************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
2 Corinthians 9:15
"Thanks be to God"
Thanksgiving Day 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2008 I started my sermon with a paraphrase of Habakkuk 3:17-18. Listen to what I said:
Though the big three automakers are going bankrupt, though Wall Street has dropped by 50%, though the job market has dried up, though real estate values keep falling, though businesses are closing their doors, though physical health is declining, though relationships are breaking up, though surgery is required, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

A year has passed since I first said those words. Things are not much better today, are they? In fact, today I would add a few more things:
Prices are low for milk, hay, nuts, and fruit. For the first ten months of this year the average dairy was losing $100 per month per cow. New construction remains at a virtual standstill. Public service jobs have been cut left and right. School districts are losing funding. Our state gave out "I O U"s in place of money. A record number of banks went bankrupt. General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, and a number of other big corporations needed federal bailout money a couple of times each. Unemployment rates hit levels we have not seen in 25 years. Many businesses and individuals receive checks that bounce. Welfare recipients are losing benefits. And, the number of homeless people is on the increase.
Yet, I still say "Thanks be to God" (2 Cor 9:15). Or, as Habakkuk puts it, "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (Hab 3:18).

In an email earlier this week, our deacons reminded us of God's blessings:
In this season of Thanksgiving we truly have much for which we can give thanks. Everyone in our church is employed. No one lacks food, clothing, or shelter. God continues to pour His grace upon us. We are part of a church that is faithful and true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have pastors and staff who faithfully do their work.
With this in mind, we gather together today to praise the Lord for His many blessings.

Now, let me ask a simple question: Why are we able to give thanks? Let me repeat that: Why are we able to give thanks? A simple question. Here is the simple answer: Because God is such a great Giver. You heard me: Because God is such a great Giver.

I God's Indescribable Gift
A In our text, Paul mentions that God gives an "indescribable gift" (2 Cor 9:15). What does this mean? Some things are indescribable because they are too awful to contemplate. I think of what was done by Nancy L. Ortiz of Orosi. It has been all over the news – how she abandoned three babies in an Orosi neighborhood; one of those babies died as a result of what she did. "Indescribable," isn't it? "Indescribable" also applies to what was done by Major Nidal M. Hasan, the Fort Hood gunman charged with killing 13 people in the November 5 massacre. Now, other things are "indescribable" because they are so wonderful, so beautiful, and so exciting. For instance, one time Paul was taken on a trip to heaven. He was caught up to paradise and heard and saw inexpressible things, things that no man is permitted to tell (2 Cor 12:4). This is what Paul has in mind in our text when he talks about the "indescribable gift." The gift Paul talks of is so wonderful, so beautiful, and so exciting that it is "indescribable."

B In our Scripture reading, Paul uses one other phrase to describe the gift. He calls it "surpassing grace" (2 Cor 9:14). "Surpassing" means better than anything else. This word was used at the Greek Olympic Games to describe someone who threw the javelin or the discus or the shot-putt further than anyone else. "Surpassing" certainly applies to Michael Phelps because he won eight gold medals at the last Summer Olympics. As for "grace," that means it is unearned, unmerited, undeserved; or, as Paul puts it in the next verse, it is a gift.

C What is this indescribable and surpassing gift? This weekend marks the start of the 2009 Christmas shopping season. To make it easier for me to shop, Amazon.com has published a list of the top ten best Christmas gifts for 2009:
•Play Station Portable Go
•Nintendo Wii Console with Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit Plus Game Bundle
•Apple Ipod
•Apple Iphone and similar phones
•Lego Mindstorm
•Flip Camcorder
•Star Wars Science Force Trainer
•Samsung LED large screen TV
•Guitar Hero (video game)
•Call of Duty (video game)
Is this what Paul is talking about in our text? Are any of these the indescribable and surpassing gift that he has in mind? Of course not!

What is this indescribable and surpassing gift? It is better, far better, than anything on Amazon's list. Listen to how Paul describes this gift in an earlier chapter:
(2Cor 8:9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
How did Jesus make Himself poor? He, Who was in very nature God, made Himself nothing; He emptied Himself. How? By putting aside His glory, by taking the very nature of a servant, by being made in human likeness, by humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). He was rich – rich in glory, rich in being, rich in rule and authority. Yet, He became poor when He came to earth. So poor that He had no place to lay His head (Mt 8:20). So poor that He was born in a manger. So poor that He was a servant of all.

