#59 The Positive Power of One GIFT! (12/01/03)

The Message

By Dr. Robert A. Schuller

I am very honored to be able to share with you a message this morning on the Positive Power of One GIFT! Have you ever stopped to think about how much power there is in giving ... and the positive power there is in selecting that one right gift?

Have you started your Christmas shopping? My wife and I started our shopping yesterday. Do you realize how many gifts I have to buy ... how many nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law, sisters and parents I have? Oh, the list just goes on forever ... but today I'm talking about one gift.

  The Positive Power of One Gift is ...

The gift I'm talking about is a special gift that we receive from God. It is a precious gift. It is a gift that we could never say "thank you" enough for. It is a gift that has the power to unleash the world and create freedom like we've never experienced before. It is a very generous gift that we receive from God ... a gift of everlasting life.

"Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured to you."
(Luke 6:38)

1) The Positive Power of One Gift is GENEROUS

"Give and it will be given to you ..." positive power of one gift. When we give, we also become a recipient of the gift. Our generosity is recognized and God uses that spirit ... God uses that gift and gives back to us, to the point where it is impossible to out-give God. It is a hard lesson for many people to realize, but once this lesson is learned it becomes the most powerful tool in the hands of human beings today.

I recently read a biography of Sister Antonia Brenner. In 1986 she visited an inmate at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico. I don't know if you are familiar with Tijuana, but it's quite a place. It is a different country and the prisons are quite a bit different from our prisons. She was very touched with the suffering she saw in that prison and she moved into a prison cell and lives there today, voluntarily, meeting the needs of the men and women in that prison.

Sister Antonia Brenner gave a generous gift ... a gift of a life. God gave us the gift of life also. One of the most remarkable things of that one gift and the generosity with which it is given is the fact that we have the privilege to give of our life also. Now God doesn't expect us all to go and move into prisons, to voluntarily make that kind of a sacrifice. God's requests to us are quite a bit simpler.
"Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured to you."
(Luke 6:38)

2) The Positive Power of One Gift is INSIGHTFUL

The positive power of one gift is first "generous" ... Secondly, it is insightful. It has the ability to see a need and to fill it. Sister Brenner saw a need, she gave her life and she went there. Here is a story Sister Brenner shared:

"A woman stopped by to see me after she had visited her husband in prison. I was tired and had only $15. I thought to myself, here goes my money. I knew that wasn't a good attitude. Even so I said, 'Hello Bertha, what do you want?' That was uncharitable. It was uncharitable because I knew what she wanted. 'I don't have anything to eat,' said Bertha. So I handed her $10 and just then my Lord spoke clearly to me. 'Is this the way you give away that what's mine?' said the Lord. ''I'm sorry, Lord,'' I said. Then I called to Bertha, 'I'm sorry,' I told her. 'My head was in the clouds. Tell me how are your children? How are you doing? I'm so glad you thought of me. Do come here whenever you need anything.' And I took my last $5 and I gave it to her. Then I asked the Lord, 'Now are you happy?' As I started to walk back to the prison, a man was there to see me and when I walked up to him, he said, 'I just wanted to say hello and give you a hug.' And he hugged me and put something in my hand. It was a $100 bill. As I looked at it, the Lord asked me,''Now are you happy?'"

3) The Positive Power of One Gift is FOREVER

It is impossible to out give God. God is the greatest gift of all time. He is generous. The positive power of one gift is insightful. The positive power of one gift is forever ... it's not just a fleeting moment, but the beauty of the power of giving is that giving lasts forever.

Several years ago when my son was about five years old and my daughter was seven, she went to spend a week with a friend in Seattle, Washington. Anthony was so excited to see her when she came home. He missed her. (Normally they don't get along all that well, you know, brothers and sisters!) But he went to the airport with us to pick her up. When he saw her he didn't quite know what to do. He gave her a big hug and he wanted to give her something else. He had never thought about getting a present, so he reached into his pockets and pulled out all the money he had. He gave it away without a moment's thought because he missed her and he wanted to express his love for her. "Here, Christina!" She said, "Gee, thanks!" She put the money in her pocket. The next day after the newness of her being home wore off; they started acting like normal brothers and sisters again. What does he do? Anthony comes running up to Christina, "Christina, I want my money back." Christina wouldn't give it back to him; after all, he gave it to her. "I'm sorry Anthony, you gave it to me. It's my money. You can't have it." So he comes running to his mom and dad, "Christina won't give me my money back." I said, "Well, Anthony, you gave it away. When you give something away, it's not yours anymore. You gave it to her, now it's hers."

As a child, he felt this was very unfair, but as adults we realize that when we give something away, it's not ours anymore. A gift is a forever thing. It isn't something where we hold strings ... otherwise it's not a gift anymore. A gift has no strings.

