Day 20— Exude Gratitude
2 Corinthians 8:9-13
“For you know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so
that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
There it is—the reason for, the model for, the example for
our giving—in the grace and the sacrifice of Christ himself.
The most familiar and perhaps most important words in
the New Testament are found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world...that He gave...His only Son...that everyone who believes in Him...should not perish...but have eternal life.”
God so loved you that He gave his Son that you might have
Now each of us knows what “sacrificial giving”
truly means. In God’s heart, you were worth it.
Has this church blessed and shaped and changed your
life? Maybe you have never been a part of a capital
campaign in this congregation. If that is true, then this
church exists with the tools and the facilities to serve you
in Christ’s name only because of the sacrifice and the gifts
of others in the past. For them, you were worth it.
Maybe you have been a part of this church for a long time.
Maybe you have made sacrifices before so that this church
could minister to people in Christ name. If so, then you
have seen the lives of many people change because of
what you have given. Was it worth what you have given?
You know it was worth it and you know that this new
commitment will be translated into stories of faith that
you can scarcely imagine. You know it will be worth it.
God gave, other people of faith have given, now it is
time for your faithful, hopeful, joyful response. “Now
finish doing this, so that your eagerness may be matched
by completing it according to your means. For if the
eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to
what one has.” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12)
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the inexpressible grace you
have given to me. Bless my gift and use it to bless
others in your name.
Day 19— Exude Gratitude
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind,
not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
A capital campaign...above and beyond giving...sacrificial
giving. Someone will describe capital campaign giving this
way: “I know what that means, it means give until it hurts!”
Give until it hurts? Making a sacrifice actually means giving up something of value to you in order to give to something that means even more. It is giving something you care about to something you love even more. The lasting effect of such giving should not be hurt, but rather joy discovered by giving to the things that are most important to you.
Give until it hurts? Try giving until you discover joy. The joy of
making a difference in a God-given calling. The joy of aligning
your life with God’s grace and will. The joy of a meaningfully
and purposefully committed life. The joy of doing your part
along with a whole community of faithful people. The joy of
helping to make miracles—large and small—happen. The joy
of seeing people’s lives change because of seeds you planted
and nurtured. The joy of glorifying God.
Indeed, as Paul says to the church in Corinth, “you will be
enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will
produce thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)
Give until it hurts? No one is being asked to hurt in this
campaign. If that is where you are heading, then you are
going about this decision in the wrong spirit. Besides, giving
until it hurts is far too easy. If you want a real challenge, and
a real blessing in your life, try giving in ways that mean so
much to you that you discover joy in your commitment.
Prayer: Lord, teach me greater joy and abundant
thanksgiving in a meaningful, purposeful, committed life.
Day 18— Extravagant Blessing
“But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her?
She has performed a good service for me.’” (Mark 14:6)
Can you picture the scene? This was a tense setting. Word
was that the authorities were looking for ways to arrest
Jesus. This was a place for serious conversation and for
invited guests only.
And then came this woman with the perfume. Who invited
her? And who gave her permission to pour the entire
contents of a perfume jar on the head of the guest of honor?
Can you imagine the smell? You know the way to use
perfume. Just a little dab will do. But she poured out the
perfume like football players dousing their coach with the
Gatorade bucket. Why waste so much expensive perfume?
It could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
We do not know this woman’s heart. Perhaps she had
experienced the forgiveness of Jesus and felt so grateful for
him that she had to find some way to bless Him. Whatever
the reasons, Jesus defended her heart and her lavish gift.
One could debate that the resources your church needs to
invest in ministry could be spent on any number of things.
Sometimes people may grumble, “A capital campaign?
I want to give money to people, not to bricks and mortar.”
In truth, investing in bricks and mortar is an important way
to invest directly in impacting the lives of people. Doing
ministry effectively requires such tools. But instead of
arguing the point of all that could be done, perhaps we
should ask a different question. Is what we are doing
honoring God? Is what we are accomplishing furthering the
gospel of Jesus Christ? Does what we are doing glorify Christ?
Soon after this woman anointed Jesus, he was arrested,
given a mockery of a trial, was tortured, and was then put to
death by crucifixion. And on the cross he took the wrath of
God for our sins, the wrath that we deserved. He poured
himself out completely for us. Now we have a chance to
give back to Him in response to Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Prayer: Lord, give me the grace to give to you as lavishly as
you have poured yourself out for me. Let me bless you,
even as you have blessed my life.
