Grace. Pass it on.
I am so grateful for the way that people at STN have responded with encouraging messages and with Offering October. I cannot thank you enough.
I have been inspired by Terry’s blog and the excellent talk on giving by Stephen Foster at HTB. Please watch it! In another talk that I listened to Stephen Foster asked this question (I paraphrase):
“16 of the 38 parables that teach us about who God is are about money and giving.
One sixth of Matthew Mark and Luke’s gospels concern money and possessions. There are 500 verses in the bible about prayer and 500 verses about faith (all of these are at the core of who we are)….but there are 2000 verses about giving.
Why wouldn’t Jesus’ teaching in this area be every bit as liberating and life transforming as his teaching in every other area of my life?”
In other words do I trust that Jesus’ teaching on giving is essential and good for my life? Yes.
Giving is one of the most challenging but liberating and faith building activities I have ever encountered. It is so countercultural, such a paradox and such a typical Jesus way. He said that to be lost in him is to be found; to be last is to be first; to serve is to lead and the icing on the cake: it is in giving that we receive.
Two weeks ago on my day off I was sitting in the car at the beach exhausted and trying to summon up the enthusiasm to take the dog for a run or walk. It had been a long long week. It was the end of the month and resource was scarce. Do you know that feeling? When you are tired and your bank balance is too! I think we’ve all been there. A friend texted me. He wanted a chat. I took the call and whilst I was on the call he did something crazy but wonderful. As a surprise he booked a family room in the hotel that I was parked next to by the beach. Anna and the kids came whizzing up with overnight things and as we sat for dinner that evening I explained to my wife Anna (who was pretty curious by this time as to why we were in a hotel) that the whole bill had been paid for and she wept. Awkwardly the waiter came to take our order at that moment as we all cried. We ordered with tears in our eyes and the kids couldn’t stop laughing at the whole scene. It wasn’t the size of the gift that struck us it was the power of God’s grace. It was His timing, the spirit, the heart that overwhelmed us, the cheerfulness and adventure in faith. The next day all I wanted to do was to pass on the blessing.
It has been my experience that as I take more childlike steps in responding to God’s call to generosity, the more I receive. What does this mean? The receipt from giving might be financial but the blessing might actually be in a currency more important. It is in a currency that God knows I really need: A touch of his grace, a perfectly timed intervention, an assurance of his love, a new found freedom. As I let my faith infuse my finance a new channel opens up through which I experience the tangible and timely love of Jesus. Let’s face it, finance is where it gets really real. The spiritual connection that comes through giving reaches a part of me that no other activities can reach. I reach a point of surrender, it re-orders my priorities, breaks strongholds, loosens my grip on ‘things' in this world and tightens my grip on loving the people in God’s world. Giving allows God the chance to show me his undeniable provision and grace and it shows me where my heart is at. I really recommend this talk if you like a challenge.
Here are some more testimonies that have been submitted to our webpage:
“Around 2011, I was a student at The Hewett School and one day I was on my normal, straightforward route to school. I got off the bus on St Stephen Street, made my way past Sainsbury’s, along Grove Road and all of a sudden I came to a halt where the road forks; I had completely forgotten whether I usually walked along Trafford Road or Grove Walk. I know it sounds crazy because both Trafford Road and Grove Walk lead to Hewett, but a) I and none of my friends ever walked down Grove Walk and b) I’d walked the same Trafford Road route, hundreds of times. In that moment my mind went blank! Genuinely very confused about whether I was loosing the plot, I started to walk down Grove Walk and again, I was stopped in my tracks when I came across St Albans. In all the time I’d been at Hewett, I didn’t know there was a church just up the road from us.
Aware that another late mark would mean my name was mud, I resumed my walk to school but I later asked in my RS class why we never went to the church along Grove Walk for our Christmas service. My teacher responded that it was because there was no church along there, and was backed up by my fellow classmates. Incredibly confused by the whole situation, I decided to pray and felt compelled to do so until I left Hewett, a year later; which is even more strange considering I wasn’t really a Christian at this point. Anyway, my prayer was simple and rather uninspiring: I want to see life there again and I want to be part of it.
In 2014 I returned, freshly discipled, to Norwich from university and after a not so gentle push from God, I rocked up at St Thomas. Shortly after I was at a student night and to my utter amazement, Edward announced that we would be taking on St Albans and was anyone up for a drop of painting? *mic drop*
I’ve been in a bit of a funk recently, but God reminded me of this and how all of our offerings don’t go unnoticed. Even we offer a little, whether that’s prayer, time or money, God’ll take it and do amazing things. I was very confused that day, but years later, I’m amazed at what happened. By no means do I think that what’s happened at St Albans was because of my prayer, and I know it sounds like a crazy story. But it does make me wonder: what else we could do as individuals and together as a church, if we strive to not just give a little but to go for broke.”
“At our connect group we looked at the first couple of Bible verses in Romans 12. Why does it say "offer our bodies as a sacrifice" to God as a response to his grace and mercy? We thought it was because bodies are about doing, taking action, saying words. We wondered how effective we are at lining all we do up with God's will, but realized that we get better by doing it. That might be how we test His perfect will.”