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Summary: If you want to develop joyful generosity, start by giving your self to the Lord. Then give your songs to the Lord, then your substance to the Lord.

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Several men in the locker room of a private exercise club were talking when a cell phone laying on the bench rang. One man picked it up without hesitation, and the following conversation ensued:

“Hello?”

“Honey, It's me.”

“Sugar!”

“I'm at the mall two blocks from the club. I saw a beautiful mink coat. It is absolutely gorgeous! Can I buy it? It's only $1,500.”

“Well, okay, if you like it that much.”

“Thanks! Oh, and I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the new models. I saw one I really liked. I spoke with the salesman, and he gave me a great price.”

“How much?”

“Only $60,000!”

“Okay, but for that price I want it with all the options.”

“Great! Before we hang up, there's something else. It might seem like a lot, but, well, I stopped by to see the real estate agent this morning, and I saw the house we had looked at last year. It's on sale! Remember? The beachfront property with the pool and the English garden?”

“How much are they asking?”

“Only $450,000, a magnificent price, and we have that much in the bank to cover it.”

“Well then, go ahead and buy it, but put in a bid for only $420,000, okay?”

“Okay, sweetie. Thanks! I'll see you later! I love you!”

“I love you, too.”

The man hung up, closed the phone's flap, and raised it aloft, asking, “Does anyone know who this cell phone belongs to?” (John Fehlen, Stanwood, Washington; www.PreachingToday.com)

It’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money; but when it comes to giving your own resources, it’s not so easy. Is it? And that’s especially true if you don’t have a whole lot to give. Many of you want to be generous; but between paying the bills, the taxes and the insurance, you don’t have much left to give.

So how do we learn the secret to joyful generosity especially when our resources are so tight?

Well, let’s see how God’s people in Nehemiah’s day did it. They were poor people, having just been uprooted from their homes in Babylon. They’re trying to eke out a living in a land that had been ravaged by war. Now, they’re called upon to raise up a city to the glory of God, to rebuild the Holy City, the city of Jerusalem. However, they don’t have much to give. Even so, they find ways to be joyfully generous with what little they have, and God uses it to restore His fame in that place.

If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Nehemiah 11, Nehemiah 11, where we see the secret to their joyful generosity.

Nehemiah 11:1-2 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. (ESV)

More than anything else, the city of Jerusalem needed live bodies within its walls. It needed a population of people within. After all, what good is a city without people?

Now, you might think that people would flock to live in the city of Jerusalem, but you have to remember the housing situation there was pretty bad. In fact, there were no houses at all according to Nehemiah 7:4. Therefore, to live in the city would mean a considerable sacrifice. It would mean hardship and hard work, starting over from scratch and living away from your extended family.

That’s why some had to be drafted to live in the city, but those who volunteered were “blessed.” Now, the rest of the chapter, going into chapter 12, lists the names of those who lived and worked in Jerusalem.

These were people who gave themselves when they didn’t have much else to give, and that’s all God wants us to give. More than your money, more than your tithes and offerings, more than anything else, God wants YOU! So when you don’t have anything else to give…

GIVE YOURSELF TO THE LORD.

And even if you DO have something else to give, still give yourself to the Lord. As Romans 12:1 puts it, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” In other words, volunteer to GO where He wants you to go, to DO what He wants you to do, and to BE what He wants you to be.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.’” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

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