“Freely you received, freely give.” – Matthew 10:8
This might be a tad presumptuous but I think that if Jesus has a favorite step in the Celebrate Recovery ministry it’s Step 12: “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others, and practice these principles in all our affairs.” This step, more than any other, involves adhering to what’s termed the “great commission” that the Lord gave to all believers before ascending to the right hand of the Father. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Not only was He affirming that He’ll never abandon us, He was making it crystal clear what job one is for all Christians: To proclaim the gospel until we exhale our final breath on our dying day. We’re to give away to others the keys to the Kingdom of God that were given to us. As it concerns your ongoing recovery you’re to tell others that healing from their hurts, hang-ups and habits is readily available to them no matter the severity of the sins they’ve committed. You stand as living proof.
Now, if you’re an introvert like me this might appear to be the snag buried in the fine print. If that hidden “catch” is the requirement that we step out of our comfort zone and be courageous for Christ then you’re right. If you’re intimidated by just the thought of openly sharing your faith then a quick examination of the word “give” is in order. It’s one of our Lord’s go-to words. You’ll find that in the New Testament alone it has 17 different Hebrew equivalents reflecting 17 different angles on the concept. Furthermore I’ve gathered that “give” appears in the Bible more often than any other word, a fact that amplifies its supreme importance. In one of His parables Jesus told the story of a king who, while he was away for a while, entrusted each of his servants with a sum of his money to oversee. When he returned he commended those who’d wisely invested their shares and were thus able to show their benefactor a profit. But he harshly criticized the one who’d timidly hidden his portion in a safe place so the risk of losing even a cent of it would be minimized. The king took back what he’d so graciously bestowed upon that servant and distributed it to the ones who’d used their allotted funds to generate honest revenue. Christ then said, “For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29) The gist is that God desires us to be bold in sowing seeds of salvation for it’s not money or material possessions we’ve been entrusted with but the soul-saving good news. Jesus made it plain that He expects us to share what He’s given us with those who are desperate like we once were for hope and restoration.
As in everything we do as dedicated Christians we can be effective and useful only if we put God first because He is the primary source of love. And without love our giving won’t touch hearts and change minds. Therefore your allegiance cannot be split. In Matthew 6:24 our Savior taught, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” In 1979 Bob Dylan sang, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Later in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus delivered these immortal lines, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” For us to give properly we must imitate our Father in heaven as Jesus revealed Him to us though his perfect personality. God is a giver. Romans 8:32 reads, “Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?” It stands to reason that if the great I AM provides everything we need then we, His beloved children, should be fully prepared to give all we can to those who don’t know Him like we do.
As previously stated, God-inspired, Christ-like love is necessary for our giving to produce the greatest impact. Yet, as we all know, to love unconditionally is to open the door to disappointment and pain. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” I can attest to the accuracy of his statement. I sequestered my heart for nearly a decade of my life and I can tell you that it was no life at all. I epitomized the servant in the Master’s parable who stuck his gift of redemption under his mattress.
If giving doesn’t come easy for you then I strongly recommend that you make up your mind to do it on behalf of your merciful Savior who saved you from your sinful nature and changed you into a new creation. Let go of your primal fear of not having enough left over and trust God completely for all your needs. Alan Redpath said, “Give up the struggle and the fight; relax in the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus; look up into His lovely face and as you behold Him, He will transform you into His likeness. You do the beholding – He does the transforming. There is no shortcut to holiness.” Pray and ask God to help you become more generous. Ignatius of Antioch put it well: “Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” God will provide. He didn’t lead you up the road to recovery just to sneak off and watch you starve to death. On the contrary, He has big plans for you. Billy Graham preached, “God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.” And don’t worry about where to start with your giving. The Lord will present you with plenty of opportunities to share the truth He has written on your heart. A.B. Simpson wrote, “We can never thank God enough for giving us not only a whole Gospel to believe, but a whole world to give it to.”
One of the bonuses of Celebrate Recovery is that, by collaborating with your fellow overcomers, the sky becomes the limit concerning giving back because teamwork generates an immeasurable amount of spiritual energy. Joyce Meyer flatly said, “Unity increases power.” J.K. Rowling wrote in one of her Harry Potter books, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” Lack of both cooperation and collective encouragement can be devastating to our ability to broadcast the gospel message to those who need to hear it most. Jim Cymbala sadly observed, “It would appear that there’s more openness, acceptance and teamwork in the local gym than in the church of Jesus Christ.” That’s why the leadership in every Celebrate Recovery chapter across the globe emphasizes the value of presenting a consistently united front to every newcomer who walks in the door. Paul stated in Romans 14:19; “So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another.” I like what Kenneth Blanchard wrote, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” We can also glean a boatload of common-sense wisdom from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; “Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefit from their labor. For if they fall, one will help his companion up, but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.”
