You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly. And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause.
– 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 GNT
There are few things more important in life than giving. Those who are generous, have been found to live happier and healthier lives than those who are not. Also, generous individuals are more socially connected to their communities and inspire others to give. Giving is also biblical; God provided us with life and hope by giving us Jesus, who reminded us that, “it is better to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). Our problem is, we often conflate giving with money, but there are things (time, love, compassion, etc.) more valuable than money that you can give.
One of the greatest givers I had the pleasure of knowing was my Uncle Anthony. He was not a man of great means, but that never stopped him from giving. He didn’t just give money, he gave his time, counsel, empathy, and kindness to others. When giving, he liked to say, “I know it’s not much, but it’s something.” If what you are giving comes from a place of love, then it does not matter how much it is. What you give is not as important as where you are giving it from.
The Widow’s Offering
As Jesus sat near the Temple treasury, he watched the people as they dropped in their money. Many rich men dropped in a lot of money; then a poor widow came along and dropped in two little copper coins, worth about a penny. He called his disciples together and said to them, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box than all the others. For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had—she gave all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:41-44 GNT
God is more concerned with the quality, rather than the quantity of a thing. Jesus proves this by not being moved by what the rich men were giving but instead was moved by the widow’s offering. This widow gave from the bottom – she did not have much to give but it was something and it was done with the right motives. The others gave from their wealth, but she gave from her commitment and faith.
When giving, always do it with the right motives. Do not give money hoping to get it back. Do not help others just to make yourself look good. Do not give your time just because you have nothing else to do. Your kind words, deeds, and gestures should come from your heart not from your ego.
Commitment and Faith
Giving was not unfamiliar to this woman. The fact that she was at the temple to give proves her commitment because typically when we feel like we do not have much to give, we refrain from giving. Society honors those who selfishly hold onto what they have, but God honors those who selflessly gives from the treasures that He has placed within them. That is why He tells us that if we are giving gladly, from a place of commitment and faith that what we give will be given back to us in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into our lap. The amount we give will determine the amount we get back (Luke 6:38).
Therefore, give away what you want more of in your life. What you give should always be connected to a sacrifice. To give us life, Jesus had to sacrifice His life. So, if you want money, give money. If you want inspiration, inspire and uplift someone else. If you want love, give love. Learn to give not just what you have an abundance of, but what you want more of, and trust that God will provide for you and give you; in-return, everything you need.
"The Lord's Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers…” - Luke 4:18 CEV
As a believer, it is important to understand that freedom is more than deliverance from physical captivity or a repressive regime - it is liberty from destructive mindsets, negative words, and poor decisions. Christ’s proclamation to free the prisoners is not a promise to free you from imprisonment, (just ask John the Baptist) it is a promise to free you from yourself.
Are you free or has the things of this world imprisoned you? Has the separation left you a prisoner to loneliness? Has the unemployment left you a prisoner to depression? Has the debt left you a prisoner to thievery? Has the death left you a prisoner to grief? Your prison may be emotional, mental, or physical but there is something holding you captive, something that is preventing you from reaching your full potential in Christ Jesus.
During times of trouble I called on the LORD. The LORD answered me [and] set me free [from all of them]. - Psalm 118:5 GWT
When Christ died, He guaranteed your freedom from shame, sin, desperation, depression, and anxiety. If you want to live free, you are going to have to declare your independence, fight for it, and constitute a new way of life.
Freedom is what we have--Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again. - Galatians 5:1 GNT
There is a false quote attributed to Harriet Tubman in which she purportedly said, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” While the quote is inauthentic, its sentiments are true. You cannot be set free from that which enslaves you, if you do not first acknowledge that you are being held captive. You must first admit and recognize that you have a problem before you can address it and be set free from it.
Now, once the issue is recognized you must declare and believe that you are indeed free from it. That is easier said then done, because the enemy convicts us in our thinking. He is going to tell you that because of your shortcomings that God will never forgive or love you. He does this to hold your mind captive, to keep you from seeking and receiving God’s truth. Remember, a big lie withers in the face of a small truth. So, declare your freedom even if you do not feel free because with God, we believe first then we see.
And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. - 1 John 5:5 NLT
The enemy is not going to let you go without a fight. He will make that in which you know is wrong feel right. You are going to have to fight back against urges to return to those things that once held you captive. You are going to have to fight back against the urge to lie, cheat and steal. You are going to have to fight back against anger, jealousy, and doubt. You are going to have to fight back against deception and manipulation. Do not let the length of your captivity discourage you from fighting against it. If you want to win the battle, you are going to have to show up to the fight.
