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Understanding the Journey, Part 2

From the series Living Generously

Research tells us that generous people are happier, have a stronger immune system, and have more positive, life-giving relationships. Which begs the question: How can we become more generous people? Chip answers that question, in this program.

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How do you become more generous? Here’s our first steps toward living a generous life. Number one, recognize it’s a journey. If you wanted to be a classical guitar player, a great athlete – no one went from putting on the skates to doing one of those dances. No one just put on some skis and then went seven million miles up in the air and landed.

It’s a journey. So, what I want you to really think about is: what would it look like for you personally to say, wherever you are at on a scale of one to ten or one to a hundred, if I’m here, what would it look like to move toward becoming more generous? And you might even, at this moment, whisper, God, I would like to be more generous. Would You help me be more generous?

Second, reevaluate your view of God. This is where it all really begins. In Exodus 32, after all God’s grace, deliverance, Moses goes up to get the Ten Commandments, and they get Aaron to build a golden calf and they are worshipping a golden calf. Moses comes down and takes care of the situation.

And then in chapter 33, he has this personal talk with God and says, “If we are going to keep going, You’ve got to go with me. If You’re not going to go with me, I don’t want to go.” And he stands in the gap for the Israelites and they are forgiven.

And then he has seen God’s power, he has seen the Red Sea, he has seen the fire at night and the cloud by day. He has seen manna come out. He has seen all these miracles, but his big prayer is: “Show me Your glory. I want to know You as You really are.”

And in chapter 33, God says, “No man can see My face and live.” But here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll pass by and I’ll let you get a glimpse. “I’ll let all My goodness pass before you.” It’s a very interesting Hebrew word.

And J.I. Packer has a great observation. He says, “Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections, there is one in particular to which the term ‘goodness’ points. The quality which God especially singled out from the whole when proclaiming all His goodness to Moses. He spoke of Himself as abundant in goodness and truth. This is the quality of” – are you ready? “generosity.”

Packer says that generosity expresses the simple wish that others would have what they need to make them happy. Could you even for a moment fathom what would happen if, when you thought about God, you thought He is generous and He would like you to have what would make you happy? That He is for you? He is not down on you. That it’s not a transaction. It’s: if you do this, He’ll do that. He loves you!

And then, He introduces Himself. It’s really interesting. He introduces Himself to Moses. He says, “The Lord, the Lord, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Do you realize that little phrase in chapter 34 is repeated thirteen different times, either directly – eight – or paraphrased another five?

So, what is God really like? “The Lord, the Lord,” He is compassionate. It’s a word of: He feels what you feel and He wants to bond with you. He is gracious. It means He just wants to give, not because you have done anything, but just because there is something in Him. He is compassionate and gracious.

Contrary to popular belief, He is not angry. He is slow to anger. The word literally means it takes something for a long, long time to heat up. He is so patient with you. He is kind. He is generous. He is faithful.

If you and I would begin to see and understand who God is, we would just be humbled by His generosity toward you.

In Abraham’s life, in Genesis 12, verses 1 through 3, He calls this man out to leave and it says he obeyed Him and he followed and he didn’t know where he was going and then this is God’s promise: “The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s house and go to the land that I will show you.’” By the way, generosity, sometimes means leaving your country, your people, and your family.

It’s positioning yourself in obedience. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.”

There are only three verses and the word bless or blessed comes five times. Who is Abraham? He is the father of the faith. God wants us to trust Him. Are you ready for this? As you trust Him with your time, trust Him with your future, trust Him with your relationships, trust Him at work, trust Him with your money – here’s the God that you serve. He wants to bless you. He wants to do good.

Some of you are parents, right? Don’t you feel happy inside when your kids are doing well? Don’t you, at times, wish you had a little bit more energy or time or money or there is something on their heart that you would want to give them – where do you think you get that? That’s how God feels about you. He longs to bless you.

