Posted by: Johnold Strey | July 20, 2010

Sermon on Philippians 4:10-20

This week’s sermon was preached by Pastor Joel Otto.  Pastor Otto serves Trinity Lutheran Church in Minocqua, Wisconsin.  He and his family were vacationing in our area over the weekend and were staying with us in the parsonage.  He kindly offered to preach for us last weekend, and I willingly accepted!  The sermon below is as it was first preached at Trinity Lutheran Church on the previous Sunday, July 11.  -JS

YOUR OFFERINGS ARE VALUABLE

  1. Because they support kingdom work
  2. Because they are fruits of faith
  3. Because they glorify God

Text: Philippians 4:10-20

Introduction

It happens every regular worship service.  The ushers walk forward and take the plates from the pastor.  They pass them up and down the pews.  People place money in the plates – cash, checks, a quarter or two from children.  Why is this done?  Is it to pay for the services rendered by the pastor?  “Yep, he gave a pretty good one today.  He kept his sermon a little shorter this morning.  I stayed awake.  We sang some good hymns.  I’ll put a little more in the plate today.”  Is it to pay dues because you’re a member of this church, sort of like the membership fees you might pay for belonging to a gun club or country club?  Is it merely to pay the bills of the church?

Paul’s words to the church in the city of Philippi show us that the money we place in the plate during worship has much greater value than payment for services rendered or dues you owe or making sure the bills are covered.  These are thank offerings from God’s people.  As such, your offerings are valuable, [1] because they support kingdom work, [2] because they are fruits of faith, and [3] because they glorify God.

I.

When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippian church, he was under house arrest in Rome.  His freedom was limited.  He had to rely on others for his daily needs.  Yet, he was content.  He knew God was still providing for him and taking care of him, no matter his circumstances.  He expressed that clearly and with great joy in this letter.  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Paul had known difficult times when he first was in Philippi.  He had been unjustly and illegally flogged and imprisoned.  But do you remember the earthquake that freed him and the jailer who became a Christian?

While Paul was imprisoned in Rome, the Philippians were able to show their concern for him by sending Epaphroditus, probably the leader of the church in Philippi, with a generous gift.  This led Paul to acknowledge their gift and commend them for it.  “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.”  Something had hindered their ability to help him earlier – perhaps the lack of a messenger to travel to Rome, or maybe a lack of money.  Paul wasn’t searching or begging for help.  But he rejoiced that they were supporting him now, just as they had done regularly and generously in the past when he was actively carrying out mission work.  “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.”  Like the 72 Jesus sent out, Paul had to rely on the financial support of those he was serving to do his mission work.  The Philippians shared in his work more than once. 

That’s one way your offerings are valuable.  Yes, they’re used to cover the salaries of called workers because “the worker deserves his wages.”  I’m grateful that your offerings allow me to make a living preaching God’s Word in this place.  Yes, offerings are needed to pay the church’s bills.  But your offerings are really supporting kingdom work.  The Word is preached and the sacraments are administered in this place because of your offerings.  Children are taught about their Savior in our school because of your offerings.  Students are preparing for the preaching and teaching ministry at our synod schools with the help of your offerings.  Mission work is done in the United States and throughout the world supported by your offerings.  That’s all kingdom work, God growing and strengthening his church and his people through the gospel of Jesus.

You receive blessings from this.  Listen to what Paul said to the Philippians.  “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  God meets your spiritual needs through the Word taught and preached and the sacraments administered here at Trinity.  The glorious riches of Jesus’ saving work are poured out on you abundantly.  Other are also blessed as they are in contact with the Word, whether it’s people in Pakistan or China or right here in Minocqua at our soccer camp or in our preschool or through you sharing your faith.  Do you see the value of the gifts you place in the offering plate each week?

II.

Paul saw something more than just money when he received this gift from the Philippian church.  This was their loving concern for the apostle who was God’s instrument to bring them salvation.  This loving concern flowed from their faith, a fruit of their faith in Jesus.  Paul saw this gift as “credited to [their] account.”  The King James Version is a little more accurate with the Greek when it says that their gift was “fruit that may abound to your account.”  What they gave for Paul was produced by their faith in Jesus.  It was a response to what Jesus had done for them.  This is what made it a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God.

