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Nov 16, 2014

A Seed, A Center

A Seed, A Center

Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Mosaic On the Move

Keywords: harvest, seed, giving, abundance, grace, generosity, gardening


This message looks at the blessings God promises (and doesn't promise) for those who are generous with their resources.


A Seed…A Center

Message #3 of Mosaic on the Move

November 16, 2014

INTRO: I’ve always liked chestnuts. Ever since I was a toddler taking walks in the leaves at Manito Park with my mother, I’ve enjoyed collecting them in the fall, shining them up and putting them some place where their beautiful grain can be seen. Wouldn’t you love to have a dining table or even a night stand that had the kind of beauty chestnuts have?

            But chestnuts really aren’t at their best when they are sitting in a bowl on the mantelpiece. They are not at their best hiding under leaves in the park. They are not even at their best roasting on an open fire! J

            They are at their best when they are doing what they were designed by God to do: GROW! Like most seeds, they are relatively small compared to the kind of tree that grows out of them. In fact, it’s safe to say that, though one of the larger hardwood tree seeds around, it is only a small fraction of the size and weight of the tree that will result if it is planted, germinates, grows and eventually bears fruit. If that happens, this little seed will produce something that is literally hundreds of thousands of times larger…if not millions of times by the time you factor in the many seasons of leaves and nuts it will produce in its lifetime.

            By the way, that lifetime could be pretty long: 200-800 years normally…some living over 1,000 years!

In 2 Corinthians 9, God compares seeds like this to money. A coin held in your hand can be very attractive. It can captivate the eye. But its real value is not in filling jars or bowls with it. It’s real value is only found when you let go of it…when you exchange it for something else of greater value.

            Listen to what Paul writes to a church not unlike ours as he compares money to seed we get to sow into God’s kingdom work here on earth.

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

As an amateur gardener, I LOVE seeds. But I love them for what they produce, not for the joy of hoarding them or piling them up in a box somewhere. In fact, in attempting to save some of the leftover seed on my corn this fall, I failed to handle it properly. The result was this (show moldy corn cob).

            Seeds are meant to be buried in the ground…all in expectation of what they will produce months from now. The same is true of finances. People who never learn to “garden” with money…never learn to sow it into God’s kingdom, God’s field…will never experience the kind of harvest God intended us to have from money. But people who do learn to let go, to drop what they value “in the dirt” of the Kingdom field, will have the most amazing journey through life you can imagine.

I hope that this morning helps you either begin or continue to take that journey of sowing generously so you can reap an amazing harvest in this life and the next.




So let’s go to 2 Cor. 9:6ff this morning to see what God wants to do with what He has given us.

CONTEXT: This passage that we’re going to study this morning is the concluding summary of nearly two chapters of Paul’s teaching on how and what to do with our financial resources.

            Where we pick it up, Paul is using the agricultural or gardening metaphor with which we introduced earlier this morning. He’s comparing giving to gardening. He says in vs. 6,

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Here’s one of the most basic “Laws of the Harvest”: We reap in proportion to what we sow.   This is not an advanced concept, trust me. J

  • If I plant a row of beans in my garden in the spring, it’s amazing how consistent my soil is. I only get one row of beans sprouting about 2 weeks later!

It doesn’t matter how much I wish it was different. It doesn’t matter how much I even pray for it to be different. If I go out to the garden two weeks after planting and moan and complain that “only one row of beans has come up,” I really have no one to blame but myself.

So early on, when I was just a kid first learning to garden, I very quickly learned to expect the garden to produce in direct proportion to what I planted row-by-row. In my fifty years of gardening, I’ve never planted 50% of the garden but seen 100% of it fill in with rows of corn, beans, chard, kale, beets, carrots, etc. Plant 50%, get a return on 50%. Plant 100%, get a return on 100%.

Verse 6 is simply telling us that, just as there are Laws of Gardening, so there are Laws of Giving. If we give away a small percentage of what we have or earn, we will only see a small return on our investment. We can’t expect huge harvests from tiny plantings.

But we can expect big harvests from big generosity.

Now there are some televangelists and health-and-wealth gospel advocates who twist this truth. They say basically, “If you’ll give a bundle to God (usually they mean to “their ministry”), God will make you wealthy so that you can go buy that car you’ve been wanting…or boat…or house…or wardrobe…or whatever.” They miss a couple of important truths in a false teaching like that.

