On Sunday, December 6th, Ps. Gideon Lim of Klang Baptist Church gave a timely sermon to his congregation on giving. “God has been so good to us and there are many ways we can respond to His grace and goodness in our lives. One of them is to express our gratitude to Him through giving” he said.
How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will give you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and offer my prayer to you.
(Psalm 116:12-13, 17)
“The Psalmist reminds us that we should not only express our gratitude in words, but also through our actions,” Ps. Gideon pointed out. “The psalmist wants to lift up the cup of salvation to tell the world about God’s salvation. In addition, he would like to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Not only is his heart filled with gratitude. He also puts his gratitude into action.” Ps. Gideon proceeded to elaborate on the reasons for giving, and the importance of doing so with a grateful heart.
True gratitude is not merely an internal state. Rather, it is accompanied with external expression. ‘Sacrifice of thanksgiving’ clearly reveals that gratitude and giving are inseparable, because sacrifice is a practical action of giving. That being said, God is not pleased with insincere and ungrateful sacrifices. Similarly, merely saying words of thanks without any sacrifice of giving is hypocrisy. Therefore, a truly grateful person will definitely respond to God with sacrifice.
One main reason to give is to respond to God’s grace in our lives. Giving also helps us to learn to depend on God. One of the reasons to don’t like to give is that we fear we will lack. We are afraid that once we give, we will not have enough. There is a lack of trust here. We do not have enough faith that God will provide for us.
In actual fact, when we give cheerfully, generously, and freely, we personally experience God’s providence. We are telling God that we put Him first, and we trust Him to supply all our needs. Giving develops our trust in God instead of in our possessions. As we learn to trust Him more, our faith in Him will also gradually grow.
Ps. Gideon then went on to use the story of Elijah and the widow to further illustrate his point.
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”
5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”
12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”
13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lordsends rain on the land.’”
15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
(1 Kings 17: 1-16)
To better understand this account, Ps. Gideon provided a little bit of background. The context of this story happened in the northern kingdom of Israel during the time that the Jewish nation was divided into the north and the south. Ahab, an evil king, was king of the northern kingdom and had led many of the people to worship Baal, the fertility god of Canaan.
Since Baal was the fertility god, the people believed that he was the one who would provide the rain so that they could produce food. Baal worshippers would sleep with temple prostitutes. Under the influence of Baal worship, the northern nation of Israel led a very immoral lifestyle.
So God sent Elijah to pronounce judgment on them by announcing a drought on Ahab and the people. Baal was supposed to produce rain, but now God was going to show them the true God. As soon as the drought was announced, God directed Elijah to go to the wilderness to hide from Ahab, and promised that He will provide for him through ravens.
Elijah’s obedience was amazing. The wilderness was a great place for hiding, but not that great for surviving. Yet, Elijah immediately went without any question, and put himself in a place of total dependence on God, as nobody else was going to provide for him. God had to come through—and He did.
He sent wild ravens every morning and evening to feed Elijah. He supplied not only in abundance, but also in quality. He provided Elijah with meat! Even if there wasn’t a drought, meat was a luxury—a delicacy. God provided in a rich way. Those who trust in the Lord will not be in want.
When the brook that Elijah had been drinking from dried up, God came up with even wilder instructions. Because of God’s past supply, however, Elijah was ready to obey. Now he was to leave the area and go across Israel to a gentile area controlled by Ahab. He was going into enemy territory, a place of great danger. God’s instructions did not make much sense.
The craziest part of it was that he was supposed to go there and find one of the poorest people in the land: A widow; a single mother who was already over-stressed about trying to feed her family. Elijah was supposed to look for her to feed him.
Bizarre as it seemed, Elijah had just had a personal encounter with God through God’s provision in the wilderness and therefore had the confidence to give himself to God again. If we really want grow in giving—to become real givers, we have to remember the history of God’s provision to others and ourselves.
