How many of you are experiencing this life of being more blessed like Jesus described? Do you realize how much more happiness is in store for you when you learn to be a giver?
In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul reminded the elders of the church of Ephesus of Christ’s words that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We can understand why Jesus said that it is more blessed to live generously. Why it is more blessed to live generously?
Below is an automated transcript of this message:Good morning! I’m glad to be back in the pulpit and back with you. Thank you, church, for letting this pastor take an annual study break at the end of every year. I take a week to get away, read, study and pray. I ask God to refresh me so I have strength, wisdom and insight from Him for us. I thank you for being the kind of church that wants a pastor to do those kind of things. It’s really a blessing to be part of a church that loves God’s Word and wants their pastor to get refreshed, too. Thank you, church! I would, also, recommend this to you; what I do is, I get away and focus on the Lord. I pull away from the everyday practices and habits of life and for seven days I really focus on hearing from Him. All of us have different demands on our schedule, but I would recommend at least getting a day away as often as you can and focus on the Lord, being quiet before the Lord and focusing on Him.
We are barely into this year; we are twelve days into this year, and a lot has already happened. Just think about it, there’s been a church shooting in Texas and now what’s happened in Iran. It’s easy to focus on those things and think, “Wow, if this is the beginning of the year, what’s this year hold for us? I would say, as I was doing during my stay break and what I want to keep doing for the rest of this year, to focus on God. Focus on the Lord; He knows what tomorrow holds.
The country of Iran, which was ancient Persia, I believe the Lord is calling them back to Himself. I don’t know how much you’re keeping up with this. I know the media is constantly talking about the war, but if you read about it more in depth and do your research, you’ll find it’s the greatest spiritual awakening that is happening in the world. Today it is happening in the ancient world of Persia, in the modern world of Iran. For centuries they have rejected the Lord, but here’s the result of Islam being forced upon them by the Ayatollahs. They see the lie of Islam, and it’s made them more open to Christianity. Vast numbers of Iranians are coming to Christ during this season. You don’t hear about it, but God’s in charge. God is in charge, friends. So don’t let 2020 worry you. Let’s focus on His face.
You have heard me say the word focus a few times. That’s our word for the year. FOCUS. Every year, I try to pick a word. Last year, I picked two words, “Rise Up.” We’re still doing that; we’re still “rising up” for the Lord. A couple of years ago, I picked the word, “gratitude;” the Lord put that word on my heart.
Every year, I focus on Him. I ask, “where do you want me to focus this year?” This year, the word is “focus.” Let’s get a “2020 focus” this year. Let’s get a vision for what the Lord wants. For you, you might need to focus on your family. God might be wanting you to really focus on your family. You may want you to focus on your marriage. God may want you to focus on getting your house in order, your finances in order, so you can be more generous with others.
I’m praying about that; He’s put five things on my heart. I’m not going to talk about those today, but I am focused on them. Personally, I might share that with you over the coming year. Focus; that’s our word for the year that I have on my heart.
Now, for the next four weeks, we’re going to focus on generosity. This is our theme verse for this four-week series. Here’s what Jesus says, Acts 20:35 (ESV) “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” These are the words of Jesus; that’s why the title of the series is, “More Blessed.”
Someone asked me, “How do you know which way to pronounce blessed?” I don’t know. It’s whatever I feel. I’m not sure which one it might be. It might be King James English and that’s causing me to say blessed like this. I don’t know. But anyway, no matter the pronunciation, it means the same thing. I think it doesn’t really matter. More blessed, more blessed, right?
It connects to Pastor Jonathan’s sermon last week, if you were here last week and you heard him talk about joy. In fact, I’m really kind of aggravated at Pastor Jonathan a little bit, because he did two things that made me look bad. One thing is he really cheated on his three points. He just took the word of God and make those three points. I mean, I know his three points, and I wasn’t even here. Point one was rejoice, point two was in the Lord, and point three was always. Rejoice in the Lord always. That just seems like cheating to me a little bit, but I have to give it to him; it is very memorable. I’ll remember it. The other thing was, I think he preached like, thirty minutes.
