#9 The Joy of Giving! (26/01/02)

The Message

By Dr. Robert H. Schuller

All of you should be very happy today because you've received so many gifts. It's fantastic. Stop and think what you've received. Freely you have received, Jesus said. Freely you've received. Just stop and think in this century alone. In 1912 Americans had no Federal Reserve. How's that grab you? No investment counselors; no mutual funds; no vitamin tablets; no refrigerators. I'll get your attention: no, no television, no transistors, no lasers, no nuclear energy, no computers, no "www's." Who could have imagined what changes we would experience and see in our century alone? Jesus said, "Greater works than I do shall you do." Wow!

In 1912, Emil von Vehring produced an effective immunization against diphtheria and tetanus. In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best isolated the hormone insulin. 1928, Fleming discovered penicillin. In 1929 Hans Berger developed the encephalograph. Wow! The list goes on. Wow! Jonas Salk, I knew him. I knew the guy. 1954, he developed the first effective polio vaccine. In 1967 Christian Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant. Wow! The list goes on and on and on. And all of us alive today, sitting in this place, listening to the sound of this voice, are beneficiaries of lives that were passionate, possibility focused, inventive, creative, and we are living longer lives today because of what's been given to us, given to us. "Freely you have received," Jesus said, "freely give." So, we are happier people today, more joyous, because we are the recipients of gifts, but now understand this, you have something to give. Maybe you know what it is. And maybe you've not discovered it. Maybe you've put yourself down insignificantly but guess where you are? You are in a place that's called a church, the Crystal Cathedral. And if you're watching this on television in Vietnam or Russia or I don't know where, for God only knows who you are, where you are, by listening, tuning in, you are emotionally joining us, with millions of others in a place called a church. And what is our message? Our message is that everybody has something to give that's worth a lot. Everybody has something they can lay on the table. What do you have to lay on the table?

Frank Freed who headed our counseling ministry and heads it yet today, had a wonderful idea. He and Evelyn wanted to give a gift of a "smiling Jesus" and so they commissioned the sculptor who prepared the Smiling Jesus and you've all seen it. It's larger than life, it's bronze and it captures the story of the Bible with two little children that come and this one child has five loaves and two fishes and Jesus needs to feed the people and the child offers them to Jesus. Strange, miraculous, astonishing. The child was willing to be so generous and he gave all that he had. And then, another wonderful friend of this ministry gave us a beautiful sculpture by Mehri Danielpour who did the Shaw of Iran and his family, a wonderful artist from Iran capturing the "Widow's Mite." Here's the widow who gave everything she had, two coins and that bronze statue is here at the front entrance of this church. It's beautiful. Genuine antique mites are in her hand. She's giving all that she had. The boy gave all that he had, the fish and so intrinsic, systemic in the Christian faith and life is this principle of giving, giving, giving. And it produces so much joy in the giver and I want to analyze why is it. Why does giving make people so happy? You can't find a religion in the world. It's true. You can't find any religion in the world that generates so much energy in what could only be psychologically described as levels and levels of joy like the Christian faith. I know the faiths. I respect them all, but there is no faith that generates joy like Christianity. Why not? Because you tap into the mathematics of Jesus. What does this mean? He adds power, he adds friends, he adds faith and he adds a lot of what you call lucky breaks.

He subtracts weaknesses, shortfalls, limitations, and you get by with so much less. So much better than others with more, don't have. He adds, he subtracts, he divides the difficulties, the problems, the pains, and others pick up part of it. He adds, subtracts, divides, he multiplies the possibilities, even the possibilities that come out of your pain.

Yes, giving is at the heart of our faith. It was at the heart of the philosophy of Jesus. He was a giver, giver, giver, not a getter, getter, getter. And there are two basic kinds of people, the givers and the getters.

In Matthew 10, verse 8, Jesus issued a profound sentence that I've never preached on before. "Freely," he said, "you have received."

Oh. Now, he said, "Freely give." If you want the joy of living, know how to receive, but then know how to give. "Freely," he said, "you have received."

What does that mean? There isn't a single person in this room who asked to be born. You didn't pick out your father, your mother. You didn't pick out the genes and the chromosomes. You were given the gift of life. The most precious gift God could give, he gave to everybody. Life. Wow.

We've got to stop and think what have we received so freely. You didn't ask to be born and you were born in this time in this century. You can have health care, longer life, like you never believed. Freely you have received. Now freely give.

