Just Good Enough Doesn’t Cut It In The Area Of Giving

Photo by Jay Nungesser

In A Hot Pursuit of Excellence

Have you ever discovered something in life that really captures your interest?

Something that consumes your thoughts? Something that drives you to spend more time, energy, and resources on that one thing? That one thing you want to be excellent in above all other things?

When I was a young man, playing the trumpet was my one thing. My parents and I poured our “extra” time, energy, and financial resources into my fledgling music career.

I practiced at least three hours a day. My parents and I travelled across town 45 minutes in each direction in order for me to take trumpet lessons once a week. I played in three different area civic orchestras which not only took rehearsal time to participate in each week, but lots of travel time and personal energy as well.

We spent money on gas getting from one music activity to another. We spent money on lessons. We spent money on music, new trumpets, accessories, and repairs. We spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in a hot pursuit of excellence for me to be the best trumpet player I could be.

Have you ever had one thing that has driven you to attempt to be the best at in this life?

Excellence In Giving

Have you ever considered that God wants us as Christians to be excellent in the area of giving? With that same passion, drive, and energy that we put into our own pursuits, God wants us to put that into giving as well.

In 2 Corinthians 8:7, we read these words written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth:

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

The word excel used in this verse carries with it the idea of abounding or overflowing. Excellence in giving means we aren’t just meeting the minimum requirements. We are going above and beyond the minimum.

Paul tells these Corinthian Christians that they are excellent in a lot of important areas. They are putting in a lot of time, energy, and resources into other areas of their Christian walk – faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love. He reminds them to put that same kind of passion, that same type of enthusiastic energy into the area of giving.

In the eyes of God, good enough doesn’t cut it when it comes to this area of giving.

Questions: So, how about you? Are you excelling in this grace of giving? If not, why not? What do you need to do to start excelling in this area of your life?

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Book Review: From Zero to Hero in Your Finances

From Zero to Hero In Your Finances BookBackground

As a stewardship pastor and blogger, I was recently encouraged to check out the book From Zero to Hero in Your Finances by Dr. Richard Knapp.

Christian stewardship isn’t always the easiest topic to tackle, especially in a book format. If approached in the wrong manner, the subject matter can come across as dry and boring, or even worse, as legalistic and condescending. Dr. Knapp did an excellent job with his approach on the topic of stewardship. I found his book to be entertaining, and at the same time quite convicting!

6 Key Aspects Of The Book That Make This Book Worth The Read

There were several aspects of this book that I really enjoyed. Due to these key parts of the book, I know I will find myself coming back to this book for future research and inspiration in the area of stewardship.

Here are the 6 key aspects of the book I enjoyed:

  1. A Quick and Easy Read. As I mentioned above, the topic of stewardship can be potentially stuffy and boring to many, but I enjoyed Dr. Knapp’s approach to this book. Each chapter was concise, had a good flow, and got straight to the point. Nicely done.
  2. The Concept of Well-Digging. The opening chapter talks about this interesting idea of digging wells. I had never consider this approach in this way before, but it does make complete sense to me. I had one of those “I could have had a V8” experience when I read through this particular chapter. Dr. Knapp explains that “ … wells symbolize God’s provision and blessing. Abraham dug many wells, which were later filled with dirt by the Philistines, a type of the enemy.” You can read Genesis 26:18-19, 22 as well as Isaiah 12:2-3 for the Old Testament inspiration for the overall concept. Here’s a very brief synopsis of what Dr. Knapp writes about “well digging”: “When a well has been properly dug, the water flows freely into it. The water from a functional well will always be available, not only to us, but to others around us. The devil, however, will constantly try to throw unbelief into our wells to dry up our faith in that area … Digging a well is an active spiritual process, not a passive mental one.”
  3. Personal Stories from the Author’s Life. Stories are always excellent ways for an author to connect with his audience. Dr. Knapp shared several of his own personal stewardship stories that were interesting and convicting. His stories were a great reminder that I still have much to learn in the area of stewardship.
  4. Stewardship Testimonies from the Lives of Others. Not only did Dr. Knapp share his own stewardship stories, but he also included several stories and testimonies from others. These were very inspiring as well. I’ll probably be “stealing” some of these stories for a few Giving Talks at my church in the near future.
  5. Tons of Scripture to Support Each Chapter. At the end of every chapter, Dr. Knapp listed a lot of Scripture to support the particular concept he was teaching for that chapter. I will definitely be using this part of the book as a resource as I teach on key areas of stewardship.
  6. Written-Out Stewardship Prayers. Most chapters of the book have a written-out stewardship prayer of confession. I’m definitely coming back to these for inspiration for public prayers with our congregation.

