Continuing the series, “Love This City,” Pastor Michael Wittwer brings Life Center Church a sermon on generosity and 4 habits of a generous heart.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. God showed his love for us by giving his son. Love is expressed through generosity and we too are here to show the generosity of Jesus to our city.
Full Audio Sermon Transcript
We’re going to continue in our sermon series called Love This City, in just a moment. But first, I want to address the latest mask mandate from Governor Inslee. How many of you like me are discouraged that this is where we’re at again? My goodness. I don’t think this is where any of us wanted to be. I haven’t met one person who is excited about wearing a mask. Is anyone excited about where like… I don’t think any of us… In fact, at the nine clock, there was one person who said they were excited about wearing a mask. And I was like, “You’re crazy.” None of us like it.
This isn’t our first round of mask mandates. We’ve been here before. Haven’t we? And so, if we’ve been here before, I want to look back and see what we can learn from the past as we move forward. And if I look back at the past and how the church responded in the past, it didn’t take very much to learn that the church became incredibly divided. The over all of the stuff that’s been happening, the church has been polarized because we’ve allowed politics to polarize us.
And friends, there are people on the left in here, and there are people on the right, and there are people in the center. We come from all over, but we are here because of Jesus. And we focus on Jesus. And we keep Jesus central.
And the danger, friends, there is incredible danger when you allow your political ideology to determine your faith. And so, we need to make sure that we’re allowing our faith to interpret our political ideology. And so, what we don’t want to do is we don’t want to come at a mask mandate from the left or the right. We don’t want to come at it with our political ideology. We want to say this round, we want to just say, “Lord, what would you have us do?” Instead of following the right or the left, what if we followed the Bible, friends? Like novel idea. What if we just said, “Lord, what would you have us do?”
You know what? I looked, there’s nothing about masks in the Bible. Lord, what? But the Bible does have a lot to say in helping us interpret this situation. And so God, what would you have us do?
Just this morning, as we read Titus, we saw again in Titus, Paul told Titus, “Follow the governing authorities.” And that makes some of us feel uncomfortable. That makes some of us or some of your skin crawl. But in Romans 13, Paul says, again, “Follow the governing authorities. They are placed there for your good.” And it goes on to describe, what a legitimate governing authority does. A governing authority doesn’t use the sword for our bad, but for our good.
And when we look at what’s happening right now, as we try to interpret the word and say, “Jesus, what would you have us do?” I think that we can consistently look at the word and say, “We should probably follow this.”
So, here’s what we’re going to do. Next week, we’re going to mask up, whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. I know you’re not going to like it, me neither. But friends, Jesus has called us to suffer together. Jesus has called us to be together through thick and through thin. Jesus has called us to be his people, regardless of our political affiliation. Jesus has called us into this middle ground, where we would say, “We don’t care about the right or the left. We care about following what Jesus has asked us to do.” Which means that we will sacrifice our political theology on the alter for Jesus, instead of sacrificing our faith on the alter of our political ideology. Jesus has called us to be different. And it’s hard. Isn’t it?
I want to end with two verses before we move into the message. First, in Revelation 22, the very last chapter of the Bible, Jesus promises three times. He says, “Look, I’m coming back soon. I’m coming back soon. I’m coming back soon.” And yet friends, what I’ve seen in myself and in so many of us is that instead of hoping in the return of Jesus, we’ve hoped in the return of normalcy. How many times have we said, “I can’t wait for this all to end.” Right? We’ve all been there, right? We can’t wait for it all to end. But what we’ve been hoping in is the return of normalcy.
But friends, normal wasn’t that good to begin with. We bemoaned the state of normal before COVID. And now we’re like, “We want to go back to normal.” No, we want Jesus to return and set all things right. We want Jesus to return and send sin where it belongs and death where it belongs, and establish his new creation once and for all.
Friends, our hope is not in the return of normalcy, it is in the return of Jesus. So, let’s make sure we’re putting our hope in the right place. And when we do, for centuries, Christians have been able to weather the political storms, the winds of change, because our hope has not been in what politicians can do for us or what culture can do for us, but what in Christ can do for us when he returns. So, our hope will be well-placed if it’s in the return of Jesus.
