Summary: Learn to give in ways that bring joy to others and to yourself

This is the fourth message in our series on experiencing joy. By now you know that joy is a matter of spirit and not circumstance. Furthermore, joy comes by obedience to God’s Spirit and His word and not by accident. When we discipline our thoughts, actions and relationships according to God’s instructions, we experience joy.

This morning, we will look at the action of giving, and how giving releases joy into our lives and into the lives of others. We won’t be confining ourselves to gift giving during the Christmas season. But to start the message, I want to give the men some practical guidelines for gift buying. I came across an article titled: What NOT to Buy Your Wife

1. Don’t buy clothing that involves sizes. The chances are one in seven thousand that you will get her size right, and your wife will be offended the other 6999 times.

2. Avoid all things useful. The new silver polish advertised to save hundreds of hours is not going to win you any brownie points.

3. Don’t buy jewelry. The jewelry your wife wants, you can’t afford. And the jewelry you can afford, she doesn’t want.

4. Finally, don’t spend too much. "How do you think we’re going to afford that?" she’ll ask. But don’t spend too little. She won’t say anything, but she’ll think, "Is that all I’m worth?"

I used to think that if I were Jesus, I would have told my disciples not to exchange gifts on my birthday. That instruction would reduce a great deal of mental and financial stress during the Christmas season. Yet, I’m not sure that Jesus Christ is against gift giving on His birthday. After all, the birth of Jesus Christ was a gift from God to mankind.

This morning, we will be looking at how God gave His greatest gift to mankind, and how receiving God’s gift and giving as God gave will bring joy to our lives. The guiding Bible verse can be found in John 3:16.

Sometime ago, I was talking with a lady who refused to receive forgiveness and eternal life from God. She said that it’s too good to believe. You see, she didn’t know how to give freely, so she couldn’t believe that God knew how to give freely either. Instead of letting God determine for Himself what He wants to do, the lady used her own experience to determine what God could do.

This morning, we will allow God’s example of giving to guide our giving. Maybe by understanding how God gave, we would be more willing to receive His gift and to give to others like He gave to us. Let’s look together.

First, God gave out of love ... For God so loved the world that He gave....

There are no strings attached to God’s gift. God didn’t give to us so that we would go to church. God didn’t give to us so that we would give Him 10 percent of our income. God didn’t give to us so that we would obey His commands perfectly. God gave because He loved us.

From the collection of Children’s Letters to God, Lisa wrote:

Dear God, You said you love the world. If this means you love everyone in the world, you must not know my little brother. Signed, Lisa.

Listen Lisa, God knows your little brother. God knows you. And God knows me. He knows our terrible thoughts and actions done in private, and He still loves us. Romans 5:8 tells us, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

A gift in response to goodness is not a gift but a reward. What God gives to us is not a reward. We don’t deserve to have it. The love of God motivated His giving Jesus Christ to us.

If we want to experience joy, we need to first receive God’s gift of love, and then we are to give to others as God gave to us. Giving for any other motivation than love will not allow us to experience joy.

If we give to reciprocate, we are giving to balance the books. There is no joy in that kind of giving. If we give out of duty, we are finishing a chore. There is no joy in that kind of giving. If we give to get, we are making an exchange. There is no joy in that kind of giving.

When we give to better someone else, who does not deserve to have the gift and cannot pay us back, can we experience the joy of giving. That’s God’s way of giving. What we give away, motivated by love, makes room in our hearts to receive joy.

Maybe one of the reasons why Christmas is often associated with joy, even for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, is because Christmas offers us opportunities that resemble giving to others out of love.

First, God gave out of love. Second, God gave of His best ... For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son....

I was sitting next to a little boy in an evangelistic dinner several years ago. When the speaker told about how God the Father was God, and how Jesus Christ the Son was also God, the boy sarcastically said to himself, "Yeah, right." The little boy couldn’t understand how two persons, Father and Son, could be the same God.