Then [the unclean spirit] says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. - Matthew 12:44-45 AMP
It is not enough to just declare and fight for your freedom - you are going to have to change your lifestyle and replace destructive behaviors with Christ centered ones, or you will find yourself back in bondage. You cannot say you are free from drugs, alcohol, or porn if you continue to consume it. You cannot say you are free from gossip if you continue to disparage others. You cannot say you are free from your negative thoughts if you continue to make decisions based off those thoughts. If you do not change the way you live, the unclean spirit you defeated will return to you and bring other spirits with him. It is not enough to declare your freedom, you must live like a free person, like a person who believes that those things that once had power over you no longer does.
Being free means you have been set free, and you are continuously being set free - meaning those things that once confined you no longer has power over you and the current attack of the enemy will not enslave you. So confidently declare your freedom, fight for, and preserve it.
Don't fool yourselves. Bad friends will destroy you. - 1 Corinthians 15:33 CEV
One of the most difficult things you will experience in this life, is the abandonment by people you once considered friends. When you are going through a hardship, not everyone who says they care about and support you will stand with you during your most trying times. People you laughed with, spent time with, worked with and cared about will disappear when you need them the most.
The quality of our relationships is determined by the character of the people we allow to have access to us. Keep an eye on the Judas Iscariot’s in your life. You can identify them through their actions because every Judas will steal from you, eat with you and intimately embrace you.
Judas did not really care about the poor. He asked this because he carried the moneybag and sometimes would steal from it. – John 12:6 CEV
Judas was the treasurer amongst the disciples, meaning he oversaw valuable things. Be mindful of those who want to oversee the valuable things in your life: your time, thoughts and love. You cannot trust and confide in everyone. Some people want to get close to you just to steal from you - they steal your joy, peace and happiness. See who is stealing your most valuable resources and ask yourself if they are there for you or if they are there for what they can take from you.
So [Peter] leaned back against Jesus and asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. So, Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.” – John 13:25 - 27 CEV
Who have you invited into your life that eats your food but never brings a dish? Or to put it another way, who have you invested into who hasn’t given anything back to you? You can’t invite everyone to sit and enjoy the most intimate parts of your life, especially if they are not contributing to your life in a loving and meaningful way.
Dr. Dharius Daniels; in his book, Relational Intelligence, talks about the importance of reciprocity in relationships. He says that “we will never be able to give back to someone in a relationship exactly what they give to us. But we can give something. Reciprocation is a way to steward relationships. Reciprocation helps us minimize the likelihood of exploitation in relationships. It prevents us from using people and being used.”
Judas had told them ahead of time, "Arrest the man I greet with a kiss." – Matthew 26:48 CEV
Everyone who kisses you, hugs you and shares a bed with you does not love you. It is easy to confuse intimacy with feelings of love and support. Watch for those who view your vulnerability and weakness as a way to use and manipulate you. Your enemies will disguise themselves in empty words, fake smiles and heartless gestures in order to get close to you only to later abandon you after they have gotten what they want from you. Be watchful at all times, praying that you have the strength to identify all the works of those who want to harm you (Luke 21:36).
Most importantly, God will always show you the truth about yourself first, before He show you the truth about someone else. Make sure you are not the Judas in your relationships. Make sure you are not the one stealing, eating and kissing in order to get what you want instead of being a true and supportive friend.
My flesh may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. - Psalm 73:26 NLT
Success can be defined as the positive outcome of an endeavor. We tend to uplift and honor successful men and women because we value what we perceive to be someone’s hard work and ingenuity paying off. What we do not honor is failure – failure is frowned upon, ridiculed and mocked. You will never discover your full potential or purpose if you are afraid of failing because failure is the foundation on which success is built.
In what areas of your life have you failed? Have you failed as a husband or wife? Have you failed as a son or daughter? Have you failed at school? Have you failed on a business venture, at your job or in your finances? Failure is not defined as a lack of success; it is never trying again that signifies failure.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” - Matthew 14:25-30 NIV
“Lord, save me!” Those are the words of a drowning person. There isn’t a worse feeling than drowning, than feeling helpless and abandoned. When we first begin to drown, we fight for our survival, doing all we can to stay afloat, but fighting makes us tired. In our tiredness, we stop fighting and give up, and when we give up, we go under. So, the business drowns, the marriage drowns, the recovery drowns, and our faith drowns.
