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Experiencing God in Giving: Using Your Influence for God’s Glory
Before the world began, God had a purpose that He was working out in your life. There
are special moments during which He wants to drop you right into the middle of His
eternal purposes. These moments will have not only an immediate effect but also a
lasting impact upon the people of God. At the end of the age, people will look back and
recognize what God accomplished strategically in you and through you.
Blackaby heads Henry Blackaby Ministries (formerly Life Change Ministries), a
Christian teaching and discipleship organization in Atlanta, Ga. He preached this sermon
at the annual Generous Giving Conference in Sarasota, Fla., February 28-March 2,
In Matthew 27 there is a short event in the life of Jesus’ disciples that
God carried out His eternal activity in and through a person of great wealth. Perhaps it
will appear to be an insignificant moment in Scripture, but if you look at the larger
picture and see it from God’s perspective, then you may begin understand why God may
have sovereignly chosen to give you significant earthly resources as well. This is
the story of the burial of Jesus, and the person involved was a rich man called Joseph of
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph,
who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate he asked for Jesus’ body,
and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean
linen cloth and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a
big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the
other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb (vv.57-61).
When scripture was written, there were countless things that God chose not to
include. But as the apostle John reminds us in his first epistle, those things that were
included were meant to lead you into an intimate relationship with God so that you
might know the fullness of life that He intended when He saved you. So this little
incident was recorded so that every one of His children to the end of time would hear
about the rich man whom God blessed financially and used strategically at a critical
moment in history.
God Gives a Rich Man Special Influence
Consider the plight of the poor disciples: Their master had just been crucified unjustly,
and they were the grieving and powerless to do anything about it. I can imagine them
saying to each other, “What can we do? They have taken our Lord and they have
crucified Him. Isn’t there anything we can do at all? What are they going to do with the
body of our Lord?”
But strategically placed in the middle of those disciples was Joseph, the rich
man from Arimathea, and he had been made a disciple of Jesus for such a moment as
this. God has no loose ends, and He often uses people of wealth to accomplish a very
significant and far-reaching purpose. I don’t believe that the Father wanted the disciples
to sense that things were out of control, that the world was in charge—for it is not. God is
in charge. He may allow His Son to die, but while God was in Christ reconciling the world
to Himself, He had Joseph in place—a rich man—for such an hour as this to display what
God can do in the intimacy of His own involved with His own.
This rich man Joseph went straight into the presence of Pilate and requested
Jesus’ body. How in the world did Joseph get immediate access to the Roman governor?
Could a poor man have done that? See, a person of wealth often has significant
influence over others, and he has special access to places where no one else can go.
Pilate probably already had a relationship with Joseph because of his wealth, as many
politicians do. Could it be that God gave Joseph wealth and influence so that at this
moment in history He might fulfill His eternal purposes through this rich man?
I don’t suppose that we could even come close to understanding what went
through the hearts of those disciples when they understood that in God’s wonderful
mercy and grace, Joseph’s actions were happening right on schedule according to God’s
plan. It wasn’t just the Mary Magdalenes who were the followers of Jesus; there were
wealthy people who followed Jesus as well, and God had a purpose for them.
Joseph had just spent a great deal of money digging out of solid rock a grave
for himself, along with the finest of linen for burial. Joseph, out of his riches, had
prepared something for himself which now he gave to his Lord. And he gave it
immediately. Joseph had walked with Jesus. He had come to love Jesus. And giving out
of a relationship with the living Lord is always a spontaneous act. He didn’t have to think
about it. If you want to know the true condition of your heart, watch to see what you do
spontaneously. If you have to think about it, your heart is not there yet. But I have
watched individuals whose hearts are so prepared and so open before God, it doesn’t
matter what God brings into their lives, but their spontaneous response will always be
generous giving. It doesn’t matter what it is because they have set their hearts.
Right on schedule, God had a man of wealth become a disciple of His Son.
Why did He do that? To bring great comfort to the people of God who were
disenfranchised and did not have access to government officials, and to provide for the
burial of His Son. There in the humility of a wealthy person’s love for Jesus, the Lord
relieved some of His disciples’ pressure and pain and gave His Son a proper burial.
God’s Purposes Are Right on Schedule
Recently my wife and I flew to southern Africa, where we found ourselves listening
to the pain of the nationals. In one country alone, 47 percent of the population has
AIDS. At least 14 million orphans—anticipated to be as many as 40 million—have this
disease, and I saw many of them. For the first time, right on schedule, God stirred my
heart. I met an African-American missionary who had just arrived the day before in the
country of Zambia, and I asked him, “Why are you here, Troy?”
He said, “God sent me here to find out what He had in mind to do to deal with
the orphans and the AIDS problem.”
I said, “What are you going to do?”
