I was talking to my friend Roger this morning. Roger owns a concessions business and builds food trucks. He is in the process of building the food truck for us. He called because he wanted to let me know it was his and his wife Anita’s desire to donate ten percent of their fireworks’ sales this summer to help support The Torch. I was so blessed by his generosity. And I told him that he was truly a blessing to us. His response struck me. He said, “Oh, it is a blessing to us!” And he genuinely meant that, if you meet him someday you will see he is exactly who he says he is. Roger really has an understanding of what happens when you serve God. Your perspective gets all shifted around and turned upside down.
There are a lot of ways to serve God and giving financially is one of them. Roger didn’t see the outflow of money from his business - he saw the influx of blessings from God. And when you get to the point where you stop worrying about your costs because the return is so huge, you have a glimmer of an understanding of how God works. And when you get to the point where you are no longer concerned about a huge return, generosity has become a lifestyle and I think your rewards in heaven will be great. A parent of one my children's friends years ago complained one time about my involvement with Awana and how much of my personal time she felt it took. The thing was, I was so in tune with what God was doing through that program, I didn’t stop to think about giving my time. I was serving Him and He was blessing me and I was totally content even if it meant I couldn't attend every other event I was invited to!
I know there are times when pastors or other people who dedicate their lives to God have to back off because they end up neglecting those around them, but I don’t think God intends for that to happen - people let it happen. We, as leaders sometimes feel His work won’t get done if we are not there doing it and so we pour ourselves into every aspect of whatever project we are on. But that does not demonstrate understanding of God. It seems to me it shows a lack of understanding, because if I think God is capable of blessing me and taking care of me, then I should know His work will get done with or without me. It’s all a matter of perspective. I have been in a situation where it felt like I was trying to resurrect the Titanic. No matter how hard I worked or how much I prayed, nothing ever got fixed and things didn’t improve. I learned greatly from that experience. I was trying hard to make something happen, but God wasn’t and I needed to back off. It was pretty exhausting and such sweet relief when I finally saw the bigger picture. But God uses those times in our lives to teach us as well, so I am grateful for having lived it. I have made a million mistakes in my life and learned two million lessons from them.
But I also believe in dreaming big - and sometimes big dreams require sacrifice and hard work. And sometimes they are fueled by miracles. It is my job to stay close enough to God so that I know when I need to delegate and when I need to roll up my sleeves. I also need to recognize when I need to totally back off so God can do a miracle with me out of the way. I have found diligence in my prayer life helps me discern God’s presence and His will. It also helps shape my perspective and take my eyes off of myself. The people around me are blessed and encouraged when I have the right perspective on life. Additionally, God’s work gets done. I am so blessed.
The returns are always so much greater than I could ever expect or imagine. "That is what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing" Simone De Beauvoir. De Beauvoir was a French writer and existentialist thinker. She did not consider herself a philosopher and neither did she claim to be a Christ-follower. It is interesting to me how she understood generous giving and she didn't even expect to receive blessings from God for her generosity.
As Christ-followers, don't we have much more reason to give our all until we get to the point where we stop counting the costs? I'm not saying sell your house and give away your life savings, unless God gives you a mission you must accomplish and that is what is required. I'm not saying give your money blindly and hope He replaces it so you can pay the bills. I'm not saying hide behind ministry to avoid dealing with the ugly side of life. All those things are possible and all those things will cost you - sometimes dearly. I'm saying live your life so that you and your wants and needs become less important and God and His desires become more important. If you have so many toys and so much debt you feel you cannot even begin to be generous to those around you - get that house in order right away. It isn't an easy thing to do and it is a terrible way to live. I've been there and it is so much easier on the other side, with very few possessions and things distracting me and competing for my time and money. And not one of those material possessions I had or received EVER took my breath away or propelled me to the heights of joy I reach when the floodgates of heaven open up and God generously pours His blessings out on me.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
That's what I want - life that is truly life!