"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, December 17, 2010

Raising The Standard: Generosity Is Giving A Gift Which Requires Personal Sacrifice

"... Nether will I offer ... unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." ~ 2 Samuel 24-24
From The Pages Of Scripture:
The value of a gift is not measured by the amount of money which it cost but by the thoughtful effort that was involved in giving it. Many husbands and fathers forget this and are then disappointed when a wife or a child does not fully appreciate money or an expensive item given hastily without much forethought. Those who receive gifts look for evidence of personal sacrifice because it assures them that the gift truly represents the devotion of the person who gave it. In the same way God evaluates our gifts to Him. Scripture records the special honor that he gave to a godly widow whose gift represented such personal sacrifice.
Jesus condemned the hypocrites who loudly proclaimed their sacrificial gifts to God. Years earlier a godly women quietly demonstrated the true spirit of giving. She devoted her life to the Lord and was rewarded with greater spiritual perception than the religious leaders around her. Who was she? Anna.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Generosity In Giving A Gift Which Requires Personal Sacrifice?
This girl's childhood was spent in a time of political turbulence and national warfare. The news of the day was dim and often ugly. Against the background of a corrupt and violent political scene, her life stands out in sharp contrast. This girl lived by God's standards and radiated the inward beauty of righteousness. Before long her vivacious spirit attracted the attention of a young man. His love for her grew, and one day he approached her father for permission to marry her. Their wedding followed the customs of the time, and for the next seven years they enjoyed a happy marriage. Then this radiant young wife, experienced the shock and sadness of her husband's death. The loss of her husband drew her closer to God, and she discovered a depth of fellowship with the Lord that she had never known before. She delighted in God's presence to such an extent that "she departed not from the temple but served God with fastings and prayer night and day." The result was an amazing increase in her spiritual alertness as well as a continuation of her vivacious youthfulness. Her concern for the pitiable condition of her own people grew with each political crisis. One day news of an approaching enemy army brought panic to the city. After three months of fierce fighting, the invading army conquered the city. This marked the beginning of the strict Roman rule over her people. Taxation and oppression increased. There was no hope of human help in sight. As a result, many in the nation began to follow the example of this godly woman. With a new surge of interest they studied the Scriptures and looked for signs of the long awaited Messiah. One day a young couple entered the temple. They had come to fulfill the requirements of the law for the firstborn son. This son was Jesus the Messiah. He was unnoticed on that day by the religious leaders. Only two people were given the spiritual discernment to recognize Him as the eternal Son of God. One was Simeon, a just and devout man. The other was Anna, this radiant and godly widow. When she saw Him, she rejoiced in her spirit and praised God for the gift of His Son. Anna was over one hundred years old. For eighty four years this godly widow had set aside personal gain to concentrate on serving the Lord and those around her. God honored her faithful giving by allowing her to be one of the very few who recognized the Messiah and received the foretaste of the hope and reward of every Christian --- seeing her Savior face to face. [From Luke 2:21-38]
What Personal Sacrifice Did Anna Make In Order To Serve The Lord?
The only thing worse for a Jewish woman than being a widow was to be childless (cf 1 Samuel 1:2-10). Since Anna spent all of her time in the temple after her husband died, we must assume that she had no responsibility as a mother. As a young widow, Anna could have turned from the Lord in bitterness. She could have agonized over her loss and desperately tried to find another husband (cf. Romans 7:2), but she responded differently. She went to the Lord to find joy, strength, and to have Him meet her needs. The apostle Paul stated the benefits which could result for a childless widow if she responded properly. "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (1 Corinthians 7:34) Anna had experienced the wonderful joys of human love for seven years; now she was privileged to experience the matchless joys of an intimate relationship with the Lord for over eighty four years. And Anna "gave thanks likewise unto the Lord." (Luke 2:38)
How Did Anna Keep From Becoming A Busybody
? Paul instructed Timothy regarding widows: "But the younger widows refuse; for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry, having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And, withal, they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (1 Timothy 5:11-13) Paul realized that young and lonely widows who are engaged in the work of the local church may have mixed motives. One motive is to help and counsel others; another may be to have others meet their needs of friendship and acceptance. Some, however, had no message to give. As a result, they listened to gossip and spread it to others, doing more harm than good. Anna chose to seek the Lord for fellowship and acceptance. She learned His secrets. After eighty four years, the Lord gave her a message worth sharing,. And she "spoke of him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38)
