“You cannot out-give God” is a popular phrase in contemporary Christianity.
The “name it and claim it” clan seems to have made this their motto – that the more you give, the more God will give to you.
Televised pastors use this as their mantra to stimulate financial support from others, promising that when you give enough money to the church, God will give you other material wealth in return. As my grandpa has often joked “Give the money to God, but make that check payable to me.”
They tell us that because you cannot out-give God, the more time, money and effort you give to Him, the more He will give back to you. Psalm 34:7 has become a popular source of “evidence” that God is some kind of wish-granting genie that will give you all the things your heart desires if you appease Him long enough. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
“He withholds no good thing.” People take this as material or worldly goods that we think God should be giving us. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to someone pour out their heart to me in brokenness saying “I have given God everything and yet (insert bad circumstance) still happened.” Goodness, I can’t judge – I’ve sat in that same seat of discontentment, disappointment and helplessness.
Somehow, we forgot the reason for why we’re here and traded the truth about our lives, for the lie that we have certain material things that we need in order to be more happy in this life – especially because we justify that God has promised to give them to us in exchange for our priced dedication to Him. Yup that’s basically what we’re saying when we expect God to give us things in return for being a “good Christian”: my love for God comes at a price.
Somehow, we have missed out on the greatest, greatest gift that God can and does give us.
The greatest good that God can give us, is more of Himself.
He will give you as much of Himself as you ask for. He will never hold back and say “Nope. No more. You love me too much. That’s all you get.”
You can’t out-give God because you can never give Him more of yourself than He gives of Himself to you. That’s how God works – He’s limitless. There is simply no end to who He is.
I find it so ironic that people use Psalm 37:4 as a means for proving that God is going to fulfill all of their heart’s desires when they commit themselves to Him – read your Bible, show up in church, sing some hymns and write some checks, you’ll miraculously receive all of the things that you ever wanted – when they forget that delighting in God will change the desires of our hearts. When our hearts truly delight in Him, we no longer place much value on the things that we desired before. We no longer long for the recognition, material wealth, and status that we wanted before.
When we delight in the Lord, He becomes the core desire of our hearts.
I will make you a promise – when you turn your heart over to God and let Him shine light into all of your broken and shadowy places, He will fill you and change you beyond what you could even recognize.
We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Romans 12:2 proves this: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Here’s a fun fact for you: you cannot determine God’s will for your life if you aren’t committed to Him. Simply because it is impossible to understand His “good, pleasing and perfect will” when our eyes and minds are transfixed by what we want His will to be. We cannot follow His will when we are pursuing our own.
The word “renew” literally means “to restore or replenish”, “to extend validity for an additional period.” It means that something that got old, has now been taken and changed, replenished and restored, so that it may continue to function the way that it was designed to.
I grew up with the greatest metaphor for restoration right in front of my eyes: My dad’s hobby is restoring vintage motocross bikes. He has a large motorcycle shop on our property where he keeps his collection along with where he tinkers and builds classic, one-of-a-kind motorcycles. For years I would sit on a wooden stool and watch while he sandblasted, greased, polished and painted. Each tiny part was taken and either restored or replaced, sometimes causing him to have an all new part built if a replacement couldn’t be found due to them being discontinued years before. I watched his labor of love and how much meticulous care was placed into a true restoration. I also learned what a poor restoration looked like – sometimes he acquired bikes that others had tried to give less than 100% to a restoration, where paint had been applied haphazardly, and thus further damaging the motorcycle instead of restoring it. Sometimes a bike would come in, and three weeks later, it would look like a completely different machine – making the old version look like a shadow in comparison to the beauty and art in front of me now.
In ten years, I want who I am as a Christian to be so radically stronger than it is right now, that this Christian woman I am today is only a shadow of who God makes me into in the future. I don’t want to waste my time and further damage my mind by trying to renew it myself. I am not a master in the art of renewing minds – I know that any attempt I make in “self formulating” my way to restoration will only slow the process of restoration. I have to turn every motive, every thought, every idea, every desire, every pursuit, every breath has to be turned over to God. Everything that I am must be handed over to the true artist that created my mind and heart – only He can restore it to the purpose and beauty for which He intended it. Only He can restore my heart to pursue His will over my own.
I’m really big on self-care. Jesus Himself understood the importance of getting alone to process and let yourself simply breathe. A passage that has been on my heart recently is Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” Luke includes this verse like an interjection in the middle of describing Jesus’s growing popularity as he went from town to town teaching and healing the sick. It’s as if he’s saying “Jesus was doing great things, and yet even still, He knew the importance of stepping away from all of that, get alone with His Father and pray.” Jesus was a member of the Trinity – Jesus was GOD. And even still, He craved His time alone with His Father. He didn’t need to be alone in order to communicate with God, but He still sought out solitude with His Father so He could devote His heart to prayer. Jesus was a deity on earth but He had been instilled with a heart and mind like ours – human. He needed restoration in order to continue His pursuit of what God had placed Him on earth to do. If Jesus Himself needed that, then I can promise you need it too. No part of your self-care routine will ever compensate for the refreshing change that God brings to your heart when you direct your focus back on Him.
I cannot emphasize enough: the greatest thing that God can give you is more of Himself. He will never love you more than He already does – but He can always show you more of Himself. Once you have felt the authentic presence of God in your life, once you have experienced the renewal of your mind to love Him more, everything changes. The old you passes away like a shedding skin, and your renewed self comes shining forth. The incredible thing about God is that the more you give Him, the more you have – not in material wealth, but in eternal satisfaction. The more you give Him of yourself – the more He shows you His heart. The more you commit to Him – the more He will make a clear destination for your feet.
“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And also He said ‘Write these things down, for they are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5
” But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 2:20-25