Nearly 2 million people watched the U.S. Women’s Soccer team win the World Cup. Later, down the avenue that saw parades honoring the nation’s heroes of the past, the team was honored to a ticker tape parade. We live in a culture that honors excellence.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ will get its parade in another world, but in the meantime it should continue to pursue excellence. Why? Excellence is the biblical standard.
• God looked on His creation and declared it “very good.”
• Jesus reviewed His earthly ministry and said to His Father, “I have finished the work which You gave Me to do.”
• Paul looked at the journal of his ministry and said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
The goal is to live out our faith in a positive, productive and persuasive way. Many times, one issue separates the excelling from the also-ran’s: stewardship, the biblical principle of managing the resources God has given.
Jesus spoke of finances more than 2,000 times in the New Testament. He knew that at the heart of our surrender to Him and the resulting spiritual victory is our attitude about material things. That was evident in the lives of two New Testament characters, Ananias and Sapphirra. In Acts 5, their sad handling of material possessions resulted in their deaths. They gave outward allegiance, but they were spiritual holdouts internally.
God’s standard is full-service obedience. Every Christian discipline has that at its very end. Whether it’s Bible study, prayer, worship or stewardship, we can’t excel in one without excelling in all.
First century Christians in Macedonia excelled in giving. They were hall of fame givers! Second Corinthians 8:1-9: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.”
Their attitude and actions form a near-perfect model for every believer. How did they excel?
They gave because of their connection to God.
“We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches” (v. 1).
Did you ever think of an offering as a connection? We don’t just receive an offering during our worship times; we give people an opportunity to make a spiritual connection with God. The Christians at Macedonia were great believers in God’s law of supply and demand. That is, they knew that when they met the demand, God would make the supply. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you.”
Let’s illustrate. The seeming infinite resources of the Internet are useless to us without a good connection. In a spiritual sense, some are trying for a high-speed, broadband connection with God and His resources, but they’re only making a low-speed, dial-up effort to access it.
Malachi 3:10 is a high-speed connection. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
The Macedonians also gave as a response to grace. They were given the password (Jesus), and wrote checks from God’s bank account (Ps. 24:1)!
They gave their best.
“They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own” (v. 3).
I heard of a business that offered its employees a lunch-and-learn seminar. The seminar title was “Who’s Controlling Your Life?” The invitation included an interesting disclaimer, “Get your manager’s permission before you attend.”
Control wasn’t a problem to the Macedonian Christians. They gave from their hearts, not from outside pressure. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “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.”
Verse 5 says, “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord.” Once we settle the ownership issue, we open ourselves to the great joy of giving.
They provided for fellow believers.
“They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people” (v. 4).
They didn’t see giving as drudgery; they saw it as a delight. It was a way to meet the needs of their fellow believers. Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
To them, giving was a spiritual bonding experience. Have you noticed believers are happiest when they are working together to help others. Add a cause to the mix, and giving is no longer a dreaded word! The New Testament church thrived around its giving (Acts 2:44-47).
They saw giving as a way to focus on eternity rather than their existence. Romans 2:6-7 says, God “will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.”
Giving wasn’t a given. They didn’t give because they wanted to go to heaven; they gave because they were going to heaven. You can excel in giving but still be far from the kingdom of God. Personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16) is the only hope of salvation. Giving is an indicator of that faith.
A young man sent a letter to Mother Teresa, asking for an opportunity to fly to India to meet with her. Mother Teresa replied, advising the man that if he had enough money to purchase the airline ticket that he should forget making the trip and give the money to the poor. She said he would learn more from his giving than he would in spending time with her.
Coach Paul gives a last word on the Macedonian Christians—an important word to you and me. Second 2 Corinthians 8:7 says, “But because you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
You don’t have to live in Macedonia to excel in giving!
Dr. Stan Toler served for 40 years as a pastor and is a best-selling author of more than 100 books. He is internationally known for his leadership development seminars and preaching.