Revisiting Greater ThingsOctober 3-7
Revisiting Greater Things
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12 (ESV)
Thomas Jefferson could not intellectually digest the miracles in the gospels so he extracted them. Everything that was left he compiled into his own version of the Bible called the Jefferson Bible. It’s a miracle-less Bible.
Jefferson was wrong. In John 14:12, Jesus taught that His followers would do even greater works than He did because He was going to the Father. Most scholars agree Jesus wasn’t referring to a greater power but to a greater extent. We don’t have greater power than creating the universe or raising the dead. However, believers have taken the gospel, which changes lives, to places Jesus never traveled. For example, Jesus had never preached outside Palestine. His voice had never gone to the world of men. Within his lifetime Europe had never received the word of the gospel, but in that little lowly church in the first century of the church it had begun to spread and it’s still spreading today. Every time we introduce people to Jesus we are performing spiritual miracles.
Six years ago God led our Second family to start a “Greater Things” campaign to impact Warner Robins and Houston County for generations to come. We have completed Phase 1 of Victory Park and are revisiting this vision to continue reaching our community for Christ. What are some of the “greater things” you have seen as a result of Phase 1 of our campaign?
Praise God for the changed lives that have resulted from our “Greater Things” vision so far. Pray Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
God’s Grace Leads to Gratitude
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,” – 2 Corinthians 8:1 (ESV)
When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for his time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award—yet receives such a gift anyway—that is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor. This is what we mean when we talk about the grace of God. (G.W. Knight)
The word Grace (charis) is used over ten times in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. In these chapters, the Apostle Paul challenges the church to give in response to God’s grace. The church at Macedonia had received the grace of God and gave generously as a result. Scott Hafemann on grace giving – The collection illustrates the significance of Paul’s theology of grace both for the individual (having received from God, Christians give to others) and for the life of the church (having been accepted by God, Christians accept one another).
As we continue our Greater Things campaign, we want to be motivated by gratitude for having experienced the grace of God. Pastor Adrian Rogers says the best definition of grace that he has ever heard is that God’s grace is “both the desire and the ability to do the will of God.” How has the grace of God impacted your desire and actions in giving?
Praise God for some of the ways you have experienced His grace. Ask God to help you examine your motivations for giving.
Gratitude Endures Through Suffering
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 (ESV)
American pastor and author James H. Brookes told of visiting a friend’s house and hearing the music of a bird singing. It was not the ordinary sound of chirping; instead, it resembled the strains of a lovely melody. At first, Brookes didn’t know where it was coming from; but when he glanced around the room, he saw a beautiful bullfinch in a birdcage. The lady of the house explained that it had been taught to sing that way at night. The teacher would repeat the notes time and again until the bird was able to mimic them. But this was possible only because it was dark and the bird’s attention would not be diverted. How often do we learn our sweetest songs when the blackness of trial closes in around us? (Our Daily Bread)
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, we learn that the Christians in Macedonia experienced an abundance of joy and gave abundantly during the darkness of suffering. The Romans had taken all Macedonian believers’ silver and gold mines taxed the copper and iron smelting, canceled the right to cut trees for ship and home building, and fought several wars on Macedonian soil. Yet, the church at Macedonia continued to show gratitude and generosity toward others. Picture the Macedonians as a “tube of toothpaste” that was being squeezed! And what came out of them when they were squeezed? Joy and grace giving, both evidence of Spirit-filled, controlled, and empowered believers.
It’s easy to let the economy or inflation be an excuse not to give. However, a Christian always has cause for gratitude no matter how bad things get because of God’s grace. Pastor Jim highlighted the way our Second family continued to give, even over the last several years of covid and economic struggles. Think about a difficult time you experienced but continued to cling to your faith.
Praise God for the ways your faith has grown during times of suffering. Ask God to help you have an attitude of gratitude even when times are hard.
Gratitude Leads to Sacrifice
For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. – 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (ESV)
There is a story of a little girl’s response as the offering plate was passed. She took the plate, put it down on the floor, and stood in it. When the usher asked her what she was doing, she responded, “In Sunday school I learned that I was supposed to give myself to God.” Point made! Note the order of giving by generous givers.
The Macedonian Christians gave themselves first to God and then they willingly gave God a sacrificial offering. Plummer writes “Three things have been already stated with regard to the help given by the Macedonian Christians. It was rendered (1) in a time of great affliction, (2) in spite of great poverty, (3) with great joy. The Apostle now adds four more particulars. The help was rendered (4) to an extent quite beyond their small means, (5) of their own free will, (6) so much so that they begged to be permitted to take part in ministering to their fellow Christians, (7) placing themselves at the disposal of St Paul in a way quite beyond his expectation.” The Apostle Paul says they gave “beyond their means.” That is another way of saying they gave sacrificially. And again the motivation for their sacrificial giving was gratitude for God’s grace.
Pastor Jim pointed out that so much of what has happened through our Second Baptist church family has been the result of people giving sacrificially over the years. Who have you seen model sacrificial giving? What have you given that felt like a sacrifice?
Thank God for the “means” He has provided you with to meet your needs. Ask God if there is anything He is wanting you to sacrificially give “above your means?”
Gratitude Because of Salvation
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 (ESV)
British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress—but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest’s dilemma. (Source Unknown)
We have Salvation because Jesus dressed down for us. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, the Apostle Paul now gives the prime example of generous giving, undoubtedly giving this great truth to renew their minds, motivate their hearts, and stir up their zeal to imitate Jesus’ example of generous giving. Jesus temporarily gave up the riches of heaven and His own life on the cross so that we might experience the riches of salvation and the hope of Heaven. Paul’s point to the Corinthians is that in light of what Jesus did for them, was it too much to ask them to make a generous contribution to the saints at Jerusalem?
In what ways do you think Jesus experienced poverty for your sake? In what ways have you experienced riches because of your relationship with Christ? How should this influence your involvement with our Greater Things vision?
Thank Jesus for the ways He became poor that mean the most to you. Ask God to give you His perspective and motivation for reaching our community for Christ.