3/24/19

Trusting God – Generosity Step 3   (Acts 20:35)

 

In one sentence at times, Jesus gave truth so deep we can spend our lives searching out all His meaning: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no…’”.  “Anyone who is angry with his brother has murdered him already in his heart.”  Another –strangely not in the Gospels – stuns us a bit since it seems to fly full in the face of our human nature: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

 

Do we believe that?  All boiled down, a life of generosity requires trust in God on our part.  Can we trust the promises; will Jesus deliver what we need?  Whatever He gives, it will be by His estimation of riches, not ours. 

 

Can we hold His hand and walk with Him in joy and peace, trusting fully (no doubt) that all will be well in the end?  To be His disciples, Jesus challenges us to grow to a point that as we face – or even think of facing – difficult and terrifying storms of life that could destroy us, we’ll “be still” and rest at peace in Him.  Over and over, again and again, with love, He tells us, “I’ve got this… leave it to me.” 

 

Do you remember that time with the disciples in a boat on Galilee?  He slept in the stern… but a fierce storm blew up that even frightened seasoned Galilee fishermen.  It was “filling the boat with water” and “they were in great danger.  After they had awakened Him and He had calmed the storm, what did He ask them?  “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:22-25). 

 

There was history behind His question.  What had they already seen Him do?  What power did they know he had?  Hadn’t they already seen water become wine?  …Him heal hundreds, maybe thousands with a word or a touch?  … a grotesque leper?  …hadn’t Peter watched him heal his mother-in-law?

 

There is a similar boat event… also on Galilee, no storm this time, just crossing, and Jesus teaching.  He said, “Beware of the yeast of the scribes and Pharisees” (a spiritual warning they took it wrong).  They had forgotten to bring along enough bread for their company and thought Jesus was scolding, so they fretted, “Oh boy, how can we fix this?”  He took the occasion to teach them a lesson about TRUST:

 

…he asked them, “Why are you discussing about not having any bread? Don't you know or understand yet? Are your minds so dull? 18 You have eyes—can't you see? You have ears—can't you hear? Don't you remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand people? How many baskets full of leftover pieces did you take up?” “Twelve,” they answered.  20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand people,” asked Jesus, “how many baskets full of leftover pieces did you take up?”  “Seven,” they answered.  And you still don’t

understand?” he asked them. (Mark 8:17-21) GNT)

 

Isn’t “And still you don’t understand?” a question for Christians who look at our stuff and clutch it ever-so-tightly for insurance against storms we’re in, or think we see coming?  Where is our faith?  Haven’t we seen enough yet?  Haven’t we had plenty to eat when we knew we’d starve?  Haven’t we been surely “done for” and come out without a scratch?  Haven’t we time and again seen “things worked into a pattern for good” by God… with us getting blessing instead of curse?

 

This has to be a lesson men don’t easily learn because Jesus made TRUST in God one of His core teachings (commands, positive and negative examples, compari-sons, contrasts, object lessons).  He wanted to teach us that earthly wealth is a major barrier to us knowing His Father’s blessings.

 

Matthew’s “beatitudes” lay out the path to great blessing… e.g., be “merciful” and “receive mercy.”  But in Luke’s gospel He pointed out the path to being cursed by God: “…how terrible for you who are rich now; you have had your easy life!  How terrible for you who are full now; you will go hungry!  How terrible for you who laugh now; you will mourn and weep!” (Luke 6:24-25)

 

He spoke sadly of some receiving the “seed” only to have it shoved out of their hearts by “worries and riches and pleasures of this life.”  He was teaching… TRUST is better than worry and leads to more, and better, “riches and pleasures”… whether then or now, but “riches and pleasures” as God defines them, not man.

 

Both John and Jesus “came preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.”  What “good news”?  As yet, there was no “good news” of salvation, no cross or empty tomb.  Wasn’t “good news” Messiah coming into the world signaling a great reversal and God making all mankind rich in better ways than gold… the “lame walk, deaf hear, dead would live again, and the gospel goes to the poor”?

