In Romans 15, we see that many troubles tested the people of Macedonia, who were very poor. Through their struggles and poverty, they gave what they had.
August 3, 2023
Speaker: Gary Peters
Passage: Romans 15:23-33
Romans chapter 15. I’m going to continue what I shared last week. If you weren’t with us, please do me a favor and go back and listen to the podcast or watch it online. Sometimes I listen to somebody’s teaching three or four times because I miss something, time and time again.
Romans 15:23 says, “But now I have finished my work in these regions. And after all of these long years of waiting, I’m eager to visit you. I am planning to go to Spain. And when I do, I will stop off in Rome. After I’ve enjoyed your company for a little while, you can provide for my journey.”
I love Paul. This would offend so many church members today because what he’s saying is, I’m going to stop off and see you, but my goal is to go somewhere else. And by the way, when I’m there, as I’m leaving, you’re going to help provide for the next phase of my ministry.
We get so easily offended. Those two sentences alone could offend half the churches in North America. We think that the church is a club that meets our needs instead of us coming to serve and having our needs met as we’re serving.
“But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together. Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.”
Again, an incredible statement by Paul. Paul is asking the church in Rome that he’s never met to pray for him in this struggle that they joined together. Do you realize when people ask you to pray, it’s important? I mentioned that last week. I jot things down on my phone and they think I’m really smart. If it wasn’t for Siri saying you’ve got a reminder, I would forget. When somebody asks me to pray, I take it seriously.
“Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem. Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us His peace, be with you all. Amen.”
I dealt with two of the three big ideas at the end of Romans chapter 15. Next week, Pastor Dustin is going to deal with the topic of women in ministry. Next Sunday, we will discuss the Scripture and Vintage’s ideas behind that because the whole first part of chapter 16 is Paul thanking women for helping him in ministry. One’s called an apostle.
Next Sunday night at 6 PM, we’re going to have a question and answer time for any of you. That’s just something we want to do. We’re not doing it because it’s a hot topic right now because of what you’ve seen in the news. We’re doing it because we’re following the book of Romans and it’s the next section of scripture.
That’s why I’m talking to you about the spirit of generosity today. I’m not talking to you because I have an axe to grind or the church needs your money. I’m going to talk to you because it’s in the next part of what we’re reading in Romans. That’s what I love about doing verse-by-verse teaching. You can’t avoid certain passages that may not make you feel comfortable. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Sometimes we zip over passages because we don’t understand them or don’t like them.
The big ideas are God’s guidance, which we talked about last week. Paul thought he was going to do one thing one way, but God did it a different way. The second thing we talked about is the necessity of prayer. Today I want to talk to you about a believer’s generosity.
He mentions the task of delivering the offering for the church of Jerusalem. Obviously, this is important to Paul. He mentions it here in chapter 15 of Romans. He mentions it in chapter 16 of First Corinthians. He mentions it and spends two whole chapters in the Bible, in Second Corinthians chapters eight and nine, dealing with this one topic of this offering for the church in Jerusalem.
God doesn’t waste words. If He puts something in Holy Scripture, it’s there for us to understand. If Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is being given something and he spends two chapters in one book about the same topic, I believe God has something to say about that.
There were numerous reasons for the poverty of the church of Jerusalem, including famine in the Middle East. But the main reason was that the church was still made up of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
They were persecuted by the Romans because they were Jews and they were persecuted by the Jews because they were Christians. They were persecuted to the point where they couldn’t get jobs. They couldn’t hold a job down, and interest rates and everything else was higher for them there. It wasn’t an equitable system.
They were constantly under the pressure of famine, drought, and double persecution. The Jewish people in Jerusalem didn’t like to submit to Caesar and they were constantly causing problems by not submitting to government authorities.
This is the second time an offering has been taken for the church of Jerusalem. The first time is found in Acts 11, which is a different time. So people get confused. There was a prophetic word about a famine that was coming to Jerusalem. So Paul, at that time Saul, and Barnabas took an offering. This one’s on a much larger scale because the ministry is expanded. They’re not just in Antioch or Caesarea anymore.
They’ve taken the gospel along the Mediterranean and Paul is sharing the needs about the mothership, the home church in Jerusalem, and the struggle they’re facing. He tells the church in Corinth — this is the second church or the second offering from the Gentile church — this was from the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and what is now modern-day Greece. They contributed generously to this because the Gentiles were blessing the Jews.
First Corinthians chapter 16 states, “Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem.”
Second Corinthians chapters eight and nine deal with giving and I would encourage you to read them. But today we’re going to focus on chapter eight. “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in His kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.”
Your first responsibility is to God. And if you have a family, the second responsibility is to your family. The third responsibility is the church. Don’t ever get it mixed up. Jack Hayford, one of my heroes of the faith said the church can become a strange mistress when you’re pastoring. If you’re not pastoring, you don’t grab that understanding, but it can become a strange mistress. That’s why so many pastors’ kids hate God and hate the church.
“We have urged Titus who encouraged your giving in the first place to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. Since you excel in so many ways in your faith, in your gifted speakers, in your knowledge, in your enthusiasm, and in your love for us, I want you to excel also in the gracious act of giving.”
This is not your pastors saying we need your money. We are saying this; we want you to excel so that you understand the faithfulness of God. Jesus said where our treasure is there will our heart be also. I remember my Bible college president saying your checkbook was your autobiography. Meaning it shows you where you have placed your value on the money you’ve spent. Now most of us don’t even look at a bank statement because we have a debit card. As long as it says we have money we think we can spend it.
Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure for God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” The Greek says God loves a person whose heart is in their gift. Stay with me. I’m laying the foundation.
“As the Scripture says, they shared freely and gave generously to the poor, and their good deeds will be remembered forever. For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you always can be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, their response will be of gratitude.”
Turn with me to Philippians chapter four. Paul was talking about another time of giving. “How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you’ve always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have a chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I’ve learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty or with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia to the other churches. No other church did this. And even when I was in Thessalonica, you helped me more than once. I don’t say this because I want your gift. Rather, I want you to receive a reward, the fruit or the profit, that your kindness is going to get you by giving.”
Paul says I don’t want your money. I want the profit you’re going to get and it’s not talking about financial profit only. It’s talking about the profit you’re going to get by being generous.
Three results here and in Philippians, and then we’ll go back to the Corinthians passage. Three results of this generous giving of Paul. Different needs, different instruction. The key was, there were always people willing to give.
The first is this. Ministry will be funded in God’s way. Do you know what God’s way is? Through His people. I wish there was a money tree in my backyard. I wish the church had a money tree. Not the one you put money on, the one you can take money from. I wish that mana would always rain from heaven. It was for a season. God’s way of supporting ministry is through His people.
That’s not me talking. That’s the Scripture. Do you realize that Abraham gave money in the sense of the tithe to Melchizedek before the law? People always tell me tithing and giving are under the law. We are free in Jesus. We can give whatever we want. Do you know what Jesus does with the law always? He says, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Do not commit murder.’ But I say if you use this to bring somebody down, you’ve murdered them in your heart. You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery.’ I say if you use your eyes to have lust toward a woman, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.”
If you want to say God says no place in Scripture that you should tithe, then I want to tell you this, then give 25%. Give 30%. That’s the grace. Grace takes the law and expounds on that. Abraham gave the tithe before the law. Deuteronomy says the tithe teaches us the fear of God. The fear of God is not that God is going to get me. The fear of God is that God is with me.
When I trust my finances to God, He takes care of them. He’s a good manager. Do you realize what the spirit of hoarding is? The spirit of hoarding is the antithesis of being generous. If you’ve ever thought, I should hold this back because I never know if God’s going to provide or if God is going to come through for me, that is in a spirit of hoarding.
Paul tells the churches in Macedonia when he’s writing in Corinthians, you didn’t give because you had a surplus, you gave out of your need. Has anybody here ever given out of their need?
The second thing is God’s people will grow in their trust in God with their finances. Paul says, “I want you to excel in this gracious gift.” Paul wants the church to understand and experience the profit we get by being generous.
I hate it when people say, you give this $10 and God will give you $100. Who says? You give this $10 because God told you to and He’ll take care of whatever you need down the road. I’ve been in services where they locked the doors until they got an offering they wanted. That is ungodly.
Paul says, “I don’t want you to give under compulsion,” but the church has often gotten manipulative about giving, and that in turn can give the church a bad name. All of us are supposed to give. God wants us to understand that.
How do we experience the fulfillment of those three goals? Number one, we must have a structured, systematic, giving schedule. Just speaking from experience, because if I don’t, I won’t. Paul says, I’ve already instructed you, but I won’t encourage you. He says, don’t wait until I come. Set aside what you’re supposed to on the first day of the week. And then when I come it’ll be there. Don’t wait until I come and say you’ll get it all at once.
