“And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33
Great power. Great grace. I love those two phrases. I want that in my life and I bet you wouldn’t mind them in yours either. The question for today is this: where did that 'great power' and 'great grace' come from?You’ll be surprised by the answer. That verse is found in between some other verses that seem out of place. The verse before it says:
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” (Acts 4:32)
And the verse after it says:
“Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)
Huh? Those verses are about giving. You’d expect a verse about 'great power' and 'great grace' would come from a passage about prayer or love or fasting or humility or something along those lines. But the Bible here connects it with generosity and giving instead. But not just any kind of giving – real giving, sacrificial giving, giving in a way that doesn’t make sense to give. Maybe the early church knew something that we don’t.
Too often, we look at giving and charity as some kind of duty or obligation. We do it because we have to, not because we want to. We don’t see the power in it.
Forgive me if I offend anyone here, but I have to make a confession. Those who know me know that I don’t enjoy going out to restaurants. Actually, that’s an understatement. I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT! I’d rather eat leftovers from my fridge any day of the week as opposed to having to drive to a restaurant, wait for a table, wait for the waiter to take my order, wait for him to bring my food, wait for him to bring the check and then wait till I get home to eat some dessert that I was too cheap to order at the restaurant.
With all that waiting, I don’t know why we call HIM the waiter!
And then you know the worst part? The worst part is that after all the waiting that I had to do, in the end, in addition to having to pay for the meal, I have to leave a tip to the waiter! How in the world does that make sense? I think they should give me tip for coming out there and giving them my business! But apparently that isn’t how the world works!
Now, with that said, let me clarify and say that despite my rant above, I am actually NOT a cheap tipper (I promise you I’m not). As a former waiter myself, I know how waiters rely on those tips and how much they need them. I don’t want to punish them for what I feel is a messed up system. My problem isn’t with the waiters, it’s with the system. So all the waiters out there can hold off on sending the hate mail – I promise, I am not a cheap tipper during the rare times that I do go out.
But my point in all that is this: we sometimes treat God – and specifically our giving to God – the same way. We know that we have to, so we do it. But we aren’t really excited about it and if there was a way out of it, we’d take it every time.
But in doing so, you miss out on something. Great power and great grace. That power and that grace came as a direct result of the sacrificial lives lived out by the early church. They never saw anything as their own – everything belonged to God and therefore they never had a problem giving generously, even when it went against what we’d define as reasonable and sensible.
That's why one of our 7th core value at STSA is:
IRRATIONAL GENEROSITY. We genuinely believe it is more blessed to give than to receive and we seek opportunities to express our love to God by sacrificing our time and our money.
We believe that is how God wants us to live, because we know that "great power" and "great grace" is what God wants us to receive. He wants us to offer great sacrifice and in return, He promises to reward us with great power and great grace.
God doesn’t care about amount; He cares about attitude. God wants us to give willingly… to give generously… and to give cheerfully. He doesn’t want an obligatory 10% tip calculated on the back of your napkin; He wants us to sacrifice in the same way that the early church did. It’s not what you give or how much you give, but rather HOW you give that will ultimately determine the reward you receive.
For discussion: how have you seen great sacrifice lead to great power and great grace?