‘Recognize’ Potential of Generous Giving

Recognize ‘Potential’ Of Generous Giving

Chapter Three

Recognize 'Potential' Of Generous Giving
Making Decisions About Seed – Part I 43 Little Is Much; Small Is Great 50
Making Decisions About Seed – Part II 45 The Stewardship Of Money 51
Sitting On Everyone's Lunch – Part I 47 Benefits Of Generous Giving 53
Sitting On Everyone's Lunch – Part II 49 Questions 55

Matthew 13:1-13

Making Decisions About Seed – Part I

Rummaging through an unpacked box from our last move (several years ago), I discovered two packages of flower seeds. The moment I saw them I recalled my wife's request to plant those seeds. In fact, I recalled several requests to plant those seeds over the years preceding the last move. The picture on the packets showed an abundance of beautiful flowers. The potential for those beautiful flowers was obviously inside those seeds. At least, it once was. But what do I do now?

I have several choices. I can conclude that the seed is old and worthless, and discard it. I can carefully prepare a seed bed and plant the seed, knowing full well that I may be wasting my time. Or, I can carelessly scatter the seed among other seed and if it grows, fine – if it doesn't, fine.

With the tremendous power of hindsight, I recognized that I held in my hands lost opportunity, misplaced priorities, diminished potential, and broken promises all in two little packets of seeds.

The jolting message of this moment began to expand in my mind. I began to think about the choices and the priorities that are determined daily and even momentarily in our lives.

Let's consider the fact that each of us has been given a relatively consistent supply of two kinds of "seed." For convenience, let's call them simply "spiritual seed" and "material seed".

The "spiritual seed" is supplied in our lives for both personal growth and maturity and also for the sharing of witness, love, and service. In one sense, there is an unlimited supply of this resource for our appropriation.

On the other hand, the "material seed' represents our personal allocation of material resources which are generally fairly constant and are, for most people, limited in availability. Because of the limited supply of material resources, prioritization of how those resources are expended becomes an absolute necessity.

Recently, I listened to a discussion of the 'parable of the sower' as recounted in Mark 4. I was reminded of an inherent principle in this parable which I have never heard discussed. It is simply the discussion about where seed is to be sown.

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In this parable, it appears that the farmer sowed the seed rather indiscriminately. Some of it fell on the path, some on the rocks, some among thorns, and some on good soil. It is evident in the parable that there was absolutely no fruit from any of the seed except that which was sown on the good and prepared soil.

Having had a farm background and recalling how expensive it is too sow valuable seed, my response would be that the next time the farmer sowed seed he would surely be more discriminate in where the seed was sown. Surely, one of the inherent principles of this passage would include a careful stewardship appraisal of the how and where we sow the valuable seed (resources) 'we have been given.

"Dear Lord, help me to remember that today I am sowing seed for You. Help me to sow it in the right places in the right manner."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: How I sow my seed will determine the harvest of my life.

– Edward Rickman –

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Luke 8:5-15

Making Decisions About Seed – Part II

Let's consider some possible applications of Jesus' parable, as recorded in Luke 8:5-15.

The "seed" represents the "word" or the Gospel. The implication is that all disciples are responsible for involvement in the ministry of the Word. That involvement takes on many different forms. Some are involved in preaching, teaching, administration, and other direct ministries. However, all are responsible to be stewards of resources which supply the means for the ministry of the Word. Consequently, some are directly involved in ministry while others are indirectly involved, but there is mutual responsibility.

Return for a moment to the inherent principle of this parable. There may be adequate latitude for providing general ministry to all, but I would maintain that Jesus Himself was teaching the importance of focusing ministry priorities on areas where there is the greatest potential for receptivity, growth, and fruitful discipleship. It would be foolish indeed to focus our priorities on sowing our "seed" on the places where there is little or no hope of fruitfulness at the expense of neglecting the areas where there is great receptivity and fruitfulness.

