Delivered at the Kentucky/Indiana Fellowship in Sellersburg, IN. July 2022

                                         Text: Acts 20:35.       

INTRO: Thanks for inviting me to share in this fellowship.  The text summarizes the context which begins with verse 25 and offers a brief accounting of Paul’s life work.  “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’               

Paul uses an interesting two part phrase, “In this manner, you must help the weak.”    

On its face Paul says , “Imitate me, as I imitate Jesus.”  Imitating Paul is serious business.  Paul followed Jesus.  So, in reflecting on Paul’s life, we have a picture of the life-style of Jesus. Paul’s life was demanding.  It consumed him, 24/7.  Physically, He supported himself and helpers as needed, but his focus was saving souls for Jesus.  Applying that life-style to ourselves gets us headed in the right direction.     Note that spiritual work required physical & spiritual strength, purpose, concentration, time, loyalty to God and an unfailing desire to please Him.                                                                                             

     This is the man who said, (II Timothy 4:7-8), “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but to all who have loved His appearing.”          Q.  Pause for a  Self-exam, for all Christians:  Do we love His appearing?  As I reflected on my personal life several thoughts crowded into my head.  I haven’t started each day expressing the hope that Jesus would come today.  Do I long for His coming?  YES!                                                                

     I thought of conversations around Sunday morning worship.  Not much discussion about His Coming.

I hear about weather, ball game scores, & inflation.  My  confession and point:  I am guilty of living in the immediate and not focusing on His soon coming, and that is dangerous! My excuse? I’m too busy.

I am so busy – being a Christian – focusing on my immediate concerns.                                              

I am so busy – worrying about other people, wondering if God accepts their worship.                         

I am so busy, some days I don’t stop to talk to God, to praise Him, to thank Him for redeeming me, to meditate on the wonders of His creation & His coming for us.        Sound familiar? 

                                                                              **** REFLECT.  What I need to understand:                                  

I am too busy to NOT WALK CLOSE TO HIM, TO NOT LISTEN TO HIS VOICE, TO NOT CLING TO HIS HAND, TO NOT BOW BEFORE HIM.  I am too busy!                                                       

I suggest to you, that learning to give, as Jesus gave, [Imitate Him] is the way back to that beautiful, comfortable, close walk with God.                                                                                  

When we practice giving ourselves, as Paul did, we will be focused on saving souls for the glory of God.     Isn’t That our mission?  It must be our goal.                                                                              

It is our blessing.  Living the mission of Jesus – saving souls – will change our focus from praising God for blessing us, to blessing God for allowing us to be used in His service.   This will happen when we literally put Him and His Cause First in our lives, each day, every day, until Jesus comes.

      Paul again, “You must help the weak.”  The weak, the poor are always with us, an opportunity for us to show the love of Jesus. Pause.  Reflect on the text. The act of Giving played out on Calvary.    On a much smaller scale, the Calvary Example continues.             

     Look at the latter part of the text:  The Blessing of receiving, through God’s Grace.           

More reflection.  My testimony:   By God’s grace I have been on the receiving end of His blessings for the past 86 plus years.         (Hind sight]  I experienced the wonderful joy, the warm feeling of receiving, knowing that God had provided. On many occasions God provided the person or the place and the blessing needed for that moment.     His blessings provided –  personal protection, money, housing, food, clothing, time and solitude.  All of them, opportunities to grow in faith.    From my teen years to today I have multiple reasons to kneel before Him, humbled by His compassionate grace.       

      Reflecting on His grace is exciting and faith- affirming.   I know in whom I believe.   God loves me!  I know He does!    I rejoice in that.  At the end of day, I sleep well. I reflect on His great love for me.  It’s difficult to grasp. He died for me.  I know who I was- a sinner, rebellious,  doomed.    I know who I became – accepted by Him.  He sees me through His blood.  In Him I am clean, pure, free to approach Him, to live in His presence.  After a rough start, I chose to follow Him, to be like Him, to be His witness.

***  Living that life style- following Him – is my most difficult experience, per Romans 7:14- 8:2).   It is also my most gratifying experience.  Maude would tell you I remain a work in progress.  I continue learning about our enemy’s vicious intention – to destroy God’s people.  And I continue learning to trust God about His promise to protect us, without locking us in.  His purpose demands that I be free to choose to follow Him.  Note the importance of Free Will!                                                             

     Free will is alive and well!  God’s love is relentless.  He demands that we choose to follow Him.  Eternity, where righteousness dwells, will be populated with people who, in this life chose to yield to His Holy Spirit.                         

******  Back to the text, Acts 20:35,  “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”                              

My Q. How can it be a greater blessing to give?  My head understands, my mind does not. My fallen nature doesn’t understand that logic.   For my benefit, Jesus demonstrated the joy and the cost of giving.   He gave His life.    That is what He asks of us.                     

      What kind of faith does it take to live like that?   Faith described: Hebrews 11:1&6)                                  1)  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Think, Trusting Him.

6)  “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is-exists- and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”                                                       

      In First Corinthians (2:3-5) Paul helps us understand.   

3) “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,      [The human element]                                                                                                  

4) and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,    [God moving through his message]                                                                                           

  5) so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”                             2 Cor. 8:5) [The Macedonian church example] “And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”  The Macedonians first gave themselves to God, obeying Him.  Then they sought His will by looking for opportunities to serve Him.       ********************                                                 

      So, how may we receive the blessing of giving?  Short Answer:  GIVE!   Give as Jesus gave.   Give your life to ransom souls for His kingdom.  Give your mind, body, wealth, personality.  Give all of you to Him, to use as He determines.        

     Notice Jesus’ Attitude:  First, the man, Jesus yielded fully to the leading of the Spirit of God. 

 For us, the follow- through is the most difficult.   Seems it was also for Jesus.       Think Gethsemane.

The idea of “Giving.” Is from self to others.  Must have something worth giving:  physical / material, or spiritual.                                                                                                                                             

     Our example:  Jesus had something to give; An eternal choice between good and evil.  Think spiritual level. Jesus, “The poor you always have with you.”       Translate, You always have opportunity to give of your self.  Widows and orphans also become opportunities to give of self.   

            When we plan.. Ask God to lead.  Proverbs 16:9)  “Man plans but God works ..                   “Matt. 6:33)  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  God is holy; He commands us to be holy.         

Summary:  Jesus said, “I came to do the will of Him who sent Me.”                                                     

Jesus first gave Himself to do the will of His Father.  His Father’s will sent Him to Calvary.                    

That was His life, His focus, His obsession, His love.  His life of giving is our  example.


       Buford Smith is a retired Church of Christ Minister in the Dugger/Linton, IN, area.