I have always appreciated the speaker I heard one Sunday night about thirty years ago. He taught me a lesson that changed my life, and one I have passed on to others many times since. I wish I knew his name, but I look forward to the moment in heaven when I can tell him, “Thank you for blessing my life.”
The lesson he taught that night was that we should never just sit and feel sad or helpless as we watch the news. Every day, there are pictures and reports of people who need our prayers. The news we watch on television is a list of God’s prayer requests. If there is a need, God wants to help. And, sometimes, God wants us to help. When you pray your way through the news, the Lord will tell you when and how.
The early Christians in Jerusalem were starving and in trouble, so the apostle Paul took up a collection from the Christians who weren’t. The words he spoke are so familiar that it requires some effort to make sure they sink in. But there is a fascinating lesson about God in these words, and we would be wise to rethink its truth.
Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6–7). There are a lot of ways to give generously. We can pray without ceasing for the lives of the people we see each night on the news. We can pray they know God. We can pray for their families, friends, and churches to provide and help. We can pray for God’s calling in our own lives.
Paul also said, “You should give what you have decided in your heart to give.” Paul said we shouldn’t give out of reluctance or because someone talked us, or guilted us, into giving. I’m sure all of us have put money in the plate that we didn’t feel that great about giving. God wants us to give out of a sense of generosity. “God loves a cheerful giver.” Those are the words that we forget to take to heart. They have commonly been used by the church to accomplish something that required a financial pledge. But, take a minute and think about those words again. “God loves a cheerful giver.” When was the last time you were excited to help? When was the last time God asked you to give just because you were praying and your heart was nudged? Isn’t that the gift you still feel good about giving? That’s because you have been blessed.
Here is the “feel good” promise from God’s word to all who have given with a generous, inspired heart: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Each time you give as God leads you, you have accomplished a good work that God is able to bless.
I’m writing this blog post to pass on the same lesson I was taught more than thirty years ago. And that is to pray your way through the news, the emails, and the “asks.” You are supposed to give when God prompts your heart. Those prompts receive his abundant blessings. The Corinthians weren’t starving, but the Christians in Jerusalem were. So, Paul told them to give from all they had, with cheerful generosity. God loves those who give like that.
Paul then quoted a lesson from Psalm 112. Paul was teaching the Corinthians about the timeless nature of God’s heart. He said, “As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever’” (2 Corinthians 9:9). God has always loved cheerful givers.
Two hurricanes have left a LOT of people without a home and without hope. There is a way to help them that will help your soul and life as well. God loves a generous heart. Christmas is around the corner, and there will be a lot of gifts to give. But today, there are people who just want a place to call home again. There are families who just want safe drinking water and a place to wash their clothes. And there are groups of people who have left their homes to go and help. Should your family help?
Jim and I enjoy giving to the Texas Baptist Men. They bring physical and spiritual help to people who have been touched by disaster. They continue to go long after the news has stopped reporting the needs to rebuild homes, churches, and lives. I share this with you not because I think you should give, but because I think you should give if God prompts. God loves and blesses a cheerful giver. The way to be cheerful about a gift is to be called to give it.
That is the lesson I was taught by the Holy Spirit one night in Midland, Texas, by a man whose name I might never know this side of heaven. I’m grateful to him for being used by God to bless my giving and my life. The way I say thank you for his lesson is to give it to others cheerfully. It is easier for me to watch or read the news now because I know God is using those men and women to help, and Jim and I are blessed to help them fulfill their calling.
If God has prompted you to cheerfully give to Texas Baptist Men, here is their link: Texas Baptist Men