Talking about forever ... today is our wedding anniversary ... eighteen wonderful years. When I married my wife we made pledges to each other. The pledges were, "till death do us part." That's forever. Our commitment is forever. We mean those vows. We have our challenges, don't get me wrong. We have our frustrations, but we made a commitment, 'till death do us part." And yet when we look at society we see one of the greatest challenges facing the family system and the number one cause of divorce in America today is financial stress according to the most recent polls done by the George Barna Research Institute.

It appears as thought the real pledge that people make in their wedding vows isn't "till death do us part," but "till debt do us part!" That is a sad reality in our society today. The reason people have this debt mentality is because they haven't learned how to control their finances - their finances control them. It is very clear in these words of Jesus: "Give and it will be given back to you. Press down, shaken together and running over."

Press down, shaken and running over. This reminds me of a great illustration. Take a glass, fill the glass with a box of Wheaties. Then you take another glass and you crush it all down until there are no air pockets left in that glass. Then pour more Wheaties in and crunch it down some more. Pretty soon you have the entire box of Wheaties in a little glass. Keep crushing it down until it starts to flow over. Press down ... shaken together ... and running over. With what measure you give it shall be given back to you in that quantity! It is impossible to out give God. He is number one when it comes to being generous ... insightful ... and forever.

4) The Positive Power of One Gift is TRANSFORMING

I'm going to share another point regarding giving, relationships and marriage ... My wife and I do not have a 50-50 relationship. We have a 60-40 relationship. I think every marriage should have that. Most of you are agreeing with me, right? 60-40. Now here is the way it works.
I give 60 percent in my marriage and never expect more than 40 percent in return. My wife does the same thing. She gives 60 percent and never expects more than 40 percent in return. Guess what? We always get back 60-80-100 percent back. Because it's impossible to out give the positive power of one gift. It's generous ... it's insightful ... it's forever ... and it's transforming. The positive gift transforms the giver and the receiver. The two people are never the same.

When you give to your wife, your husband, your significant other ... it is never the same. And when we give to God, we receive from God and it's never the same. Our lives are transformed in ways we cannot measure.

Sister Antonia Brenner said, "deny the positive power of love within a prison, and you end up with only violent, revengeful energy." You can say that same thing about a person. Deny the positive power of love within a person and you end up with only violent, revengeful energy. And God gives us the greatest gift of all, the gift of love, the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, the gift of salvation. He is helping us become the person that God intends us to be ... the person that we've envisioned in our dreams and hopes and aspirations. We have a very generous God and all He asks us to do is to trust Him and to give.

The Bible talks about tithing. Tithing is giving 10 percent of your income. I've been tithing from the very first time I made $10. One summer I worked on my Uncle Henry's (my Dad's brother) farm and we walked the bean fields and chopped the weeds. It's hard, backbreaking work, manual labor. You walk through the bean fields with a machete and chop weeds. So after working for one week, he gave me $10 and he said, rubbing my little head, "Robert, you know you have to put $1 in the offering plate on Sunday." I scratched my head and pondered that thought, boy I worked awful hard for this $10. I said, "I've only got $10! Why do I have to give $1?" He explained, "That's a tithe. It's giving ten percent of your income to God." Since then I learned the principle of tithing and I've been doing it ever since. In fact, I've learned that it doesn't stop with tithing.

You know tithing is an Old Testament law. In the New Testament we have a new covenant with Jesus Christ, it doesn't require you to tithe anymore. Did you know that? You can give whatever you want to give. But you do need to make a pledge, a commitment. The amount is between you and God. What matters is that you give something, that you start somewhere. I've never met a man, woman, or family who had the ability to tithe before they made the commitment. But somehow when we make that commitment, God always provides the means, and always fulfills His promises.

Now with this New Testament covenant of tithing the beautiful thing about it is that it doesn't limit you to a tithe. You can give more than a tithe, "... for with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you."So I've learned that it is literally impossible to out give God. I exceed tithing and have for years. I will continue to give more and more, as much as I possibly can, as God gives me the ability.

Today I want to challenge you to pray and ask God, "Lord, what do you want me to give to You? To Your church? To Your missions?" Begin with your soul, your heart, your body and everything you are. Say, "Lord, I'm Yours. Take me as I am."

Then give to Him your talents and your gifts. If you are having financial problems today, chances are that is where you need to focus on the most and begin somewhere. Make a pledge and put God to the test.

"Give and it will be give back to you: pressed down, shaken together and running over."

O God, help us to take control of our finances instead of allowing the finances to control us so that we can take control and we can give. We can say, "Yes, Lord, here is Your ten percent." Use this O God to be able to help as many people as possible to receive Your gift, your generous insight and Your forever-transforming gift, Your Son, Jesus Christ. Now we thank you for everything. Amen.

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