God, what should I do about Harvey?

September 3, 2017

Pastor John Hering

(This sermon was written from notes sent out by our District President Don Patterson)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.” (Ps 112:19)

10 Now 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. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

You all had plans two weeks ago, but a Hurricane called Harvey may have changed your plans. Perhaps your plan was to go on vacation and your ship was supposed to leave Galveston Island for a week in the Caribbean, but your plans were changed.  Perhaps you planned to clean up your house or maybe do some sprucing up but you received the phone call that some families from the Houston area needed a place to stay and you opened up your home to them…your plans were changed.  Or maybe you hoped to simple drive to the mall and realized that your gas tank was a little empty and you’d need to fill ‘er up, but the gas stations all around your house were out of gas and your plans were changed.

We all make our plans, but we would be wise to remember the words of Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord” (Is 55:”8). You see, our plans and our service in our world fits into God’s plans and God’s kingdom. This is why the Bible is filled with example of godly leaders provided by God and sent to his people about how to serve in God’s kingdom. King David was chosen by God to lead God’s people in service against the Philistines.  Paul was called by God to lead God’s people in Corinth to service in God’s kingdom when there was a disastrous famine in Judea.  I have been called by Divine Peace church to share God’s plans with you today as it pertains to God’s kingdom in the wake of a disastrous Hurricane around the Houston area. Listen to the word of God from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (read it).

As you hear this word of God this morning I want you to join me in asking a very important question.  What does God want me to do about Hurricane Harvey? The Word of God before us answers that question:

God, What Do You Want Me To Do About Harvey

  1. Be Generous
  2. Trust Grace
  3. Watch God Work

You might guess that people are the most generous when they have much to give.  I can give you an example where that wasn’t true. When I was coaching roller hockey and it was time to purchase hockey jerseys for the team I came up with a great idea.  I was going to have my hockey team collect donations at the street corner by having the kids run up to cars with coffee cans begging for donations. Looking back it probably wasn’t the greatest lesson I taught my kids—to beg for the money of others when I had the money myself. But, that’s not the point here.  My point here is that people donated to our kids.  Here’s the thing.  The cars that were older, maybe not so bright and waxed were the ones who rolled down their windows and with a big smile gave a donation to our kids.  The rich looking people generally didn’t give or even make eye contact with you. In this experience it wasn’t the rich who gave, but those who didn’t have so much who gave with a smile on their face. See if this applies as you hear verses 6-9 again: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.” (Ps 112:19)”

Those who gave with a smile gave reaped a smile in return along with a big “Thank you!” So, how does this apply to what we are going to do with Harvey?  God has given to us generously.  Everyone here has a home.  We all have something to eat, and probably a wide variety to eat.  We all have AC in our homes (unless it’s broken). We have closets full of clothes, pantries full of cans, friges and freezes full of chicken, pork and beef. We are so blessed. I put my annual income into the global rich list and I did it again – I found out that I’m in the top 10% of the richest people of the world! (www.globalrichlist.com). I am blessed.

Shall we go from physical blessings to spiritual blessings? I am so blessed with the most important blessings—forgiveness, we believe in the new covenant which frees us from the letter of the law to live in the Spirit of the law, and God has graciously taken clay jars like us and put the light of life into us to shine to others. We get to live every day with the sure hope of heaven, repenting for those times when we have failed and resting secure in Jesus’ forgiveness as we serve him in his kingdom! We get to be generous with the blessings God has given to us!

You can see where we’re going with this, can’t you? God loves it when we imitate him and share abundantly with joy. You can have tons of money, but if you’re not using it to help others then it’s really not worth much.  You can have spiritual blessings, but on their own they’re nothing if you’re not helping others. You can watch tons of movies about rich people who hoard it all for themselves.  They are pictured as grumpy people.  But, when their hearts are warmed to generously share with others you see their faces brighten and their lives become filled with joy.  Simply put – if there is no joy in your life, perhaps it’s because there is no gift. What are you going to do with Harvey?  “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” God help us all give generously. And as we do, we can also trust in God’s promise of grace!

Trust Grace

10 Now 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. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” When you hear this aren’t you tempted to doubt this promise from God? God promises to enrich you in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion!  Really? Yes! God has promised that he will provide everything we need. Listen to the promise he gave Noah and mankind after the flood! “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen 8:22). God promises that when our heart is freed by faith to give generously that he will supply what we need to be able to give even beyond what we thought we could. Simply put, God loves to supply givers!  Trust his grace to do it!

The Bible is full of examples of people who were supplied by God to be generous givers.  Joseph told Pharaoh what was going to happen to his country.  God provided 7 years of plenty to be stored up for the 7 years of draught and ended up providing for Joseph’s family! God supplied the giver.  The Widow of Zarephath met the prophet who was hungry and asked her to make a little cake for him. She was sad because she only had enough for herself and her son to eat their last meal and die. But, “13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.’” (1 King 17:13).  So what happened when Jesus was finished teaching 5,000 men plus women and children who were hungry?  He told the disciple to feed them.  They couldn’t, but they found a boy who gave up a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread.  God loves to supply the givers!  “12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:12). So, what are we going to go with Harvey? Trust God’s grace since God loves to supply the givers!  It must have been quite an awesome sight to see Joseph’s barns overflowing (thank you Lord!), the widow baking bread for everyone (thank you Lord!), the little boy saying, “Do you like my fish?” with a big smile on his face (thank you Lord!). It is very satisfying to “be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Yes, even St Paul was so thankful for the grace of God working through the Corinthians to provide help for the brothers and sister in Jerusalem. What satisfaction to

Watch God work.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

Yes, we can well imagine the smiling faces of those who are the receiving end of generous gifts.  It is satisfying for us to see.  But, there’s more than what meets the eye in giving. The gift creates genuine thanksgiving by increasing the faith in the receiver. For those without God there is faith that humanity does care for each other. I was getting paper this past week and the owner said, “Look how divided our nation was a week ago, and now we’re together to help those in need!” He gets it.  God is at work. For those without faith it also provides Christians the opportunity to show love because God loves us so much and we want to share his love with others and even an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with them. You know that feeling!  You have had a pet sin, an problem, a wrong against God and when you heard that God loves you and has paid the penalty of all your sins, you were filled with thanksgiving and joy.  When we help others it does overflow “in many expressions of thanks to God.” Who meets their needs when they needed it the most “13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

So we all make plans and very often our plans are interrupted. However, in God’s kingdom he is working for the good of those who love him and to bring his elect into their eternal home in heaven. Meanwhile our lives are filled with thanksgiving: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” What do you think this indescribably gift is? It could be Jesus and salvation through him.  It could be the gift of giving and the blessing it brings. Or it could be the grace that he had to visit a sinner like you who once had a dead-end life of selfishness and loneliness and he rescued you from the guilt and shame and disappointment and set you on the path to a meaningful life of self-sacrificing love that ends well because his self-sacrificing love will carry you into glory. God gave more than we could ever imagine saving us for this life and the next.

What are we waiting for? Let’s respond to Harvey by doing something big with a big God to relieve the suffering it has caused.  How could we not find joy in that!?! How could we not be filled with the collateral blessing that will come from this? What are you going to do with Harvey?  I pray you use Harvey to let God’s love, forgiveness and grace through Jesus shine generously through you!  Amen!

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