The Generosity of God
The Generosity of God
Generosity is a beautiful characteristic in people. We love and admire generosity. My mother used to urge us as children: ‘Always be generous.’
How do we think of God? Do we think of him as a little bit mean or tight-fisted? Or do we think of him as extraordinarily generous?
God’s generosity is seen in the natural world. For example, there are 25,000 varieties of orchids. The orchid is just one of 270,000 species of flowers. God does not do things by halves. In our galaxy there are 100,000 million stars, like our sun. Our galaxy is one of 100,000 million galaxies. In a throw-away line in Genesis, the writer tells us, ‘He also made the stars’ (Genesis 1:16).
God is so generous and he ‘gives generously to all’ (James 1:5). In the passages for today we see different aspects of his extraordinary generosity.
1. Drink from his generous river of delightsPsalm 36:1-12
David was surrounded by people with ‘no regard for God’ and who were ‘eager to sin’ (v.1, MSG). They were ‘wicked and deceitful’ (v.3a) and constantly plotting evil (v.4a). In the middle of all this David knew God (v.10) and drank from his ‘river of delights’ (v.8b). These delights (vv.5–6, MSG) include:
- God’s love is meteoric
God’s love ‘reaches to the heavens’ (v.5a)
- God’s faithfulness is astronomic
His faithfulness reaches ‘to the skies’ (v.5b)
- God’s purpose is titanic
His righteousness is ‘like the highest mountains’ (v.6a)
- God’s justice is oceanic
His justice is ‘like the great deep’ (v.6b)
We can find ‘refuge’ in the shadow of his wings (v.7b). We can ‘feast’ in the abundance of his house (v.8a). The ‘fountain of life’ is found in him (v.9a). In his light ‘we see light’ (v.9b).
These are some of the delights which he generously gives us in our relationship with him.
Lord, thank you that you invite us to feast in the abundance of your house and to drink from your river of delights. Thank you that your love is meteoric, your faithfulness is astronomic, your purpose is titanic and your justice is oceanic. How priceless is your unfailing love!
Lord, I pray with the psalmist that you would continue to pour out your love on us, on the church, on your people. Thank you that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). Please continue to pour out your Spirit generously on your people.
2. Receive a generous outpouring of his Holy SpiritLuke 4:14-37
Jesus returned to Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit’ (v.14a). He went into the synagogue at Nazareth and revealed his manifesto. Reading from Isaiah 61 he said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (vv.18–19). He announced, ‘You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place’ (v.21, MSG).
This is the same Holy Spirit ‘whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour’ (Titus 3:6). In today’s passage we see in the life of Jesus some of the results of the generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit that are potentially available to all who follow him:
- Anointing of the Spirit
The name ‘Christian’ means ‘anointed’. ‘He anointed us … and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit’ (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). Theophilus of Antioch wrote ‘We are called Christians (christianoi) because we have been anointed (chrisometha) with the oil of God’.
The Holy Spirit anoints us to ‘proclaim good news to the poor … proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’ (Luke 4:18). There is nothing more exciting or fulfilling than ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Gracious words
People were ‘amazed at the gracious words’ that came from the lips of Jesus (v.22). Love is never rude (1 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus was always gracious. Gracious words are evidence of the power of the Spirit.
- Amazing teaching
‘They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority’ (Luke 4:32). ‘His teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to’ (v.32, MSG). Authority comes from the power of the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, teaching is mere words.
- Authority and power
Through the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus dealt with demonic powers (vv.33–35). Again, ‘All the people were amazed’ (v.36). Because ‘with authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!’ (v.36).
- Praise and fury
Ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit provokes two opposite reactions – praise and fury. In verse 15 we read that Jesus ‘was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him’. Then a few verses on we read, ‘All the people in the synagogue were furious’ (v.28). Today, the same is true. The message of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit produce both praise and fury.
Thank you, Lord, that the same Holy Spirit who filled Jesus and anointed him now fills and anoints us. Lord, I pray today that you will anoint me with the power of your Holy Spirit to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed. Help me to speak gracious words with the authority that comes from you. Help us not to be discouraged when some are ‘furious’ (v.28) when they hear what is happening in the church.
3. Enjoy God’s generous provisionNumbers 13:26-14:45
God was so generous to his people. He had provided them with ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (14:8 compare 13:27). Joshua and Caleb reported that ‘the land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us’ (14:7–8).
God is exceedingly generous to his people. Some things are stored up for the future when we will be face-to-face with him (see Ephesians 1:13–14; Hebrews 4:8–11; 1 Peter 1:4–5), but there is much that God gives to his people here on earth now. In order to enjoy all God’s generosity there are certain things we are required to do:
- Take possession
Caleb said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it’ (Numbers 13.30b). But others objected, ‘They’re way stronger than we are. They spread scary rumours’ (vv.31–32, MSG). There is always going to be opposition but we must not be put off by the giants.
‘80 percent of the people said they were not able to defeat the giants, and only 20 percent believed God was greater than the problem’, points out Joyce Meyer. ‘Sadly, we often stare at our giant-sized problems instead of at our God ... I believe that more time spent worshipping and praising God would help us keep a clear focus and enable us to go forward with a strong, positive attitude, believing we can do anything God tells us to do.’
- Believe God’s promises
The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will they refuse to believe in me?’ (14:11). The people of God started grumbling against their leaders and saying, ‘Why didn’t we die in Egypt? ... Let’s pick a new leader; let’s head back to Egypt’ (vv.2–4, MSG). In the face of opposition and a few problems, the people of God are sometimes tempted to return to their old lives – thinking that they were better off before they started following Jesus. This is a temptation to be avoided at all costs.
- Watch for his guidance
God is so kind and generous to us. He promises to go before us ‘in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night’ (v.14). If we want to enjoy all the good things God has for us we have to keep our eyes fixed on his guidance.
- Follow him passionately
The majority were put off by the giants. Only Joshua and Caleb were different. ‘Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (v.24). In the end, only those who followed the Lord ‘passionately’ (v.24, MSG) enjoyed the land flowing with milk and honey.
Lord, we thank you for your amazing generosity and all the good things you have in store for your people. Help us to take possession of all the gifts that you have for us, to believe your promises, to follow your guidance and, like Joshua and Caleb, to follow you wholeheartedly.
It is not good to be half-committed to God or to grumble or disobey him. The people of God missed out on so much. (I am feeling rather guilty about being fussy!)
But God rewards faithfulness to him. ‘My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (v.24).