Day 17— Express Joy
“The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him,
and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.
That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase,
and I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)
John the Baptist was a great man. No less an authority than
Jesus had said. John was the last of the prophets. When
people heard him preach, they trembled. He attracted
disciples, crowds, and the attention of the press. He even
attracted the attention of kings and queens.
But when Jesus came, John never forgot his place. Despite
being goaded by his disciples to be jealous of the early
success of Jesus’ ministry, John remained steadfast in his
sense of place within God’s plan. He rejoiced in the following
that Jesus attracted. He even helped his own disciples to join
with Jesus. John 3:22-30 is John’s explanation of his own role
to his disciples. “Now my joy is complete. He (Jesus)
must increase, and I must decrease.”
Have you discovered this truth yet? Most of us think that joy
increases as we increase—as our wealth and our prestige,
our influence and our power increase. But in fact, just the
opposite is true. Lasting joy is not found at the top of the
corporate mountain or at the pinnacle of power. Joy is
not a reward of accomplishment. True joy is found where
John the Baptist found it—by finding one’s place in
relationship to Jesus Christ.
Are you ready to find complete joy? Jesus must continue to
increase in significance and Lordship of our lives while we —
our plans and ambitions—must decrease.
Prayer: Lord, lead me to find joy and abundant living as
I give my life more fully to you.
Day 16— Expanding Influence
“There was a man named Joseph, to whom the apostles gave
the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”).”
The name “Joseph” is such a fine name. In Hebrew, the
name means “God’s added blessing.” This was the name
for the cherished son of the patriarch Jacob. This was the
name for Jesus’ earthly father. So why would the apostles
give Joseph of Cypress a nickname like “Barnabas?”
Barnabas, Acts makes note to tell us, means “son of
encouragement.” Apparently, this Joseph was such an
encourager that a new name was in order. When the early
church needed money to underwrite its ministries, Joseph
sold a field he owned and brought the money to the
apostles. When Saul of Tarsus (renamed Paul) needed a
friend to welcome him into the church he once persecuted,
it was this Joseph who was that friend who nurtured Paul
into a ministry of his own. When the church needed to send
someone to encourage the new believers among the
Gentiles, they sent this Joseph. When young Mark needed
someone to believe in him and give him a second chance
to serve as a missionary, Joseph encouraged him. Any
wonder that all of Joseph’s friends called him Barnabas,
“son of encouragement?”
Our church needs generosity to underwrite its ministry.
Our church needs leaders—people who can speak up,
step up, and help encourage others to passionate ministry
and generous giving. Each gift makes a difference to the
church, but so does your faith, your story, your passion. Be
a Barnabas! Not in order to boast, but in response to what
Christ has done for you. Look for ways to encourage the
faith of others by sharing your witness, your passion, and
your faith. By doing so, you multiply God’s grace and
influence the faithful response of others.
Prayer: Lord, help me to feel so joyful about what I am
doing to make a difference in your kingdom that I am
a witness and encouragement to others.
Day 15— Expanding Giving
“The owners said, ‘Why are you untying the donkey?’ (The
disciples) said, “The Lord has need of it.” (Luke 19:33-34)
You may be thinking “I already give to the church.
How can I find ways to give more?”
Proverbs 3:9 encourages the faithful to “honor the Lord
with your substance and with the first fruits of all your
produce.” Your weekly or monthly income stream (your
produce) may not be the only resource in your life to
make a gift from. People often have valuable assets (your
substance) beyond their income stream. By looking at all
of your resources, not simply your income stream, you
may discover assets or substance in your life which, if
untied, can help you to give a far more substantial gift
than you thought possible.
• A collector donated part of his art collection
• A family gave some of the property they inherited
• A mechanic donated his Harley
• An investor gave stock gains
• A couple gave part of the retirement they had saved
• A congregation member gave up coffee
• A family went through their basement and attic and had
a garage sale
Why did such people give things that they enjoyed and
owned that had real value to them? It is simple—the Lord
had need of it. What they were giving to meant far more to
them than what they were giving up. These people freed
up resources that were tied up in the substance of their
lives. Untied, the substance which they had been blessed
with could now be an even greater blessing as a gift. Like
the owners in Luke’s gospel who provided Jesus with a
way into the city of Jerusalem, these people had a
donkey—and the Lord had need of it.
Maybe it is time to untie your donkey; to free some of your
substance. The Lord has need of it.
Prayer: Lord, help me to see how much I have been
blessed with in my life and to see how giving things to
your kingdom may bring a new sense of blessing.
Day 14— Excess Baggage
“Every branch that bears fruit (God) prunes
to make it bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
How can I find ways to give? Maybe I need to cut back in
some overgrown areas of my life in order to bear better
fruit in my life for God’s kingdom.
If you have ever grown grapes in your yard, then you will know
that grapevines will naturally overextend themselves with
prolific branching and leaf growth every year. If they are not
pruned, all of the branching and leaf growth can completely
cover an arbor in as little as two growing seasons.
Unchecked branching growth, while great for simply covering up space, is terrible for bearing fruit.
Such over-grown grapevines will bear tiny, unusable fruit —if it is able to bear fruit clusters at all. The extensive branching and leafing drains the resources and energy of the vine from its
primary purpose: bearing fruit.
Look at pictures of a well-kept vineyard whose purpose is to
bear good fruit. You will see thick, decades-old grapevines
pruned back to no more than four short branches so that all
the energy of the plant is focused on growing great grapes.
Regular, heavy pruning is necessary to bearing good fruit.
How overextended is your life? What have you branched out
into? We may think that wildly branching out everywhere as
fast as we can helps us to cover all the bases in life. But in
truth, such unmanaged growth just keeps us from bearing
any real fruit. Ask yourself, “Where could I cut back so I could
invest the time, energy, and resources available to me into
bearing the kind of good fruit in my life that matters?”
If it has been a while in your life since you paid any attention
to pruning, you may be astonished as to how overgrown and
overextended your life has become. No wonder Jesus says
that God will prune our lives to help us bear better fruit.
Prayer: Lord, abide more fully in me. Help me to prune and
manage my life better. Re-shape my living to bear good
fruit that would glorify you.
Day 13— Examine Commitment
2 Samuel 24:18-25
“I will not offer a sacrifice to the Lord my God
that costs me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)
We are heading toward home plate and getting close to
making a commitment to give to the capital campaign. But
this gift has become something more than a donation! We
have first given ourselves to the Lord. We have prayed for
God’s will to be done in our lives. We have examined our
resources to find every way to make our faith real with our
gifts. This gift has become a stewardship decision that
reshapes your life—you are growing in your discipleship!
Any gift will make some difference to the church, but a
stewardship decision is a gift that makes a difference in
you. Through this gift God is actually growing your faith
and your commitment.
Such a gift will certainly cost you something. King David
had an opportunity to make an easy “sacrifice” (or offering)
to God. Araunah was going to give him everything—the
threshing floor for the altar, the oxen, and even the wood for
the sacrifice—for nothing. What a deal! But David realized
that such a deal was really no sacrifice at all, no worship that
honored his Lord and God. “I will not offer a sacrifice to the
Lord my God which costs me nothing,” David said.
Offering yourself to God, giving sacrificially, does not come
easy. It will cost you something.
Does your giving model the kind of commitment that would
honor and worship God?
Does your sacrifice make a real difference to you? Are you
giving in ways that shape your living? If you can answer “yes”
then you are not just sharing a gift, you are sharing your faith.
Prayer: Lord, if I give myself in ways that mean little to me,
how would that honor and worship you? Let my giving
honor you as my Lord and my God.
Day 12— Examine Commitment
2 Corinthians 8:7-8
“Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all
earnestness, and in the love we inspired in you – see that you abound in
this gracious work of giving also. I am not speaking this as a command,
but I am testing the genuineness of your love.” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8)
Practice is the point where our faith and our actions intersect.
Where what we believe and what we do join together. To put it
simply, it means walking the walk as well as talking the talk!
Now that we have made a faith commitment, and earnestly
sought God’s will in prayer, it is time to turn what we have
learned into what we can do and will do. We are rounding
third—finding ways to practice what we believe.
Now is the time to take inventory. Now is the time to ask
another question: “OK Lord, what have you equipped me and
blessed me to do?” What resources do I have to give? How can
I think creatively about giving—beyond the narrow box of my
income and expenses—in order to give of myself fully? Are there
assets beyond my monthly income that I can give? Can I create
new resources to give with my talents, gifts, and time? Does my
faith commitment lead me to change other priorities in my life,
reducing spending and thus freeing resources for giving?
