 2 of chapter 36.
2 So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others who were specially gifted by the Lord and were eager to get to work. 3 Moses gave them the materials donated by the people of Israel as sacred offerings for the completion of the sanctuary. But the people continued to bring additional gifts each morning. 4 Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. 5 They went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!”
6 So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp:
“Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!”
So, the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. 7 Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project.
Now how in the world was that possible? How were these slaves able to do all that? Not just enough…but more than enough?
For example, where did they get all that silver and gold? Well, back in Exodus 12, we read that the Egyptians were ready for the Israelites to leave the country. They were fearful of all the plagues, afraid they would all die. So, the Israelites left, in a hurry – and asked the Egyptians for silver and gold, jewelry with rare stones and even fine clothing. And the Egyptians gave them whatever they asked for.
And then what about the exact people that were needed to build such an elaborate tabernacle, with all the furnishings?
God called Bezalel to oversee the project.
God called Oholiab to organize and train others.
And He gave both of them the Spirit of God and filled them with special gifts and abilities. And they were eager to share their gifts. And all the people were filled with generous and willing hearts that were eager to share their gifts.
Do you see the common theme here? God provided. God gave the vision – the dream of having a tabernacle. And then He provided all that was needed to accomplish that dream. Not only did He provide the material things they needed – He provided the skills needed. And He then gave them the Spirit - the eagerness and the desire to complete the vision.
The great truth we can see from this story – which is also is true for you and for me -- and for our church is this:
God provides a vision – a dream – a future!
And where God leads, He provides needs. Where He guides – He provides. That is a promise – assured to us throughout Scripture.
And when God calls a person – He may choose the most unlikely folk to do His work … but He will provide them with exactly what they need.
It has been said: “God does not choose those that are fit – but He outfits those whom He chooses!”
And what is so amazing – is that not only will God provide enough of what we need – but will provide MORE THAN ENOUGH! If we are listening to His call – and trusting in His providence – we will see the over-abundance of His leading!
That is what happened with the Macedonians that we talked about earlier with the children. Turning over to II Corinthians 8, we read how these extremely poor believers of Christ, living in northern Greece, truly loved the Lord and were filled with the Spirit of God. They were eager to give an offering – in fact they begged the Apostle Paul for the privilege of giving. Their abundant joy overflowed in rich generosity. How was that possible?
Once again – it was through the providence of God. God provided what they needed – and they were grateful and generous – and God kept providing and they kept giving - and all gave thanks to God.
Look at II Corinthians 9:8 and then 11 – verses that are the themes for this year’s Stewardship theme. Reading in the New Living Translation, the verses say:
8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
Think about that incredible promise. Look again at the words in the Scripture. God will generously provide ALL you need. Then you will ALWAYS have EVERYTHING you need and PLENTY left over to share with others. You will be enriched in EVERY way so that you can ALWAYS be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
That is not just a sometime promise – but an every day promise that we can claim. We can trust God to provide – so we can be generous.
“Trust me!” God says. Give your offerings to me and see what happens! God has promised that He will take care of us and will provide for all our needs. But do we really believe that? Can we give out of thanksgiving and love for God and trust God to provide for our financial worries?
A church member was having trouble of tithing. One day, he revealed his doubts to his minister: “Pastor, I just don’t see how I can give 10 percent of my income to the church when I can’t even keep on top of our bills.”
The pastor replied, “John, if I promise to make up the difference in your bills if you should fall short, do you think you could try tithing for just one month?”
After a moment’s pause, John responded, “Sure, if you promise to make up any shortage, I guess I could try tithing for one month.”
“Now, what do you think of that,” mused the pastor. “You say you’d be willing to put your trust in a mere man like myself, who possess so little materially, but you couldn’t trust your Heavenly Father who owns the whole universe!” The next Sunday, John gave his tithe, and has been doing so faithfully ever since.
God is telling us to trust Him and to have faith. And we can’t figure any of that out with a rational mind…for giving and tithing is not a matter of your head and your finances. It is a matter of your heart.
When Greg and I began our ordained ministry in our first church in Colorado, we made the decision that if we were going to preach about stewardship, we had to actually practice what we preach So we made a commitment to tithe … giving 10% of our income to the church. But I must admit that it was rather difficult to make that decision. We still had student loans to pay, we were buying our first home and had a growing family to care for…and we really didn’t have that much money. But we had a very dear elder in the congregation who had lived many, many years as a tithing Christian. She would always tell me, “MJ, when you sit down to pay your bills, say a prayer over those bills and your checkbook. Believe and trust that God will provide for you. And then write that first check, your tithe, to the church, before you write any other checks. And I will guarantee you that God will take care of you. I don’t know how it works…and I can’t explain it logically. But it works!”
And I am here to say that she was right! For the last 30 years, Greg and I have been joyfully tithing to the Lord. Have we always had what we wanted? No! Has it always been easy? No. Have we ever had financial worries? Yes, indeed. But the good news is that somehow or another, God always provided. I could tell you story after story about how we thought we were right at the end of our rope … and somehow or another, God would always provide.
Trust me…God says…trust me and just wait and see all the wonderful things I can do in your life.
As I have thought and prayed about our Commitment Sunday, I have wondered what kind of ministries we can plan on for the coming year. I have wondered if we will have enough money pledged so that we can begin new ministries. And yes, honestly, I have found myself worrying about the finances of the church…will it really be possible to raise our budge and increase our ministry? Again, and again, I hear God saying, “Trust me…I am able. I can do the impossible in your church! Don’t underestimate me or set your sites too low. I am able to do far more abundantly than you ask or think. You give me your offerings and your tithes and just see if I don’t open the doors of heaven and shower blessings upon you. Trust Me! Have faith!
My friends, I believe God has some mighty plans for our church. I believe God wants First Christians Church to have a strong and vital ministry in Galesburg. I believe that God is calling us to thrive and grow and make a difference for His glory. I also believe that God is telling us that we have more than enough at First Christian Church! As we look around at the congregation – as we examine the budget – as we seek volunteers – it might seem the other way around. As we look at our own personal lives – it might seem like we don’t have enough. But – but when we seek God first – when we claim His promises and believe in His providence – we will find there is more than enough.
Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is ABLE – God is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we ask or think!
What would happen if we really believed that? What would happen if we were so caught up by the vision of God – so passionate about giving our available resources – that we were restrained from giving any more? It is probably a dream … but could it be a reality?
1This children’s sermon is based on this resource: “Give Yourself- Children’s Sermon on Giving’ by Alyssa Boswell. www.alyssaboswell.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/give-yourself-childrens-sermon-on -giving/