by Jonathan Daugherty
How can you know if you are a good giver, one who mirrors the heart of God? I believe the mark of a great giver is humility. Givers who don’t even realize how deeply they are blessing others are so refreshing. It is as if they breathe out generosity without any effort or obligation. Have you known people like this? Model them!
I wish I could give you glowing examples from my own life of how my generosity just oozed out of me without my own consciousness of it. But then, I suppose, that would be damning evidence against me as a humble giver. But I do have a couple stories I want to tell you of some humble, anonymous givers that blessed my family during a particularly needy time in our history.
When we started Be Broken Ministries we had nothing; no money, no experience, no clue. We only had our story of God’s miracle of healing and His definite call to launch the ministry. Our faith was stretched that first year in ways we had never experienced before. One of the primary “stretching points” was our finances, or rather, lack of finances. We were hand-to-mouth seemingly every month, but we knew this was God’s calling and we felt peace about where the ministry was headed. Nonetheless, we still felt the pinch of the regularly empty bank account.
One day I was at work (a 100 square foot, windowless office space in my former employer’s building) when I got a call from my wife, Elaine. She was concerned about how we were going to have food for dinner that night. Our pantry was empty and there was only half a gallon of milk in the refrigerator. On top of that, we had less than $1 in our bank account. Yes, I said less than ONE DOLLAR! Remarkably, I didn’t feel panicky (either my faith was growing or I was mentally cracking up…). I told her we should pray, and we did. It wasn’t a flowery record-it-for-all-time prayer, but rather just a heartfelt offering of our needs before our heavenly Provider.
Later that same day, I got another phone call from Elaine. She was ecstatic! Barely able to catch her breath enough to speak, she said, “You are never going to believe what happened. Guess what came in the mail today?”
I, of course, had no idea what could have come in the mail, so I said, “Not a clue.”
“Someone anonymously sent us a $150 gift card to HEB (a local grocery store),” she squealed.
I nearly dropped the phone, along with my jaw. Tears just welled up in my eyes and we both agreed, “Thank you, Jesus.” Someone cared more about our need than their recognition of giving.
There was another instance in that first year of ministry where we were down to crumbs and had no money. We again prayed, expressing our need before God. That same night, after returning home from church, our front porch was covered with FULL grocery bags! Someone took the time to shop, bag it all up, and drive it to our home – anonymously! We just wept on our porch at the faithfulness of God. He truly does consider us more valuable than the sparrows…
The mark of these anonymous generous givers was that they gave in humility, not seeking credit in this life. They chose, instead, to “give in secret,” knowing that the God of heaven sees such true generosity and will one day offer eternal rewards. Those gifts have always provided a reference point of inspiration for my own aspirations of being a good giver. I want my giving to be measured by eternal reward, not temporal accolades.
Are you aspiring to be a true giver? If so, you are on your way to a life of no more regrets. As Jim Elliott once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
by Jonathan Daugherty
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
So, by now I hope you are seeing the importance of giving, as a matter of attitude and just overall life philosophy. Money and “stuff” seem the easiest to recognize as gifts, or the investment of time into developing friendships. But what about the idea that God has “gifted” each of His children in a unique and purposeful way? How do we go about recognizing and sharing such gifts?
I wondered for a long time what my “gift” was from God. I knew I wasn’t a prophet, even though I always felt a sense of discernment around others. I knew it wasn’t serving or encouraging, even though these are tasks all believers are called to engage in. I often grew frustrated because I just knew I had to have a purpose, but I silently wondered what it was. In many ways, I felt like I identified with Moses.
Moses was a child of great promise, yet born in a very tumultuous season in history. His wise and loving parents made a way for him to escape the wrath of a wicked ruler, and in so doing Moses was eventually raised up among Egyptian royalty even though he was a Hebrew. God had a very specific purpose for Moses, but Moses struggled with knowing exactly what it was and how it would be manifest in his life.
It was apparent that God’s people would need help if they were going to escape the harsh slavery under Egyptian rule. Moses sensed that he had the position and means to provide such exile, but again the specifics were elusive. One day, in anger, Moses killed an Egyptian who was arguing with an Israelite. Maybe this would be the moment when God’s people would rally behind Moses and give him support as their leader. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In fact, one of his own came against him with harsh accusation and he fled the country. He lived the next 40 years in isolation from his people. I’m sure for many of those lonely years he relived the shame of his failed leadership and cowardice.
Did God’s purpose for Moses change in those years after he fled? Not in the least. Did Moses readily know that? Seems like he didn’t, for when God came to him in the burning bush and subsequent encounters to commission him to rescue the Israelites, he balked at the idea, pointing out all his flaws and reasons why he couldn’t possibly be the right candidate for the job. I have felt a kindred spirit with Moses.
Eventually, Moses surrendered to God’s will and the Israelites were led to the Promised Land (after another 40 years of wandering in the desert). God had given Moses a “gift,” a unique calling to fulfill while he lived on this blue planet. And everyone God calls has also been given a special purpose, a unique “fitting” into His plan. God gives to us so we might give to others.
I have come to learn that my gift is “word of wisdom,” which is simply being able to bring an aptly timed word or message that moves others to consider their actions and make appropriate change. This is not something that comes from within me, but rather is a gift from God, something He empowers in me in order to bless others. I resisted using this gift for a long time, much out of ignorance, but some out of willful defiance. I simply didn’t think I should have the privilege of ministering to others when my past was so littered with sin and “murder” (like Moses). But God destined my purpose before I was even born, so how could I change His mind, even by my sinfulness? (“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us…”)
You have a gift, my friend, whether you actively recognize it or not. God desires to powerfully impact others through YOU! Some of us may spend years in quiet shame, coming to grips with our own failures and fears. Others may, like Joseph (Gen. 37-50), surrender early to the will of God. Either way, the time will come when God will say, “It’s time.” When He does, will you surrender and allow Him to direct you to bless others or will you recite all the feeble reasons why you couldn’t be the man (or woman) for the job?
Give the gift God has given to you. You won’t know true joy until you do…
by Jonathan Daugherty
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Your time is the greatest gift you can give. But, of course, there is more to it than that if it is going to be a gift that has lasting significance.
Dawson Trotman (pictured) was a man who understood the value of personal investment in the lives of others. He was the founder of The Navigators, a ministry whose primary mission is to “know Christ and make Him known” through the consistent study and memorization of God’s Word. Dawson began investing these discipleship principles into the lives of high schoolers back in the early 1930′s. Then, in 1933, he and some of his friends extended their work to sailors in the Navy. The rest, as they say, is history…
Up until his dying breath, Dawson Trotman was about giving of himself for the betterment of others. In fact, he was doing just that when he took his final breath.
On June 18, 1956, Dawson was out boating with friends at Schroon Lake, New York when a sudden wave threw him and a young woman into the water. Knowing that this young woman could not swim, Dawson held her head above the water until the boat could circle around to pull her aboard. After rescuing the woman, those in the boat went to reach down for Dawson. Tragically, he had already disappeared beneath the water’s surface. He practiced what he preached, laying down his life for his friends.
There is, however, a very important key to understanding the true value of investing yourself in the lives of others: give for God’s glory, not your own. It is easy to want to adopt an attitude toward giving that will prop up our own importance and the “splendor” of our own generosity and sacrifice. But such motives will reap no eternal rewards. Our mindset toward giving our time, talent and treasure should never be with the intention of manipulating some preconceived response from those to whom we give. (Give “freely,” as we learned from a previous post.) Invest your life into others so that they may in turn invest themselves into another and so on.
I am not sure if I would do what Dawson did on that lake back in 1956. I have quite a ways to go to care about others in such a selfless manner. But today is a new day, a day in which proper thoughts can be spun and selfless decisions can be made. This is the day I will choose to invest in my friends without regard for my reputation or personal gain. This is a day for no more regrets…
How about you? Is this such a day in your life?
by Jonathan Daugherty
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44
But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” 1 Chron. 21:24
I have yet another confession to make. Sigh… I am a number cruncher. I like to view various financial and ministry decisions from all angles, calculating probable outcomes and returns. While such planning and forethought are not evil or wrong in themselves, I have a tendency to sometimes put more faith in my calculator than in God. This is obviously not good!
