Go ahead, count your blessings and give thanks this week. Really… do that. Be sure that you are praising God, knowing that “every perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. He deserves all credit, if you don’t understand that, you won’t understand the purpose of life. Displaying gratitude is a great practice, but let’s be honest, it’s really easy to do and all too often it can keep us focused on ourselves and what we have. We may nod our heads at God but then go right on shoveling mashed potatoes into our faces. How about getting more serious this year?
Don’t stop at being thankful for what you have. Take inventory of your blessings and then give them away. Yes, that’s right, give them away.
Many of us women go through cycles of downsizing and “purging” of what we own. This is good, but why do we participate in this cycle at all? We give, but then we take stuff up again. If we were to look at how Christ dealt with possessions we would see a shocking lifestyle! He depended fully on his Father to provide for him as he traveled and went seeking and saving the lost. Jesus never worried about how his needs would be met but they were.
Jesus didn’t even have a place to call home during his ministry. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58. He was constantly surrounded by crowds whom he ministered to, often sharing what he had available like fish and bread (Matt. 14:13-21). Jesus also walked the grain fields with his disciples where they found lunch “and His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.” Matt. 12:1. This was only done by those who did not have enough food of their own to eat. By the time Jesus died on the cross his only possessions were the clothes on his back and even those were divided up and taken away.
We need to do a better job at looking like Jesus in this area. We may not sell our homes and walk the fields for dinner, but come on, we aren’t even in the ballpark of Christ-likeness here. So time to go beyond the “thanks” and get serious about the “giving”. You may find yourself parting with material possessions like jewelry, clothing, collections, hobby items, a vehicle, or even careers. What you do keep, you need to share and use for the glory of God. Your home should be a ministry outpost, where people gather to be fed from your pantry and the Word of God. You could become foster parents, host Bible studies or house those in need. Or, God may call you to look very much like Jesus and sell everything and trust him in mission work.
This sharing and giving holds true for all areas of life, so don’t neglect a full inventory. Share your skills in order to share Christ. Use your time pouring out love and help onto others as you share biblical knowledge, encouragement and exhortation. Don’t accumulate financial abundance; use your money for Kingdom building, locally and worldwide. Reach the end of your life like Christ, with nothing earthly clinging to you, having given all away for the sake of his name.
Finally, I encourage you to give up the blessings that usually top every list: family and friends. You need to give them to God. Entrust them to his care at all times. You do this by praying for them daily, sharing God’s Word and by understanding that he has full authority over their lives. Lovingly push all those who are precious to you toward Jesus.
Ladies, we need to reflect the generous quality of our God and give freely of all we have been blessed with. Praise God as you count your blessings this year, but don’t stop with an inventory, continue to worship him in how you use every single thing he gives you. Focus on growing rich in Christ as you praise him with open hands, allowing the blessings to flow through.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24, 25.
I have just recently returned home from a mission trip to Guatemala. I have to admit, I feel as if part of my heart is still 2000 miles away with the kind and generous people of that culture. While there I witnessed many atrocities such as families living with no water source (let alone clean water), people dying of treatable diseases, and children who live on top of trash. These seem like desperate conditions and they are, however many of the people in the above situations professed their faith in Jesus Christ and were clinging to him to meet their daily needs and answer their prayers. Some were the same ones worshiping God with all their heart next to me at church on Sunday morning with arms raised in praise.
As I dwell on this now that I am back home in this land of (over)abundance, I wonder which of us is truly depraved? The Guatemalans who struggle so hard to survive each day and stay safe and healthy or we Americans who are drowning in wants and petty desires for more material goods and the appearance of worldly success?
The battles we fight are so very different in appearance and yet are enacted by the same Enemy. Is there one that is a greater battle over the other?
At one of the home visits I did, the woman kept apologizing for how little she had and how small her living space was. She felt bad for not having enough seats for us and not being able to offer us better. We assured her we were just thankful to be there with her and appreciated her kind hospitality. I now wonder how I would feel if that same woman came to encourage me in my home. Would she look around and think, “This is how American Christians live?”, “Why all the stuff?”, “Hasn’t she read Matthew 6:19-24 or James 2:14-17?” I’m afraid many would look at our homes filled with material goods and excess and think we are just fooling ourselves in this Christian walk. Are we?
Many of the needs of the Guatemalan people are so very obvious. In most of America, because of our affluence, the needs are hidden and yet just as deep. In Guatemala, our shared Enemy throws poverty, sickness and feelings of despair at them. In America, the same Enemy throws success, material goods, and feelings of security at us (I know there are exceptions).
