For this first installment of Serendipitously Sunday, I looked for some great idea to present itself to me. It showed up while I was organizing digital files and found a few things still in first draft stage. Provision by serendipity doesn’t mean there won’t be any editing, right? It’s a little longer than usual, but I hope readers will enjoy it and be blessed by the concepts. May you all have a wonderfully joyful week ahead.
So, I had it all planned. As soon as my retired hubby left for a day of errands, I was going to use the alone time for doing housework to surprise him when he got home. Alas, before he headed out, he stopped to tell me what he wanted me to do while he was gone. Ack! Now I couldn’t do as I planned because his request ruined my chance to give freely.
How many times have you wanted to be a giving person, and someone stole it away from you? Maybe it came in the form of a required tip percentage on your food bill. Maybe you tried giving to a hungry person, but the beggar demanded money and refused food, so you had to walk away. Maybe you love helping missionaries, but when some preacher says God will curse you if you don’t dig deeper, suddenly it doesn’t feel as good to give anymore. (Unfortunately, pulpit manipulation to give happens more often than you’d think.)
See, free will gives us the right to give from our hearts, and it allows the recipient to receive our gift with all the joy we have to share. I’m certain God created the idea of free will because He wants to receive whatever we give Him as a gift from our hearts and given with full joy.
One of the times I read 2 Corinthians 9:7, I realized it was written more to the recipient than the giver. A good receiver can bring joy to whoever gives him or her a gift. I hadn’t previously associated that with the joy of giving freely, but when I put these two concepts together, I realized something: Though God has authority to control all things, He chooses to leave us with free will because He loves a cheerful giver in all things….not just money.
It is possible to shine God’s light of truth with joy. We don’t have to tell others how their sins deny God if we demonstrate behaviors that uplift God. When we lift Him above all things, He (yes, He, and not us) will draw (not control, push, or force) all men to Himself, and we will receive the joy of another soul accepting Christ as Savior. His word gives a wonderful hymn of praise for salvation in Isaiah 12. Read the whole chapter for encouragement. Verse 3 reads, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Yes, God’s Word has strong criticisms for the disobedient, but they are more often delivered to the religious who know better and still disobey. Those who have not yet been drawn to God must first desire to give Him their hearts before He will change their lives. He will replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh in which He can work. We cannot force that with judgment and condemnation. Our control will kill their free-will desires, and it could prevent God from receiving the cheerful gift He wants.
God takes great joy in giving us free will because we can turn that around and choose to serve Him with joy. We give our hearts to Him joyfully instead of out of necessity. Those of us who already serve Him can learn from His example how to do the same with those who do not yet follow Our Lord. In this, we can be harmless as doves, and in this, we will see more people freely and joyfully give their hearts to God–which, of course, is our intention in the first place.
I spent this evening in a dinner theater with friends. We watched a well-performed musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is always a nice reminder of rethinking our perspectives at this time of year. I am always brought to tears when George learns just how much people will be there for him after all he has given up in being there for them through the years.
The thing I notice about the story is that George Bailey is extremely generous with his time and money, but he’s a bit stingy with his emotions. He gives in the same way Jonah ministered to the people of Nineveh (yesterday’s post)–grudgingly. He has so many dreams he wants to carry out, and every time he thinks he’s on his way to one or the other, some tragedy strikes or something comes up to change his plans. An abundance of these events with George “giving in” to whatever call is on his life leads him to feeling suicidal.
What changes for George in the end to give him more hope? Nothing externally. His attitude changes before he finds out that his friends and neighbors are ready to be there for him and meet his needs the way he’s always done for them. His grudging giving was still giving, so it didn’t hurt his relationships in the long run, but he likely missed out on some joy through the years. A stack of days without joy can certainly lead to the dark day where George meets the angel named Clarence. (Who, by the way, gets his wings when the bell in the above image rings.)
Attitude makes all the difference in the world. As said by Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” (Click the word “attitude” to see the whole message in context.) How we respond to difficulties in life does not change how difficult they are to us, but it changes how much damage they’ll be allowed to do to our spirits. We’re not guaranteed happiness, but joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God, so circumstances can’t take it away. God’s spirit of joy is there to strengthen us to face our difficulties if we will let it.
Chip Brogden brings up a good point in today’s Infinite Supply newsletter when he points out that God sees every sparrow that falls, but He doesn’t stop them from falling. He may not take the difficulties or storms away from us, but He Himself will be our very present help in times of trouble; a shelter during our stormy times. As a matter of fact, here’s how King David spoke of God’s sheltering Spirit in Psalm 61:3-4 (NKJV)…
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
If we respond with an attitude of expectation for that help, comfort, and shelter, we will find the strength of God’s joy right when we need it. Then, no matter what happens to us, it can be a wonderful life.
P.S. If you click the movie title above, it will take you to a special on the DVD set. As of this writing, it’s $7.99 instead of $24.99 for the two-disc set that includes both black & white and color plus some bonus features.
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