Fr. Phil Eberhart
The Joy in Giving
'For God so loved that He ... GAVE!"
'Setting our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross...'
This morning I want to share with you from scripture the foundation of giving and the link that it has with the JOY OF THE LORD.
We prayed on Ash Wednesday and on Lent 1 from Psalm 51
Starting at v. 10:
Where does the joy of our salvation come from?
Where does the Joy of the Lord, which is our strength, come from?
Is the joy of the Lord, primarily a feeling that rises out of our circumstances?
O... I hope not!
But that is the way we live. Our joy is dependent upon and subsidiary to our "feelings" about our circumstances. Joy is a feeling for us. But is it, really?
I want you to turn to Gal 5 for a moment.
In the later part of the chapter Paul makes a statement that we write on cards and wall plaques - we underline it in our bibles and memorize it.
It's about the "fruit" of the Spirit. A pretty distinguished list ...
So JOY is a fruit of the Spirit. These things are all the naturally-supernatural outcomes of the indwelling Spirit of the Living Christ in our lives. They are like "fruit" - they grow naturally on the branches that are connected with Jesus!
Can I suggest a study on each one of those - but let me help you with the study of JOY as a Fruit, not a feeling!
Let's look back for a moment at the 2 Corinthians 8 passage again... this time I want to read it from the JB Phillips translation:
Somehow, in most difficult circumstances, their joy and the fact of being down to their last penny themselves, produced a magnificent concern for other people. I can guarantee that they were willing to give to the limit of their means, yes and beyond their means, without the slightest urging from me or anyone else. In fact they simply begged us to accept their gifts and so let them share the honours of supporting their brothers in Christ.
This seems to suggest that their joy was unconnected to "the fact of being down to their last penny!" WOW!
How weird is that?
Paul is using the testimony of these Macedonian churches, that were in joyfully willing and available obedience, to provoke to jealousy a church in Corinth that was lagging behind in their promised generosity.
And it appears here in this testimony that the Joy of the Lord - their joy in their salvation, wraps around the experience of their giving! When I say it "wraps around" it, I mean that it is present as both motivation and as outcome! The Joy of the Lord is "superabundant" in them as an outgrowth - a fruit - of their new relationship with Jesus and that JOY OF MY SALVATION is the motivation for their willing generosity, even "beyond their means."
Let's look finally at what Jesus himself told His disciples on His last night with them: Turn to Jn 15... and I just want to highlight some important verses in these two chapters and then we will land the plane this morning.
Listen to these words:
And in chapter 16, Jesus speaks plainly about the next three days in their life...
So let's recap for a moment what Jesus said here...
1. We must abide (find our home) in Him and in His love...
2. Obedience to His command is a key to abiding ...
3. His command is to love each other! Simple, not easy...
Three more verses from Jn 17:
4. Our joy will come through our faith in and our confession of the Resurrected Jesus, like the disciples in the Upper Room.
5. We experience the Resurrected Jesus today, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. This is the reason for Pentecost!
Peter says it best as he sums up our faith in a few sentences in his 1st Letter:
6. Joy "inexpressible and filled with glory" is the outcome of our faith in Jesus, raised from the dead and living again.
Welcome then to the vine and the life of God, flowing through you as you abide in Jesus. Welcome to the joy of giving yourself away - not just your money, but your heart and life to Jesus first and to others in the Body of Christ and out in the world.
Friends, JOY is what sets us apart there. JOY is what makes us different. JOY is the light of the Gospel being lived out in and through you, no matter the difficulties, whatever they may be. When the world squeezes us, what comes out is Jesus! JOY is spelled: Jesus - Others - You !! He is the priority in our lives. And giving, in all its forms, is a matter of the overflow of that relationship! And it is an exponential spiral, up into the very Glory of God!
So let me pray a prayer that has been on my heart for you for many years, one of Paul's apostolic prayer for the church, from Ephesians 3:
Let us pray: