Can you recall a point in time when someone displayed generosity toward you? Have you ever been blessed by a gift of generosity that was unexpected and not been on your radar?
In 2016, my wife Kristy and I planned for, prayed for and paid for a trip to Israel. We had never been, but as we approached our 35th wedding anniversary, we were truly excited to experience the Holy Land for ourselves.
About a week before we departed, my small group leader asked if I could meet him for morning coffee at McDonald’s. After some small talk, including my excitement about our upcoming trip, he took an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to me with a smile.
“What’s this?” I asked.
He continued to smile and said, “Just open it.”
[We] were so deeply touched by the unexpected, undeserved, lavishly generous heart of God.
Totally unexpected and leaving me completely speechless were five crisp one-hundred-dollar bills from an anonymous friend who wanted to bless Kristy and me with the generous heart of God.
As I think about that gift, I am reminded afresh of the overflowing generous heart of God and His love for His people.
Generosity is a trait we see in God and His Church
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10).
My McDonald’s early morning coffee experience was one of two times when I have been completely taken by a totally unexpected, tangible outpouring of God’s lavish love for me. Ironically, the other time, God blessed me at a restaurant as well.
Headed to a men’s retreat on a Friday morning, the group I was caravanning with stopped at a Perkins for breakfast about an hour into our trip.
While enjoying breakfast together, I noticed one of the men had a very nice Boston Red Sox Fenway Park sweatshirt on. I struck up a conversation with him. Just ten hours earlier, as I was putting my 13-year-old son to bed, I had to break the news to him that he and I would not be able to take the father-son baseball trip we had hoped to take that year to see his beloved Minnesota Twins play against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. We had planned the trip as a part of an intentional father-son conversation about stepping into adolescence, just like his brother and I had done two years previously. But when the time for Joel’s trip arrived, we couldn’t afford to make the trip without paying for it with a credit card, which my wife and I agreed we would not do.
As I broke the bad news to my son, he was deeply saddened, but not angry with me or God. We both trusted the timing may be better in the future.
The men’s retreat weekend progressed through Friday, Saturday and into Sunday morning, and I truly saw God speak into the lives of the men in attendance. During the planned quiet time on Sunday morning before our final session and noon departure, I wrote in my journal: “God, I know you are using me. I can see the lives of men being impacted by the time here, and I am thankful for all of that, but if I am totally honest, my biggest fear is that I will get to heaven and you will say ‘I never knew you.’ God, will you please show me that I am in the ballpark with you?”
Before we left the retreat, the guy who had been wearing the Fenway Park sweatshirt approached me. He had folded the sweatshirt as neatly as he possibly could and presented it to me as an expression of gratitude for my ministry over the weekend.
"[W]hat I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do."
I was so grateful to him and truly saw this gift as God’s affirmation of His love and delight in me. As I went to open the sweatshirt to hold it up for a picture, out fell a check for $1,000. The man looked me in the eye and said, “Take your son to Fenway.”
You can imagine the multitude of ways both my wife and I (and our young son) were so deeply touched by the unexpected, undeserved, lavishly generous heart of God. The man who gave us that financial gift had experienced restoration in the Lord himself. His gift to me was an outpouring of gratitude for what God had been doing in his life.
The generous heart of God
As an advancement officer, I see thousands of people generously provide resources to enable the ministries of the EFCA. Rebecca Campbell from Harleysville, Pennsylvania is a clear example.
Becky and her husband, David, have been longtime supporters of ReachGlobal staff member Pam D’Andre. Pam is a parish nurse in Ukraine who teaches nurses and volunteers how to care for others in the local church and beyond. Pam has spent 20 years building social connections and relationships in Kyiv to serve families and disabled people by providing respite care in the name of Jesus.
Knowing Becky’s heart of generosity and desire to be a good steward of what God has entrusted to them, I was not surprised to learn she had been busy raising up a network of friends to make a difference on the front lines of Ukraine. Becky started by asking all her friends to clean out their closets to find items to donate to people in Ukraine.
She and her friends have sent 44 boxes filled with sleeping bags, warm blankets, cellular banks to charge phones, boots, you name it—even peppermint Life Savers. By God’s grace, all their donations made it to the front lines in support of men defending the country of Ukraine.
Becky and her friends' gifts are tangible. They are all sent with love and prayers motivated in thanksgiving by the generous heart of God. As I sat with Becky last month, I was reminded of a poem I learned many years ago:
As we step into the seasons of Advent, Christmas and the New Year, I invite you to reflect on these simple questions:
- Does my life mirror the generosity of God?
- What is my wealth doing to help others hear the gospel and know life with Christ?
- How can I leverage my relationships to make a gospel impact in my local church, my neighborhood and the world, like Becky has done with her friends?
[L]et's point people to our most generous God and His son Jesus Christ.
If God is calling you toward a life of generosity, I have one recommendation for you: I would ask that you consider supporting the ministries of the EFCA through the EFCA Fund.
The EFCA Fund is the annual fund of the EFCA. As an advancement officer for the EFCA, I can attest to the significance and frontline impact your support of the EFCA Fund has on communities throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Your prayers and financial partnership are two ways you can practically join us in support of our movement as we seek to assist churches, districts and ReachGlobal staff in fulfilling their calling to reach the world for Christ.
We would be most grateful if you considered a gift of thanksgiving to the Lord in support of the EFCA and ReachGlobal ministries. We thank God for you and your support of the work He is doing around the world.
Above all, during this Advent and Christmas season, let's point people to our most generous God and His son Jesus Christ.
If you feel called to partner with the EFCA through the EFCA Fund, you can make a one-time or recurring contribution here.
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