I’ve got a six-point sermon today. People, I haven’t preached in two weeks. And so that’s not fair. No, I love Jonathan and I’m thankful for the sermon. You know, here’s the thing about being full of joy; it is really connected to generosity. Joy and generosity, happiness and generosity really go together.
In fact, the word, blessed, in the Greek is μακάριος, makarios – “blessed, happy, content” (mah – kah – ree – ahs) It could mean happy. Maybe some of you have Bible translations right now and you’re reading it. This is my translation. Acts says it is more happy to give than to receive. That’s the same word,makarios; it has the idea of being happy, blessed and content. If you spoke in Hebrew, it would be the state of shalom; this wholeness of contentment, happiness and joy would be yours.
Jesus says it’s more blessed to give than to receive. If you look at the Greek word, makarios, The prefix “mak” is the root of our word “macro.” It’s where we get the English prefix macro, which means long or large. It has this idea of a whole lot of blessing. It’s a whole lot, more blessed to give than to receive. So says Jesus.
How many of you are experiencing the blessed life that Jesus promised today? I’m seeing hands going up all over the house. Some of you are not going to answer this question no matter what. How many of you aren’t?
There’s a couple of reasons you may not be experiencing the blessed life. One is, you may not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You’re here checking us out today. We love having you here, because that’s the kind of church we are. As Stephen mentioned before, come on the journey with us. Let’s meet Jesus together and let Him change your life. There’s nothing special about us. The only thing special about us is we came to Jesus. It’s the love of Jesus that’s changing us. Thanks for coming today. Maybe you weren’t able to lift your hand because of that. Another reason might be some of you are here today and you are following Jesus , but you couldn’t lift your hand because you just feel like you can’t give right now. You’re in a spot of life where you feel like you don’t have enough even for yourself.
This series is for all of us. If you feel blessed today, don’t you want to be more blessed? And if you’re not feeling blessed today, don’t you want to learn more about how you could come under God’s blessing to live happy?
Do you know what the opposite of a giver is? It’s a taker. We could say it like this; a miser is one who just hoards everything. Jesus promises that givers will be more happy and content, but misers are miserable. It is easy to see in that word. We have just come out of Christmas, and many of you probably watched the movie, “A Christmas Carol,” which is the story featuring Ebeneezer Scrooge. Ebeneezer Scrooge was a miser who finally recognized the joy of generosity.
Which life are you living now? Are you living the life of generosity ,happiness and contentment or are you living a life right now where you’re not sharing that time,talent and treasure that God’s entrusted to you. We’re talking about this today.
In the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul reminded the elders of the Church of Ephesus what Jesus had taught him and he had taught them. It’s more blessed to live a life of generosity. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. As we look at the text today, I think we’ll see six reasons why this is true. And so, for those of you that are concerned about the pastor who’s preaching six points today, put your seatbelts on. Here we go.
We’re going to read the text now together, and then we’ll look for six reasons. Acts 20:32-35 (ESV) 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is God’s word. Amen.
We’re looking for six reasons why it’s more blessed to live generously. Here’s the first one; this is my favorite one.
(1) Because Jesus said so.
How many have asked your mom or dad, “Why do I have to do that?” and they said, “Because I said so.” That was my mom’s response. It used to drive me crazy. I would say to her, “Come on, Mom; that’s not a real reason.” Now, as I’ve grown up and I’ve studied God’s Word, that’s actually a great reason. It’s a biblical reason. The book of Ephesians , chapter six, verse one says, “Children, obey your parents,” and so I’m giving you as parents permission right now, and this is going to irritate your children. But it’s okay. They need to learn this. If they ask you why, you say, “Because I said so;” you’re standing on biblical ground.
