Blogs by Jeff Owen
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Christians, do you feel cheerful when you give to the Lord? The word for cheerful used here in Greek is “hilaros”, describing someone who is cheerfully and spontaneously ready to act, already approving or persuaded. Hilaros is also where we get the word hilarious. An interesting way to think of giving.
Have you ever felt reluctantly cheerful or compelled to be cheerful? Someone can certainly decide to give reluctantly or decide to give by compulsion, but neither produces the kind of giving that God loves and it certainly doesn’t produce a cheerful giver.
It can be easy to be a reluctant giver when we focus on bills we have, commitments we have made, things we desire for ourselves or what will we need later in life. This type of giving is really more about keeping than giving. In some cases, the reluctance is so great there is no giving. As result of this inward focus, we take our focus off what God has given us.
It can also be easy to be compelled to give. Now that may sound funny, but you may be compelled to give because an offering plate is passed. You may also give under compulsion because someone you know asks you to give to a ministry, and you focus on impressing them rather than the need that is presented to you. This type of giving implies that there is an outward force applying pressure to give. You may not be ready to act or are not persuaded to give for the right reasons or purpose.
There may be times where we have a combination of reluctance and compulsion to give like Ananias and Saphira in Acts chapter 5. When they saw Barnabas sell his field and lay it at the feet of the Apostles at the end of Acts chapter 4, they may have felt compelled to give like Barnabas because they could see the joy it brought him and the church and they were jealous. But they were also reluctant to give it all, so they thought they could keep some for themselves and pretend to give it all. That did not end well for Ananias or Saphira.
Giving is always a heart matter and God knows your heart. When our love for God is at the center of our giving we can cheerfully give to the needs he lays on our hearts. We need to be reminded every day of Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
God did not give reluctantly or by compulsion, but freely gave his own son and will graciously give us all things. This assurance helps us loosen our grip on worldly, temporary things that God has given us and focus on the greatest gift of his own son. Then we can focus on using worldly temporary things for eternal kingdom purposes, not reluctantly or under compulsion, but cheerfully let go.
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
According to most estimates, Christians make up about 1/3 of the world’s population or 2.4 billion people. Making Christianity the largest religion in the world. In the United States, estimates show that 7 out of 10 people claim to be Christian, that would equate to about 225 Million Americans today.
With such a majority of people in America who claim the name Christian, you would think that Jesus Christ would be a popular topic of conversation. It would seem logical, that as Christians engage in conversations at home, work, school, and leisure activities the most popular topic would be the name that 70% claim to follow - Jesus Christ. I know for myself, I fail often to talk about Jesus even with people I know who need to hear about Him.
The reality is many people who claim the name of Jesus Christ do not bring His name up in most conversations. Christians have conversations everyday about social, political, economic and religious issues and many times we enjoy talking about all the problems of this world without offering the only answer. Most of our conversations are about worldly issues that highlight the fact that we live in a broken world. This broken world is a result of another word that many Christians do not use in conversations - sin. God makes the problem clear in Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
When Christians identify the problem and call it sin, we should always point people to the answer – Jesus Christ. But the evidence, or lack of evidence in our conversations of pointing out sin or pointing people to Jesus could mean either our faith in those moments is weak or that the faith is not real.
For many who claim to be a Christian, but never share who Jesus is, your faith may not be real. Jesus says in Matt 10:33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Eternity hangs on whether you have faith Jesus Christ.
If our faith is real but weak, we need to remember that Satan would love for us to not talk about sin and Satan certainly does not want Christians to talk about Jesus as the answer. God reminds us in Luke 12:11-12 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” This is true for every Christian in every situation God puts us in whether in front of authorities or with strangers, co-workers, friends, family or whomever is put in our lives.
No matter what the topic of worldly conversations or how we choose to describe it; conservative or liberal, right of left, rich or poor - every problem that humanity has ever faced comes down to sin. Sin has existed since the garden of Eden and will until Jesus Christ returns.
If we truly believe in who Jesus is and what he has done to defeat sin and death, then we should want everyone we know and meet to hear that there is one common problem in this world, sin - and the good news is there is one answer - Jesus Christ. My prayer for myself, and other Christians is that God would strengthen our faith and help Christians see every conversation as an opportunity to lift up the name above all names – Jesus.
(Originally posted on November 9, 2017.)
We recently started studying a book called Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes at our Catalyst men’s study. It is an awesome thing to come together as men to study what it looks like to practice Godly discipline.
Most of us recognize the discipline it takes to do something well. For an athlete who sets a goal of winning a title or becoming a champion, the athlete knows he must train. If the goal is to be the best golfer or football player you eat, sleep and drink that activity. There is a discipline to the training. There may be a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed as you pursue the goals set.
If I were to ask a champion athlete how did you discipline or train yourself to achieve your goals? They would say it takes both physical and mental discipline to achieve the highest level of competition. How much more important is it for a Christian to train themselves, if we claim to love Jesus above all? It says in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Young children and many adults look up to an athlete and want to be like them and win a championship title, but titles are temporary things that have no eternal value. If we want to know what the pursuit of godliness is; and the value of it - we pursue Jesus as our greatest treasure. Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If our heart is pursuing Jesus, it should change everything about our day. How we eat, sleep and drink like a champion for Christ, not for our glory or titles but for God’s glory and the name of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Following the pattern of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ will cause us to change the way we see everything and how we do everything.
Christians, do you wake up every morning and pursue Jesus Christ and giving him glory? If you want to sharpen your training habits begin your day by seeking God’s will for your day and for your life through prayer, scripture and fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters.
This next Saturday Catalyst men’s group and Women of Courage meet from 8 – 9:30 am at Cornerstone Church in Cascade to pursue godliness. All are welcome! Women are using Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes.