Don’t Be Afraid!

#3—To be generous


Opening (after sketch):

    That’s what I’m talking about.  That’s literally what I’m talking about!  Don’t be afraid to be generous.  Why?  God has been and will be incredibly generous with you.  You can’t out-give God!


Greeting:
    What has God given to you?

Announcements and regular offering:

    Christmas Eve services.

    Christmas Eve invites.

    Christmas Eve volunteers.

After Christmas:  regular services on Sunday, December 30.  No weekly activities on the week between Christmas and New Year; this includes junior high Roots, senior high Mosaic and Alive for young adults.

 

Prayer:

    Thursday night, I went to my grandchildren’s first kindergarten performance.  It was magical…which made Friday morning’s news of the massacre in Connecticut all the more horrific. This is another sad reminder that we live in a terribly broken world that desperately needs God’s redemption.    We’re going to pray for those families and that community.


Introduction:

ILL: In the early years here at Life Center, Laina and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together.  We lived on love.  Once we had a bill due (for about $100) and no money to pay it, so we prayed, and a few days later received an unexpected check for $100.  We were so excited that God had provided so we could pay that bill.  But then I felt this nudge from the Lord: “Ask Me what to do with that.”  We did and we felt like we were to give it to a family whose need was greater than our own.  Honestly, my struggle was, “Then how will we pay our bills?”  I had to face the fear that if I gave this away, I wouldn’t have enough.  But we talked and prayed about it, and gave it away, and said, “Ok, Lord, now what do You want to do about this bill?”  

    A couple days later, Rick and Janine visited us from Eugene, and Rick gave us a check from his folks…for $300!  You can’t out-give God!  (This time I didn’t ask, I just paid the bill.  )

    We had a lot of lean years as a pastor of a smaller church raising five small children, and we learned in those lean times to trust God.  

We are living in an economy where lots of people are facing lean times, so it’s good to be reminded: Don’t be afraid to be generous, God will take care of you.  

    This is part three of our series, “Don’t be afraid”, which may be the most repeated command in the Bible.  God’s word tells us not to be afraid, but also tells us why.

 

  • Don’t be afraid, for God is with you.

  • Don’t be afraid, for God fights for you.

  • Don’t be afraid, for God will provide.

In week one, we wrote our fears on rocks and made an altar and gave them to God.  Many of us expressed fears about money, bills, and jobs.  Last week I talked with a man here who told me he lost his job.  Do you know what his first concern was?  That he wouldn’t be able to keep sponsoring a child in Africa.  I love his heart, don’t you?  Let’s be honest: how many of you ever worry or feel fear about money?  It’s pretty universal.  So let’s talk about it.   

The Big Idea: God delights to give you what you need, so don’t be afraid to give to others.  You can’t out-give God!

 

1. Don’t be afraid to be generous for God will provide.

    Our text today is from Luke 12.  Let me set the context.  In Luke 12:13, Jesus is approached by a man who feels like his brother is cheating him out of his share of the family estate, and he asks Jesus to arbitrate.  Instead, Jesus warned him about greed, reminded him that life is more than what we own, and tells a story.  A rich man had a year of bumper crops and decided to build bigger barns and store up his riches and then retire and take life easy.  But God said, “Fool.  Tonight you will die, then who will get all you’ve stored up?”  Jesus finished, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”  Life is more than what you own.  Don’t get hung up on stuff—the real riches are relationships with God and people.

    Then Jesus teaches on worry.  Don’t worry about food or clothes for your Father knows what you need and He will take care of you.  God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers—aren’t you more important than these?  God will take care of you, so don’t worry.  Others may worry about it, but not you, because you know that your Father knows what you need.  Then our text:

Luke 12:31–34 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Here in the context of a man anxious about his inheritance, fearful of being cheated, Jesus tells us not to worry because our Father knows what we need and is taking care of us.  And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.”  Let’s break it down.

    If you seek God’s kingdom, He will take care of you—“these things” (your daily necessities of food and clothes) will be given to you.  God will take care of you.  God will meet your needs.  (More about the Kingdom in a moment.)  Since “these things will be given to you,”…

    “Don’t be afraid, little flock.”  If they were the little flock, who is their shepherd?  The disciples would have thought of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Don’t be afraid: the Lord is your Shepherd and He has promised to take care of you.