When we try to understand God using ourselves as the model, we will never understand God. We don’t try to understand water using ourselves as the model. We allow water to be water. We don’t say that water cannot be liquid, solid and vapor at certain temperatures just because we cannot be liquid, solid and vapor at those temperatures.

We need to allow God to be God, without using mankind as the benchmark. The Bible tells us that God is three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God so loved the world that He gave Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Whatever your understanding of God, you need to understand that God gave us His best.

Someone tells about a missionary in Africa who had poor health and depended on goat milk for his source of vitamin. One day, the tribal leader came to visit the missionary. After a few minutes, it was obvious that the tribal leader was interested in the goat.

The missionary decided to give the goat to the tribal leader as a gesture of kindness to build the trust needed to share the love of God. In return, the tribal leader gave the missionary his walking stick.

Without the goat milk, the missionary became weaker and weaker over the next couple of days. Using the walking stick he got from the tribal leader, he walked into the village to purchase some goat milk. When he offered to buy the goal milk, his money was not accepted.

Instead, he was told that he was entitled to anything in this village that he wanted. When the missionary asked why, the villagers explained that the walking stick he held was the scepter belonging to the tribal leader. Possessing that scepter entitled him to everything in the village.

Romans 8:31-32 tells us, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" In other words, since God gave us His one and only Son, we can be confident that He will give us everything else that will bring true joy to our lives.

God’s example of giving His best is our model for how we are to give in order to experience joy. Many people give what they don’t want. They give the leftovers. They give what they are glad to depart with. No joy comes from such giving.

We are to give of our best in all that we give. When we give people our words, we give positive and truthful words that build up. When we give people our time, we give them our full attention. When we give people our service, we give them our best ability and attitude. In so doing, not only will you bring joy to others, but you will also bring joy to our own life.

First, God gave out of love. Second, God gave of His best. Third, God gave according to need ... For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Business leader, Fred Smith, pointed out that we make blood in order to live, but the body does not live to make blood. We need to be careful that we do not confuse what we do to stay alive with what life is really about.

Jesus came to clarify what life is about in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." In other words, the purpose of life is to have a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

Life without God makes mankind into a machine. Life without God makes living disposable. Life without God makes relationships utilitarian. Life without God makes mankind into little gods. Life without God results in the blind leading the blind, destined to perish.

Certain philosophers have argued that we made up the concept of God because we have need for a God. That’s like saying we made up the concept of food and water because we have need for food and water.

I believe God gave us food and water because we have need for food and water. And God gave us Himself in Jesus Christ because we have need of Him. Charlie Tremendous Jones noted, "Nothing in life can compare with the thrill of knowing God and knowing that God knows me." That’s eternal life, having a two-way relationship with God.

If you don’t have eternal life, you can’t have joy. If you have eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ, you will not perish but have everlasting joy.

God’s example of giving according to our need is our model for how we are to give in order to experience joy also. If you gave toys to the children of poverty through Operation Christmas Child, you ought to feel joy. You met their need. If you gave encouragement to a discouraged person, you ought to feel joy. You met his need. Some of you business owners have given employment to people during this difficult economic time. You ought to feel joy. You are meeting people’s needs.

When a reporter asked Billy Graham, "What would you do if your son were a homosexual?’

Billy Graham replied, "I would love him more."

The confused reported asked, "Why?"

To which Billy Graham replied, "Because he would need more love."

When we give people what they need rather than what they deserve, we are modeling after God, and we are destined to experience joy.

Let me close an excerpt from Sharon Jaynes’ book, Celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas:

An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. "The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other," she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. "Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?" the teacher asked.

The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless. "Why ... why, it’s gorgeous ... wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get the gift for me."

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, "Long walk part of gift."

God came from heaven to a manger, from a manger to a cross, from a cross to the grave and from a grave back to heaven. And we ask, "Why all this trouble, God?"

And God would say to us, "Long walk part of gift."