Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Channels of God's Generosity

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says it’s clear from Scripture that God cares for the poor and needy.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Exodus 22 tells us that He is compassionate, and He listens to the cry of the needy. The other thing you can’t miss is that we who have been recipients of God’s undeserved kindness and mercy and grace are to be channels of His generosity and His grace toward others who are needy.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for July 17, 2018.

In several series this year, Nancy’s been digging into the True Woman Manifesto. To read the Manifesto or get a copy for yourself, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Here’s Nancy to continue.

Nancy: We’ve been talking in this part of the True Woman Manifesto about reaching out beyond ourselves, beyond our own comfort zones, getting out of our Christian cloisters and becoming engaged as true women in the lives of others.

We come today to an important statement in the True Woman Manifesto. Let me read it to you, and then we’ll take a look at it phrase by phrase.

Reflect God’s heart for those who are poor, infirm, oppressed, widows, orphans, and prisoners, by reaching out to minister to their practical and spiritual needs in the name of Christ.

As you read the Scripture from cover to cover, you can’t miss the fact that God cares for the poor and the needy. Exodus 22 tells us that He is compassionate, and He listens to the cry of the needy (see v. 27).

The other thing you can’t miss is that we who have been recipients of God’s undeserved kindness and mercy and grace are to be channels of His generosity and His grace toward others who are needy. So, we are poor and needy; we receive His grace; then we are to become channels of that grace into the lives of others.

Proverbs 19:17 says: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Proverbs 21:13: “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”

Proverbs 28:27: “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”

This is a serious matter, being alert and sensitive and responsive to the needs of the poor and needy. Throughout Scripture, many, many verses where we see that God makes special provisions, special laws, takes special care for widows, for those who are fatherless, for strangers, for the poor, and for the oppressed.

There’s so many verses like that we find in Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

Then you look in the gospels and you see the ministry of Jesus when He was here on this earth. He was always manifesting God’s heart, reaching out to the poor, the lame, the blind, the rejected, the disenfranchised, meeting both their physical and their spiritual needs.

This is one of the extraordinary marks of the early church—their care for one another. So you had in these little local churches, people who were from wealthy backgrounds, and you had slaves, and then you had everything in-between. They not only worshiped together, but those who had more helped to meet the needs of those who had less. Acts 4 tells us,

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need (vv. 34–35).

The needs were met because God’s people were sensitive and alert and were channels of God’s generosity and love and blessing toward the poor and needy.

Second Corinthians 8 gives us a marvelous illustration of this worked out between churches. It says in verse 1 of 2 Corinthians 8,

The churches of Macedonia . . . in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty [so here’s a poverty-stricken church, but they] overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

So they were in extreme affliction; they were in extreme poverty, but they had a wealth of generosity.

Isn’t it true? You often see those who have the least to give sometimes are the most generous, and those who have the most sometimes are the ones who hold on to it most tightly. So here we have those who had need were the generous ones,

For they gave according to the means [Paul says], as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord [no one pressed them into this] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints (vv. 3–4).

Some of you are pastors’ wives. Can you imagine what it would be like if your husband would come home, or he’d say to you, or he’d have to say to the church, “We’ve got too much money coming in. We don’t have anything to do with all of it.” People begging to give toward the offering. That’s not usually the problem pastors have to worry about—people begging earnestly. These people who were begging earnestly for the favor of taking part in the offering were the people in extreme poverty, but they wanted to be givers.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6: “As for the rich in this present age.” We always read that and we think, Somebody else is the rich one. No. We are the rich ones. If you live in this country, if you have a roof over your head, if you’ve had something to eat today, if you have a set of clothes, by the world’s standards, you are rich.

Those who are rich in this present age, what are they to do? “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (vv. 17–18). 

And then James chapter 1,

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (v. 27). 

You see, the Scripture teaches that to minister to those who are in need is actually to minister to Christ, to Christ Himself. Jesus says, “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt. 25:36). 

And remember, His disciples said, “When did we do that?”

He said, “When you did it for one of these others, you did it for Me” (see v. 40). 

The Scripture teaches that our concern for the practical needs of others proves the sincerity of our love. You read that in 2 Corinthians chapter 8. It also proves the genuineness of our faith.

It’s a pretty stout passage here in James chapter 2. Let me read it to you, beginning in verse 14:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

He may claim to be a Christian, but if his faith is not accompanied by good works, then there’s no evidence to be sure that he really does have faith.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," [God bless you, brother—that’s my addition] without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (vv. 14–17). 

What does that mean? You’re not a child of God if you claim to have faith but it’s not evidenced and accompanied by a sensitivity to the needs of others.

Things to think about, huh?

How can we see someone in need, turn our face, step over them, and not at least ask God if He wants us to do something if we are those who have received the incredible mercy and grace of God?

Now, this matter of caring for the needs of others, the practical and spiritual needs is a calling for all believers, but I also believe it’s a distinct calling for us as women.

One of the qualities, the marks of the Proverbs 31 woman, according to Proverbs 31:20 is that “she opens her hands to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” She cares for her own husband; she cares for her own children. You can get embroiled in the concerns of the world and skip right over your own family. That’s not right. So here’s a woman who has her priorities in order. She does care for her own family, but she also finds ways and time and opportunity to reach out her hands to the poor and needy, to do something about their needs.

When I read that verse, I think of Marmie in Little Women. Remember her always taking that basket of food and how that impacted her children, her daughters, as they would see her caring for the needs of the poor?

Acts chapter 9, you remember the story of a believer named Dorcas? The Scripture says “she was full of good works and acts of charity" (v. 36). What does “full of good works” mean? It just seems to me she was always doing this. She was always thinking of others, always reaching out to minister to their needs.

The Scripture tells us in Acts 9 that “she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room” (v. 37). Then the story goes on to tell about how believers there heard the apostle Peter was in a nearby town, so they sent for him to come.

So verse 39 says, “Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.”

So here’s a woman who had a special heart for widows and ministered to them in practical ways, keeping in mind that in that era, for a woman to be widowed was to put her in an economically desperate situation. She couldn’t make it without help.

Now, some widows are that way today. Some widows have been provided for well today, but there are people around us who cannot make it without someone reaching out and helping. Should not that someone, in many of those cases, be us?

First Timothy 5 actually tells us that reaching out to the poor and needy, ministering to the practical needs of others is a qualification for a woman if she wants later in life to be considered as a widow eligible for the care of the church. It says,

Let a widow be enrolled [in this church program of the church caring for her] if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work (vv. 9–10).

That’s the lifestyle that God calls us to and that prepares a woman to be qualified to be cared for herself if she is widowed in her older years.

Compassion for the needy has always been a mark of the people of God. Christians have been at the vanguard of establishing hospitals and schools and orphanages and promoting social reform, and many of these things have been a means of advancing the gospel.

But unfortunately, in our day, we’ve increasingly relegated the care of the needy to what? The government. And sadly today, many people expect and want the government to be their caretaker, their provider. Could I just say that is not the role of the government? That’s our role. That’s our calling.

Now, I know that it is really tough in many situations to know how to respond because there is so much need. So many needs. Constant news reports, natural disasters, wars, famine, terrorism, orphans, AIDS orphans in Africa, foster care. I just heard recently there are 1.7 million children with their father in prison. You hear all this, and the numbers are staggering. The needs are overwhelming. It’s easy to become immune to the need. You just think, Where to start?

Let me just suggest that you start where God has put you. Look around. There’s something wrong with the picture of reaching out to people in far-flung places around the world and stepping over the people next door—our neighbors, our near neighbors who have needs that we could be helping to meet.

Then we need to remind ourselves that we’re not called to do everything. We’re not called to meet everyone’s needs. Jesus Himself did not wipe out leprosy when He was here on earth. He didn’t wipe out poverty. He didn’t eliminate blindness. He didn’t feed all the hungry. He didn’t heal all the sick. He didn’t provide for every widow and every orphan. He certainly could have, as God, but He didn’t. In fact, He told His disciples, “You will always have the poor among you.”

But wherever Jesus went while He was here on this earth, He was sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and He ministered to those God put in His path. He cared for them; He reached out to them; He ministered to their needs.

I really believe that as you and I walk in the Spirit, God will impress specific people and burdens and needs on our hearts. Our responsibility is not to solve all the poverty issues of the world or any other issue. Our responsibility is just to follow Christ and to be obedient to what He puts on our hearts.

Can you imagine if we would all do that? The danger is that we compare ourselves to other people who have different callings or are in different seasons of their lives. You may sit here, and you have four young children, and you’re on this big guilt trip because you think, I can hardly survive, and I don’t have time to do what so-and-so in our church is doing. Well, so-and-so in your church may be in a very different season of life.

So it’s not comparing to what others are doing. It’s just saying, “Lord, make me tender and compassionate and sensitive and responsive when You put something on my heart.” There are so many different ways to get involved, depending in some part on your season of life and what you have the freedom to do. But don’t compare. Don’t get on a guilt trip. This is not one more thing to check off your list. Ask the Lord, and let this be grace-based compassion, led by the Spirit.

There are plenty of opportunities to give through your local church or through established, reputable Christian organizations. But let’s remember that giving money doesn’t release us from personal hands-on responsibility.

A woman shared with me recently that when her children were growing up, her family sponsored children with Compassion International for thirty-plus years. She said, "We sent money, but the thing we weren't good about was communicating with the children that we sponsored. I wish we had been more involved."

How good would that be for your children? My sister has "raised" several children that she has sponsored since she was a little girl herself. She has now had the opportunity to visit with some of those children who are now grown up in other parts of the world.

The thing is: Develop a mindset, a lifestyle of caring, giving, serving, engaging.

Don’t just give money, although give money if you have it to give, but get connected where you can. Build relationships. Pray for the people that God leads you to serve and to help in practical ways.

Involve your children. I heard about a church recently where the families go on mission trips together. They’ll go and find a widow who needs a roof put on her house, and the family will work together. It’s a great thing for your children to grow up seeing you participating in caring for the needs around you.

