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Experiencing God in Giving: Using Your Influence for God’s Glory

By Henry Blackaby

Henry 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, 2002.

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.

In Matthew 27 there is a short event in the life of Jesus’ disciples that illustrates how 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 Arimathea:
    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 His choosing.”

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.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection
  1. 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 kingdom?

  2. What test does Blackaby suggest for revealing the true condition of your heart? How and why does this test reveal your basest motives?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

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