Summary: A disciple can be generous with our resources, our time and our presence, but the most transformative element of a disciple's life is his/her story. We should be as generous with our story as we are with our money and time.
Generous with Our Story
2 Timothy 1: 1 – 14
It is only natural for us to connect the idea of generosity with money. We automatically think of financial resources when we consider the idea of being generous, but the life of generosity for a disciple of Jesus Christ extends to our willingness to utilize ALL our resources in the building of God’s Kingdom…our story…our time through service, study and corporate worship…in addition to our financial resources. I love what Bishop Mike Lowry says, “When the family of Christ gathers together, generosity erupts! Generous living defines and shapes our relationships.”
How we use our resources is fundamentally a spiritual issue. A spiritual life anchored in Jesus Christ is intimately tied to generous living. In the New Testament, those who believed lived generously. They had great power and great grace precisely because the use of their resources was freely surrendered to God’s will, purpose, and desire, and they were willing to share not just their resources, but the reason behind their willingness to share. As we begin this month-long reflection on generosity, let’s take a look at the power behind being generous with our story.
When I say generous with our story, what do I mean? I mean telling others about what God is doing in my life. I mean sharing how God is making a difference today. I mean sharing how I came to faith in Jesus Christ. There are myriad ways to “share our story,” but the essence of what I mean is to be willing to include God in the conversations of our daily lives when it’s appropriate to do so.
It’s not like we’re unwilling to share our lives with others. We generally enjoy sharing news we believe is significant. We share joyfully at the birth of an infant in our family. We celebrate weddings by sharing pictures and stories. We even are quick to pass the word when loved ones die. All appropriately, I might add. But, we also are willing to share the less significant. We see the latest film in the Star Wars franchise, and we can’t wait to post our impressions on Facebook, or call our friend and say, “You’ve got to see this one!” We also have no hesitancy in sharing the lowly estate of the New Orleans Saints, or chiming in with our opinion of the firing of Les Miles. We’re quick to post pictures on Facebook of our children’s first day of school, and we’re often very glad to share their latest achievement in life that makes us proud. We share our lives in lots of ways, and most of those ways never change anyone’s life. I said most.
In our text today, the Apostle Paul is writing to his son-in-the-faith, Timothy. Paul has come to the end of his life, and knowing his days are numbered, shares his story (again) with Timothy. Timothy is not oblivious to Paul’s story. When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he passed through the city of Lystra. That just happened to be Timothy’s hometown. He became familiar with Timothy and his family, and as a result, Timothy became Paul’s traveling companion. Yet, Paul shares it once again, and in the context of doing so, offers this little bit of advice in verse 8: “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” Apparently, Timothy had an issue with sharing the story. See, even the great characters of the Bible have their foibles. As there was grace for them, there is grace for us.
I believe the Apostle Paul give us a clue as to Timothy’s hesitancy in verses 6 – 7: “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Timothy was afraid? Paul reminded Timothy that the power of God can overcome any fear in our lives.
Fear often keeps us from sharing our story. We fear rejection. Someone may reject us if we share our story with them. We fear a lack of knowledge. We simply don’t know how to share. Perhaps that’s because the church has failed to teach faith-sharing…and that rests on me as your pastor. This might have been Timothy’s trouble, too. Timothy was a young man, though he wasn’t a teenager, and Paul, in his first letter to Timothy had to remind him not to “let anyone think less of him” because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12). Fear can prevent us from being generous with our story.
I am grateful that we are a generous congregation. Many of you continue to be generous with your story. Last spring, Chris and I did a message series called Transformation: Possible, and we asked you to share your stories of transformation with us. We didn’t get to use all of them in that series, but we saved them for now. I appreciate Bob Ford being generous enough to share that in 2001, after three previous heart stents, was told the bottom of his heart was not working and that additional surgery was needed. He delayed the surgery until after an already scheduled business trip. On that trip, Bob encountered a friend who was a devout, Charismatic Christian who told Bob she was going to pray for him. Bob was reluctant to submit to the woman’s prayers, not believing what he called that “mumbo, jumbo!” He met his friend anyway, and she laid her hand on his shirt and prayed. In that moment, Bob said he felt heat in his chest and Ann felt it, too. His friend said, “That doctor is going to say there’s nothing wrong with your heart!” Bob shared that’s exactly what happened.