The number of Bibles I’ve accumulated over the years comes close to matching my age. I have leather Bibles, hardback Bibles, pocket-sized Bibles, large-print Bibles, childhood Bibles, inherited Bibles, award Bibles, and journal Bibles. Multiply these by their various translations and they surpass the number of years I’ve lived.
I love God’s Word. I love to study it, and hopefully you do too—maybe using one of the many Bibles you possess. But the access we have to Scripture is far from universal. We are seven hundred years beyond the invention of the printing press, in an era when digital content is being downloaded in remote villages, and still over 2,800 languages worldwide have no translation of the Bible. This ought not be.
And after experiencing 7,000 nineteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds rally together at the CROSS missions conference to generously raise $60,000 in four days to translate the New Testament into four North African languages, I am more convinced than ever that we can make a difference. The passion of those students to get Scripture into the hands of 1.7 million people without a Bible was contagious, and their generosity was compelling.
“Giving jolts our hearts from considering the little that we have to assessing all that we can possibly give.”
Here are four lessons I learned from their generosity.
1. Giving toward missions captures the imagination and generates joyous anticipation of what God will do.
Joy permeates our very souls when we recognize the little we possess is abundantly enough to give. Brimming with excitement, a nineteen-year-old young man spoke of his anticipation as he gave. “I have sixty dollars in my bank account for the month. I know it’s the beginning of the month, but I want to help. I’d like to give forty of my sixty dollars and see how God provides for me the rest of the month.”
He generously gave, calculating that what was left in his account didn’t add up to meet his anticipated needs. But he was counting on the grace of God to supply his needs beyond what he could measure. He and many others who gave brought the words of 2 Corinthians to life: “Their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means” (2 Cor. 8:2–3 ESV).
Giving jolts our hearts from considering the little that we have to assessing all that we can possibly give. It captures the imagination when we consider how God will multiply the meager loaves and fish we offer.
2. People eagerly give more than spare pocket change when they understand the significance of their contribution.
God isn’t looking for donors to give to good causes. He’s seeking disciples to generously and joyfully participate in making his name known at all costs. Taking the gospel to the nations costs more than spare change. But the weight of God’s glory both deserves and demands it.
That college student was not the only one who gave with crazy generosity, as another asked, “Can I give $500?” I admit the expression on my face froze for a moment. That was not the normal or expected amount given by an individual at this conference. But the generosity did not stop there as one family decided to encourage the students’ generosity by matching what the students gave! And give they did in order to see God make the most of every penny and make his name known among African peoples without the Bible in their language.
3. We can work together here to get the gospel over there.
Generosity kindles an infectious excitement to join in what God is doing miles away. “I’ve never been to Africa, but it is so exciting to be a part of helping to get the gospel to North Africa.” Maybe someday the young lady who said this will go to Africa. Or maybe she won’t. Either way, she is a vital part of a community that knows Christ can change the reality of another community far from her. Let us ask God with great anticipation to bless us here so that we may give to get the gospel over there. Let’s repeat the psalmist’s words, “God be gracious to us and bless us . . . so that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Ps. 67:1–2, ESV).
4. Give generously and your heart will follow.
Excitement in the room built as one translation was funded, and then another, and then
another. The greatest excitement came not with large donations, however, but in the intentional prayer the students poured out as they highlighted the Scriptures they had just purchased for translation on a large wall. Their prayers for the people who would read these Scriptures for the first time were wildly moving. Generosity turned the focus of their hearts to something far more weighty than anything else they might have accomplished with the money they gave.
“Generosity turned the focus of their hearts to something far more weighty than anything else they might have accomplished with the money they gave.”
A gathering of a few thousand young adults during just four days literally built the foundation that will—God willing—change the reality for 1.7 million people in North Africa. And who knows how far it might spread from there?
This mindset should be the norm among believers—a gospel generosity based on what Christ has done for us (Titus 3:4–7) that explodes into a love for others and reflects the kindness and generosity of Christ himself (1 John 4:9–21).
Hudson Taylor wrote, “The less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.” Or, in the words of my own nineteen-year-old, “Mom, you can give and not love, but you cannot love and not give.” I asked how he knew this. He replied, “The Bible says that ‘If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’” (1 John 3:17 ESV).
Let our love be displayed, at least in part, by our generosity.
Lori McDaniel is a mom of three, a pastor’s wife and a speaker who works at IMB as manager of the church initiatives team. She served with her family as a missionary for several years in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Arkansas. You can find her on Twitter @LoriMMcDaniel.