Last thing, Paul in Philippians says, “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.” Good luck.
So, hey, our mission here is to help people find and follow Jesus. And we want to keep Jesus central and not get high centered on these other things. And if you believe in that mission, we ask you to partner with us with your whole life, with your time, your energy and your prayer, and your devotion to God, and your finances too.
And so, here’s just a moment where we remind each other of how our generosity impacts the world around us. You can give here at Life Center in lots of different ways, through text, through the website, through the mail, through the drop box. But thank you for helping people find and follow Jesus through your whole life and through your finances. It is changing people’s lives around here and around the world.
So, third sermon in this series, Love This City. And we’ve been talking about how you and I are made in the image of God, which means that we are made to represent God to the world around us. He placed you where you are, in your job, in your neighborhood to show the world around you, who he is. You are the image of God. And what that means is we’re to image who he is. We’re to image his love, his grace, his forgiveness, and we’re also to image his generosity.
So, here’s what we’re going to look at, John 3:16. We looked at it last week. One of the most famous verses in the Bible. We’re going to look at it again. And I want you to read it with me. Ready? Here we go.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave.
Love expresses itself through generosity. Think about the people you love. You are generous to them with your time. You’re generous to them with your words, and your attention, and your affection. Love just expresses itself through generosity.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re in a fight with somebody and you stonewall them? Do you know what I mean? Where you don’t give them your time, your attention, your affection, because you’re upset at them. Love though, expresses itself through giving those things, through generosity.
And God has expressed his love for us through his generosity in Jesus. I mean, think about what God has given you in Jesus. God has given you his mercy in Jesus, so that you wouldn’t die for your sins, but that Jesus died for your sins, paid for them with his blood, so that you would be separated from your sentence as far as the east is from the west, so that you can spend eternity with Jesus. He’s given you his mercy. He’s also given you eternity. You have a future, a hope, a light at the end of the tunnel with Jesus, that one day you’re going to see him face to face. You’re going to be with your creator, your maker, and enjoy him forever. He’s given you his mercy. He’s given you an eternity. And he’s also protected you and directed you, and given you a purpose. You are to image him to the world around him. He hasn’t just left you to wander around doing whatever. He’s given you a purpose. Whatever your age or stage in life, is to image him.
Jesus said this about himself in Mark 10:45, he said, “Even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to give his life. And he certainly did that on the cross. Didn’t he? He gave his life for you and me in an extravagant way. But that’s not the only way that Jesus gave his life.
If you just read the Gospels, you see Jesus giving his life away one moment at a time. You see Jesus inviting the little kids to come to him when all the other people thought that he was too important for them. You see Jesus stopping for people and talking to people, and looking at people. He’s just giving his life away because he is expressing the generous heart of God.
See, love is no less genuine, if it’s not extraordinary. See, Jesus did this extraordinary act of love on the cross. Didn’t he? And that was an act of love. But it is no less genuine when he invited the kids to come to him. His love was no less genuine when he stopped for a moment to talk to the blind people. His love was no less genuine when he healed the lepers. Just because love isn’t extraordinary, doesn’t mean that it’s not genuine, which gives you and me hope. Doesn’t it? Because friends, we’re not going to get many opportunities to go up on the cross. And I don’t think many of us are looking for them. But you and I get opportunities every day to give our lives away in simple way.
So, here’s what we’re going to look at today. We’re going to look at four habits of a generous heart, four things that God does for us, that then we can image to the world around us. Four habits of a generous heart.
And Mother Teresa said this, she said, “For love to be genuine, it doesn’t need to be extraordinary.” It doesn’t need to be extravagant. It doesn’t need to be over the top. You can give your life away in simple ways, just like Jesus did every day.
So, we’re going to be looking at the story in Mark 10. So, if you want to grab your Bibles or open up your phones, or whatever it is, you have to read the word. You can also follow along on the screens.
In Mark 10, we see the story of blind Bartimaeus. So, here’s what happens. Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. And they’re walking through the town of Jericho, when people show up and basically a parade starts. Have you ever been near parade? Anyone? Nobody. Okay, fantastic. You know what I’m talking about? So, in a parade, it’s loud and fun, and there’s people all over, right? And if you want to get someone’s attention, it’s really hard.
