One of the most committed Christians with one of the most brilliant minds in the evangelical world gave a talk to several hundred business and Christian leaders in our city, Cleveland, Ohio. Ravi Zacharias talked about the foundations that have been destroyed in our culture and so desperately need to be rebuilt.
He reminded us that one of the deep rooted problems in our culture is a lack of charity, a lack of giving to others with no thought of what’s coming back in return. Ravi told us about a successful businessman whose grandson asked him for some advice on what it takes to be a success. The grandfather gave him three words, "Others. Others. Others."
Too few of us really live that way. Serving others, giving to others, charity. It’s a rare virtue in our world. There seems to be a "what’s in it for me?" mentality connected with most things we do.
A great illustration of that is our dog. She just showed up in our neighborhood one day. And wouldn’t you know it, our boys were the ones who made the connection with her. Since she was just a "wanderer" who just happened to show up, we called her "Gypsy." After several weeks, we found the owners. They came over and said, "She looks pretty happy. Wouldn’t you just like to keep her?" Voila! Instant pet - a mixed breed, part sheltie and part shepherd. Hello, Gypsy.
My wife, Maryanne, says that she and this dog just haven’t connected. She says that this dog is nothing like the dog she had growing up - a dog that seemed satisfied just being with Maryanne. Gypsy seems to be always wanting something.
Our neighbor has spoiled her. We try to keep this dog happy with regular dog food. But Mrs. Balahutrac gives her table scraps. Yesterday, she fed Gypsy this big hunk of ham. Gypsy even ate the vegetables that went with it. A dog that eats veggies? I told Maryanne, "Mrs. Balahutrac ought to be giving us those leftovers. Gypsy’s eating better than we are!" So, now, Gypsy is conditioned. When she sees a human, she barks, "Feed me! Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!" Maryanne can’t stand the constant sniffing, "Whatcha got for me? Whatcha got for me? Whatcha got for me?" This dog isn’t man’s best friend. We ought to change her name to "moocher." Gypsy’s a dog that doesn’t give, but always gets.
Now, we don’t have to be like our dog, do we? And we don’t have to be like our culture. The "what’s in it for me?" spirit has got to go. When I lay my head on death’s pillow, I want people to be able to say, "He was a giver, not a getter." When our homes and churches and our communities are filled with givers, watch out!
The title for this talk is "Developing a Generous Spirit."
Our text is Matthew 25:14-30. We are beginning a new series entitled "Ready, Set, GROW!
A few years ago, I was talking with a former member of our church who now lives in North Carolina. He was a really new Christian at the time. He asked me, "If I wanted to be a great Christian, what would you tell me I would need to do? Just make it simple. Boil it down. Give me the basics."
Our church vision statement has boiled things down to the basics. The statement, I believe, has been given to us by God. Last year, we involved over 200 people in a process that resulted in adopting a statement that reflects the focus, the balance, the evangelizing, the discipling, and the "on-fire" kind of church that God wants us to be. Here’s the vision statement: "Helping people grow to be passionate followers of Christ."
The little word "grow" in our vision statement can become an acronym that summarizes our basic responsibilities. G = Giving time, talent and treasure. R = Relationships. O = O = Outreach. W = Worship in private and in public. If these experiences are spiritually practiced and are a part of a Christian’s life on a consistent basis, then personal growth will happen.
In this series, "Ready, Set, GROW!" we are going to look at each ingredient. What we want is to have a year’s worth of commitments to those things that will help us grow so that when we occupy our new building, we will be growing, maturing Christians ready to help others meet our Lord and grow in Him. We want to be the most well-balanced, mature body of Christ in NE Ohio.
Today, our focus in on the "G" = Giving our time, talent, and treasure to God. We are going to see how our commitment to be givers, not just getters - our commitment to charity - will help us grow. To do that, let’s listen to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 25:14-30.