“We’re in the middle of this series talking about what God can do through One Life finding faith, experiencing Life and Freedom, becoming Life-Giving Life together as a unified Body, His church.
As Networks serve and meet needs, we will encounter people in crisis, and the church is to care about empowering that person physically, spiritually, and relationally. God has a lot to say through the prophets about his heart for the poor and downtrodden of the world. It’s not just a footnote. Over 400 times God says these kinds of things:
No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. Isaiah 58:6-9
At Gateway, we’re taking this seriously. This series is designed to take us on a spiritual journey of willingness. According to Jesus, the greatest people are those who make the greatest sacrifices for others. Don’t miss this opportunity to stretch your heart by understanding what it means to be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others.
So what does it mean to sacrifice? It means different things for different people. But one thing is clear—we will sacrifice for whatever we love the most. That’s the best definition of sacrifice I’ve ever heard: Sacrifice means giving up something we love for something we love even more. We willingly sacrifice for what we love most.
Someone who loves his or her family more than climbing the corporate ladder will turn down promotions or raises or upward moves if it costs the family too much. Conversely, someone who loves status most will sacrifice and do whatever it takes to move up even if it means sacrificing little league games, birthdays, anniversaries, nights or weekends. We always sacrifice for what we love most. Willingness to sacrifice is a spiritual gauge to measure what our hearts truly love most. So locate where your heart is, and I want to challenge you to stretch your heart to the next level this morning.
(Motivation #1) If we only give to things that benefit us, we love ourselves more than anything else. That’s GIVING TO GET. It’s the first motivation.
(Motivation #2) GIVING FROM GRATITUDE. This is a higher motivation because it is not just about getting something back. This reflects a spiritually maturing heart when people give out of gratitude to God. The Scriptures talk about this kind of giving: “What can I give back to God for all that He has given to me?” Psalm 116:12. This is where giving of ourselves takes on a spiritual aspect. We do it not just to get back or even meet a need, but as a heart expression of gratitude to God.
The richest man in the world, King Solomon, told us: “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!” Ecclesiastes 5:10. Getting more will never make you more generous, only giving more will do that, because it’s not an amount issue, it’s a gratitude issue—a heart issue.
In our Global Village, over ½ the world lives on less than $2/day. Twenty percent, 1.3 billion people, live on less than $1 a day. That’s Simonette, Haiti and Rajamundry, India where we’re partnered.
If you earn more than $1,800 a year, you’re in the top 20% of the wealthiest people on the planet. If you earn over $25,000 a year, you are in the top 10%. If you make over $47,000, then you’re wealthier than 99% of all humanity. God has given you and me more personal power and ability to change things than 80% of humanity. We must fight against our spiritual poverty that says, “I need more to feel wealthy.”
Forbes Magazine noted: “Since Americans have more disposable wealth, consume more resources, have more toys, more entertainment, more material possessions and conveniences than any other humans ever have. Why don’t we feel wealthy? Why are we among the most discontent, stressed, worried, anxious, peaceless societies on earth?”
Jesus told us: “You say, ‘I am rich . . .’ You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich” Revelation 3:17-18.
There’s a spiritual poverty that causes materially wealthy people to act like their poor, and it blinds us to the riches God’s given and keeps us from making a difference in the world. So how do we buy gold that helps us feel as rich as we truly are?
Not with guilt, but with gratitude. Gratitude is the cure. When we hear stuff like this, guilt is often our first response. We can’t buy our kids an ice cream without feeling guilty—but remember the solution is to stop trusting in money. You’ll never have enough. “Your trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous . . .” 1 Timothy 6:17-18.
When guilt consumes us, we run and hide from God, and we never buy the gold that helps us feel rich. The answer is to give to God out of gratitude. “Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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 . . . 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” 2 Corinthians 9:7-11.
Gratitude is what changes your heart. As people open their hearts to God and His grace, we begin to trust Him in every area of life. We begin to feel rich in every way. You even begin to feel like you have MORE than enough! More than enough money so that giving is not under compulsion. More than enough time, so that giving your attention or assistance doesn’t come with reluctance. More than enough love, so that showing love and concern for others spills out of an overflow of your heart. God wants you to feel truly rich – having more than enough! But this is NOT about what we have or don’t have, it’s about the condition of our heart.
We spend so much time thinking of all we don’t have which is a sickness. We need to stop acting poor and be grateful to the God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment and so we can join with Him in making a difference as His church.
These goals we have for Life Giving Life are HUGE. More of the details can be found here. In 5 years, we hope to see 4-5000 of us growing in Lifegroups to experience life and freedom from fully following Christ. In 10 years, we want to see networks multiply to 300 networks serving ½ our city. This includes serving the 5000 refugees, the 1000s who access our food pantry, and the 50% of single moms with young kids who are in poverty through a campus in North, Central, and South Austin. We can see 10,000 Indians wholistically served, and empower Simonette, Haiti to lift itself out of generational poverty. It’s going to take about $20 million dollars to do it all. That sounds like a ridiculous amount until you realize we’re mobilizing a volunteer army of 5000 to grow together, serve our neighborhoods, city, and world.
(Motivation #3) SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE is a higher level of motivation that often requires greater sacrifice. Giving from gratitude is the beginning of a reorientation of your heart, but often this doesn’t really cause any reorientation of our lives, but spiritual obedience does. Spiritual obedience tests whether God is truly first. For thousands of years, God has set out two tests that stretch our hearts to put God first. “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing . . .” Proverbs 3:9-10.
For people who claim God is first, he says honor me first–not after you see if there’s anything left over. And do it by redirecting 10% of all I’ve given you toward my purposes in my house – the local church you’re involved in (the storehouse was at the local temple).
” ‘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.‘ ” Malachi 3:10.
Why this benchmark amount? To truly do this requires a reorientation – truly putting God first. This is the only place where God says, “Test me” because he knows our fear is we won’t have enough. So as a reminder he says, “Just test me. See if I don’t resupply as you step it up to trust in obedience.” We’re so confident of that, we’ve said: “If you tithe 10% to God, direct it to Gateway, and after 3 months you’re sorry you did (God didn’t show you a way), we’ll give it back.” We do that because it’s not about the money. It’s about growing our hearts, and we’ve seen it. A willingness to obey God is all He needs. He will make a way.
(Motivation #4) LOVE. Sacrificial love is the heart of Christian faith. “God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use to him” Romans 5:8 (Msg). To God, it’s not about an amount but the heart. Jesus sat watching people put money in the Temple offering. A poor widow drops 2 pennies in. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others . . .” Mark 12 :43. How? 2 pennies? Jesus said it’s not about amount, it’s about the heart—and she sacrificed out of love for God, way more than the rest. Love made her do it.
When someone is motivated by the love of God, she starts to see with spiritual vision. Motivated by a deep sense of love for God that translates into loving compassion for people, they start to see His picture of His church as the hope of the world. One Life can change, and that One Life can become Life Giving Life, functioning together as God’s church under His direction. They can change a whole city, places of extreme poverty—love can make us all feel rich.
My prayer for our church is that we would all take steps to trust God more until our hearts are so filled up with love for God and love for people that sacrifice is not that hard. We would realize that we are giving up something we love for something we love even more. My prayer is that we will all say “Love made me do it.”
To listen or watch the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.