And Jesus is in the center of this. They’re all focused on him, when someone on the sidelines starts calling out. And it’s blind Bartimaeus. He starts calling out, “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me.” And all the people say, “Be quiet. Go back to where you came from, Bartimaeus. Jesus is too important for you.” And they want to take Jesus’ time. And so, Bartimaeus cries out all the louder, “Jesus son of David have mercy on me.” Because he needs Jesus help. And everyone again says, “Be quiet, Bartimaeus.”
But I love how Jesus responds. We’re going to look at starting in verse 48. So, we see this. We see Bartimaeus crying out, and they say this, “Be quiet.” Many of the people yelled at him, but he only shouted, “Son of David have mercy on me.” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
I love what Jesus did. And this is the first habit of a generous heart. The first habit is stop. Would you turn to your neighbor and just say, “Stop.” And if someone just told you that, you’re like, “What did I do? I don’t know.” Sorry, stop.
Bartimaeus was calling out, and they were shoving him to the side. Bartimaeus wanted the help. He needed help. And all of the people were just telling him to shut up and go away. Here, he is broken. He needs help. And they’re telling him to be quiet. They won’t take the time of day to help him at all.
A couple of years back, my wife, her car broke down. And so, she called me. She’s like, “Hey, I’m broke down in the middle of the street. It’s starting to snow and I need help.” And so, I loaded up our kids, went over there. And she is stuck on a hill on Alberta, so busy road. It’s dark. And it starts snowing. It’s like the worst place in time to get stuck. And so, I’m trying to get her car out of the road. And people, I mean, it’s a busy road, so people are passing by, and our flashes are on to warn them, but they just keep passing by. No one is stopping to help.
And what I needed in that moment was for someone to stop, just stop. Someone help me. So, no one stopped. But one person to do this as they drove by, they saw me, and I don’t know what was going through their brain, but they just laid on their horn. And you know what that means, don’t you? And so, it just infuriated me, because like, “Do you think I’m just lollygagging out on this hill. I’m just having fun with my car broken down. You just think I’m a big, dummy doing this. I’m broken down. I don’t need you to honk at me. I need you to stop and help me.”
And here’s Bartimaeus, broken down on the side of the road. And instead of helping him, they’re honking at him, telling him, “Shut up. Go away. Be quiet.” But I love what Jesus does. What does he do? He stops, exactly what Bartimaeus needed. Jesus stopped for him.
And friends, I believe that Jesus is still in the business of stopping for you and me. That whenever find yourself broken down on the side of the road, whenever you find yourself in emotional turmoil, whenever you find yourself depressed and angry, and lonely, that Jesus is willing to stop for you. All you have to do is cry out to him, “Jesus have mercy on me.” And Jesus will stop. He stops for us to express his love, and his generous heart. He will give us his time because that’s how much we mean to him.
I’m convinced that if God is willing to do this for us, we need to do it more for other people. We need to stop more often. And yet, we find ourselves in moments where we are like, “Oh, maybe I should stop.” And then we pass it by. “I’m just a little too busy this time. Someone else will do it, next time. But I can’t do it because of this and this, and this.” And we just need to stop more often friends. I’m convinced of that.
Can we stop for every person? The answer is, maybe you guys are incredible, but I can’t stop for every person, right? If you just stop for every person, then you’re not going to get anything done that God has asked you to do. But we should stop for some people. We should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, able to feel his nudge in our hearts for when he wants us to stop. We should be going about our day in a different posture, instead of just going around the day, saying, “This is my schedule and I’m sticking to it.” We should go around the day saying, “God, what do you have for me? Where do you want me to stop? How can I help the people around me?” When we stop, we end doing just what Jesus has done for us, helping people who are in need.
Friends, Jesus stopped on his way to Jerusalem, where he was going to die on the cross and save the world. If Jesus, on his way to do the most important mission in the world had time to stop, don’t you think that we should have time to stop? Don’t you think that we should be able to stop whatever we’re doing? Excuse me, but you’re not saving the world. Jesus already did that. So, you can stop a little bit, trust the world into his hands and do what he’s put in front of you. We need to stop more often.
So, I want to ask you, can you remember the last time you stopped for someone? Can you recall it? Maybe it was a friend or a neighbor, but when you stopped for them, you made a difference in their lives.
