SCRIPTURE

Read and study Acts 4:32-5:11.

INTRODUCTION

Todd had been a drug addict and atheist for 22 years, but in 2004 was radically set free. Todd’s eyes had been opened to the truth that the Holy Spirit wanted to flow through every believer, everywhere we go, and in everything we do.

One day, Todd was at a restaurant with his wife Jackie. The waitress serving them was awful at her job, and had a terrible attitude to her work. Jackie began to complain to her husband about the bad service they were receiving. Todd reminded Jackie that Jesus loved this waitress, and, even though she was poor at her job, she was amazing to God. He tried to communicate these facts to the waitress; thanking her for her service, and asking if he could pray for her. This only served to increase the waitress’s hostility towards Todd and Jackie, which in turn made Jackie more frustrated.

Todd continued to experience God’s heart for the waitress, throughout their cold, delayed meal that night. When the time came for the bill to be paid, Jackie, still pretty upset, decided to wait in the car for Todd. Instead of leaving the payment on the table, Todd went to the kitchen and thanked the waitress again for her hard work and the service she had provided. He told her that whatever she was angry with God with about, she shouldn’t be, because God loves her very much.

After placing a $100 tip on the plate for the waitress, Todd joined his wife in the car park. As he opened his car door, he heard squeals of shock from the waitress as she discovered the very large tip she’d just received. The waitress ran out of the restaurant and thanked Todd profusely for the generous gift, sobbing as she did so. Todd simply reiterated the fact that God loved her very much. By this point, the whole waitressing team at the restaurant had gathered in the car park to witness this wonderful and clear demonstration of God’s love through radical generosity.

QUESTIONS

1. How did you get on acting out your faith in the last week following the study we had? Do you have a powerful prayer testimony that would encourage the group?

2. This week’s theme is radical generosity. Are you challenged by Todd’s story? Look back at generosity in your life: what is the most generous thing you have done for someone? (Give examples of generosity both inside and outside the family of God.) How did the person at the receiving end respond to this generosity?

3. What are your observations on the two different stories in this passage? In particular, what is the difference in motive in the way that Barnabas gave in comparison to Ananias and Sapphira?

4. What does no one claimed that any of his possessions were his own mean in verse 32? Who owned them (see Psalm 24:1; James 1:17)? Is this how you think of and treat your stuff?

5. Verse 34 begins with a very provocative statement indeed. Could the same be true of our church? If not, why not? See also Matthew 26:6-13 and Deuteronomy 15:4-5, 11 which Jesus was referencing.

6. Why was what Ananias and Sapphira did so wrong? Why did God make a stand against such hypocrisy at this point in history? How could you, for want of a better word ‘justify’ or ‘explain’ God’s action here? What do this unfortunate couple teach us to repent of in our giving? What wrong motives can we have to give, or indeed not give?

BIBLE STUDY TIP: Survey / Topical study

Let’s refresh our thinking about the survey tool, sometimes also called the topical Bible study tool. This is where you trace a particular topic throughout Scripture, such as a study of the miracles from Genesis to Revelation. The topic can be narrow, like the prophecies about Jesus’ birth, or it can be broad and lengthy, like prophecies in the Bible. A topical study can include topics that are important for churches, such as the roles of and requirements for church leaders, biblical topics of parenting and husband-wife relationships, business people can study what the Bible says about managing money.

The purpose of topical study is not just to satisfy curiosity but identify how you can apply the topic to your life, through the different context and situations the topic appears in Scripture. The Bible’s instructions and guidelines appear throughout Scriptures. It provides a balanced understanding of Biblical teaching.

The topic identified in the Acts passage above is generosity. We have a great interest in this as we want to create a culture of generosity within our church and toward those outside.

Example how this can be applied:

(a) List related words to generosity: the list can include synonyms, phrases, or ideas that have something in common with our topic.

(b) List Bible references relating to the topic. You may already know stories that you want to look at but if not an online or hard copy concordance can be used (freely available online on smartphones) or a topical study Bible which will have references and stories similar to the story told in Acts.

(c) Write a summary of what you have learnt, and some specifics of how you can live this out in your everyday life.

7. Putting the survey / topical study tool into practice, can you list other Bible stories or verses that show similarly good and bad examples of supposed generosity? Take some time to talk through two or three that come out of your group, or consider these:

– In Exodus 35:4–5, was God more concerned with receiving the contribution itself, or did the person’s heart matter most in their gifts for the Tabernacle?

– In Exodus 35:20-29, what do you observe about the way people were contributing to the work of God?

– In Exodus 36:2-7, how does this passage further highlight the spirit in which people were giving?

– In Romans 8:32, how does God Himself demonstrate radical generosity, and empower us to do the same?

8. How do these stories, together with the Acts passage, inspire you as an individual to be more radically generous in our church family and with people outside?

9. What are the actual needs of people in our church, or in your sphere of influence, who might benefit from being shown radical generosity? Why do you think we are often not aware that people are struggling?

10. What practical steps can you commit to individually, and collectively as a Life Group, that will allow you to grow into even more radical generosity? (Think of ways for both those inside and outside the family of God.)

Practical suggestions:

Increase your financial giving to Chapel (lay your money at your church leaders feet to distribute wisely as the early church did to the apostles), help with Foodbank, by donating food, money or practical help; support our CAP Money Course and soon to be established CAP Debt Centre, sponsor a child through Compassion, buy a meal for a homeless person, befriend a single mum and babysit for her, treating her to a night out, or a spa day, buy your elderly neighbours’ groceries, etc.

MISSIONARY STORIES to inspire you from our church

In September 2014 an Irish gentleman called Nigel passed by Chapel during the week and spoke to some members of staff about his situation. He explained that his daughter had just started studying at a London University and he was staying at his daughter’s rented place until her flat mates moved in. Nigel was looking for work as a chef in London as there were no suitable jobs available in Ireland where he was from. One of the flatmates of the daughter announced that she was coming earlier than expected; therefore Nigel had to leave the accommodation immediately. Being a good dad he didn’t want to ask for money from his daughter as they were not well off but was hoping to get his benefit money and go back to Ireland. But sadly as it often happens the benefit didn’t come through and he had no money and nowhere to stay. In addition he had his big bag with him. He was walking around the city at nights and because his bag was heavy he wanted to ask if it could to be left at Chapel.

On Saturday, while Pilot Lights was going on, Nigel turned up and asked for the same members of staff as he wanted to take some things from his bag. We invited him to sit down and have a cup of tea with us. He was rather shy but he started explaining his situation to us also. We prayed for him to get a new job as a chef and gave him some prophetic words.  When we offered to buy his ticket to Ireland he didn’t want to accept it but was happy to buy the ticket when his benefit money cleared.

Being quite cold at nights we truly felt for him and we didn’t want him to spend the night walking around in London. So we decided to book accommodation for him and contributed some money for food too. He kept saying that he didn’t want to accept this and that he was ok to walk around but finally agreed to accept the help.

The next day he came to the morning service and he loved the message and received a prophetic word during the worship which spoke to him directly. Nigel got his benefits on the following Monday and he went back to Ireland where he found work and is still working now. The amazing thing was that he left us a card with a note to say how grateful he was for helping him out in this time. Radical Generosity touches people’s lives.

PRAY TOGETHER

  • Thank God for His incredible generosity, in creation, and in Christ.
  • Ask God for forgiveness for wrong motives toward giving and not giving.
  • Pray for wisdom to know who to be generous to individually and as a Life Group, and how best to bless them.
  • Pray that every act of generosity by believers would point people to God’s greater generosity in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

OTHER THINGS to plug and pray for

  • Alpha Course | 19 Oct – 21 Dec, 7pm
  • Ravi Zacharias (rzim.org) | 15 Nov, 11am service
  • Terry Virgo | 6 Dec, 11am and 530pm service
  • Carol Service | 13 Dec, 530pm service
  • Christmas Celebration Service (families) | 20 Dec, 11am service