Michael Youssef - Love Gives - Part 1
Beloved, we all need to be appreciated, every one of us. When those who matter to us the most withhold appreciation, our spirit within us begins to wither and die and even the body dies. Hear me out, please. I have never met anyone who does not appreciate being appreciated. The need to be appreciated is universal. It's part of God's creation. What lack of appreciation usually produces is a feeling of rejection, depression, and starvation for attention. Hear me out on this one. There is nothing wrong with wanting, needing, and receiving appreciation. It is biblical, it is thoroughly biblical, it is a godly thing to do.
The Bible says: "Give honor to whom honor is due". But like everything else, of course, I know there are extremes in everything. Always extremes. A Danish philosopher once said, "Ingratitude is always a sign of weakness". Did you get that? Let me repeat it. "Ingratitude is always a sign of weakness". And I personally have never known a strong person, man or woman, who is ungrateful. The strong men and women that I know, every one of them, is filled with gratitude. And by definition, the strongest one is God. So he is the most appreciative of his children. Why? Because although he needs nothing from us, nothing, there is nothing we can do for him, he lavishes appreciation on us.
Throughout the Scripture, you're gonna discover if you read it carefully, that God does not let even the smallest of sacrifice, the smallest of sacrifice, to go unappreciated and unrewarded. Jesus said, "Even a cup of cold water". Just think about this. I mean, I don't know what a cup of cold water cost. Somebody put that one here and I thank you for that. I want you to know I appreciate it. I don't know how much this thing cost. Nothing. It's not much. But do you know, Jesus said that, when it's offered, is not unnoticed by Jesus. And it's not unrewarded by Jesus. A cup of cold water. Even when we begin to take some baby steps in walking by faith, God is saying, "Good".
Just like you see a toddler start walking and you say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, come to Daddy, come to Daddy". You know what God is saying? "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. These few steps of faith, I appreciate that. Keep going, keep going". And he'll bless you so you can take more steps and more steps and more steps until you run. 2 Corinthians chapter 9 beginning at verse 6: "Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously".
Now, of course, Paul is speaking to an agrarian society. They understand that they're living, this is their life, sowing and reaping, and they know the synergy between sowing and reaping. But even in modern time, any of you have done any gardening, you'll understand that concept. But there is a synergy between sowing and reaping. After the Word of God tells us about the relationship between the quantity of sowing and the quantity of reaping, immediately the apostle Paul tells us about the deeper level of the love of God for us in proportion to the generosity in sowing.
Four things: first of all, the Lord has a soft spot in his heart for the hilarious giver, verse 7. Secondly, the Lord will abundantly bless the hilarious giver, verses 8 to 11. Thirdly, God is glorified by the hilarious giver, verses 11 to 13. And fourthly, God will answer the prayers on behalf of the hilarious givers, verses 14 and 15. Let's look at these very quickly. Literally, it means that God has a soft spot, a special soft spot in his heart for the hilarious giver. I know your English Bibles have said, you know, God loves a cheerful giver. The Greek word "hilarios" from which we get hilarious, actually, means, it's a lot stronger than just cheerful. It really does. I'm gonna come to it in a minute. It means the person who have joy in his or her heart in giving. It means someone has fun in giving, high-fiving as he writes the check. It means somebody is having a belly laughter, not a bellyache, as they give.
Now, I know there are some people confused about this. There are levels of love in the Scripture on the part of God. God loves his creation. He loves everybody. Then there is a deeper love that God has for those whomsoever that would come to him and take and receive Jesus as their only Savior and Lord. This is a deeper love than the love he has for the world, that he has for creation, that he has for humanity, that he has for the sinner and the saints. It's a deeper love. I know that some people give out of guilt. Some people give out of compulsion. Some people give because they heard some slick presentation and a guy who manipulated their emotions and they respond to it or like some sheep who gets fleeced by false shepherds.
But that's not what Paul is referencing here. He is talking about the hilarious giver. And the hilarious giver gives from a cheerful heart, not obligation. The hilarious giver gives out of joyous, continuous, and systematic giving. And that is why Paul said, "Those hilarious givers have special place in God's heart". I already told you that God loves his creation. He loves humanity. But then he has a deeper love for those who are his children. In John 16:27 here's what Jesus said: "The Father himself loves you," that's the special love he has for his children, "because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God".
So he loves humanity, he loves his own in a deeper level, much deeper level. But then he loves the hilarious giver. He has a laser-focus. He has a unique responsive love for those individuals who imitate him. Because he is a hilarious giver. He's a generous giver. He does not give out of compulsion. He gives out of love. And therefore, the hilarious giver's imitating God. God is the most generous of all. God is the most hilarious giver of all. God is the most joyous giver of all. And that is why he showers them generously with deep affection and appreciation. I know this is mind-boggling. We know how much it means to us for those who are dear and near to our hearts appreciate us. It means a whole lot more just a perfunctory thanks by a stranger for whom we've done something. It means a whole lot more.
So I want you to imagine with me what it really means to you that God himself, the creator of heaven and earth, the God of power and might, expressing deep appreciation for you. I wanna tell you, for me, there is nothing sweeter and more uplifting along the journey than the Almighty God appreciating you because you are effusive in your giving back to him. God has a soft spot for the hilarious givers. Secondly, God blesses the hilarious giver. Look at verse 8: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in everything". Let's do that again. "And God is able to make," what? "Abound to you, so that," then? "At". "Having". "Everything". Everything.
When God says in his Word, "all," he means one thing: all. All. Here's something you know, I know this. It is possible to give without loving. Am I right? It's possible to give without necessarily loving. You might not even know the person. But you cannot love without giving. You cannot tell me you love someone without giving. But when God wanted to show his love to us, he gave. And he gave everything. It's only in heaven that we'll understand the unity between the Father and the Son and what it means for the Father to give his Son. But if you say, "I love God, ooh, I love God," and you give him diddly squat, or the crumbs that are falling off your table, what kind of love is that?
Question: why does God want to bless the hilarious giver? He really does. It's from cover to cover in the Scripture. Because it is the evidence of you loving him and that you are trusting him, that he who has provided for you this year is gonna provide for you next year and for the rest of your life. And that's what David said: "I've been young, now I'm old. I've never seen the righteous forsaken nor his children begging for bread".
Many of you know my testimony. I've written it in books, I've shared it from here. Even though I was ordained to the ministry, and I was not a cheerful giver, until I was challenged by the Word of God. It's the Word of God that challenged me. In fact, I was ordained to the ministry and I was living by sight and not by faith. I remember the day like yesterday, 40 years ago, when the Lord literally challenged me from his Word. Listen, I know the world does not understand living by faith. I know that. Don't expect 'em. Please, don't expect the world to understand that. They will never will. They never will.
The world would say to you, "What are you doing? You're squandering your resources. You're endangering your net worth. You are endangering your financial security. What are you doing? You will not have any money left over to meet your needs. And how do you know that God is gonna provide for you next year? We might get a recession next year". He doesn't bless you based on Wall Street. Doesn't bless you based on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, no. By giving by faith is very different from that stuff. But like when you give hilariously to God, you will have more not less. If you give God first and the first fruit, you will have more left over, not less. Because God loves a hilarious giver, he will make all grace abounds to you.
God loves and blesses and deeply appreciate those who are like him, hilarious givers. Those who believe with all of their heart that with God nothing is impossible, that all things are possible with God. We sow, God stretches that money. He stretches that money. I've not only lived it but I see it in the lives of so many of my friends who are practicing it. Again and again, God replenishes over, over and above. I'm talking about health blessings. I'm talking about prayer blessings, answered prayer. I'm talking about ministry blessings. This is the world of faith living, not sight living. And I challenge you, every one of you, young or old, start entering into faith living today, amen?
God has a soft spot for the hilarious giver. God loves to bless the hilarious giver. Thirdly, God is glorified in the life of a hilarious giver. When others are blessed by your generosity, by being a hilarious giver, they're gonna give praise and glory to God. They will give the credit to the Lord and the Lord turns around and gives you the credit. Isn't it amazing? I'm telling you, I'm from the Middle East, I know a deal when I see one. This is a deal. Think about this. Meditate on it for a long time.
Look closely at verses 12 and 13. Our culture lavishes everything on itself. We lavish everything on ourselves. And now we have people who want the government to give them everything for nothing. Others want to grab everything from those who worked hard and give it to those who can work but refuse to work. The Bible is innocent of this type of greed and entitlement mentality. The Bible is innocent of this attitude of ingratitude. The Bible is innocent of those who have no appreciation for the grace of God. Don't miss what Paul is saying here, verses 12 and 13: Because of your generosity, the recipients of your generosity will praise God for you. Because of your generosity, people will see that the gospel is being evident in your life. Because of your service, because of your sacrifice, you have proved that you are truly saved and you're doing this out of gratitude to God.
Now, remember in the context, Paul is saying this to the Corinthians. See, Corinth was the sin city of the day. Did you get that? It was the Las Vegas of those years. It was known as sin city. And so imagine the incredible joy, the incredible thankfulness, the incredible gratitude that the poor believers in Jerusalem are experiencing when they hear that this generosity is the result of those who are saved in sin city. There are Christians in sin city? Imagine their absolute ecstasy. Imagine the prayer to God on behalf of the Corinthians. Imagine their glorifying of God for the evidence of the salvation that being brought to sin city.
God has a soft spot for the hilarious giver. God longs to abundantly bless the hilarious giver. God is glorified by the hilarious giver. Fourthly, verse 14, God will answer the prayers that are offered on behalf of the hilarious giver: "And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace of God given to you". Then Paul goes on to say: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift"! Beloved, I cannot count the number of times that people walked up to me in the Middle East, in the Far East, in Europe, in Australia, throughout this great country, and the first thing they will say to me, "You know, I pray for you and I thank God for the members of the Church of the Apostles because I know without their support you couldn't be doing what you're doing".
You see, you don't understand when people pray for us they don't even know us. God hears their prayers. "We pray for you and we thank God for the members of the Church of the Apostles". So many poor and persecuted believers around the world who have been blessed by this ministry and the ministry of this church, so many ministries around this city. Nearly 30 ministries around this city and around the country and around the world who have been girded and generously uplifted by the support of this ministry and don't tell me that God still does not answer prayer right now. According to his promises, when you cling to his promises, God will answer prayers.
If you have ever asked the question, "Well, what can a poor person over there or here or there do for me. I'm rich American," think again. Think again. Their prayers for you, their thankfulness to God for you, their gratitude to God on your behalf, is incalculable. Incalculable. You can't calculate, you don't know what's going on around you. You don't know how many times God delivered you. You don't know how many times God blessed you without you even knowing it. Some of you here today may be challenged for the first time with the Word of God. I want you to take a step of faith in taking God's promise and take him at his word. I want you to take the first step in trusting of God's provision that he who has protected you and blessed you in the past will bless you today and in the future. A step to becoming a hilarious giver. It is my challenge for every one of you today.