Boundless Part 1: It Begins With 'Tude

Boundless Part 1: It Begins With ’Tude
John 6:1-13

October 15, 2017
Pastor Morris Brown

Today’s an exciting day at Christ Church! Why? We believe God’s given us an incredible vision! God’s called us to be a church that’s “embracing people, our community and the world with the boundless love of God.” And today we’re launching a $6 million generosity initiative that will help us turn that vision into reality!

Through this generosity initiative we’re going to fully fund our budget for the next two years! This two-year budget will provide financial resources for staff and ministries that will help us continue producing people who are “loving God, growing in Christlikeness, and serving in our church, community and world.” This two-year budget will also include “tithe” of ten percent or $200,000 per year toward missions. As a result, we will in effect quadruple—that’s right, you heard me—quadruple the amount of support our annual budget currently provides to local, national, and international missions endeavors!

Through this generosity initiative we’re also going to pay off $250,000 of debt we have on our Fellowship Center. Now, debt’s not a bad thing, but we’ve had this debt a long time. And feel we could use the $50,000 we spend on debt payments each year in more productive way—on ministries that change people’s lives!

Finally, through this generosity initiative we’re going to complete some much-needed enhancements to our facility. We’ll be able to bring the children’s wing of our building up-to-date so that our children will have an inviting, safe and secure space to learn about God’s love for them. We’ll be able to improve our sound system. That way everyone, including our folks who are hearing-impaired will be about to fully participate in worship each week. We’ll be able to update our office and meeting spaces to make them more accessible and user-friendly. And, we’ll be able to take care of some long overdue maintenance needs like painting, roofing, and HVAC!

So here’s the question: How will we raise the $6 million we need to make our God-given vision a reality? Well, to do it, we need the help of people like you! We need the help of people who are willing to generously invest their time, talents, and financial resources in our church so we can be the church God is calling us to be.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to share a worship series called Boundless! In this series, we’re going to explore how our faith can help all of us grow in ability to live generous lives. Hopefully, this will not only help us fund our generosity initiative, but help us also experience the joy living generously every day!

Today we begin our series with a message entitled It Takes ’Tude. You see, if we’re going to grow in our ability to be people who are living generous lives we must begin with “tude”—we must begin with our attitude! You see, each day you and I have to choose the ATTITUDE with which we’re going to approach our lives.

Are we going approach life with an attitude of scarcity—with the concern that we will not have enough? Or, are we going to approach life with an attitude of abundance— trusting that God will always provide what we need? To help us make the healthy choice I’d like to explore the story we read from the gospel of John. You remember the story! Jesus and his disciples have crossed the Sea of Galilee. As they step out of the boat onto the shore, a large crowd of people gathers around them. The people want to hear Jesus teach. They want him to heal them of their physical ailments. Looking over the crowd, however, Jesus realizes something.

He realizes that what they really need is something to eat. So, he turns to Philip, one of his disciples. “Philip,” Jesus says, “how are we going to buy enough bread to feed all these hungry people?” Shocked Philip says, “Buy enough bread to feed all these people? Lord, there are thousands of people who’ve gathered here! Not even two years of wages would buy enough food for all of them to have a single bite!”

Philip reminds me of the family that was having a large dinner party for their friends. When they all sat down to dinner the hostess turned to her 5-year-old daughter and asked if she would like to say grace before the meal began. “I’m not sure what to say.” The little girl replied. “Well,” her mother reassuringly responded, “Why don’t you just say the last prayer you heard me say.” So, the little girl bowed her head, and began, “Dear God, why did I invite all these people to dinner!?” “Jesus,” Phillip said, “Why did you invite all these people to dinner!?”

That’s when another disciple steps in. His name is Andrew. And Andrew says, “I don’t know if it will help, Lord. But there’s a little kid over there with a bag lunch. Now, he only has five barley loaves and a couple of small fish. I’m not sure it’s enough to make a difference with all these people, but the kid has offered it.”

Hearing this, Jesus turns to the rest of the disciples and says, “Tell the people to sit down.” Then, taking the little boy’s lunch, Jesus gives thanks to God and begins to distribute the bread and fish. And to everyone’s amazement there’s not only enough to feed over five thousand people. There are 12 baskets of leftovers.

Now, in this story we see two attitudes we must choose between each and every day. We see an attitude of “scarcity,” which is characterized by Phillip. And we see an attitude of “abundance,” which is characterized by Andrew and the little boy. Let’s take a look at the impact each ’tude has on our ability to live generous lives.

First, there is the attitude of scarcity. When the Philip hears Jesus’ request to feed the people, he looks at the crowd and immediately chooses a “attitude of scarcity.” He immediately assumes the situation they face is impossible. He immediately decides that the resources they have are simply not enough. He immediately gives up! That’s what an attitude of scarcity does! It looks at the challenging situations we face in our lives and immediately says, “The situation I’m facing is impossible. I don’t have what I need to deal with it. I don’t have enough.”

