Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wanna Be Happy?

Just started following Rick Thomas, a Christian counselor, whose thinking is bilbically grounded.  His blog is here.  Helpful blog on giving.
Show me a happy person.
Are they generous?
Show me a discontented person?
Are they selfish?
There is a circular Bible logic that goes like this:
God loves happy givers and if God is loving on a giver, then the giver is happy.
It does not matter where you jump into that circular sentence, all of the words connect: God-Love-Happy-Giver.
There is a reason for this: when we give generously we are living out who we are in Christ–we are being like God.
Because God is a generous giver, as the Gospel implies, it only makes sense that Christians want to be generous too.
Being generous is more than giving your money away.
It is giving your life away.
That is the Gospel. Jesus Christ gave His life away. Happiness comes when we model the self-sacrifice of the Savior by giving our lives away.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)
How generous are you? How do you proactively think about and plan to give your life away? Here is a short list of things generous people giveaway:
  • They give their money away.
  • They give their love away.
  • They give their encouragement away.
  • They give their Christian example away.
  • They give their joy away.
  • They give their kind words away.
  • They give their time away.
  • They give their homes away (hospitality).
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV)

Flow through

In our business we use the term flow through to describe a process of being a middle man or distributor of what is given to us. For example, each Friday evening we go to our local Panera Bread (sandwich shop) and pick up all of their leftover bread.
Last year we picked up over $30,000 (retail value) of bread products. We bring the bread home, separate it out on our dining room table, and distribute it to various entities such as:
  • Our friends at the local car wash.
  • The gas attendant at Costco.
  • Our mail carrier.
  • Our sanitation workers.
  • The kind folks who serve us at our bank.
  • Over 200 needy families who are struggling in various ways.
The reason for our bread distribution is multi-faceted:
  • We do it because we can.
  • We do it to model the generosity of our Savior.
  • We do it to put the Gospel on display in as many places as possible.
  • We do it to model the giving of time, effort, and bread to our children.
  • We do it to feed those who need God’s kindness through the provision of food.
This bread is an example of what flow through means. Someone gives to us and we in turn give to others. We’re merely the coupler or the connector who joins the giver (Panera) with the receiver (those in need).
We trust Panera Bread, that they will give us bread each Friday evening. Panera Bread trusts us to do what we said we would do–give it away. This is analogous to the Christian life.
  • You trust God, that He will provide for you (Matthew 6:33).
  • God trusts you, that you will giveaway what He gives to you (Luke 6:38).
This is not a sentimental hollywood pay-it-forward notion. This is about incarnating the Savior before a dying world who need fresh examples of what the Gospel is all about. It is about receiving in order to give so the name of God can be made famous.

God loves generous givers

The Father is asking you to trust Him by giving your life away. If you trust Him this way, He will bless you. This is a promise. If you obey Him, He will bless you–not so you can have more for yourself, but so you will have more to giveaway.
Will you trust Him by sharing what He has given to you? God’s love is expressed through generous people. This is the flow through principle. It is how the love of God is spread. It is how the Gospel goes forth.
These promises are not about the prosperity gospel, but about God blessing us so we can bless others. You give a lot. He gives a lot. It’s not about personal gain. You are flow through. He gives so you can give.
What are you giving away? Your time, money, wisdom, care, joy? What are you exporting to others? …to your spouse? …to your children? …to your church? …to your neighborhood? …to your world?
God gives to generous givers so they will have more to export to others. Christians are in the import/export business. We bring it in so we can give it out. This has always been the case:
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you. – Deuteronomy 16:17 (ESV)
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV)
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. – Proverbs 11:24 (ESV)
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. – Proverbs 22:9 (ESV)
Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. – Proverbs 28:27 (ESV)
Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. – Malachi 3:10 (ESV)
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. – Luke 6:38 (ESV)
God loves to be generous to cheerful and generous givers. He blesses generosity by personally enriching you so you can meet the needs of others so they will glorify Him. Test yourself:
  1. Do you give generously?
  2. Do you give willingly?
  3. Do you give cheerfully?
  4. Do you give carefully?
  5. Do you give in a premeditative way?

Do not be anxious…it’s the Gospel

Did you know that God cares more about you than about birds (Matthew 6:26)? No, really…did you know this? If so, let me ask you this question: do you become anxious about giving? Is there a low-level fear factor going on in your heart when it comes to giving?
If so, then you may be aware that God cares more about you than birds, but you don’t believe it at the functional level of your mind. It is one thing to know something, but another thing to practice it. Bible knowledge only has value when it becomes a practice in our lives.
Will you trust God in the matter of giving yourself and your things away for the glory of His name? Don’t be anxious about your life. God cares more for you than the birds that fly over your head. Live like sons and daughters of your heavenly Father. Trust Him.
  1. God faithfully gives to those who faithfully give.
  2. Your generous giving will reach people.
  3. It is through your giving that God is glorified.
Let me ask you this: what is your first thought when it comes to giving? (1) What will it cost me? (2) How will it help others? If you’re thinking like a Gospel-man or a Gospel-woman, then your eye is on what your giving will do, not what it will cost.
As far as God is concerned, giving is not about the money given, but about helping people in need. Giving is the clearest way we can model the Gospel in our lives and when we do this, God is irrepressibly put on display.

And you benefit too

In Philippians we learn about a man who gave His all for the good of others and in the end, He was highly exalted because of His generous giving.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)
Quite simply, this is how the Gospel works. I’ve already quoted Luke 6:38 earlier:  “For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” But you say, “I don’t give in order to get.”
That’s fine, but that does not stop God for blessing you for your generosity toward others. You might not jump into the air just so you can come back down to the ground, but that does not matter. If you jump into the air, you will come back to the ground. It’s a law.
If you give, you will receive. It is a promise from God. I’m glad that you’re trying to be humble about your generosity, but the fact remains that God loves a generous giver and if you are generous, then expect the love of God to shower you.
This is just how it works. One of the sadder commentaries about selfish people is that they spend their entire lives trying to satisfy themselves and never come to understand this basic Bible truth: if you give, you will get.
I tell selfish husbands this all the time. Yes, all the time. I try to explain to them that if they would give kindness, words, love, affection, repentance, confession, forgiveness, or the other cheek to their wives, that they will get what they want.
What do they want? They want a loving wife who respects them. It’s as easy as pie: you give and it will be given back to you. It’s not complicated folks. Trust God. Give your life away and watch God bless you in ways you could have never imagined.

Plan to receive from God

If your motive is to give your life away then you will be a happy person. If your motive is to get, then you will never be satisfied. The Gospel is not unidirectional, as though all you do is give. The generous giver is lavished upon by the Lord–the giver becomes a receiver. But you must remember the order: you give first and then you receive.
Christ gave and then Christ received. Two people were blessed–Christ and others, but the divine order was to give before you receive. I like the way Paul said it in Philippians. Other than Christ, he was one of the most outrageous and generous givers in the Bible.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
The secret to happiness is to give your life away. The secret to misery is to hoard what has been given to you, while seeking more ways to gain more, for self-serving and self-promoting purposes.
You will be more blessed if you choose to give rather than choose to receive (Acts 20:35). The reason for this is because God loves a generous giver. In what ways do you need to be more generous in your giving?
  • Do you need to give more money away?
  • Do you need to give more time away?
  • Do you need to give more repentance away?
  • Do you need to give more forgiveness away?
  • Do you need to give more wisdom away?
What is it that you are holding onto because you’re afraid to let it go? Whatever that is, I appeal to you to become a cheerful giver. Lay it down for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Do you want to be happy? There is only one way: you must give up your life in the specific way in which God is speaking to you right now.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45 (ESV)
Why are you living? What is your purpose in life? Do you wanna be happy? The Gospel man is here to serve others. Blessed is the man who chooses to generously give his life away.

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