by Laurie-Ann Copple
My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA. I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we still live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. We leave in a few days for Toronto, Canada.
During our last broadcast, we learned about growing through loving our neighbour. We found that our neighbour isn’t just those who live next door. It includes the foreigner, the refugee, the single mom, and fatherless boy. Those are just examples, but there are many more than that. Loving your neighbour is compassion in action. It’s costly, but the Lord repays, since you’re doing this for him. How important is it to love and help our neighbour? Here’s Jesus’ take on that. Listen to Matthew 22 verses 37 – 39. “ Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is also important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[f] So Jesus shows us just how important recognizing our neighbours, loving them and being there for them really is. This isn’t just a wave across the street. It’s actively looking out for each other. It’s loving them with the overflow of love that comes from having spent time with the Lord in prayer and worship. Loving your neighbour flows out of a heart filled with generosity.
There are other ways we can grow in God through being generous. Our God loves to be generous, and I’ve heard it said many times that we can’t outgive God. When we give in our tithes and offerings, it’s an act of worship, especially when we’ve given in obedience. Sometimes Holy Spirit whispers a figure to our hearts that might seem a little high, but it’s OK, since he’s the one who has helped us earn those funds. We didn’t earn them entirely by ourselves. Lately Tony and I have been the recipients of such generosity, from those who were led to contribute to our medical needs. Some people gave a small portion of what they had, since they were measuring it against what they had left to live on. Others gave far more than we could ever expect. The largest giver is a friend who came to minister here in Worcester. She gave not just once, but TWICE. We know that we could never repay this person, but God can. She gave out of love, and obedience. For her, it was an act of worship to the Lord.
Generosity, worship and obedience are all connected. The apostle Paul said about generosity and obedience in 2 Corinthians 9:13. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for your obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” Generosity and worship are connected also, for they are both offerings and gifts to the Lord. When the Philippian Christians gave their money for Paul’s support, God viewed it as special. Philippians 4:18 shares that the offering gave “an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.”
Generosity isn’t just about money! With God it includes time spend with him in worship and sharing your heart. With people, sometimes it’s about acts of service, use of resources, and spending quality time with people. There is something special about these offerings. They are sacrificial. Sometimes I am led to give away a valuable drawing or painting. I only do this when I’m led by the Holy Spirit. This to me is sacrificial. It’s about giving. When a Christian doing humanitarian work named Sandy loaned us her car for a few weeks, before we leave Worcester, that was sacrificial. We are thankful to her and bless her.
You don’t have to be rich to be generous. Most of the people who have given to us are either middle class or just barely getting by. They were giving us widow’s mites. Some gave to Iris for our mission needs. Others gave to us directly when L-A needed to pay a lot of rand towards cancer treatments, diagnostic procedures and medications. Some gave so sacrificially that it made us cry, but also praise God. We are so thankful for them.
Giving can be an act of worship. There is a reason why family stained glass windows are captioned “to the glory of God.” Those windows cost a fortune. Mike Harland shares that “scripture helps us understand that generosity has nothing to do with wealth. In 2 Corinthians 8 we read about the churches of Macedonia who had two attributes over-flowing in ample supply: extreme poverty and generosity. They gave out of their poverty in abundance after first giving themselves completely to God. They gave in order to survive. They begged the apostles for the privilege of giving because they knew their generosity was the key to their survival.
Paul goes on to instruct the church at Corinth who excelled in everything, to excel in generosity as well. And, in just a few verses, he unlocks the secret of generosity. In the last verse of 1 Corinthians 9, we find the key to growing in generosity. Those of us who plan worship need to bear this in mind: that the willingness of our people to give is directly tied to where their focus is in worship.” [Mike Harland, “Encouraging Generosity in Worship” from Worship Life https//worshiplife.com/mike-harland/encouraging-generosity-in-worship-by-mike-harland/]
The Corinthians’ focus was in worship, not on themselves. Notice what Paul shares in 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God, for his indescribable gift!” The Macedonian Christians were also generous, because they were focused on the sacrifice of Jesus. It is in this context that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:9, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich.” This of the Isaac Watts hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross.” Here is the pinnacle of that hymn: “were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,” [Isaac Watts, “When I survey]
What does the Old Testament say about generosity? Let’s look at some scriptures – you’ll be surprised that generosity did not just begin with the church. Here’s Leviticus 25:35-37:
“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. Jayson Bradley says that “God commanded the Israelites to be generous and merciful to each other. Your brother’s need was not to be capitalized on for personal gain. If you loaned money to a fellow Israelite, you were not to charge interest. Because the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, and therefore recipients of God’s generosity, they were to show impartial generosity to each other.” [Pushpayblog – [Jayson D. Bradley, “20 Bible Verses on Generosity.” Sept 12, 2019. https://pushpay.com/blog/20-bible-verses-on-generosity/]
Here are some other admonitions to be generous. Deuteronomy 15:7–11 says, “7 “But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. 9 Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for cancelling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.”
Generosity defines your whole experience, according to Proverbs 11 verses 24-25. “Give freely and become more wealthy. Be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Jayson Bradley notes that “this passage communicates a principle [that’s] sewn into the fabric of God’s world. The more you grasp and hoard, the more you need. Those who give freely and generously find that they’re happier, healthier and experience more blessings.” [Jayson Bradley] Proverbs 19:17 confirms this principle of sowing and reaping. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you!” Jayson Bradley adds, “can you imagine being in the Lord’s debt? How much more would you give to the poor if you knew that God himself planned to pay you back? True altruistic generosity requires a certain amount of faith.” [Jayson Bradley] I remember the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking into me with this verse after a friend in trouble asked me to lend her ten dollars. It was true, although not every time she asked did I get this leading from the Lord. It is the same with helping the girls we work with. It’s important to listen for his direction, so that they don’t take advantage, and that it shows that the Lord is their saviour. We are NOT the saviour. I did however get a strong sense of God’s direction when Tony took two of the girls we mentor to our dentist in Worcester. They had already been to the free dentist, who wasn’t able to help them. They mostly deal with extractions. One girl had her front tooth repaired, since her young sister accidentally smashed her mouth with a hook, and half the tooth broke off. Our dentist was able to repair the tooth beautifully at a very good cost. The other girl needs more extensive dental work, which requires extractions and a dental plate. While we need to fundraise for her needs, it was clear that we weren’t going to leave her in the lurch. This girl is an amazing teacher, and after finishing matric, she’s been given a scholarship to a university. We are so proud of her. Proverbs 22:9 expects the Lord’s generosity. “Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” We often feed the poor, both the girls, their families and sometimes others as well. We took in one girl’s family for a Christmas dinner and we had a wonderful time with them. Jayson Bradley says that “many people live from deficit, believing that there’s only so much to go around – and if you don’t get yours, someone else will. It’s nearly impossible to see the world that way and be a generous person. However, you may live with a ‘bountiful eye’ that sees the world ruled by a magnanimous God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, [according to] Psalm 50:10.” [Jayson Bradley] This attitude becomes possible when you believe this, and you will become more open-handed with the resources that you have.
What does Jesus say about generosity? Jesus is right in line with these Old Testament passages. He challenges us further with a choice. We can accumulate stuff here, which has no eternal value. Or we can invest in a way that deposits into the coming kingdom. Listen to Matthew 6:19-21. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” “When we are generous with the things that come through our life, we are actually sending it ahead, and we’ll be compensated by God. The beauty in this passage is found in Jesus’ promise. As we invest our resources in God’s kingdom, our heart will also be pulled in that direction. If you ever find yourself praying that God would awaken a desire in your heart for Kingdom things, try practising generosity for a couple of months.” [Jayson Bradley] So if you’re still learning about tithing, this takes that challenge up a few notches! But generosity truly is part of a supernatural lifestyle, and is tied very much to the kindnesses of God. It can even go beyond that into “BUT God” moments, where there is a dramatic turnaround in your finances. Some people speak of sowing out of our own need. We’ll look into the law of sowing and reaping in a moment.