#1.—God does not promise to be generous towards the generous so that we can indulge ourselves. He gives to those who are generous with others because He knows he can trust to continue to be generous towards others.

God is looking for moving rivers, not stagnant ponds. So when he finds someone who really take Him at his word and lives out God’s heart of generosity in this world, God pours more into that person’s life because He knows he’s found a great conduit to bless this world.

#2. They misunderstand the kind of harvest God is promising. Yes, God will give you enough financial resources to keep sowing finances into others lives. But not all of the “seed” God supplies comes back in the form of money. Look at vs. 10—“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…”

Paul makes it abundantly clear that he’s not just talking about a financial return here. In fact, he’s really talking about a “harvest of righteousness”, actually “…your righteousness.”

            This is one of the few places in the N.T. where it isn’t Christ’s righteousness that is the subject. Usually when Paul talks about righteousness, it is what has been credited to us from Christ’s life, from his sinless, righteous life.

            Not here. Paul is telling us that when we engage in giving generously, the return we get in righteous living…literally right and holy actions…is great. What I do with the money God gives me throughout my lifetime has a tremendous potential to impact the level of right choices, right living, the holiness of life I get to experience day by day. Giving as God designed it is giving that changes ME! It is giving that not only teaches me how to be generous with money and physical stuff; it’s giving that makes me a generous person “in every way” as vs. 11 says.

Here is another really important truth about how we handle our finances. The way we give financially expands or contracts the other ways we give.

  • How many stingy, miserly, money-grubbing people do you know who are abundant in kindness?
  • How many stingy, miserly, money-grubbing people do you know who are overflowing with forgiveness…or give tons of grace to others when they fail?

Stingy people don’t have a lot of friends. Generous people do. Stingy people—takers and holders—aren’t fun to be around; generous people are.

Stingy people never have enough; generous people are usually very happy and grateful people.

It just goes with the territory.

Which brings me to another point in this passage. Look at vs. 7-- Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver  (…and so do people!—see pic)

Giving God’s way will make you happy! No joke! If you are a follower of Christ, God’s Spirit is stirring in you all the time to want the things that the Spirit of God wants. And since God is the most extravagantly generous being their ever will be, what do you suppose God’s Spirit is moving us to in the deepest essence of our new nature in Christ? GENEROSITY!

            So, when you don’t want to give to what God wants to give to, but you do it anyway, you do it out of a sense of duty or guilt or obligation, does it feel good? Are you happy? No, you usually feel miserable, wish you hadn’t parted with the money, and decide you’ll avoid places (like church) that guilt you into giving. If you feel pressured to give or do your giving reluctantly, that’s not the Spirit of God you’re responding to in your heart. You might as well keep it, says Paul, and be honest enough to acknowledge that that kind of giving is from the flesh, not from the Spirit.

            BUT, if you find that you want to give to a ministry or a person because God is stirring you to do so, when you give, there will be great joy. You will find that letting go of some bit of money God has given you opens a channel for joy in your life that didn’t exist before. That’s “giving in the Spirit,” giving that is prompted by the Holy Spirit. Since joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, it stands to reason that joy will be part of the harvest we get when we give prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so.

            Don’t give until it hurts; give until you can’t wipe that smile off your face! Give until the blahs are replaced by feeling blessed. Give when you need a lift, not when you feel guilty.

Now look at vs. 8. It’s amazing!

 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

            I know of very few verses that promise as much to Christ-followers as this one does. If most of us were writing this verse it would sound like this: L

 And God is able to make [a little bit of] grace [dribble out] to you, so that having [just barely enough] in [just a handful of] things [on rare occasions], you [might eek out just a few reasonably decent actions.] Wow, not exactly compelling, is it?

            But that’s not at all what God says financial generosity can do in our lives. Instead it has unimaginable power to make all…every kind of grace…”abound” to us.

            Anyone here need God’s grace on a daily basis? Need it with your family? How about your work? How about physical or emotional suffering you face every day? Need God’s grace with a boss or spouse or kids or parents? How about grace at school? Grace with your finances? Grace from God for your relationship with God? God says here “ALL grace.” And he promises it, not in miserly portions but in ABUNDANCE.

            Furthermore, our God is able to take every situation, every hour, every place, every challenge, everything in our lives and show us He has “all sufficiency in all things at all times.”

That doesn’t mean we’re going to get everything we want. God told Paul, after he had prayed long and hard on 3 separate occasions asking God to take away his “thorn in the flesh” (probably some physical weakness), “No, Paul, I won’t relieve you of that. But I will give you grace sufficient for what you need to grow in, through and as a result of that need/limitation.”

            Let’s finish this passage with vs. 9 for now.

As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever.”

Paul is quoting here from the Greek translation of the Hebrew O.T. (Septuagint/LXX). He’s quoting from Psalm 112 which is a Psalm that talks about the blessings that come to a righteous person (one who lives according to the call and commands of God). This Psalm talks primarily about the blessings that come through the generosity of the righteous man. Listen.

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
    who greatly delights in his commandments!

(There is a great description of a righteous person, no?)

His offspring will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
    he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
    who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
    he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
    his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
    until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

This, now, is the verse Paul quotes in 2nd Corinthians 9.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
    his righteousness endures forever;
    his horn is exalted in honor

Again, this is not the righteousness of Christ credited to our own need. This is the righteousness we demonstrate in the Spirit, the generosity that obeys God and participates in His heart of generosity.

It is the kind of right living, right doing that Paul talked to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 3 when he said that every one of us, every follower of Jesus, is building something with their lives on the foundation that Jesus has laid. Exactly what we are building will one day be shown—gold, silver, precious stones, OR wood, hay straw. “Each one’s work will become manifest for the Day [of Christ’s Bema seat judgment] will disclose it because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (I Cor. 3:13).

These are, in some way, the white robes of righteousness saints at the wedding of the Lamb, the Church, in heaven in Rev. 19:8.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

When the Psalmist in Psalm 112 says that the righteousness of the generous person “endures forever,” he means it. The investments we make into the lives of people in need…the way we distribute freely so that others might find Christ and be eternally rich, somehow those “right-actions” “endure forever.”

Somehow these little seeds of money that we plant in the ground…that we let go of and sow into the lives of people we may never even meat before we get to heaven…they “endure forever”. They become the coinage of the kingdom.

ILL: Recently God has reminded me how that happens. Because giving is usually a very private thing in the American church, it’s sometimes hard to get the actual stories that enable us to see both the sowing and the reaping, the giving and the growth that results.

But about a month or two ago, it seemed as if God specifically pointed out the truth of this passage with a couple of people I know very well—my own parents.

As most of you know, they didn’t become followers of Jesus Christ until they were in their mid 40s and 50s. My dad was 53 or 54. No one in his family had lived past 65. So when he came to faith in Christ as a well-established attorney, he really felt like he needed to make up for lost time. He often commented how he felt like he had wasted so many years failing to live for Christ that he wanted to make what few years he thought he might have left really count for the Kingdom of Christ.

So the next ten years which became the last 10 years of his law practice, my parents lived life in Christ with a determination and commitment I’ve rarely seen. They helped start two churches here in Spokane. I’m not talking about just attending and putting a few bucks in the offering. They took charge of a Sunday School with nearly 100 children in it in the first church. They gave generously to enable those churches to call pastors and buy or build buildings.

One of those churches is Plymouth Congregational Church just up the South Hill on Cedar and 8th. Today there are two congregations there, Plymouth and Soma, a church plant from New Community about 8 years ago.

Then there was Heritage Congregational Church on 29th and Pittsburg. My parents were instrumental in the purchase of about 10 acres there on 29th and the building of that facility. Today one of the Life Center church plants, Summit Ridge, occupies that facility and has about 1,000 people attending.

That all happened in the first five years of their life in Christ. Then we got connected to Fourth Memorial Church where Moody Northwest meets. There my dad headed up the Camp Ministry as an Elder and arranged for the purchase of 40 adjacent acres of property, a move that basically doubled the size of Riverview (where we will be for Thanksgiving).

How many thousands…tens of thousands…of people have been influenced for Christ through that camp alone? I started going to Riverview when I was in 5th grade. I worked there summers in college. I’ve spend numerous times there for Pastoral Prayer Summits and Family Camps. My own kids have been shaped by time with God at that camp.

