C. S. Lewis has written that one of the surest proofs of the existence of God is the presence of beauty all around us. No one has to teach a child that something is beautiful or ugly. There are experiments these days that show that newborns or even unborns react negatively to ugly and positively to beauty.
Where I’ve always felt the beauty of our world is in nature—the seashore, the mountains, even the deserts (as long as I have water to drink). And one of the most impressive things about “nature” is that it abounds with generosity. The springtime glorious display of flowers and new sprouts fill me with a sense of gratitude to God for surrounding us with so much bounty.
So it has always seemed to me that if I were really to follow in Christ’s footsteps, I must be generous in every way I can because certainly God has been incredibly generous with me. It’s never made sense to me that when I was very young God answered my childish requests for truly frivolous items with such gracious bounty (at least from my vaunted adult perspective). Later I came to the conclusion that this happened (and I’ve described the incidents more fully in my book Prayers of Faith: On Learning to Trust God), because God was teaching me a lesson about doing for others everything within my ability to make their lives better. It felt as if I needed to be generous beyond my comfort zone if I were to call myself a “follower of Christ”.
Certainly Jesus was generous in the most outlandish ways with all those around him. The 153 fish the disciples caught by putting their nets down on the other side of the boat after a discouraged night of catching zilch—probably the best catch of their careers—was one example, yet what they do? They left all that bounty behind because Christ’s next words were, “Feed my sheep.”
When Peter’s mother-in-law had been healed by the Lord, she got up from her sick bed and served. For that reason Scriptures tells us when those around us are hungry, we are to feed them. When they are thirsty we are to give them drink. When they are sick and in prison, we are to visit them. When they are naked we must give them clothing. It’s all laid out clearly in Matthew 25.
In my own life I’ve found that the more generous I am with those around me, the more generous God is with me. When I adopted those eight Brazilians orphans 50 years ago, I found myself being generous but at the same time wanting to worry about giving away my last farthing. But I quickly learned the truth of the adage: ‟If you trust, you don’t worry and if you worry you don’t trust.” And down through the years God has been generous to me beyond belief, actually.
When I moved into the house 34 years ago where I’m living now, I had made a list of all the things I wanted in a home. At the time I was in seminary and had encountered the prayer warriors Agnes Sanford and her sidekick Edith Drury. When Edith saw my seminary apartment with all its student-garnered furnishings, she said, ‟Don’t you know God wants you to have joy in your life?” I agreed that I knew that, so she rejoindered, ‟How can you be joyful living in this dump?”
I thought to myself: If she could have only seen the primitive way we lived in the jungles of Brazil (twelve years with no electricity!) she wouldn’t call this a dump. But I took the admonition seriously and that night placed in my Bible a prayer list of what I wanted in a home: a large kitchen., a fireplace, convenient to my daughters’ school and the seminary, in good repair, trees and a place where I could live for five years (until the girls were out of high school). Within weeks I had moved into a lovely shared home and never again have I had to settle for a ‟missionary dump” which was what I thought was required of me if I were to follow Christ.
Agnes and Edith were wonderful friends in my transition back from Brazil to my life in the States. And I began to understand what J. B. Phillips meant in his wonderful little book, Your God Is Too Small. Of course the problem with being generous is our temptation to worry about giving away too much, or to those who don’t truly appreciate it, or to those who don’t deserve it. And then we’ll be without because our too-small God will forget about us.
All you have to do is look at the flowers and the ocean and the forests and the glens and know that God surrounds us with this incredible generous beauty, not because we deserve it, or appreciate it properly, or even share it with those we think should stay ‟outside”. God surrounds us with incredible generosity because God is love. And the more generous we can become with others, the more we reflect God’s presence and God’s love to those around us.
The awesome result in all this for my life has been that God’s generosity to me has been rather overwhelming. So every time I’m tempted to worry about giving away too much, or not having enough to pay my bills, I stop and pray, ‟God, I am trusting solely in you and know the God who has provided so spectacularly for me down through the years, is worthy of my trust and I thank you, God, for your goodness and mercy and grace which is beyond anything I could ask or think.”
And I know that the God who has so gracious to me throughout the years is going to be there to the end of my days. Period!
—Faith Annette Sand, publisher
Prayer of Faith: On Learning to Trust God can be found at: