Radical Generosity with your skills/abilties
Radical Generosity • Sermon • Submitted
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Good morning everyone, we are here for another Sunday and that means that we get another week to worship together and fellowship together. We get another week to grow together as believers, and as friends. I love that we get to welcome those of you that are joining online as we worship together through the teaching of the Word of God. I love that we all join together at the same time on Sunday’s every week online and in person to open the word and seek to grow closer to God. I know I say this all the time, but I just cannot tell you enough how much it means to me that I have the opportunity to share with you what God is showing me in throughout the week.
Anyway, we have been in a study on being radically generous and the last two weeks have been a bit more intimidating, and so this week I hope to have a little of a lighter tone as we continuing trying to be generous. We have talked about being generous with our time 2 weeks ago and I said that our time is limited and so we need to spend our time wisely to be blessed by God. Then I encouraged you all to go home and track your time and discover if you are using your time wisely. Then last week we talked about finances, and specifically we talked about tithing as that relates to our finances. What I said last week is that tithing is in fact Biblical, although there are good well meaning Christians who would disagree. I also said that if you are not engaged in the practice of tithing then you are robbing God, yourself, and others. Then I challenged you to go home and look at your giving levels and decide if you were being obedient with your finances. I also said that percentage based giving of your first fruits is pleasing to the Lord. Today, as we move forward with this series we are going to look at your skills and abilities and what Scripture says about being good stewards with what God has given you from that perspective. You see, being radically generous is alot more than just your finances, which is what most people think about when they think about being generous. However, if you think about a truly generous person you will realize that they are generous with much more than just their finances. As a matter of fact, some of the most generous people I know are not financially able to give much financially. Did you hear that? Some of the most generous people are not able to give much financially. So, what makes them generous? Well, its how they use their time and their abilities that makes them generous. They seem to use their skills and abilities in order to make an impact on eternity. They give of themselves, so that others will know Christ.
Now, I suspect that everyone here has a desire to use our talents and abilities to have an impact on others. The reason that I know that is because we are all wired that way. As a matter of fact i came across an article this week that listed 7 reasons why we should be using our skills and abilities. Im going to just read these 7 reasons off to you, and then Im going to add another level to these. 1. other people can benefit from them. Well, yeah thats true. 2. Others lives may change because of your skills. Ok, thats a good thing. 3. Using our skills leads to a more satisfying life. Well, sure because you are enjoying what you do. 4. You can make money. Well now your talking. 5. Lets us leave a lasting impression on others. Now, this sounds a bit more emotionally satisfying. 6. Leads to faster growth and development. If I am using my skills then my skills will be sharpened and get better. Yeah, thats true. 7. Show appreciation to the giver. Hmmm....well, I guess it’s good that they added this into the list. Actually it was interesting because in this article, which does not really seem to be a solid theological argument for how to use your skills, they still seem to find it important enough to say that your skill is God’s gift to you, so what you do with it is your gift to God. Ok…well, I would rather a more Biblical approach, although they did quote from a pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life. Rick Warren says “When God gives you a talent, he expects you to use it. It’s like a muscle. If you use it, it will grow. If you don’t, you’ll lose it.”
Hmmmm.....Ok, well, what is interesting here is that we see the idea that we do actually want to use what God has given us. We see the idea that we actually want to make an impact on the lives of others. We don’t exactly get a solid Biblical argument here from this article, but we do get a glimpse into the desires of the average person. I would actually agree with these thing from a temporal perspective. In other words, I would agree with these things if this life was all there was. If there was no hope of the eternal, then this would be a fine list and would make someone feel pretty good and encourage us to go out and do good for our fellow man while also making a pretty solid living doing it. Actually if you caught that list 3 of the reasons are for personal gain, 3 of the reasons were for others, and then 1 of the list was for God. So, I feel like the proportions are off a bit, but again, this list was not written with the eternal in view. So what if we do want to have the eternal in view? What about for the Christian? How can we, as believers, use our skills and abilities for eternity? Well that is what I want to talk about briefly this morning. I want us to look at a passage together and discover how to use our skills and talents for eternity. Actually, I think that this morning we are going to be able to see
3 steps for using our skills and abilities for an eternal impact.
3 steps for using our skills and abilities for an eternal impact.
So, let’s look at things together. Go ahead and turn over to 1 Peter 4:7-10. While you are turning there, let me give you a little context for for this letter. You see, this letter was written by Peter, who was an apostle of Jesus. This letter was written while Peter was in Rome and he sent this to the region of Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. Peter seems to have written this letter because those he wrote to were facing persecution and suffering. Now, interestingly enough, there persecution was not official persecution. In other words it wasn’t state sponsored or official policy of the Empire. Instead it seems to have been local and somewhat sporadic. Basically, for the Christian in Asia Minor they would occasionally encounter Gentiles, or even Jews that did not share a belief in Christ and they would experience discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of those that do not share their belief. However, at this time Christianity was not itself formally illegal, so this were more personal mistreatment than official mistreatment.
So, now that we are all at 1 Peter and have a little bit of a context for this letter lets take a look at this section and see what we can learn about using our skills and abilities for an eternal impact.
English Standard Version Chapter 4
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
So, the first step to using your skill and abilities for an eternal impact is to...
1. Focus on your strengths
1. Focus on your strengths
Look these believers were faced with the realization that there would be an end to what they were experiencing. Many times they felt like outcasts, strangers as they didn’t fit into either the Gentile or the Jewish world anymore. They were isolated from the community that they once knew. Now, Peter is calling on them to live with intentionality in everything they do. They felt like strangers, so Peter is telling them to live like intentional strangers. Peter wants them to make an eternal impact on the communities around them by the way that they live.
He goes on to tell them to do what they do, well. Peter reminds them that they have each been given a gift from God. Peter also reminds us here today that we each have been given a gift from God. Look at vs 10 again. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another”. If we want our lives to count, we start by identifying our particular gifts and strengths, and then focus on using and developing them (v.10). God has given every Christian spiritual gifts. Your gift may be different from mine and mine may be different from someone else’s. However, that is where we start....we focus on our strengths. Listen to what Billy Graham once said.
An evangelist is a person with a special gift and a special calling from the Holy Spirit to announce the good news of the gospel. You’re an announcer, a proclaimer, an ambassador. And it’s a gift from God. You can’t manufacture it, you can’t organize it, you can’t manipulate it.
I study and read and prepare all the time, but my gift seems to be from the Lord in giving an appeal to get people to make a decision for Christ. Something happens I cannot explain. I have never given an invitation in my whole life when no one came.
Billy Graham was focused on his strength and using that for the Lord to make an eternal impact. What would happen if Billy Graham would have decided to be an accountant instead of use his gifts for the Lord? Multiple generations would have missed out on the blessing of his speaking and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on his words. God has given every person natural talents, life experiences, and professional skills. We will make the maximum impact for God’s kingdom when we focus on developing our unique set of gifts and strength and don’t desire someone else’s.
The second step to using your skill and abilities for an eternal impact is to...
2. Use your gifts with excellence.
2. Use your gifts with excellence.
The unfortunate reality is that it is not enough to simply be willing to use our skills and abilities for God’s purpose. We must be willing to use them with excellence, in other words, do the very best that you can do. Look at vs. 11 again. “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Why are we using the gifts that God has given to us? To give honor and glory to God. If the purpose is to give honor and glory to God, don’t you think that we should be doing our very best for God, instead of just enough to get by?
Think about a professional musician. If there is a professional musician that is simply playing and not playing with passion, do you think they will remain professional? No. The same is true with a professional football player. If you have a quarterback that knows how to throw a ball, but doesn’t continue to practice and get better, do you think that they team is going to keep that person on long term? No. The person that is a professional has to be consistently striving to get better and stay better. The professional is always seeking to be better than everyone else. They do that because they want to keep their job, and they want to have the pride of knowing they are better than everyone else. A skilled position like a quarterback is not going to keep his job just because he is a nice guy. He is going to keep his job if he keeps winning games. He will only keep winning games if he is practicing and seeking to use his ability with excellence.
