Generosity: The Surprising Secret To Joy

I asked one of my great friends and gospel co-laborers for many years now, Graham Cochrane, to write a post on generosity for me this week in light of what I preached on Sunday (Acts 2:42-47). Graham is a follower of Jesus, a terrific husband and daddy, a business owner, and a deacon at Aletheia Church, serving in a hundred different ways but primarily as one of our worship leaders and city groups leaders. He is one of the most generous people I have ever known, living out daily what it looks like to “distribute the proceeds to all, as any has need” (Acts 2:45). This post will encourage you. Enjoy!

If you stop and think about it, just about every activity or endeavor we attach ourselves to has an underlying motivation of personal joy or happiness surrounding it.

Whether it’s going to work to make money so we can buy things we want, disciplining our kids so they are quiet and well behaved, or even reading our bibles, we all choose to pursue things in order to find that elusive joy in the midst of the craziness and challenges of life. In fact, most of our pursuits of happiness involve looking for one more person, place, or thing to add to our lives that will bring joy along for the ride.

But what if I told you that the real secret to joy wasn’t adding something, but rather giving something?

The Apostle Paul had this surprising secret figured out and he shared about a peculiar church in a place called Macedonia whose “abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Corinthians 8:2 ESV)

How in the world can a group of people have an abundance of joy (not just some joy, but more than enough) while living in extreme poverty? On top of that, how can someone want to give more when they already have so little?

The answer is that they understand who God is and how he works.

The Bible tells us over and over that God is a good father who:

  • loves to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:7-11)

  • knows what we need and promises to take care of us (Luke 12:22-34)

  • is able to make it so we have sufficiency in all things (2 Corinthians 9:8)

If God, who is all good and all powerful at all times, promises to meet our needs (physically and spiritually) then that changes how tightly we hold on to things. In fact, we can dial back the stress meter knowing that we are covered.

Specifically Jesus gave us the Church to be an incredible place of safety and protection. When needs arise, the Church takes care of its own. As the saying goes at Olive Garden, “When you’re here, you’re family…”

This past Sunday, Pastor Aaron taught through an eye-opening passage of scripture in Acts chapter 2. It depicts what the very first Christians spent their time doing and what the model biblical community looks like.

“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:45-47, emphasis added)

Here we have a picture of a vibrant, passionate, and joyful community that is growing by the day. But the brilliant thing nestled within these verses is the unbelievable display of generosity. Needs are being met because the people are being generous.

I don’t want you to miss the encouraging nugget within this passage: those who were being generous are just as much entitled to having their needs met, if/when they fall into hardship. They give freely because they trust Jesus with their lives, and trust his Church to have their backs.

What a picture of freedom. Don’t you want to live this way?

Here are just a few practical truths about generosity that I want us to let soak in, so that we can begin living that liberating “life abundant” that Jesus talks about in John 10.

1. God is generous with us. He offers complete forgiveness of sin, a new life, and provision for our basic needs. We did nothing to deserve this; he simply gives because he wants to.

2. The Church is a place of refuge and provision for its members. If you are part of a biblical church community then you are never alone. You can bring your hardest needs to the rest of the “body” and give them the joy of meeting them head on.

3. In light of points 1 and 2 you can freely give without fear. That’s right, open your wallet, open your home, and open your life. It’s a much better way to live than holding on to all three with a kung fu grip.

4. Everything you have is God’s anyway. The big truth behind everything here is that all the stuff you have isn’t yours to begin with. It’s God’s. He’s simply letting you manage it. And newsflash, one way God wants you to manage his stuff is to give some of it away to help take care of other people. Best get to it!

If you want more joy in your life this year, why not try something different than the same old attempts of building your own happy little kingdom? Why not try the complete opposite and start being more generous?

And if you think about it, there are only three results to generosity: other people are blessed, you live with a lighter grip on things, and you get to see God come through for you and others in huge ways.

All three sound good to me. Let’s do this!

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