Better to Give

Posted on 12/18/2011 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

AUDIO: dialup - broadband - podcast

TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***


Public Prayer Requests:


*** There are no public prayer requests this week. ***



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Please turn around and click one of the offering plates by the doors, and give as the Lord leads.

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JOY TO THE WORLD

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.


ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Refrain

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain


O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.


O COME O COME EMMANUEL

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***


One week from today, we'll be celebrating Christmas Day. Many of us will be giving and receiving gifts, and perhaps someone you love has already asked you for a Christmas list, or at least an idea of what you'd like for Christmas.

Personally, I have a problem thinking of anything, and I can usually come up with only one or two things. Maybe you can always come up with a long list, and that's fine. It's okay to desire things, as long as you are happy with and thankful for what you already have, you don't covet, and you won't be upset if you didn't get anything on your list.

As children, for most of us the most exciting part of the holiday was seeing colorfully-wrapped gifts under the tree with our name on it. I don't know about you, but I always loved shaking the boxes and trying to imagine what might be inside. And personally, I never wanted to know before hand, at least not for sure, because that would have ruined the surprise. But how many of us were more excited about what we could give to others, then we were about to get what others might be giving to us?

Of course that's natural. It's in our nature to want things, and it's in our nature to get a thrill over getting something we really want, especially when it's given to us by someone special, someone we love and who we know is showing us their love by giving us something they know will bring us some happiness and joy.


Most of you probably know the words of Jesus, which Paul quoted in Acts chapter 20, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." When that statement came to mind, I realized that, without realizing it, I had always felt as though this meant simply that God is happier with us when we give to others than when we only seek for what we can get. And of course this is true. But today, I'd like for us to consider that this means so much more.

The word translated here as "blessed" can also mean "happy." So we could read it like this: "It is more blessed and happy to give than to receive."

Let's think of it like this: Have you ever known or known about someone who is always thinking of how they can get what they want, and who seldom if ever thinks about how they can give freely to others without getting anything in return? They're usually, if not always, rather unhappy people. In fact, they're usually pretty miserable people.

On the other hand, can you think of the kind of person who cheerfully and freely gives to others, expecting nothing in return? Their motivation in life seems to be how they can bless others. They are usually, if not always, happy, joyful people full of peace and love. They are usually the happiest people on earth.

And there are several reasons for this.

First of all, self-centeredness creates misery; and the act of giving to someone else, thinking only of their good alone and expecting nothing in return, takes your eyes off of yourself. And when your eyes are not on yourself, they also are not on your problems, or on how used, abused, or neglected you feel; they are not on the rights you think you have or on how much you think those rights have been violated or denied; they are not on your own loneliness, or on what you think you lack. Instead, they are on the wellbeing of someone else, someone from whom you expect nothing in return; and when this is your focus, you will discover that, by your selfless love, other people's lives are made better: you see a little bit of joy, a little bit of happiness, a little bit of the feeling that they are loved. And since your eyes are on them instead of on yourself, you feel that happiness, joy, and love as though it is your own. In fact, the words "your own" lose their meaning, and the happiness and deep fulfillment and peace you feel will be much greater than if you thought only of yourself while other people were giving these same things to you.

It really is better to give than to receive.


Let's read this again, starting two verses earlier; Acts 20, starting with verse 33:

33 I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.
34 Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me.
35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Paul starts off by pointing out that he has coveted no one else's money or clothes. He wasn't wishing he could have that model's perfect body, or that billionair's mansions and cars, or that designer's magnificent clothes.

In verse 34, he reminds them that he worked to provide his own needs; and not only his own, but also the needs of others. Next, he states that we should support those in need just like he did, expecting nothing in return, for as Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."


Let's read four verses from Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 15:7-10 (NKJV)

7 "If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.
9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,' and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.
10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.

Now, in verse nine, we are warned about wicked thoughts that "The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand." What does this mean? Well, starting in verse one, it talks about debt cancellation, and commands that every seven years, all debts were supposed to be wiped clean.

Let's read this, starting with verse one:

1 "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts.
2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD's release.
3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother,
4 except when there may be no poor among you; for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance.

In verse three, this says that you don't have to release the debt of foreigners, but you are required to cancel the debt owned to you by your brother. Then in verse four, it says, "EXCEPT where there may be no poor among you."

That's an interesting clause. For a Christian business person, this could take a form like this: If a rich person owes you something, they should pay. There's no good reason for them not to. But if someone can barely put food on their table, then you are not pleasing God if you demand they pay you back.

And the point here is not necessarily technical guidelines concerning who you should press to pay you back. Instead, let's look for the principle behind this Old Testament law, so we can get a glimpse into God's heart, His reason for putting that law in place.

And the principle is this: We should turn our eyes off of ourselves, our rights, and how much others owe us, whether that is in attention, affection, actions, words, or deeds; and instead, we should turn our attention to the needs of others.

