Finding Hope by Being a Generous Steward

Steve Viars November 7, 2009 1 Chronicles 29:1-22

 

- let’s begin our time this am with a true/false question…

- faithfulness is a beautiful thing…would you agree with that?...no question there…

- one of the delights of being at the same church for a long time is to have the privilege of seeing examples of Christian faithfulness, large and small…

1. For example, the mom or dad whose child is misbehaving around the church-house, who kneels down and tries to patiently explain to his/her child why that kind of behavior doesn’t please God…in some cases what seems like the 400th time…but when parents faithfully attempt to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…in a home that is consistently becoming more Christ-centered…that is a beautiful thing…

2. Or when older couples around here reach their 50th anniversary, or their 60th…and they come in to church, sometimes with one in a wheelchair or with a walker or an oxygen tank – that long term faithfulness is such a beautiful thing…

- and as soon as I say that, I know there are those who would say – PV, I wanted that with all my heart by my sweetheart passed away before we hit that milestone…and we all grieved together, and now the responsibility is to be faithful to Christ even when your heart is broken…that can be beautiful too, just in a different way or a different reason…

- or the person who would say – I wanted to be married for a long time too, but my spouse walked away from his/her marriage vows and refused to be faithful to me…that hurts too---but your calling now is to walk with Christ even when one of your dreams was dashed…but again…there’s a beauty to that as well…

- faithfulness comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes…

3. We’ve watched people whose spouses have developed Alzheimer’s…and they faithfully cared for their honey right up till the end even when their partner didn’t know their name…we’ve seen adult children do that with their parents…it’s not easy, but it’s beautiful to behold…

4. We have people who serve around here, and you never have to wonder if they are going to be in their place, or if they are going to do their job…

- and things don’t always go the way they want…

- we’re human beings and we disappoint one another and mess things up…

- but faithful people don’t take their ministry ball and go home…

- they communicate and get issues solved…but the next time around, they’re right back in their place…because that’s what servants who are faithful do…

- how is that related to hope?...doesn’t it do something to your heart when you’re exposed to a person who’s faithful?...

- you say something like – look what God is doing in that person’s life?...it might not be flashy…it might not make the evening news…but there is something supernatural about the way that person is living…that kind/level of faithfulness has to be of God and if He can do it for them (you say), He can do it for you…so their faithfulness gives you hope…

- it also gives that person hope – because they conclude – I don’t know about next month or next year…but because God enabled me to be faithful today, I’m convinced He’ll give me what I need to be faithful tomorrow…and that’s all I need to know right now…

- no question about this one – faithfulness is a beautiful thing…

- well then, let me ask you this…how would you evaluate yourself in this area?...on a scale of 1-10, are you a faithful person?...

- and I realize that you might say back – but that’s hard to quantify…it’s hard to measure, it’s hard to assign a number to that…

- I understand, in many ways, that’s true…

- but do you realize in some areas of your life, you can fairly easily evaluate/measure your faithfulness…

- do you know what that area is?...do you want to do?...

- it’s the issue of your giving…that’s why this am, I’d like to speak to you about Finding Hope by Being a Generous Steward.

- with that mind, please open your Bible to I Chronicles 29 [page 317 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you….]

- we are in the middle of Stewardship month…which is our church’s annual emphasis of taking time to evaluate all that God has entrusted to us, and whether we’re being faithful to the trust…our key verse for this is:

1 Corinthians 4:2 - Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

- I’ve also encouraged you to memorize the…Four Key Principles of Stewardship

1. God owns everything, you own nothing.

2. God entrusts you with everything you have.

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given you; God wants you to increase it.

4. You can be called into account at any time, and it may be today.

- we explained at the beginning that there are dozens and dozens of topics that are fair game during stewardship month – because God has entrusted you with so many different things… your health, your mind, time, the Bible, financial resources, talents and spiritual giftedness, opportunities, the gospel, your friends, your family…all of that and much more falls under this great heading of stewardship…

- this year we’re putting this all together under the heading of Finding Hope in the Stewardship of Life…

- in the first two weeks, we studied the great life story of a man named Caleb…

- which taught us about Finding Hope by Being an Obedient Steward and Finding Hope by Being a Visionary Steward

- this morning, as I said a moment ago, is all about Finding Hope by Being a Generous Steward.

- now, let me try to establish the context both in this particular passage of Scripture, and also in where we are in the life of our church…

- I Chronicles 29 tells the story of God’s people generously giving to support the construction of Solomon’s temple…

- it is one of the highlights of the history of Israel…

- if you know the story, it actually starts back in 2 Samuel 7, which is one of the pivotal chapters in the OT for sure…because King David was at a point where he had rest from all his enemies, Scripture says, went to the prophet Nathan and said that he would like to built a temple, a permanent place for the presence of God to dwell and a center of worship for the people of God…

- that tells you a lot about King David – when of all of things he could have been dreaming about when he had rest from his enemies, his heart gravitated toward to what he could do for God…and at first Nathan thought it was a great idea – but the Lord came back and said – no, that is not a task I want David to fulfill, but instead his son Solomon…

- we learn in other places in Scripture that that was because David was a man of war…

- but 2 Samuel goes on to explain what we refer to as the Davidic covenant…because God says to David – this desire in your heart to build me a house says a lot about your love for me, and instead---I want to establish your house, so… 2 Samuel 7:12-13 - When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

- we could talk about that passage for the rest of the morning, because Jesus is all over that text…that is why it was significant that Jesus was born of the house and lineage of David…

- back to the story of the temple – the Bible tells us that David spent a significant portion of his remaining days helping his son be prepared for this great undertaking…and 1 Chron. 29 tells about the day when David gives personally to help fund the project, and he then invites the people to do the same, and they do, in ways that are absolutely amazing…so this is a passage about the unusual and supernatural generosity of the people of God…

- now, why would I select this for our consideration this year during stewardship month?...

- if you’re part of our church, you know that I very seldom talk about money…at least the topic of giving money – and that’s true for a lot of reasons, including the fact that I don’t have to…our people by and large do what God’s Word teaches on this subject without the need for prodding or incessant reminders…

- but surely one of the story lines this year is that even in one of the most significant economic downturns that at least some of us have ever personally experienced, our church family has been incredibly faithful and generous financially…

- perhaps this story illustrates it best – I was with a group of pastors not long ago and the question was raised around the table – so, how far are you behind budget?...

- it was just assumed that that would be true of every church represented at the table…

- and I was stunned by some of the answers…

- one guy said, we’re a million dollars behind---we’re hoping to make it up at year end?...I almost fell off my chair…

- but when it came around to me, I had to say – well, we’re actually ahead of budget this year…somehow God has allowed our people to be incredibly generous…and that’s true – that’s part of the storyline this year…

- well, when it comes around to stewardship month – if that’s not mentioned and celebrated, something’s wrong…

- and I know that some churches like to motivate greater giving by the constant perception of a crisis…I don’t think people around here need gimmicks…and I think we need to call it what it is – a year where God has enabled His people to take amazing steps financially…so there ought to be a celebration today just like 1 Chronicles 29…

- does that mean we ought to just skip the Stewardship Commitment card?...heavens no…why?...

1. Because faithfulness today is never a guarantee of faithfulness tomorrow…

2. It would be wrong for everyone here to somehow confuse attending a church with many people who are generous and faithful financially, with that being true in their particular case…this is an individual matter that is a very helpful and important test of one’s relationship with the Lord….

- and thankfully God’s people in 1 Chronicles 29 overwhelmingly passed the test…

 

- now let’s read about this great celebration – read 1 Chronicles 29:1-22

- we’re talking about Finding Hope by Being a Generous Steward…and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 characteristics of generous stewards.

 

I. Generous Stewards Seize the Opportunity to Participate in God’s Work in His World.

- I believe one of the keys to understanding all of this is the argument of verse 1…

- David says – Solomon has been chosen by God…but he is young and inexperienced…and then note these next words carefully…

- 1 Chronicles 29:1 (NASB95) – …and the work is great; for the temple is not for man, but for the Lord God.

- 1 Chronicles 29:1 (NIV) - …The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God.

- in other words, just because Solomon is young and inexperienced….we better downsize the plan here…

- this isn’t Solomon’s project…this is God’s project…and what motivated everyone in this passage to do what they subsequently did was a profound appreciation that they had the privilege to participate in God’s work…

- you could say it this way – this was a God-sized vision…

 

- now, let me just stop right there – I would not blame you if you started rolling your eyes on that one…because words like that have been used to support some of the most outlandish ideas in the world…

- that’s not what’s coming…I think it would be terrible for me as a pastor, or our pastors/deacons as leaders…to fail to appreciate the tremendous sacrifice on the part of our church members this year by pushing ahead with some outrageous ideas under the guise of “this is a God-sized project”…we have never done that here and we never intend to…so that is not where this is going – in fact I explained last week that we have actually decided to delay the capital campaign that our congregation approved a year ago to begin right now for our next series of projects out of a concern for the economic realities and uncertainties that many in our church family face…

- so please don’t hear the phrase “God-sized vision” and think, this is going to be unreasonable or unappreciative of all that’s been done this year to get us here…our leadership team, top to bottom, does not believe in that…

- however, the text is still the text…the Lord wanted the temple project to be done in such a way, and on such a scale, that people would not simply say – Solomon was a great leader, or even the children of Israel were great people – no, when this project was completed, the only logical conclusion anyone could draw was….God is a great God.

