Through more than 40 years of analyzing, teaching and applying the principles of God’s Word, Randy Alcorn has learned the immense joy of using our earthly time, money, possessions, and opportunities to count for eternity. He has dedicated his life to sharing these principles with others. In his latest book Giving is the Good Life, Randy invites us to discover a bigger view of God, the ultimate Giver, and turn giving into a fulfilling, grand adventure. It’s a grace to welcome Randy to the farm’s front porch today…
From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. Acts 17:26, GNT
The popular expression “random acts of kindness” is catchy and good-hearted, but as believers in a sovereign God, we should see how He orchestrates our lives, including the people we meet and the needs we encounter.
God is not random, nor are the lives He sets before us!
In Acts 17:26 (above), Paul tells how God fixes the exact times and places where people live. Doesn’t this suggest He also fixes the times and places we will be on any particular day?
Sure, people have free will, but that doesn’t mean God can’t take into account your free will and mine (and everyone else’s) so He can arrange divine appointments.
The next verse tells us the beautiful purpose God has for fixing our exact times and places: “He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27, GNT, emphasis added).
Part of our role in divine appointments is helping people look for and find the grace of Jesus.
Perhaps having His followers everywhere is part of the way God is not far even from unbelievers.
He touches others through us.
I believe that while it’s wise to do most of our major giving in a thoughtful, planned way, there’s certainly a place for spontaneous giving. But even unanticipated giving is not ultimately random.
If you believe in a sovereign God, then being somewhere at a certain time and place when a particular person is also there is not random, but providentially orchestrated by God.
One afternoon, I bought lunch for a stranger at a pizza place (I left my credit card with the cashier while I ate and told her to use it for whoever came in next). As I saw the stranger smile, this thought came to me: God has me here today, not for a random act of kindness, but to fulfill His ancient plan and purpose.
He prepared in advance for me to buy lunch for this man at this place and time.
I couldn’t have put that particular man on my schedule. What I can put on my schedule is a giving adventure—a day of giving, where I don’t buy anything for myself without giving something to someone else.
Too many of us are bored with our Christian lives because we don’t see the daily opportunities for adventure granted us by our sovereign God.
The best cure for boredom is one people don’t typically consider: giving more time, money, and energy to God’s Kingdom work.
One hot summer day I stopped at a store for a Diet Mountain Dew, but when I saw the price, I changed my mind. However, as I often do, I prayed that God would connect me with someone in the store. The few people inside didn’t look like they needed anything, so I thought, Next time, and left.
Outside, six feet from me, stood a young man who was probably in his early thirties. With long, stringy hair and worn sandals, he looked like he’d been living on the streets. He hadn’t been there three minutes earlier when I walked in.
I knew he was my answer to prayer.
“Hey, it’s a hot day,” I said. “Can I get you a bottle of water? Something to eat?”
He looked at me.
Reaching out my hand, I said, “I’m Randy.”
He shook my hand. “I’m John.”
I was unprepared for what happened next. He looked at me intently and said, “Are you a servant of Yeshua Adonai?”
Recognizing the Hebrew words for Jesus and Lord, or Master, I responded with a stunned “Yes, I am.”
He immediately put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me—as if I were the needy one, which I was that day.
His prayer was insightful, biblically resonant, and articulate—in fact, one of the most powerful prayers I’ve ever heard.
Then I prayed for John. When I finished, I asked him again if I could get something for him in the store. He chose a small water bottle, but I pulled out a large instead (next to the Mountain Dew I was too cheap to buy).
“Why don’t you pick out something to eat?” I said. He chose some chips, and the total came to $4.50.
When we walked out the door, I tried to engage John further. But it seemed he had someplace to go, so we said good-bye.
I went to my car and wept, overcome with the deep sense that I’d met an angel. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (NIV).
If he wasn’t an angel, I knew John had been sent by God to pray for me. Who knows—maybe he was Jesus Himself, who said whatever we do to the needy we do for him (Matthew 25:40).
After thanking God and regaining my composure, I headed for home, deeply touched.
At a stoplight, I looked to my right and saw John thirty feet away, leaning against a building, drinking from his large water bottle. With a big smile, he waved at me in a way that seemed to say, “See you later.”
No matter who John really was, I knew without a doubt that I would, in fact, see him later.
I suspect we’ll sit together at a banquet on the New Earth, and I’ll find out who he really is and hear his story.
The thought of it thrills me even now.
And I suspect that $4.50 will turn out to be one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries and a New York Times bestselling author of over fifty books, including Heaven, Money, Possessions & Eternity, The Treasure Principle, and Managing God’s Money. All royalties from his books are given to the works of Christian ministries, including world missions and organizations that care for the poor. Alcorn is the husband of his best friend Nanci, and has two wonderful daughters and five remarkable grandsons.
Giving is the Good Life shows us what the good life is, and shares a surprising and liberating message from Scripture about how we can take hold of what God calls “the life that is truly life.”
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale House for their partnership in today’s devotion ]