Generosity, Part 1: Noticing The Blessing

A few years ago, I was catching up with a family friend (let’s call him Peter), drinking coffee with him when I started thinking about his life. Peter is a kind man whom I have now known for over ten years. The thing is, he has a lot of money. He has two substantial houses on large properties, among other investments. I started wondering how a man with so much money could be a Christian. I mean, aren’t Christians supposed to be poor? I have met many broke Christians, but here was a man who managed to do very well, and was substantially more generous than anyone I had met before.

I had many questions, and I wanted answers. How can I make a lot of money like Peter? Am I allowed to be wealthy if I’m a Christian? Do rich people go to heaven? Why is Peter so generous all the time? If he is always giving money away, why isn’t he broke?

Have you met someone who lives this way? Have you encountered a wealthy Christian? Why do you think they are wealthy?

My questions weren’t all answered right away, but as I asked questions and prayed, I started to understand some basic principles of giving. The first idea that had to change was that giving money away could make someone broke. It sounds logical, but Peter’s experience, and now mine, proves the opposite. The first lesson I learned about money is that when I give, I cannot lose.

Psalm 112:5 says ‘It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.‘ Why is it well with the man who deals generously and lends? I will explore this further in future posts.

HOMEWORK: Consider what generosity means. Are you generous? Do you lend?

Finding Peace In Every Moment

I find myself living in a broken and hurting world. I often see people in bad situations who, by making many small choices, found themselves there. However, I cannot be discouraged for long. I believe in a God who is able and willing to help every person who reaches out to Him. I understand this from my own experience at the age of sixteen. When I prayed to Him, He responded. Now a Christian, bad things still happen to me the same way, yet they appear less significant. At times I have found myself laughing at situations that would have intimidated me before meeting God.

Matthew 24:4-8 says ‘Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

This scripture talks about some of the negative things that will happen. However, the hope of God and His salvation brings peace that cannot be understood by anyone who has not experienced it first-hand.

John 16:33 says ‘I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Do you experience peace that allows you to laugh in times of distress? God wants you to live in this kind of harmony. If you do not experience this, ask God to give it to you.

Just Do It!

This morning I was peacefully sleeping until my alarm rudely awoke me. I thought ‘Do I have to do my devotions this morning? Surely missing one morning won’t matter.’ I started to fall asleep again.

Can you relate to this kind of morning? Have you ever felt so tired that a previously important commitment loses its appeal? The problem with thinking this way is that one morning off turns into one week off, which then turns into a month off, and so on.

So, I had to get over myself and get up. I forced my eyes back open and sat up. I got out of bed and started reading the Bible. The power in those words began to hit me. The impact grew over time. I became aware of God’s presence.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says ‘So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.‘ God takes notice of what you do. Are you pursuing God? On the harder days, are you remaining consistent?

Passion For God

Acts 21:1-4, 7-8 tells the story of Paul travelling through various places and encouraging Christians as he went. Just focusing on the travel, it says ‘After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We …landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week…‘ (Skip verses 5 and 6) ‘The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.

This story illustrates the passion Paul had for God and the Church. He travelled the world teaching and encouraging believers wherever he went.

The passion Paul had for God and the Church inspires me. However, when it comes to my life, I can so effortlessly get busy with unimportant tasks. I never intend to put God below other things, but it is so easy to find fun and exciting things to fill my day.

Does your life reflect the passion Paul had? Travelling the world is obviously not required to pursue God passionately. Loving God looks different for everyone, but is there an opportunity to bring your passion to a higher level? Do you find yourself ‘too busy’ to spend a meaningful time alone with God each day?

Influencing Those Around You

I was at university, on my way to the library after class. ‘Caleb!’ Someone was calling my name. I looked around to see classmate from last year. He was fast-walking toward me with a friend of his. They asked me to join them in the library, and we ended up talking for hours. Later that week, I saw them again. I wanted to study alone because I get more done, but they saw me and were following me. I couldn’t shake them.

Every day provides an opportunity to have an impact on someone’s life. Are you influencing the people around you? Is the effect you have on others easily seen?

1 Peter 2:12 says ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.‘ Every day you are with people who don’t believe in God, your actions are on display. You can show God to those around you in small, simple ways. Live each day intentionally.

The Mind Battle

Public speaking has always terrified me in the past. There is no denying it. I would stress for weeks before the event. During the talking, fear filled my mind, and I couldn’t think straight. Next, my legs would forget how to operate. I was fighting to stay standing! The fear I experienced was so intense that even at the last minute I had thoughts of backing out. “There must be some way to get out of this!”

Unfortunately, the fear and negative thoughts I experienced weren’t limited to public speaking. I set a fitness goal of running five kilometres in twenty minutes. After over twenty weeks of progressing slowly, (taking my time from 28:00 to 24:04), I thought about giving up. I really didn’t see how it was possible to achieve my goal in any reasonable amount of time. My thoughts toward my goal were mostly negative.

Can you relate? Have you had negative thoughts stop you from achieving your goals?

In the case of public speaking, it was only recently that I realised that my fear was fake. I realised that the anxiety only exists in my mind, and to overcome it I must deny EVERY negative thought and turn it into a positive one. The result was that after being invited to speak in front of 150 people for ten minutes, the stress that usually comes was replaced with excitement and anticipation! Wait, what?! I was excited to speak! During the speaking, I still struggled to get started, but after a couple of minutes I was really confident and fired up. I spoke from my heart and overcame. I was walking around the stage, boldly and clearly speaking with the help of The Holy Spirit.

I am still yet to achieve my fitness goal, but after adopting this same thought pattern of thinking positively, I have trained daily and taken my time (running 5 km) from 24:04 to 21:37 in just three weeks!
Your success depends on the health of your mind. You are capable of so much more than what you think you are!

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says ‘For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

The Bible commands us to take every thought captive. Notice the language here: the word captive implies there is a war, and your thoughts are the enemy! Wow. This is serious. The good news is that you can overcome and win this battle by forcing each thought into surrender to God.

Positivity In Place Of Negativity

Last week my pastor asked me to share as part of a Sunday service, and I accepted. During the week leading up to the service, I had many thoughts tell me I couldn’t and shouldn’t follow through. These thoughts filled me with stress and anxiety because I didn’t deal with them. I wanted to quit before I had even started.

The day before the service I decided to take ownership of my thoughts. When a negative thought entered my mind, I turned it into a positive one. For example, “You aren’t good enough. You’re going to embarrass yourself.” turned into “I have prepared thoroughly, and The Holy Spirit will speak through me.” By repeating positive thoughts over and over, the stress inside me slowly started to decrease. By the next day, I was calm and collected. I still had some negative thoughts to deal with, but overall I was positive.

The message couldn’t have gone much better in the end, and it just proved to me that many thoughts are lies, especially the negative ones.

James 1:12 says ‘Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.‘ There is much blessing for all who remain faithful and commit even through trials.

Have you been outside of your comfort zone? How did you overcome stress or anxiety?