The world received news on September 8, 2022, that Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom passed away at the age of 96 years old. Condolences and tributes poured in from all over the globe, celebrating the life, service, and legacy of this great lady. Though anything but perfect, she served the people of the United Kingdom and the commonwealth (and in some ways, the entire world) faithfully for 70 years. One such condolence marked her faithful service. A U.S. congressman said, the queen “represented what it means to lead with conviction, selflessness, and faith in God and in her people. She led her people with grace, showing what servant leadership means in principle and in practice”.1
What would you like to be said at your passing? It is an evocative question, isn’t it? Of course, we would all love for people to say nice and even complementary things about us, and to keep all of our failures and shortcomings buried in private friendships and family lore. But the reality is that we are a mixture of both good and bad, victories and failures, holiness and sinfulness. The good news is that in Christ we have been redeemed, given new life, and set on a course of living that demonstrates the change that has occurred in us because of the death, resurrection, and salvation of Jesus.
As Christ-followers, then, we have been called to live differently than we did before we came to know him. Instead of living in the self-serving pride of our former lives, we are now to live as sacrificial servants, being a blessing to others because we have received God’s blessings in Christ. In Matthew 23:11, Jesus makes this clear by saying, “The greatest among you will be your servant”. In other words, servant leaders live sacrificial lives for the glory of God and the good of others. In fact, Jesus said as much in John 15:13, when he proclaimed, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends”.
So, how does this directly relate to discipleship and disciple-making?
There is a key truth that we need to remember. It is simply this…
“God calls disciples to generous living because giving is part of growing.”
In his classic work, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states,
“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to his service you could not give him anything that was not in a sense his own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to his father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence [3.5 cents] to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins.”2
The classic words of Psalm 23 help us to see more clearly this call to sacrificial living, as evidenced in God’s incredible love and provision in our lives. In Psalm 23:5, David proclaims, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” As such, he provides several truths that remind us of God’s call to sacrificial living.
1. God is a generous God.
First, David says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” Psalm 23 is traditionally known as a psalm of trust or confidence in the Lord. In vs. 5, David acknowledges God as the source of all provision and recognizes his ability to provide even in the midst of a fallen world. Provision is made, or a table is prepared, by God himself. So, how and why does God provide for our needs?
a. Everything belongs to God.
God is able to provide because he is the owner of all things. There is nothing under the scope of creation that was not created, and therefore, belongs to him. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to you. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from you, and you are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.” In Psalm 24:1, David says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…”, and in Psalm 50:10, God says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
b. God is a God of love.
Ok, so God owns all things, but he is under no obligation to give any of it away, is He? Nothing that we have done compels him or merits any reward. But when we study God’s character, we see one overarching motivation for his sacrificial generosity, his love. The Apostle John says, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and “we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.”3
2. God extends his generosity to those he loves.
Second, David not only acknowledges God’s ownership of all things and his ability to provide, but also his extravagant generosity for those who believe. He says, “You anoint my head with oil…” Oil in Jewish culture was expensive and represented rejoicing and devotion. God loves to provide for his children. He loves to lavish generosity for his name’s sake and to meet us at the point of our need. His grace, or generous giving, is extreme and costly, and leads us to respond in a life of obedience, faithfulness, and generosity. James encourages believers by saying, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”4
3. God’s generosity leads us toward generous, sacrificial living.
Finally, David rejoices by saying, “…my cup overflows.” The result of experiencing God’s overwhelming and extravagant generosity in our lives is an overflow of thanksgiving to God and an intentional life of generosity toward others. Since everything belongs to God and he has chosen to give generously to us, then it only stands to reason that we are not owners of what he has given us (life, time, possessions, talents, and the gospel), but only stewards. Therefore, we are to generously steward (manage, administrate, or care for) his resources well for his glory and honor. Pastor Tim Keller says, “A lack of generosity refuses to acknowledge that your assets are not really yours, but God’s.” 5 Keller echoes the Apostle Paul, when he says in 2 Corinthians 9:11, “You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.”
Here is the bottom line. God is a generous God. He owns all things. He loves and cares for his creation. Therefore, he has entrusted life and salvation to us and given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, he calls Christ-followers to be good stewards of all that he has given us, sacrificially giving ourselves away for his glory and for the good of others, which is a sign of a growing disciple.
So, how is your stewardship? How are you handling the life God has given you? You can’t outgive God, so will you acknowledge God’s extravagant generosity in your life with thanksgiving and commit to use his resources for his glory and purposes in the world? When you do, you will demonstrate love to God and to others, and so show yourself to be his disciple (John 13:35).
This post originally appeared at: Learning to Live Sacrificially — The Bonhoeffer Project
1 Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader, United States of America House of Representatives, as quoted from https://www.denisonforum.org/daily-article/the-death-of-queen-elizabeth-ii-rainbow-buckingham-palace/, accessed on 9/9/2022.
2 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. p. 143.
3 1 John 4:8; 16 (CSB)
4 James 1:17 (CSB)
5 Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. Penguin Books, 2010, p. 91.