If you have a passionate desire to grow deeper in this area of Christian stewardship, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.

Do You Act Like A Little Kid When It Comes To Giving?

Photo by Worapol Sittiphaet

Photo by Worapol Sittiphaet

“No” and “Mine”

I have four daughters.

Yes, there’s a lot of estrogen flowing at my house, and this daddy is a big sap with his girls.

At the time of this writing, my third daughter, Katelynn, is 22 months old. She is quite the little chatterbox at this stage in life, and she has two favorite words right now. You may even be able to guess what they are!

The first word is “NO.” The second word is “MINE.”

Did mommy and daddy teach her these words? Well, not intentionally at least. This is simply the human condition, our sin nature, at work.

So, this is typically what happens at the Jones’ house. Katelynn will get a hold of something as simple as my car keys. I will politely and lovingly ask her for my keys back, because I need them. And, what do you think the first two words are out of her mouth?

Of course, her two new favorite words – No and Mine! And then, she doesn’t want to obey daddy and give them back. I end up in a little wrestling match with this sweet, little adorable girl to get my keys back! Once I have them yanked out of her hands, she has a meltdown.

We Can Act Like Little Kids, Too!

I know this is a fun and adorable story about my little girl, but unfortunately, the sad reality is that this happens with us as adults too.

God has richly blessed us. He has given us money, talents, abilities, food, cars, clothes, and houses that He ultimately wants us to use for His glory.

Then, the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and says, “Hey, Larry. I’d really appreciate if you would give at least 10% of your income on a consistent basis.” Or maybe He says, “I’d really like you to cook a meal and take it to a family that needs help.” Or, “I’d like you to give a few dollars to that homeless guy on the corner.”

But, we end up just like my daughter Katelynn. We take ownership of what is already God’s to begin with and those two favorite words come spilling out of our mouths, “No, God. Mine!”

God’s Word teaches us that everything belongs to Him to begin with. In Psalm 24:1, we read these words:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: What is God asking you to give, today? Why haven’t you given it to Him, yet?

3 Ways My Parents Taught Me To Love God And His Church

FBR t-shirtLoving His Church

In the month of September, my church has been celebrating our love for our church. We’ve been wearing special “I love my church” T-shirts on Saturdays all around the Metro Kansas City area. We’ve been taking “selfies” of ourselves wearing these T-shirts around town. We’ve been writing social media posts about why we love our church. We’ve even been hashtagging our love on social media with the hashtag #loveFBR on these posts and pictures.

As we have celebrated our love for our church over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting back on my childhood and how I learned to love any church I’ve ever been a member.

The reason I love God and His church is primarily due to the example of my parents. As a boy growing up in my parents’ home, I learned to love my church through watching my parents love their church in 3 ways.

3 Ways My Parents Loved Their Church

  1. They gave of their time. They viewed church attendance as a priority, so anytime the church doors were open, we were there. On Wednesday nights, we were there for Awana ministry. On Sunday mornings, we were there for Sunday School and worship service. We would go back for Sunday night services. We also would also attend special missions conferences and revivals (remember those?). And now, as an adult, I’m at church almost every day, because I work for a mega church!
  2. They gave of their talents and abilities. My dad is an artist – he paints and sculpts, and he used those talents to help the church on various projects. He also served as a club leader in the Awana program. I can still remember him wearing his uniform and us kids having to wear those bright red neckerchiefs and the little plastic slides that held them in place. My dad also drove a bus for bus ministry, picking up kids and bringing them to church. My mom is a singer, and she sang solos as well as sang in the choir. She gave me a love and passion for using my musical abilities to serve God and His church in worship.
  3. They gave of their financial resources. My parents taught me how to give at the level of 10% of my income and beyond. Every week, my parents would write their check, place it in a giving envelope, and take their envelope with them to church and drop it in the offering plate. Now, as an adult in an age of electronic giving, my tithes and offerings are automatically given online each week.

In Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), we read these words:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We demonstrate our love for God and His church through giving of our time, talents, and finances.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Do you demonstrate your love for God and His church on a consistent basis? Are you giving faithfully of your time, talents, and finances? What talents and abilities has God given you that you could invest back into His Kingdom?

What’s The Big Deal About Christian Financial Stewardship Anyway?

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

The Light Comes On For Me, Over Time

Stewardship.

Yeah, it’s a weird word. It’s a churchy word, too. Not many people really get it, either.

Twenty years ago, I would associate the word “stewardship” to tithing on Sunday mornings and church building campaigns. That’s what I thought it was all about.

Then, I attended my first Crown Financial Bible Study Class back around 2001-2002, and the light of understanding slowly began to come on as I learned what God’s Word had to say about financial matters. I learned that “my money” was not mine at all. Everything that I possess has been given to me by Almighty God to manage for His kingdom purposes.

This is the core essence of Christian stewardship. As believers, we are called by God to manage the time, money, abilities, and relationships He has given us. We aren’t supposed to squander all these resources on selfish, fleshly desires.

Here’s an excellent synopsis of stewardship taken from Wikipedia:

A biblical world view of stewardship can be consciously defined as: “Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” The central essence of biblical world view stewardship is managing everything God brings into the believers’ life in a manner that honors God and impacts eternity.

Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God’s ownership of all.

After I went through the Crown Financial Bible study, I ran across this blueish-green book in a local book store called Financial Peace by some guy named Dave Ramsey, who I had never heard of before. I’m reading through this book thinking to myself, “this guy makes a lot of sense. Debt is dumb. I need to get my family out of debt with gazelle intensity!” As a result of reading Dave’s book, I started listening to his syndicated radio show and eventually began coordinating Financial Peace University at my church.

All of these baby steps in the area of Christian stewardship eventually led me to take on a secondary role in my church as our Stewardship Pastor. It has certainly been an exciting as well as interesting journey as I have grown in stewardship in my own life and have attempted to teach it to others.

Why Stewardship?

So, why should stewardship be such a big deal in the life of a believer, anyway?

I believe there are several answers to this question.

First, the Bible is filled with financial wisdom and instruction. The estimates on the amount of financial verses in the Bible range from 900 to over 2,000 depending on your criteria. Needless to say, that’s a lot of Bible verses on money!

Second, Jesus Himself spoke a lot about money in the parables He taught the Jewish people. In fact, money was (possibly) His second most discussed topic with the Kingdom of God being the first. There is much theological debate on which parables dealt specifically with the topic of money, but money was a huge issue that Jesus addressed frequently in His ministry here on earth.

Third, money is one of the biggest areas of struggle for most believers. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have adopted cultural beliefs and practices when it comes to money. Most of us have either forgotten or never been taught Biblical financial principles.

Fourth, stewardship is about more than money. The more I study and practice the principles of Biblical stewardship, the more I understand this important principle. It really encompasses every aspect of your life – your time, natural talents, abilities, money, assets, physical health, and relationships.

My Take

Here’s my own personal take on this area of stewardship. If God’s Word is filled with financial wisdom and Jesus’ own ministry focused a lot of time teaching on money management, then there are certainly good reasons for this instruction. This is an area that the Lord knows we all struggle and need to work on in our life on a continual basis. It’s not a “one and done” kind of deal, either. Stewardship is a life long pursuit.

Every day, we have to surrender our selfish, greedy financial plans and desires over to our Lord and Savior. Our primary concern should be using the resources God has entrusted to our management to advance His Kingdom here on earth and in heaven.

Questions: Do you think stewardship should be a big deal in the life of a believer? Why or why not? Is stewardship a big deal in your own life and the life of your family?

Why Some People Have An Easier Time Giving Consistently Over Others

Photo by 401(k) 2012

Photo by 401(k) 2012

The Excuses

“Larry, I wish I could give more.”

“I wish I could give at the level of ten percent of my income, but things are really tight in my family. You know how I had to take a cut in pay last year? I’m also having to help out a friend in real financial need right now. That’s kind of like tithing, right? Me helping out my friend could count toward my tithe to God, couldn’t it?”

If I had a dollar every time I had a conversation similar to this, I could build up a sizeable love offering for my church!

And while helping out friends in need is a noble deed, I can’t say that those financial gifts can “count” toward the tithe according to God’s Word. God makes it pretty clear that we are to bring His tithe and offerings into the “storehouse” [Malachi 3:10]. In the Old Testament, the storehouse equaled the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. In the New Testament, the storehouse equals the local church that you attend.

An Easier Way To Giving Consistently

In the area of giving, some people seem to have an easier time giving consistently at the level of ten percent and beyond.

After counseling with people on personal finance issues over the last few years, I believe there are two main reasons some people have an easier time giving back to God and His church than others:

  1. They have a monthly spending plan. You know, the dreaded B word, a “Budget.” They give each dollar a name and tell each dollar what to do.
  2. They make giving to God and His church a priority in their lives. Their offerings are listed at the top of their budget form each and every month. They give God the very best of the “firstfruits” of their income [Proverbs 3:9].

I know in my own family, we have learned important Biblical financial principles – how to give, save, and spend – through ministry programs such as Financial Peace University and Crown Financial. God has blessed us in amazing ways as we have followed what His Word teaches us regarding financial matters.

All this Biblical financial stuff really does work!

In my own personal experience, giving at the level of the tithe can be relatively pain-free if you have a financial plan, if you make giving a priority in your life, and then if you follow through with your planned gift.

Execution of that plan is key!

A great way you can demonstrate your love for God and His Church is through having a financial plan and establishing giving as a priority in your life.

Isaiah 32:8 tells us, “But he who is generous plans generous things, and on generous things he stands.”

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this exact issue:

Questions: Do you have an easy time giving consistently at the level of ten percent? If not, why not? Do you have a monthly financial plan? Have you established giving as a priority in your life?

How To Do More With Less

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Fewer Resources In A Difficult Economy

Money is tight.

I seriously doubt that statement is too much of a shock to any of my readers.

In the early to mid 2000s, money flowed fast and cheap. People took advantage of the financial system, and then ended up in a world of hurt when the economy slowed way down.

For the last six years, we have lived in challenging economic times. Some people have struggled more than others. Some have been able to successfully make the transition over to surviving and even thriving on less, financially.

Somehow, these people have been able to take a little money and stretch it further than what is even considered possible.

Jesus Transforms The Little Into Much

In the Book of John, Chapter 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

This accounting was for 5,000 men and didn’t count all the women and children. So, the “real” people count may have been more like 15,000-20,000.

Jesus had taught all day on a mountainside near the Sea of Galilee, and this crowd of people listening to Him was getting hungry.

Jesus went to the disciples and asked them to find food for these 5,000 men, plus the women and children present as well.

One of the disciples, Phillip, told Him, “Lord, there’s no way we can afford to feed all these people. It would cost nearly half a year’s wages.” In today’s numbers, this could equal around $20,000.

Another disciple, Andrew, found a boy with a Jewish Happy Meal – five loaves of bread and two small fish. This boy had a $7 lunch. Andrew thought this amount of food was simply a waste of time. He had a scarcity mindset.

But Jesus didn’t think this way.

He had the people sit down. He took this small amount of food, he gave thanks for it, and he blessed it. Then the disciples distributed these five loaves and two small fish to the people.

In John 6:12-13, we read these words:

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

In this amazing miracle by Jesus, we see Him taking a small amount of food, blessing it, and multiplying it to the point that all the people’s physical hunger was satisfied, PLUS they had more than enough leftover.

Abundance Thinking

Jesus had an abundance mindset.

This makes total sense, though. He is God the Son. He owns it all! All resources are at his disposal at any time and any place.

When the disciples brought him the five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people, He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration and give up.

Instead, He prayed.

He thanked God for the resources that were before Him. He prayed a blessing on the loaves and fishes, and then what happened?