How Is Anna An Example To Us Of Giving Through Service?
First, she is an example to unmarried believers that the Lord can meet their deepest social needs. Second, she is an example to widows. The Scriptural instruction to "Honor widows that are widows indeed," certainly applied to Anna. "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." (1 Timothy 5:3, 5) Anna was proof of Paul's good judgment concerning unmarried widows. "But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment, and I think also that I have the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 7:40) She also provides an example for believers with family responsibilities to set apart time to fellowship with the Lord. Anna must have experienced great periods of joy and refreshment of spirit for her to remain so disciplined for so many years. And finally she provides incentive for us all to be ready for the return of the Lord. Ana waited patiently for His first coming and was spiritually prepared to discern the significance of what was happening that day in the temple. We should also look for the coming of our Lord the second time. "For our conversation is in heaven, from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:20)
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
No one seems to know how the penguin acquired its name. One theory is that penguin is derived from the Welsh word pengwyn which means "whitehead." Others claim the name was inspired by the flightless wings which appear to be clipped or "pin winged." Another opinion suggests that its origin can be traced to the seventeenth-century Spanish sailors who called the bird pinguigo or "greasy one", referring to the heavy coating of fat which insulates the penguin's body. The emperor penguin inhabits the ocean and ice of the Antarctic. It is one, if not the only bird, which never in its lifetime sets foot on land. With its weight of fifty to one hundred pounds and its length of four feet, the penguin is the heaviest and largest seabird in the world.
How Does The Emperor Penguin Illustrate Generosity In Giving That Which Requires Sacrifice?
Bitter, icy winds howled as they ripped across the barren wasteland. Lower and lower, the temperatures plummeted --- far lower than a normal thermometer could even record. An impenetrable darkness cloaked the ground. No creature, large or small, could possibly survive such frigid conditions. No creature, that is, except a large, unusual bird that never flies. It was mid-winter in the frozen wasteland of the Antarctic. Literally thousands of these creatures had congregated together. What would cause a bird to subject itself to such hostile conditions? The large mass of penguins stood still. Each one huddled against the next and faced inward in an effort to conserve energy and warmth. The birds were prepared for this time. They had stored a large mass of fat which covered their bodies. In fact, this fat accounted for approximately one third of their body weight. The insulation of fat, together with its feathered coat, enabled the penguin to withstand the frigid air. But the cold was not the only element with which to contend. Snow avalanches and ice breakups were a constant threat which claimed the lives of many birds when they occurred. Still the penguins stood. The majority were males, and they would carefully stand in this position for a long, long time. Why would these males penguins subject themselves to such rigor and sacrifice? The answer lay beneath the drooping folds of the emperor penguin's belly. Carefully cradled on its warm feet was a large, creamy white egg. If the male was to succeed in giving life to its young, it would have to sacrifice. It could not consider its own personal needs and comfort but only those of the developing embryo inside the egg. If the egg should accidentally roll away, it would mean certain death for the embryo. For this reason the male penguin restricts its activities. It sets aside its own personal needs and wants. Not only will it stop eating, but it will restrict all its movements to an absolute minimum for three and a half months! It is because of these sacrifices that the young are able to survive. In fact, the emperors have a survival rate greater than any other species of penguin --- a tribute to the generous sacrifice of the male.
Scriptural References To The Penguin
The penguin is not named in Scripture. There are, however, several verses which relate to the environment in which it lives.
"He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?" ~ Psalm 147:16-17
The ability of the penguin to survive the prolonged sub-zero and often violent weather of the Antarctic is only possible because of its heavy layers of fat, its thick downy plumage, and its practice of huddling together in large groups. Their method of gaining warmth buy standing close together illustrates the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:11. If two be together "then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" But the most amazing characteristic of the penguin is the role of the male in incubating the eggs of its young on its feet. The rigid discipline and self-sacrifice of the father is a beautiful illustration of the quality of dedication which God requires of a husband and father in Ephesians 5:25 and Proverbs 17:6
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" ~ Ephesians 5:25
"Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." ~ Proverbs 17:6

No comments: