When you sit down in a restaurant there will be a waiter or waitress who will serve you. At the end of the meal you will get your check and you will pull out your phone or “tip estimator” and figure out how much tip to leave the person for waiting on you. You will leave them a tip them based on how well you feel like you were served and taken care of during your meal. Many of us just stick with the standard 15% or we will include a little extra because we received excellent care and service. Think about this with me. If you see your life as God serving you and taking care of you, how much would you give Him?
Your life is a total gift from God to be used in a way that glorifies God. Like we say in our purpose statement, “We exist to glorify God by Reaching UP, Reaching IN and Reaching OUT!” All of your time, talents and treasures are given to you that you might use them in a way that brings glory to God. We glorify God by how we invest our time, talents and treasures and how we give back to Him and His Kingdom. If we are going to glorify God in our giving it all comes down to a question of control and identifying what we are controlled by. Is it God or is it something or someone else that controls you?
What are you controlled by? It could be one of many or even several things. Some people are controlled by relationships . . . approval . . . status . . . money . . . possessions . . . pleasure . . . etc. This question is by far one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself and honestly answer when it comes to living an abundant life on this side of eternity. Because what you are controlled by will determined what you live for and how you live your life. How you handle and how you respond to everything and every situation that comes at you is influenced by that all important question . . . What is controlling me?
This question is not a “one-time” ask and then you are good to go. It is a question that must be consistently asked everyday because all of us are tempted by those things I just mentioned and many more. This question is the most important question you will ever ask yourself because what controls you determines how you live, why you live like you do and your attitudes. This one question helps us understand the attitudes that are driving our actions. What controls you determines how you respond and your level of generosity in giving. If someone or something else other than God is controlling you, your response to giving will be a “have to” kind of thinking. But if God is really the One controlling you, your response to giving will be a very generous “get to” kind of thinking.
Paul answered that question for himself when he wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth. Paul was a guy who really never got over what Jesus did in his life. When Paul did something he was an “all in” kind of guy. He gave it everything he tried everything he had. Before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he did everything he could possibly do to get rid of Jesus and this movement called Christianity or “the Way.” He was persecuted Christians, put Christians in prison, approved of their executions, etc. But when he met Jesus all of that changed. From that moment on, he was consumed with Jesus and controlled with promoting Jesus every time he had an opportunity.
From the moment Paul came to know Christ, he was totally consumed with Jesus. He was controlled by Jesus, making Him known to everyone he met and making sure his life counted. So much so, that some people thought he was crazy. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. (2 Corinthians 5:13). When was the last time you were so on fire for God that people really wondered whether or not you had lost your mind? Or has that ever happened to you. Paul’s awareness of what Jesus had done for him was so strong that the way he lived his life caused people to think he was out of his mind.
When you dig into this passage you begin to see what caused Paul to be this way. He says in the next verse he was controlled by the love of Christ. Christ’s Love Controlled Him. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, (2 Corinthians 5:14). The love of Christ had become the guiding and motivating principle in his life. Everything he did was visualize and passed through the lens of Christ’s love. When you think about that statement, what does it mean to be “controlled” by the love of Christ?
It means Jesus has taken over first place in your life. Everything else in your life aligns under and is shaped by Christ’s love. Paul never “got over” Jesus’ love for him and what Jesus did when He saved him. Jesus’ love at the moment of salvation consumed his every thought and action. He didn’t think or do anything that was not influenced by Jesus’ love for him. 14 because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
When Paul stepped back and looked at the sacrifice and price Jesus paid for Him he quickly realized he could never give enough or do enough to pay that back. But he also realized he needed to sacrifice and show God that he trusted him because of what Jesus had done for him and how Jesus had proven to be faithful. When you look at your life and how you give of your resources and your life what does it say about your value of Jesus?
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
He was letting us know that because of what Jesus had done for Him it changed the way he lived. Christ’s love controlling you will change how you live. That raises a question for us . . . Are you living differently with the love of Jesus than you would live without the love of Jesus? When Jesus’ love controls you, you are a conduit of His love to other people. Jesus love flows in you and through you to other people.
It’s like the old song that says, “Make me a channel of blessing.” That is what we mean when we say, “We are blessed to be a blessing.” When Christ’s love is controlling you realize your life is not really yours. 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:20). Your life becomes about what God wants and not what you want. Your life becomes what is best for others and not for you.
When Christ’s love controls you, your focus is totally on the price Jesus paid for sin and how much that means to you. Christ’s love controlling you causes you to see people differently. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). When you look through the lens of Christ’s love at other people you will always see them totally different.
Paul was letting us know that with the love of Christ controlling him, he didn’t see people the same anymore. He only saw two types of people . . . saved and lost! He didn’t see black, white, hispanic, asian, etc. He only saw . . . saved and lost! He didn’t see rich, poor, republican, democrat, educated or uneducated. He only saw saved and lost! When you see people what do you see? Is your first thought what is limited here to this world? Or do you look at them through the lens of Jesus’ love and see only . . . saved and lost!
When the Titanic sank there were many people who went down with that ship. As you can imagine there were many relatives and friends of those people who were desperate to know if their friends and loved ones had survived or not and there was obviously panic. The story is told that some officials in London set up a gigantic chalkboard in the downtown area with two columns: Saved and Lost. There were people on that ship from many places around the world from all different classes of society.
But at that moment only two things mattered . . . Saved or Lost! That is how Paul saw the world . . . just saved and lost! How do you see the world? Does the love of Jesus have control of you? Are you looking at the world from the perspective of what Jesus’ love is and has done for you? Do you see just saved and lost or do you see everything else?
When you view people from an eternal perspective and all you see is saved and lost, that will change your view of giving. It will make you a generous giver. You will not ask, “How much do I have to give?” But you will say, “God, what are you asking me to give and how much do I get to give?” When you see people as just “saved and lost” you become so concerned about their eternal destiny that you are not content with average giving.
When the question is raised of “how much” there is a “measuring stick” we can use to measure what we give and how we give against. Christ’s controlling love illustrates how and how much you are to give. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). Giving is all a part of loving. How we give shows people know how much you love and believe in Jesus and how much you love them. When you think about how Jesus gave the most logical place to go is the most familiar verse in the Bible. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). We give because Jesus gave for us. Out of gratitude we should have a generous attitude!
I don’t have to give and I don’t give to get but I get to give. Did Jesus have to do what He did for us? Did He choose to do what He did? Jesus paid a price that wasn’t His to pay for people who didn’t deserve it all because He loves us. We need redemption and He was determined to give all He had, His very life to make that possible. He bought back what was already His to begin with! There is a song that goes, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sin away. And now I sing a brand new song; Amazing grace all day long. Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
When you truly realize what Jesus has done for you in love and that love controls you, there is no way you can hold back. We will never look at our time, talents, possessions and money the same any longer. When we measure what we give against what Jesus did for us there is no way we can ever be anything but a generous giver. Everything is His already and it’s not that we just give back 10%. We give as much as we can in a way that shows how much we value what He has done for us and how much we truly trust Him!
See what Jesus has done for us and seeing people around us who have not experienced that for themselves should motivate us. When Christ’s love controls us we are compelled to give and share. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. (2 Corinthians 5:14-NIV Translation). When come to the point of repentance and asking Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, Jesus “passes the baton” for us to then be His witnesses which is called the ministry of reconciliation.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). The way you and I share in the ministry of reconciliation is by sharing our testimony and giving of our money and our time.
On December 7, 1941 something happened to us that had never happened before that time. We were bombed at Pearl Harbor and brought into World War II. Many people during that time have stated that it impacted them so much that they never got over it and felt obligated to do something about it. One of those people was Desmond Doss.
Desmond enlisted in the army and reported to Fort Campbell for his Basic Training. He had a conviction about guns due to an altercation with his alcoholic father where he almost killed him. He swore he would never touch a gun ever again and he didn’t. After a lot of ridicule and abuse for not carrying a gun, his commanding officer asked him what he would do on the battlefield. He told him he would give his very life for his men.
Their first deployment was to Okinawa where the Japanese were making progress. They were sent to fight on what came to be known as Hacksaw Ridge. It was a huge ridge where they had to climb up a rope ladder to even get on top to engage the Japanese who were hidden underground in a series of tunnels. After a long, hard battle the company retreat back down the ridge with the exception of Desmond. He stayed on the ridge all night rescuing his fallen comrades.
He knew that if they didn’t get help they would either die or be taken prisoner by the Japanese. He kept rescuing them one at a time and pulling them to the edge to lower them down the ridge in a harness he learned to tie as a young boy in the West Virginia mountains. At the point of exhaustion being a very strong Christian, Desmond looks up into heaven and prays, “Lord, I can’t hear you. Please speak to me.” Then he prays, “Lord, please give me the strength to get just one more!” One more turned into many more and by the end of the night he had single-handedly rescued 75 men. He was the only man who never carried a gun in the army to receive the Medal of Honor.
Do you live your life this way? Do you invest your time, treasures and talents in a way that says, “God, please let me get just one more in your Kingdom.” Is God’s love controlling you to the point that you see there is always one more? Do you say, “God, please tell me how much I get to give because there is one more we need to reach.” Our world is so far away from God and alienated from His truth. When we look out there there is always, “just one more.”
Think about how you live your life and how you invest your time and your money. Would you say that you are controlled by Christ’s love or are you controlled by something else?Looking back at your life, how has God blessed you, served you and given to you? Using our analogy about leaving a tip at lunch today, what does your “tip estimator” tell you to give when you think about how Jesus has served you, blessed you and given to you? Do you stick with the standard amount or do you give back extravagantly? Based on all this are you just an “average tipper” or are you a “generous giver”?