Now, here’s the thing. Why am I saying, because Jesus said so? Isn’t that enough for you? Is it enough that He says so or are you still questioning everything God says? Some of us want to take a pair of scissors to the Bible. We like that part, but don’t like that part. If you do this, you will not come under the blessing of God. You will not really understand the contentment, joy and the happiness that God offers if you keep doing that. Start saying, “because God, because Jesus said so.”
Now, we’re going to start at verse 35. I know that I usually start at the top of the verses that I’ve read here. We would usually start at verse 32, but in this case, verse 35 is the theme of the passage, so let’s start there and end there.
First of all, note that Jesus said so, in verse 35. You might circle in your text that Paul said, “remember;” “remember the words of the Lord Jesus.” Why would he use a word like this? It’s because he had told them so many times before. This is a teaching that Paul had taught the elders of the church before. Here’s the thing about the apostle Paul. He was traveling all over the Roman world planting churches, but the church in Ephesus had a really important place in Paul’s heart. He had spent maybe three and 1/2 years in the city of Ephesus, perhaps longer than he had spent anywhere, planting the church in Ephesus. It was a church that grew very quickly. Now the city of Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire during that time, a city of well over 250,000 people. It was a seaport city; it would be on the coast of modern day Turkey. If you were to look for it today, it is all in ruins, but back then it was a thriving seaport city. So Paul goes there. The church he planted in Ephesus grew so fast that they soon had to move out of meeting in people’s homes. They had to rent the Hall of Tyrannus; you can read about that in the book of Acts. Paul started teaching in the Hall of Tyrannus. I’ve had the privilege some years ago of visiting the ruins of Ephesus, and they have uncovered what seems to be the Hall of Tyrannus. It’s a building; the columns are there. Some of the walls are there and the seating is made of stone that go up like this (hand motion). This is similar to today, where the seats go up at an angle. It was in coliseum seating, so the seating is almost in the round. Many believe that this hall was the Hall of Tyrannus that Paul and the disciples met in on a daily basis for that season.
So, Paul has called the elders. They love him. He’d spent a long time there, and one of the things he had taught them was to remember the words of Jesus, who said, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is something they’d heard many times before.
Here’s another thing to take note of in Acts, chapter 20. We’re coming towards the end of the book of Acts, and so the apostle Paul is coming towards the end of his journey. He’s already planted the church in Ephesus. He’s planted churches all over the Roman Empire. He’s coming back by ship and he’s dropping off on the sea coast. He sent word and told the elders and others from the church of Ephesus to come down to the seaport because he’s not going to be there long. And so, they’ve come down.
One of the prophets, named Agabus comes down and tells them not to go to Jerusalem because that’s where Paul is headed. He’s headed to Jerusalem and don’t go to Jerusalem because they’re going to imprison you there. This breaks Paul’s heart but he knows that is where God has called him to go. So he’s giving these final instructions to the church in Ephesus. He says to them something that breaks their hearts, too. They don’t think they’ll ever see each other again. That’s the kind of time period this is. That’s when it’s happening. So what would Paul say to them at a time like this, when he, perhaps, will never see them again? He says, “remember the words of Jesus, who said it’s better to give than to receive.” This must have been important for them to remember to live the life of generosity. That’s what he wanted to leave them with. He says, “remember…” Note that he says something else. He says, “how he himself said…” He could have just said, remember how Jesus said or remember how He said. But he said, “he himself.” That’s a double pronoun; one is masculine, singular and the next one’s masculine, possessive.
Why’s he doing that? I think he wants us to know something. Jesus really, really said this. I didn’t say this, Jesus said it. I’m quoting Jesus. He’s describing it because he wants them to get it. I want you to get this, that Jesus. It’s more blessed because Jesus said so. He says “more blessed;” that’s what Jesus said. He doesn’t say that receiving isn’t blessing. We kind of know that already.
