Text: 2 Corinthians 9:1-11
This is the second of three stewardship sermons
by Pastor Paul Stjernholm
Pastor Paul Stjernholm speaks of the potential that is within a seed and the bounty that we receive from God. Pastor Paul Stjernholm talks about there being enough, how much is enough? Pastor Stjernholm gives a great modern story that a person can identify with this message.
Pastor Paul Stjernholm
Stewardship Lesson #2: Trusting the Promises of God
Text: 2 Corinthians 9:1-11
There is nothing quite so full of promise and potential as a seed. It's the time of the year when farmers are bringing in the last of their corn harvest... a harvest they planned for when they planted last spring. A single kernel of corn will produce a stalk that has at least one ear of corn, sometimes two. And each ear of corn is filled with hundreds of seeds to harvest... quite a return from just one seed.
Every time we plant a seed, there is a little faith involved. After all, instead of planting a seed of corn we could eat it, or grind it up for feeding cattle, or even burn it to heat our home. Putting it in the ground where it might never sprout, or where it might sprout but never grow seems risky. It takes a little faith. But farmers have had faith to plant grain like corn for thousands of years.
II. You reap what you sow
The Apostle Paul in his letter wanted us to think of the powerful image of the seed when it comes offering our gifts to the Lord. "The one who sows sparingly," wrote Paul, "also reaps sparingly. But the own who sows bountifully, will also reap bountifully."
Understanding the concept
That's not such a hard concept for us... the more crop you put into ground, the bigger the potential harvest is going to be. The amount you put into something determines what you can expect to get out of it. It doesn't take faith at all to understand how that works... just common sense.
For example, at the Endowment Dinner on Friday night, our treasurer pointed out that though the Peace Endowment Fund was formed in 1991, it was never funded. And had it been funded when it was first set up with the money we have now funded it with through this dinner and last year's dinner, that money would have already grown to $130,000. The more you put into an Endowment Fund, the more it will produce for future ministry... but you got to get it started.
But what can we expect?
That's easy to understand. But the problem of applying Paul's words to all of our giving to God is that the return blessing is not always so tangible and measurable. The blessing will be abundant, to be sure, but it will not always be in kind. Giving $1000 to the church this year does not mean that you will receive $100,000 next year.
Instead, when God blesses us, the blessings are across the board, not just money. Which, when you think about it, is good, because we need so much more than just money.
Let me give you an example. Pastor Jeff Sorenson of our synod described a woman in one of the churches he served. She was single and successful in so many ways, but she was unhappy. She felt her weight was the part of her life that made her a failure and she spent thousands on diet programs and spa regimens but nothing would ever change.
But during her congregation's annual stewardship emphasis, something clicked inside of her. She realized that she was coming at life from the wrong direction... actually from no direction at all. She decided she would re-organize her outward life around her spiritual life. She made a pledge to the church of the size that it meant restructuring her monthly cash flow. She sold her large house and moved into a more modest one. She traded cars to a less expensive model. She made it so that she had more money to give.
The result was nothing short of transformational. That successful but very unhappy woman became a successful and incredibly happy woman. Now some of you are wondering if she lost the weight because you're ready to try anything. No, the pounds did not come magically off, but the thing she once considered a glaring failure in her life became a non-issue. She did not feel like a failure anymore.
God cares for all our needs
The point of the story is that the blessing that woman experienced through her giving touched her life across the board, not just in the area of finances.
And that is just what Paul said: "God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything you may share abundantly in every good work." Two key phrases in that verse: "every blessing"--not just material blessings; and "having enough of everything". Sometimes it's just enough; sometimes it's more than enough, and then we can share. Because "enough" is all anyone really needs. As Mary Poppins said, "Enough is as good as a feast."
I guess one way to summarize this passage from Paul's letter is that we can't out-give God. God gives us so much already, true, but God is also ready to give us so much more if we are willing to trust God and plant that first seed... to give some of what God has given us.
That's really what Jesus was describing about God when he said, "Ask and it will be given you. Seek and you will find." God--like a loving parent--is anxious to give us so many blessings, but only as we are ready to receive them.
So seek God first. Order your life around your relationship with God... from everything from how you spend your time to how you spend your money. For we will discover that the more we look to God, the more blessing he is able to pour into our lives. Amen.
Pastor Paul Stjernholm is a pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD.