Today’s session marks the halfway point in our journey through Sister Talk: Faith – Part Two.
We started with Respect as the foundational faith action for loving others in His name. We moved through Share, and now we find ourselves at Give.
Giving is taking what we have and putting it in the possession of another to use as they see fit. The definition of give ranges from presenting whatever we’re giving as a gift or simply yielding our possession of it and making it available for others to use.
We started with the fundamental truth about giving: we don’t belong to ourselves.
Bought at a Price:
We were created to serve God. However, Adam and Eve chose to serve the enemy in the garden of Eden instead of God. Because of their choice, we are all born slaves to sin. But, even before creation, God had a plan to redeem what went wrong. Jesus.
Read Colossians 1:15-22
Who is Jesus?
What dwelled in Him? For what purpose?
God stooped low, limited Himself to human form, then poured out His life and blood to free us from sin and death. Believers have been bought at a very high price, to reconcile us to Himself.
How do you feel about being bought at an infinitely high cost? Do you see His love on the cross? Does it move you to give?
He paid the price of His life, out of love, to make us His own. He gave Himself for us.
What does it mean to you that He died for you to make you His?
Reread Colossians 1:18
Why does Paul call Jesus the firstborn from the dead?
Jesus’ death alone did not save us. Without resurrection, His death on the cross would just be another crucifixion. It is His death raised to life, which gives Him the preeminent place in heaven, and gives us life.
Like Jesus, with every act of giving we join Him on the cross, sentencing our own way, wants, and desires to death. But with each one of those deaths, comes an opportunity for resurrection.
As I walked my familiar road the Spirit prompted me to consider what happened after Jesus died. I thought about Heaven’s response. Were the angels giddy with excitement about what was to come? Did God gently tap His foot in anticipation for three days?
What was the response of those in prison Jesus spoke the Good News to? In my wondering I was awestruck by the price Jesus paid. But not just His death, because death alone doesn’t bring redemption. The Good News is Jesus conquered death and wrapped it up like a precious gift for us.
What seems even more incredible, is we have the same opportunity. Each gift we give, is a mini-death. Like we climb up on the cross with Jesus, so He might have the opportunity to resurrect again and again.
Once we know we aren’t our own, we see every choice we make is an act of giving ourselves to sin or to God and His resurrection work.
His wholehearted giving of Himself to reconcile creation and buy back His people, moved us to talk about His openhanded giving to all He’s created.
In the week’s work, I shared the story of the openhanded vision I had. This past Sunday, reading in Proverbs for something unrelated, I came across the Scripture which affirms what I saw.
Read Proverbs 11:24
How does this verse depict the truth behind openhanded giving?
When we freely give what He has given, without closing our fist around it, we only grow richer. But those who live with a closed fist, suffer want. Being focused on the gift instead of the Giver limits our vision for giving.
In Luke 12, we talked about God’s abundant provision for both flora and fauna. They never fear a shortfall. Jesus called us to recognize our greater worth and the Father’s love for us. He is the One who gives us all we have (John 3:27).
Read Luke 12:29-31
These verses tell us when we seek God’s Kingdom first, everything else will fall into place. We will want for nothing.
What does it mean to seek God’s Kingdom?
How do we do it?
To seek His Kingdom first means we learn to look at the world differently. The more we seek God’s presence through prayer, worship and study of His Word, the more we see Him in the world around us and recognize the world’s need for Him.
Understanding God’s great love for us and His desire to provide us with all good things, never leaving us in want, fills us with the confidence to live a life of openhanded giving.
Have you experienced the reality of His provision by seeking His Kingdom first?
To seek His Kingdom first, is to live a life which bears fruit for His glory.
Giving the Fruit We Bear:
We talked about how bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) glorifies the Father (John 15:8). But we can’t will ourselves to bear spiritual fruit, only God makes things grow (1Corinthians 3:7).
Read John 15:4-5
Who does Jesus tell us He is in these verses? Who are we?
What must we do to bear fruit? What can we do apart from Him?
Jesus paints a picture for us about fruit bearing. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Branches must be attached to the vine to produce fruit. They must be abiding in it, living as part of it.
What does it mean for us to abide in Him?
When we abide in Jesus, we live our life attached to Him. This week we saw fruitful Believers being those who avoid the way of sinners, meditate on the Word, and delight in obeying it (Psalm 1:1-3). They also live a life trusting Him for all things (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Life in Christ, following His will and His way, giving Him our life, makes for a fruit-full life.
Most confusing for Believers regarding spiritual fruit, is how the fruit we are called to bear is not for us but for others.
Have you struggled with the concept of the fruit of the Spirit being something you give and not necessarily receive?
I remember the first time I read: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control… I thought: Oh! I want all those things. I can’t wait for them to be mine.
Then I heard a teaching about the fruit of the Spirit not being for yourself, but something you bear to give to others.
All of the sudden I realized why I wasn’t feeling the blessings of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit He bears through me isn’t for me. It’s for me to give to others. It brought clarity to the years of feeling like a failure for not experiencing these things in my life.
It freed me to see spiritual fruit from the right perspective, as something I give others. And giving others the fruit He bears through us, is a whole other blessing in itself.
How are you when it comes to giving love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control to others without expecting to receive the same in return?
Understanding something about fruit in the natural realm can help us understand spiritual fruit. The primary purpose of fruit is protection and dispersal of seeds for reproduction of the plant (Britannica.com).
The fleshy part of the fruit covers the seeds and is attractive to animals and people. When the fruit is picked the seeds are taken away with it and then dropped somewhere else in the world. If the conditions are right, the seeds will germinate and grow another plant of the same kind.
