There are many more examples of the fruit you have born for the gospel, but in all of these generous efforts, we can rejoice that God was glorified and Jesus' people have been helped according to his word
What did Jesus mean when he said, 'Do not worry, saying 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For . . . indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.' (Matthew 6: 31-33) Jesus is answering our question about how to lead a rich life.
First, take time (Sabbath) to receive the good things God gives to you. Leading a rich life is dependent upon our ability to understand the value of time. We are tempted to spend most of our time trying to conquer the material world. When we judge our worth and the value of others around us by a more patient, grace-filled standard we enjoy God's higher view of life; we understand its purpose and our place in it.
Consider this prayer from 'More Money Than God,' by Steven Z. Leder: 'Lord, ease the pounding of my heart by quieting my mind. Steady my hurried pace. Give me calmness amidst the confusion of my day. Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise that I many know that there is more to life than speed. Let me look upward toward the branches of the towering oak and remember that it grew great and strong because it grew slowly. Slow me down, Lord. Slow me down.'
Second, to lead a rich life we join a partnership with God in Christ Jesus, to live generously, which is the crux of Jesus' message. We love after all, wrote John once, because God first loved us. I spoke with a man recently in Tigard who couldn't wait to tell me the news of how a generous person had helped him (literally) put new brakes on his car. Through prayer and asking friends, both the money and the discounted price of a brake job 'materialized.'
In my hearing he praised God and his friends. Then pledged that he would continue to help others as he had been helped! It dawned on me that this is God's way. God forgives us in Christ Jesus' death on a cross and rising from death to a new life of freedom from sin. We cannot deserve or ever repay that costly gift from God by which we are enriched with complete freedom from death. But we can share that very good news in all of the forms God's richness takes in this life. Being truly rich means being able to pass it on.
Third, we are truly rich when we are able to feel and express joy in what Jesus Christ is doing in our partnership. Your stewardship campaign this fall will review what God has accomplished through your work as a church.
Your gifts of time, talent and treasure should be celebrated as you recall how your congregation has helped provide an affordable health clinic to underserved people; helped begin a new church; helped send a team of high school students and adults to refurbish homes in another part of the United States; provided camperships for students of modest means to attend summer camp; supported a men's conference which taught Christian values of leadership; prayed over and gave backpacks to local students in August; helped teach a student to read; or helped to feed and house homeless neighbors in your town.
There are many more examples of the fruit you have born for the gospel. But in all of these generous efforts, we can rejoice that God was glorified and Jesus' people have been helped according to his word.
Paul reminds us that God loves a cheerful giver. You and I can rejoice in the ways our congregations grow in the depth of faithful and generous spirits. Let us claim Jesus' promise that our lives will be fulfilled as we share God's blessings to us.