Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.
– Charles Spurgeon
One of my personal goals is to stay in shape physically, and over the years I’ve tried several workout routines. But I will never forget when my son asked me to try a program called Insanity.
It’s a workout where you perform long bursts of maximum-intensity exercises with short periods of rest. The idea is to keep you constantly challenged as you alternate between aerobic and anaerobic intervals, giving it your maximum effort. “Dad, they say you can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour doing this,” my son told me. You are supposed to have an insane body in 60 days! The object of this intense program is to strengthen your core muscles as never before.
I watched my son and a couple of his friends try it only to give up about half way through. I thought, “You wimps. This is pretty easy stuff.” Later it was my turn. As part of the test, you write down how many reps of each exercise you can do. What I believed was a piece of cake was anything but! Before long I found myself short of breath, light headed, and nauseated. Concerned, my wife, Cynthia, asked, “Honey, what’s wrong?” “I’m about to throw up,” I told her. The next day I was feeling a little better until somebody patted me on the back and I winced, “Oh, careful. That’s a little tender.”
I quickly learned that my “core” was definitely out of shape. These are the muscles you can’t see because they are buried underneath other muscles. But your core is what stabilizes your spine, ribs, pelvis, and shoulders to provide a solid foundation for movement. It’s what gives you good posture and transfers energy from one part of your body to another.
In my early days I worked for United Parcel Service and in the course of my job I hurt my back. They sent me to a spine specialist who had me work on my stomach muscles because that’s what takes pressure off your back.
When your core is strong you are far less susceptible to injuries. In fact, it is what enables you to stand.
If possessing a generous spirit is at the core of our being, we won’t be hurt so often or offended as much. We will be able to forgive and let go of things.
It’s Worth the Effort
I am not alone. Most of us struggle with exercise, but when it’s time for God to get you into spiritual shape, it’s going to affect you in surprising ways. It will be strenuous on your system and you’ll feel a little sore at times, but I can guarantee it will be well worth the effort.
A generous spirit must be at the center of your being—and needs to be exercised daily.
Generosity does not happen randomly. If it is not in you it will not come out of you. God does not just have generosity, He is generosity.
Let me share this powerful verse of scripture found in the Old Testament: “A generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand” (Isaiah 32:8).
To put it as simply as I know how, people who are givers plan on being that way.
In the original Hebrew, generous is defined as being of “noble birth”and possessing noble character. Such a person is generous in overlooking injury or insult, rising above pettiness or meanness. It also indicates a willingness to give, share, or to bestow favor.
Let’s look closer at each of these meanings:
- Noble birth. As we will discuss later in this chapter, as the result of a born again experience, you are adopted into God’s royal family. Since He is generous, you will be too.
- Overlooking injury or insult. You disregard what others may do to harm you, emotionally, verbally, or physically.
- Rising above pettiness. You learn to ignore those who have a tendency to make far too much of small matters.
- Dismissing meanness. A “mean” person is far more than stingy or spiteful. Meanness includes all forms of dishonesty.
- A willingness to give and share. When you have a generous core, you find it natural to serve others rather than self.
- To bestow favor. You show kindness and love—whether the person deserves it or not.
A New Creation
A noble birth is not to be taken lightly. It places an individual above the common man and carries a distinction of honesty and integrity.
You may ask, “If we are born in sin and are carnal by our very nature, how is it possible that our character can be transformed?”
This happens when we experience the new birth the Bible speaks of. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Priveleges of Nobility
God demonstrated the greatest act of generosity the world has ever known when He gave His Son to become the sacrifice for our sin. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
When you are born again, you are given a new ancestry, or noble birth, from God. As a result, we become disposed to do things His way.
Before receiving salvation we have a tendency to do things in a certain manner—because of how we were raised, our experiences, and the choices we make. However, when we receive Jesus, our old disposition is gone and replaced with one that is brand new.
Now we have a desire to do the things of God instead of things of the flesh. Our character and personality are transformed to be more like the Savior’s.
However, if we hold onto our old disposition and decide not to accept our new ancestry, we remain in our common birth instead of living in our new noble birth.
I have marvelous news for you. Even if you were raised in a family with a myriad of problems and dysfunctions, the past can be buried. No longer are you able to blame the way you were raised, the color of your skin, or the abuse you endured. Now you are of noble birth and no more a victim of circumstances —unless you decide to stay one.
As a believer you can claim your “noble birth.”
We are elevated to the ranks of prince and princess in God’s family.
Because of salvation your limitations are behind you and you possess all the rights and privileges of nobility—including a generous spirit. Your new Father is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His giving spirit is now an attribute of your character.
Instead of being a victim, you are now a victor. You’ve exchanged being stingy for being successful.
Remember, the stingy or greedy person is closefisted, covets, and only shares reluctantly. It is an individual who is focused on his or her, wants, needs, hopes, and desires.
Since you are a new person in Christ, don’t allow the habits and patterns of the past to drag you down. Shed any self-serving thinking and become the servant God expects you to be.
Your very core has been transformed. You now have the ability to overlook injury or insult—to rise above pettiness. No longer do you retaliate when someone offends you. Why, because you have the virtue and character that allows you to rise above unreasonable people. You practice forgiveness and shower them with favor and blessing.
It makes no difference what kind of family you were born into—even if it was poverty-stricken. That’s the natural side of life. However, there is a reason Jesus said, “You must be born again.” He wants you to have a totally new life—as a child of the King.