I can only think of a few seasons in my life in which I have given and it was truly painful. In 2003 I was laid off from my job. Naturally, I sat down and started working on a plan to make our savings stretch to cover our expenses until I could find another job. When I came across the line item “Tithe” in our budget, I hesitated, forming reasons in my mind why we should be exempt from needing to put a number in that category when we had no income. But my heart burned in my chest. You know, that “I-know-this-is-the-Holy-Spirit-convicting-me-but-I-want-to-believe-it’s-just-acid-reflux” kind of feeling. Eventually, I put a number in the column. Writing those checks each month without a job hurt.
Through that season, however, God was teaching me about sacrifice, giving even when the cost seemed greater than I could pay. I was learning the way of Jesus during those months. Jesus faced paying the highest cost anyone could fathom, and only He was the one capable of paying the price required to redeem mankind. And even He struggled with the price tag, to the point of sweating drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) What gift have I ever sweat drops of blood over?
The heart of a true giver is one who understands there is a cost beyond money that is required. It is the cost of obedience and faith. God is a jealous God, not wanting to “share” us with anyone or anything that would harm or defile us (or profane His name). One of His expectations of us is to give. Period. He is on a mission to change our hearts from selfish takers to selfless givers. This won’t be pain free!
But the price we pay here in suffering well before God will reap a harvest of eternal blessings, the kind of stuff money could never buy. So, a big part of becoming a better giver is adopting an eternal perspective, seeing that the decisions we make now to “put in everything” will bring a smiling commendation from the One who once said, “Yes, I will go to the cross…and pay the ultimate price.”
What are you withholding in your giving? What are you “measuring” out to God? Take the scary, painful, but eternally rewarding step of “putting in everything” today!
by Jonathan Daugherty
With another school year starting, stress is often a word that gets tossed about quite a bit. In fact, stress has become like a "business" unto itself, funding numerous pharmaceutical companies and keeping many counselors in thriving practices. Stress is real and present in our culture today, and some of it can be very destructive. But does this mean that all stress is bad? I would argue that some stress, especially in recovery, is good.
One definition of stress is "force exerted on one thing by another; strain." Stress is a type of tension, two objects (or ideas) pressing against each other. Most stress we experience in life produces a level of discomfort, or at least momentary chaos. We don't tend to like that. We are conditioned in our comfortable, modern thinking to believe that discomfort, in all its forms, is not good. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking causes us to ignore some pretty basic realities of life.
If you were to drive up on a car accident and discover a person has been thrown from their vehicle and the car is now crushing their legs, you would likely begin "stressing out" that car! There would be lots of force opposing the weight of the vehicle on that poor man's legs. And he wouldn't mind whatever degree of stress is necessary to remove that painful reality.
That's obviously an extreme example of the "good" stress that can occur in life, but I think there are lots of other areas where we need to re-imagine stress. Like recovery. Addiction is brutal; on the one addicted and on anyone in relationship with them. There is certainly a negative kind of stress that surrounds addiction. But when a person begins to engage the recovery process, they too often believe that it should not involve stress. They think the journey away from all the negative stress of addiction should be smooth, consistent, and pressure-free. No wonder so many relapse and abandon recovery altogether!
When you start saying no to what you have previously always said yes to, you will meet resistance. This resistance will be emotional, spiritual, even biological. This is normal. This is good stress. Recovery is a process of learning how to live above urges and cravings; to engage them in a way that is healthy and God-honoring. This is stressful, and I don't believe that kind of stress will ever fully disappear. Nor would I want it to.
If my life is "stress-free" I can be certain of one thing: I'm not growing. Growth requires strain, or a "force exerting against me." If I want to grow in intelligence I must "stress out" my mind. If I want to grow in physical strength and stamina, I must stress my body. So, if I also want to grow in recovery or in my spiritual walk with God, I must have something pressing against me for that growth to occur. Otherwise, I will remain flabby and ineffective; mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Don't misunderstand, I desire a life with no stress -- just like you do. But I am learning to desire growth and maturity more. I have lived seasons of my life, even in recovery, that were stress-free. They were uneventful and enjoyable, but they were also fruitless. There was no pruning occurring during those seasons. I was just a fruitless limb flapping in the breeze. That's no way to live life, at least not abundant life.
My hope is that every person who embarks on the journey of recovery from addiction would long for abundant life, the kind of life Jesus offers His followers. But make no mistake, such a life only comes by way of lots of stress and strain. The truly mature follower of Christ is not scar-free and glamorous; they are battered, bruised, and probably walk with a limp. But they are also filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) Their scars may attest to the stress of growth, but their mature faith is laying up treasure in heaven that goes beyond the best this world could offer.