I know some people get a giant bonus at the end of the year and they know that and they base their giving on that. I understand that. I’m just saying to have something systematic. When I used to run, before my knee went south on me, I didn’t run 10K’s and half marathons the first week I started running. I started with a mile, a mile and a half, two miles, three, four. Then I added the fifth and the sixth and could run a 10k.
I’m riding my bike. I’m starting to do hills. I love electric bikes. I was coming down the Fossil Creek Road trail route. It’s fun because on a bike, you can lean into it and you finally pay it off for doing that hill work. I’m coming down and there’s a dude with an electric bike trying to fix it. I just went by him. I said, “Electric bikes are fun, aren’t they?” I wasn’t mocking him. I was just kind of mocking him. He had a good spirit. He goes, “Yeah, I need something that pedals right now because they’re really heavy.” But the thing is, I would love to have an electric bike going uphill and a road bike going downhill. That would be the most fun.
It’s much like skiing. You take the lift up for the ride down. You go through the misery sometimes in life of getting something where you’re pedaling uphill so that you can enjoy the downhill.
When my wife and I were struggling in our marriage — yes, we struggled in our marriage, too. We have, at times, struggled in our marriage. I tell people we’ve been married for almost 44 years. Probably about 40 of those have been really good. But if you put together the total of our rough times, there have probably been about four years where we agree it has been difficult to live with each other.
If you just allow the bend in the road, in your marriage, if you just allow the bend to come, you’re going to get to the crest of the hill, and you’re going to enjoy some of the fruits of the work that it takes to get to the top of the hill. Then you come down the valley, and then another season of life, you’re going back up the hill. That’s called life.
That’s the same experience with giving. If we don’t have a systematic way of doing it, it won’t happen. I want to encourage you. Do what Paul says, do what my experience has been. I don’t care what you give, just set something aside and start trusting God with your finance. He’s the one that gave you the breath to breathe. He gave you the mind to figure out that job or to go to school and get that degree. In Him, we live and move and have our being. It’s in Him.
You may be the one who earned it, but He allowed you to earn it. It’s so interesting. We can give of everything else. But when somebody talks about giving our money, we all of a sudden say, “The church just wants our money.” What God wants to use is your heart. Because if God has your heart, He’ll also have your pocketbook, as my grandmother used to say. God will have your resource because He is the source. It’s not always fun and games. They said, “You gave out of your need.”
The second way this happens is the idea of the first fruits. Throughout the scriptures, the first fruits belong to God. When I was in Haiti the first time and they took an offering in the church, they passed a basket. They added fruit and eggs and there was a chicken hanging off the door because that’s what they gave of their first fruits.
The second thing is that seldom, if ever, it’ll be convenient. They gave under trial, and they were tested by many troubles, it says.
The third thing: it will come from a heart of gratitude and from a spirit of unity. I think it’s so interesting that a Gentile group of people were giving to a Jewish group of people. Paul says, please pray with me that they’ll receive what we’re going to give them. How many of you have a hard time receiving? Part of the reason they had a hard time is because it was from Gentiles. The second reason is all the coins had somebody’s inscription on them, and it wasn’t of Jehovah. They had a really hard time with Caesar. That’s why Jesus took the coin and said who’s on this coin? Then give Caesar what’s his. Give God what’s His. It’s so simple. These Jews were afraid to receive a gift, but the Gentiles wanted to out of a spirit of unity.
The fourth thing they had was integrity. As I shared last week, they didn’t have wire transfers. They couldn’t go to the ATM when they arrived in Caesarea and take out the chunk of money they deposited in Macedonia. They probably carried bags of coins. But he said this, I’m going to take Titus or take Silas. When I get to your church, pick somebody you trust, and he’ll go with us because we’re trying to do stuff with integrity. Checks and balances.
Pastor Daniel is like our CFO or Chief Financial Officer of the church. If you have any questions about integrity in how the finances are handled, talk to him. He’s an open book. I love the fact that I can’t write a check, nor do I want to write a check. For the first time in my ministry experience, I just get to love people and teach people. I don’t have to worry about budgets. I don’t always spend my budget, because I don’t have much of a budget, because I don’t have a department. I love this.
Integrity. Three witnesses hand-carried the offering. There are best practices in business. There are best practices in the church. It amazes me how many churches don’t have best practices.
The fifth thing is giving not compulsively but with free will. I can say this, I would rather have you not give a cent than give a cent and be ticked off and think you have demands on how it’s being spent.
Paul says pay your taxes. How many love every government program that our taxes are going towards? We pay our taxes because we’re instructed under the threat of jail.
Not under compulsion. You know how interesting it is, I don’t give to Vintage. I give to God. I don’t give to Life For The Innocent. I give to God. I don’t give to Compassion and some of the other ministries my wife and I, in our offering, give. We give to God. We trust God to work through those ministries that we are giving to. I do due diligence. I don’t blindly trust anyone or any organization that says they need money. But when I give to God, guess who gets the credit? God. And guess who keeps the money under his control? God.
Then he says this. If you sow sparingly, you’re going to reap sparingly. Two years ago, I found a marigold plant that had somehow blown from somewhere because none of my neighbors were growing marigolds. It was growing next to my mailbox. So I dug that up carefully because it was going to die there. I took it back to my garden and planted this one miracle plant two years ago. Now, when we come out our back door, it is lined with marigolds. I did nothing but plant one.
Some of these marigold plants can have 25 blooms. And each one of those 25 blooms has a seed pod that plants more flowers after the flower dies. Those seed pods probably have 150 marigold seeds in each one.
That’s what Paul is talking about. Do you realize that one kernel of corn can produce a stock that has maybe six ears of corn with hundreds of kernels of corn? That’s the principle of His Kingdom. One marigold plan can become so much more.
Paul says that he’s able to give seed to the farmer who then in turn turns that seed into bread that feeds others. “If you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.” I promise you. If you want to keep your money to yourself — and I’m not talking about giving it to Vintage, I’m talking about giving it to God. If you want to keep your money to yourself, you can keep your money to yourself. But it’s much more fun to be generous and watch God multiply it. That’s what I believe Scripture is very clear with.
Will you invite God’s voice into your process of how you spend your money? Will you just ask Him? You don’t have to look guilty. I’m just asking a question. Just ask Him. Father, how is this? Is this where you want me to spend the resource you have given me? Begin to ask Him. And then listen.
God wants to speak in all areas of your life, especially about giving. He does. Paul spends five verses of the last 10 verses of Romans chapter 15 on giving.
I close with these questions. Will you pray about how you are to participate with God in giving to the Kingdom? I’ll say this, specifically, how you’re supposed to support the ministry here at Vintage. Pastor Daniel tells us once in a while, the utilities in this building alone are more than most of our mortgages for one month. I’m saying we don’t realize what resource is needed for. Will you specifically pray about the opportunities of giving at Vintage?
Number two, will you purposefully be obedient to what God speaks and start to follow through with what He says? I remember we had a missionary in Mexico. He started 3500 churches. He came into the gathering one time and he had this pile of pinto beans. It was sacks and sacks that he emptied on the stage. He said, “When I started planting churches,” and he took a tablespoon and stuck it in the stack of beans. He said, “I gave God this tablespoon because it’s all I could give”. Then he pulls out a big scoop shovel. Then he flung these beings into the crowd and said, “That’s what God has returned to me over and over and over and over again.”
He said I’m not telling you to give so you’ll get. I hate that message. But the fact is, Paul says it. It says it in the Pentateuch. It’s throughout the Scripture. Jesus said it in Luke. If you give, it shall be given. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over so that you can have an overflow of what God wants.
It’s Mentos and Coca-Cola stuff that’s going on. It’s God blowing the doors off of things. I’ve given God a tablespoon and He’s returned to me over and over and over and over again. By the way, generous giving is not just about money. It’s about our life, getting involved in ministry, and giving our life away.
One of the reasons why the Scripture talks about visiting those that are less fortunate than us is because it gets us out of ourselves. Not in a sense of duty or pity, but out of a sense of gratitude.
I’ll pray this prayer of blessing over you again, the benediction. And now, may the God who gives us His peace and wholeness be with you all. Yes, Lord. So be it.
If you’re struggling with God in your finance, let Him give you His peace, and let Him bring His wholeness and trust Him. Just trust him. Watch him work over and over and over. Paul says I don’t seek the gift. I seek the profit. Not just financially, but the profit and fruit you’re going to gain by learning to be givers.
I can testify. It happens. I don’t know how. There have been many times. I wish I could say every month, I just want to give this to the Lord. I could use a new road bike, Lord Jesus. I want to give this to the Lord. But when I step out in obedience, guess what? At the end of the month, I realize, how the heck do we have that? When we shouldn’t have that? It’s because we gave that. Trust me. Scriptural principles work. Amen.
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