And then when Fourth Memorial was completing its then-new Worship Center in the early 90’s, even though they were no longer living in Spokane or attending there, they gave generously to its completion. And today, hundreds of Moody students are being trained to lead in churches and be missionaries all over the world, because they sowed generously 20 years ago.

Two years ago as you know, I was able to go to India to minister in the Bible College of Paul Pilai in New Deli. I remember having Paul in our home for dinner as a high school kid. I remember my parents, faithfully every month, writing a sizeable check to that ministry, month after month, year after year.

So when I sat on the stage of that 2,000 seat chapel of Grace Bible College, next to the now quite aged Paul Pilai who, by the way, is treated like a rock star by Indian Christians for the amazing work of training thousands of national Indian Christians for decades under real persecution, it got pretty emotional.

There were thousands of pastors from all over India, worshiping God as fervently as I’ve ever seen anyone worship, some having suffered dearly for the gospel. In the years my parents were committed to supporting that work, they have trained nearly 15,000 church planting pastors who have planted over 45,000 churches! There were men who had been imprisoned in Myanmar for the cause of Christ who were receiving a Bible education so they could go back to the country that had persecuted them and give their lives in service to Christ.

One day we toured the orphanage on the campus there. Now we were mobbed and treated like rock starts by hundreds of children at the orphanage with beaming faces, children who had literally been cast off, abandoned or sold into sex trafficking, some by their own families.

And my mind flashed back to my mother or father sitting at the desk in their bedroom, writing out that generous monthly check. They never got to see in person what I spent a week drinking in all day long.

My Dad went on to give up a big salary as the senior partner of a large law firm in this city at the age of 64, moved to Portland where they had never lived and had no friends per se, so Dad could become one of those $1/year men who went in 5 days a week to help Multnomah Bible College build a strong donor base by helping other retirees of The Greatest Generation he was a part of invest their hard-earned fortunes in the lives of students just like those of you who are at Moody today. I became one of those students myself in the late 70’s.

Time doesn’t allow for me to tell you of other amazing, world-wide ministries my parents invested heavily in like Focus on the Family and Cru (CCC).

And as the years progressed, and they aged, their giving didn’t diminish. It just kept increasing. I watched as God mad “all grace abound to [them], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, [they could] abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). And abound they did! God allowed both of them to live well into their 90’s (97 & 94) and to continue to abound in this grace of giving.

            Their “sowing generously” of what God had given to them early on in their walk with Christ resulted in amazing harvests of all kinds in the lives of thousands of people all over this world.

This is one reason I am SO convinced that you cannot out-give God.

This is why Sandy and I have loved and rejoiced in giving every month of our 32 years together to Kingdom work.

This is why I plead with people time and again to “test God’ in this matter of giving. See if he won’t open the windows of heaven and pour out more blessing through you than you can ever imagine.

And this is why I have no hesitancy in asking every one of you to get in the habit of giving a significant percentage of your annual income, no matter how little you think it is, to the work of the Kingdom of God.

As you know, Mosaic is in the process of expanding our ministry footprint in Spokane. Over the next few weeks, I want you to get just a taste of the kinds of ministries we will be a part of and want to help facilitate with this expansion and the “Mosaic Center” that will result.

            So today I’ve asked a good pastoral friend of mine, Ian Robertson, to come and tell us about a brand new ministry that is starting right downtown. It started because God brought Ian to be interim pastor ½ block from here at Central United Methodist Church for a while. That experience exposed him to what we see every week. And it produced a heart and passion to make a difference with many of the people we see every day here.

            I’ve told Ian that I would love to be able to give them office space in the new Mosaic Center we’re anticipating. They, like the other ministries we’ve got on the drawing board, need to be downtown. They need to be centrally located. And they need to be serving the people of this community.

[Invite Ian to share.]



  • Talk about the Faith Pledge card: 4 types of giving
  • Invite people to start turning them in.
  • Explain that we will never ask or phone or in any way follow up on their pledge other than to pray that God will help us all discover and pass along what God gives to us for this project.

Next week—all about this concept of a Faith Pledge: is it biblical? How do you know what amount you should pledge? How have our own people seen God provide amazingly as they have stepped forward in faith.