God multiplied the resources and then there was more than enough to feed the people. In fact, there were HUGE amounts of leftovers after the people ate until they were full.

You can do more with less. When God is in something, little can be much.

Questions: Do you, like the disciples, struggle with scarcity thinking, or do you have an abundance mindset? Do you look to God as your ultimate provider of resources? When you come to the time of offering in your church, do you think that you don’t have enough financially to make any kind of impact in the Kingdom of God? Do you think that your giving would be a waste of time and resources?

Key Thought: Whether you have a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Be like this boy who obeyed Jesus, gave away his small lunch to the Master, and the Lord blessed these few resources in an amazing way!

Give Like An Angel Investor, Not A Venture Capitalist

Photo by Kim Seng

Photo by Kim Seng

Shark Tank Reminded Me

Have you ever seen the TV show “Shark Tank?”

If you aren’t familiar with the show, here’s an excellent description from Wikipedia:

The show features a panel of potential investors, called “sharks”, who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. The entrepreneur can make a deal on the show if a panel member is interested. However, if all of the panel members opt out, the entrepreneur leaves empty handed. The show is said to portray “the drama of pitch meetings and the interaction between the entrepreneurs and tycoons.” A one hour pitch by a contestant is edited down to “a dramatic 10 minute segment”. The show is said to personalize “the desperation and pain experienced by victims of a broken down economy.”

I was watching the show several weeks ago, and I was reminded of the various types of investors. In the world of small business start-up investing, there are essentially two types: venture capitalists and angel investors.

Let’s look a little more closely at these two types of investors.

Venture Capitalists And Angel Investors

There are a couple of key differences between these two types of investors.

Venture capitalists are mostly concerned with making money. They typically invest a lot of money and they are hoping for a substantial return on their investment. For the venture capitalist, it’s all about the money – give a lot and make a lot!

Angel investors, however, handle their investing a little differently.

Yes, just like venture capitalists, they invest a lot of money and are interested in a return on that investment. But, their primary interests are in the people who started the company as well as the success of the business in which they’re investing.

They really like the person who started the business and want this person to be successful. They also really like the business model that this entrepreneur has created and want the business itself to be successful.

You see, for an angel investor, it’s not all about the money. The financial return on investment process is almost like a bonus to them.

Giving Like An Angel Investor

In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus told His followers,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

As believers, I think it’s way too easy to fall into a “give to get” mentality, much like the venture capitalist. Yes, many times God does richly bless those who give faithfully and abundantly, but this shouldn’t be our primary concern.

I believe our motive to give should be like that of an angel investor.

First, we have a unique relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the “people” part of angel investing.

Second, as children of God, we should have a deep personal interest and desire for the Kingdom of God to be successful. This is the “business” part of angel investing.

One way we can demonstrate this love for God and desire for Kingdom success is by giving back to our local church a portion of what He has given to us to manage.

And, the bonus for us as believers is that God promises to take care of our needs when we put Him and His Kingdom as our number one priority.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Have you ever thought about giving in terms of small business investing? How have you given in the past, like a venture capitalists or angel investor? Do you give because you are looking for a financial blessing, or because you love God and want His Kingdom to succeed?

How An iPad Changed My Perspective On Heavenly Treasures

iPad 1 photoMy Pride And Joy

In August 2009, I made a significant financial purchase.

I bought my very first iPad, a first generation Apple iPad. The cost was around $500.

For several months, I worked hard and saved any extra money I could. I even did some additional side work in order to save up enough money to buy this amazing new technology that Apple produced.

For at least a year or two, this iPad 1 was my pride and joy. I took it with me everywhere. I used it for everything.

Then, of course, Apple had the audacity to build newer and better iPads (what seemed to be every 6 months), making my glorious iPad 1 practically obsolete. Now five years later in 2014, you can go online to websites such as Craigslist and buy this same iPad for around $100-150. This tablet computer has depreciated greatly in value over time.

Ultimately, though, the materials used in this iPad will end up in a landfill or be recycled into another product.

Jesus And Our Treasures

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about our treasures and their value in this life and the next.

