Growing up, if you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life, pastoring wouldn’t have made the list.
If anything, at that time in my life — you’ll have to forgive me for what was then an overly cynical outlook — my idea of pastoring entailed marrying a woman with crazy 80’s hair, having seven children, living miserably poor, and all the while being forced into a fashionless future of plaid shirts and khaki pants.
Not exactly the stuff of legends.
For me, church was something I endured more than I enjoyed; I went because my parents dragged me there every Sunday, and quite frankly, saying “no” wasn’t really an option.
I mean, have you met my mother?
In fact, I had high hopes of becoming a rockstar, but as you can see, I have since embraced the words of Justin Bieber: “never say never.” Now with over 10 years of ministry under my belt, you might be wondering: what changed?
Simply put, grace.
I’ll never forget the day I grasped the grace of God.
In a moment, everything I had come to believe about God was turned upside down. I began to understand the depth of God’s love for me. I realized that He loved me not because of what I did or didn’t do, but because of what Jesus had done on my behalf.
I felt like I could breathe for the first time as I stepped out from under the weight of religion and its rules and understood what it was to have a real life-giving relationship with God.
No longer did I see serving as something I had to do to please God. I realized I didn’t have to do anything — go to church, pray, read my Bible, or give up my Friday nights to marathon Monopoly matches — I could just be me. God wasn’t looking at any of it as criteria for whether I was “in” or “out.”
As a result, everything changed. In that moment, not needing to do any of it, I surprisingly found myself wanting to do all of it. I suppose that’s what’s so powerful about the nature of God’s scandalous grace.
God, through His grace, began to work in me “both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.” (Phil 2:13 CEB)
God’s grace had won me over.
All I wanted to do was give myself entirely to Him. Clearly, in light of His mercies this was my only “reasonable service.” (Rom 12:1)
It’s like the churches in Macedonia that encountered the grace of God:
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. (2 Cor 8)
Just look at how grace shaped their giving:
- They rediscovered the joy of generosity
Vs2: “their overflowing joy […] welled up in rich generosity.”
- They gave in defiance of their circumstances
Vs2: “In the midst of a very severe trial, [they gave] in rich generosity.”
- They gave beyond their means and ability
Vs3: “I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
- They gave on their own initiative
Vs3–4: “Entirely on their own, [they asked to share] in this service to the Lord’s people.”
- They began to see giving as a privilege worth pleading for
Vs4: “they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.”
I mean, it’s every pastor’s dream!
If only more people could grab hold of this concept of grace-based giving. Maybe that’s why Paul, in light of the Macedonians’ generosity, wrote so boldly to the Corinthian church encouraging them that they too should excel in this “grace of giving.” (2 Cor. 8:7)
Grace appeals to a spirit of generosity in people, and motivates their giving on the grounds of love, not law.
If God gets your heart, He will inevitably get your hands, because while it is possible to give and not love, it’s impossible to love and not give.