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Gratitude: Joyfully Expressed

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. -2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV) Read the whole chapter.

So in our text this morning, as we wrap up this series on gratitude, a lot of it comes back to the last sentence in the reading that we had. Paul concluded by saying "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift." Other translations of the Bible say "Thanks be to God for his wondrous gift beyond words." It's hard for us sometimes to put into words what it is that God has done for us. But we know that at the heart of that is God's Son, Jesus Christ. That gift that is given, that gift that we prepare to celebrate as we move into the season of Advent and Christmas, all of this indescribableness of God's gift for us is rooted and grounded in Jesus. We attempt to describe it because we have all of these names and titles that we attach to Jesus: Lord and Savior. He is our hope. He is our peace. He is the promise of things to come. We could go on and on with all of those. That's what makes it indescribable because we could never run out of words to describe who Jesus is. That's where our gratitude begins. The greatest gift, the indescribable gift is Jesus. But more than that, as I hope you've found going through and recording, we have a lot of things to be thankful for. Even in the midst of the pandemic, we have so many things to give thanks to God for: for the health when we have it, for food in the refrigerator, a roof over our heads, the car that brought us here, the clothes that we wear, the friendships, the family, and the list just goes on and on. All of these things are ways in which we offer thanks to God and say, 'You know what God, you have made this possible and I am blessed." And gratitude flows out of that. Gratitude flows from knowing that we're well cared for. We're well provided for. We are blessed people.

Now Paul, in this letter is writing to a group of Christians and asking them to provide support for widows, orphans that they've never met. People far removed from them. Yet, he makes this appeal and says, 'You can participate in making a difference. Your generosity can be a reflection of God's love that's already in your hearts' He says, 'You know what each of you needs to give as you have already determined or made up your mind.' He says, "Don't do so reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver." Basically Paul is saying, "Alright if you're giving is the result of being mad or sad, it's not okay. But if you're glad then it's the right reason. So no mad giving. No sad giving.'

What would sad giving be under compulsion or because someone is expecting you to? Well, consider this. If you've ever been unfortunate enough to have to pay a speeding ticket, I don't imagine any of you did so willingly, gladly, or cheerfully. It was more of an under compulsion kind of a thing. Sometimes people may feel compelled to give out of a sense of obligation or even guilt. But again God we're told, loves a cheerful giver. A person that is so overfilled with joy that it just shows that they're excited about that opportunity to be able to share and give to another.

One of the Christmas traditions in our household is that with four daughters, they give sister gifts. But because there are four of them, each sister doesn't give a gift to each of the others but rather we have them draw names and each of them will make a short list of things that they would like. Then one of their sisters gets that, goes and shops for them, and gets them this gift. But what's so exciting for me, and I think Melissa too, is that when the girls are doing this, they are so excited. They are so excited to be able to go and shop and get something for one of their sisters. That joy, that cheerfulness just overflows and their giving is infectious.

Paul, I think understand that about people. That in many ways we have a need to give. That often in doing so, we discover and experience great joy, a blessing, a cheerfulness that comes over us in being able to share something with another person. What Paul describes here could really be described as a positive feedback loop. Now a positive feedback loop is something that we sometimes experience here with our sound system. Or maybe you've had it happen at home with your computer if you've tried doing zoom or things like that. Basically, when a microphone picks up a sound, it's then amplified and sent through the speakers. Unfortunately, if the microphone gets too close to the speakers, it picks up the sound coming out of the speaker and it amplifies that and it gets louder and louder. We have that really unpleasant noise, we call it a positive feedback loop. But it's not very positive. What it means is that when you add to or increase one of the aspects of that loop, it enhances and augments the others.

Another way that we could look at this is that if you've ever engaged in a diet program or an exercise program and experience some success with that, maybe you've lost some weight: you feel more energetic, you're stronger, you have more endurance, and you feel better as a result of it. Which then, when you feel better is that positive reinforcement to say, 'Hey, this diet is working. This exercise is working. I'm getting compliments, people are noticing. It's making a difference. I'm feeling better.' And so that positive loop continues. I think Paul is recognizing the same thing when it comes to those who give. Because he says, "And 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." Paul's saying, ' Guess what? When you're generous, because you're blessed, you'll discover that you have more blessings and opportunities to be more generous. And God's going to continue to bless you and you, in turn, are going to be able to bless others." There are other positive things that come out of this. Because further on he says, "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for the food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You'll be enriched in every way for your great generosity which will produce thanksgiving to God through us. Paul is saying when you are generous, when people see the abundance and the blessings that you pour out, not only will they be blessed, but they in turn are going to give thanks to God.

What's more, I think generosity is contagious. The joyful givers encourage and promote others to do the same. You've heard stories in the news probably of people that engage in those pay it forward activities. Someone's in the drive-through at McDonald's and as they're paying for their order says, 'Hey, I want to pay for the person behind me.' And they do and the next person gets to the window and finds out their order's been paid for, so they say, 'Well, I'm going to pay for the person behind me.' I've heard stories of this going on for hours and hours, car after car of people going through a drive-through. Because someone feels blessed to say, 'Oh someone did that for me, I want to in turn be a blessing to someone else.'

Joyful generous giving starts with gratitude. With recognizing that God is the one who has given. God is the one who has blessed us. God invites us to participate in doing His work in this world. Our generosity, our gratitude allows us to invest ourselves in God's kingdom that is breaking forth and becoming a reality on Earth just as it is in Heaven. We give because he first gave to us. We're generous because we recognize with grateful hearts how loved, how blessed, how much God has done for each of us.

Our Gratitude Journals, I don't know about you but I hope and encourage you that even though our series is ending, I've not even used half the pages in here yet. I want to encourage you to continue this exercise. I've heard so many people already saying, 'You know what, things are kind of tough right now, but we do recognize we have things to be thankful for.' I've had people say, 'You know what, it really has changed how I begin my day or my outlook throughout the day when I focus on the positive things, the things that I have to be thankful for.' Friends just because this series comes to an end, doesn't mean that you need to stop thinking about and recognizing that we have so much to be thankful for. Because it has been a tough year, and we still have a ways to go. Holidays are going to be different. Gatherings may not happen that normally do. But find ways to share your gratitude with others. Find ways to look for and recognize what God has and continues to do in your life. Be grateful people. Be a people that know that God's love is yours. That God is with you.


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