When I was growing up, my Mom used to give me a back rub to help me sleep at night. She would come in after I had gotten in bed, we would say a prayer and then she would give me a little relaxing back rub. Needless to say, I love back rubs! However, I have to pay for them these days. Yesterday, I had the opportunity for a massage. I haven’t had one in over a year, and it was a real treat for me.
The massage I had yesterday was a bit different. The therapist did some deep tissue work, but she also stretched me. The stretches were a bit difficult -at times I felt I was being stretched too far. It was actually a little painful. But after it was all said and done, I felt good. I was relaxed. Today, everything is loose and feels amazing. Even though it was painful in a spot or two, I must have needed the stretching the most.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked God to do whatever He needed to do in order to move me to the next level. I guess in theory I asked Him to stretch me. Stepping out in faith really tests those faith muscles. We really don’t know how much faith we have until it is stretched – until it’s tested. Then we can know whether what we say we have is really true.
The challenge came from the pulpit on Sunday. Generosity is the tool for stretching. I have been in this church body for a little over four years, and the pastor hardly ever speaks about money. He reminded us that the church didn’t need the money, but we, as the Body, needed to be stretched (my words, not his). God has all the resources available to Him so He doesn’t need our money. The pastor emphasized that generosity is a heart issue.
The challenge is to step up to the next level of giving. The last level is fearless giving – Andy Stanley calls it “crazy” giving. It’s “sell your assets to give away” kind of giving. It’s what the early church body did to make sure no one was in need. But I would say that each level can be a step into fearless giving. Each step takes us out of the comfort zone. The first step to give is instant giving; throwing money in the pot as it passes or emotional giving. It can be uncomfortable to someone who has very little to give when an opportunity arises. But fearlessly, they give.
The next level is giving intentionally; setting aside money to give regularly. Having a plan in place before the opportunity arises. Again, if someone has never done this before, it’s uncomfortable to plan ahead – who does that nowadays? The next level is proportionate giving. This is a percentage of what is made. If income goes up, so does the giving. Again it can become a fear factor when it looks like we’re not going to have enough to cover the bills.
Then the pastor called the last level fearless giving. Sell and give; in other words, sacrificial giving. To be stretched until it hurts. This is a faith building exercise. Do we really believe God has all the resources in His hands? If we do, then we will sacrifice all we have because we believe God will take care of all our needs. After all, it says so in the Bible. Do we believe it or not? Are we willing to step out in faith to do the thing He calls us to do? He may ask us to go into the deep end where we have to trust Him.
After fishing all night, Simon Peter was asked to push off a little from shore so that Jesus could speak to the crowd. After speaking to the crowd, Jesus turned to Simon Peter. Jesus asked Peter to go out into the deep and drop his nets. Peter had caught nothing the night before. He was disappointed and frustrated for sure. This was how he made a living – and he caught nothing. He had already cleaned his nets; Peter already knew it was useless because the fish weren’t there. However, he did it anyway because Jesus asked him to do it. The amazing catch changed Peter’s perception of Jesus. He was actually speechless! He couldn’t even call to his partners to come help – he signaled them instead.
When we are asked to do something with Jesus, it’s going to be crazy. It may even scare us unbelievable so. But after we have been stretched, we are going to feel amazing. We will have a “fish” story to tell. We may have to sacrifice something we dearly love in order to gain something better. We may even come away with a different perception of Jesus. Now wouldn’t that be amazing?! All we are asked to do is trust Him in the process – to become fearless in the next level; to be stretched so that we can grow to become more like Him. Fearless like Him.
Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 MSG