If you gave a bit more of your time, effort, or money to God, did you think that maybe He would cut you some slack? Well, let me share a story about why we do not earn His favor by being good. But we can never out give Him either.
While serving as chaplain on a cruise ship to Hawaii in 1998, I discovered that my ministry would be to passengers, as well as to the crew. There were Christians on the Filipino and Indonesian crews who had worship services each Sunday after they finished work. So Easter Sunday, I held a 10 AM service for the passengers, a 10 PM service for the Filipino crew, and a 12 midnight service for the Indonesians. There were several Indonesians who had accepted the Lord as a result of the witness of their fellow Christians crew on board. They asked whether I would baptize them by immersion after the Easter service. After gaining permission from the hotel manager to use the ship’s swimming pool, we held the baptism on the top deck at 2 AM Easter Monday. It was a wonderful time of testimony by these two new Christians, with the baptism aided by waves as the ship rolled on the stormy seas.
Several days later, two separate Indonesians sent notes, thanking me for baptizing their friends. Neither knew that the other had also written. Included in each note was a $50 bill. I was reluctant to keep their gifts, as I never took honorariums for baptisms. But their generosity overwhelmed me, as it came from tips from passengers which they were saving to support their young families back home. To return their gifts would be seen as a rejection. What was I to do? Praying for wisdom, the Lord reminded me that several weeks after the cruise, my wife and I were leaving for Albania to train first generation Christians as pastors and evangelists. Albania was a very poor country with the most repressive Communist government in recent years. The Lord gave me the idea to take this money to Albania for some special project with these seminary students. I thanked the two donors for their kind generosity. I asked if it was OK to take their gifts, offer them to the Lord with thanksgiving, and use them for the needs of the students we would be training in Albania. They were both pleased with that decision.
Arriving in Albania, I shared with the Albanian Seminary Director the story of these two $50 bills from the Indonesian Christians. Could he suggest how best to use them with these students? His response was amazing. He was taking all of the students plus other young people who were part of their new city church to the Adriatic that Saturday for a beach baptism service. After that, he we could take the students to a nice restaurant in Tirana, the capitol of Albania. There was enough money to treat all 13 students to lunch. Wow! The baptism theme seemed very appropriate!
At the beach, we were surrounded with sun bathers. Several in our group led praise songs in Albanian, while the director gave a brief message. Then one by one, those being baptized were immersed in the Adriatic Sea. I had the privilege of assisting with several of these baptisms. Over 40 young people were baptized, all recent converts.
Returning to Tirana, the director took us to a Christian owned mission restaurant. Just before saying grace, I told the students that the meal was a gift for them from several young Indonesia Christians we had met in the Pacific. They were amazed and clapped in appreciation. The chicken dinner with all of the fixings was delicious. For some of the students, this was the first restaurant meal they had ever eaten. What a treat! Photos of the Albanians enjoying the meal were sent to the two Indonesian donors.
Several months later when preaching at a Presbyterian Church near Pittsburgh, PA, I told this story of the Indonesian baptism gifts blessing the Albanians. Following the service, a young man asked, “Does God still speak to people today like He did in the Bible?” I answered “Yes. but is there some reason you ask?” He replied that after I told the story of the two $50 bills, he thought the Lord had spoken to him. Reaching into his pocket, he handed me two crisp $50 bills, believing that the Lord wanted him to give them to me. The day before, an electrical storm had blown the modem on his home computer which he used for his farm work. So he brought some money he had been saving so he could buy a new modem from Radio Shack after church. It just “happened” to be two $50 bills. We prayed that the Lord would show me how He wanted me to use this new gift.
Several weeks later, a friend from church asked if I had any scholarship money available to send one of the youth staff to the prayer conference where I was speaking the following week. The church’s scholarship fund had been depleted. But she felt this young staff member really needed to attend after nearly burning out from a summer of ministry. “How much does he need?”, I asked. “$100”, she replied. I told her I would arrange to have a scholarship arranged, relating the story of the two young Indonesians, the young Albanians, the young farmer with the computer crash, and the story of the $50 bills. When the youth staff member arrived at the conference and learned how his scholarship had been provided, he was quite overwhelmed. He really knew that this was the Lord’s provision big time! The Lord had not forgotten him.
Wow! What a privilege to be a conduit through which all of these blessing flowed. But the miracle continued. On another occasion, before moving from Pittsburgh to Orlando, someone handed me two $50. bills, without even knowing the story of what had begun after the baptism on Easter Sunday morning. I took this new gift to purchase food for over 25 families living in the slums in northeast Brazil. Tears came to my eyes as I watched each family come forward to receive enough rice, beans and sugar for a month
Several years later, returning to Pittsburgh to do a funeral service for a friend, his daughter gave me a thank you note. Folded inside were two $50 bills. Again I was amazed, because she did not know the significance of this gift. I sent her a thank you note giving her the background of what her $50 bills gift meant. A short time later, a young missionary couple from Albania, whom we had met in Tirana, visited us in Orlando. They shared their work among young Gypsy girls in Kosovo, girls who were looked down upon by the local Muslim population because of their mixed race. I knew that this is where these recent $50 bills were to go. Later the couple sent photos of their work among the Gypsies. I was able to share these with my friend’s daughter to show how her gift was keeping the blessing flowing!
Then following a sermon I preached in our son-in-law’s church in April 2007, I mentioned that Ida and I were leaving in a few days for Brazil, and asked the members of the congregation if they would pray for us. A member of the congregation asked if he could have a moment with me. He reached into his pocket and handed me a $50 bill, saying “Here, take this with you and use it in Brazil”. I had not even mentioned the story of the $50 bills. “How did you just happen to have $50 and feel I should have it?” I asked. He said that just 10 minutes before, someone handed it to him because of some work he had done for that person. He believed that the Lord nudged him to give it to me.
Amazing! I knew exactly what I should do with this. We arrived several weeks later at a Brazilian village alum next to the city garbage dump. A church was ministering like a beacon of light in that dark place. I handed the $50 to the church’s Christian school director for some special needs the children might have. $50 can go a long way to bless children who have so little. She knew immediately what to do with the money. Their school youth, ages 9-14, were raising money to buy uniforms to indicate they were part of this Christian ministry. It was the only new clothing they would own. The $50 gift covered the balance needed to complete the purchase. And the encouraging thing is that the youth were the same approximate age of the two children of the man who gave me the money. He was thrilled when I showed him a photo of the group he had helped.
Believe me. I rarely see $50 bills. That is not the kind of cash I carry in my wallet. And yet to emphasize where the money was coming from, the Lord kept sending $50s. And it kept blessing children, youth, and young adults. The recipients, the givers, and I were all receiving great blessing in the process.
You really can’t out give God. Perhaps there is a spiritual law, that the more you give to Him, the more He entrust to you to use for ministry to others.
And in case you missed it, I believe God still gives nudges to people today to do His work of blessing. Have you ever sensed this in your life?
Dr. Larry Selig