That’s also what makes your offerings valuable.  You aren’t to give offerings because you’re forced or coerced.  Your offerings are not like a bill you have to pay.  Your offerings are to be willing fruits of faith.  Why?  Because you know what Jesus has done for you.  In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul spends two chapters talking about offerings.  He describes the reason for our offerings this way.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  Jesus’ saving work for us is what makes us cheerful givers.

But is our giving perfect?  Maybe we’re sometimes like the man who was visiting a town and attended a church which collected their offering before the sermon.  He was caught off guard as the plate came down his pew and he quickly snagged a bill from his wallet.  It was then that he remembered that he had two bills in his wallet – a $100 and a $5.  He slid a sideways glance into his wallet and there was the $5.  The man couldn’t concentrate on the rest of the service.  Immediately after being ushered out he went to the ushers’ room, explained what had happened and asked if the usher could return the $100 bill in exchange for the $5 bill which he had intended to contribute.  To his dismay, the usher replied:  “Sir, you’re asking me to put my hand into an offering that was placed on the Lord’s altar and to remove something.  I can’t do that with a good conscience.”  The visitor, obviously upset, fired back:  “Hey, I made an honest mistake, and all I’m asking is that you help me correct it.”  The usher answered:  “Sir, I didn’t say you can’t put your hand into the Lord’s offering and take something out.  I simply told you that I cannot and will not.”  To which the visitor replied:  “Well, beats me.  I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I suppose I can understand it.  I guess the Lord will just have to credit me with a $100 offering.  And the usher replied, “I’ve got to disagree with you again.  I think the Lord will credit you for a $5 offering.”

Do we sometimes have an attitude that feels reluctant to give?  Do we see offerings as merely dues or payment for services rendered?  Do we think God is going to give us points because we gave what we thought was a big offering?  Do we give only when we like what the church is doing with our money?  Do we give our leftovers?  Such attitudes are self-centered and me-centered.  Such attitudes require repentance.

Retired seimary professor John Jeske put it this way.  “Offerings that truly please the Lord are the ones that are tokens of the big gift:  a total surrender of the heart and hand to the One who designed us and traded places with us.”  God loved us so deeply that he took our place and suffered our punishment on the cross in order to forgive us for our selfishness and stinginess toward him.  Through the gospel we’re connected to Jesus who said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  Then we can say with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”  By faith in Jesus, we can respond with cheerful, generous thank offerings.

III.

That’s the final aspect of the Philippians’ offering that Paul was joyful about.  He saw that their gift was an act of worship to God, a sacrifice of praise to him.  He broke into a word of praise to God because of what they’ve given to him.  Their offering gave glory to God.

Do we see this value in our offerings?  God doesn’t need anything from us.  He’s God.  The earth and everything in it already belong to him because he created it all.  But he takes delight in our willing, sacrificial gifts which flow from our faith in him.  That’s the symbolism behind placing our offerings on the Lord’s altar.

Do our gifts then glorify God?  Solomon gave this advice in Proverbs.  “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”  Are we giving our best, trusting that God will provide all that we need, spiritually and financially?  Consider these words of promise in 2 Corinthians.  “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  God blesses you with material wealth so you can give.  But more than that Jesus, through his saving work and the message of the gospel, has given you, a condemned sinner, a right standing before the holy Judge.  God has made you rich in every way imaginable.  Doesn’t he deserve our honor and thanks, visible in the offerings we give?  When we give gifts that are off the top, the first percentage of our income, set aside to honor the only true God who gave up his only Son completely and fully so we might be his own, when our offerings are flowing from a faith which trusts God to give us all that we need for body and soul, then we’re glorifying God as the plate passes to us and we put in our offering.

A commentary I read relayed this story.  A fine Christian layman, returning from a synod convention where he had heard a famous professor speak, reported to his congregation.  “The great doctor told us, ‘Faith first comes into our head.  But it must go deeper and reach in our heart to be genuine.  And, he said, it must go still deeper and reach into our pocket, else it will not stay long.’”  It’s been said that the last part of a Christian to be converted is his wallet.  The temptation in our materialistic world to make “money” our god is strong.  But we “can do all things through him who gives [us] strength.”  Remember how valuable our offerings are.  They support kingdom work.  We get to have a part in Jesus’ ruling activity in this world through the gospel.  People are saved and strengthened.  Our offerings are fruits of faith, a tangible expression of the trust in Jesus we have in our hearts.  Our offerings glorify God.  When we give our best, no matter the amount, then what Paul said is true of our valuable offerings.  “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

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