Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The God Who Gives: God, the Giver

A little more than a week ago, we celebrated a holiday called Thanksgiving. Many people still hold this holiday for its intention – as a day of giving thanks for what God has provided. Of course, the American focus goes back to the pilgrims and the Indians, but the origins of the holiday actually go back to the ancient Israelites and the Feast of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) which was the feast of the harvest.

But in our day many see the day as the beginning of the season of the getting. That is, maybe we should call December 25th, “Thanksgetting,” and wrap the period in between in a nice bow to represent what many have purposed these 30 or so days. But, even if some people do focus more on what they get instead of what they give, the reality is that someone had to give something in order for that something to be received. Yes, I know that some people give themselves their own gifts to make sure they get what they want, but still, the premise holds true. The act of giving is required for an act of receiving to happen.

So why do people give? Some will say they give based upon what they receive (or hope to receive). Others give because they want to give or because they can. But ultimately, the reason any of us give anything is because we are created in the image of God, and the Bible shows time and time again that God is a giving God.

This week, we begin a four-part series entitled, The God Who Gives. This week will serve as a bit of an overview of the series, with the next three weeks looking more in depth at points two through four from today’s outline. By the time this series is completed, my goal is for us all to appreciate all that God has given to us and for each of us to be more responsive for what He asks of us in return.

Today I am going to share four primary aspects of God’s giving. We must realize that just because God has given it does not mean that all of us have received it. As I mentioned above, these four aspects are really the outline for the series I am preaching this month. The entire theme can be understood in the idea that God is a giving God and therefore, because we are made in His image, we should be giving as well. In fact, as we will see in the next three weeks, we can give to others the very things that God has given to us. But first, let us take a birds-eye view of God’s gifts to us.

God Gave Us Life (Gen 2.7; John 11.25)

We know that God breathed life into Adam (Gen 2.7). But the NT reminds us of this truth as well (1 Tim 3.16; John 6.33).

But beyond human life, God gives that which sustains our lives. He gives:
  • light to make things grow and to help us find our way. – Exodus 13.21
  • (gave) water to the Israelites. – Numbers 21.16
  • rain which allows grass to grow in the field. – Zechariah 10.1

God also gives in order that our lives may be full. He gives:
  • wisdom to those who seek it. – James 1.5
  • increase to those whom He wills. – Psalm 115.14
  • peace and rest to those who seek and trust in Him. – Numbers 6.26; Deuteronomy 12.10

We could go on and on with the things God gives related to life as well as life itself – life that is abundant, both here and forever for those who follow Jesus (according to Jesus – John 10.10). We will come back to this idea in Week 4 a little bit, so for now, let us preview the next few weeks to see what else God gives.

God Gave Us Purpose (Gen 2.15; Jeremiah 29.11)

Again, we can look at the very beginning of the Bible to see that He intends for His creatures to have purpose. At the end of Genesis 1, God says that mankind is to have dominion over all other animals. He commanded the first man and woman to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. In Genesis 2 (v 15), God put the man “in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Later, God had a purpose for Noah, for Abraham, for Jacob, for Joseph, for Moses, for Joshua, for Samuel, for David, for Isaiah, for Jeremiah, for Daniel, and a whole slew of others. In the NT, we see the same was true for Jesus, but also for Peter, and John, and Paul, and Bartemaues, and even Judas.

Of course, these are marquise names, but what about Tamar and Jael and Nabal and Ziba and Barzillai from the OT or Anna, or Justus, or Parmenas, Publius, Junia, and others from the NT? The point is that God has a purpose for each one of us. For some it is a noble purpose; for others it is a more common one. After all, He is the potter and we are the clay. But the point is that God has created us on purpose for a purpose and our responsibility is to discover that purpose and live our lives accordingly. It goes back to the question I asked time and time again in the last series:

What can I do, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church and for the Kingdom of God?

A part of that answer lies in the purpose that He gave to you. In all of history, you are the only person who is exactly like you. And thus, God made you unique to do something only you could do. The question is are you doing it? If not, maybe it is because you have not discovered that purpose. Do you think it is too late? Well, Moses was 80 and Abram was about 90 when they learned of their purpose. And that is young compared to Noah who was 500 when God revealed his purpose. So, you are not too old. Nor are you too young (remember Samuel was a small child when the Lord first appeared to him). The question is are you interested in knowing your purpose? And if so, are you willing to fulfill it?