God is a blesser and He is eager to bless your life. Write that down, will you? He is a blesser. He wants to bless your life. And, by the way, don’t read into that – you’re going to get a G5 tomorrow, or you’re going to own three houses. He wants to bless your life. You know what He knows about you? Everything. And you know what? Someone who knows everything, He knows what will bring the greatest, deepest joy for the longest possible time.

And if it were a thing, He’ll probably give you a thing. But if things filled you up, then the richest people in the world would be the happiest. Unfortunately, they’re not. Summary: we do not own or deserve – write the word – anything.

The beginning step of really becoming generous is a coin with two sides. One side of the coin is God wants to bless me. The other side of the coin is He owns everything. So, when He is asking us to be generous with time, who gave you the time? When He is asking us to be generous with our money, guess what, get the word “our” out of it. It’s not yours. It’s His.

So, all this stuff about percentages – if you give twenty percent, thirty percent, forty percent – guess what – God owns it all and He holds us responsible for all of it. What He wants you to know is it’s an amazing thing that switches when you say, “You know what? I don’t own anything.” And are you ready for this – anti-entitlement – you don’t deserve anything. And neither do I!

See, we act like: “I deserve this.” You say, “I worked hard.” Well, who gave you the job? “Well, I thought this through.” Well, who gave you the brain? We can go there. I got you, right? I got you.

In fact, the apostle Paul, it says, “What do you have that you haven’t received?” I’m not telling you that you haven’t worked hard. I’m not telling you you haven’t applied yourself. But I’m telling you there is a sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful God who has created every blessing. “Every good and perfect gift,” James would say. Don’t be deceived. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above,” that’s where it comes from, “from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” in other words, He doesn’t change.

In the Old Testament, He says it the same way. “The Lord God,” Psalm 84:11, “the Lord God is a sun and a shield.” unlimited provider and protector. “The Lord gives grace and glory,” in other words, what we don’t deserve and He wants to lift us up. And that last part, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

The challenge is walking uprightly. The challenge is aligning our lives in such a way – most Christians’ lives, unfortunately, you’re not blessable. You’re not blessable. You’ve got all these – imagine, remember when we were kids and we did fights and someone would get a squirt gun out and then someone would get the hose? And what was the only way to stop the person with the hose, right? You got down and you picked up those hose and you crinked it, right? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

So many Christians, your hose – God wants to pour blessing into your life and your hose, it’s crinked. And it’s with selfishness or with an addiction or with an unforgiving attitude or your finances are just…

And in moments of weakness and sometimes it was just ignorance. But you’ve got all this debt. There’s just all kinds of things that have happened and your heavenly Father goes, I want to bless you. So, we are going to go on a journey to position yourself so you can receive what God wants to give you and when He gives it to you, He wants you to recognize, Oh, by the way, this really is Yours, and you can keep passing it on.

What keeps us from living generously? I have alluded to a couple. But, first and foremost, human nature, right? We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

I have a number of small, little grandchildren. No one had to teach them, “That’s mine!” Right? And we get sophisticated, but that same, “That’s mine,” is in your heart and mine. And so, it’s hard to be generous.

The second reason is, I just call it, delusional thinking. We just, because we always compare like this, we always compare like, Well, this person is an axe murderer and I haven’t killed anyone. I must be a pretty nice person. Or, I give a dollar. I helped a homeless person once. Or, I smile.

Instead of, wait a second, are you giving the first and the best of your time to the Lord? Are you, is your antenna up and do you find yourself giving kind words, kind thoughts? Do you find yourself secretly providing for people? And whether it’s food or whether it’s money.

I used to say this and there was always a little edge. Pastors are people too, so we do stuff that’s not that great. And I had a message that I used to speak a number of years ago on giving and when I really wanted to bring it home, man, I really wanted to zing it to you, because it frustrates me because I know what you’re missing. And then part of it, it just frustrates me.

And so, I would say something like this, are you ready for the zinger? And I’ll tell you the switch of motives. I would say, “The average Christian is far more committed to making sure they leave ten or fifteen or twenty percent at a table to a waiter or a waitress than they are to the God that died and rose from the dead for them.”

How many times have you gone out to dinner at a decent place and just stiffed the waiter or waitress? “I ain’t giving you anything. None.” Right? I bet there’s not a hand that would go up.

And then, and so, that really made a point because I thought, Wow. That’ll help. It never has. But why? You know why? Because you get to know them as they are serving you and you’re thinking, partly, what would they think? By the way, Christians, by and large, I have known some waiters and waitresses, “Sunday afternoons, it’s terrible. Yeah, they come in, they bow their head, they pray, and they are the worst tippers.” That’s not a good testimony.

But what I realize is, when you get to know that person, what you realize, that tip is going to an actual person. They have eyes, they have hair, you might find out she has a little girl, you might find out that he is in school. And see, what I think has happened with giving in church, somehow you think it’s like some law that God brought down.

When you give, you give to a person. You give to Jesus. Giving is a love action. And I think the reason we don’t stiff waitresses and waiters is because it’s a real person and somehow, we think God is the Force. He’s a real person with feelings and He wants us to give for our benefit and so that we could help others.

I think the biggest one, however, is, I just call it irrational fear. It’s just irrational. And it goes like this: If I give, and let’s get to the heart. Some of you feel better about time, which is really harder to give than money. But if you’re not doing well with money, time is even harder.

So, here, think of the logic. God, I know that You’re going to provide my salvation and when I die, I believe with all my heart You have provided a way, that You have paid for my sin, You have prepared a way for me, and I know for sure I am going to heaven. I just don’t think I could live on ninety or eighty or whatever percent that You lead me. I just don’t think You could help me pay my bills.

Come on, now! Really. God, You can deliver me from death. God, I have seen You intervene and heal cancer. I have seen You pull a marriage back together. I have seen You take one of my kids and turn them around. I have seen You do things at work I have never dreamed. But I really don’t think You could give me enough money to pay for the groceries. It’s just irrational. And the enemy plays on it.

And, finally, this is, we get the ugly stuff out of the way. We are people and sometimes it’s just greed and pride. Just greed and pride. No one is immune. But, notice, living generously requires wisdom, honesty, practice, faith, and humility. And I didn’t just pick those words out.

You need wisdom to understand it’s human nature. You need honesty to overcome your delusional thinking. You need practice because some people, you just don’t know the Bible. You’re not, it’s not a bad person, I didn’t know the Bible taught this.

And then you need faith to overcome your irrational fears. And then humility. At the heart of giving, it’s just, it always starts with humility. You have given this to me and I am going to trust and I want to share this time, this word, this thought, this influence with someone else.

Let me give you some action steps. How do you become more generous? One, take daily baby steps with words, thought, time, stuff, money, and can I encourage you? Record them. I don’t care if you have never done a journal. Just get a little spiral notebook, at least for thirty days. Just, and you don’t have to write but three or four lines.

But take a baby step. “I am going to say positive words to the people at work.” Just, “I am going to look for one person to help.” “I am going to take an extra five dollars.” I don’t care what you do. Do something and then write down.

Second, celebrate, daily, God’s blessings and record them. See, I think God does all kinds of things and we don’t, we just don’t recognize it. Just sit up in bed, turn on that little light, and you only have to write two or three lines. But just, what, Where did God bless me today?

And just, if you don’t like to write it out, bullet point, bullet point, bullet point. And just do it for thirty days. I am telling you, your awareness of God will skyrocket.

And then, finally, give your first and your best portion back to God each payday. Just say, Wow, by faith. And biblically and we are not going to get into tithing and gross and net and all that. But, biblically, just ten percent before the law, during the law, Jesus said something, is probably a good place to start.

But, here’s, for some of you, that might be like Mount Everest. So, you might want to go for a base camp. Here’s what would be for everyone: give a percentage. Make the percentage. And this is between you and God. Lord, I am going to start giving two point five percent. I am going to give six percent. I am going to give seven percent. But do something where you begin to build a track record where you are acting on the truth at whatever level of faith you have. And just see what God does. Just see what He does.