What happens because of this indescribable and surpassing gift? Without this gift we all perish. We perish in sin, in misery, in evil, in hell. Without this gift we die everlastingly. Without this gift we endlessly burn and thirst and suffer. But with this gift we who believe receive life. We are set free from sin. We are put in the presence of God and fully enjoy Him forever. As Paul puts it, with this gift we become rich – rich in faith, rich in hope, rich in love. With this gift we experience the riches of God's grace.

Do you see why I say God is such a great Giver? More than that, I can say God is the greatest Giver because He has given us the greatest Gift – His own Son. No wonder that today – and everyday – we want to say, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor 9:15).

II God's Other Blessings
A But there is more. There is more! God not only gives us His grace. He also gives us life and breath. In Him we live and move and have our being. Listen to verse 8:
(2Cor 9:8) And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
I just love that first phrase: "God is able." Is God ever able! After all, He is God. He is Almighty. His is kingdom, power, and glory. So, of course He is able. He is able – more than able – to give us all that we need. Paul reminds us that it is God "who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food" (2 Cor 9:10). And, it is God Who enriches us in every way so we "can be generous on every occasion" (2 Cor 9:11).

Back in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul reminds us of God's provisions for Israel. What did God do? He provided manna from heaven so that everyone had exactly what they needed:
(2Cor 8:15) as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." (Cf Ex 16:18)
Remember what else God did? He provided water from a rock (Ex 17, Num 20). And, when the people craved meat, God drove quail in from the sea (Num 11).

Do you remember the opening words of our Scripture reading? I just love those words:
(2Cor 9:6) Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Usually, we use this verse to remind us to be generous givers. However, what we need to keep in mind is that this verse first of all applies to God. God is the One Who "sows generously." He did so with Israel. And, He does so with us.

God is so generous. As sinners, we deserve nothing. We don't even deserve life and breath. We certainly don't deserve food, clothing, and shelter. Yet, God gives us all of this. And, He gives us so much more. God is so generous.

B But what about our current economic crisis? If God is so able and so powerful, how do we explain our mounting national debt, the unemployment lines, the housing crisis, and so on? Let me remind you of what Paul actually says. Paul says God is able – more than able – to give us all that we NEED. Let me emphasize that last word: NEED. God is more than able to give us what we NEED. God doesn't always give us what we want – though He is able to do that as well. God give us what we need. For instance, we all want the local, national, and international economies to return to the good old days – but maybe what we need is a dose of humility and hardship so we cast ourselves upon the Lord. Maybe we had it too good and what we need is lower expectations and a simpler lifestyle. God, you know, is in the business of shaping lives for eternity. So, He gives us what we need for eternity.

C God is so generous. Not only is He the greatest Giver with the greatest Gift. He is also the One Who gives us our daily bread and everything else we need.

Now, notice what should happen. Verse 11 - "so that you can be generous on every occasion." God is generous so we can be generous. Or, verse 8 - "so that ... you will abound in every good work." God blesses us so we can be a blessing. I hope the deacons have problems with this morning's offering. I hope there are so many bills and checks that it will take them hours to add it all up.

God is generous so we can be generous. God blesses us so we can be a blessing. But this is not the ultimate goal. Not at all! God has something higher and better in mind: His glory, His praise, His name. Verse 15 - "Thanks be to God." Verse 11 - "result in thanksgiving to God." Verse 12 - "expressions of thanks to God."

I read something amazing this past week – at least I consider it amazing.
A recent medical survey states that chronic complainers live longer than people who are always sweet and serene. It claims their cantankerous spirit gives them a purpose for living. Each morning they get up with a fresh challenge to see how many things they can grumble about, and they derive great satisfaction from making others miserable.
Do you know what I think? I think complainers don't actually outlive those who don't complain. I think it only seems that way to everyone around them.

God blesses us not to complain but to give Him thanks – all the time. As Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians:
(1Th 5:18) give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
It makes no difference what God gives us. Regardless of the circumstance, we should be giving Him thanks. We should give Him thanks during leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, life and death. In all circumstances.

A businessman said, "People are ingrates. It took me 61 years to find it out. I have 175 employees, men and women. At Thanksgiving, I sent them each a turkey. Only four thanked me. Two thanked me by note and two said 'Thank you' when they chanced to meet me in the hall. Because of their thanklessness, I've decided never to go out of my way to be nice again."
Someone said in response, "If you want to find thanksgiving, look for it in the dictionary."

I want to believe there is also another place we can find thanksgiving – in the church. For in the church we have a group of people who know God is so generous. We know He is the greatest Giver with the greatest Gift. We know He is also the One Who gives us our daily bread and everything else we need. So, we say with Paul, "Thanks be to God."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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