Are you stressed out? Rejoice! You are in a wonderful opportunity for growth. Don't run away from it. Stand firm in it.
by Jonathan Daugherty
“One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Prov. 11:24
There is a fairly prominent financial guru who I believe has a biblical perspective on money management that boils the whole issue down to three simple tasks: 1) Spend, 2) Save, 3) Give. Obviously, there are more complex issues regarding finances, but these are the basics of understanding how to manage money competently. But who really thinks of giving as an investment strategy? Well, God does, but not how you might assume.
We have all seen the “prosperity gospel” people. You know, the slick preachers in their $2000 suits emotionally stirring their congregations into giving them all their money with the promise that God will return it to them ten fold. That is not the type of investment strategy God operates under. Not to say that He can’t, or won’t, financially bless those who are faithful in giving money to their church, but God’s economy sees money merely as a tool, and only one of a vast array of tools, for the purpose of teaching us to be givers rather than takers.
True generosity, the kind that God really seeks, can never be measured in dollars and cents. And yet, contributing our money must be in our overall strategy of giving. Money is actually the easiest thing to give, so it can provide a great starting point for learning about generosity. We can actually see our money make a difference in another person’s life or in the ministries of our local church and beyond.
Maybe you disagree with me about money being the easiest thing to give. Maybe you think giving your time or offering some talent of yours is easier than reaching into your wallet. But I would argue that giving money doesn’t always personally invest you into that to which you are giving. You can sort of “keep your distance” by giving money and not getting involved in the business of seeking out those in need and understanding their true needs to minister to them more effectively. Time and talents require a higher level of personal investment (like actually interacting with living, breathing people who have problems and need real help!), and therefore can be a more difficult decision. (And still, giving money is a great starting point for learning how to “consider others needs more important than our own.”)
Once again, the issue of giving comes down to attitude. Are you one who “gives freely” or do you “withhold unduly?” It is easy to think that if you just stockpiled all your money then you would be wealthy. But although your bank account may be fat under such a financial strategy, the wellness of your inner, spiritual life would be gaunt and weak. True wealth is riches of the heart, and learning to give your money freely, without condition, is the narrow way by which such riches come.
What is preventing you from obtaining true wealth today? Begin to remove those obstacles and start “investing” for a return that can’t suffer loss…
by Jonathan Daugherty
“…for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts…”
1 Chron. 28:9
Years ago, when I was in college, I gave to a homeless man. But I didn’t give him money or food. I gave him clothes.
I was driving along when I saw this guy standing on the corner outside a convenience store. He had some words scribbled on a piece of cardboard. I didn’t bother to read them. His hair was matted down, his jeans were ripped, and his shirt was missing some buttons. As I drove past him I came up with my brilliant idea for “giving” to him.
I raced to my apartment, went to my closet, then proceeded to pull out all the clothes that had been piled into the darkest corners, clothing I hadn’t worn (or washed) in who knows how long. I found a box, stuffed all the clothes inside it and headed back to the street corner on my mission of giving.
When I got to the street corner the guy was still there, still holding his cardboard sign. I parked behind the convenience store and then, arms loaded with my box of “hand-me-downs,” I walked over to him. I said hello and then extended the box of clothes to him.
“Here. I hope this helps. God bless you.”
Good deed done. I was certain God was proud of me.
Today, however, I’m not so sure that God smiled that day. I might have done a “good deed” but my motives were a bit off and I’m not even convinced I provided any real help to that man. I was more interested in the “deed” than in the person it was affecting. In fact, I never even took the time to know the man’s name or ask a question to see if my “gift” was fitting his needs at all!
Attitude is important in giving. We first need our minds changed to believe that giving is of utmost importance, and hopefully to be retrained into thinking of others first. But even as our priorities shift toward this most wonderful work of giving, we must be careful that our motives are pure and selfless as well. Are we seeking to meet another person’s needs when we give, or are we simply propping up our own “goodness” for others to see?
I don’t want to prop myself up anymore. I want to be a better giver, one who gives with right motives. This is the type of giving that God smiles upon. What will you do today to begin realigning your motives toward giving? When you have your answer, get to doing it…