It’s a blessing to get a birthday gift. It’s a blessing to get a Christmas gift. Nobody has to teach us that; it makes you happy to get a gift. Jesus didn’t need to teach that. Here’s what he taught us that turns the world upside down because the whole world knows it makes you happy to get a gift. Here’s what the world doesn’t know. Here’s what people don’t know that it makes you more happy to give. Receiving is great but giving is better. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Have you decided to stop picking and choosing what you’ll believe in your life? Have you decided to believe it because Jesus said so? He says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” So that’s the first reason; because Jesus said so.
Here’s the second reason that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
2. Because of God’s grace.
Now, we are going to verse 32 and work our way down. Verse 32 says, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Paul has now commended you to God and to the word of his grace. Circle the word, “grace.” Do you know what that word means; “grace?” It means unmerited favor; it means you didn’t earn it. It was a free gift from God. Some of you know this acronym, G R A. C E.; God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. God’s grace. You didn’t do anything to earn it. It’s a free gift of God, and certainly what Paul has to have in view here. He has to be reminding them of the gospel of Jesus, who died for our sins while we were yet sinners and by faith we can receive him. That’s God’s grace. And so, at the heart of our generosity, the heartbeat motivating our generosity must be the reminder that he gave everything for us. He died for us and so he lives in us now for those of us who believe he lived. Now, His heartbeat must be ours and that is, we are givers, because he first gave. This is God’s grace. Paul takes it down to the foundation; he says, remember what Jesus said. That’s his big ending but he’s building up to it. It started with God’s grace, who gave us Jesus. I gave you the Greek word for blessed, happy and content. Here’s a second Greek word, Charis. If your name is Charis, it means grace. That word, as I said, means unmerited favor. God’s free gift. And so then he goes on to say, ‘which is able to build you up…” In other words, it’s able to raise you up to maturity, and it’s also able to keep filling you with that which you need to be graceful yourself. So it’s constantly building you up. That’s what grace is able to do, and so a reminder that generosity is not earned. It begins with grace. So when you’re being generous, you’re not earning God’s grace. No. Your ability to be generous comes from God’s grace .
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This reminds us that it begins with God’s grace; “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” Our generosity comes from God’s generosity. God gave; for God so loved that he did what? That he gave. What did he give? He gave his best. He gave us his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not die, would not perish, but have eternal life.
Are you experiencing the blessing of God’s grace, growing by his grace? We become like him and we become grace filled givers like him. That’s the second reason. (1) Because Jesus said so and (2) Because of God’s grace.
(3) Because of our inheritance with Christ.
We are still in verse 32; Paul says, “and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” If you’ve been with us for the last couple of years, in the Fall, we’ve been going through the book of Romans. We’ve been going verse by verse through the book of Romans; you should know who the sanctified are. The sanctified are the ones who, by faith in Jesus, even though they were sinners they put their faith in Jesus. God, by their faith, has counted them righteous. That means they’re counted, sanctified, which means holy or righteous. But not only are they counted, but now the Holy Spirit lives in that one who has received Jesus as Lord and Savior. They’re already sanctified because they’re counted so by God but they’re being made sanctified continually, which means they’re being made holy and righteous like Jesus. Sanctified means you are being made, you are already counted and you are being made like Jesus.
So, is that you? Are you among those sanctified? If you’re a believer in Jesus, you don’t have to wait for anyone to vote on it. God has already called you a saint and sanctified because you’ve placed your faith in Jesus.
Now here’s what he says; if that’s you, you have an inheritance that’s already been given to you. It’s already yours. You know this church; but do you really KNOW this church? There’s head knowledge and then there’s heart knowledge. Do you know the difference? Head knowledge is, I can fill in the blank, I know one plus one equals two. Heart knowledge means you’ve experienced it, it’s not just something you believed, but it’s something you believed and experienced. It’s this idea that everything belongs to God and when we get in the storm of life, for example, if we lose a job and we go through a difficult season where it doesn’t look like we’re going to make it, but as believers, we call on the Lord and he gets us through. There’s no guarantee that there will not be storms, but there is a promise that he will be with us in the storm and that tomorrow the sun will rise again . Joy comes in the morning. Oh, yes, it’s dark for a season. But every season has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it will soon come to an end and joy comes in the morning. So, we have an inheritance with Christ. We are co-heirs with Christ.
Philippians 4:19 (ESV) “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” How much does Jesus own? How much are his riches? They are unlimited. He owns everything. Everything has been entrusted to Jesus by the Father.
In Matthew, chapter 28, it says, “ All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” He has put everything under Christ’s feet; everything is his. Then he says that He will meet your needs. It doesn’t say He will meet your greed but He will meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus; He will take care of you.
In the Old Testament, one writer says, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their children begging for bread.” Now listen,it doesn’t mean you won’t go through a storm, but He will be with you. He’ll get you through it. He will meet your needs.
Romans 8:16-17 (NKJV) “16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We studied this only a few months ago. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Whatever belongs to Jesus belongs to you.
Head knowledge. Come on. When’s it going to be heart knowledge? Usually the only way we can get heart knowledge is we have to go through a storm and we have a crisis; our ship is sinking and water is coming in. Then, we cry out like the disciples, “Lord, don’t you care that we’re dying here?” It seems like he’s asleep just for the disciples. It says he was asleep in the bow of the boat during the storm. It wasn’t bothering Jesus. He’s in charge of all things , all things are under Him. They woke him up. If you watch a movie or something about it, Jesus usually stands up in the boat and He shouts, “Peace, be still!” But in my little head, my view of how Jesus does it, he raises up on one elbow and whispers, “peace, be still.” He doesn’t have to shout. All he has to do is speak a word, and it is so. The disciples, who were in the boat, were afraid of that which was outside the boat until the man inside the boat spoke. And then the scripture says that they were afraid of the man inside the boat more than they were the storm outside the boat. “Who is this man who makes the winds and the waves obey?” Jesus is who it is and He is ours, and all that belongs to Him is ours and we are His.
Do you understand that we are co heirs with Christ? I think we usually have to go through a hard time to get it . I’m not praying that you have to go through a hard time, but I am praying that you get it. We’re co inheritors. This gives us sustainable joy that’s irrepressible because our joy is in Christ, not in our stuff, because everything is already ours.
Here’s number four.
(4) Because it helps break the hold of greed in us.
Giving generously is the opposite of greed, and doing it in the name of Jesus breaks the entanglement of greed that’s wrapped around our hearts. Look at verse 33; Paul says, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” Covet means to want something you don’t currently have, especially when you see someone else have it. You didn’t even know you needed it until you saw that he had it. Now you have a desire to have it yourself.
What am I describing? I’m describing the life of the American. We have been bombarded since our birth and it becomes increasingly so by every advertisement in the world telling us what we must have and what we need. New new new; new, improved mint flavor, new improved flavor with extra baking soda. What am I talking about? Crest toothpaste; it has one formula. It only gets this much space on the shelf at the grocery store at WalMart. So we need this flavor and this flavor and this flavour. So now they have this much space so they can get your attention on and on and on.
How many of you have experienced this; you think you need something, so you google it or you go on Amazon. You look at it. But then because you’re living about the spirit of of the Lord, you’re trying not to be greedy. You’re trying. The Lord said you didn’t really need that. But you’ve looked at it and you pulled away and you slept peacefully that night knowing that you said you are not going to charge this. You are not going into debt to buy this. Then, you get up the next morning and you open up Facebook and the very thing that you have been looking at appears in your home screen right there. They call it an algorithm. Their spelling it wrong. It should be spelled DEVIL not algorithm. That’s the devil right there, man. I’ve said no to that yesterday. Why’s that ad right there? That was never on my Facebook page before. See, now they even have algorithms chasing you around telling you you looked at it once, don’t you want to give it a second look?
