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A Kingdom Perspective on Stewardship

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Nov 1, 1998

1 Chronicles 29:11-12

I Chronicles 29:11-12
A Kingdom Perspective on Stewardship

I'd invite you to turn with me to First Chronicles, chapter 29. First Chronicles 29, verses 11 and 12. You are familiar with these verses by now. You heard a profound and passionate exposition of them last week. You have seen them on your stewardship information cards. These are the things proclaiming the stewardship season. And I want to look at these words with you today. I want to come back to the same passage you studied last week, and I want to do 2 or 3 very simple things. My aims are very, very straightforward today. First of all, I want you to see stewardship in a way that you have never, ever seen it before. I want you to understand that stewardship is about all of life. It's not about budgets. It's not about fund raising. It's about all of life. It's broader than you have ever thought before. Secondly, I want you to see that stewardship is a matter of the heart. It's not about numbers. It's not about dollars. It's about the heart. It's a spiritual issue. At the very base of it, at the very root of it, stewardship is about what God is doing in your heart, and the evidence and the manifestation of that in a tangible way. And finally, I want you to see that the focus of life and of stewardship is the kingdom of God. Our goal in stewardship is not advancing our agenda, or achieving our goals, or building our projects. Our goal is God's kingdom. Those are the things I want to look with you today in the text.

If you would turn your attention to First Chronicles 29, we will hear God's holy and inspired word, beginning in verse 11.

"Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone."

Thus ends this reading of God's holy and inspired word. May He add his blessing to it. Let's look to Him again in prayer.

Our Father, we commit ourselves to Your word. We acknowledge it to be authoritative, our only rule for faith and practice. And now we bow the knee before it. Judge us by the word. Encourage us, strengthen us by that word. By Your Spirit apply it to our own hearts in the way that You would use it in our lives. Make us to be, O Lord, hearers and doers of Your truth. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

This is David's final assembly with Israel. And as you know, when great men who have been mightily used in the midst of a people meet with them for the last time, they often have the profoundest of things to say. Perhaps you remember a great man who has served our country, or our state, or our community giving his farewell speech. Perhaps you were there. Or perhaps you've studied it. Perhaps you have studied the farewell speech of George Washington and the instructions that he had for our nation in that farewell speech. Or perhaps you have heard audiotapes of Douglas Macarthur's final address at West Point, and you remember his words that "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away."

These are David's final words in his final solemn assembly to Israel. And as you might expect, he has some things of great importance to say. Really, from First Chronicles, chapter 28 through First Chronicles, chapter 29, we have a description of this solemn assembly. And especially here in First Chronicles 29 we see precisely what David is doing here in the midst of the Lord's people. In fact, I'd like to ask you to look at chapter 29 beginning in verse 1 and follow along as I describe for you what's happening here, because I don't want to use verses 11 and 12 as simply a pretext to talk about stewardship. That's not what they are, and that's not what the stewardship committee intended by this. I really want us to be guided by what the word of God says here. And those two verses are a jewel in the midst of a multi-jeweled crown that is given us here in First Chronicles 29 as we see David addressing the people with 2 goals in mind. First of all, he wants them to hand out and contribute their gifts for the building of the temple of the Lord. And secondly, he wants to see his son Solomon's rule confirmed in their hearts. And in that context he speaks to the people.

I. Why God's people need to give generously.
First of all you will see in verse 1 of First Chronicles 29, he explains to the people why it is that they need now to set aside and give generously to the temple of the Lord. It may seem humorous to you because he says, "it's because my son Solomon is young and inexperienced." now we know the rest of the career of Solomon. We know this is the wisest king that ever ruled. But as yet, he is young, and he is untested. It's almost like saying, "O.k. We're going to take this young, untested quarterback Peyton Manning, and we're going to give him the ball and just hope that something good happens." Well, we know the rest of the story. We know what's happened on the other side of it because we saw the young man perform. He may not have performed in the uniform that we wanted to see him perform in, but we've seen him perform. And we knew that he was a pretty decent quarterback. And we know Solomon was an incredible king. But at this point he's not ruled. He's not reigning. He's untested. And David says, "It's important for us now in order that Solomon does not have to take on this work right out right out of the blocks in his rule. That we set aside now for the building of the kingdom. And furthermore," he says, “it's important for us to do this because this is the Lord's temple. This task is awesome. This is a greater task than any man, no matter how great he may be, no matter how great a king he may be, this is a greater task than any man can do. This is the temple of the Lord, and so we must set aside."

