As all of you know who have known me for a while, one of the great experiences of my life that I enjoyed so very much was coaching distance runners at Williamsport High School for 13 years. I invested a lot in it and in the lives of the kids, almost all of whom are now adults. When I read about or see their successes as they move on in life, I feel like I had a small part in shaping some of that. It gives me great joy and personal satisfaction, beyond the state championships and 50+ titles.
A fifth principle about giving that we are identifying in 1 Corinthians 16 is the “personal” element of being a part of what God is doing. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about how some of them might go along in delivering the gift. Imagine the stories that they would bring back with them of that trip and that experience. They would be sharing with the larger church about the people they met and how the offering was meeting needs and advancing the kingdom.
The text says in verses three and four … Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
So I am speaking of the personal pleasure and sense of satisfaction that comes from giving to a cause and seeing and hearing about the results of how God is blessing it. Really, how many things are there in the world that you can be a part of that has eternal reward and benefit attached to what you do or give?
This giving topic coincided with the “Project Zero” program we have going on right now, which is our effort to pay down the remaining roughly $100,000 in debt that we have on our church building, 29 acres and house. This is out of about $2 million in total costs over the past 20 years.
It may not seem like giving toward mortgage payments on a steel building is very Kingdom-oriented, but let’s just mention a few things that we have seen done at TSF because of the building that we have as a place for God’s people to meet.
Think about how on Sunday mornings we see regularly some of our teens as a part of the worship team, thinking about how many others before them have gone on to serve in this way with us and in dozens of other assemblies where God has taken them. Think of our youth who have come to know Christ in this place and have been discipled and are serving the Lord, even around the globe. Think of all the biblical instruction that has gone on in all of the classrooms in the building … for all ages. Recall all of the local ministries that have used our facility for their banquets and programs, including the FCA camp that happens every year with annual dozens of commitments for Christ. Every Thursday we have hundreds of women and children growing in Christ through the Community Bible Study program. Even the local Mennonites use our building for programs and graduations, etc. This is all but a tip of the iceberg.
So, relative to our Project Zero campaign, and reviewing the five principles of this week, we hope that you find giving toward this facility debt elimination to be PURPOSEFUL. We hope you will be PERIODIC and PERSISTENT about it over the next year. We would like, as did Paul, to see it be PARTICIPATORY BY ALL. We understand that it needs to be PROPORTIONATE BY PROSPERITY as God blesses you and makes you his steward of resources. And we trust you will find in doing it that there is the pleasure of a PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE.
A point that I grieve I did not make strongly enough in preaching on this last Sunday is the following. Though I reflected a good bit in my remarks on events of 19 to 20+ years ago, I did not say enough about how overwhelming it looked at the time to the people committing to be a part of this original structure and the expansion of it and the properties associated with it. If you have not noticed this truth in looking around at TSF, we’re not a very wealthy bunch. The debt and the expense we were entering into was HUGE! It was audacious faith. Scary even. But, like the old question goes … “How do you eat a whole elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.”
God has been very good to us. We’ve been blessed, even in ups and downs and times when people have come and gone. God is very, very good.