You'll begin to experience the joy that passes all expectations. Joy produces... the joy of giving produces greater pleasure than any of the other joys. I tried to analyze it from a psychological and philosophical and theological perspective. I made some notes. What does giving do to you?

First of all you are tapping into memories that have been lying there untouched. When you present a gift to a person or to an institution or to God or to Jesus or to this church, you are recalling, recollecting, remembering something wonderful and beautiful that has happened or is happening. And to an overwhelming degree an average day is made up of moods that have been shaped by memories. And if you want to tap into subconscious memories that you haven't recalled, buy a gift for someone or for something.

Number two. You tap into that emotional energy called Thanksgiving. It's impossible to be thankful and not experience some joy.

Third, you move into the realm of what we call positive fantasizing. The human brain is created so that we have the capacity to imagine, which is a form of fantasizing. Enthusiastic imagination. Oh. And when you are presenting the gift you think, oh what is that going to do? How is it going to help? That generates joy. The joy of giving generates generosity in personality and character. Every body has a reputation and so do you. It may be a reputation for generosity and it may be a reputation for something quite the opposite. Ultimately what do people think of you? All of the funerals I've had, the one that I can still can't get over, he was a well known man in Orange County, very successful, made a lot of money in the stock market and that was no secret. He died suddenly of a heart attack and I had his funeral. And I got there, no one else had arrived, and I waited and it came time and nobody was there and the mortician said to me, "Well, let's go." I said, "Nobody's here." I mean nobody. Not one person in that chapel. Peak Mortuary Chapel, it was called. I said, "He's got three sons. They all live here."

He said, "I know, but let me tell you something, Schuller, one of the sons called and ordered the funeral. Another one said 'we bought a plot for him, it's in Fairhaven Cemetery.' They said, 'we'll take care of the expenses, don't worry, but we're not coming. When we were alive he never had time for us.'" Period.

Nobody came to the funeral. He had money. He had power. He had a name. And he had a reputation.

Oh. The joy of giving is you generate generosity. You become known as a very generous, caring, philanthropic, wonderful person and you don't give just to your church. Hopefully you give your tithe, the full ten percent where you go to church, but you give more than that. You maybe give 15 - 20 percent and you remember other great causes.

And if you're a generous person you're surrounded by generous people. You have no idea how that will change your life.

Oh, you see in the process you are honoring people when you give them a gift. You're honoring this church or this institution when you bring your tithes and offerings. But in the process you Freudian slip and honor yourself. And you'll end up with self-esteem and pride.

Wow. Why does giving generate such joy? I think one of the last things I want to say is you'll learn through it all. Win-win. Enough is enough.

Have you learned that? I know lots of people that haven't. I feel so sorry for people who are not poor, they are rich and some are very rich and some are super-super wealthy. They've never learned when enough is enough. You can't eat it, you'll get fat. You can't sleep it. You can't wear it all. You can't go every place you want to and you can't take it with you and all around you in your life there are people that are hurting, that are hungry. There are people that are lost and wanting to commit suicide and there are ministries that are trying to save these lost souls and they need help.

O God, the joy of giving is knowing that you are making a difference where you are, where it really counts, and you're not doing it for honor or fame. You're doing it because you're driven by a passion and passion is spelled C-H-R-I-S-T. Christ makes the difference. Freely you have received so much, freely now, give.

I don't know her, but her story has been made famous in America. Joyce Roach, if I pronounced the name right, coordinator of organ donations of the Indiana Organ Procurement organization. Get that. That's very important. Knows a lot about organ transplants. Read in the story in the paper about a kid in Minnesota, 13 years old, that is going to die unless he got a kidney and there was no kidney for him. And then the thought struck her, well I've got two. I can give him one of mine. She's one of the first persons ever to think of donating a kidney to a total stranger in another state. And his family couldn't believe it. Well, everything happened. It was all carried out. And she said, "I just feel that I'm doing what Jesus teaches. That is give yourself, give yourself and you'll receive more than you can ever hope for."

That's what drove her. Jesus Christ. Oh and the surgery was finished, the media was there, everybody was there and she came out and she met the young boy. And she had tears in her eyes as he smiled at her and gave her a special gift. It said, "To my other mom."

The wrap up of the story I read in the paper said she quotes..she's quoted saying, "The greatest blessing for me is that for a moment in time I got to see God's purpose for me. That for me has been a miracle."

Wow. The joy of giving .. it never stops, because you know your gift is never spent. It's the seed that continues to bear fruit.

Lord we're making a difference in the world. Make us joyful givers. Amen.

Now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you peace. Amen.

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