Philippians 4:14-20, Act 16:5-10 & II Corinthians 9:6-10
Steve’s sermon, “God the Giver,” came from Philippians 4:14-20. First, he took a side trip to Acts 16:6-10, which tells of the Holy Spirit forbidding the apostles to go to Asia before seeing a vision of a man in Macedonia asking for help. On that trip the first place they visited was Philippi, the people who helped Paul’s ministry. “When God guides us to go and do, God will provide the means,” he said. “If He tells you to climb Mt. Everest, He will give you the gear.”
Returning to Philippians, he noted verse 17, where Paul said he didn’t seek their gits but the “fruit that increases to your credit.” This kind of attitude is what Christian maturity looks like, Steve said—the apostle was more interested in the people’s welfare than their money; he wanted them to know the benefits of generosity.
Steve pointed out that Paul’s reference to a “fragrant offering” in verse 18 came from the Old Testament. That’s where gifts to God receive that label, starting with Noah when he got off the ark. He asked if anyone had ever considered their gifts to God’s work a fragrant offering, adding that this kind of relationship is what leads to verse 19 and the confidence that God will supply all our needs.
“If you get laid off, you will find out if verse 19 is true for you,” Steve said. “The challenge is to recognize we are not self-made men and women. We are children of God and dependent on Him. Everything we have has come from Him.”
He correlated verse 19 to 2 Corinthians 9:6-10, which concludes, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” Paul is saying that the person who gives generously will receive generously from God. It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but an example of God sowing seed back to the giver as the giver donates seed to others. This kind of generosity comes from Christ, who also was the reason the first-century church could be unified despite having affluent people and slaves. Jesus was their unifier, Steve said. His emphasis: God is God and will supply all our needs. The point is not to get more “stuff,” but to sow more seed: “You give to help someone else and God dips in and gives you more seed. You whole life is a seedbed of generosity. People who trust God will supply every need won’t hoard what they’ve got.”
He also mentioned the direction in verse 7 that we should not give reluctantly or under compulsion—or expecting more. When legendary pastor John Wesley was alive, his ministry was generating the equivalent of $600,000 a year, but he lived on $35,000 a year. He never raised his standard of living even as his income increased.
In addition, our giving should be done in a way that God gets the glory. While a business gives to charitable causes for the recognition, ours shouldn’t be done that way. Holding up an Operation Christmas Child—which we have supported for several years—box, Steve reminded us that as we give generously the gospel will be preached in places we will never visit.