Jayson Bradley believes that God keeps track of our giving. There is a relationship between how we treat the needy and vulnerable around us and our future rewards. He says, “The Lord is keeping pretty intricate accounts and doesn’t even neglect to record water given in his name.” [Jayson Bradley] Listen to Matthew 10:42. “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” The law of sowing and reaping I referred to before shows that generosity comes in more forms than commerce. Having a generous spirit gives blessings in all forms. Listen to Luke 6:37–38: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” To withhold judgement and to forgive, is to act generously. In God’s economy, it is rewarded with the same kind of overflowing blessings.
Our next scripture is one that is made famous in Christian movies, and in many sermons. It’s the one where Jesus’ enthusiasm about generosity shows the most. Luke 21:1-4 shares the story. “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” I’ve had moments like this, and there are some dear donors that bless us with what we call their widow’s ‘mites.’ When we think of financial stewardship, we remember these people. Jayson Bradley shares that “true generosity doesn’t come from our excess. It comes from sacrificial hearts. The beauty of this passage is in Jesus’ enthusiasm to point out this woman’s [extravagant giving] to the disciples. To think that God gets this excited when we’re open-handed, is pretty inspiring.” [Jayson Bradley]
The Apostle Paul was also generous. He worked hard doubly when he travelled to the churches. He insisted on working to provide for himself, except when he was imprisoned and he could no longer do that. He was generous with the funds he earned. To those who wonder why a well-known speaker would pay for their own keep and travel, and also choose to bless their overseas hosts, they need to look at Acts 20:32-35 as an example. “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. 33 “I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. 34 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. 35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Paul’s visit with the Ephesians ends with these words. He wanted to leave them an example to follow of hard work, sacrifice and generous living.
This generosity also needs to be freely given, not coerced. There are too many in ministry who manipulate their followers into giving. There are some African churches like that. They manipulate the poor into giving out of fear. That’s not how God would have us give. All we have is a gift from God, including what we’ve earned from our employment. God has helped us with good brains, skills, gifts and talents. Some funds have a more obvious supernatural source, like when Holy Spirit speaks to someone’s heart and has them give to a person, mission or cause. My first experience of being on the receiving end of this was when I was part of a Toronto church, while preparing for my first mission trip to Nairobi, Kenya. I was working with Somali refugees. One of the ladies in my congregation approached me and said that Holy Spirit spoke into her heart and said she was to give me a certain amount, but she wanted to ask me what I needed. I needed $500 to pay back my dad for funds paid towards my airfare. This was the exact amount that she was given. When I shared with her what I needed, I was amazed that she got out her cheque book and wrote that amount out to me personally, not even through the church, to get a tax receipt. This was supernatural. I’ve had many other times this has happened, both on the receiving and giving end. These gifts were sacrificial and a real delight to Holy Spirit. It was the same when we were led to help a Mozambican widow named Maria, build a little stone house for her. We had help from two ladies, so we didn’t do this on our own, and even we were blessed financially when we helped her. This was all done freely, and even joyfully. Notice that in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, it mentions God loves a cheerful giver. The word in Greek actually means joyful, and laughing. Here’s the passage: “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[a] 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” This is an act of worship! This isn’t stingy, folks! Jayson Bradley says that “God’s ultimate desire is that we would give happily. He doesn’t want us to have to give out of obligation or coercion. He wants to bless his children, not so that we can live in complete comfort and luxury, but so that we can be even more generous – abounding in every good work.” [Jayson Bradley]
A scripture verse that also comes to mind, is the one that talks about God giving bread for the eater and seed for the sower. God generously supplies both. If you really want to contribute towards a worthy mission or cause, and don’t have it to give, ask God to help you with the seed to sow. He gives us both. Here is 2 Corinthians 9:10 in another translation. “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”
Our last scripture shows us to remember that we are given resources to do good as well as to enjoy them. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 shares this message: “teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” Jayson Bradley says that “God richly provides everything for our enjoyment. It isn’t his desire to withhold or diminish our pleasure. In fact, he wants us to experience true pleasure. He wants us to experience the joy of being rich in goodness and generosity. Once again, Paul echoes the sentiment so prevalent throughout the scriptures: our benevolence now is an investment in eternity. Who would turn that down?” [Jayson Bradley] Since we are being conformed to the image of Christ and he is sacrificial in his love and his giving nature, we could use our own generosity as a gauge of our spiritual health. How open are we in giving? How sacrificial are we? Especially when we are led to be so in specific cases? We need to remember that where we are given that Holy Spirit prompting, the Lord will repay us. And he will remember us saying yes to him.
One friend of ours recently died. His name was Don Pruner. He was a very generous, kind man, who always seemed to be in my life to encourage me. We both were part of the 8 am service at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario. He and his wife Joan were ‘salt of the earth’ people, who were involved in the community and with us personally. He reached out when I was ill and was one of the many to help with costs for mastectomy surgery. He helped in various costs of ministry. We will always remember his generous spirit, not just in finances, but in his humour. When I was told of Don’s passing, the first thing that came into my spirit was an impression of Don hanging out with Jesus, and Jesus was laughing at Don’s jokes. His son Karl ended the email announcing his dad’s death with this line, “In the meantime, smile when you remember Don Pruner – a kind and generous man who lived for a good story, a game of golf and the love and laughter of his friends and family.” Indeed, Don is remembered as one who sowed, and much of the sowing will be reaped where he is now. Thank you, Don.
I also want to be remembered in saying yes to Jesus. Most of the time I’ve done this, although I haven’t always. Lord, forgive me. Thankfully we serve a merciful God, and he gives us second and third chances. Lord, open our eyes to see the needs that you would have us meet. Close our ears to platitudes and excuses. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why we can’t give, and you know all that. But many times there are not. You know our hearts. Cleanse them and forgive us our hard-heartedness. Make our hearts big and give us seed to sow as well as bread to eat. We thank you that you are in control and that you are the generous one. Please bless us so we can enjoy and bless others too. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu). Click here: (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #74! If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!
Updates: For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I was declared chemically cancer free as of February 2021, but I’m still in post-cancer treatments (lymphedema massage, physio, medications, scans and bloodwork every six months). Now my husband Tony has both skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and prostate cancer). He has also been given a probable diagnosis of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lung lining. However, the pleural fluid that was generated from the tumour is not malignant, so we’re not sure. When we return to Canada (imminent after a pause to recover from omicron), and after Canadian quarantine, Tony will go to the best hospital in Canada for treatment, with his CT scan, report and doctor’s letter. We pray this will help the process, so they can continue the treatment by another CT scan and a biopsy of the tumour. It’s unfortunate that there is a wait, with the unstable travel due to the new omicron variant. We are in a difficult place, but it’s one that God can and will carry us through in some way. We just can’t afford any more treatment in South Africa.
Otherwise, we still have medical debt and we are working towards that with art commissions and donations. God’s peace is something that I’m clinging to as we plan our way back to Canada. We also have a hiccup with our visas, which expired while we were in quarantine. Also, we trust our express PCR test in Cape Town South Africa will be sufficient for both US and Canada (they will be within 24 hours of arrival for both countries). Since we recovered from covid recently, it may also exempt us from the mandatory random test.
After our quarantine, we plan to stay with and care for my frail 92 year old dad, as well as have Tony treated. Thanks for coming alongside us on our journey. Being an overcomer is truly a process. We still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for lung issues, eye surgery, urologist (who is monitoring the prostate cancer), and I have debt as well (post cancer treatment, physiotherapy, MRI, medications).
Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html. We are still crowdfunding to cover the post cancer treatments and Tony’s retina re-attachment operation. If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod If you do, please introduce yourself and say that you read “Ways to Grow in God.” It would really bless us! If you’re led to pray instead, we welcome your prayers and please do contact us.
L-A’s colouring books: If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson) and at Slow Living Café in Worcester. Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:
Colouring with Jesus 2 is available here:
The books are available online, and through the above shops. They are available through Legacy Relay run by Louis and Carica LeGrange, although they may all be sold soon and donated into local schools! After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books in English using landscape format. Bless you and thank you for your support!