    “Don’t be afraid…for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”   The word “pleased” can be translated, “delights” or “it gives him great pleasure”—God is delighted to give you the Kingdom.

    What does that mean?  Whole books have been written on the subject of the Kingdom of God and what it meant to Jesus.  He came preaching that the Kingdom was near.  Of course, his Jewish audience believed that the Kingdom would come when the Messiah came and drove out the Romans and made Israel a great and free nation again.  But more than that, they believed that this King from God would bring God’s rule to earth, and with it a new age of peace and prosperity that would radiate out from Israel to all the world.  They would have thought of a passage like this:

Isaiah 11:1–9

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord

3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,

and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.   

(See also Isaiah 65:17-25)

It’s a beautiful, compelling vision of peace and prosperity. So when Jesus said, “your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom,” this is what they would have pictured.  He was saying that God was giving them their deepest desire.  God was giving them what they most longed for: a life of shalom.  Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace—but it means much more than the absence of trouble.  It is the presence of all that is good and true and right.  Shalom is life as it was meant to be, life to the fullest, life as God wills.  And notice that this wasn’t heaven, as we think of it, as a place up there somewhere.  This was here on earth.  God would rule here on earth and things would be as they should have been all along.  

    This is what they would have imagined when Jesus announced that the Kingdom had come with Him, that He was the King, the one bringing God’s rule to earth.  But that vision hasn’t come to pass.  Why?  Jesus indicated that the Kingdom was like yeast in a batch of dough that would slowly work it’s way through the whole batch.  Or like a tiny seed that would slowly grow into a great tree.  It starts small and grows slowly.  It doesn’t come all at once.  

    So has the Kingdom come as Jesus said?  Yes.  Jesus is the King, but this King was enthroned on a cross. Jesus conquered by love and sacrifice, not by power. He conquered evil by absorbing it in Himself.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought the Kingdom of God to earth, and ever since, like yeast in a batch of dough, it’s been working, growing, spreading.  Wherever people follow Jesus and do God’s will, the Kingdom grows.  He taught us to pray, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  We are to pray this and live it.  The Kingdom of God is where God’s will is done—and God’s will is good.  He taught us to seek God’s Kingdom first—to pray and act so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.  So the Kingdom is here, but it’s far from complete.  It is “now but not yet”—now present but not yet complete.  That completion happens at Jesus’ return.

    From our perspective we know all this; but here is what they heard Him say: God will give you what you need.  Don’t be afraid, for your Father is happy to give you the Kingdom.  The command “don’t be afraid” is sandwiched between the promise that God will give us our daily necessities, and the promise that God is giving us the Kingdom—what we most want. Then the next verse:

    “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  

    Why can they give generously to the poor?  Because God has given them the Kingdom.  If God is giving you everything you need, you don’t be afraid to be generous. Don’t be afraid to be generous…

 

2. Here’s why: God is generous with you.

    All through the Bible, God’s generosity is the reason for ours.  We can give because He gives so freely to us, starting with His love.

    1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us.  

You can give because you have a Father who knows what you need and will meet those needs.  But more than that, you have a Father who is giving you the Kingdom, the life that you’ve always wanted.  So don’t be afraid, be generous!  Let’s look at a couple of these references.

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

For centuries, God had asked the Israelites to give Him the tithe, the first tenth of their income, and an offering besides. But in Malachi’s day (mid-fifth century BC), the exiles who had returned weren’t doing it.  They were robbing God.  Why do you think they weren’t giving to God?  It doesn’t say, but a good guess is fear.  God answers that fear here: give and see what happens.  Test me and see if I won’t pour out so much blessing you won’t have room for it!  Give and God will out-give you.  Give and God will throw open the floodgates!  That’s quite a picture isn’t it?  Give, and you won’t have less—you’ll have more than you need!  Jesus said it this way:

Luke 6:38  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.

Pressed down, shaken together, running over—and there is that word “poured” again.  God will pour out blessings on you!  

If you don’t tithe, why not?  I’m betting it’s fear.  Fear that you won’t have enough to pay the bills.  Fear that you’ll miss out on something.  Don’t be afraid; God will out-give you every time!

 

Mark 10:29–30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Remember the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus and the Lord said, “There is one thing you need to do: sell everything, give the money to the poor and come follow me.”  And the man went away sad.  He chose his money and things over Jesus.  Why?  I’ll bet he was afraid.  “What will I live on?  How will I survive?  How will I live without my money, my stuff?”  

    Later, when Jesus told the disciples that it is harder for a rich person to get into the kingdom than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, Peter piped up and said, “Lord we have left everything to follow you.”  And this is Jesus’ response.  “Whatever you give for Me, you will receive back 100 times as much now, and eternal life to boot!”  Obviously, Jesus is speaking metaphorically here—I don’t think He means exactly 100 times, just like He didn’t mean you should forgive someone exactly 70 times 7.  It’s a way of saying, “You can’t out-give God.  Whatever you give you will receive far more in return.”  Jesus is telling Peter, “Don’t be afraid to give, Peter—because I’ll give you back far more in return.”  

    We never really sacrifice anything for Jesus.  A sacrifice is when you give something and get nothing or something less in return.  When someone sells their car and advertises, “Must sacrifice”, they are saying that they are selling it for less than it’s worth.  They are losing money.  We never really sacrifice anything for Jesus—not when He says that whatever we give, we receive back a hundred-fold!  You can’t out-give God.

 

In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul encourages the Corinthians to be generous with the poor.  Here, he reminds them that they can’t out-give God.  Notice the “alls” in this verse:

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

All grace, all things, all times, all that you need, every good work.  Don’t be afraid to be generous—God has you covered—all over!  

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This is Paul’s promise to those who are generous: God will make you rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.  It’s like a stream of blessing, like a floodgate opened that just keeps pouring and pouring.  Give, receive, give again, receive again…and on and on.  Don’t be afraid; you can’t out-give God.  

    One more:

 

Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Paul is thanking the Philippian Christians for their generosity with him; they had given on several occasions to support him.  And here is the promise again: you can’t out-give God.  You gave, now God will meet all your needs.  Don’t be afraid to be generous—God will meet all your needs.

    And I love the last phrase: “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  We all know that you can only give according to what you have.  The more you have, the more you can give; the less you have, the less you can give.

ILL: If you needed a car, I could help you, but it wouldn’t be much.  You might have enough to buy a used Yugo.  But if Bill Gates helped you, you might have enough to buy a new Mercedes.  He has more, so he could give more.

What does God have?  Everything!  When you give, God will meet your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ.  Don’t be afraid to be generous; you can’t out-give God.

 

Benevolence offering here.

Benevolence offering:  if you didn’t come prepared to give in today’s benevolence offering, you still are able to participate!  Simply go online at lifecenter.net to give online or mail in a check—please indicate that it is for the benevolence fund. 

 

3. Be generous with more than money.

    Here’s the question I want you to consider:  If you had no fear, what would you give?   You can think of money…but I also want you to think beyond money.  In Acts 3, when Peter and John met the cripple at the Beautiful Gate, he asked for money.  

Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

I’ll give you what I have.  What do you have?  

Chrysostom, preaching in the 4th century on our text from Luke 12, said, “Almsgiving has to do not only with money, but with all matters also wherein man helps man, as when the physician heals, and the wise man gives counsel.”#  If you had no fear, what would you give?  Money? Time? Love? Forgiveness? Mercy? Grace?  I’ll let you think about that and we’ll come back to it.

Luke 6:35–38 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over!  But notice the context.  He’s not talking about money (although it applies to that).  He’s talking about love and mercy and forgiveness.  

    Have you ever been reluctant to give forgiveness or show mercy because you were afraid the other person would take advantage of your kindness?  Don’t be afraid—be generous, because God has been generous with you.  If you had no fear, what would you give?  Love?  Mercy?  Forgiveness?

 

Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim, “the Kingdom is near” and to heal and help people.  “Freely you have received, freely give.”  What He had freely given them, they were to freely give others.

    What has God freely given you?  (Answers here.)  Freely give that to others.  Don’t be afraid to be generous, because God has been generous with you…and will be again.  

 

Conclusion

    If you had no fear, what would you give?  I’d like you to write that down on the cardboard you were given when you came in.  And then I invite you sometime during the worship to come up front and drop it in a bucket.  Our artists are going to take these pieces of cardboard and make something beautiful with them.  Isn’t that what God does when we give Him our fears or our hopes and dreams?  “God, here is what I would give if I had no fear.”  Write it down, give it to Him, and see what He does with it.  

    We’re going to sing four songs for worship—so don’t everyone come at once.  Pace yourselves…

 

Worship