Meanderings

Faith, Hope, and Love – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Paul writes the following words as a
testimony to a church that had it all together … they were the
model for the surrounding churches.

We always give thanks to God for all of
you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our
God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness
of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, NRSV).

Paul challenges us to abide in faith,
hope and love abide.  When we live into these challenges we learn
that poverty, destitution, and failure are not in God’s plan for
humankind.  Remember Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and
kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it
abundantly” (John 10:10).  Today as we come to talk about a
difficult topic of money I encourage us to rest in the eternal
dynamics of faith, hope and love, remembering that the greatest of
these is love. 

Faith:  The Bible has more to say about
money and possessions than belief or love.  And when the Word comes
to us about money it most often is about faith-raising and not
fund-raising.

Jesus taught us to pray, "Lord,
give us this day our daily bread" (Matthews 6:11).  When we pray
this way we remind ourselves that God is faithful.  We remember that
God provides for us even in the desolate places of our lives.  Do you
remember how God fed the children of Israel “manna” in the
wilderness?  Each day enough food was provided for a day’s ration.
To live faithfully is to trust God.

Now faith is the assurance of things
hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

The opposite of faith is fear.  Fear
arises when we doubt God’s promise of provision.  When we fear we
obsess over money, then two kinds of fruit are borne in our lives –
either greed or gluttony. 

Greed tells us that there will not be
enough tomorrow.  Greed challenges to hold something back in case God
doesn’t deliver tomorrow’s provision.  When the children of Israel
were wandering in the desert God provided manna – a daily provision
— every morning.  When they tried to keep the manna for another day
it spoiled.

Fear also gives rise to gluttony.
Gluttony is rooted in a sense that today is so hopeless that we give
no thought for tomorrow.  Our philosophy is to eat, drink, and shop,
for tomorrow we die.

Let’s pay attention to some
disturbing signs of gluttony:

  • 60% of Americans have a negative
    net worth.

  • The average American in their 50s
    has less than $2000 in a retirement program.

  • 60% of Americans are spending more
    money than they earn.

This is overspending and debt is simply
gluttony.  The world teaches us that we are born, we consume, and we
die.  The world’s number one value is to possess.  Materialism
points to a way of life that says I find meaning in what I purchase
or possess with my resources.

The fundamental dynamic of faith is
giving. Jesus said, "Freely you have received, freely give"
(Matthew 10:8).  When we give we say that God is dependable.
Scripture consistently tells us that we give the first ten percent to
God.  We live our faith in God as provider when return my first
fruit, my first ten percent, to God.

Now the world says we are to earn
first, spend second, possess third, save next (if you have any left),
and then give out of whatever is left at the end.  God’s way of
faith is to give our ten percent first.

Hope:  Hope is to have a picture of a
promising future.  Hope always sees that the best is yet to come.  If
you owe more money than you make, you work today to pay for the past.
That is the problem with debt.  When you are in debt it creates
hopelessness.  You go to work to pay the past instead of investing in
the future.

For surely I know the plans I have for
you, says the LORD,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to
give you a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11, NRSV).

When God spoke to Jeremiah, God
reminded Jeremiah that God had a future of hope for him and plans for
his well-being, not for his destruction.  This is hope.  People of
hope, especially people of Jesus, understand that failure is never
permanent.  The last word is never failure.  Even death is not
permanent.  People of Jesus live in hope.

Debt is not the will of God because it
connects us to the past.  God’s way is to spend and consume less
than we make.  Our picture of God’s preferred future must be
greater than our temptation to overspend.  God’s way of hope says
our second 10% is invested for the future.

Love:  Faith always begins with the act
of giving, because giving is the nature of God.  We give first, not
last.  When we live by faith, we are known by love.  "For God so
loved the world he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16).  We
are to love and give because God first loved us and gave his son for
us.  The value of the world is to consume, to possess.  The value of
God’s kingdom is to be consumed.

And now faith, hope, and love abide,
these three;
and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians
13:13, NRSV).

In our family we try to live out what a
colleague calls a 10:10:80 strategy.  We are trying to give 10
percent, save 10 percent, and live on the remaining 80 percent.  In
our married life Cindy and I have always tithed.  We don’t know any
better than to give 10 percent to the church.  Over the past 16 years
we have averaged giving away 13 percent of our gross income.  In most
years we have come close to saving 10 percent.  In every year God has
provided all we needed … not all we may have wanted, but all that
we needed God provided.

Let me invite us to pay attention to
our “Estimate of Giving” cards for a few moments.  We invited you
over the past few weeks to begin praying about your commitment to the
life of the church.

  • As an act of faith we invite you
    to make a forward commitment to the church by filling out the card.

  • As an act of hope we invite you to
    make a commitment to the building fund so that we can prepare spaces
    for the future.

  • As an act of love we invite you to
    make a gift to missions.

THE FAITH COMMUNITY OF PINEHURST UMC
VALUES:

  • FELLOWSHIP:  Building
    relationships with God and others.

  • CHARACTER:  Learning to become
    like Christ.

  • GRACE: Experiencing God’s gifts
    of faith, hope, and love.

  • HUMILITY: Valuing God and others
    before self.

  • MISSION: Serving others in our
    community and beyond.