Let us pray: Dear Savior, You love us more than life itself. You gave Your all, Your life, Your time, Your energy, Your blood—everything You had was invested in us, all to save our souls. Lord, we didn’t ask You to do this. We didn’t even know how desperately we needed Your grace. Nonetheless, You knew, and You responded. For this we thank and praise You. And we ask You to move us to never forget to let such grace show itself in and through our lives, too. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF ETERNAL TREASURES
TEXT: 2 Cor. 8: 1-9, 13,14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Although this lesson is one of the chief texts in the Bible when it comes to Christian financial stewardship, today I’m not going to preach on money. I’m not going to focus you on the importance of regular, weekly, Christian giving. By God’s grace, I don’t really need to do so. For the vast majority of you are very faithful in that area of your Christian life.
Instead, I want to focus on how
GRACE SHOWS ITSELF
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? The parable of Christ where an ethnic enemy of the Jewish people was the only person who helped that wounded Jewish traveler on the Jericho road who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead? The other day I was listening to talk radio as I prepared supper. The host was making a big point about how “no good deed goes unpunished.” That is, it is foolish to stop and help another human being in real need. What a cynical view of life! What selfishness! If everyone acted like that, fear, hatred, and rage would win out and life would be nasty at best.
The Macedonian church was very, very poor. It was the Appalachia of the day. Yet, their actions shamed their richer cousins in the various Greek cities. For when they heard that a collection was being taken up by Paul to assist persecuted Christians in Jerusalem, they begged, yes begged, to be included! “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
For them grace wasn’t just a nice word. It wasn’t just a pious platitude. No, for them grace sought to show itself. For them it was love in action. They knew that Jesus loved them. They knew that God had saved their souls with and through the death of Christ. They hadn’t asked for this gift of salvation. They didn’t know it even occurred until years later when Paul preached to them about it. And yet, once they heard it, that undeserved love motivated them. It showed itself in their outlook on life. These folks took that parable of the Good Samaritan seriously and sought ways to follow that loving example. Paul didn’t ask them to contribute—after all, they were so very poor. Nonetheless, their love for Christ moved them. “Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
Obviously, this is a far cry from the “no good deed is left unpunished” attitude I spoke of earlier. And yet, the kinder, gentler world of grace that shows itself uplifted countless souls then, and millions since.
Why should Christians help each other? Why should we participate in the Prayer Connection here at church? Why should we spend valuable time with mentoring programs, helping lost kids? Why should we get involved with that co-worker who has an awful marriage? Yes, why do we actually look for avenues to help those in need instead of just waiting for problems to hit us head on? The only answer is: grace. We care because God cares. Yes, He cares for us and has put us here to show forth His unearned love.
“But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it to others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Not only does Grace Seek to Show Itself by searching out avenues to exhibit love and compassion, once it sees a need, grace acts! Elsewhere Paul writes to the Corinthian church: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and al knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Folks, that sums it all up. We possess a treasure that is priceless. We have guilt-free souls and consciences cleansed by the blood of Christ. We know where we’re going someday—to heaven through faith in Christ! So, why does God place challenges before you? Why do you run into people who need your help? The answer is obvious. We have the grace, the power, the love to help! We have the awesome power to make someone’s life more bearable and to save their soul by caring, sharing, and showing His love in action!
What do you excel at? Some of us are good listeners. Some are faithful friends. Others can reach children. Still others have been given the gift of patience in handling tough people and situations without going to pieces. No matter your particular Godly gift, if you don’t use it to uplift another, what good is it? And that is where grace comes in. Christ’s love compels us get involved and help wherever and whenever we can. For that’s what Jesus did for us! He got involved in our lives to save our souls.
Let me end with one question. Did Jesus view dying on the cross as a burden or a privilege? Well, you know the answer. Since God Almighty viewed helping others as a privilege not to be shunned, how can it be anything less for us, His children? So, now go and do likewise….Amen