And then in verses 2-5, David gives you an example. He says, "Let me tell you how I'm going to give." First of all in verse 2 he says, "I'm going to give out of the coffers of the state, for the building of this temple, all the plunder of war that I have accrued over my career of protecting this nation against it's enemies, and of attacking those who would see the destruction of the nation of God's people. I am going to give that plunder, that war spoil, that booty, I am going to give that for the building of the kingdom. The public treasuries are going to be emptied, and that funding is going to be given for the building of the temple."

And then David doesn't stop there. In verses 3-5 you see that David goes on to say, "Furthermore, I am going to give from my personal wealth. I am going to give over and above the things which I am required to give, and I am going to give lavishly to the building of this temple." And we are told in verses 3-5 that David gives 110 tons of gold, and 260 tons of silver. I can't add that up, folks. David gives lavishly, and that is his personal wealth.

Now I want to stop right there and just say, this is a man who is never going to set foot in the temple. He's never going to see it built. He is never going to enjoy one worship service in it. And yet the whole of his life has been a process of storing away that he may give to this project for the glory of the kingdom of God. Now is that not for us a model for our own Christian giving? When we give, we may never, ever in this life see the way that God will use our giving in the lives of others. In other lands, or even in our own church, we may never see it. And yet the focus of David's life is to prepare so that he can give to something that he may never, ever experience a tangible benefit from in this life. I propose to you that is a glorious model of kingdom living and giving.

Are we giving in such a way that we are showing that we are building for the city which has foundations. That we are looking for that city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Or are we living and giving in such a way that it says that what we really care about is this life, and not the kingdom of God, and not the life to come? David's giving provides us a pattern of how we are to give even sacrificially towards an end, towards a kingdom, that we may not see the blessings of in this life. But we give for God's glory.

Notice again, in verses 6-9, the gifts that are given by the leaders of Israel are listed. David had challenged, in verses 2-5, that Israel's leaders to give lavishly, and they did. In verses 6-8 we see what they gave. All the leaders of the nation gave, we see in verse 6, and they gave willingly. They gave beyond the requirements of duty. We see that in verse 6, too. And in verses 7-8, we see that the quantity of what they gave was enormous. One hundred eighty-five pounds of gold were given by the leaders of Israel, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron were given for the building of the temple. And we're told in verse 8 that that also included precious stones that were given. And the response of the people of God is recorded in verse 9. They rejoiced that people had so freely given to the building of the temple of God.

Now what would have been the temptation right at that moment? The temptation would have been to stop and pat yourself on the back. "Lord, this is the most successful building fund in the history of Israel, and we managed it." and in verse 10, David stops and immediately turns our attention toward God. And he acknowledges that everything that they had given had already been given. God had given it to Israel, and what they were giving back to Him now was just a part of what the Lord had already given to them. And so he acknowledges the praise of God in the midst of the assembly of the people.

And today I simply want to draw your attention to verses 10-13 especially. We will look at some other verses, too, but 10-13 which really is the first of three sections. In this prayer, David's prayer of praise, I want you to see these 3 principles of stewardship that we have already spoken of in our introduction this morning.

II. Stewardship is about all of life.
First of all, if you will look at the end of verse 5, and then again at verse 11 and the first part of verse 12, I want you to see that this passage clearly teaches us that stewardship is about all of life. We, and all that we have, belong to God. Let me be emphatic about that. We, and all that we have, belong to God. There is nothing that we have or are that God doesn't have a right to. And isn't that made clear in this passage? Look at the end of verse 5. You see what David says there, "Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?" That phrase, "consecrate yourself, for who is willing to consecrate himself," is used somewhere else in the Old Testament. Do you know where? It's used of the consecration of the priests to lifetime and complete service of God in the temple. But in this passage David is saying to the nation of Israel, "Who is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord?"

Now I know that David means by that, "who is willing to give generously and sacrificially to the building of the Lord's temple," but you understand the language he's using is much more pervasive than that. He's not just asking for their money. He is wanting their whole heart and all that they have. He is looking for total commitment to the kingdom of God. "Who is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord this day?" That's the first thing that we learn in this passage which shows us that stewardship is about all of life. Because David just doesn't want their money, or their precious stones, or even their precious metals. He wants their hearts and their lives. He wants all of them consecrated to the Lord.