 

Once He taught how enemies are to be treated: “Do good to [them]...  lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God [who] is good to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 7:35-36).  We should have joy that God has blessed us to be able to do it and more joy that it makes us like Him!  The prin-ciple is… “Do for others just what you want them to do for you “ (Luke 7:31).

 

One time He preached, “This is how it is with those who pile up wealth for them-selves and are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).  He meant having chock-full barns with not one second of life left to enjoy it. 

 

Think of Him pointing to birds with no barns, but fed!  …to flowers without needles and thread, but ornately dressed!  He gave this command, “Be concerned with [God’s] kingdom and he will provide” (Luke 12:31).

 

Once He taught, “Much is required of the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given” (Luke 12:48). 

 

If we decide to follow Jesus, we decide to follow a radical Savior who tells us to TRUST Him this much: “Sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor” (Luke 12:33).  For such generosity He promises “a purse that never wears out.”

 

What if we’re nowhere near this level of TRUST?  We obey… we trust as best we can… we grow... And our trust grows from “mustard seed” TRUST to a “tree big enough for birds to nest in the branches” TRUST; we swell from just a touch of “leaven” in us TRUST to our whole batch of dough (and “dough”) filled with Jesus TRUST.  We don’t have to have much… but however much we have, Jesus asks that we be ready in our hearts to give it all to Him; He might take our donkey to ride on, or our upper room to celebrate the Passover, or our last “two mites.” 

 

Remember that at the temple treasury, Jesus saw the rich giving large sums out of their surplus and one poor widow giving “all she had to live on.”  A similar thing came about when news of great hunger among the Christians in Judea got to a young Macedonian church with not much more resource than the widow had: “out of their deep poverty… they first gave themselves to the Lord.”   

 

We’ve more about the widow… but God gave the Christians in Macedonia “overflowing joy.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)Maybe we know something about her, too… Jesus said, “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.” (Luke 6:38).

 

Paul preached: “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6).  The level of our TRUST in God determines how we sow, generously or stingily.

 

He preached prosperity:  “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion… and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). 

 

This isn’t to be understood as an in kind promise… not every gift comes back in kind.  Here’s the thing: every gift comes back multiplied!  Our end result will be thanking God for of His promise-keeping.  Others will thank God, too, because their needs get met – healing, a life turned around financially, or a life turned around eternally… who knows?   But whatever, God gets all the glory!  Paul said, “Men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies our confession…”

 

TRUSTING God frees us from arrogance.  Every privilege and blessing we have comes with temptations we must recognize and defeat quickly.  Two common sins with those who are materially blessed are arrogance and pride – we harbor thoughts that we know more, can do more, and are simply better than others.  Knowing it all came from God and belongs to God and is a tool on loan to us provides our escape from these sins. 

 

And we might be tempted to “put [our] hope in wealth.”  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon scanned his kingdom and said, “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majes-ty?”  No sooner had his words left his lips when God’s voice of judgment spoke… and he spent seven years insane, living like a wild animal, away from “the great Babylon he had built.”  Remembering the Hand from which it came, who really owns it all, and the real reasons we’ve been entrusted with it makes us generous.  TRUST and generosity kill pride and arrogance and hoping in riches.    

 

So, again, what does God give when we TRUST Him and open our hands?  Let me answer this way… God will never give us anything that might destroy us… if we ask for “bread” He’ll never give “stones” (Matthew 7:9). 

 

Finally, we can TRUST that His word is sure!  In some way in His reality, we’re “more blessed when we give than when we receive.”  Our God, the ONE God, the LIVING God, OUR FATHER… is a God who is always good; let’s just trust Him to give us all the BLESSINGS He has in mind!

 

We’re small and afraid, and can’t swim, and our Father and our Savior are both in the deep end of the pool telling us, “Jump in… We’ll catch you and you’ll know no danger or care.”

 

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (by Louisa Stead, 1880)

 

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, / Just to take Him at His word,

Just to rest upon His promise, / Just to know, “Thus says the Lord.”

 

I’s so glad I learned to trust Thee / Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend,

And I know that You are with me, / Will be with me to the end.

 

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, / How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, / Oh, for grace to trust Him more!