Unfortunately, many of us are so busy doing what God didn’t ask us to do, that we can’t do what God did ask us to do. Sometimes we’re so busy filling our life with all the stuff that our culture puts around us, that we don’t have time to just stop for people and love them the way God has made us to, to image his generous heart to the world around us.
If you feel like you’re too busy to engage, too busy to stop, if that thought often runs through your head, let me remind you of the story. Jesus once told people who were listening to him, the story of the Good Samaritan. It goes like this, a man was on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem, which by the way, that’s where Jesus was on his way from, from Jericho to Jerusalem. And on his way, this man was beaten up, robbed, de-clothed, and left on the ground, naked, bleeding to die. And along comes a priest.
Jesus tells this story, and the Jews must’ve thought, “Oh, the priest is going to save the day.” It’d be like, “Pastor Michael is going to save the day. Certainly, God has got his spirit is on him.” But what does the priest do? The priest walks on the other side. Does he stop? And the answer is no.
And then a Levi comes. And the Jews who were listening to this story, must’ve thought like, “Surely, if the priest got it wrong, the Levite will get it right.” Right? And the Levi, when he sees the man, walks on the other side of the road and keeps going.
And then Jesus says a Samaritan came along. Now, the Jews and Samaritans were sworn enemies. They had political differences. They had racial differences. They did not like each other. And so, when Jesus said a Samaritan was coming along, the Jews thought, “Oh, this is the part where the Samaritan just finishes off the Jew. That’s going to be the end of the story. How depressing, Jesus.” And yet, that’s not what happens. Jesus says that the Samaritan stops for this Jewish man, picks him up, puts him on a donkey and takes care of him.
And then Jesus looks at the crowd, who he’s telling this story to, and he says, “If you want to be a good neighbor, go and do likewise.” What did this Samaritan do? He stopped. No one else would, but this man stopped. And Jesus tells you and me, if we’re to love our neighbors, well, it means that we will stop for people in the world around us, that we won’t be too busy to engage in what God has placed in front of us, the good works he has for us.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 9:4, he says, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus is using this analogy of night and day and saying, “Look, guys, we’ve got to do the works that the father has sent me to do because night is coming.” And he’s referring to his crucifixion, his death. And he saying, “We only have a limited time before this happens, so let’s do what God has called us to do.”
Now, friends, you have limited time. You don’t know if your number is going to get called tomorrow. You don’t know if you get tomorrow or next week, or next year, but you know that you have right now, which means the words that Jesus said to his disciples, then apply to you now. You must do the works of your father while it is still daytime, while it is still light. Friends, this is the moment. This is the opportunity that you have right now in front of you to do the works that the father has sent you to do, to stop for somebody that he’s placed in front of you.
Ephesians 2:10 says this, “You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works that he prepared in advance for you to do. When you enter a moment, God has a good work that he’s prepared in advance for you to do it. Like when you enter it, he already knows, “I got this waiting for you. I’ve got this opportunity that you get to engage in. It’s going to be so good.” But the question is, will you engage in that? Will you stop for the good work that God has prepared for you?
See, God has given you the gift of a good work in each moment you enter. Often, we think that our good works are our gifts to God. Don’t we? Where it’s like, “Look, God, at what I did. Aren’t I amazing? Don’t you love me? Here you go, God, I’m amazing. You’re welcome.” But good works are actually God’s gift to us. It means he’s prepared them advance. He’s wrapped them up like a present. So, when you enter each moment, there is a present for you. It’s a good work that God has prepared for you to do, because that good work it’s going to fill you up. It’s going to help someone else.
Can you imagine if you never had any good things to do in your life, you only got to do bad things? That’d be a crappy life. Wouldn’t it? That would be terrible. And yet, God is so good that he allows each one of us, sinners, broken to engage in the good work that he’s doing in this world.
God’s good works are his gift to you, so that you can engage in the purpose that he’s made you for. So, own what he’s prepared for you. Stop when you feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit and see what God is up to. That’s the first habit of a generous heart is to stop.
