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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This message is part 3 of our series entitled, Touched By The Cross. This series is focusing in on how the reality of what Jesus did on the cross impacts our lives today. In week 1, we looked at how God is in the restoration business. He desires to regenerate our lives, give us a new heart and set our lives on a new trajectory. The death and resurrection of Jesus makes that possible. In week 2, we looked at how our daily death is our daily bread. Just as Jesus modeled victory through death so too it is as we die to self and live for God that we truly experience the fullness of all that God has for us.
Today we are looking at how our greatest battle with God can be in living with open hands. The cross is the ultimate example of generosity, the ultimate act of obedience and sacrifice that brings great glory to God and huge blessings to the believer. However, even though Jesus demonstrated “open hands”, ultimate generosity, we sometimes fail in this area.
Big Idea: Our greatest battle with God can be in living with open hands.
Question: How do I win this battle?
If you are discussing this TB in a small group, take some time to share about how you are doing in being a faithful steward. Are you living a generous lifestyle? Do you give regularly to Bethel Church? What ministries do you support and why?
How can we win in this area?
Our text is 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. We are specifically talking about finances, even though stewardship can be applied to all that God has given us, i.e. our time, talents and possessions.
1. Commit Yourself First To God (v1-5)
Read these verses and note, the two groups Paul is comparing, and the unusual example of the Macedonians.
Notice that it is very clear that God is at work in the hearts of the Macedonians. Check out v.1-5.
V.1 - Grace is good-will, favour toward someone. Note it is the grace of God. God is at work in their hearts.
V.5 - Who did they commit themselves to first?
The Macedonians are the stellar example of generosity. But the Corinthians are another story. In fact it is Paul’s references to the Corinthians that helps us see why this area of living with open hands can be so difficult and why we need God to help us in this area.
a. Start, Stop
The Corinthians had started down the path of living generously but for a number of reasons had stopped. Note v6, 10, 11, 9:1-5
Have you ever had this experience in either the area of giving or other areas where God wants you to walk in obedience? How did you get on track in an area of your “Christ walk”? What was it that got you off track?
Note Paul sent people to intervene (v.6,16-24) These are not hit men or mobsters, but brothers coming to hold Corinth accountable. A kick start, as it were!
How many of us have needed a kick start to restart in an area (possibly giving) in which we stopped being obedient?
Who has been the Paul in your life?
Who has challenged you to get back on track?
Someone once said “give until it hurts,” and the response was “but for me, it hurts just to think about giving!” That seems to describe the Corinthians, doesn’t it? Living with open hands over the long haul is one of the toughest disciplines to practice. There are so many excuses that can get us off track.
b. The Locked Door (v.7)
Another reason we need God to do a deep work in our hearts in this area of giving is because of the number of locks that can be on this particular door of our lives. Read v.7.
Where are the Corinthians excelling? Where are they failing? What might this tell us about this area of giving?
Ok, I know you are dying to hear my answer. I think it demonstrates that one of the most challenging doors to unlock in the Christian life: this area of our financial stewardship. Have you ever found that in following Christ there can be issues that you just seem to really battle with? Financial stewardship can be one of those areas. We can be doing great in so many areas BUT this one particular area.
Why can this be such a hard door to unlock?
- We’ve never learned to be stewards
- We had parents that never modeled open hands
- We are narcissistic
- We think we are the accumulation of our possessions
- We think our wants are our needs
- We think we are owners not stewards
This is our second answer to our question, “how do I win this battle?”
While Paul wanted to inspire and encourage the Corinthians to restart in giving by showing them the Macedonian model, (by the way note that Paul is not comparing amounts but giving in proportion to resources.v3,8,11),the ultimate model of generosity was Christ. One of the ways we demonstrate a life touched by the cross is that we live like the One who hung on that cross. Check out 2 Cor 5:21 and Phil 2:6,7,8 to more deeply understand the rich/poor contrast of v9. Note who the beneficiary is – YOU!
I find it interesting that Paul takes the Corinthians back to the Gospel to help them understand their need to give and to help them examine their hearts on just how open their hands are. I love what Tim Keller says about the role of the Gospel in our lives in his essay:
“ …. the Gospel isn’t simply the ABC’s of Christianity, but the A through Z. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing every day. Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it.” (Don’t Call It A Comeback, p.221)
How does a deeper understanding of the Gospel challenge you in this area of giving?
How do you know when you have given enough?
What are other examples beyond money that demonstrate generous giving?
Has the gospel impacted your pocket book?
Have all of your resources been touched by the cross?
Are your hands open or closed?
Take some time to pray for each other in this area. Our greatest battle can become an area for God to do His deepest work in our lives!
P.S. If you or your small group want more material on what the Bible says about giving feel free to contact me. I can send you some articles.
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org