On Sunday, November 4th, we continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called “The Life Giving Life Project.” I shared at the South Campus and John Burke shared the following message at the McNeil campus:
“Chandana was 7 when her father contracted tuberculosis. In America, it’s a preventable and curable disease, but in Dowlaiswaram India, where people live on $1-2/day it’s deadly. With no access to antibiotics, no hospital nearby, Chandana’s father died. Her mother, with no relatives to help and no way to provide for her family, had a nervous breakdown. Chandana and her sister, Koteswari, were left to try to survive, begging on the streets. Girls like this are easy prey for pimps looking to prostitute them. Fortunately, Jaya and Lakshmi Sankar found them first (see chapter 16 in Soul Revolution). Jaya and Lakshmi started rescuing these children left on the streets, and two of them were Chandana and Koteswari. Taken in to Grace Children’s Home, Chandana and her sister were fed, clothed, educated, found faith in Christ and an incredibly loving new family. God have Chandana a dream to serve people with medical needs. All this was possible because of partnership with Kensington Church and Gateway, and because Kimberly and Robert from our South Campus started the college sponsorship, Chandana and Kotiswari got college educations and became a Pharmacist and teacher. When we helped build the hospital in Dowlaiswaram, Chandana became the Pharmacist for the hospital—providing medicines for families like hers! She and her sister care for their mother today. This is the way of Christ – life giving life.
It starts w God changing One Life, mine, yours, and as we grow together to be more like Jesus—in small groups, as running partners—we learn to trust and follow God’s lead more and more. Together like one Body made of different parts, God leads us to love and serve our neighbors.
That’s what this Life Giving Life Project is about – helping you be a blessing to your neighbors, city, and world. Unfortunately, what stops that virtuous cycle of Life Giving Life is FEAR! Fear freezes us up and holds us back. It’s time to overcome fear with faith.
We all have fears, and we all have fantasies of being fearless people. We love to imagine ourselves having no fears, or boldly facing down our fears and overcoming them. Today I want to help us face down a HUGE American fear – the fear of not having enough. God’s desire is to remove all our fears so that we can boldly love others.
In 1 Kings 17 in the Old Testament, there’s a story about a single mom facing real economic fear. She has one son, and a drought has caused such a severe economic downturn, she’s down to her last loaf of bread. She turns to her son and says, ‘I’m going to make a loaf of bread out of this last bit of flour and oil I have left, and we’re going to eat it together, but then son—unless God intervenes—we’re both gonna die’. Now this is real fear.
Near that city lived a prophet of God named Elijah. God had been taking Elijah on a faith journey of learning to trust during this whole economic recession. It’s often only in the most difficult times that we learn how to trust God. It says God impresses on Elijah: ‘go find this single mom and her son and do as I say, I’m going to teach you both to trust me and I will provide for you all’.
So Elijah goes to Zarapheth, the city the woman lives in, and he shows up at her doorstep as she’s gathering firewood to bake the last loaf of bread. Now—here’s the uncomfortable part. God tells Elijah, tell her God sent you to provide for her during the rest of the famine. He does, and she says, ‘well, you’re gonna have the house to yourself, because I’m about to bake that last loaf of bread.’ So Elijah says, go ahead and bake the last loaf for you and your son, but God says give it to me, and God will resupply for you and your son until the famine ends.
This doesn’t make sense on a purely human scale, but we’re not taking into account the God Factor. God will resupply, but He wants to teach us to trust Him first.
Elijah tells her, and she decides to trust God and believe this could just be the answer to her prayer for deliverance. It’s so counter-intuitive, and it’s all predicated on trust. She gives the last loaf to Elijah. There’s no more flour, no more oil. He starts eating, she goes back into the kitchen and the most bizzare thing—there’s more flour and oil. She bakes another loaf for her and her son. The next morning they get up, again God has resupplied…and one way or another, they have enough to eat until the famine’s over—the God Factor.
For doubters this sounds ridiculous, but for thousands and thousands of years, people with faith in God have been engaging in this risk-reward challenge of overcoming fear of not having enough and trusting God to resupply when He prompts them to give. I told you last week, this is the only place in scripture God says ‘Test me’ – test me and see if I don’t continue to supply you with all you need and more as you decide to trust me first. Jesus taught the same thing. “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving–large or small–it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” Luke 6:38 (NLT)
Now, before I explain what this means, I need to say what it doesn’t mean. Doesn’t mean God LOTTO. I am very aware that I risk sounding that way today. So let me make it exceptionally clear upfront—I am not saying give everything you have to the church so you can win the God lottery. Even though some people are not trustworthy, that doesn’t mean we can’t trust God. Throughout the scriptures are stories of how God resupplies to people who trust him. He gives back to meet their needs, and so they can invest more.
Paul said the same thing—it’s an issue of trust—do we trust God who loves us and supplies everything? Or does fear of the unknown hold us back? “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure…As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NLT)
We fear not having enough in this life. If you don’t know God, I understand that fear—it’s rational—cause your only security is money and power. Unfortunately, that too gets ripped away within 70-100 years. But if you know God, you have nothing to fear. [You know the single most repeated command of the Bible? Fear not! 366 times God says “Don’t Fear”. One for every day of the year, including leap year. Why? Because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to not trust God.]
What we should fear more than not having enough in this life, is missing out investing and working for the things that outlast this Life—the deeds that follow. God has promised to meet all your needs, and even help you feel rich in every way—cause there’s physical poverty, but also spiritual and relational poverty—he wants to help you feel rich in every way, so you can help others become rich in every way—that’s true if you have nothing financially or a lot. Sometimes those with the least physically find it easiest to trust, they end up with the most spiritually and relationally—so God can more easily work through those with little to do lots of good. That’s where those with a lot can learn a lot from those with little—God uses us to teach one another about Life and what really lasts.
And whether we have a lot or a little, to those who are trustworthy, he entrusts with the ability to do more! Trust always comes before we see God resupply.
I’ve found that every time I have an opportunity to trust God, there’s a gap between what is comfortable and what it means to trust—and that Gap either gets filled with fear or faith. Terror or Trust. Here’s what I realized—the Gap is the distance between what I can know, have control over, or feel I can retain some sort of power over, and what I sense God’s asking me to do where I really need Him to show up. The Gap is the distance between what I can accomplish without God, and what I’ll have to depend on God to do. The Gap is the distance between Comfort, and Growth. As a wise spiritual man I know once said: Your goal in life will either be comfort or growth—you can’t have both. When you stand in the Gap between comfort and growth, there’s fear that faith must overcome. If there’s no twinge of fear, there’s probably no need to trust either. If there’s fear that requires faith to overcome—that’s good, you’ll probably be able to tell a God-Factor story someday.
We have an opportunity that doesn’t come along all the time—where all of us can ban together and do together what none of us could do alone! When else will you get the opportunity to join a team of people doing something so huge that can leave a legacy of life change? What else can you give to, then get fully involved with? Where you can get involved in Life groups, Networks, serving our City, going to Haiti or India, you can talk to the leadership, see the books, be a leader yourself. Where else can you be so involved in a team effort that will impact 1000s of lives forever? Imagine it as you stand in the Gap wrestling with fear choosing faith.”
Trust exercise – eat rice and beans, bananas, or oatmeal for at least 2 days this week (or more) in solidarity with our friends in Haiti and India. Pray for them throughout this week.
To listen or watch the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.