The second habit is to look. This is the second habit of a generous heart, look. See, when other people wanted Bartimaeus to go back, “Melt into the sidelines, don’t be seen, don’t be heard, just go away, Bartimaeus.” Jesus called him forward to have a face-to-face conversation. Jesus, didn’t try to push him aside and make him invisible. Jesus brought him forward into a relationship with him to look at him.
And friends, if you feel overlooked, if you feel pushed to the side, if you feel like you have been silenced or made invisible by other people, I want to tell you, Jesus is still in the business of looking at you. Jesus is still in the business of calling you into a relationship with him, where he would meet your eyes, where he would give you value and speak to you, and look at you. He’s still doing that today. He still gives you his attention.
1 Peter 3:12 says this, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” God’s eyes are fixed on you, if you are in Jesus. He is looking at you constantly. He wants to meet your gaze. You don’t have to try to get his attention. Have you ever been in a conversation where someone is on their phone and you say something and they don’t respond? Anyone? Isn’t that frustrating? And you’re like, “Hey, hello. And then you’re like lean across and try to get in front of their phone, and you’re like, “Hi, I’m talking to you. Remember me?” Isn’t it frustrating when someone doesn’t pay attention to you.
You don’t have to try to get God to pay attention to you. He’s already looking at you. He’s already trying to meet your gaze. If you would stop and look at him, you’ll receive his love. And what he wants to do in you, we’re told in 2 Chronicles 16:9, says this, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
God is literally searching the earth. His eyes are looking all around to see if there are people who would fix the eyes of their heart on him. If we would just direct our gaze to him and meet him face to face, eyes to eyes, what he wants to do is to strengthen us. He wants you to fix your gaze on him, and then he will strengthen you for the moment that you are in.
God’s eyes aren’t searching around to see who he can judge. God is not looking around to be like looking over your shoulder and being like, “What? Are you sinning? He already knows you’re sinning, people. He knows all of that. What he’s looking to do is to strengthen you. His eyes are searching for people who are committed and devoted to him. And when he meets your gaze, he wants to strengthen you. He wants to bless you and protect you, and watch over you.
Psalm 23, the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” What does a shepherd do? Watches the sheep, right? Literally, God just is watching over us. It’s who he is. His eyes are fixed on you and me because of his love. He’s giving us his attention. It’s the generosity of his love expressing itself to you and to me.
If you’ve held infants, you know that they can’t communicate very well, right? But they can receive love and give love in some simple ways. They best receive and give love through physical touch and eye contact. And study after study has proven that if an infant lacks proper eye contact, as they’re growing up, that they’re going to then be behind on social development and psychological health. So, if you’re messed up, just be like, “Mom and dad, you didn’t look at me enough.”
But see, eye contact isn’t just for infants, it’s for us too. We were made for eye contact. This is how God designed you. It gives you value when someone looks at you. Isn’t it interesting that when you want someone’s attention, you tell them, “Pay attention.” Isn’t that first word interesting, pay, because it’s true. You can pay someone with your attention. You add value to them by giving them your attention. There is value in eye contact. It builds your soul up. It’s a fertilizer for intimacy in your relationships.
So much of people’s behavior in life, so much of the behavior that you’re like watching your head out, you’re like, “Why are you doing this?” It’s a cry for attention. It’s people crying, “Someone look at me. Someone help me.” Just like Bartimaeus was on the side of the road, crying, “Jesus, have mercy on me.” There are people who are crying out, doing weird things. You’re like, “Why are you doing that?” They need attention. And you could give it to them. You could look them in the eyes and love them like Jesus. And yet, undivided attention is harder to come by than it ever has been. Isn’t it? We’re more distracted than we ever have been. We have more technology and devices, and schedule, all of the stuff. We’ve got more stuff in our lives than we ever have before. And so, attention is harder to come by. So, when we would stop and look at people, it’s going to stand out in the world around us. When we would stop and meet people’s eyes, it speaks to the generosity and the love of God to the people around us.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I, Sarah, we were downstairs watching something, when all of a sudden we heard from Paxton’s room like this crying and screaming. And I ran in there and he’d just woken up from a nightmare, and was still a little bit delirious from the nightmare. And he was thrashing around a little bit and still crying and screaming. And I got right next to him. I said, “Paxton, it’s going to be okay, buddy. It’s going to be okay.” But he was still delirious, saying something about hotels and hot dogs. I don’t know. But I was trying to get him to calm down.