Perhaps, the greatest sin in the church today, and certainly in America, is greed. You know what breaks its hold on us? Generosity. Christianity is not so much about the don’ts. People think Christianity is about laws and don’ts . It’s more about being like Jesus, letting Him live His life in you. I guess it’s more about the do’s. It’s not don’t be greedy; it’s do be generous and as you give, as you let it flow through you, you’ll find that you become more like Jesus. You know, one of the things that I think I heard from Jonathan Minter, when he was preaching last week, actually referred to this. I got this picture in my head some years ago; it’s this idea that we need to, first of all, stop shaking our fist at God, stop rebelling against God and say, “God, I need you and I open my hand up to you.” I live my life, opening my hand to God. Something God gives me is His grace through Jesus and I’m saved. But then, more than that, He gives me the love,the joy and the fruit of spirit, and He meets my needs . But, if that’s all I do, I’m hoarding what God’s given me. In order for it to flow through me like a river, this hand needs to be open to others so that He’s meeting my needs and then the surplus, which there’s always gonna be surplus, flows to others. If I open this hand, He meets my needs, and then it flows to others. I’ve often called this “the life of the open hand,” the life of generosity. Living with your hands open, one hand open to God and one hand open to others. This breaks the hold of greed in us. It gets our fists down so that we’re starting to live the life of the open hand.
The apostle Paul, I believe, was brought up in a wealthy house. He was born in the sea port city of Tarsus off the Mediterranean Sea. All kinds of languages came in there. I believe his father must have been wealthy because he was born as a Roman citizen. He often would be talking to someone, maybe a Roman centurion, and he would say, “You’re a Roman citizen; I paid a lot of money for my citizenship.” Paul would say that he was born a citizen of Rome, which means his father must have been well to do. Even more than that, he was sent off to Jerusalem Harvard like Jewish Harvard because he was put under Gamaliel, the greatest rabbi of that day. But here’s something his father said to him before he sent Paul off. He said, I want you to get a trade boy in case that doesn’t work out for you. So his father taught him tent making so he had a trade, a vocation of tent making. Paul must have been his first born son because he named him Saul, which was the first King of Israel. Saul’s name was changed later to Paul.
Paul was from a wealthy background, highly educated, he quoted the Greek philosophers. He was very intellectual and probably really wealthy. He gave it all up for Jesus. And he writes, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” What happened? He found out he was wealthy in Jesus, and he didn’t need to worry about it anymore. Greed no longer had a hold on Paul. He was living the life of the open hand . He was a generous man. Jesus said, in Luke 12:15 (NLT) “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” It breaks the hold of greed.
Here’s number five.
(5) Because it is fulfilling to serve others.
There’s the fifth reason that it makes us more happy to give than to receive; more blessed to give than to receive. It’s fulfilling; we feel the Holy Spirit within us and leap with joy when we are like Him and when we’re allowing Him to live His life through us. Let’s look at verses 34 and 35. Paul says, “you yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” He’s talking about when he first came to Ephesus and planted the church. He didn’t ask anything of them. He probably made tents. He worked. And so it was bi vocational . He preached and worked because there wasn’t a church there yet, so he didn’t ask money from them. He worked with his own hands and his team together. He helped provide for the team he brought with him because he often had them traveling with him. Timothy, Silas, Luke… he often had a little entourage. Paul had that vocation that his father must have insisted on. And so he’s talking about that now. The word, “minister,” could be translated, “serve.” I served with my own hands to meet my own needs so I could plant this church among you. And so he served.
Then, he goes on in verse 35 and says, “in all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak…” He had an eye toward those who couldn’t help themselves; the weak. So Paul is reminding them that generosity has a lot to do with serving, working with your hands. It’s not just money, it’s also serving. It is as I have said earlier. It’s about time, talent and treasure; those are the three things we all have. We all have time, some of us have different talents and some of us have different amounts of treasure. But God has entrusted time, talent, and treasure to us. Here, he’s talking more about using his talent, his effort, I guess you would say. He’s especially pointed it towards the weak.