A friend was sharing with me recently that when her children were growing up, when it was cold in the winter season, they’d see people standing around with signs asking for help. She said, “It was always hard to know what to do, where to stop.” She said, “I wanted my children to see that we care, that these are people and we care about those who have needs. So we kept a box in our car with a supply of gloves and blankets and some letters we had written explaining ‘this is why I’m giving this to you: sharing Christ.’”

She said as they would be traveling around, going around in the wintertime, she would say to her children, “Let’s pray that we’ll run into the person who is supposed to receive these gloves and this basket.” Then they’d ask the Lord to connect them to the right people. So that mom’s children grew up seeing the eyes and the heart of Christ, the concern and the compassion for those who were in need.

Sometimes, frequently, it’s just the little things we’re talking about—simple things can be a big deal.

I was talking with a young couple who was expecting their first child and are currently themselves without jobs. The were going in Walmart the other day and saw a woman standing outside Walmart with a sign that said, "I need milk, food, and diapers for my children." This couple stopped to talk with this woman and invited her to go in with them. She couldn't do that. But they went inside and bought a gift card for her, came out and gave it to her and engaged with her.

They were giving out of their own need, investing in the life of this woman. As they talked with her they said, "She needs milk and diapers for her children." That's very specific. They said that God had impressed on them to be part of the meeting the need.

When they shared that with me that evening about the encounter, we stopped and prayed for that woman and for her family. One seed planted of the love of Christ, that we trust God by His Spirit will water and produce fruit in that woman's life.

Sometimes it the little gestures and acts of kindness that can be meaningful. But sometimes, to have the heart of Christ may require more of us.

I have some friends in this area, a couple who are in the process of adopting two orphans from Ethiopia. They believe that adoption is a tangible representation of the gospel. As they’ve shared about this journey they’re on, it’s costly.

Some of you who’ve adopted children internationally, you know it can be very costly. This couple doesn’t have a lot of money. In fact, they themselves are preparing to go to the mission field within the next few years. So they’ve started some small business ventures; they’re selling some things to raise the money to adopt these two children.

Their philosophy, though, is that it was costly for Christ to adopt us, why shouldn’t it be costly for us to adopt someone else?

It may take a lot or it may be even more radical. By sharing these stories, I don’t want to suggest that God is calling everyone in this room to adopt children or to do something really radical. But I think every one of us needs to be willing, if God were to ask something more of us, to do whatever that might be. The point is not what you should do. The point is being willing to say, "Yes, Lord," to have His heart, His compassion toward those who are needy, and to be willing to respond in whatever way the Lord directs.

There are 6.7 billion people in our world today; 1.4 billion of them live in what is considered extreme poverty—living on less than $1.25 a day. Many of those cannot meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, and health care. There are 30,000 children who will die today due to either starvation or preventable disease.2

Now, I want to say poverty is a complex issue, and there’s a tendency on the part of some to over-simplify the causes and the cures. We cannot do everything, but we can ask God to give us His heart, and to show us what we can and should do.

Forget the rest of the world—what about closer to home? In your community, in your church, there are people with basic physical needs—widows, single moms, families out of work, children in the foster care system. God cares about each one of them.

The question is: Do you? Do I? Are your eyes open to the needs of those around you, or is your life consumed with shopping, getting your nails done, Facebooking, playing Internet games, talking to your friends on the phone, working out at the “Y,” going out for ice cream, playing cards with friends?

Now, don’t go home and quote me as saying that I said all those things are wrong. I’m just saying, “What’s the passion of your life?” Is it stuff? Is it temporary? Or is it people and eternal?

We were poor and needy. God loved us. He has been merciful and compassionate to us. How can we not be merciful and compassionate toward others in need? Reaching out to the needy in the name of Jesus is a powerful means of expressing God’s love and the saving grace of Christ. As we do that, it puts Him on display for our watching, needy world.

Leslie: How does God want you to respond to today’s message? I hope you’ll take some time to ask Him.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how to begin living out an important point from the True Woman Manifesto. It says that a true woman wants to “reflect God’s heart for those who are poor, infirmed, oppressed, widows, orphans, and prisoners, by reaching out to minister to their practical and spiritual needs in the name of Christ.”

This principle is actually something we find in Titus chapter 2. Nancy talks about being a channel of blessing in her book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. The book will help you to develop the type of kindness that lets those around you see the beauty of Christ.

You can get a copy of Adorned and begin your study of Titus 2 when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. And today is an especially good time to do so.

Nancy: That’s right, Leslie. For a variety of reasons we typically see a drop in donations during the summer months. That makes your gift today even more significant. When you send in a donation, you’re helping Revive Our Hearts share truth with women around the world who need this message.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make a donation of any amount, or call 1–800–569–5959, and be sure to ask for a copy of my book, Adorned. Thanks so much for your prayers and financial support at this time.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Well, you hear a lot about revival. What’s your definition? Nancy will help you understand what true revival really looks like. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to be an instrument of grace. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 1 http://thegathering.com/gws/media/_pdf/N-2010-Spring-No%20Greater%20Love-24.pdf

 

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