We will discuss this aspect of our purpose more next week, and, for that matter, next year.

God Gave Us Love (1 John 4.8; John 3.16)

1 John 4.8 says God is love. And if we are created in God’s image (which Genesis 1 says we are), then some of that attribute is within us. If it wasn’t, then God would be asking the impossible when Jesus said that the greatest command is to love God with everything we are and to love others as we do ourselves. Of course, it is next to impossible to do this well anyway, so we must rely upon the love of God to make it happen in our lives. But not only did God gives us the capacity to love, He gave us His love.

One verse in the Bible says something about God loving us so much He did something for us. You might recognize it if you heard it (referring to John 3.16). What was it God did? He gave His Son. Why? So that we might have life. Wow. That is love. Stop and think about that for a minute. I am sure we all have had a similar thought about sacrificing our own child. But let’s make it practical in this moment. Look at the person next to you. In front of you. Behind you. Look at me. Whatever you may think of the person personally, would you willingly sacrifice them to appease the wrath of a god. History shows that this happened often, including in biblical times. But these sacrifices were made to some god out of fear for what might happen. Our God gave us Himself because He loved us (and loves us) so that we do not have to fear Him, but that we may love Him in return.

But the love that He has given to us is not for just ourselves and Him, it is for all people – and for all of the time. More on this thought in two weeks.

God Gave/Gives Us Grace (Ephesians 2.8-9; John 1.16)

This fourth point relates to the previous one. Love and grace are connected just as love and mercy are connected. Therefore, we have a direct link which connects mercy and grace. The gift of God by which you do not have to die for your sin is because of His mercy. The gift of God by which you have life is due to His grace. As Ephesians 2.8-9 tell us it is a gift of God that we have grace through faith.

You might recall a phrase I isolated around this time last year from John 1. John records that from God’s fullness we receive grace upon grace (v. 16). I absolutely love that thought that grace is multiplied by grace. Take a dose of grace from God and heap an another helping. That is what John says we can receive. But something can only be received if it is offered. And John says it is from the fullness of God that such grace is offered to you and to me. Now, that does not give us license to abuse that grace. Rather, the grace we are extended is to then be extended to others as well. But the idea of grace upon grace is a wonderful picture of how much God has given to us already and how much more He is willing to give us when we fall.


We could spend the rest of the day reviewing Scripture for all of what God has given in the past or will give in the future. And, I am certain, we could spend all week here listing (and then discussing) all that He has given to each of us individually. So, why does God give us all that He has and all that He will? Why does God give us all of these things and more? Because our God is a giving God.

Let me ask it one more time with a slightly different emphasis. Why does God give us all of these things and more? Because He wants us to pass on what we have received so that others can benefit as well.

God gives because He is a giving God. But God gives to us so that we can give to others. God made us in His image, so our very nature includes the capacity, and even the desire, to give. The challenge for us is to live up to the challenge of being a giver like God. The truth is that in God’s economy, we cannot out-give the giver. God always has more to give, but that does not mean that He necessarily will give when we want it. Of course, the same is true with us. We often have more to give, but we withhold it for various reasons. However, I would venture to guess that our reasons (however good we think they are) pale in comparison to the reasons God would withhold from us.

That said, as we consider what it means for God to be a giving God, will you consider how God wants you to respond this month as a giver? We will talk more about our own responsibilities in the next three weeks, but before we make excuses or give a rationale for why we don’t give to someone or some organization (including this church), let us stop, for this month, and ask what, if anything, God would have us to give.

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: EENGAGE.

God is the giver, but He has given so that we will engage others. He wants us to tell His story. He wants us to share what He has done in our lives. He wants us to give back that portion from what we have received.

NEXT STEP(S):  LEARN: What motivates you to give or not to give? What motivates you to give the amount you give? Is it duty? Is it habit? Is it love? Is it something else? Take time this week to LEARN what motivates or inspires you to give. Then ask God to help you remain faithful or to fix your life in whatever way it needs to be fixed to allow you to give as God wants you to do.

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