And so, finally I just grabbed his face, and I make sure that our eyes are meeting. I say, “Paxton, daddy is here. I love you. It’s going to be all right. I’m with you.” And as soon as our eyes met and he heard those words, I could see him relax. I could see that fear and that terror from the nightmare just melt away. And he pretty quickly rolled back over and fell right back to sleep like nothing had happened.
Friends, there are people in your lives who are living nightmares right now. They are going through hell. They are going through terrible things. And what they need is someone who would grab their face and look them in the eyes and say, “I’m with you. I’m here. God loves you. I see you. You have value. You are worth something to God. I see you. And he sees you.” And that will bring peace in their lives, if we could just look at them and give them that love that God has given us.
Are you willing to stop and look at somebody this week? It may change their life. It could communicate the love of God to them in a radical way that has never been communicated to them before.
The third habit of a generous heart is to listen. So, you’ve got stop, look. And the third is listen. Someone told me that that is the title of an Earth, Wind and Fire song. And so, there you go. I didn’t get it from that. But here’s what happens in the story. When other people again are trying to silence Bartimaeus, they’re saying, “Shut up. Be quiet. Go away.” Jesus actually invites Bartimaeus to come to him and talk with him. Jesus invites him to come because Jesus is going to listen to him, while everyone else is not giving their attention to Bartimaeus, Jesus is.
Again, 1 Peter 3:12 says this, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers.” God’s ears are attentive to your prayers. He’s listening. And I’m convinced that one of the greatest gifts God has given us is just to listen to us. He allows us to process. He allows us to tell him what’s on our hearts. You don’t have to come to God with a filter. He already knows what you’re thinking. So, just spill the beans. Just let him know.
It’s so healthy for you to process your life in prayer with God. It’s a gift that he has given to you and me to show us how much he cares about us.
God is not prone to interrupting. He’s not prone to look at his TikTok while you’re talking. God is prone to listen. He’s leaning in.
Here’s what Psalm 116, verse one and two says, “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” This almost recognizes like, “Look, God is listening to me. And I love him because of it.” If someone listens to you, don’t you just like your heart is like, “Wow, thank you so much.”
God is listening to you. He’s inclining his ear. He’s literally bending down so he can hear you, because that’s how much he loves you. God wants to listen to you. He wants to hear what you have to say, because what you have to say matters to God, period. Whatever’s on your heart, whatever you’re processing, that stuff matters to God, because he made you. You’re his child. He loves you. And he wants to hear it. He invites you into a relationship, where he will listen to you.
If that’s one of the greatest gifts that God has given us is to listen to us, then it’s also one of the greatest gifts that we can give to them around us. We get to exhibit the love and generosity of God by listening to others, how God has listened to us.
One of the best people at this in my life was grandpa, Knoll. How many of you knew my grandpa, Knoll? So, if you knew my grandpa, Knoll, you know what I’m talking about. When you were with my grandpa, he had this way of listening to you that made you feel like the most important person in the world. He would listen to you, if you were talking about nonsense. He would just listen to you and love you no matter what. It’s an amazing feeling when someone will listen to you intently. And well, and my grandpa was so good at that.
Because listening, friends, is loving. Listening is a way to love the world around us. And you and I can get better at listening. We can practice. We can work on getting better.
There’s a skill called active listening. How many of you have heard of active listening? Okay. Now, active listening is something that you can build on. So, we’re going to practice right now. Okay? So, if you’re listening to my voice, why don’t you go ahead and nod? All right. If you’re listening to my voice, why don’t you say, “I hear you.”
I hear you.
Okay. So, those are two skills in active listening. You can nod while people are talking to you to show that you’re with them. You can respond with your voice in a simple and short way to just say, “I hear you. I’m with you. I understand. Tell me more.” It’s a way that we can practice getting better.