The tragedy is, when we live our lives out this mindset, with this attitude three things happen to us. For example, when we live out of an attitude of scarcity we get SCARED. Did you know that the words “scarcity” and “scared” come from the same root word? They do. They come from the root word that means “little.” An attitude of scarcity tells us what we have is too little—we have too little money or time or love. It invites us to worry and fret that we won’t have enough. It tells us that the more we have, the happier, the more secure we’ll be. In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamont speaks to this condition. She says, “Very early in life I developed the fear that I wouldn’t have enough money. So, I created an interesting fantasy. I fantasized that if I made a certain amount of money my fear, my anxiety, my worry would go away. Then I had a best-selling book. And my fantasy came true. I got to the level of money I thought I needed. When I did, however, I made a interesting discovery. I discovered that the amount of money I had was still not enough. I was still scared. I was still anxious. I was still worried. I felt I needed more!”

When we have an attitude of scarcity, it makes us anxious; it makes us worried; it makes us scared. And no matter how much we have, how much we accumulate, it’s still not enough. Which leads to the second thing an attitude of scarcity does—namely, an attitude of scarcity makes us selfish. Because we are afraid that we will not have enough, the attitude of scarcity tells us that we must do everything we can to accumulate as much as we can. And then we must hold on to what we have for dear life. Because if we don’t hold on tight, someone might take it from us.

Earlier this week I heard a story about the pastor of a large church in a small town. His church was beginning their annual generosity campaign and he and the treasurer of the church were discussing who might need to be encouraged to give a little bit more to the church in the coming year. That’s when the treasurer told him.

“Pastor,” he said, “Richard Smith is the richest man in our church. In fact, he’s the wealthiest man in town! But guess what? He hasn’t given any money to the church in ten years.” Shocked by this, the pastor figured he better go talk to Richard Smith. So, the pastor called Richard, made an appointment, and went to his house.

When they sat down the pastor said, “Richard, we’re preparing for our annual generosity campaign at church this year. And when we were going through our giving records we noticed that in the last ten years you haven’t given a dime to the church. Why is that?” “Well, preacher,” Richard began, “let me ask you something: Did your records show that my mother is in a nursing home, which costs several times her annual income each year? And did you records show that my brother had to have a major operation and now has a horrendous number of medical bills? And did your records show that my sister, who has three kids, recently lost her job and she is about to lose her house?” Embarrassed, the pastor was about to apologize, when Richard said, “Let me tell you something preacher! If I didn’t give them any money, what makes you think I’d give any money to the church?” An attitude of scarcity—it makes us scared and so we selfishly hold on to what we have!

Finally, an attitude of scarcity can make us sick. When we live out of an attitude of scarcity we often stress ourselves out trying to accumulate as much as we can. We often worry our selves to death trying to selfishly hold onto what we have. And we end up living in ways that attack our bodies and make us sick.

I recently read about an interesting type of jellyfish that is found in the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the time these jellyfish casually eat small fish or plankton that happen to swim into their path. Sometimes, however, for a variety of reasons, there are not enough small fish and plankton swimming into the path of the jellyfish. Scientists tell us that when this happens, these jellyfish panic and do something that is not good for them. They feed on snails. The problem is the snails the jellyfish begin to feed on have shells. So, when the jellyfish eat them, they cannot digest them. And the snail shells destroy the walls of the jellyfish’s digestive tract. This causes the jellyfish become extremely sick and sometimes die! Here’s the point: When we live our lives out of a mindset of scarcity, we often do things that are not good for us. We worry and stress. We work too much. We damage our relationships. Very often this will make us sick. Sometimes, it can even kill us!

So, when we live out of an attitude of scarcity we get scared because we think we won’t have enough. We selfishly begin to accumulate as much as we can and hold on to it for dear life. And we end up living in ways that can make us sick. Ways that can sometimes kill us. Phillip was living out of an attitude of scarcity.

But, there is another way to live, and that is with an attitude of abundance. We see the attitude in Andrew and the little boy. They look at the crowd of people and the little boy’s lunch, and see a possibility. If they can get what they have into the hands of Jesus, they trust that it might be enough. And the good news is, it is!

So, how do we develop an attitude of abundance like Andrew and the little boy? How do we become people who see possibility where everyone else sees impossibility? How do we become people who look at life’s challenging situations and say, “I know God will provide what we need”? Well, we have to do three things.

First, to develop an attitude of abundance we need to focus on what we’ve got. That’s what Andrew did. He heard Jesus tell the disciples to feed five thousand people. But instead of immediately saying, “No way! This is impossible! This can’t be done!” the little boy said, “I brought my lunch today!” And Andrew said, “It’s all we’ve got, but let’s take it to Jesus!”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who lived through the Great Depression. In the course of our conversation, I looked at my friend and said, “Living through the Depression must have been really difficult. It must have been tough not having enough.” “Oh!” he said, “They were pretty tough times. But the truth is, my parents helped us find a way to be happy.” “Really,” I said, “What did they do?” “Well,” he said, “instead of focusing on what we didn’t have, our parents always helped us focus on what we did have. And when we did, we realized we always had enough!”

