Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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To Will and to Do
for His Good Pleasure

Leap for joy

by Dennis Pollock

Many people can endure ministers talking about any and every subject under the sun with little complaint, but when they start preaching about money and encouraging people to open their hearts and their wallets to support the church or other Christian endeavors, frowns appear and resistance arises.

But in the ninth chapter of Second Corinthians we find the apostle Paul discussing giving, with no apologies. Paul is raising money for some of the believers that are in dire circumstances. No doubt some of these Christians have lost their homes and jobs due to the terrible persecution of the church that existed in those days, and Paul is calling for the believers who are still relatively prosperous to share with those who have nothing. He is eager to strike a balance between providing sufficient encouragement and motivation to the Corinthian believers in order to provoke them to provide a generous gift for their struggling brothers and sisters, but he does not want to high-pressure them and coerce them to give with resentment.

He also wants things orderly. He writes: “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation” (2 Corinthians 9:5). No last minute quick offerings for Paul! A highly intelligent man, possessing a keen eye for keeping things organized and running smoothly, he wants everything taken care of by the time he reaches Corinth on his next trip. He sends trusted friends before him, to fully arrange everything.

Sowing and Reaping

Paul cannot resist reminding the Christians in Corinth that the measuring cup we use to give to others is the same cup that God uses to give back to us. He writes: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” He was not being original in this thought. He was in fact paraphrasing the Lord Jesus’ declaration:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

This concept of giving to the church of Jesus Christ and His causes, and expecting to receive back is terribly problematic for many. Many ministers have muddied the waters by putting pressure on Christians to give to their ministries or churches, and virtually guaranteeing that they would soon receive ten times, a hundred times, or a thousand times back in very short order. They turn Christian giving into a type of slot machine with guaranteed results. You put your money in – presto, chango, alacazam – you get multiplied money out. By the time these ministers are finished speaking they can actually make you feel that they are doing you a tremendous favor by giving you the opportunity to give to their ministry. Theirs is a “can’t fail” investment. You would really be incredibly foolish not to sit down immediately and write out the largest check you can possibly afford, and send it to their ministry without delay!

Not That Simple

Most mature Christians realize that it is not nearly as simple as all that. If it really were that easy, we would be stupid not to immediately drain our savings accounts, and send every penny to a Christian ministry today. If I truly believed that I could invest any amount of money in any enterprise, whether Christian or secular, and receive 1000 times back in a month’s time, I would surely do it – again, and again and again. Soon I would be a billionaire and would never experience financial struggles the rest of my days.

It is right that we should see giving toward the work of Christ as an investment, but not in the greedy, get-rich-quick, “I’m-gonna-be-a-millionaire-soon” fashion that some ministers have implied. Rather we should see generous giving as a part of the Christian lifestyle, and plentiful provision as God’s response toward those who walk by faith in Him and His Son Jesus Christ, and follow His exhortation which says “freely you have received, freely give.” And in that lifestyle Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us today) that those who bountifully plant the seeds of their giving will reap a bountiful harvest, and those who plant sparingly will reap a rather meager harvest.

No, mailing off a generous check today does not mean that there will be a huge check in your mailbox by next week, or that you will automatically get a raise soon and receive twice what you made before. If you wait for a specific form of blessing or a particular return on your investment, you will probably be disappointed. But if you give from a pure heart, fully recognizing that as you support God’s interests, He will support your own personal interests, you will enjoy God’s provision all of your days, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. It may not all be in the form of money. There are far greater blessings than money which your loving Father can unleash in your direction, as He sees your life of faith, devotion, and obedience to His commands. Who can know what terrible car accidents were avoided, what relationships were spared, what amazing “coincidences” sprang up in your favor, as the Father responded to your life of giving and sacrifices for the cause of Jesus Christ?

And of course God expects us to give with discernment. There are far too many churches and Christian ministries for us to attempt to give to each of them. As we walk with Jesus we will be drawn to a particular local church, and perhaps feel drawn to get involved in supporting a particular Christian evangelistic or teaching ministry, not because a minister high-pressured us into giving to him, but because the Spirit of God within us whispered softly that this was a ministry He wants us to support.

Be Cheerful!

In Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians, he goes on to say: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This is vitally important. Before we look at how God wants us to give, let’s consider how He does not want us to give: “not grudgingly or of necessity.” No giving with a frown on your face; no giving because the preacher made you feel like the stingiest man in the world if you did not give; no giving because the offering plate is being passed around, and if anyone sees you handing the plate to the next person without dropping anything in it, he will think you are cheap, cheap, cheap!

If you write out your check to the church or any Christian ministry not really wanting to, wishing you didn’t have to, and getting angry because you must “do your duty,” then don’t. Keep your money. Christ’s kingdom is not to be built with such tainted sources of income.

Paul tells us that God loves a cheerful giver, and the implication is that He is not especially fond of grudging givers who give for all the wrong reasons, and in their hearts wish that they could get out of it. In some ways it is not so different from an uncaring husband who tells his wife: “You have nagged me so much to stay home in the evenings that I am going to forget about my friends and stay home with you tonight. I don’t want to and I surely am not going to enjoy myself. In fact, I will hate every minute of it. But because you nag me so much I will do it, so you’d better enjoy it.” Somehow I don’t think the wife would be blessed by her husband’s “sacrifice” that evening!

Grace or Law

Without question, the idea of cheerful giving applies not just to money, but to every aspect of the Christian life. It is in fact the demarcation line between a life of grace and a life under the law. As we read the Bible we find a number of things Christians are supposed to do. We should pray, we should read the Bible, we should give financially to the work of Christ, we should attend church, we should live morally and responsibly, and avoid sexual sins, anger, harsh words, and a great many other things. But the manner in which we do these things, or avoid them, makes all the difference.

I have been in churches where pastors “encouraged” their members to fast at certain times. Actually, encouraged is probably not a strong enough word. They essentially pushed the fasting to such a degree that you felt if you were any kind of faithful Christian you surely would have to comply. And they were able to get many, if not most members to comply. But much of the fasting was done out of a sense of duty or shame. Not too many of the members probably wanted to do these fasts. As a result, they were, to use Paul’s language, fasting “grudgingly or of necessity.” It was not coming from the heart; it was not done with faith or any expectation of a divine response. It was done purely out of duty. In another case I have been in a church where the pastor encouraged the people to read through certain portions of the Bible at a tremendous pace, and then would have everybody who complied with the reading schedule stand up each week and read a certain Biblical passage. Non-compliers must sit in shame while the others proudly stood and read.

It rubbed me the wrong way. Even though I was reading the Bible a lot, and the reading schedule he established would not have been a burden to me, I refused to read the particular Scriptures he scheduled. Call me a rebel if you will, but I couldn’t help but feel that this kind of enforced reading (and shaming the non-readers) smacked of legalism, and that even those who complied were doing it grudgingly, rather than from the heart.

The “Want-to”

Whether it is praying, reading the Bible, giving to the poor, giving to the church, fasting, or any other Christian practice, it only really counts when it is done from a heart of faith. The Jews kept the law because they had to, because if they didn’t, God would send all sorts of plagues, disasters, and judgments upon them. But through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit we find that a powerful set of righteous desires to obey God, walk with Him, and live uprightly has been placed within our hearts. The Bible says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). In Christ the “want-to” is given us. The Spirit of God moves us to pray, moves us to desire the word of God as hungry babies eagerly cry for their mother’s milk, moves us to give even if there is no check in the mail next week, to go to church, not because we are afraid we will go to hell if we don’t but because we mysteriously desire fellowship with the people of God and love to hear God’s word expounded. We become the true cheerful givers: of our time, of our money, of our strength, of our energy, and of our lives.

Paul once wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul worked and preached and endured floggings, prison, and ultimately martyrdom, not because someone had coerced him, or nagged him, or bullied him, or shamed him into doing all that he did, but because Jesus Christ had captured his heart. The Holy Spirit’s power, energy, and motivating influence burned like a white-hot fire within him, and he gladly gave himself entirely to the cause of Christ.

That, my friends, is grace. This is the grace that will carry you through when tragedy, disappointment, and betrayal would seek to shipwreck your faith. You won’t need to be pressured to walk with God or spend yourself in His service. You will give yourself gladly to the One who loved you so much that He spent Himself for you. You will be a member of that happy company of cheerful givers, as God works in you through Christ to will and to do of His good pleasure.


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