- the privilege of participating in that motivates generosity at the level of the heart…

- now, let’s unpack that a bit more…what was it about the temple that would have fired up the children of Israel to give in this way?...

- the answer to that would have been obvious to the original readers of this text – I’m not sure that’s as true of us…

A. For the children of Israel.

1. The temple was the place where God’s presence was especially manifested.

- of course God was omnipresent – He explained that in places like Exodus 3 when he told Moses to take off his shoes at the burning bush because it was holy ground, and then He introduced Himself as “I am who I am”…the eternal, self-existent God of heaven and earth…unlike any other man-made god of the nations…

- but because we are human, God was willing to manifest Himself in particular ways at particular times…the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of cloud by night…

- His special presence in the ark of the covenant, contained in the holy of holies in the tabernacle of Israel…

- and time just doesn’t allow us to chase that these themes around the Bible, but if you want a humorous illustration of how powerful the presence of God is, read 1 Samuel 5 where the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and placed it in their pagan temple next to the statue of their god Dagon…that was a really bad day for Dagon…he was losing body parts by the second…

- but if you look ahead at 2 Chronicles 5 and 7 when the temple was actually completed…you read verses like…2 Chronicles 7:1-3 - Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

- and the point is – all of the people in 1 Chron 29 who gave so that this project could be completed, could now look at what was occurring and say…I had the privilege of being part of that…God allowed me to be part of His plan…

2. The temple was the place where God’s Word was exalted.

- 2 Chronicles 5:10 - There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.

- by constructing this temple, the people were constructing a physical commitment to keeping the law of God…to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves…

- and they knew that keeping those moral and ethical commitments would set them apart from any other nation…and help them fulfill their God given calling to be a blessing to all the earth

- and again – that was something they believed God was doing (this wasn’t Solomon’s project – the work was great because it was for the Lord God…]

3. The temple was the place where sacrifices were made for sin.

- 2 Chronicles 7:4-6 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the Lord.King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the Lord, which King David had made for giving praise to the Lord—“for His lovingkindness is everlasting”—whenever he gave praise by their means, while the priests on the other side blew trumpets; and all Israel was standing.

- if you go back and carefully study the details of this project, it is amazing how much emphasis was placed on how the temple was a place where the transgressions of the law by the people were addressed…

- and it’s not that they were buying forgiveness, but they wanted to be sure that the place where those provisions were going to be made was constructed thoroughly

4. The temple was a place where celebrations where held and relationships enhanced.

- the calendar of OT feasts gave the children of Israel regular opportunities to celebrate their relationship with God and with one another…

- the temple was the centerpiece of that…

- 2 Chronicles 7:8-10 - So Solomon observed the feast at that time for seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly who came from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt.On the eighth day they held a solemn assembly, for the dedication of the altar they observed seven days and the feast seven days.Then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people to their tents, rejoicing and happy of heart because of the goodness that the Lord had shown to David and to Solomon and to His people Israel.

- that’s why we have so many “psalms of assent” in the Bible which speak of people going up to the temple and rejoicing together on the journey…

5. The temple was a place which was a light to the nations.

- Psalm 96:8-10 - Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; Bring an offering and come into His courts.Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth.Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.”

- after the temple was built, the Bible tells us about a visit from the queen of Sheba…who looked at all of this and said…2 Chronicles 9:8 - Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.

- now, every point we just made could be its own sermon, but the point is – this is why the people gave…it wasn’t out of obligation, or raw duty, or the least they could to get by…they understood that this was a God sized task with God ordained purposes that were worthy of their very best….it was a privilege to participate in what God was doing…

- you get a flavor for this when Solomon sent a letter to man named Huram, one of his father’s friends who provided some of the supplies for the project…and Solomon said…2 Chronicles 2:5-6 - “The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods.“But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? So who am I, that I should build a house for Him, except to burn incense before Him?

- that is the point – if this is all just human invention, then there’s no power or eternal value to any of it – so let’s just do the very least to get by…and grudgingly at that…but if it’s God’s word, it’s a privilege to participate…in a way that the watching world would have reason to conclude – only God could do that…

 

- well, transfer that to where we are today….

B. For the NT church.

- is the work that God has called us to today more or less compelling than the purposes of the temple?

- and we can’t do all of this justice either, but here goes…

1. The church is where the good news of the possibility of God’s personal indwelling presence is announced.

- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

- we have a far superior message because of the finished work of Christ…Colossians 1:27 - …the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

2. The church is where the truth of God is taught.

- 1 Timothy 3:15 – I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

3. The church is where Christ’s finished sacrifice for sin is embraced and celebrated.

- Hebrews 9:12 - and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

- what the temples sacrifices pointed to have now been completed once for all in the finished work of our Savior…

- these OT saints would have been beside themselves if they would have fully known this was the end of the story…you couldn’t have stopped them from giving to participate in that marvelous plan…

- [develop – the gospel]…

4. The church is where close relationships can be built.

- 1 Timothy 3:15 – I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

- that same word is used throughout that text to describe human families…

- there are so many lonely people in this world…the church is part of God’s loving antidote to that…

5. The church is a light to the nations.

- Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- God is mediating His plan and program through the establishment and development of local churches today…

- that’s what Christ promised to do in the gospels…

- that’s what the epistles are all about…letters to churches and church leaders…

- even the book of Revelation begins with a series of letters to local churches…

- if you take the church out of the NT, there would be no NT…

- [cf. church family night in December – last opportunity to join this year]

- and men and women ought to be able to look at what is being accomplished in and through local churches and conclude…only God could do that…I want to learn more about a powerful God like that…friends, that is a mission worthy of generous financial support…motivated by an amazement that you get to participate in the accomplishment of God’s work…

 

- now, two other important ideas from this text…

II. Generous Stewards Have Faithful Leaders.

A. David did not ask the people to do anything that he was unwilling to do himself - 1 Chron. 29:2-5.

- there’s nothing biblical about the old saw, do as I say but not as I do…

B. The leaders of our church are expected to be generous and held accountable in this matter.

- you know that I have been asking everyone attending our church to do two things…

1. Complete this commitment card…turn it in between now and the Sunday before Thanksgiving…

2. Get tickets and attend the stewardship banquet on the evening of November 22nd

- you might wonder – what if one of our pastors or deacons was unwilling to do that?...the answer is, they would not be serving in that way anymore…

- and there are all sorts of pastors wives, and deacons wives who could look around their houses and say things like – sure I’d like to have better furniture, or nicer clothes, or a newer car, or whatever – but I am supporting my husband’s ministry and our life is not about amassing possessions – it’s about participating God’s work…

- some men are practically afraid to do the 2 things I’ve just mentioned simply because they don’t want to clamp down on their own materialistic heart/lifestyle or if they do, they aren’t willing to deal with the ire of their materialistic wives…

- at some point real quickly – it becomes about something more important than money – it’s about your love for God and joyful participation in the fulfillment of His mission…

 

- well, where did this end?...

III. Generous Stewards Give in a Way That is Amazing.

- that’s the summary word for this text…

A. They gave willingly.

- v. 6 – offered willingly

- v. 9 – because they had offered so willingly

- v. 17 – have willingly offered…make their offerings willingly…

- 2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

- and if you say – well if I can’t cheerfully, then does that mean I shouldn’t give?...no, it means you ought to honestly evaluate the nature of your heart…and the object of your love…

B. They gave wholeheartedly.

v. 9 – they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart.

- this wasn’t the bare minimum…

- of course folks often ask – well, how much should I give?...

- God doesn’t send a bill like the electric company…and we’re not going to set legalistic amounts and standards…

- but many of us believe it is significant that 700 years before the giving of the OT law, we have examples in the early portion of the book of Genesis where Abraham wins a great battle and then gives a tithe, or a tenth, of what God gave him to a priest named Melchizedek…

- that became a regular part of the economy of OT Israel…

- we believe the NT teaches grace giving, so many of us use the idea of tithing off our gross income as a starting place, and many of us have sought to grow from that amount over the years just like we try to grow in every other area…

- that’s how, if you noticed in the bulletin today, there was an offering last week of $87,000 – that wasn’t contrived---there was no hype…just faithfulness by people who were willing to write down what they were going o try to do, and then with God’s help, in many cases were able to keep their word…

- the Lord has also given our church special ministries (bonuses)…and while it is our intent to provide a measure of support for them, that is dependent on having the funds to do so…

- so we encourage our members to consider an additional gift each month to help our church meet our stated desires to help fund those ministries as well…you’ll notice we add the counseling center to that list this year because of some special steps we’re trying o take there…

- if everyone in our church practiced grace giving the way I described, and gave about $20 per month each to those 6 ministries…we would be able to fulfill our budget without undue pressure…

 

- and what happens as a result?

 

C. They gave joyfully.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video