The spiritual fruit is much the same. Because the fruit we bear comes from a faithful life in His Word and Way, the seeds it contains are the Word of God. When we give our fruit to others they take with them a bit of the Word through our obedience to it. And given the right set of circumstances and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Seed hidden in our fruit may bring new life to another.
Producing spiritual fruit to give others is a product of our journey of faith. So is grace.
Giving grace, is a lot like giving the fruit we bear, we do it without expectation of return.
Read Ephesians 4:32
What is the heart behind our giving grace to others?
We are called to forgive as Christ forgave us, with tenderhearted kindness.
Every Believer has been forgiven a debt we could never pay, like the ungrateful servant in the parable we read (Matthew 18:23-25). Because God paid the price of our debt with His own blood, we are to forgive those who owe us.
Read 2Corinthians 5:14-21
What ministry have we been given?
How did Christ fulfill this ministry?
As ambassadors for Christ, how do we, in turn, fulfill the ministry He’s given us?
The ministry of reconciliation becomes ours when we become Believers. At conversion, we no longer belong to the world, but become citizens of God’s Kingdom. We represent Him as ambassadors or witnesses to what His Kingdom is all about. We represent the King by living in His name or character.
He reconciled the world to Himself through forgiveness and grace, therefore, we are called to do the same. Loving others, not counting their trespasses against them.
What does this mean to you, to love others, not counting their trespasses against them?
It was the end of a long day. I had been poured out in many ways. I didn’t have anything left to pour. Not one single drop. So when the middle son came in frustrated with life and ultimately himself for putting off refilling his medication, which he needs to concentrate on the homework and test preparation he left until the last minute, I wanted to walk away.
I wanted to go climb under the covers and let him struggle on his own, learn the hard way. My flesh cried out, Why did you wait until the last minute? UGH! My mind flashed back to my own college days. I wasn’t much different than him. I put things off and pulled many all-nighters because I didn’t plan well, or get ahead. God quickly reminded me with a glimpse of my college self.
Only I didn’t struggle with ADHD and unlike him I could take the first step in the face of feeling overwhelmed.
The Spirit whispered, Give grace! I’ve been studying his issue over the last few years, so I had a few tricks up my sleeve. I set the timer for twenty minutes and challenged him to concentrate until it went off. I gently reached over and flipped his phone upside down. I fed him caffeine and quietly did the laundry as he worked. We set the twenty minute timer nine more times.
Grace won out this time, but it hasn’t always been this way. There were times I berated, yelled, heaped more pressure on top of his anxious situation. In the end, our relationship suffered, because I refused to offer to my very own flesh and blood what Jesus freely gave me.
Every day is a grace giving opportunity. It might leave us a little tired the next morning, but it is a gift worth giving.
Whether a person has received Christ or not, we are to treat them as new creations, because everyone is a potential receiver of grace; a potential brother or sister in Christ.
Because He laid down His life to bear the pain of our sins, we bear the sins of others too, not counting it against them.
Does this seem fair to you? Do you struggle with giving grace?
Let’s not answer this question out loud, but take it before our Father in heaven who knows our hearts and loves us more than we can ever imagine. Spend time in silent prayer wrestling with God over grace.
Lord Jesus, how unfair it was for You to take the blame for all my sins, pay the ransom for my life which I could never pay. You are so gracious and loving. Grow me in understanding Your heart and Your love for me and for all You’ve created. You know where I struggle with giving grace to others when I’ve been hurt, misjudged, or mistreated. Bless me with the faith to wholeheartedly receive Your love and grace in my life, and enable me to bear with others the same way.
As long as we’re living in these bodies of flesh, we will wrestle with giving grace as well as giving our all.
Giving Your All:
We talked about the parable of the seeds sown in four types of soil as a picture of the various heart attitudes of people and how much of their hearts they give to God. The heart of good soil is totally sold out, fully embraces His Word, and gives it their undivided attention (Mark 4:1-20).
The parable of the sower is found in three of the four gospels, we read it in Mark during our study, now let’s read Luke’s version.
Read Luke 8:4-15
What types of ground did the seeds fall on and what heart attitude does each represent?
The path is the hard-packed ground of a worldly heart.
The rocky ground would love the Word to be the way out of trouble, but never quite trusts enough to root deep in the truth of God. So when the trials of believing come, they abandon His way and try something which makes more sense to them.
The weedy ground is a divided heart. They hear the Word and it begins to grow, but becomes crowded out by the pleasures and/or worries of the world.
Then the good soil holds on to His Word and patiently pursues His way of life until a large crop is produced.
Which of these attitudes do you most identify with?
What keeps you from being totally sold out to His Word and Way?
The reality is we may have all four types of soil in our hearts. When we are wounded by others or the world we often respond by closing off that place in our heart, creating a hard place where pain can’t invade again. Busy schedules and anxious living grow like weeds and distract us from growth. Our culture teaches self-help is the way to go when times get rocky. Wander through any bookstore and you’ll find help for any topic of concern.
God seeks to invade these areas of our heart. As we allow His Spirit to heal wounded places, cast out the rocks of distraction, and trust His Word instead of ourselves, good soil is cultivated.
A heart of good soil is ready to be poured out for Him, loving others as He calls them to, bearing the fruit of grace and willingly giving it to all, because of all He’s given them.
Giving our all is the means of being fruitful for His Kingdom. And when we are fruitful for His Kingdom we bring encouragement to others and are a blessing in His name.
This leads us to our next step of faith: Encourage.
Father God, open my heart and life to give all You’ve given me back to You for Your use and Your glory.