And then if you look in verses 11 and 12, you read this, "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord. You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all." The first thing you learn in this passage is that we belong, the whole of us, to the Lord. And therefore, stewardship is all of life. But you also find out in verses 11 and 12 that because God owns everything; stewardship is about all of life. Everything belongs to Him. God is ruler over everything. He is the supreme authority. There is no victory that an army wins; there is no beauty that a woman possesses; there is no wealth that a magnate accrues, that does not belong to God. You have nothing which you have not been given.

Now that rubs right against our American grain which says, "We make our money the old fashioned way. We earn it." and David is saying, "Let me tell you something. Every last penny is a gift from God. I don't care how hard you worked. It's all God's." And in His grace He may have used your hard labor to accrue it. But it's His gift. Because He could have just as easily withheld it no matter how hard you had labored. And so David acknowledges that everything belongs to God, and that we ourselves, and all our resources, ought to be consecrated to Him.

Now I want you to think about that, my friends. Stewardship is about all of life. There is no aspect of life that stewardship doesn't touch. Stewardship touches your body. Your body is not only the temple of the Lord, it's the possession of the Lord. The Lord owns your body. He's loaned it to you; for your use, and for His glory. How do you take care of it? Your physical health is a gift from God to you. Do you keep that physical health in a trust for Him knowing someday you will give an account, and that you want to keep that physical health in the best of conditions for the sake of the kingdom. Is that the way you look at your body? Your body is a stewardship from the Lord. Your possessions are a stewardship from the Lord. How does that change the way we look at our possessions? Our homes, our cars, our clothes are all gifts from the Lord. He could just as easily withhold them, but in His graciousness, He pours out upon us blessings. How do we look at those blessings? Are those blessings the substance of life?

I can remember the day I sat across the table from my father, a faithful businessman who had been prominent in the community, a small businessman, was facing what we thought at that time would be bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and saying, "Son, I don't know whether I can pay your tuition next semester. I don't know whether I can keep this house over our heads." and he bowed his head down and he said, "Family, I am a failure." And I can remember the words of my mother: "J. Ligon Duncan, God is sovereign. And I don't care whether we live in a pup tent and cook over wood fire, we will serve the Lord together, and we'll rejoice in what He provides for us." The Lord sustained us in that. But her attitude toward possessions taught me that everything comes from God.

In His withholding, in His blessing, it's all up to Him. And we must live loose with what God gives us. We must not hold onto it as if it is everything and will last eternally. We are strangers in this world. What about your possessions? How do you use them? Do you view everything that you have as from God, and for the sake of His kingdom, do you consciously determine to use your possessions in His glory? And how do you manage those percentage of your funds which are not directly given to the work of the kingdom? Is your debt, is your provision for your family done with a kingdom perspective?

I remember going to St. Louis and attending a worship service at Covenant Presbyterian Church, and expecting to hear one of those wonderful mid-western accents. And in the service the minister called upon one of the elders to pray during the time of the main prayer in the service, and one of the ruling elders rose, and he began to pray, "Gracious heavenly Fathah, You'ah the King of Kings, and Lawd of Lawds. You own the cattle on a thousand hills." He was Bobby Duck from lower Alabama. And I never heard Bobby pray when he didn't pray, "Gracious heavenly Fathah, You are the King of Kings and Lawd of Lawds, and You own the cattle on a thousand hills," because he loved stewardship, and he loved the fact that God owned everything. And he knew that everything that he had came from God. And he reminded us of that every chance he got.

Is that our attitude? Do we realize that our possessions are a stewardship from the Lord? And we'll give an account to Him one day; how we use those resources, those possessions. Your time, your energy is a stewardship from the Lord. You must choose how you will use it wisely. Will you use it for the sake of the kingdom?

Don Carson, the great New Testament scholar from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, tells the story of one of his colleagues who was a foster parent. He and his wife would take children into the home and keep them until they could be placed permanently in loving homes. And one day he received a call from the agency. And the agency said, "We want you to keep two twin boys." And he and his wife said, "We've never kept twins before. How old are they, and how long are we going to keep them?" "Well, they're 18 months. And we'd like for you to keep them just for 6 weeks. "OK. As long as it's just for six weeks, send them on over." It turned out that those little boys had been in 9 different homes in their first 18 months. And they had been severely abused in most of them, having been abandoned by their parents. The first night they put the little boys down, they didn't make a sound. Perry and his wife were curious. They went into the room, and they found their boys in the bed weeping uncontrollably but muffling the sound of their cries in the pillow because, because in some of the previous homes where they had stayed, they had been beaten when they cried. The psychologist told them that these children would never, ever be psychologically and emotionally normal and whole. They were irremedially affected by this experience. Two years later a home was found for those twins. And the social worker who provided the psychological analysis before the boys were sent on to their new home said that, "Inexplicably and miraculously those boys were now normal, having experienced the love of a family that cared." How much did that cost that family in time and in energy? But I want to ask you, "Was that stewardship worth it?" what value do you put on a human life?

