Freely Give

As we continue our blog thread discussion on The Basics of Christianity, one topic we simply cannot overlook, perhaps even in spite of how uncomfortable or awkward it may feel to talk about, is GIVING; what we are called to do with the time, gifts and talents that God has provided to each of us.

Now before you’re tempted to click away, I promise this will be way more informative than any sort of “drive-by guilting.”  My intent is not to make you feel bad in this area but to, instead come to recognize the amazing, innumerable, and unmeasurable gift we receive when we give.

I recognize that probably sounds a bit off within our “If I don’t look out for myself, no one else will” highly individualized culture.

But it’s kind of sad really, isn’t it, that so often we are self-centered and form habits and ways of living that ultimately serve only ourselves, sometimes even at the cost of others?

Regardless of how long we may have identified and been walking as Christians, we have, I think, an innate sense of where this comes from.

We are, by nature, sinful creatures who allow ourselves to be convinced that all that we have is ours; that looking out for, and serving ourselves is best and, ultimately, what will make us happiest.

And I’m not just talking about money.  (We may venture further down that path in a future post.)

We can also give through the ways in which we share our time, talents, and other resources.

As Christians, we are called to live differently than the rest of the world.

Instead of looking only to serve ourselves, we are to look to serve Jesus Christ, often by serving others He places in our path.

Jesus is the perfect example of giving through service to others.

He left the perfection of heaven to be with us in our broken world.  And rather than be served by others he, himself served others with kindness and humility.  (Mark 10:45 NIV)

From healing those who were sick or possessed, to washing his disciples’ feet to dying a gruesome death on the cross, Jesus shows us what real love and the heart of a giving servant truly looks like.

The apostle John records how Jesus set an example for us to follow.  (John 13: 1-17 NIV).

Take particular note of verse 15 where, after washing each of His disciples’ feet – an act of love, humility, and service – He encourages us to follow His lead and serve one another.  “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you,” Jesus says.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, Lord of Lords and Most High King never placed himself in a position above others (until He went to the cross).  He led and loved others by serving.  He fed thousands.  He washed feet. He walked long distances to visit and heal the sick and even the dead.  He took time out of His busy schedule to heal and touch a sick woman.  He spent time with and cared for those no one else cared to spend time with.  Jesus lived an exemplary life of humility in service.

Jesus showed us that serving others and humility go hand in hand.

And many of His disciples, whose writings are included in the pages of scripture, took these lessons to heart (and pen) as well.

Consider the following 3 examples from the letters of Paul:

  1. 13 You, my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  (Galatians 5:13 NIV)
  2. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2: 3-5 NIV)
  3. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Serving in Love

Serving others involves more than simply our actions. Rather, it involves our hearts and attitudes towards each other while we are serving; it involves love. Once again, we can look to Jesus as an example of this. He did not serve begrudgingly but instead showed true humility and love while he helped people from different backgrounds and social standings.

Serving with Humility

Jesus was led by the Spirit of God and followed His promptings to serve, love, and help others. No task was ever beneath Jesus, and no person was ever unworthy.

Serving with Care and Intentionality

Serving others is more than keeping up with your to-do list. To be a servant means we genuinely need to care about people. It’s keeping our eyes, hearts, and schedules open for divine appointments. Jesus was not stressed by time, what others thought of Him, or a list of tasks to accomplish each day.

Maintaining a Desire to Serve

Paul’s words in the second chapter of Ephesians can, for some, appear confusing or even contradictory.  Before verse 10, as has been shared above, verses 8 and 9 say, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2: 8-9 NIV).

“So,” some may ask, “as a Christian am I supposed to do works or not?”

My study Bible addresses the question this way:

“The question of whether or not Christians should do good works can be answered with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Jesus said that His disciples are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14 NIV).  He then said, ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 5: 16 NIV) Jesus calls us to stand out from the rest of the world by the good deeds we perform.  Paul also characterized redeemed believers as those who are eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14 NIV)

“Still, there is often confusion about how good works are related to salvation. The Scriptures teach that good works are not the cause of our salvation but the result. We cannot earn our salvation with good works. After reading Paul’s statements in these texts, it’s natural to wonder where, if any place, good works have in our lives (v. 8-9).  Instead, perhaps it is more useful for us to continue to marvel at the goodness of our God who not only offers salvation as a gift but also makes us new creatures in Christ who are able to perform good works that He, Himself has orchestrated beforehand (v.10)!

The truth is, giving of ourselves by serving God through serving others is not always easy.  Sometimes, you’re going to get discouraged.  So, what can you do when you get discouraged?  Remember these 3 things:

  1. Remember that, through your service to God through others, you’re going to receive a reward that is going to go on throughout eternity. The Bible says that God “will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers. (Hebrews 6:10 NLT).  Additionally, Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Said yet another way, “The one who blesses others will be blessed; those who help others are helped.” (Message [paraphrase] Version) You’re going to be rewarded in heaven.
  2. Remember that God uses every little thing. Nothing is insignificant when you serve God.  None of your service to others is in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) reminds us to “always give yourselves fully to the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
  3. Remember that God doesn’t necessarily need our service but He asks us throughout His word to pray for one another, encourage one another, counsel, support, and help one another. Serve one another and do so, not out of obligation but out of obedience and thanksgiving. Once again, Paul writes, “Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)

Serving others and genuine love go hand in hand. But what exactly does that look like? How do we genuinely love even the unlovable? How do we loosen the grip on our to-do lists? How do we position ourselves to act humbly?

Here are four good places to start:

1. Is your heart struggling to love and serve others? Pray and ask Jesus for a heart change.

  1. Be open to Him working, stretching, and changing your heart. This may bring out some things you need to address and work on, but it will be worth it!
  2. He can change your heart, soften the edges, and teach you to love others with kindness and compassion.

2. Take a look at your schedule. Are you doing too much?

  1. Are you keeping things on your list because of appearances?
  2. Allow Him to free up your time.
  3. Ask Him to show you each day what needs to be done and what can be set aside.

3. Begin placing others first in your day-to-day thoughts and activities.

  1. Think about the needs of others and how you can place them before your own.
  2. Do you see a struggling mom at the store? Let her get in line before you.
  3. Does your neighbor need help with his lawn? Give him a hand. Or better yet, maybe even take care of it for him.

4. Listen to God, and do what He says.

  1. Follow God’s prompting and leading when going about your day.
  2. If you feel like you should stop and serve, do it.
  3. This doesn’t necessarily mean you take on every opportunity presented to you.
  4. Ask God, then listen and do what He says.

At our First Friday Event in December, we are going to take the opportunity to usher in the Christmas Season and work to transform our minds toward our best outlook for the Holidays by spending a little time in service to others.  Please continue to watch your e-mail and this newsletter for additional information on how you may contribute to these efforts, both financially and through sharing of your time and talents.  I sincerely invite you and hope you’ll be able to join us.  If however, you can’t attend our First Friday event, please let me encourage you to consider serving others in some way at some time during this Holiday season.  You can gain inspiration and some specific project ideas through our Community Service Team site at North Coast.  It’s a “not because you have to, but because you get to, kind of thing.”  And I promise you will get immeasurably back more than you are able to give because we simply cannot outgive God.  (Malachi 3:10 NIV) It’s not transactional (“Oh, God, if I serve you, I expect you to pay me back.”) It’s covenantal (inspired by what He has already done for us [John 3: 16]).

Let’s practice and learn to freely give and serve our awesome God!

Right here with you,