He replied, “You are asking the wrong question. It is not, ‘What I am going to
do?’ Rather, it is, ‘What God is going to tell me He wants to do?’ I have a
sense that maybe God wants to partner black churches in America with the churches in
Africa, that somehow they need to get out of themselves and put their arms around
their brothers and sisters who are crying through the night and who are dying, and to the
children with nowhere to go and the grandmothers trying. I don’t know what to do, but I
sense that that may be at least part of what God wants to do.”
I said to him, “I have never heard such a thing as this. I don’t have all that
much access into the African-American churches, but I will tell you one thing, right here
with you: I release my life to God that if by chance in the economy of God He would put
me somewhere where I could tell the story of the hurt, I will do it with all my heart.” And
we bowed and I held his hand, his black hand, and prayed in partnership with him.
The day after my wife and I returned to our home in Atlanta, would you
believe that Dr. Tony Evans called my office and asked, “Do you think Henry would be
willing to be a keynote speaker at one of the largest gatherings of African-American
pastors this year?” I cried. God knew all along what He was going to do with my life. He
put me in Africa right on schedule. He did something in my heart, and He dropped me
into the life of Troy the missionary. Meanwhile, Dr. Evans had it laid on his heart
that I should be a part of that process.
Is Your Influence ‘Right on Schedule’ with God’s Purposes?
Today, around the world there are thousands of God’s children in suffering or in poverty,
and they have no influence with those in authority over them. Nor do they even know
anybody who does. But like Joseph, if you are rich, you have access to people who can
affect the kingdom of God—access that others do not have. Don’t just look at your
wealth; look at how God has used your wealth to open doors in your life that can touch
people in the highest levels at strategic moments in the purposes of God.
I have a friend who has been entrusted with incredible wealth. Wherever he
travels, he does so strategically as a Christian. When he visited Israel, he was ushered
into the office for two hours with the mayor of Jerusalem. He gave him a Bible. He gave
his testimony and watched to see in Jerusalem what he might do at that level for God’s
people—perhaps could he speak a word? When he travels to Europe, he walks directly
into the offices of presidents, and he brings together all the key economic people and
businessmen of the nation, and he speaks to them about his faith in Christ. He meets
with God’s people to see if there is anything he can do because of his access to the
government to give relief from pain and hurt in the hearts of God’s people.
Do you know where God wants you involved? Have you placed your resources
at the immediate, spontaneous disposal of God so that when God lets you become
involved in the middle of some significant moment of His choosing that will affect His
people and His kingdom, you would spontaneously, instantly (without taking six months
to pray about it) already have anticipated God’s request? Each Christian of great wealth
needs to see his life and his wealth from God’s perspective. Does God Himself have
adequate access to you? Would you know that it was God and you would know what to
do? Have you just built something for yourself that you should give to Him?
Remember, the activity of God in your life was planned before eternity. Before
He ever created anything, God intended that you, at this moment, in His economy,
would have resources and influence that others do not have—for His purposes. Joseph
of Arimathea used his influence and then released something he had just done and just
purchased for himself.
God has a wonderful way of honoring those who honor Him. Would we have
ever known that there was such a person as Joseph of Arimathea. He lived and died,
and we would have never known that there was such a man. The Bible doesn’t tell us
much more about Joseph, but when I get to heaven, I am going to ask him, “What went
through your mind when the God of the universe selected you to give you wealth and
you, of all people, were able to receive the broken body of your Lord and care for Him
and wash His body and do whatever was needed on the highest level because God had
done it for you? Whatever happened? Did you have a special place in the early church?”
Joseph probably will respond, “I didn’t ask for any of this. God already showed
me why He gave me wealth: to handle His Son at a critical moment, to give
encouragement to the kingdom, and to let everybody know from then to the end of
time that God can prepare a person and give him wealth for specific times and places of
If you are a person of great wealth, you are in the same position as Joseph of
Arimathea. Are you trying to figure out what you want to offer God? Just give it all to
Him. Just release all your wealth to Him, and He will distribute it according to His eternal
purpose. It may be in Africa. It may be in America. It may in the inner city. But watch.
And you can with great confidence let the Spirit of God take your heart and your eyes
and your mind and drop it right into the middle of a timely moment in the kingdom
purposes. I pray that this unique rich man will become a pattern for you to release what
God has given to you in God’s timely way and affect His people and effect the rest of
time. Take just a quiet moment to experience God in your giving.
- How does the story of Joseph of Arimathea illustrate how God uses the wealthy for
His purposes? What special influence might a person hold that can be used for Christ’s
- What test does Blackaby suggest for revealing the true condition of your
heart? How and why does this test reveal your basest motives?
- Is your influence “right on schedule” with God’s purposes? Do you know
where God wants you involved? How can you use your resources for Christ’s kingdom?
- How does God honor those who honor Him? What does it mean to honor
God with your life and possesssions? What specific ways can you honor Him through your
wealth and influence?
- How much should you give to God? Are your resources at God’s immediate
disposal? What idols in your life need to be laid down in order to free your finances and
make you sensitive to the needs of God’s people?