The stewardship of our time and our energy is the Lord's. Do we think about that? My friends, the stewardship of your pain is the Lord's. How will you use the pain which God brings into your experience in order to comfort with the comfort which you have received? This last week in Sardinia, SC, I met two 14-year-old twin girls. They, too, had been abandoned by their parents and passed from foster family to foster family until they were at the age 12. And a local judge who was wrestling with some problems that they were having between the family, and between some of the places where they had been placed, and who realized the seriousness of the abuse that these young girls had experienced, called up a member of the Presbyterian Church there in Sardinia, SC, and said, "Would you be willing to take these girls in as foster children, in your home?" And he said immediately, "No, but we'll adopt them." And those two 12-year-olds are now 14, and having come from an environment where cigarettes had been put out in their flesh, and abuse of the worst kind had occurred, I heard them sing on Tuesday night, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures." Now, if anybody has a right to be bitter - listen to me young people - if anybody has a right to be bitter, those two girls have a right to be bitter. And yet they have chosen to give themselves to the Lord and to His church, singing His praises, working within His halls, ministering to His people in joy.

What is the stewardship of your pain? How will you use it for God's glory? All of life is about stewardship. It is far broader than we have ever conceived.

III. Stewardship is a spiritual issue.
There is a second thing I want you to see in this passage, and you will see it in verses 2 and 3 and 5 and 6 and 9. We will see this in just a moment. But stewardship is a spiritual issue. Stewardship is a heart issue. It is a matter of the heart. Listen to the emphasis of this passage. Notice David's words in verse 2, "Now with all my ability I have provided for the house of my God." Verse 3, "Moreover in my delight in the house of my God, the treasures I have of gold and silver, I give to my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple." Verse 5, "Who is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord?" Verse 6, " The rulers offered willingly." Verse 9, "The people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart. And David also rejoiced greatly."

The free offering from the heart of these gifts to the temple is the key in this whole passage. The free offering from the heart to the temple is the key. And ultimately, you need to understand, it wasn't simply to the project of the temple that these things were being offered. It was to God. God was the object of this worship in giving. And it was given from the heart. My friends, if our hearts are right at First Presbyterian Church, stewardship will take care of itself. Stewardship is a by-product of hearts which are right with God. And my prayer is that our hearts will be right with God. So that we will be so overcome by the indescribable gift of the Lord Jesus Christ that the bounty of our hearts will overflow in our stewardship.

We should not be asking ourselves, "How will we get by in the ministry of the kingdom with the tiny resources that we have?" We ought to be wondering, “What we are going to do with the surplus?” Stewardship is a heart matter.

One last thing. Verses 11 and 12 - notice the focus of David's praise is on the glory and the kingdom and the power of God. Months ago I determined that we would read through the 4th and the 5th books of the Psalms as our responsive readings for this period of time. And in happy coincidence we happened to read Psalm 145 today. Did you notice that the very first phrase of Psalm 145 was the same as David's phrase here in First Chronicles 29? And did you notice that all the themes from Psalm 145 are the same themes from this passage? The kingdom, the power, the glory of God, His ownership over all. And have you noticed that the ending, the doxology, to our Lord's Prayer, is drawn from the theology of that psalm and from this passage, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever."

You need to understand that David's concern is not to build up his own project. Or to build up his own reputation. And ultimately his desire is not even to build up the reputation of his son. His desire is to see the kingdom of heaven advanced. Now I can pledge you this, my friends. As long as faithful men are gathered here to do the business of God at First Presbyterian Church, we will proclaim the gospel. We will not be sidetracked into peripheral issues. We will proclaim the gospel. We will build up God's people. We will do our best for missions around the world. We are about kingdom business. We are not about building up our name, our reputation, our program, our agenda. We are about God's agenda. And may God help us only to be more so about his agenda.

Do you care about the kingdom? Do you realize what spiritual stewardship is? Do you realize how pervasive it is? It touches every area of life. May God help us to give for His glory alone from hearts transformed by him. Let's pray.

O Lord, all things come from You. What we give, we have already received from You. But receive it anyway for Your glory and Your people's good. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

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