However, there’s one particular form of giving that only you can contribute to the cause. That’s in writing out and presenting your testimony. The story of where you ended up before starting on the path to recovery, what happened to make you realize you needed divine help and how things stand in your life since surrendering your character defects to God Almighty is as unique as your thumbprint and of immense worth. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In other words, your non-fiction tale of redemption and escape from the clutches of the devil and your stubborn pride is precisely what someone sitting in a Celebrate Recovery meeting needs to hear and no one else will ever be able to tell it like you can. “I’m not good at public speaking” doesn’t hold any water in this instance. We’re not talking about orating a speech in front of the local chamber of commerce or for a high school drama club, this is about letting another soul know that God’s grace can save anybody! John MacArthur preached, “Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual.” Sometimes that individual is you.
I dare say there’s no more important mission on terra firma than to be a witness to Christ’s miraculous healing and I have yet to meet a person who regrets giving their testimony. That’s because the emotional release from guilt, pain and sorrow they experienced afterwards is something that can’t be expressed in words. Oswald Chambers correctly said, “You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.” Open confession is the most cleansing thing you can do because it confirms to your own soul that nothing is impossible for God. Andy Stanley quipped, “There is an appropriate way to use your story, not as an excuse but as a testimony to God’s ability to free you from your past.” Inevitably someone will connect with what you went through. Tonya Liverman wrote, “My best testimonies are from the times I thought I couldn’t survive.” What you’ll get is a deepened inner peace from broadcasting that even in your worst hours God was in control the entire time, just waiting for you to turn it all over to Him. It’ll confirm what Smith Wigglesworth said, “Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” Folks need to hear that.
But with freedom comes responsibility. The overused phrase of “Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk” is a tired cliché but it gets right to the point. If you’re a grateful believer in Christ you owe it to Him not to be hypocritical. James 2:14-17 reads, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.” We savvy that we’re not justified by our works but they do serve to signify our allegiance to the Son of God. 1 John 3:18 states, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.” Always remember who you belong to and what He expects from you. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1; “I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called…”
And what’s that calling? One can’t peruse the Bible and not realize that all disciples of the Messiah have been instructed to proclaim that Christ is none other than the lamb of God, sacrificed so all men and women may spend eternity in paradise. In short, we’re to be evangelists of the gospel whether we address a filled stadium or a single coworker. If we wait for God to supernaturally inscribe the gospel on the side of Mt. Everest we’ll be waiting a very long time. That’s not how He works. We are the medium His message travels through to the world. Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that God “has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant” and he reiterated that pronouncement in 5:20 with “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us.” David Platt said, “When hearers of the gospel believe, they call on the name of the Lord, and when they call on His name, they will be saved. That’s it – the simple divine plan for taking the gospel to all peoples of the world. That means there is only one potential breakdown in this process – when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples. We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B.” Hard to believe that the all-powerful designer/creator of the universe depends on us like that but He does.
Don’t let Satan convince you that you don’t have the smarts or wherewithal to witness to skeptics and non-believers. It’s as Elton Trueblood wrote, “Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but it is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus.” Charles Spurgeon went further: “Let eloquence be flung to the dogs rather than souls be lost. What we want is to win souls. They are not won by flowery speeches.” We need to accept that God trusts us to carry the most precious gift in history to everyone we meet. John Piper said, “Don’t wait for a feeling of love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your Heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.” He’s saying that even if we spread the gospel only out of obedience to and adoration for our Lord and Savior it’ll be sufficient. We don’t have to pastor a church or stand on street corners wearing hand-written placards to fulfill the great commission. We merely need to lean on our faith and not only be the hands and feet of Christ but His personal representative to those who have yet to meet Him. As Leonard Ravenhill said, “Any method of evangelism will work if God is in it.”
So, in essence, the gift we’re to give most frequently is our personal testimony born of experience. In Luke 8:16-18 Christ instructed that “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that those who come in can see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be made known and brought to light. So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” I take that to mean that our task is not to be taken lightly or to be considered an option. We’re to give until it hurts and then give even more.