Talking to the church in Corinth, Paul knows there is no formula
for giving. In fact, he realizes that he cannot command anyone
about giving. Giving has to grow from the heart. But, as Paul
well knows, giving is a test of the heart in action, a test of the
genuineness of love. Giving is where what we believe gets real.
It is inventory time. Worksheet time. Time to get practical about
God’s blessings in your life and what you will do to financially
support God’s work in this project. It is time to get real.
Prayer: Lord, I have heard your word. Help me to be a doer of
Day 11— Examine Commitment
“This, then, is how you should pray. Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
Are you still committed to making a stewardship decision?
When you have decided to make your decision a matter
of faith, then the next step is to seek God’s will. “They gave
themselves first to the Lord, and, by the will of God, then
to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:5)
Seeking God’s will means getting God involved in your
decisions and in your life! Seeking God’s will means inviting
God’s input and guidance. It means genuinely asking, “Lord,
what would you do through me to make your will happen
in our church?”
Where does one ask for God’s guidance and seek God’s will?
How does one invite God to participate in his or her life?
Those things happen as we spend time in intentional prayer.
A stewardship decision is a prayerful commitment. A
stewardship decision invites God to the dialogue and involves
God in the discussion. A stewardship decision becomes much
more than just my sense of goodwill; it means discovering
and acting within a sense of God’s goodwill.
Taking the turn at second base will take time in prayer;
time for listening and learning and reflecting; time for asking
and searching and seeking. Getting to second base means
turning even further from what I am willing to do toward
what God wills in my life.
Prayer: Lord, I want to honor your name. Speak to me!
Let your will be done in me and through me. Let your
kingdom come in my life.
Day 10— Examine Commitment
2 Corinthians 8:1-5
“They gave themselves first to the Lord, and, by the will of God, then to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:5)
Have you ever watched a tee-ball game where the children are just beginning to learn baseball? Have you ever seen a child so excited to hit the ball off the tee that the youngster runs directly to third base and then races back to home plate to score?
Too often we think of giving to the church as a financial decision rather than as a stewardship decision. We shortcut the ground-rules, like the child running directly to third. We rush to start off in the wrong direction. We hurry the process. As a result, we may make a donation to the church, but we do not make a stewardship commitment.
To make a stewardship decision, we have to go around and touch all of the bases. Reaching first means making a faith decision before we even consider the financial aspect of our giving. Reaching first means calling to account our lives of faith before doing any financial accounting.
In 2 Corinthians 8:5, Paul says of the Macedonian church, “they gave of themselves first to the Lord, and then to us in keeping with God's will.” Getting to first means determining your commitment level before deciding your financial position. Making a stewardship decision means responding to a deeper calling of faith, not reacting to a quick accounting. A stewardship decision is first and foremost a faith commitment, not a financial calculation.
First things first. They gave themselves first to the Lord. That is the place to begin a conversation about a stewardship decision.
Prayer: Lord, first let me give myself more fully to you. Then let my decisions grow out of what I believe and out of what you call me to be and to do.
Day 9— No Excuses
“Come, for everything is ready now. But they all alike began to make excuses.” (Luke 14:17-18)
How many reasons are there for not participating in a capital campaign? The possibilities are endless! There are more than enough reasons to justify anyone.
A modern parable might begin like this: The kingdom of God is like a capital campaign. God gave his people a vision. “Come!” said God, “Take the
place prepared for you. Take up your part in my work. Everything is ready now. All of you are invited to make a difference. When you take your place and take up your part, all will be blessed to break bread in my kingdom.” But they all alike began to make excuses...
The most important piece of a jigsaw puzzle is the piece that is missing. Every part is important in order to see the whole picture. Synergy is a word best understood when divided. Ergo is Greek for work, while the prefix syn means together. When merged, the words mean “working together.”
However, there is more. Synergy is better understood tomean that the result accomplished is greater than the individual parts. Sports teams demonstrate the meaning of synergy. Playing together makes them better than playing as individuals. However, even one team member failing to
do his or her part can make everyone lose. Just like one musician not in concert with the orchestra can ruin the song.
A fighter jet was damaged and barely made a safe landing. The same plane was needed for a critical mission the next morning. A maintenance crew worked all night to make repairs. At dawn, the pilot asked the mechanic if the plane was good to go. “Sir,” he replied, “if this plane does not complete its mission it will not be because of me.”
Your participation in the mission of this church is unquestionably significant. No one can play your part but you.No one can give your part but you. Others can only do their part. No one can make up for your part if your gift is excused.
Prayer: Lord, when your call challenges me, it is easy for me to excuse myself. Reach me! Compel me to respond to your call in whatever ways I can.
Day 8— Extra Effort
“Offer yourselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is.” (Romans 12:1)
What motto is on your T-shirt? What values do you conform to? Where do you re-shape yourself in order to “fit in.” What do you give yourself to as a kind of living sacrifice? Anything advertising to make us the greatest, the most successful, the most famous, can capture us and conform us to its
particular set of values.
A magazine ran a series of articles asking people “How has your mind changed?” Some people answered by telling how a relationship changed their racial prejudices, or by sharing how some tragedy or suffering made them more aware of and compassionate toward others.
What can change your mind? That is an interesting question.Changing one’s mind is a difficult and rare thing—especially if the transformation means changing our directions, our opinions, our goals, and our plans. Yet such change is exactly what Paul calls every Christian to. He calls us to be completely transformed by the renewing of our mind. And He calls us to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. Would anyone notice that your life is molded by the mind of Christ? Could anyone see your transformation? How has your faith changed your mind? How have your priorities
changed? How has your life changed? Are you conformed to this world or are you being transformed? Could anyone notice the difference in you as you offer yourself more fully to God?
Prayer: Lord, lead me to see things differently, to think differently, to live differently. Reset my priorities. Transform my mind and my life!
Day 7— Extra Effort
“Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned.” (Mark 12:43)
After a long morning of teaching in the temple courtyard, Jesus took a break with his disciples. Sitting right across from the treasury, their gazes drifted over to observing many people who were making their offerings. Never one to miss a teachable moment, Jesus asked his disciples about what they had seen: “Who put in more?” is the implied question. The answer is obvious to anyone reading or watching—those who gave the greatest sums
put in more!
Jesus turns the tables on the obvious, teaching his disciples an important principle of giving. Giving is not measured by dollar amounts; giving is measured by how much we truly give of ourselves. Some who gave large sums offered out of their surplus gifts that they would never even miss. Although it was just a penny, what this widow offered meant the world to her. Her gift affected her life. Her seemingly small gift is the one Jesus singles out for praise. She put in more of herself than all of the others.
Commitments are not about equal gifts, but about an equal sacrifice. Not everyone has the resources to make a large gift; but every person has the ability and opportunity to meaningfully invest themselves in what God is doing in our church.
Prayer: Lord, each and every gift makes a difference to my church. Teach me to give in ways that actually make a difference in my life.
Day 6— Extra Effort
Matthew 6:19-21 and Luke 19:1-9
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth ... but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
We tend to grow uncomfortable when the church talks about money. Why? Are decisions about how we live and how we use those resources unimportant? Is our faith supposed to be separate from our finances? Are not believing, praying, and loving more important to our faith? Look at a revealing count of New Testament words:
- Believe, Believing: 275 times
- Pray, Praying: 371 times
- Love, Loves, Loving: 714 times
- Giving, Give: 2,162 times
Jesus knew that our treasures and our hearts are inseparably linked. For Him, talking about treasure was to reach more completely for the full allegiance of people’s hearts. Jesus knew that dealing with our treasures is one of those critical places where the rubber meets the road, where the practicality of our faith is tested, where what we believe becomes tangible and real.
Remember the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19? We have no idea what happened between Jesus and Zacchaeus other than they had dinner together. But we do know that Jesus reached and dramatically changed that man’s heart. How do we know that? Follow the money! Look at what happened with Zacchaeus’ treasure. Half of what he possessed he gave immediately. Every wrong he set himself to make right. Seeing where the treasure went, Jesus exclaims, “Today salvation has come to this house!”
Maybe we are uncomfortable with talk about money because that conversation is getting awfully close to the heart of our faith. Maybe we are uncomfortable with talk about our treasures because we are afraid our fleshly desires won’t be met, rather than recognizing the real treasure Christ provides. Prayer: Lord, teach me to love you with all my heart and with all my life. Let my giving reflect a total surrender of my heart! Action Item: Sketch out a simple budget of where your treasures are (of where your financial resources go). Now write down your current giving to the ministries of the church. How does your giving to God’s work through the church compare to your investment in your other treasures? Does that level of giving represent what you believe in? What does that level of giving say about where your heart is? Where would you rather your heart be?
