We are approaching the celebration of the greatest gift God ever offered. I am referring, of course, to the birth of our Savior the Lord Jesus. Through this gift all mankind can receive forgiveness and fullness in this lifetime, as well as eternal life. God so loved all of us that He not only offered grace through this Child, but life through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of His only begotten Son. God is love and, without a doubt, love is expressed in giving.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I can testify, along with my wife Betty and the thousands of supporters of LIFE Outreach, that giving and sharing God’s love is the most meaningful experience we can have on this earth. It is amazing to observe many of our faithful supporters walking through these challenging times with remarkable stability, security and peace. The friends of LIFE have found the joy of giving to live and living to give. Over and over, people tell me that they have found the statement I often make on television, “If you want to live life fully, express life freely,” to be true beyond words. And remember, the “ministry of giving” is not limited to money alone. It can be expressed by caring, giving time or attention, a listening ear or shoulder to lean on.
Jesus did teach in the Sermon on the Mount that where your treasure is, your heart is also. There is no question that legitimate self-interest is totally appropriate and very important. I am not referencing selfish interests, but concern about life’s issues that matter to us and to our families.
Beyond this legitimate and necessary interest, however, comes the importance of similar interest in the well-being of others. This is the only realistic way to deal with the problem of greed. When we are controlled by our own self-seeking, self-serving desire for personal gratification with little thought for others, we are dealing with a problem that only God can enable us to overcome. When we are freed from this unhealthy self-focus, we will begin to notice and care about others. If we have God’s interest at heart, we are going to care about others. We are going to be committed to His kingdom purpose and allow His will to be revealed to us and through us so that others may see the reality of God’s love and His interest in their well-being. He wants everyone to know Him as their Father.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthian church in the area of generosity. These words of encouragement followed a stern reprimand calling them to godliness and true holiness and away from the fleshly carnality and negative tendencies of the world. They were surrounded by idolatrous practices and godless beliefs. Paul inspired them by exemplifying the churches in Macedonia. These were the Christians that supported Paul’s mission outreaches when no others did, and he commended them with these words:
“They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5, NLT)
Think about it. They literally begged for the privilege of sharing with other believers. They noticed. They saw the needs of others through the eyes of Jesus. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to finish this ministry of giving. He complimented them on their gifted speakers, their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their love, but he also said, “I want you to excel in the gracious act of giving.”
When asked to sign someone’s Bible or a book, I put a Scripture reference under my name from 2 Corinthians 8:9 (KJV), “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might be rich.”
I began referring people to that verse when I was still a student in college and preaching in various churches. I wanted everyone to read this powerful message. God expressed His love by giving His best – His only Son. Jesus, being one with God and seated at the right hand of God, left all of heaven, came to earth and spilled out His life in order that we might have life. Through His sacrifice, through His love, through His gift, we can experience life and joyfully begin sharing it with others.
Paul went on to tell the Corinthian believers that he wanted them to understand the importance of the “ministry of giving.” Then he challenged them to make willing gifts, not one that is given grudgingly, and wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver.” He also followed that statement with a great promise from our heavenly Father. He said, “God will generously provide all you need (not necessarily all we want, but all we need), and you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” Once again, Paul is pointing beyond our own legitimate interest to the importance of caring about others.
Paul then shared a promise from Psalm 112:9, “They share freely and give generously to the poor and their good deeds will be remembered forever,” and went on inspiring the Corinthian Christians reminding them, “God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and in the same way He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.” Then he referenced the “ministry of giving” again pointing to the positive effect we can have on others. “The needs of believers will be met and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry they will give glory to God!” The “ministry of giving” not only meets the needs of others, but God says because of it, He promises to meet our needs. As a result of living to give and giving to live, we will be glorifying God through our lives and others will give God glory because we have shared real life and true love with them.
It is the “ministry of giving” viewers of LIFE Today have rejoiced in for 25 years by joining with LIFE Outreach and missionaries around the world. We have together shared God’s love not just “in word, but in deed.” It has been the extended hands of compassion revealing the love of God. Just as with the churches of Macedonia and the New Testament Christians in Corinth, the members of the family of faith have been sharing the greatest gift known to man and that is life itself through Jesus Christ our Lord. When people see God’s love expressed through believers, their hearts are opened to welcome this love in their own lives.
When you face personal challenges in your own life, may I suggest you diligently seek to help someone else deal with the challenges in their life? If you want your prayers answered, seek to be an answer to someone’s prayer. Everyone can find someone to love in some way. What a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the coming New Year! You will be greatly blessed by becoming a blessing to others!