It is incumbent on all of us who have "seed" (resources) to be very discerning as we make decisions as to where and how we "sow" our resources.

It is abundantly obvious that there are 'infinite' numbers of appeals for our resources. It should also be obvious to us that not every entity appealing for "ministry" funds can produce evidence of fruitfulness. Thus, the necessity of using discernment is where and how we "sow" our "resources."

Jesus and his disciples practiced this very principle. When Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, he instructed them very specifically about places where there was no receptivity to their message.

As you make decisions about where and how to sow your "seed," be sure it is planted where you are assured it will grow and produce fruit for the glory and honor of God, and the increase of the Kingdom.

"Dear Lord, there are so many needs around me. Help me to discern where You can best use the resources of my life."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I must be certain that I don't waste those "seeds" (resources) that belong to God. God can only produce the fruit if I give Him my resources.

– Edward Rickman –

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John 6:1-14

Sitting On Everyone's Lunch – Part I

It must have been a rather traumatic experience for a young fellow to realize that, out of more than 5,000 people, he was apparently the only one who had brought his lunch. What was even more frightening was what to do with what he had brought.

Here were twelve men walking through the crowd trying to find whatever food was available to feed all these people. And then here was a young lad who had five loaves of bread and two fish. Perhaps he began to realize that he was about to be asked to give up what he had. What should he do?

Now the first question that arises is why he had that much food when no one else had any at all? We could speculate that perhaps he was a young entrepreneur. Here was a great opportunity to try to sell some of this food among the large crowd of hungry people. Or, it could be that he was on an errand to deliver that food somewhere and just got caught up in the crowd. Still more likely, it was his own provision for the day.

And now, whatever the reason for his possession of this important commodity, he was about to lose it. Perhaps he began to think how he could protect his possession. There was no place to hide it! His pockets were not large enough to hold it! There wasn't any way to escape! Could it be that he decided to "sit on it"?

Now that's an interesting picture from our perspective of the whole story. In his mind he was sitting on his own possession to protect it. From our perspective, he was "sitting on everyone's lunch."

Could it be that we too are unknowingly "sitting on everyone's lunch"?

Consider some of the important principles which come out of this story and then apply them to your "own lunch."

Principle of Ownership: As this young lad did, we too must learn that what we think is ours is really His. When He asks us for our resources, He has every right to do so – He owns them!

Principle of Value: The question probably uppermost in this young man's mind was, ''What is He going to do with my lunch in a crowd of people like this?" He soon learned the reality of the truism that "Little is much when God is in it!"

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Principle of Supply: On the one hand, our Lord was and is committed to "feeding the hungry." Consequently, He asked for the available resources, regardless of size and quantity, and made an adequate supply to meet the need.

Secondly, he never fails to supply for those who "Give their lunch away!" Here is an obvious case of giving your lunch away and eating it too!

God will never allow those who are willing to give to be hungry while others are fed.

"Dear Lord, give me a new vision of the multitudes in need and help me give my resources to help meet those needs."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When we try to hide our resources and hold them for ourselves, a multitude of others will be deprived of the blessing we could provide.

– Edward Rickman –

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John 6:1-14

Sitting On Everyone's Lunch – Part II

Let's consider some additional truths from this scripture.

Principle of Participation: "Surely somebody else will give up their lunch! Surely, there's another way to accomplish this unbelievable task!"

No, He wants you to participate! He wants you to "give your lunch." He wants you to catch a vision of a hungry host of people and say "I'll participate – Here's my lunch – Here's all I have!"

There would have been no miracle without the participation of one willing young man who saw the need and offered his resources to help meet the need.

Principle of Multiplication: When the willingness of people matches the willingness of God, the principle of multiplication is activated.

A good friend of mine was once speaking in a Youth Camp when an offering was taken. A young lad who was obviously very poor and had no visible resources came forward and placed an old broken and well-chewed ballpoint pen in the offering basket with these despairing words, "It's all I have to give." The idea came that they would auction the pen with an explanation of who had given it and the spirit of the gift.

