Jeremiah 31:7-14, II Corinthians 9:6-15
October 15, 2017
If you remember, one of my first sermons at this church was about “God’s Abundance.” But it wasn’t in the context of “Stewardship.” It was more in terms of the abundance God wants for us, in this life he has given us! It’s still one of my favorite words about God’s kingdom – the word “abundance.”
Having said that, that word is connected to stewardship. Paul makes that connection in his second letter to the Corinthians. “God loves a cheerful giver,” he says. “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance.” There’s the word. And notice! That is about what God can do. And we need to remember that! Paul knew that God “is able,” to bless us. He knew that because he knew that God already had blessed us! In other words, he had already seen the evidence of God’s blessings!
That’s the perspective we need! We need to know we give because of God’s blessings. Not in order to get God’s blessings! And I want to be clear about that! I don’t want you to confuse this with the “Prosperity Gospel” people. They make this whole thing very “formulaic.” They say, “Give now and then God will provide.” It’s as though God’s “providing” was somehow contingent on the “giving.” Either that, or it’s proportional somehow. In other words, you can “get more,” but only if you “give more.”
Paul turns all of that around, and I believe he’s right! God is able to provide, and already has. In verse 10 he says, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food…” That’s present tense! We need to remember what God can do. And in that thinking, we need to remember what God has already done, and what he continues to do. That’s the idea of this!
But sometimes we forget what God has done! Don’t we? And we’re not alone in that! The Old Testament is loaded with example after example of how God’s people forgot what he had done for them! And I have to believe that was frustrating for God! If you remember, one entire book in the Old Testament – the Torah – is devoted to “remembering.” (Do you remember which one?) It’s the book of Deuteronomy. The theme of Deuteronomy is “Remembering what God has done.” That’s why the Bible has two accounts of the Ten Commandments. The first is in Exodus – when it first happened. The second is in Deuteronomy – where God told his people to remember!
Now, I say all of that because we are like the people of old. We sometimes forget. We sometimes forget what God has done for us! And we human beings are funny. Because sometimes, when we see something lacking in one area of our lives, it makes us miss seeing abundance in other areas. And that’s when we tend to forget what God has done for us!
Sometimes we get a sort of “spiritual myopia,” Myopia is defined as a “shortsightedness, a nearsightedness, or a narrow vision.” Our vision gets focused on only of one part of our life, the part that’s lacking, and we fail to see the rest. If things are bad, we fail to see the good. If things are lacking, we fail to see the abundance. And that’s when we need to remember!
There’s an old song I remember from my childhood. It goes,
“Count your blessings, name them one by one.
And you’ll be surprised at what the Lord has done!”
Do you remember that song? Do you do that – intentionally? Do you take time to count your blessings? Or does that “spiritual myopia” cloud your vision?
It’s too easy, isn’t it, to let the worry – the anxiety – over the “shortfalls” in our lives, (or our bank accounts!) keep us from seeing the good things. It’s too easy to let the worries of this life keep us from seeing the kingdom of God. And remember Jesus’ words from his “Sermon on the Mount!” He asked, “Which of you, by being anxious, can add a cubit to his span of life?” We can’t, can we? In fact, we’re learning these days that anxiety, or stress, is something that can actually do the opposite. It can remove “cubits” (or more!) from our lives.
Jesus knew that. Paul knew it, too. He told the Philippians, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” We looked at that passage just a few weeks ago. And what will happen? “The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds (both!) in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Philippians 4)
We need to do that. We need to “have no anxiety.” But that’s tough, isn’t it! I know it’s a tough one for me. As I’ve said before, I have a “bone in my head” that makes me worry about things. I think I got it from my mother! And I know I need to do those things that keep me from that worry.
Well, one of the things we can do is expand our vision. We need to look past the worries, and strive to see God’s blessings! Maybe we need to actually count our blessings – name them one by one. And it will surprise us what the Lord has done! And that will help change our perspective! We will see that God truly does provide blessings in abundance. Even if some things are lacking, (And they are for some of us!) we can still know that! We can still look to God’s abundance!
The problem is that we don’t do that enough. And like the world around us, we often compare ourselves to others – often to others who have more. And we base our peace on our “security,” or lack thereof. And when things are lacking, we lose that peace. And too often we find ourselves longing for more. I still love the one comedian who said, “I only want the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”
I’ll never forget a couple in my last church who were on the board of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance – PDA. If you remember, we talk about that agency during our time of One Great Hour of Sharing. It’s one of the three agencies we help sponsor.
Well, I remember a time they took a trip, as part of that group, a trip to one of the “developing nations.” It was some place in Central America, I think. And I’ll really never forget two things they told us when they got back. First, they said that those people had next to nothing. We are hugely wealthy in comparison! Even the poor among us are wealthy in comparison! But the second thing my friends told us, is that they are some of the most happy and generous people in the world! They have almost nothing, but they would give you anything! And it was humbling.
So, it is Stewardship time. Well, really it’s always Stewardship time! But this is the time we think about making pledges, a time when we think about our part in supporting this ministry. And as we do, I commend to you these words of Paul. How those who sow bountifully reap bountifully. How we do so, not out of reluctance or compulsion, but rather through and attitude of joy! We do so remembering how God is able to provide in abundance.
So, as you think about that, look around you. Look at your life. Look at the abundance you already have! Remember what God is able to do! And we know he is able because he already has!
Eternal God, help us to see what you have truly done in our lives. It is too easy to forget. It is too easy to compare ourselves with others. It’s too easy to listen to the voices around us that say we must “have.” Help us, in all of that, to see your blessings. Even if we are hurting, even if we are lacking, help us to look to you. Help us to abound with kindness and generosity, in all we do. And it is in Jesus’ name we pray these things, Amen.