Now, things are exactly the same with a Christian is it? I mean we are not trying to be better than all other Christians so that we can get the prize for the best. We are not trying to make a name for ourselves that will last until we die, or if we are really skilled a generation after we die. To prove the point that our name will not last let me share with you that currently the majority of the population that is under 30 has no idea who Billy Graham even is. Now, those that are Christians know of him mostly, however, previously Christians and non Christians knew Billy Graham because of his reputation. That is however, not why Billy Graham did what he did. He did not speak in order to get famous. No, that is a temporal reason, that is the reason the basketball player practices and gets better. No, he spoke in order to share about Christ. He honed his ability and spent time studying because he wanted to use his gift the best way possible, not for himself or his personal gains, but for the glory of God.
Peter brings up a couple of different classes of gifts. He talks about speaking gifts and serving gifts. Now, I don’t want you to just think in terms of only 2 gifts, but two different types of gifts. You see, speaking would refer to the type of thing that is up front. In a church setting that would speak of the pastor, and the music leaders, or musicians that are leading in worship. It would speak of the Bible Study teachers and Elders. Then there are the serving gifts. That would be the person that is working the audio visual equipment, or the person preparing the coffee (once we bring that back), maybe the person that is opening the doors or ordering the paper. This is the person that is behind the scenes making everything work for the church. Really, the brain of the local church. But look at what Peter says about both of those people. The one who speaks, speaks oracles of God, or in other words, speaks God’s words. The one who serves, serves by God’s strength. God’s words…God’s strength. Whether we speak or serve, we act as God’s representatives. Living a life that counts involves using our gifts to the best of our ability, with excellence.
That brings us to the third step to using our skills and abilities for an eternal impact, and that is to...
3. Live with intensity.
3. Live with intensity.
What does it mean to live with intensity? Well, lets look again at vs 7 together. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”. The knowledge of Christ’s return created a sense of urgency in the early church. Let me ask you here today....do you believe that Christ is actually coming back? (wait for response) Do you believe that what we read in this book is actually reality? (wait for response) If you do, and I believe that you do…are you living as if it is actually true? are you living with a sense of urgency that there will be an end, and you don’t actually know when that is going to be? Are you living your life in such a way that you are able to point people towards God with just your actions, with how you do your job?
I want to tell you something that happened many years ago. This was likely the highest complement that i have ever recieved in my life. I was working as a maintenance manager for a company in Lafayette. However, I would travel to other complexes in order to help them with issues they couldn’t manage on their own. Well, there was this one property that I was asked to go work with the new manager to turn the property around. I remember this was the type of property that most people don’t want to admit they worked at. There were massive issues where I had to break into the foundation and work through multiple water leaks and tore that place apart getting it fixed. However, after working there for a few weeks I began getting to the place where the painter could start coming into certain units and getting them ready to be moved into. Well, one day the manager was talking to me during lunch and she told me that the painter had asked her about me. She told him that I was a pastor and his response was “I knew it, I knew that God had something to do with that guys life.”
When I asked why he said that, he told me that he had not seen anyone else work with integrity and so purposefully at this particular location. Everyone else would come in for a day or two and then decide they didn’t want to work there anymore, or they would come in with an attitude. I simply worked and served those that lived there, while beginning to fix the reputation of that particular location. I told him that was a very high compliment and it meant alot to me that he was able to see that. Now, do I always act like that. Well…no. As a matter of fact I am not, I mess up just like you do. I know that’s alot to take, that the “master pastor” messes up sometimes, but there you go. However, the reason I tell you that story is to tell you that if someone like me can reflect God in my actions and using my skills and abilities at my job, then you can too. So, the reality is that we need to live every day as if it were our last, as if we were running out of time (because we are), or better yet, like those around us are running out of time. Live your life as if you believe the Bible is true.
Peter was telling the believers in Asia Minor that there would be an end, and that they needed to use their gifts, their skills and abilities to not only love each other even when its hard, but to serve others so that God will be glorified. So, do you have a desire to use your skills and abilities to make an eternal impact on others? If so, then why not start right here....Why not start now...
Whatever your skills and abilities are, and you do have them, are you using them in a way that is honoring to God? Are you using your skills in such a way that you are able to point others to Christ? Are you using your talents with eternity in view, or are you using your talents with the temporal in view.
If you desire to use your skills and abilities for Christ with the eternal in view, then you need to …focus on your strengths, use them with excellence, and do it now.