Who are the weak? I’m thinking the children next door. There’s a big group of them here; I don’t think they got here on their own, either. I am talking about the children’s wing right on the other side of that wall; grades up through fifth grade, We have our nursery, so it’s zero through fifth grade; that’s a place of service. That would be exactly what Paul’s talking about; ministering, serving towards the weak.
Some of you are sitting here thinking I don’t feel well. I’ll talk about that a little bit more. But Paul is saying that it is especially a mark of generosity that you serve with your hands, working hard, especially to us who would be the weak.
There are many categories we could pick, but one category that I’ve noticed in the culture today is the single mom. During Paul’s day, he writes that the church is to take special note of orphans and widows. We have those also today and we need to also take note. We need to especially remember that Paul was told to remember the poor, we have the poor. Today, the single mom is not usually by death but by divorce. And so we want to be the kind of church that especially helps single moms. I’m not calling single moms weak. I’m just saying they’re in a weakened situation. They’re working and raising children and it’s hard to be a single mom. I would never say something negative about a single mom because I am the product of a single mom. I had a father until I was eight. The Lord took him home. I was raised by a single mom from the time I was eight years old. She raised four kids by herself; I shouldn’t say by herself because her husband was the Lord Jesus. She prayed to Him constantly, to keep His promise that He would be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless. He kept His promise. Here’s what I would say, church. We need to serve our single moms. We need to, especially, serve children. That’s what kind of church we should be. Paul is talking about it here.
Are you using your hands? Are you serving now? We have two sayings at our church, something over him, quickly to sayings to remind us of something. Here’s the first saying, “attend one, serve one.” We have two services every Sunday morning. You might think it’s because there’s not room for all the people, and you’d be right, but that’s not the primary reason. The primary reason that we have two services is so you can attend one and serve the other. It’s a “one stop shop;” you can come here and get it done. You can attend the first and serve in the second or you can serve in the first and attend in the second. We’re taking away your excuses. Some people have said, “I don’t want to miss being in big church,” and we agree with you. Attend one and serve the other. Get your worship on, get your Word in, and then go serve the children, be a greeter in guest services, or be on a worship team, either in the front or the back. You could appear under the lights or be a man or woman in black in the back. There are all of these places that you can serve.
A second saying at our church, “serving in two places; one according to shape and one according to need.” What is shape? It’s how God shaped you; it’s how He gifted you. So when you serve according to shape, it will actually build you up because you love doing that. For example, if your shape is a singer, you love to sing and God has gifted you to sing. You will be on the worship team and love being on the worship team. It’s hard work, and you have to practice, but it builds you up. What’s an example of need? You sing on the worship team , but there is a need in the nursery to change diapers. You should do both because the second way of serving is because of the need. We have a diaper changing need in our church. Somebody’s always bringing babies to this church ; I don’t know which one of you it is. Somebody’s driving a bus load of them here. Serve in two places. Serve according to shape and serve according to need.
We’re at number 6. We’re back to verse 35, our key verse.
(6) Because giving positions us for God’s blessing
It puts us in a place where God can bless us because we’re living obedient to His Word and He wants to bless us more. He’s a giving God, but we often refuse it by the way we shake our fists towards Him and by being disobedient towards Him. Get that hand open toward God.
Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 6:38 (NKJV) “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Stop using a thimble to give and get yourself a big five gallon bucket. Be a giver; be generous with your time, talent and your treasure. Jesus said you that can’t outgive God. Our motive should not be that we are giving so God will give us more. God will check that; He’ll know your heart. Don’t let that be your motive. That’s not what I’m saying. Here is what I am saying; you can’t out give God. You can’t because He’s already given you all that you need, and He will continue to do that.