Prayer: Lord, teach me to love you with all my heart and with all my life. Let my giving reflect a total surrender of my heart!
Day 5— Expect A Miracle
Matthew 14:13-21 and John 6:1-11
“There is a boy here with five loaves and two fish, but what are they among so many people?” (John 6:9)
Jesus had been with the crowds all day, ministering to people’s needs. It was getting late – past suppertime. And, frankly, the disciples were tired of dealing with all these people. “Send the crowds away,” the disciples told Jesus. Let them go home and take care of themselves for a while. Surely you do not expect us to be responsible for all of their needs.
When a church is challenged with growing needs, it would be easy to say “just send the crowds away – surely it is not our responsibility to minister to all of these needs.” It would be easy saying that to your fellow disciples who are also ready to go home for supper but don’t try saying that to Jesus. Jesus’ response was, and still is, clear. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
A crowd of more than 5,000. How can we meet that kind of need? It is overwhelming! As Philip says in John’s version, “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them even to get a little!”
Then, seeing the need and determined to do what he could about it, a boy in the crowd gave five loaves and two fish. It must have taken all the composure the disciples had to receive the boy’s gift with gratefulness and seriousness without laughing in his face. What are these gifts among so many people?
Jesus took the gift, blessed it, and the crowd of more than 5,000 were fed.
Every miracle begins with a person – with a person making a gift of the best they can offer and asking Jesus to bless and to use that gift. Expect a miracle. The need may seem overwhelming. Your gift may appear to be inadequate to cover all of the need. But all Jesus asks is the best that you can offer. When you give the best that you can to Jesus, expect a miracle. Expect God’s grace to work in and through you, and in and through other people, to accomplish more than you ever imagined.
Prayer: Lord, with your blessing and your grace, multiply my gifts to make more difference than I ever imagined.
Action Item: Begin now to think about your part, your gift, in this campaign. No one can do your part for you. No one can make up for your part. You have a part in this work that only you can provide. Start the conversation that asks, “Lord, what would you do through me?”
Day 4— Experience Calling
1 Samuel 3:1-11
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10)
In the time of Samuel, the Bible says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were not widespread.”It is easy for people to feel the same way today. Who has heard God call their name? Who has heard God speak a word to them? And what great, godly vision drives your life?
Most people seem to want to think that the word of the Lord is rare, that the word of the Lord only comes to people like the pastors who are somehow “specially” called. Most people seem to want to think that God has no word, no calling, no vision for them.
But maybe, like the boy Samuel, we simply are not listening well. God has spoken to us in many ways. He speaks to us in the Bible where he has revealed himself and his will to us. God has spoken to us through his Son and he now indwells us in the person of the Holy Spirit. And as we seek God in the Scriptures and in prayer, the Spirit reveals God’s calling on our lives.
Every Christian has a calling. In fact, every Christian has several callings—as well as the God-given gifts, graces, and blessings to respond to those callings.
Every Christian is called to be a faithful steward of the talents and time and resources God has blessed them with. Being a faithful steward is a personal calling – revealed to us by God’s Spirit through the Scriptures. It is a calling that comes with your name attached to it. It is a calling that only you can make a decision about. You can ignore that calling completely. You can brush off that calling by responding only in minimal ways. Or, recognizing God’s claim over your life, you can wake up and listen for God’s own voice. There is a word from the Lord for you in this campaign. There is a God-given vision for your church in this campaign. “Speak to me Lord. I am your servant. I want to hear from You.”
Prayer: Lord, teach me not only to say Samuel’s prayer, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” but to actually listen for your word, Lord, and to do your word.
Action Item: Are you listening for God’s word? List where you hear God’s word (in Scripture, in worship, in prayer, in other faithful people, etc). In your daily prayer time and your journaling, make note of the ways that God is revealing his will to you
Day 3— Experience Purpose
“Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)
When a church has a capital campaign, everyone seems to have the same kind of question – Are we building? What does the building look like? What color will the carpet be? Or perhaps, what debt are we eliminating? What am I going to get out of this? What is my part to play? Fundamentally, all of those “what” questions are far and away the least important questions to ask. The most important question in a capital campaign challenge is not what, but WHY.
Why are we building? Why are we expanding ministries? Why are we eliminating debt so we can invest in ministry programs? Why is our church here? Why are we here?
A church usually doesn’t build a structure just to have a nice building nor does it expand ministries just to be a bigger church. Most people don’t make a sacrificial financial commitment just to get some kind of service or program benefit. People and churches do not give their lives or their resources or their selves to a building or to a program or to be bigger. What people will give their lives to is a God-given purpose, a higher calling. So the most important question to answer in any capital campaign is not what are you doing, but WHY are you are doing it.
Why is our church doing these things? In other words, what does God call this church to be and to do? What is the purpose God calls us and our church to? And how does this capital campaign provide tools for us as a congregation to respond to that calling?
The last commandment Jesus spoke for every Christian was, “Go, make disciples of all nations ... teach them all that I have commanded you.” Each church and every Christian has a God-given purpose. Why are we building? To be and to do what God calls us to be and to do. This campaign is not simply about buildings or finances. It is about reaching and teaching and changing the lives of people with the good news of Jesus Christ. The resources raised provide the necessary tools to help us better reach, better teach, more effectively change the lives of others.
Prayer: Lord, grow my passion for your purposes in my life and in my church. You have brought me here for a reason. Show me what you would do through me.
Action Item: Make a list of WHY these projects are important. How many people will they help our church reach? How many people will they help our church teach? Can you put a value on what changing those people’s lives
Day 2— Explore Promise
“And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
Jesus offers his disciples a model for a significant prayer journey. Ask. Seek. Knock.
These three things—asking, seeking, knocking—takes time, attention, listening, looking, searching. That journey of prayer will lead us deep into new paths of seeking God's way for our lives. Along those paths we will discover doorways - places where choices and decisions must be made. Do we have the courage and commitment to knock on those doors? And when those new doorways are opened, will we step into a new way of life?
Asking, seeking, knocking—means searching for God's will in our lives; and such seeking will undoubtedly change us— redirecting us in God's way. Knocking on the doors that God would open to us may well lead us down paths that we never imagined! We do not know what God has in store for us when we begin such a journey, but one thing is certain – such a journey of prayer will change our lives.
Prayer: Lord, I seek your will and your way in my life. Lead me down your paths for your name's sake. Open new doors that I might find a new way of life!
Action Item: Capture this journey of prayer that you are committing yourself to by journaling your adventure. During your prayer time over the next several weeks, write down what you are asking and what you are given, what you are seeking and what you are finding, what doors you knock upon and what is opened to you.
Day 1— Exercise Faith
“Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, and be mature.” (Colossians 4:12)
Wrestling is an ancient sport. In the first century, wrestlers struggled for their lives, not for TV ratings. In the language of the day, the wrestling ring was called the agone and the wrestlers were called antagonists. Such is this word-image that Paul uses to describe the work of prayer from a spiritual leader of the Colossian church, Epaphras. Paul tells the church that Epaphras wrestles in prayer for them. We would catch Paul's wordplay if we say that Epaphras agonizes in prayer for them. What a powerful image, and a biblical image too - like Jacob wrestling with the angel all night for a blessing (Genesis 32:24-31) - and like Jesus praying so fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane that his sweat became like drops of blood (Luke 22:41-44).
What is so important that Epaphras would pray so fervently? That the Colossian church would grow in their knowledge of God's will and in their maturity of faith. This capital campaign is a call to prayer for you and for our congregation. We will be encouraged to reflect on a simple question—What would you do through me Lord to make Your will happen in this church? Genuinely reflecting on that question will mean prayerfully wrestling with God’s will in your life and with God’s will in your church. This challenge is a time to exercise your faith. The struggle to respond faithfully will not be, nor should it be, easy. As Paul would later say of Epaphras, "I vouch for him that he is working hard for you." The process of making a decision will not be, nor should it be, short-lived. Like Jacob, you may spend more than one restless night wrestling for an answer and a blessing.
Our church needs people who will pray earnestly to seek God’s will. Would you be willing to pray, to wrestle hard, for the future of this church?
Prayer: Lord, lead me in prayer to wrestle hard with Your will. May I, like Jacob, hold fast to you until I find blessing.
Action Item: Decide now to make a prayerful decision about your participation in this campaign. Set aside a specific time (at least 15 minutes) every day during this campaign to spend in prayer and reflection using this devotional guide. Make an appointment with yourself (and with God) right now. Write down when and where you will spend your prayer time each day for the next three weeks.