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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - The Genius of Generosity

Mark Batterson - The Genius of Generosity

Mark Batterson - The Genius of Generosity
TOPICS: Genius, Generosity

On Wednesday of this week, the Dow Jones Industrial dropped 1,164 points. On that same day, a survey of CEOs found that 60% expect a recession sooner than later. The consumer confidence index is the lowest it's been in five years. Only 18% of Americans expect their finances to be better one year from now. And all of this, of course, comes on the heels of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates because of record inflation. And I don't wanna pour gasoline on the fire, but gasoline is $4,52 a gallon.

Okay, I don't wanna go too far with this. I remember putting $2 of gas in my tank as a teenager, and it got me where I needed to go, and I would pull it back in when I knew my parents were driving it next, because they would feel, I know I'm not the only one, Pastor Joel. I feel bad for teenagers, two bucks won't even get you to the end of the block and back. Well, it's no wonder it's no coincidence. It is study released by the American Psychological Society this last week, found that a record number of Americans, two out of every three are stressed about their finances. 40% say it's affecting my mental health. 40% say that to have enough money to retire is going to take. And I quote, "A miracle", welcome to National Community Church. It's gonna get better from here.

Shout out to our Campuses Lincoln and NoVA camp turnaround. Shout out to our extended family online. We're in a series called Genius. And I was planning on talking about the genius of generosity. And then, I came across these rather depressing statistics and decided that we're gonna talk about the genius of generosity. Because this is the perfect time to do just. I don't care whether it's a bear market or a bull market. I don't care what inflation or interest rates are. Generosity is genius. So, we're gonna have some fun today. If you have a Bible, you can meet me. John's Gospel Chapter 6. The only miracle recorded in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. I wanna talk about two laws, four levels of generosity. But let me prime the pump and just share seven quick hitters. Seven lessons learned on my, on our journey of generosity. And so, we'll go quick.

Number one, it's all from God and it's all for God. I say that I pray that all the time. This is where generosity begins and ends. Your time, your talent, your treasure, every second, every ounce, every penny is a gift from God, and for God. Two, don't accumulate possessions, accumulate experiences. I've met a few people who are possessed by a demon. I've met a lot more people who are possessed by their possessions. They don't own things, things own them. How do you know the difference? If you think you own it, it probably owns you. Three, you make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. Our culture defines success in terms of income and power. How much you make, how many people serve you. It's the exact opposite in the Kingdom of God. The greatest of all is the servant of all. So, success is serving as many people as you can. And it's not how much you make, it's how much you give. Number four, after you count the blessing, flip the blessing. The generosity is fueled by gratitude. The most generous people in the world are the most grateful people in the world.

So, you have to count your blessing, name them one by one, right? But after you count the blessing, you know, this is for Lora and I, one of our mantras. You have to flip the blessing. You have to be a blessing to others where God has blessed you. And so, I remember when Lora and I were newly married, I was in seminary, barely making ends meet. And I go to preach at this church. And it's one of my first times. And someone after, the service, this guy comes up to me and shakes my hand. But I feel something in his hand and he slips me a 20, and he says, "Go take your wife out for dinner". And he calls it a Pentecostal handshake. I feel like shaking someone's hand today. Are there any NCC Youth in the house? Are there any NCC Youth, I'm just saying, Zeek, Are you in the House?

Get up here, brother. Come on, I wanna shake your hand, young man. I wanna shake your hand. Can we give it up for Zeek? Whoa, whoa. Ah, love it. We are, come on, Church, we are blessed to bless. It's the core of the Abrahamic Covenant. What God does for us is never just for us, it's always for others. And so, what happens is if you keep the blessing for yourself, it stops the flow of blessing. But if you flip the blessing, now you become a conduit of blessing for other people. Five, God doesn't bless us to raise our standard of living, God blesses us to raise our standard of giving. When I was in my 20s, I was trading options, which means I was gambling. Because I didn't know any better, because I wanted to get rich quick. Something happened early 30s, I have this life goal list, but make two significant changes.

One, I add a relational element to every life goal because it's no fun accomplishing things all by yourself. But the second was this, stop setting getting goals and start at setting giving goals. And it flipped a switch because it was no longer about how much we could make, it was about how much we could give. Six, wise men come bearing gifts. You've heard me share this. I have a meeting with someone, this is years ago, and they, it's not my birthday, it's not holiday. And they give me a gift and I must had a confused look on my face because they literally said, "Wise men come bearing gifts". Well, that's hard to argue with right, that's the whole Christmas story. And so, it's become a way of life. I love just giving gifts for no good reason at all. And watch the confusion on people's faces and have a little bit of fun with it. But, Pastor Mark, that's not my responsibility. No, no, no, it's your opportunity. Proverb 16:28 says, "The gift opens the door and ushers the giver into the presence of the great".

And then finally, Number seven, you can't out-give God. Now, I want you to hear what I'm about to say. I don't believe in the prosperity of Gospel because anytime you add an adjective to the Gospel, you're actually subtracting from it. You can't play God like a slot machine. If you give for the wrong reason, it doesn't even count in the Kingdom of God. And besides that, the greatest return on investment it's not monetary, it's joy unspeakable. It's peace that passes understanding. It's the grace that you can't do anything to deserve. And I'll tell you this, joy is found on the giving side of life. Now, listen, I love to receive. If you give me a gift, I will not rob you of your blessing. But there is a joy when you become a conduit of generosity with your time, with your talent, with your treasure, and I'll say this, when God gives a vision, He makes provision, but you have to exercise your faith.

I know some people who say, "I'm gonna get more when I make more". Love you, not buying what you're selling. No, no, you have to sew what you wanna see more of. All right, how are we doing? How are we doing, by the way, if you didn't get all of those NCC app, you'll find the message notes are right there. Hey, let's jump into this story. And here's the big idea upfront. I really believe this. Your generosity is someone else's miracle, John 6:5. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, He said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread to feed all these people"? Now can I make a confession? There have been times in my life when I'm walking down the street and I see someone, okay, and it's someone you can't have a short conversation with. And I feel kind of bad. Don't do all the time but I will occasionally fake a phone call. Love you, just don't have time for you right now. Tell me there's someone else who has faked a phone call online?

Come on, I want that confession in the chat. Let me see, come on, come on. Now, I don't think that makes us bad people per se, but it might indicate something. If we're being honest, most of us, myself included, too busy to be interrupted, too busy to be inconvenienced. And the problem with that is this that's when, and where, and how most divine appointments happen. And so somehow some, because when we talk about generosity, we think money. Can I just, can I get a gauge? And online I want it too. How many of you, it's actually harder to be generous with your time than your money? I know it is for me. So, if I'm Jesus in this story, I fake the phone call. What are you talking about? Well, understand the context. Jesus is withdrawing to the wilderness, why? Because He just found out that John the Baptist had been beheaded. He was baptized by John.

John, best guess, was His cousin, He loved John. Jesus is grieving but He sees the crowd. And two Gospel writers say it this way, "He was moved with compassion". Our culture is so fight-and-flight right now, it breaks my heart. I'm not saying we compromise our biblical convictions but we better be moved by compassion. How we react, reveals who we really are. And when Jesus gets pushed, you see this overwhelming compassion. And, come on, it's not like He invited them. These people are paparazzi. Like how, you're gonna break the bank to feed 5,000 people. But here's someone who just, Jesus can't not care. He can't not care about you. He loves you.

So, we gotta stand in the gap with some compassion. And that includes especially those we disagree with, why? Because they're made in the image of God. Every person you meet is worth the cross to Christ. And that changes how we see how we react to the crowd. I was having lunch with a friend not long ago, and he has the most remarkable gift of hospitality of anybody I've ever met. He makes people feel seen, and heard, and loved, and he does it with food. That's the best, right. And he does it around tables. And when you share a meal with him, it can so easily turn into a last supper. It's almost like it turns into something sacred. And part of it is that he consecrates those gatherings with prayer and with care. And so, I was asking him about his genius, because we're in a series on Genius. And he shares about this moment where the Holy Spirit speaks to him and made the Spirit of God speak your genius to you. And he said, "The Spirit of God said to him, your weapon is hospitality".

What if we prepared a table in the presence of our enemies? Now, I'm taking a little bit of Liberty with Psalm 23. But what if we made meals, sat around tables, and said, "Tell me your story". In fact, I'm just gonna say this. As we were worshiping, I got a word. I think it was a word of knowledge and because I had never, I had been preparing for this. I had never had this thought but I felt like the Lord said, "Mark, I want this church to have a generous ear". Just that, put your hand on your ear right now. Oh, God, give us generous ears. Give us ears to hear the still small voice of the Spirit to hear the hurt and the pain, To hear past our differences. God, give us generous ears in Jesus' Name, Amen.

For the record, Jesus saved a seat for Judas and He knew that Judas would betray Him. "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers," Hebrews 13:2. Some who have done this have entertained angels without knowing it. What I'm getting at is hospitality is a form of generosity. And so, who do you need to be hospitable to this week? Generous with your time with your treasure. Who needs to feel seen and heard and loved? And you are the person to do it, Lord, help us. John 6:6, "Jesus asked this only to test him". Oh, I love this so much. "For He already knew what he was going to do". Take a deep breath, let it out. God's got this. You are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works prepared for us in advance. Jesus already knows what He's going to do. Verse 7, "Phillip answered him, 'It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for everyone to have a bite.'"

It's almost like Philip pulls out his calculator, does the math, they done that up. We want the Will of God to make financial sense. But if it did, it would take faith out of the equation. And so, there are moments in our life where you just need to take a financial step of faith. So, when I was 17 years old, our family went to Calvary Church. The pastor, my future father-in-law, it was a mission series, it was a leading missions-giving church in the entire assemblies of God. It ate and breathed and slept missions. And so, they would challenge us to make a faith promise that was above and beyond the tithe. This first 10% that goes to God above and beyond.

I had just gotten a job, my first job at Kwik Fill gas station, pulling in $5,25 an hour, the big bucks, making the big bucks. It must have been an amazing message because at 17 year old, I made a $1,500 faith promise and I'm laughing at myself now. I'm like, what, what, oh, what were you thinking? I wasn't thinking I was praying. I was saying, "God, I wanna be someone who's generous. Someone that You can bless so that You can flow through me". And somehow, someway, I still look back on it, it feels like a miracle to me but I fulfilled that faith promise. Listen to me, it didn't add up. And I mean that literally. It was like I was subtracting money from my college tuition plan. Are you picking up what I'm throwing down? It's all right because I got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago. One of the most expensive colleges in the country.

And you can say, "Pastor Mark, that's total coincidence". No, no, no, I think it's Providence. We have a court conviction. God's gonna bless us in proportion. How we give to missions and care for the poor in the city. I would say that that conviction was conceived in my spirit at 17. And then, from day one, we've tried to live it out. Remember that first year we're averaging 20 people, including Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on a good Sunday, right? Aver income, $2,000 a month as a church, as a church. And it costs $1,600 to rent the DC Public School where we met. That left $400 for our salary and all other expenses. And there's a moment in August of '96 where God says, "I want you to start giving to missions". Like, "God, no, You meant that for someone else. 'Cause we need it".

We weren't even self-supporting for three years. We gave that first $50 check to missions and I'll never forget it. Our monthly income tripled the next month. I don't understand it, I don't understand it but I'm gonna stand on the promises of God. Given it'll be given unto you good measure, press down, shaken together, running over and be poured in your lap, for with the measure you use, it would be measured unto you. Taking notes, two laws. Law of measures, law of treasures. Law of measures is very simple. You reap what you sell. You get out what you put in. God can't bless us beyond the level of our generosity because it will spoil. And so, what I'm trying to do with generosity is position myself because I want more of that joy, more of that peace, more of that grace.

And so, the law of measures, so critical. The law of treasures. Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Two things, money issues are trust issues. The tithe is how I trust God. And by the way, it breaks the bondage of greed in my life because I'm greedy. It breaks it. But money issues are also heart issues. They're heart issues. God doesn't need your money. God owns a cattle on a thousand Hills, but He wants your heart. And those two things are inextricably linked. We made a decision many years ago as a church that any church plant in the DC area, if they're preaching or practicing the Gospel, we're gonna invest in that church plant. We have invested in dozens and dozens of church plants. And I wish I could say that it's just about generosity.

Can I tell you something? I'm gonna play a risk chip. Your pastor is so competitive. And it worked when I was playing basketball in College. It doesn't work in the Kingdom of God because we're on the same team. And so, it's not about the name over the church door. It's about the name above all names. And so, why did we start giving to church plants? Because I needed God to sanctify my heart. And I found that as we gave, oh, we weren't giving You money, we're giving You a piece of our heart. Our heart is with You. And so, Lora has this little saying that I love that she would say to our kids, "Your face tells your body how to feel". Like try give a big smile, even online, big, big, big smile. Do you know that when I record audio books, I discipline myself, I try to smile and you say that's silly, no one can see an audio book, they can hear it.

And so, just as your body, your face tells your body how to feel, your money tells your heart how to feel. Like I, okay. I just need to, ooh, take a deep breath. I don't know why I'm feeling this so deeply. It might be because I love to give. It might be because these are 30 years of hard-earned lessons of wrestling with my own greed, but I just, oh, God wants our hearts. Verse 9, "Another of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peters brothers spoke up. 'Here's a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.'" Now, we're gonna make an assumption that the disciples did not come endear this lunch. Give me your filet of fish. Give me your fish. No, you don't, that's like one of my favorite commercials. We're gonna assume that this boy gave it of his own free will five loaves, two fish, and you think big deal. No, no, no., if You have kids, ho-ho-hoo, this is the miracle before the miracle. I mean, come on, getting kids to share anything. When our kids were young, I came across this little snippet, introduction to Property Law from a toddler's perspective. Any lawyers in the House?

Here are the Property Laws, toddler property. If I like it, it's mine. If I can take it away from you, it's mine. If it looks like mine, it's mine. If I saw it first, it's mine. If you're having fun with it, it's mine. If you lay it down, it's mine. If it's broken, it's yours. Oh, man, the Talmud says that there are four types of people. What's yours is mine. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. What's mine is yours. The first person is a taker. Second and third are matches. Ah, that fourth person is a giver and the Talmud calls that person a Saint. I see saints. Can I just say I think this is one of the most generous churches on the planet. Do you realize just in the last six months, we give a $100,000 gift to basic International Church in Ethiopia? I mean, you've given more than a million dollars to this common fund inspired by Acts 2, to just share with those in need. Ukraine, I think we're above $80,000 that you've given. That Dream Fund, you gave $150,000, not for us, but so that we can see dreams. And it dawned on me, listen to me, in one weekend, you will give to one need more than an entire annual income our first three years.

So, I just wanna say, thank you. I wanna celebrate what we wanna see more of. Come on, let's be the church that can step in in a big way because your generosity is someone else's miracle. And with that, I wanna share something pretty special. We received a very unique gift, not monetary. This past Easter, our friends at Capital Church invited me to preach at the Lincoln Memorial Easter Sunrise Service. It was incredible, more than 7,000 people gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Capital Church has been hosting that gathering since 1979, 42 years of blood, sweat, and tears. So grateful, Pastor Amos and Sue Dodge, Pastor Travis and Tara Goodman. Long story short, they asked if National Community Church would begin, this coming year, to host that Lincoln Memorial Easter Sunrise Service.

Listen, listen, listen, we'll do that in a second. We'll do it in a second. In all the years, like it's one thing to give a financial gift. It's one thing to give time. But for someone to say something that we have put 42 years and we feel like God's telling us to give it to you. Oh, friends, that is a sacred trust. We better steward with the Lord's help. Can we just praise God for that? Can we thank Capital Church for that? Now, this little boy gives his lunch. I wanna look at what happens next, we're almost done. Verse 12, "When everyone had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather all the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.' So they gathered them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, 'Surely, surely, this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.'"

Here's the big idea, here's the bottom line. If you keep what you have, five plus two equals seven. It is what it is. If you give generously, if you put what you have in your hand, into the hands of God, if you give it to God, five plus two doesn't equal seven anymore. Not when you add God to the equation. Five plus two can add up to 5,000 remainder 12, and become a miracle for 5,000 people. Oh, and here's what's beautiful about it. You know, you don't have to do a miracle for 5,000 people. Can I take all of the pressure off of you? All you have to do is be generous with the five loaves and the two fish. And let God do what He does. Can I get an Amen, right there? All right, we're gonna land the plane, okay. 2 Corinthians 8:7, "Since you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and the love that we have kindled into. See that you also excel in the grace of giving".

The very simple prayer this weekend, Lord, help every single one of us to take one step of generosity this week. That's it. And to just be conscious of it because it involves some intentionality. It involves some sacrifice. But, Lord, help us take that one step. The word excel, perisseuō in the Greek, means above and beyond, literally, five plus two equals 5,000 remainder 12. That when you excel in giving, God takes it and turns it into a miracle. Now, I want you to click a link, okay, You're gonna see it on the screen. And I want you to click that link. I want everybody to click that link because the challenge is what is that next step for you? Four levels of generosity, and just for the sake of time, I'm gonna keep this really short and sweet.

Step number one, level number one, is giving spontaneously. Isn't that what this little boy does? He's caught in a moment where, do I hang onto it or do I give it? He gives spontaneously. I would call this Spirit-led giving. I'm telling you it will turn giving into a game. It will be so much fun. That there have been moments in my life where, "Mark, this server, something's happening. You need to leave a tip that's larger than the bill itself and speak blessing into that server's life". There are moments where with my, God, I don't have time. I don't have time. Mark, be generous with your ear. Take the time to listen. May we be Spirit-led in our giving, I think it starts here.

Level two is giving consistently. Now, this week, Lora and I celebrate our 30th anniversary. Stop, stop, no, no, no. Seriously, stop, stop, stop. Oh, man, one of the best decisions we ever made was that when we got married, we're never gonna not tithe. Has it always been easy? No, but it was a pre-decision we made. And I'll tell you this. If 30 years of tithing has taught us anything, it's taught us that God can do more than 90% than we can do with 100%. Like for some of you, the next step is giving consistently. One of the ways we do that is recurring giving. It doesn't mean that we stop giving spontaneously. We still give spontaneously, but, man, I'll tell you what that automatic withdrawal makes it pretty automatic, right. And so, that might be a step as a way of giving consistently.

Level three is giving proportionately. And I won't deep dive this, but you already know this. Our goal isn't to tithe. Our goal is to reverse tithe. Like I read a biography about JC Penney and he was living off a 10% and giving 90%. It's like, "Lord, someday, that would be amazing". How does that happen? Well, you give God extra percentage points. You know, 1% at a time. I'm gonna stretch myself. I'm gonna stretch my faith and gonna begin to give a greater percentage to God.

And then, finally, number four is giving radically and this sounds intimidating. And so, at the end of this message, let me just bring it back down to earth. I've got some good news. Giving radically is not about giving God big bucks. Come on, the heroes of the Gospel, the people that Jesus honor gave two fish, the good Samaritan, right. Two mites, like the widow. They didn't give a whole lot, but they gave everything they had. I think this is so encouraging to me. Do you know that a mite was a tiny bronze coin, the diameter of which the size of a pencil eraser? It was the least valuable coin in the Roman economy. It was worth six minutes of time. And God says, "Look at this woman, she just gave the equivalent of 12 minutes".

We clap for large things, for big things. There's a God who loves your little acts of generosity. Don't walk out of here, feeling like I need to do something huge. No, no, no, if we do little things like their big things, God's gonna do big things like their little things. Generosity is not measured by how much you have, not measured by how much you give. Honestly, it's measured by how much you keep. And this is it, here it is. This is it. I love the way this woman just gives it all. All to Jesus, I surrender. how many times have we prayed that prayer in recent weeks? I just feel like God is calling us to consecrate ourselves to Him, again, in a love relationship. For God so love that He gave, love that He gave His only begotten Son. Didn't hold out on us. So, really it's about each one of us saying, God, my past, present, future, my time, talent, treasure, my heart, soul, mind, and strength, it's all from You and it's all for You. Would You turn my generosity into someone else's miracle? Five plus two equals 5,000 remainder 12 in Jesus' Name, Amen.
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