August 8, 2013

Grow- Goodness


We are in a message series titled Grow, and we are looking at the Fruit of the Spirit.

Let’s read our passage together...

Galatians 5:22-23.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Last week we looked at Kindness and this week we are looking at Goodness. The one question I had...and I wasn’t alone...What is the difference between Kindness and Goodness?

If you are being kind aren’t you also being good to someone? So what is the difference?

And it is important for us to know the difference because we talk a lot about kindness here at Crossroads. We go out one a regular basis and do “practical acts of kindness.” We serve our community. One pastor said, “I don’t want us to be just the best church in the community. I want us to be the best church FOR our community!” And so we do practical acts of Kindness to demonstrate God’s love and our love for others.

The word Paul uses here is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, the New Testament, and writings about the Old and New Testament. It is not a word used anywhere outside of the Jewish or Christian faith.

When used in the Bible, Goodness means several different though connected things...
right moral behavior...someone who abides by God’s Law is considered good.
maturity/completeness for a purpose...In the Creation poem of Genesis 1, God declares what he has made to be good. It fits the purpose for which it was created. Much like using a hammer to drive in a nail rather than your shoe. The hammer is good for driving in nails.

The final way, and the primary way it is used here, is what we would call Abundant generosity...It is a willingness to go farther and further than expected...It means doing things that bring good into the world and doing them lavishly!

This is the difference between simply satisfying your hunger and eating at a Michelin Star Restaurant.This is going all out for your anniversary dinner and letting your wife biggie size it. Abundant Generosity

Goodness as used here by Paul means having an attitude that not only does acts of kindness, but does them above and beyond the expect and the norm. It means giving ourselves away for the benefit of others...using our time not as though it belongs to us, but giving it away generously to people in the name of the Kingdom. Using our talents. Using our finances and our stuff. It means that in every area of our lives generosity is so ingrained that we just ooze goodness!

Jesus says it this way in Matthew 5:40-42, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Goodness or Generosity starts in the heart of God...
So often our wrong theology about who God is or what God is like can get in the way of our spiritual growth. Very little hinders that more than when we have wrong views about God’s abundant generosity towards us.

Maybe you have prayed and God didn’t answer your prayer...but He did for that idiot over there!

You watch as other people receive blessing after blessing and think, “Why won’t God do that for me!?!”

Maybe you pray for something for a longtime...the salvation of a family member, a job, a reliable vehicle...someone else comes along and you pray for them and they get what you need.

We can be tempted to believe God has it out for us. It’s not that you don’t believe God is good...you just believe He is good for everyone else but you.

In Psalm 31, David is pouring out his troubles to God, and right in the middle he says, Psalm 31:19, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”

Goodness and Generosity start in the heart of God, and God’s desire is to lavish goodness upon us.

James 1:17-18, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

You see God’s Ultimate act of generosity and goodness towards us is His offer of salvation. Life can be physically horrible, financially in ruin, emotionally trouble, but those are not the sign of God’s goodness...our salvation...Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf...is the ultimate sign of God’s goodness.

Don’t get me wrong...God’s goodness includes our physical, financial, emotional well being. He is the God who promised to clothe and feed us better than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.

But the goodness begins with Him sacrificing everything for to rescue us from the destruction sin causes in our lives. Metaphors and illustrations can be be stretched too far, but look at it this way...Imagine a guy who is broke and hungry falls into a raging river...what do you do? Start throwing money and food at him as he floats by? No! You rescue him...then you give the stuff he needs.

God meets our needs, and the ultimate need each and every one of us has, at the deepest core of who we are...is a restored relationship with God. And when that happens...God's goodness in our life should result in overflowing generosity to others...in the way we love...in the way we forgive...in the way we care for others

God extends His Generosity through us...
2 Thessalonians 1:11, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

2 Peter 1:5 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge...”

I have come to believe that God works almost solely through people to accomplish His will. He does not interfere with bolts of lightening and grand signs written in the sky...He works through people like you and me. Even when He does the miraculous...he still works through men and women who are following Him.

You are in need financially. The collectors are calling. You are swamped. God works through people. He reminds us that the best way is to make sure we are on budget. We are working to spend less and make more. And when times come when additional resources are needed, God works through people...the prompt in the heart to write a check and send it to someone in need. The unforeseen return of some money from your mortgage escrow. The free food at the pantry. God works through other people.

You are struggling with a psychological need...God equips and prepares counselors and psychologists with knowledge of how things work up here...and they help us. God will also use people praying for us to heal us in those situations.

We have a physical issue. We have seen God use the miraculous to bring healing to our bodies...but He always brings it as those who follow Him step out and pray for those who need it...and as we allow them to pray for us! But God also gives us doctors and nurses...though it would truly miraculous if he could work out some cheaper rates.