And you know what? Active listening actually has a lot to do with body language too. So, if you’ve ever been in a conversation with someone who’s like this, now I’m not calling out people who have their arms crossed now, don’t worry, but what does this say about where you’re at? Usually, it says that you’re defensive. You’re not comfortable. You don’t feel safe. You’re leaning away. You want to get out of this situation. And if you would just uncross your arms and open up your hands, it says, “I’m listening. I’m open. I’m here. I’m humble. I’m with you.” These little things seem so simple. Don’t they? And yet they communicate value because the details in our life communicate value, the details of how you listen, communicate just as much value as you’re listening to the person in front of you. It’s a skill that we can work on getting better at. These little things communicate the love of God. So, be generous with your ears. Stop, look, and then listen.
And here’s the fourth habit of a generous heart, it’s ask, ask. Number four is ask. And here’s what we see as we finish this story, Mark 10, starting at verse 49, “When Jesus heard him, he stopped. And he said, “Tell him to come here.” So, they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said.” Isn’t that interesting? Because just previously they were saying, “Shut up.” And now they’re saying, “Cheer up.” What a bunch of flipflopers, man. “Cheer up,” they say, “Come on, he’s calling you.” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Rabbi, The blind man said, “I want to see.” And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly, the man could see. And he followed Jesus down the road.”
Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now, don’t you think that Jesus might’ve had an idea of what Bartimaeus wanted him to do? I mean, he’s blind. He can’t see. Maybe he wants to see Jesus. I don’t know. Wild idea. So, why did Jesus ask him? I think Jesus asked him because he wanted Bartimaeus to say it. He wanted Bartimaeus to know that Jesus is listening, that Jesus wants a relationship. That Jesus, isn’t just a vending machine that we get healing from, that we get things from, that makes our life better. Jesus is a person we have a relationship with. And yet, often we end up treating Jesus like a vending machine. Don’t we? Like, “Oh Lord, please do this for me. Got it. Thank you. Goodbye.”
Jesus wants a relationship. So, he asks the question to show Bartimaeus that he cares. And when you ask a question, it shows that you care. And God is still asking questions of you and me. Jesus is still looking at you and saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Probably two years ago, I was having one of those days where I so discouraged. I mean, so discouraged that you’re questioning your whole life. Do you know what I mean? Where you’re like, “God, why do you have me here? This is clearly a mistake. I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing, God.” I felt so depressed and discouraged. It was just one of those days where you’re like, “I just want to grow up in a ball.” Have you ever had one of those days? Okay. Just me. Fantastic. Apparently, I’m the only psychopath here.
But man, I was down. I was discouraged. I left work early and I just went and sat in my car, and I prayed. I was like, “God, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t even know if anyone cares.” You know where you get to that point where you start having a pity party like, “I don’t know if anyone cares, Lord.” I was there, “God, I don’t know if anyway cares.”
And right then, right as I prayed that, “I don’t know if anyone cares.” My phone rang. And it was my friend and the executive pastor, Tim Johnson. And Tim says, “Hey, Michael, I was just driving home, when you were on my mind, I was thinking about you. And God put you on my heart to call you and ask you, how are you doing? I wanted you to know that I care about you.” “All right, Lord, I get it. Okay.”
God answers when we ask. But here’s what I learned. God used Tim to be the answer to my prayer. God used him to ask a simple question, “How are you doing? I care about you.” To answer my prayer, and prove God’s love and faithfulness to me.
Friends, there are people in your lives who are praying, “God does anyone care? God, do you care? God, are you there? God, I don’t know what I’m doing. God, I don’t know how to do this.” And you, by showing up and asking question, are God’s answers to their prayer. You just by asking a simple question, “How are you doing? What’s going on? How can I pray for you? Did you need anything? How can I help you?” Those things make you God’s answer to their prayers. Don’t underestimate the power of a question in people’s lives.
Questions asked in love are a gift to the people around us. I’m going to give you some questions, you can ask people this week. They’re really simple, but let me give them to you. First, “How can I help you?” You see, friends, when you start asking these sort of questions, you actually start getting your hands dirty in people’s lives. You actually get into people’s mess. And you don’t just get to be like the spiritual people who are like, “I’ll pray for you. Bye.” You get to be in their lives with them. “How can I help you?” “How can I pray for you?” Is another question you can ask. And then actually pray for them right there.
Another question you can ask is, “What are you thankful for?” It’s a way to open up someone’s soul. Or, “What are you anxious about lately? How are you feeling about this? How are you feeling about that?” Or just simply, “Hey, you seem a little down or it seems like something’s going on. What’s going on?” Allow people to speak. And you’ll stop, look, and listen, and ask. It changes people’s lives.
About 10 years ago, I was living in one of our ministry houses, one of our 432 houses, a college house at Life Center. And me and my friends were out. We’re throwing a football in the front yard. And we just finished and we were going to go inside, and clean up the house, and get ready because we were having people over that night, when all of a sudden our neighbor who we’ve never met before, who lives across the street, bursts out of her door in hysterics. I mean, weeping and wailing, and staggering, because we can tell right away she drunk, not good. And it was this awkward situation where like, what do we do? But when we saw her going for her car, we were like, “Yeah. No, we’ve got to do something.”
So, we stopped what we were doing. We went over. We looked at her, we listened to her. We asked her some questions. We said, “Hey, my name is Michael. This is Ethan. What’s your name?” Oh, her name was candy. Isn’t that a great name, Candy? Well, we go, “Candy, what’s going on?” And she goes on to tell us this story, that would just, one of those stories that makes your heart break. We just go, “I had no idea you were going through that. I’m so sorry.”
And Candy tells us like, “It’s terrible. I just need to go get some McDonald’s.” We were like, “Yeah. No, you’re you’re not going to drive right now, Candy. Let’s stay here. One of us will go get some McDonald’s for you. Don’t worry about it. We’ll pick it up. And we’ll come back and we’ll give it to you.” So, we did that. We got to the McDonald’s, and then we prayed for her. We said, “Candy, can we pray for you? We want to see God intervene in your situation.” We prayed for her. And then we said, “Now, go inside, sleep and sober up.”
But here’s what God taught me in that, if we hadn’t have stopped, if we hadn’t have looked at her, listened to her, asked her questions, she might’ve gotten in that car. She might’ve drove and hurt somebody else, hurt herself, or worse, killed somebody else and killed herself because she could hardly walk, let alone drive.
That simple thing of stopping, looking, listening, and asking, changed Candy’s life that day. And God taught me the power of that simplicity of just living with a generous heart, living with the heart of Jesus, to be generous with my time, generous with my attention, my affection and my questions. It’s a way that God will change the world one person at a time through you and through me.
And friends, I’ve seen so many of you do this, heard so many stories from you guys of how you’ve listened to the nudge of the Holy Spirit. You stopped it for people. You’ve looked at people. You’ve listened to people. You’ve asked good people, good questions. And it’s changed the trajectory of people’s lives. I’ve seen you do this in the comments. I’ve seen you do it here at greeting time.
Let’s keep being a church who stops, looks, listens and asks. Let’s keep being a church who exhibits the love and generosity of God by these four habits of a generous heart. I believe if we do that, if we don’t just do that this week, but if we do that every week and every day, and all year, and all of our lives, if we would just do those four simple habits, it will change Spokane forever. It will change this world, if you and I would just be willing to exhibit the love and generosity that he has given to us by stopping, looking, asking and listening.
So, before I pray, I want to say this, I think this would be a really good moment to encourage you to sign up for Love Week. Don’t you? To just stop what you’re doing this week, to take some time, to give it away, to love our city. While you’re doing that, you can look, you can listen, you can ask good questions, love the people you’re around. Don’t be so fixated on the task in front of you, you miss the person in front of you, but stop, look, listen, and ask. And it will change people’s lives.
So, in just a moment after I pray, we’re going to explain, if you haven’t gotten registered for Love Week, how you can do that, how you can pick up your shirt. And we’ll do that right after I pray. Would you pray with me?
Heavenly father, we are so grateful for your generosity to us. How amazing it is that you love us. It’s amazing to me that you love me, Jesus. And I want to receive that. I want to be someone who is just saturated in your love. And I know each of these people do as well. So, God, would you help us to receive your love, so that we can give it freely to the world. Help us to be the sort of people who are so full of you, that when people come into contact with us, you would just splash out onto them.
God, we pray for your Holy Spirit to fill us, to transform us, and to make us into your image. God, we pray that our hearts would be generous just like yours, and that the world would change because of it. We pray this in Jesus name. And everyone said, “Amen.”