Do you remember the story of the Dead Sea? I’ve told you this before. Pop up the map; this pastor loved maps, right? Here’s the map. The dead sea is called that because nothing can live in it. Why is that? It’s because it has many inlets. It’s major inlet is the river Jordan, which flows down from way up here. Mount Hermon, with snow, melts in the summertime and it goes down and feeds the Sea of Galilee. Now that’s the Dead Sea, by the way it feeds. The Sea of Galilee goes down through the Jordan River and then the dead sea. But it has no outlets, and since it has no outlets, the only way the water can leave is by evaporation. It leaves it full of salt. In fact, it’s so salty that if you go there, I’ve been there, you can float on the top of it like you’re lying on a plastic float. It’s the craziest thing in the world. It’s so salty. It’s just amazing. That’s the Dead Sea. Don’t be like the Dead Sea; it flows in but does not let it flow out. Live “the life of the open hand.”
What do you have to give? Do you have time, talent or treasure? We’re gonna talk more about that in the next few weeks. Next week, we’re going to talk about being generous with your time and what that looks like. And then the following week, being generous with your talent, with your effort. In the final week, we will talk about serving with your treasure. That’s where we’re headed. Don’t miss a single one, because they’re all building on the next one.
Here’s our goal for you; we want you to live a life that’s more blessed. What’s the key? According to Jesus, it’s being generous, being a giver. Now, as I think about those six reasons, I actually thought of more, but the guy I was studying with said, “You’ll never get these out.” So, I stopped at six, but my favorite one was number one. Did you get that? Because Jesus said so. But the best one, the greatest one was actually number two; God’s grace. He gave. He started it. He gave Jesus, who came down from glory; he climbed down the ladder of love. He removed the insignia of righteousness and took off the robe of royalty and left that place where they sang continuously, “Holy, holy, holy!” He climbed down the ladder of love. Perhaps that’s the ladder that Jacob saw; Jacob’s ladder. He saw that ladder that connected heaven with earth. Jesus goes all the way down and he became a baby. He came all the way down and he walked the dusty streets of Jerusalem and the Via Dolorosa. He came all the way down. He became a man. He humbled himself and became a man. But that wasn’t far enough. He emptied himself and he took on human nature. And he took on the cross and he died. And he took on our sin, our death and our separation, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s what Jesus did .
The scripture says in 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV) “ For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” That’s the best point; His grace. He did it all. If you know him today, release and let the spirit live in you. Live the life of the open hand. Oh, it’s the happy life. It’s the blessed life. It’s more blessed than any other life. If you don’t know the Lord Jesus today, we’re gonna pray about that right now because we want you to know him just like we do.
Let’s pray, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. We want to focus on Jesus this year. We want to focus on him. He is the one that was generous towards us. And we want to be like him. We want the Lord to live in us in such a way that we are grace filled and full of generosity. First of all, I pray for that one here today that came in looking. They need help. They’re not even sure what they’re looking for , but they thought they’d check out the church. Lord, would you introduce yourself to that person right now? Lord Jesus, would you stir their heart? Right now, you feel the Lord stirring you. He’s knocking on your heart’s door. Would you open it up and let him in? You could pray a prayer like this. What really matters is not so much the words of your mouth as it is the faith that’s in your heart that you believe what you’re saying. Pray with me, “Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner, but I want to turn away from that. And I want to turn towards you. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you were raised from the grave and live today. Will you come and live in me? Forgive me of my sin and make me a child of God so I can follow you. I want you to be my Lord and Savior.” If you’re praying that prayer right now, believing, the Lord will save you. Others are here today and you have received Jesus as Lord and Savior. He is yours and you are his. But you’re not living the more blessed life that we’ve described. Would you repent right now and say, “Lord, forgive me for not opening my hands up to others. Lord, I want to do what you’ve called me to do. And I want to experience the happiness you’ve promised.” Would you repent? Say, “Lord, forgive me. I repent.” Others are here today and would say, “I’m afraid.” Would you bring your fear to him? The Bible says, “Don’t be anxious about anything but in everything…” Pray about it by prayer and petition. Lord, we pray with you right now for that person that you’d give him the peace that passes all understanding now. Lord, thank you for this. In Jesus name, Amen.