The consequence was that the pen was not only auctioned once, but as those young people caught the spirit of this gift, it was sold and resold over and over again until the value was multiplied to well over $100.00 by the end of the camp.

The principle of multiplication is in direct proportion to the spirit in which the gift was given, not the amount. Jesus multiplied the lunch more than 5,000 times.

Principle of Celebration: What a celebration it must have been for the young lad!

He was full – there were leftovers twelve times as large as the gift – and he was happy! And it was all because he "gave away his lunch"!

"O, Lord, I give You 'my lunch' to feed to others. I know You will also care for me."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Think about it. How many hungry people's lunch are you sitting on? "Give your lunch away"!

– Edward Rickman –

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Matthew 10:42; Matthew 20:26-28; Mark 4:30-32

Little Is Much; Small Is Great

In his commentary of Mark, Dr. David McKenna writes, "In the Kingdom of God, the hidden is open, natural is supernatural and small is great".

God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet, saying "My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). God measures success differently than we do. Man's measurement is how great we are, what a big and wonderful job we do. The "Who's Who" on man's gold plated plaque would list those who built the largest churches, sang or spoke to the largest crowds, or served on most committees.

I have seen Christians working under adverse conditions. Some laboring among the poorest people in the world. Rather than complaining, they were happy and content in their circumstances. Had they another life to live, they would have given that life also. I recall the story of a missionary returning to his homeland. On board ship an important gentleman was also returning home. The Red Carpet had been laid, and a brass band was awaiting his arrival. There was no one waiting for the missionary. Alone and dejected, he entered his hotel room. It was then Jesus spoke, "My child, you are not home yet"!

Mr. Wilson was a quiet man. He didn't sing, teach a class, serve on the board, or any committees, but there was one job he did faithfully every week. He mowed the church lawn with perfection. I see the name, Mr. Wilson, "Church Grass Cutter" on God's list of "who's who".

God's solid gold plaque has a different list of "who's who". Those who have given Him their lives as a living sacrifice, appear on this list, regardless of the size of accomplishments. God desires our obedience to all His commands. With God there is no great or small. A tiny mustard seed has great potential when placed in God's hands. There is a song that puts it like this: "LITTLE IS MUCH IF GOD IS IN IT. LABOR NOT FOR WEALTH OR FAME. THERE'S A CROWN AND YOU CAN WIN IT. IF YOU'LL GO IN JESUS' NAME."

"Jesus, help me to do the task You ask of me, regardless of it's size or importance. Just a cup of water may be all You ask."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not bury the talents God has given me. But use them for the kingdom's sake.

– Lowell Weller –

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Malachi 3:8-10; Psalms 24:1

The Stewardship Of Money

If the money which you call 'yours' is really not yours, but is instead 'God's property', then how should you use the money that is in your possession? The Bible says that the man who does not provide for his family is 'worse than the heathen' (1 Timothy 5:8). Obviously, money is to be used to supply the common necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter, and health needs. And, often times, God will permit you to have and to enjoy even a few luxuries. However, you must always watch your 'desires', for your desire for 'things' can easily 'get out of hand'. It is easy to abuse God's gift of money, with the result of robbing both family and God. John Wesley declared emphatically that whoever has sufficient food to eat and raiment to put on, with a place where to lay his head, should be content. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never, never fail you nor forsake you." (Living Bible) The apostle Paul wrote (about himself): "I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either plenty or poverty." (Philippians 4:11-12, Phillips) The story is told of one who was taken to the City to view all of the conveniences, and luxuries, and glamour that the world could offer, the possession of which makes it hard for many men to die. When the man who had taken the tour in the big City had returned to his motel room, he thanked God that he did not have any desire for any of the City's riches which he had seen. That man was far richer than those who owned all the wealth and enjoyed all the glamour of the City! E. Stanley Jones wisely observes: "There are two ways to be wealthy – one is in the abundance of your possessions, and the other is in the fewness of your wants. In taking the latter way to be wealthy you transfer to the inside of you the real wealth that cannot be taken away by depression or death."