What are you going to do when what you were hoping and depending on drowns? Are you going to quit or are you going to trust God? Are you going to say, “nothing good ever happens to me” or are you going to declare that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4;13)? Are you going to stay in your failure or are you going to believe that though you may fall, you are not cast down: for the Lord upholds you with His hand (Psalm 37:24)?
Do It Again
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. - John 2:4-7 NIV
Where some people see failure, God sees faith. Peter got out of the boat twice. The first time he walked on water and began to drown when he took his eyes off Jesus. Would you say Peter failed because he drowned, or would you say he had faith because he got out of the boat and walked on water? There is faith in every failure, learn from what did not work so that you can grow in stature, wisdom and favor with God. The second time Peter got out of the boat, he did not worry about drowning and did not even wait for confirmation that it was Jesus who was instructing them because he had previously learned that Jesus would not let him drown. So, do it again. Learning from what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13).
When Jesus instructed His disciples to do it again. They did not protest or question His direction, they just did it again and found success where there was previously failure. God is instructing you to do it again. To try again. Hope again. Believe again. Because He has a blessing waiting on you if you do not give up.
Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. - Isaiah 50:7 NLT
I recently received a message from someone saying that I deserved everything that has happened to me. Now, my first inclination was to “clap back” at this person but remember, cynical voices are to be ignored and not elevated. Be mindful of the voices you are elevating in your life. You do not have to respond to every critique and criticism because some people are so miserable that all they have to make themselves feel happy is trying to make others feel unhappy.
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but do not argue with them about their [foolish] and personal opinions. - Romans 14:1 GNT
The devil wants to shame you into submission. He wants you to think that God has condemned you. He wants you to think that what others say about you matters. He wants to separate you from those who love and care about you. He wants you alone and isolated so he can talk to you - tempting and encouraging you to covet what others have and live a life of jealousy, greed, shame and hopelessness.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” - Genesis 3:1 NIV
The Garden of Eden was a middle ground between Heaven and Earth. It was a place where God and man could fellowship with one another. When Eve felt as if she was alone in the garden, the enemy came to talk to and deceive her. In Eden, she and Adam had all they would ever need but the enemy convinced them to want more. In their pursuit for more, both her and Adam lost what they had.
What is the enemy convincing you to want more of? He wants you to be unsatisfied with what you have and exchange it for what he offers. He wants you to exchange your faith for fear, your family for a fling, your hope for doubt, your savings for debt and your confidence for shame. You already have everything you need to live a blessed and purpose filled life. If you did not, the enemy would not be talking to you - because who trades for something they already have? Ignore the desires to obtain more of this world and thank God for what He has already given you.
Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. - Matthew 4:1 GNT
When we find ourselves outside of Eden (fellowship with God), in a desolate place, the enemy comes to tempt us, to exploit our shame and he often uses people to accomplish this goal. He uses gossip, nasty text messages and social media comments to make us doubt ourselves and God’s love for us. He shows us how other people are pretending to live so that we will chase a mirage instead of the truth.
When Jesus found Himself in a desert place, the Devil tried to tempt Him with many lies, but He countered those temptations with God’s word. So, when you find yourself in a lonely and uncertain place, wanting to quit on yourself and God - rely on His word. Remember, the temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13). If God led you to it, He would surely lead, love and provide for you through it.
When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.” - Exodus 3:4 CEV
Moses was a fugitive and if you had killed someone, you would consider fleeing too. By all means, he should have been disqualified from spreading the gospel and leading God’s people after killing a man. He even doubted himself, saying he was a “nobody”. Maybe, you feel like a nobody. Maybe you lost your Eden and fell to temptation. Maybe you started believing what the enemy has been telling you - that your best days are behind you and that God can’t use you.
Be repentant, but don’t be shame. Don’t be shame about your past and don’t let a mistake stop you from hearing God’s call. He called you, not because you deserved it, but because of His own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9). It’s not who talks to you that matters, it’s who you listen to. Don’t listen to those who do the enemy’s bidding. Your worth was predetermined by God and He never made a worthless thing. So, when He calls your name, like Moses, respond “Here I am”. Even if you are uncertain about where He is taking you and what He is calling you to do, respond, “Here I am.”
Keep your eyes on the LORD! You will shine like the sun and never be ashamed.
- Psalm 34:5 CEV
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