He said in Matthew 6:19-21,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Jesus gives us three key thoughts in these verses.

First, earth is a bad location to store our treasures. They will decay over time, plus there is the potential for theft.

Second, heaven is a better place to store our treasures. They will never decay here, or ever be stolen.

Third, our hearts follow our treasures. When we are consumed about our earthly treasure, our hearts are concerned with a temporal earth. God wants us to store up treasure in heaven so that our heart is focused on heaven. If we are believers, this is our ultimate destination, our eternal home.

So, Where’s Your Treasure?

Isn’t it ironic that we as believers in Christ often devote so much time, attention and money into the things that rust and perish? But, we ignore those things that truly last forever.

May I ask you this question, where is your treasure? Are you perhaps more concerned financially in earthly things such as cars, iPads, computers, phones or houses? These items lose their monetary value over time and will eventually be destroyed.

Or, are you investing in eternity? A great way to invest in eternity is by giving back to the Lord what He has entrusted to us through the weekly offerings of your local church.

The old saying goes that we can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:






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How To Enjoy Life And Make A Greater Contribution In The Lives Of Others

Photo by John Catbagan

Photo by John Catbagan

The Starfish Story

This story has been around for some time. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? In any case, I believe this story sets up this post well.

Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish, and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her: “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?” Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”

The Impact Of A Book

Have you ever read a book, seen a TV interview, or perhaps watched an online video that causes you to have one of those “AHA” moments? You know, when a light bulb goes off in your mind and you feel like a major shift in your thinking has taken place?

This happened for me about 7-8 months ago, when I watched a Youtube video of an orchestra conductor named Ben Zander and then read his book “The Art of Possibility.” You can read my book review on “The Art of Possibility” here.

In several chapters of his book, Ben discusses some of his challenges of being a conductor of a volunteer orchestra. As I continued to read through the book, I kept having these “Aha” moments of realization and learning.

For a large portion of his life, Ben Zander struggled with the drive to be to be successful as well as a fear of failure. He claims that this struggle caused both himself and those around him considerable suffering. The greater his success as an orchestra conductor, the worse this tension became in his life.

The tipping point for Ben came when his second wife walked away from their marriage. He began re-thinking how he was “doing life.”

He came away with the realization that he was living a life of selfishness. He was more inward focused on his own success. When being inward focused, he had more of an attitude that there was always another orchestra – aside from the one he was currently conducting – that he suspected would bring him more success, and so he was never fully present when he was on the conductor’s podium.

When he began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, he found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one he was with; in fact, there was no “better.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you can be a contribution to the lives of others.

A Shift Takes Place In My Thinking

This personally hit home with me about my own relationships within my family, as well as the volunteer orchestra I direct each week. I started asking myself questions about whether I was more interested in achieving success in my family or ministry, or am I truly more interested in living a life of contribution. This subtle but important shift in my mindset has (I believe) created a more enjoyable experience for those that I love and lead.

For example with the orchestra at church, in the past, I would get frustrated or upset with various problems such as excessive absenteeism for orchestra rehearsals on Wednesday nights as well as worship services on Sundays. My mindset before was too focused on having a successful orchestra and the roadblocks (in my mind) that my volunteer members were causing me to be a successful director.

Once I made this shift in my thinking, though, I started focusing on the orchestra members who decided to be present for a particular Wednesday rehearsal or Sunday worship service. I began realizing I could and should be a contribution in their lives spiritually, musically, and personally.

And you know what has happened? I’m enjoying my life and ministry a whole lot more by living a life focused on contribution rather than success versus failure. And, I hope those around me are enjoying life at a deeper level as well.

The Generous Life

Playing the game of contribution should really be of no surprise to those of us who are believers in Christ. The Bible has much to say about living a life of generosity versus selfishness.

In Proverbs 11:24-25 (MSG) we read these words:

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.

Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. Just like our starfish story at the beginning, don’t get overwhelmed and give up because you can’t help everyone. Focus on being a contribution to the few that you can be.

Questions: Are you living a tension-filled life based on a drive for success and a fear of failure? Is your life enjoyable or full misery? Do you need to consider a shift in mindset from success versus failure over to contribution?






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