Every once in a while, something comes along and unexpectantly captures our minds and hearts. This is a time like that in the life of Caleb’s Heart Ministries as we prepare our hearts and then officially Kick Off our special 2018 ministry emphasis, “Taking The Valley” Wild-Eyed Warrior Challenge. This is the final push to fulfill the second part of our vision for Peaceful Valley and Squaw Valley Ranches. Our mission this summer is to provide capital improvements, off-road transportation, and to virtually double, even triple ministry potential. So far in this series we’ve talked about preparation, prayer and presence – that is, jumping in with both feet and being active participants within a God-honoring community. Today we’ve come to a very important element of our growth in the Christian faith: generosity.
Wait! Stay with me here, because this is not your common giving-guilt-trip. Unfortunately, generosity is a term we use both wrongly and far too sparingly. Some interpret it as reserved for the wealthy. But generosity is not about our bank account or stock portfolio; it is about our hearts. Generosity reflects God’s nature. The psalmist raised the question, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:2). We can only find the answer in our hearts. Nothing we have is too big or grand to offer our awesome God. No gift is too small if it represents our prayers, our disruption, and a sacrificial portion of our time, talents and treasure. Remember the example of David in 1 Chronicles 21:24, ‘I will not offer to the Lord anything that costs me nothing.’ I (Mike Tesdahl) recall one experience while serving a community of squatters in the backcountry of the Dominican Republic. Even though I had just gotten up from the breakfast table, an elderly woman, overwhelmed by the work being done in her community by a group of total strangers, insisted that I go to her hut and let her feed me…again. She served me a bowl of broth with one small piece of chicken skin in it. It was clearly all she had, but she wanted to bless me with it. That’s my personal “widow’s mite” story.
Have you ever participated in a short-term mission trip and been transformed by the experience? More than any other outcome, missions build into participants a missional heart and a missional lifestyle. Because we go, because we see, we feel compassion for the lost and less fortunate, and every aspect of our personal, family, professional and worship life becomes integrated, overflowing and wholly committed to bringing and being good news. Experiences like “Taking The Valley” can make a similar contribution to the development of a generous heart and a generous lifestyle. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul summarizes everything God has related to us – in His Word, through the prophets and by the example of His Son – about a generosity, calling us to be “extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life” (The Message).
Go after God! Jeremiah 9:23-24 warns the rich man not to boast of his riches, “but let him who boasts, boast about this: that he understands and knows me.” As I grow in my understanding of Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide,” I throw off my unfounded hope in wealth and its accompanying anxiety, distrust and hoarding. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God will supply my needs, but there is more being said here. Paul is also saying that it is as if Christ draws on the treasury of heaven, so that as I supply another’s needs from my poverty, Christ supplies my every need from his riches.
Be rich in helping others! Some biblical passages say that I am rich because of what God has done, and of course that is true, but the opening passage from Timothy states that because of a changed and generous heart I will simply be rich, extravagant, in my personal outreach and service. Extravagant people are outward focused. Whether with their time, talents or treasure, they simply love to give, steadily pouring themselves out in acts of love. They draw energy from making a difference. They are in community, “alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences…together, both outwardly and inwardly” (Ephesians 4).
Be extravagantly generous! At first glance, the emphasis here seems to be on my generosity. On the contrary, the emphasis is on my testimony! “What matters most to me is to finish the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God” (Acts 20:24 The Message). Rather than generosity, most translations speak of God’s grace. From the root, to rejoice, grace reminds us of all that God has done for us and compels us to delightfully imitate those things in our own generosity. For many of us, our most precious and sacrificial gift is not even our money; it is our time, our participation, our leadership, our knowledge and experience. Hold that thought for our next message on Service.
Take hold of the life that is truly life! Extravagantly generous people understand accountability and stewardship. They’re like first chair men in an orchestra, like sergeants in an army: they’ve studied, they know how, they help others and they show how. Stewards live with gratitude, make giving a priority and teach others by their example to save carefully, spend prudently and give lavishly. Biblical stewards understand that we don’t own or earn anything. Rather, God owns it all and gives it to us to be good stewards of it; he expects a return on that investment in us. Stewardship showcases where our priorities lie; it allows God a chance to show up and show off! Finally, when we give, Malachi 3 says that the floodgates of heaven will open. I think that’s one of the best promises God Almighty gives us through his Word.