Does someone need a smile or a kind word? Then give it! Without expecting even an acknowledgement in return. Give it for the simple reason that, if that person were you, you would want someone to show you a little bit of true love, love which demands nothing in return. Give it because God's heart is to bless that person -- not because they deserve it, but because He loves them unconditionally, and wants them to be drawn to Jesus through His love, His mercy, His compassion, and those little acts of kindness, with no strings attached, and for no other reason than their good, and their comfort and joy.

As Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) says,

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

In verse ten of Deuteronomy we read, "You shall surely give to (the one in need), and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand."

This is a promise. It says that "because of THIS thing, the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand." Because WHAT thing? Because you cheerfully and selflessly gave to the one in need. And the reward is not only in the "sweet by and by," but it is in this life as well. It says that God will bless you in ALL your works and in ALL those things to which you put your hand.


In Luke 6:38 (NKJV), Jesus says this:

38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

Do you want people to help you or give you time and attention because they feel as though they have to? Or expecting you give them something in return? Sometimes that can feel worse than receiving nothing at all. No, chances are pretty good that you want love, time, attention, and blessings from others only if they are giving those things because they want to, because they genuinely love you, while expecting nothing from you in return.

And what you sow, you also reap. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. So if you go through life thinking about yourself first, don't be surprised when others don't give you what you desire or what you think you need. But if, on the other hand, you give freely, lovingly, joyfully, focusing on what is best for the other person and what will bless their heart and give them the Godly love the desire and need, then that, too, will come multiplied back to you. Of course you won't be giving to others while focusing on how much you'll get in return. Instead, you will give to others in spite of what they do or don't give back to you.

And your life will become a place of beauty and joy as a result.


Now I realize that these things are much easier said than done; and I realize that because my first responsibility in preaching and teaching is to practice what I preach. But I promise you this: if you start taking little steps to put these principles from God's word into practice, you WILL see results, as long as the payback isn't your reason for obedience.

Practice stepping outside of your own self. Practice putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Don't think, "Well if that happened to ME, I would handle myself better than they are." Instead, lay all judgment and self-righteousness aside. You don't know WHAT you would do if you were them, and the truth is that it doesn't matter. What matters most is the heart of God, and He sent His only begotten Son to die in place of the most undeserving among us. That person for whom you can't seem to make yourself genuinely smile or who you perhaps can't seem to forgive, THAT is the person for whom God gave everything He had. And walking with God means speaking, acting, and thinking in perfect harmony with His words, His deeds, and His thoughts.

What ARE God's thoughts? In Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV), He says this:

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

And what ARE God's actions towards those who deserve to spend eternity in hell? Romans 5:8 says this:

8 But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And how do we cause our carnal, fleshly, self-seeking nature to start withering away, and how do we become more like God? By turning our eyes upon Jesus; by spending time with Him, for you become like those with whom you spend intimate time; and by consciously choosing to lay aside your own gut reactions, and instead giving freely, fully, and with the other person's best interests in mind, regardless of what you think they deserve.

This Christmas, let's think of what we can give to others. Give a smile to someone you meet, even if they look angry or unfriendly. Say a kind word to someone even if they cut in front of you at the checkout, or they aren't very nice. Think about the people around you who are hurting and alone. Visit a nursing home and just give a kind, listening ear. Take some food or a present to a family in a poor neighborhood. Call someone with whom you've been at odds, and ask their forgiveness, even if you weren't to blame, and freely give them your own. Go out of your way to share the free, unconditional love to those around you; for that is the true spirit of Christmas, and it is the true spirit of Christ.

Put a sentence or a few words places you'll see them often, words that remind you to give in this selfless, Godly way. And when you mess up, remember that God forgives you when you confess your faults, that He loves you anyway just as you are right now, and that as you seek to get closer to Him, He will be faithful to complete that good work He has begun in you.


Let's wrap up today's service with a time of prayer, worship, and ministry. And if you want to dedicate yourself to taking your eyes off yourself, and puting them instead on Jesus and on sharing His love with those who need it the most, then I invite you to get out of your seat right now, and make your way to the front.

If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message Mariposa or me.

Whenever you need to go, you're dismissed. If you can stay until after this time at the altar, I hope to see you afterwards in the Fellowship Room to your left for a time of fellowship.

And if we don't see you before next Sunday, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!


Lord God, thank you for your word to us today. Thank you for challenging us to give of ourselves for the sole purpose of sharing love with not just those who deserve it, but those who need a touch from you.

I pray that we would not just go our ways and forget what you've said to us today by your Spirit, but that You would bring it back to our minds, and that we would put it into practice.

Bless everyone here and those who will hear this later, with a special touch from You. Give them peace, love, and joy, and draw them ever closer to You.

And we pray these things in Jesus' name.

Amen.

Come, and let us dedicate ourselves to giving love to others.