When Is Enough Really Enough
WHEN IS ENOUGH REALLY ENOUGH?
If I say to you: ”I would like to buy $10.00 worth of God – not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a nap in the winter sun. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love indigenous people or Asian people, or enough of God to pick capsicums with a long-term unemployed. I only want to experience seventh heaven, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I only want a kilo of the Eternal in a paper bag not the full Monty. I would like to buy only $10.00 worth of God, please.” I am sure that you say: “Johann has lost the plot!” or may even ask, “Has he gone mad?” Yet, brothers and sister, this is exactly what we quite often do, without even realising that we are doing it.
Two men were out hunting wallabies. Neither was a good shot. After they had walked through the paddocks for hours, they had seen plenty of wallabies but had yet to hit one. With evening coming on, both were getting tired. One turned to the other and said, “Tom, what about it? Let’s just miss two more and call it a day.” What would your assessment be of the dedication of these two men? Despite the lack of anything to show for their time, these two hunters probably expended as much energy and effort as if they had bagged twenty wallabies. The same thing, unfortunately, can and does happen to people. “It is not enough to be busy,” someone once said, “one must also get results.” This applies to us as well. Our faith walk should show results as well.
However, dear friends, what constitutes what these results should be? Or when the results are enough? This is a hard question in our day and age, and would require full panel of experts to achieve a politically correct answer to the question. Yet, for the believer in Christ, the answer is not long, drawn out or hard. In fact the answer is quite simple. According to Scripture – enough is enough when we have been successful in testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. This applies to every area of our life. Listen carefully – We have done enough in each area of our life when that area of our life has been a consistent testimony to the Lord!
I would like to discuss this concept with you using Act 20:13-38 as point of reference. The first thing I learn from this passage is that: ATTENDING OR TURNING UP IS NOT ENOUGH – read Acts 20:17-19 with me: 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.
Paul did not only turn up – from the first day he served with devotion. And his devotion was visible the whole time he was there! – “I served the Lord”. Paul had a clear picture of who he was serving – The Lord – One who is supreme in authority. Paul had a clear picture of how he was serving – as a slave being bound to his Lord one – voluntarily.
The second thing we learn from this passage is that: THE WAY WE SERVE REVEALS OUR DESIRE TO SERVE – read Acts 20:19-21 with me: 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
Friends, here we see the attitude of all true service – it is service with great humility. Great humility is a willingness to do for someone else what nobody else are doing. Great humility is behaving in a down-to-earth manner – not letting people know what you are doing or why. Great humility is identifying with the need and not the person – the truly humble renders a service regardless whom they are serving. Humility is taking on a spirit of gentleness. However, let me be clear about this: TALK ABOUT BEING HUMBLE IS CHEAP; IT IS BEING HUMBLE THAT MATTERS – How will we know whether we are really humble? By measuring ourselves against Jesus, and not our friends or neighbours – When we measure ourselves against perfection it produces humility because we see how far we need to go. True humbleness causes people to continue to remain mindful of God’s eternalness. On the other hand self-exaltation comes when we get caught up in everything that we have, or think we have. Friends, I would like you to keep in mind that everything we have either rusts, or breaks, or wears out, or loses value, or in one form or another deteriorates!
To the truly humble this does not cause us any hardship. For EVERY TIME we see a bit of rust, every time we see something braking down, every time something loses its value, we remember that God does not rust or wear out, or lose value, or break or deteriorates! The truly humble actively move themselves away from the centre of the picture so that the limelight can fall on the ones that really deserve the limelight. I read once where the best way to take photograph is to place the subject in one of the corners of the picture, and not in the centre. That placing the subject in this way actually enhances their appeal in the photo. That is exactly what Jesus came to – putting God the Father in the limelight. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing – putting Jesus Christ in the limelight. This is also exactly what Paul did – inspiring people – Jews and gentiles alike – too turn to God in repentance and to have faith in our Lord Jesus.
Dearly beloved, I want you to see that this service was a service filled with tears – tears for those who did not know Christ as Saviour [and who are lost] – tears for those who had slipped from Christ [and who are lost] – tears for those who thwarted the cause of Christ [and who are lost].