You must give an accounting to God in eternity for the way you use your earthly (material) possessions. Note the principles which John Wesley believed should guide every Christian in the use of money: "GAIN all you can without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by applying hereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you: – SAVE all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; to gratify either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children; and then GIVE all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God… Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God's, be it more or less; by employing, on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind, in such a manner that you may give a good account of your stewardship."

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"Father, deliver me from the 'greedy hand' which grasps for the world's passing 'fancies', and give me the 'grace' which enjoys a life of simplicity and service."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Money is a useful 'servant' but a cruel 'master'. I determine to master money, not be mastered by money!

– Ron Christian –

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2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Benefits Of Generous Giving

One of the projects nearest to Paul's heart was the gathering of the collection for the church of Jerusalem. This Jerusalem Church was the "Mother Church' of all the churches, but she was poor and needed support from the newly organized Gentile churches. Paul appeals to the other churches to exercise their generosity by coming to the aid of the Jerusalem Church at this time of great need. Paul asks the Corinthian church to help in this project and appeals to the people of the church on the basis of their past good record (2 Corinthians 8:7). "Because you have excelled in every other area of Christian endeavor, surely you will excel in this important area – financial generosity", says Paul.

There are many 'benefits' to generous giving. First, generous giving saves us from a life of greed and materialism. As believers, let us never despise money and let us always legitimately enjoy some of the good things which money can give to us, but let us never become enamored with wealth and material possessions. Let's keep a light hold on material things. Let's be the master of money and use it for the glory of God and for the good of others. One way to avoid the 'stranglehold of materialism' is to involve oneself in generous giving.

Secondly, generous giving develops a capacity for great fruitfulness. The more one gives, the more one develops a capacity to give. It's like everything else in life. The one who most uses his muscles is the one who become the strongest. The one who practices the piano the most is usually the one who finds piano most enjoyable. The one who is most generous with his money is the one who finds most joy in giving. He who sows love, sacrifice, and service is he who reaps a Christ-honoring harvest both in time and in eternity.

Third, generous giving develops a capacity for joyfulness. It is still true that miserly people are miserable people, and generous people are joyous people. The Bible says that it is "more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Frances Havergal wrote those familiar words which we often sing: "Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold." This hymn writer did what she wrote about. This personal testimony is found in her writings: "'Take my silver and my gold' now means shipping off all my ornaments – including it jewel cabinet which is really fit for a countess – to the Church Missionary Society… I don't think I need tell you I never packed a box with such pleasure."

"Father, teach me your amazing and mysterious 'ways' – that I gain blessings by giving, that I receive your best by giving up my best for the sake of your Kingdom! Because you

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are a 'self-giving God', enable me (a person made in your 'image') to become a 'self-giving creature', finding great delight as I exercise great stewardship!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." (Jim Elliott)

– Ron Christian –

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Questions

  1. What, for you, constitutes the "spiritual seed" and the "material seed" which God has allotted to you, to sow in your life?

  2. As a Christian witness, who is given the responsibility to "sow the seed of God's Word" in the world, do you 'know' at the time you are sowing the Word (i.e., spreading the Good News of Christ's salvation) which persons (sinners) will be receptive to Christ's message and which persons will not be receptive? What lesson do you think Jesus was seeking to communicate to his listeners (including His disciples) when He shared the "Parable of the Sower" (Matthew 13:1-9)?

  3. Give your interpretation and application of the following statement: "How I sow my seed will determine the harvest of my life." (Note Galatians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 8:6-12)

  4. From whom does the Christian receive 'wisdom' to discern how best to invest his life for God (i.e., how best to 'sow the good seed of God's Word' to needy persons in the world), that the believer may enjoy a bountiful spiritual harvest for God? (Note James 1:5; John 15:16; John 16:13-15). Are there 'times' ('occasions') when a discerning Christian should be 'discriminatory' as to whom he should 'sow the seed of God's Word'? Is it 'proper' for you (as a sincere believer) to ask God to help you to 'sow' in the 'right places' and in the 'right manner'? Why or why not? Should Christians 'focus' their priorities on sowing God's 'seed' on the places where there is the greatest potential for receptivity, growth, and fruitful discipleship?

  5. Because the appeal for 'funds' (monetary donations) are widespread in the 'Christian World', how can you effectively discern what 'ministries' should receive some of your financial gifts?

  6. What 'right' does God 'have to ask you to surrender to Him all your 'resources' (i.e., your body, mind, and spirit, as well as your time and talents and treasures)? (Note Acts 17:24-28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Is it your 'strong conviction' that (because you are the product of God's special creation and because you are the object of God's special love since Christ's blood redeemed your soul) you do not belong to yourself but that you belong solely to God? How does such a sense of God's 'ownership' of you, change the way you view yourself and your relationship to God and to other persons?

  7. From your own life (or from your observation of the life of someone whom you know well) share an illustration which demonstrates the truth of the following statement: "Little is much when God is in it!"

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  8. As a serious 'financial steward' (i.e., a sincere follower of the generous Christ) how do you, personally decide how much of your total financial resources you will give to God's Kingdom Work?

  9. What are some of the 'serious consequences' when a Christian fails to share his 'lunch' (i.e., his time and talents and treasures) with other persons?

  10. Is it Biblically-accurate (and practically-true) to say that "God will never allow those who are willing to give to be hungry while others are fed"? (Note John 6: 1-14; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15)

  11. In view of the overwhelming human hurts and needs of the multitudes of the world's population (similar to the overwhelming needs of the hungry crowd in John 6:1-14), do you sometimes feel that your 'little lunch' (i.e., your limited human resources) is 'insignificant' and 'inadequate', and are you ever tempted to withhold your 'lunch' (resources) with the hope that 'others' will give their greater resources in place of your small resources? Why is it a "contradiction in terms" to speak of "a spectator Christian"?

  12. Share an example from your own life (or from the life of a fellow believer) when God used your 'small gift' to bring multiplied blessings to many persons (similar to the 'miracle' of God's multiplication of the child's lunch in the story as recorded in John 6:1-14).

  13. Is it Scripturally sound to say that, regardless of the number or the size of one's talents, God will fully reward each believer who surrenders his all to Christ and who seeks to serve Christ wholeheartedly, and who sincerely loves his fellow men? Is there any service – even a seemingly insignificant service – which a believer performs in the 'name of Christ' which will go unrewarded? (Note Matthew 10:42) Do you sincerely believe the following statement? – "Little is much if God is in it!"

  14. According to the Bible, what is the 'basis' of one's contentment in life? (Note Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8)

  15. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "There are two ways to be wealthy – one is in the abundance of your possessions, and the other is in the fewness of your wants. In taking the latter way to be wealthy you transfer to the inside of you the real wealth that cannot be taken away by depression or death."

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  16. Share the three principles which John Wesley believed should guide every Christian in the use of his money, and share how you would attempt practically to apply these principles in your own personal life.

  17. Tell what is meant by the statement: "Money is a useful 'servant' but a cruel 'master'."

  18. Share how you have confronted (and overcome) the temptation to become 'greedy' in the midst of a materialistically-orientated world, and share what it means to you to live a 'simple lifestyle' of loving service.

  19. List several of the many 'benefits' to generous giving.

  20. What does it mean for you (a committed follower of Christ) to "keep a light hold on material things"?

  21. Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The one who is most generous with his money is the one who finds most joy in giving. The more one gives, the more one develops a capacity to give."

  22. Give your interpretation (and application) of the following famous quotation: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose." (Jim Elliott)

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