God uses us. He uses people like you and me...people willing to live out of the abundant generosity God provides to help those around us. We can get caught up looking for what we think is the miraculous and completely miss out on being used by God to BE miraculous.

We just have to be willing to step up when given the opportunity...and that can be tough. because there are

Challenges to being Good and Generous people...

Embarrassment
One of the speakers at the conference said something simple and yet profound. He said, “Many of us are willing to die for Jesus; we just are willing to be embarrassed for Him.” It takes guts...a willingness to look like a fool sometimes when following Jesus.

When I stepped out and prayed for Jeff at the pool I risked embarrassment and found some...I am praying for a guy whom everyone else wants to just shut up and go away...his beers and grief were not necessarily a quiet combination. But he was hurting and needed prayer. So I prayed for him. And when it was over...me standing in just swim trunks and him standing in just a t-shirt and his boxer shorts, because he forgot his swim trunks, he reached across and hugged me and wept...I’m a guy. We don’t cry, we don’t hug, and we don’t do them all once standing half-naked around a pool of spectators.

But God was working, and it was worth the embarrassment to extend God’s love and mercy to this man.

Greed
While we may not live with the motto of “Greed is good!” We certainly are affected by a culture that says, “Look out for numero uno!” I have to get all that I can and keep all that I can and spend all that I can on ME and MINE!

The question we have to ask it this, Is Generosity or Scarcity the way the world works? Is there enough for everyone or is there just enough for me? For those of us pursuing a life that reflects Jesus we have to ask, “Is God a generous God who allows us to step into His generosity and be a conduit for His goodness to the world?”

It is so easy to get and grab and keep...and completely miss out on being a part of God’s generosity to the world. Because when we hold on to our money, to our time, to our resources as though they belong to us...we miss out on really living the good life!

Life Management
We all have bills and responsibilities, and we feel we can’t afford to be generous. We have family and job responsibilities that eat away our time. And because of the financial pressures, the time pressures, and the stress we live under...generosity is a struggle.

Weariness
Paul mentions this one in relationship to doing good and working with people. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

...because when you give away your time, your money, and your talents in generous ways to other people...you will be taken advantage...you will be used...you will be mistreated...you will be misunderstood. You will work hard with little reward. You will be tempted to look at all the challenges and the hardships and take your eyes away from God. You will be tempted to think that YOU have to do everything!

And weariness will set in. You will become tired...ready to quite. You will be tempted to stop being a generous person because what does it say when you are generous and people take advantage of your kindness, or you work harder for fewer results, or you are berated because someone misunderstood you?

You will become weary...

Despite all these challenges...it is worth the struggle to become abundantly generous people!

So how do we do that?

Becoming people of Generosity

Detach from Things.
We detach from our stuff. Give away your stuff! Regularly make a habit of giving away your most prized possessions. Those things you just can’t live without. Maybe you give them away permanently or maybe you just fast from them for awhile...but what needs to happen is we must break their hold over us.

Be Generous
This feels a little like what happens when someone defines a word you don’t know by using the word you don’t know. If I trying to become generous then being generous seems more like the outcome than one of the steps.

But if you find ways to be more generous...you will become a more generous person.

Find ways to be generous everyday...

Give bigger tips to your servers than expected.
Carry around one of our care cards and buy people’s meals in the drive-thru lane behind you.
Give of your time even when you completely swamped.
Take time to listen when you would rather talk.
Step out and pray for someone even though it scares you to death.

You have received everything in your life as a gift from God...now use it to bring glory to His Kingdom! Find ways to go above and beyond the expected in every situation.

Conclusion
About 10 years ago, I was sitting in a conference with the Church of the Nazarene that changed my life and led me to where I am today. Steve Sjogren spoke at our District Assembly about the power of generosity and act of kindness.

He gave us a quote, “Small things done with great love will change the world.” It was the combination I was looking for in my approach to the Christian life. Radical generosity in practical, everyday ways.

Emperor Julian the Apostate 361, wanted to lead a revival of Roman Paganism and reestablish the old Roman gods. He barred Christians from public office and from positions of prestige. He closed major cathedrals. He couldn't overcome their charity. Roman paganism was only willing to care for those like themselves. Christians were willing to care for everyone!

Julian said, "Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians'] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [unbelief of the pagan gods]? For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort."

Radical generosity set early Christians apart from everyone else, and drew people to follow Jesus...It will do the same thing today.

As we love generously, forgive generously, give of our time generously, give our money and our resources away in generous ways...we tell the world that we serve a generous God and we are living in a generous Kingdom!

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