I want you to see the urgency with which Paul served – his teaching was plain, simple, and direct – he was holding nothing back – he was using every opportunity to serve – both public and private – he was serving with conviction – “declaring” or “testifying”: giving a strong message – acknowledging that the message, and not the messenger or the recipient was the important thing. Without ever airing his concern as to whether people are going to be upset with him because of this message, he remained true to the message of faith and repentance!
This brings me to the third lesson: ACHIEVING THE GOAL IS THE GOAL – Read Acts 20:22-35 with me: 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. 25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Keep the text on the screen. Let us walk through this passage again. In verse 22 we are exposed to Paul’s zeal to see the right thing done – regardless of the cost – not knowing his future did not for one faction of a second cause him to wafer from sharing his message with conviction! In verse 23 we are reminded of his willingness to be “inconvenienced” for the right thing. Verse 24 reveals to us why Paul was so dedicated – because he wanted to finish well. Paul was dedicated because he wanted to finish what God had given him to do – the task of testifying to the Gospel of grace. He preached the gospel of the kingdom in season and out of season. He didn’t hesitate proclaim the whole will of God – not only the bit that people like to hear.
However, verses 28-35 tell us that Paul did this work with the expectation that the people who heard his message will be committed to see this message carried on. He spurred them on saying: “Watch yourselves from the inside!” – Friends, he did this because he knew that the moment we get cold inside to the message of the gospel we are in serious trouble. There is a warning to be alert – verse 31. And then Paul did an awesome thing according to verse 32 – he committed people to God and the Word of His grace – the truth of the gospel that has God’s saving grace at its centre. Friends, what does this mean?
This verse, in the context of the whole passage, provides a basis for communicating the adventure of growth. Paul longed for his friends to grow up in Christ, to be sanctified. Imagine the urgency he felt as he looked into the faces of his converts. Paul knew that what the Lord had begun in them. He desired for them to continue to mature in Christ.
“The word of His grace” reveals the secret of sanctification of dedication of blessing. Friends, the unmerited, unchanging, forgiving love of the Lord enables us to own our failures of the past, to move beyond them in the Lord’s tender mercy, and to move on to the next step of growing up in Christ. That’s what Paul wanted for the Ephesian elders and what we should long for as well.
Paul’s final warning is the key to sanctification. He quoted the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” – verse 35. Growth in Christ takes place as we give Him away to others. That always involves giving ourselves and what we have to help them discover what we have found.
In actuality, it is blessed both to receive and to give. In fact, we cannot give away what we have been unwilling to receive. Sanctification is a continuing process of being filled with the Lord’s Spirit. The more we receive of Him, the more we have to give of what people really need—love, forgiveness, and lasting care. God has given us eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16). What could be greater? What could be more wonderful than that? What could possibly be “more blessed?” Only one thing. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our primary role as recipients of God’s goodness and grace is to finish our race by giving Him away to everyone who crosses our path.
Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? When we receive, we are acting like ourselves; but when we give, we are acting like God. Receiving is us-like. Giving is Christlike. Having an attitude of giving allows us to move into the divine territory and do something that God Himself delights to do. In his book, None of These Diseases, Dr. S. I. McMillen discusses the life of John D. Rockefeller. As a young man, Rockefeller was strong and husky, and when he entered business he drove himself like a slave. He was a millionaire by age 33. By 43, he controlled the largest business in the world. At 53, he was the world’s richest man. But he developed a disease called alopecia. His hair fell out and his digestion was so bad he could only eat crackers and milk. Someone said: “An awful age was in his face. He was the oldest man I have ever seen.” One night, unable to sleep, Rockefeller realized he couldn’t take a dollar into the next world. Everything was sand castles, doomed by the inevitable tide. Money was not a commodity to be hoarded, but something to be shared. The next morning, he lost no time transforming his money into blessings for others. He established the Rockefeller Foundation to channel his fortune to needed areas. He gave hundreds of millions to universities, hospitals, mission work, and underprivileged people. The focus of his life changed from getting to giving. He did not die at age 53; he lived to be 98. Whether or not Rockefeller was a believer, he did discover one of the moral laws God placed in the universe: Giving is good for us. It enriches our lives.
How much of God is enough - $10 worth or everything there is? God has given us the full Monty. How do you respond to that? He has blessed us with abundance, and from His hand we’ve received all we have. Now may He bless us by prompting our hearts to give all that is needed for His work, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Amen.