“As I look back at God’s past provision in my life, I’m amazed.” Ps. Gideon said. “It gives me more confidence to give myself to God again and to obey Him again. If we want to become courageous givers, we need to count our blessings and think back on how God has carried us in the past.”
Elijah’s experience clearly demonstrates that very often, God uses the unimaginable or unexpected to accomplish His will. Ps. Gideon admitted that he would have chosen a wealthy person to provide for Elijah. Yet God chose the poorest of the poor.
God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond our comprehension and expectations. This is to help us recognize that He is our ultimate provider. He also teaches us to wholly surrender to Him and trust Him. As long as we are willing to obey, we will definitely experience God’s faithfulness.
Elijah’s obedience resulted in his experience of God’s provision. Next, we see that the widow’s giving enabled her to experience God’s provision as well. When Elijah arrived, he saw this woman gathering sticks and tested her by asking for a smaller need first. Water was scarce because of the drought, but it was more plentiful in this widow’s life than food.
So he started with a lesser need. Instead of ignoring him, this gentile woman went off to get this foreigner a drink of water. But as she went to get him a drink, Elijah added, “Oh by the way, may I have some bread too?”
Ps. Gideon asked the congregation to put themselves in the widow’s situation and think about how they would respond. The woman objected. She said, “I don’t have much. In fact, I’m down to just a handful of flour, and a little oil. I have just enough for one more meal, and after that we’re done. We’re going to die.” She found that this kind of courageous giving was more than she could do.
But Elijah encouraged her with God’s promise that her flour will not run out throughout the duration of the drought. “God will take care of you.” Elijah knew that it was a challenge for her. But because of his own history of seeing God provide, he gave her the opportunity to give and also experience God’s provision.
“If I were to list to you all the ways that God has blessed our family, we will be here for a very long time,” Ps. Gideon said. “God’s blessings are not just for ourselves. They are for the benefit of others. This is not the prosperity Gospel. It’s not about giving more and getting rich.”
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 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.8 And 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 9:6-8)
In other words, if you give generously, God will supply you generously so that you can give more—so that you can be His channel of blessing. “Don’t let God’s blessings stop with you. Let His blessings flow through you. That is His promise,” Ps. Gideon admonished.
In order to experience God’s promise, we must step out in faith and obedience to practice what He commanded us to do—which is to give. We must use our actions to catch His promise. After listening to Elijah’s request, the widow could have trusted in what she saw: make a final meal for herself (and her son) and then starve or, she could do the courageous thing of trusting what she did not see yet and believing God’s promise by giving her food away to the prophet.
She had to make a choice. Thankfully, she chose to step out in faith and give, and as a result, she experienced the miracle of God’s provision.
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family grew up watching his father give away whatever little they had, fully trusting that God would provide in their time of need. Sure enough, God matched his father’s giving step for step. As a grown man, James Dobson said, “God never made us wealthy, but my young faith grew by leaps and bounds. I learned that we can never out-give God.”
16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.
(1 Kings 17:16)
This widow and her son were on the brink of death because of the drought, but because of her step of faith, her bread supply tripled over the next 12-18 months. This unleashing of God’s miraculous work came not by her holding on to what she had, but by giving it away. She gave in response to Elijah’s distress and God’s promise, and God provided abundantly.
“Elijah and the widow always had enough. Dobson and his family experienced this. My family experienced this, as have many of you. God always provided enough for us. When we obey and give, God promises to provide,” Ps. Gideon said.
The discipline of giving is a process of learning to trust. If you have never given before, start small, and gradually increase it. You will be amazed at how God comes through. As we obey and give, we will be surprised at what God can do through our trust and obedience. The more we give, the more we experience God’s provision.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
“Christ is the reason we give,” Ps. Gideon said, “so in this Christmas season, let us respond to grace by bringing a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Think of whom you can bless. Let me challenge you to continually give courageously and sacrificially in the coming new year. I guarantee that you will never be in the want. You will always have enough because you can never out-give God!”
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