How many of you like to eat Lobster
I learned a lot
about Lobster that night. But the one thing I didn't realize
was that the shell I was cracking open was temporary in that Lobster's
life. As hard as their shells are, you would assume they are
part of the Lobster for their life. But a Lobster's shell can't
grow, so Lobsters have to shed the shell as their body size increases.
A Lobster can shed its shell 25 times in the first 5 to 7 years
of life as they continue to grow.
When the molting occurs, a new shell is produced that is soft at first and takes time to harden. During this time, the Lobster is very vulnerable to both disease and predators. This reminds us that growth is difficult and risky!
The same is true for disciples of Jesus. When we begin to grow in Christ, our lives change and we can't hold on to the old ways of thinking and acting. We have to shed those old shells as we grow to maturity in Christ. Maybe when we first became Christians we thought that was it - we had a new life and everything was complete. But then we learned that receiving Christ into our lives was only the first new shell. Christ then began to challenge us to give up that shell for another and then another. We found that we never stop growing in Christ. There's always another step to take that will bring us to be more mature in Christ. However, the process leaves us very vulnerable and we must take some big risks when we are moving into a bigger shell. As we become more and more like God, we risk more and more.
One of the greatest opportunities Jesus offers us is to grow more like him in giving. Christ gave everything to God and ultimately gave his life that we may have salvation and new life. Each day Christ lived, he gave. So growing more Christ-like is growing in giving. When I was serving at Weaver, I heard a missionary give his testimony and I have never forgotten the power of his words. That missionary was Wayne Myers. Wayne gave his life to Christ to serve as a missionary to Mexico in the 1946 and never turned back. However, Wayne said he had three questions that he posed before God: (1) What if I can't learn the language? Wayne didn't know Spanish or much about the customs of the people. How could he communicate? (2) What about my health? Wayne had to be on a specialized diet and had been through several stomach operations. (3) How am I going to live? Wayne didn't have anything financially to depend upon. He knew he didn't qualify physically, scholastically, or theologically in his training, but he simply said to God, "If you can use my life, I'm available. He prayed one night for 3 hours and he heard the Lord's voice telling him to write down whatever He spoke. The words came through very clearly, addressing all three concerns that Wayne had prayed about. In regard to his health, the Lord reminded him that He was his Healer and would take care of him. Regarding the language, He said that He would help Wayne to learn to speak to the people effectively. And he spoke these words to Wayne concerning his finances: "Son, I own the cattle on a thousand hills and all the gold therin. Keep your vertical lines open. Guard the motives of your heart. Do all for my glory. I'll take care of your horizontal needs and ministries." Wayne says God has kept his word for over 56 years. He and his wife have never lacked for what they needed to raise their family and do the work of God. He took care of Wayne's health and helped him to learn to communicate in Spanish actually better than in English. Wayne says "By God's grace we have helped build churches around the world and have raised enough money to give more than 100 vehicles to deserving missionaries and . leaders who are involved in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ." Wayne's whole life is one story after another of giving to God. He and his wife determined they would give a monetary gift every day, 365 days of the year. "Whatever we have, we give accordingly," says Wayne. Some people have told Wayne you can't live like that or you'll go broke. But Wayne tells them, "I was broke when I started giving and I haven't been broke since. Not many people understand the joy that comes from living a life of giving." Wayne Myers is a living example of how giving just multiplies the more you are willing to give. He and his wife own nothing but a vehicle and some furniture. They have been willing to grow and grow and grow in the life that God has called them to.
They have taken risk after risk and have been very vulnerable. Yet, God has always given them a new shell and challenged them to go further in giving than they ever thought they could. They just keep on growing, keep on giving, and keep on taking the challenges.
Wayne reminds us in his book Living Beyond the Possible that living a life of giving doesn't happen all at once. He teaches that we must grow into it. There are some important principles and steps that help us to grow in giving that I want to share with you today that come directly from the scripture. The story of the Elijah in I Kings is an incredible story of what God does when people are faithful in giving. First, Elijah gave his life to God as a prophet, God took care of him in a time of incredible drought. God promised Elijah he would take care of him, feeding him by Ravens and giving him water from a brook. As incredible as that was, the next plan that God had for feeding Elijah was even more impossible. After the brook dried up and there was no more water, God sent Elijah to Zarephath and commanded a widow to supply him with food. The only problem was this was the widow only had enough flour and oil to make a cake of bread. When Elijah came into that town famished from his trip, he asked the widow to bring him some water and a piece of bread to eat. She told him that she only had a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug - enough for one more cake of bread for herself and her son to eat. Then she expected to die of starvation. Can you imagine being asked to give someone else something to eat if you were in this situation? I'm sure there were friends this woman had who said, "You've got to be crazy if you're going to feed that man before you feed your own child and yourself." Yes, the widow could have listened to the negative people around her and those who gave her their advice, but she didn't. She listened to God. And God had commanded the woman to give food to Elijah, God's prophet. So she didn't let the fear of starving keep her from following God's command to give. This widow teaches us an important lesson:
(1) Refuse the fear that you will go without if you give.
Elijah told the widow: "Don't be afraid. God home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of four will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD give rain on the land.'
How true that statement was. God provided once the woman stepped out in faith and gave.
- God provided for me when I served in Columbiana as choir director. Traveled out to the church to help with some ministry and didn't know how I was going to make it on so little gas. I didn't know how I was going to make it and I prayed that God would just get me back and home. But someone gave me some money and I didn't even ask. God took care of the need.
Feed your faith and your doubts will die of starvation - Wayne Myers.
Scarce funds will lubricate your knees toward prayer! God doesn't let those go without that are giving to serve Him. But he does want us to trust Him totally and depend on His provision. The first step to refusing the fear that you will go without is you give is prayer: Pray to God, trusting Him to meet you needs.
(2) Put God's needs before your own and obey Him.
The widow at Zarapheth could have easily put her and her son's
needs before Elijah. She could have said, "Hit the road,
Jack. I've got enough problems of my own." But she obeyed
God and gave as God was telling her to give. Elijah told her:
"Go home and do as I have said. But first make a small
coke of brad for me
She went away and did as Elijah had told
her." (I Kings 7:13, 15)
Why would God ask a poor, starving widow to take care of someone else's need before her own? The same reason He asks us to care for others before thinking of ourselves. God wants us to put the kingdom of God before ourselves so that we can experience His kingdom through our personal lives. He calls us to give up our lives in order that we can gain our lives. That's exactly what the widow did. When she was willing to give up her life, she gained it back. She was fed throughout the drought because she was willing to give up that bread first.
She wasn't living to get - she was living to give.
Example: Andrew always giving not to get, but simply to give. Always blessed.
The smallest act fo obedience is better than the best of intentions
. - Wayne Myers
Step 2: Start with what you have giving and increase that amount.
No one starts giving thousands of dollars if $100 is the most you've given. The key is to start with what you have given and begin to increase that amount. Ask God to guide you in the area of sharing your finances. When God speaks, obey him. "The smallest act of obedience is better than the best of intentions." (45). One step of obedience will always open up two doors - the door of supply and the door to serve. God will enable you to serve through opportunities he gives
(3) Step out by faith to give with the right motives, and you will prosper in real wealth and joy.
Woman stepped out in faith and her son was raised from the
I Kings 17:17-23
When you give because you can't help it, you'll receive because you can't stop it. - Wayne Myers.
Example: James Simms
Give in order for God to bless others through you.