July 22, 2014

A united and generous church

All through the Bible, including the Old Testament, goodness must follow grace. Doing good is not about efforts to impress God, but a response to what He has done for us. We are sinners, incapable of saving ourselves — and Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

We are set free from all needs by a God who gives. Our response to His goodness to us is goodness to others. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and we love each other because of His love for us. That is, grace is first, faith is next, and loving obedience follows.

One of the responses to grace is unity. Unity is stressed by the psalmist, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) It is an important theme in the New Testament also. As the Body of Christ focuses on what He has done for us, our differences become minor and we love and want to take care of one another.
Paul focused on grace. His writings repeat the good news often and in many ways. Jesus died to save sinners and he knew he was in that category. He didn’t cause division by setting himself up to be more important than anyone else. This is seen as he said his goodbyes when departing from Ephesus to go into the dangers of persecution in Jerusalem . . .

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. (Acts 20:32–38)

These words show the unity in God’s family, but also their response to God’s goodness to them. They had a strong desire to help others less fortunate, in this case concerning material possessions. They understood the principle of giving and generosity. All that we have is from our generous God. We are merely stewards of our possessions. We trust the Giver when we give away something we need knowing that He will fill the gap. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

I was raised by a very thrifty father with Scottish blood in his veins. We teased him about it, yet I inherited some of his traits. I must admit that for me, it was more like stingy selfishness than good stewardship.

Early in my Christian life, God showed me repeatedly that He is my supply. Some of those demonstrations were dramatic and impacted my life. However, trusting God for my supply means more than enjoying the abundance He gives me. It also means being generous to those who have no supply, using what He supplies to others that there is a God with unlimited resources.

As I’ve been looking around my home and asking Him what more can I do with His material blessings and asking who needs them, I anticipate the effort of giving (and am already tired). But He encourages me with words like this, “Don’t grow weary of doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up. So then, as you have opportunity, do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9–10, personalized).

Doing good to others follow grace. I most certainly know God’s grace and could offer a far more significant response in the area of giving.

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