With a new, noble birth, your entire DNA has been changed. Your past circumstances no longer matter because you have been given the privileges of nobility. God, who is generous, has bestowed divine favor on you and there are absolutely no limitations to your future.
A generous spirit will cause you to stand when others stumble and fall. Look again at Isaiah 32:8: “A generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.”
A generous core will allow you to stand against whatever the enemy—or life—throws at you.
In our society there is a growing trend to honor talent and ability over integrity and character. But I am convinced that the person who makes a commitment to possess a generous spirit will stand head and shoulders above the crowd.
Remember, you are known by the qualities you demonstrate:
- If you are always bragging, you will have the reputation of being conceited.
- If you are lazy, you will be known as careless.
- If you keep your word, you will be acknowledged for being trustworthy.
- If you are a giver you will be known as kindhearted and generous. Not only are those who truly serve others honored and esteemed on earth, more important, the Lord is also watching. Scripture tells us, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).
You’ll Be Changed
Some believers have attended church all their lives, listened to countless sermons, and still don’t understand what it means to have a spirit of generosity. They’ve been so indoctrinated by the surrounding culture that they continue in their selfish ways.
When this God-given virtue takes charge of your actions you will suddenly find yourself saying, “I’m going to begin showing favor, even when it is isn’t deserved.”
At this point you will know that your generous core has stabilized your life.
As a result, your world continues to become larger. You will even find yourself opening the door of your heart and allowing certain individuals back into your life that you may have shut out for one reason or another.
A heavy burden is lifted when you let the Lord help you erase the list of slights, wrongs, or grievances you’ve suffered in the past.
No More Revenge
A heart that is truly giving in nature doesn’t understand retribution or revenge.
In the movies, people actually applaud and cheer vengeance and violence. But such reactions should be left to fiction. In real life, retaliation will eat you alive and destroy you.
There is a much better way to live. In the words of King Solomon, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22 NIV).
Leave vengeance to the Lord—He will take care of the matter far better than we can (Romans 12:19).
Always remember, “Love…is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (I Corinthians 13:5 NIV).
Covetousness has its own reward—it will definitely inflict punishment and pain.
Are Your Actions Self-Serving?
Some people are only generous to impress others—or perhaps to ease their conscience and make themselves feel good. Let me explain.
You may have an alcoholic or a drug addict in your family and you keep giving them money and support to keep them off the streets. To me, this enabling stems from a stingy spirit rather than a generous one. I say this because a self-serving attitude wants to do what is best for “me.” It’s my feelings that seem to be important, not the person who may desperately need help. I want to feel better, so I give.
As well intentioned as your actions may be, have you ever considered that you could help a person more by allowing them to hit rock bottom and come to their senses—to let God deal with their sin?
Many parents are afraid of being rejected by their children—even though their kids are destroying Mom and Dad’s life.
If a child moves out of the house and chooses to live an unhealthy, ungodly life, your constant support only encourages them to continue in the wrong direction.
You can talk about how much you love someone, but examine your heart.
Are your actions self-serving? Is it all about your feelings, or theirs?
You say, “But I love them so much.”
Doing what’s best for them may include allowing a loved one to reap the consequences of their behavior. Then, when they are tired of their failures, they will wake up and admit, “I need help.” This is when you can truly be God’s hand extended.
Sure you love the person, but be careful of always allowing your heart to rule your head.
When we fail to understand generosity we will operate in stinginess and greed.
I am not unfamiliar with this topic. My oldest brother was an alcoholic and did heroin, but when we stopped enabling him there was a total turnaround. Now, more than two decades later, he is still free from alcohol and drug addiction.
“What are You Doing?”
Recently, I experienced a feeling that went against everything in me. An individual did something I considered very hurtful and my emotions took over.
I was ready to physically fight.
Yes, I am a preacher, but I’m still human, and my feelings almost got the best of me. Then, in an instant, God gave me a thought. “Steve, what are you doing? You need to practice what you preach.” I thought once more about the scripture, ”A generous man devises generous things” (Isaiah 32:8).
At that point I knew it was time to discard every thought of what had taken place. I began to plan in my mind how I was going to be gracious to this person—even though it wasn’t deserved. And that’s what I did!Then I decided to be generous—being of noble birth and possessing noble character, overlooking injury or insult, rising above pettiness or meanness, willing to give, share, and to bestow favor.
I thought, “I am going to be generous with this person who had hurt me and my family deeply.” My emotions wanted to physically hurt him, but I had just taught that the world of the generous gets larger and larger, and the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. So I decided to practice generosity; and things have gotten better. When I think about this person it is no longer the thought, “I will show him.” It’s about making sure my life, my world, becomes larger and larger.
Strengthen Your Core
Take it from a person who knows. Begin today to sow seeds of encouragement in others. If you can help someone with a kind word or deed, pass it on.
Never fall back on the excuse, “Well, they didn’t help me.”
When you go to work, instead of finding fault with your boss or co-workers, look for a reason to pay a compliment. At the grocery store, offer a cheerful word and a friendly smile to the checkout clerk. At home, take every opportunity to give a hug to those you love.
Remember, just as you strengthen your core physical muscles by exercise, you stabilize and balance your life by developing a core of generosity. Then you put it into practice every day. Generosity must be at the very essence of your being.
Without a “giving” spirit you become weak and ineffective—and it will affect every aspect of your life, including your career, your personal relationships and your walk with the Lord. We have to answer to God for the truth He has placed in our hearts. Every act of kindness will strengthen and bolster our generous core.