In her book Simply Abundance, Sarah Breathnach says, “Abundance and scarcity simultaneously exist in our lives like parallel gardens. Each day we must decide which garden we will tend. Will we tend the garden of scarcity? Will we focus on what is missing from our lives? Or, will we tend the garden of abundance? Will we focus on what we do have? If we choose to tend the garden of abundance we’ll soon discover that the garden of scarcity becomes a wasteland that begins to fall away, and we begin to experience heaven on earth.” To have an attitude of abundance we—like Andrew, like my friend—must focus on what we have.

Second, to develop an attitude of abundance we need to practice being generous. When Jesus requested that the disciples feed the crowd, Andrew and the little boy didn’t panic. Instead, the little boy took what he had and generously offered it to Andrew, and Andrew generously offered it to Jesus. Both Andrew and the little boy engaged in the practice of generosity. They both committed a generous act. Walter Bruggemann says, “People who live out of an attitude of abundance know that they will always have enough of what they need, so they share much of what they have because they know generosity brings joy!”

Bruggemann reminds me of the men who were in the locker room of the gym one day when a cell phone rang. Picking it up one man said, “Hello?” “Honey,” a woman’s voice said, “Is that you? I can hardly hear you.” “Yes,” the man said. “Well,” the voice replied, “I’m at the store and I found a dress but it’s really expensive. Do you mind if I buy it?”

“Of course not!” The man replied, “And while you’re at it get a matching purse!” Stunned, the woman said, “The girls called and want me to go to an expensive restaurant for lunch is that okay?” “Absolutely!” the man said, “And make sure you get desert!” Pressing her luck, the voice said, “One more thing! My mother called and wants to move in with us? What do you think?” “Sounds great!” the man responded, “tell her to make plans to move in as soon as possible!” When the voice hung up the man turned the rest of the guys in the locker room, smiled and said, “Does anyone know whose phone this is?”

Seriously, we live out of an attitude of abundance when we give thanks for resources we have: time, money, possessions, and love. Then we look for opportunities to share what we have with others because we know that there will still be enough for us, and we know our generosity will bring joy into our lives as well as theirs.

The great twentieth century mystic Evelyn Underhill once said, “If you ever feel the anxiety of deprivation or the fear of scarcity, take a look at the resources you have at your disposal. Then, find someone in need, find a worthy charity, find a cause that is doing good for others in the world, and share what you have with them. Share your time, your money, your very life. If you do, you will soon discover that you’re act of generosity has become the balm that soothes anxiety and fear of deprivation and scarcity in your life.” Evelyn Underhill is right. To develop an attitude of abundance we, like Andrew, must practice being generous with what we have.

Finally, to develop an attitude of abundance we must trust in the mysterious power of God. Andrew displayed an attitude of abundance because he was focused on he had. The

little boy displayed an attitude of abundance by being generous with what he had. But the truth is, both of them did one more thing. They both displayed an attitude of abundance by trusting in the mysterious power of God. They took what they had and generously placed it in the hands of Jesus trusting something amazing might happen. He knew that the mysterious power of God would be unleashed and there would be enough for everyone involved!

I once read a business article that reminded me of this mystery. It was called “The Mystery of Collaboration.” The article said, “Have you ever watched a new McDonald’s be built on a previously vacant corner of your town? If you have, you probably noticed that wasn’t long before a Wendy’s restaurant went in next door. A Burger King went in across the street. And a Chick-fil-A went in down the way. You may have thought, ‘That’s counter-productive! There will be fewer customers for each restaurant!’ If so, you thought wrong! That’s because you forgot the power of what savvy marketing teams call in ‘The Mystery of Collaboration.’ You see, these marketing teams realize that if they have something good, like a good location. And share what they have, their good location, with other restaurants, that location will become known as a ‘restaurant row.’ And in time, thousands more consumers will be drawn to that area every day to satisfy their hunger. Now, sometimes they will choose McDonald’s. Sometimes they will choose Wendy’s. Sometimes they will choose Burger King or Chick-fil-A. But, in the end, a mystery will take place. The willingness to share the location will increase the profit of every restaurant. They’ll all experience an abundance of business.”

Here’s the point: If you and I want to live our lives out of an attitude of abundance, we, like Andrew, like the little boy, need to do something to unleash the mysterious power of God’s provision. We need to find a way to take what we have—our time, our talents, and our financial resources—and make it available to the power of God. We must say, “God I’m going to trust that as I place what I have in your hands, I know your mysterious power will be released in my life and my church! So, I’m going to trust that You will take what I offer, add it to what others will offer, and use it to bless the lives of people in this church, this community, and your world!”

Listen, God has given our church a big vision! Our Boundless initiative is a big initiative! But God can help us achieve our goal. God can help us turn our vision into reality! In order for God to do it; however, we must begin with TUDE! Instead of approaching our lives with an attitude of scarcity, we must approach our lives with an attitude of abundance! Will we? I hope we will!

© Morris A. Brown 10/17/18