Having this knowledge, we need to understand a few important facts. One, recognize that the Devil can use any type of weapon to fight against us and to pull our attentions away from God; need and excess are both weapons in his arsenal.
Two, spiritual depravity can be found in any person regardless of their appearance or life circumstances. We have to recognize that the ultimate need of every individual is the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of apparent status. Finally, understand that God has placed you in the country and circumstances you are in on purpose and he knows that is the best place for you to be in order for your life to bring him the most glory possible. Use it for just that purpose alone.
Don’t think I am writing this to make anyone feel guilty (however you may feel convicted like I do), but do understand I am writing this to bring attention to the possibility of depravity in your life. Don’t allow your possessions or pursuits of worldly success lead you to believe you are “better off” than anyone in a “less fortunate” country. Examine your life closely to see if the Devil has found his way into your home and is smothering the potential work of the Holy Spirit there. Who or what are you dependent on really? Who or what is your life centered around? Don’t take these questions lightly, they have eternal consequences.
Recall the encounter of the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-26. He followed the Ten Commandments and was eager to learn what more he could do to obtain eternal life (he was wise enough to know there was more to it than the law). Jesus responds to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Jesus knew that what this man needed was to get rid of his earthly goods in order to be fully surrendered to God. However, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.” This man preferred to hold on to his possessions rather than spend time in the presence of the one and only, all powerful, Messiah and Son of God.
God may not be asking you to give all you have to the poor (though he could be), but he does demand all you have to be his. The true depravity of humanity cannot be judged by appearances, possessions or geographical locations, it is a state of the heart. We all desperately need Jesus Christ to claim our hearts as his own possession. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10
Get rid of your stuff… end of class. Go get rid of everything you have that you don’t need and only keep what you need to. After that very little organization is needed because there won’t be much to organize. No need to buy pretty boxes, bags, or closet systems. No need to rent a storage unit or to even have a large house. No more stress because of all the clutter and piles lying around the house. No more weekends spent dusting, cleaning out the garage or polishing your toys. Without all your stuff you will have time to spare!
As I give out this advice I sit in my office surrounded by lots of stuff I could easily live without. This room is surrounded by other rooms full of items I could live without, the garage is full too. I’ve never been one to hold on to too much but I still find myself spending time on my possessions. I spend time buying, sorting, moving, arranging, and cleaning my stuff. I spend time working for money to buy more stuff to waste my time on. What an insane cycle to live in. I am realizing that more stuff = more stress.
The Bible confirms this, in 1 Timothy 6:10 it says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (Emphasis mine)
Loving money (or what money can buy) is the root, or beginning, of all kinds of evils (covetousness, pride, greed). This craving for more leads us to pierce ourselves with many pangs. This desire for stuff truly hurts us! Also notice the strong pull materialism can have on a person; it even causes some to wander away from the faith. It is very hard to resist, but that is exactly what we are called to do.
In 1 John 2:15 it says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
This verse tells us not to love “the things in the world”. Do you love your possessions? Do you love your pretty bedspread, do you love your 401k, do you love your new shoes, do you love your nice green lawn, do you love your jewelry? If we love our possessions which are part of the world this shows a huge heart issue. I don’t mean that if you have a nice pair of shoes or some jewelry that your heart is in the wrong place, but it could be. If you find yourself striving after items like this or finding ways to accumulate more items to treasure, you need to do a serious heart check…and fast.
A heart aligned with the world is a heart against God, literally an enemy of God. This may seem harsh, but these are not just my words. Check out James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Like I said this is serious. We want our hearts to be aligned with God not the world. What we treasure and hold dear displays what is in our hearts. What is your heart clinging to?
Mothers, be an example for your children. Teach them at a young age to hold on very lightly to the things of this world. Teach them how to be givers and to bless others instead. Instruct them on the difference between what is eternal (God’s Kingdom, God’s Word, Christian relationships, work done for Christ, time spent with God) and what is truly dust (everything tangible). They are watching you closely so be aware of what you are spending your time on too. Is shopping a hobby? Do you often admire and value objects? Are you being generous in blessing others? What are your reasons for working? What are the future aspirations of your family? Are you planning for a vacation, a hot tub, or an awesome way to bless others for God’s Kingdom?
The only proper place to store your treasures is Heaven. Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Ladies, it’s time we cut our tethers to this world. We need to keep our eyes focused on eternity and not the dust all around us. Our current surroundings are so very temporary; don’t get distracted by the pull of fake joy found in objects. Release yourself to fully experience the true freedom only found in Christ.