Open Handed

Tripp Atkinson, Student Pastor

Last week, Pastor Chuck and Dr. Gresham had a pretty hard-core challenge for us.  The challenge was to take an honest look at ourselves, ask God to “show me” and then respond.

We were challenged to let go of some things and allow God to change us.  The idea of “letting go” (whether it’s letting go of racism, prejudice, fear, pride  OR maybe it’s letting go of material things, your time to serve others) can be pretty scary.  In fact, as we begin to focus on what’s in our hand instead of who is asking us to give it up, it can be easy to grasp it tighter as fear begins to grip us of what life could look like without it.

Last week, Chuck shared the story of Peter going to the home of Cornelius.  (quick recap, Acts 10)

As Peter began to give up his old way of thinking and respond in obedience to God, we see that God used Peter in incredible ways.  But as the story of Peter continues, we see this great person of faith waver in his commitment to live open-handed as the pressure from society gets real.

Galatians 2:11-13.

“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.

12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.

13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

Vs. 12 “when they came he drew back and separated himself” (ESV)

– The word for “draw back” originally meant to contract as in the closing of the fingers.

Sometimes we get so focused on what is in our hand, that we lose perspective of what is actually going on.  We get so gipped by fear, we lose sight of the bigger picture.  We start buying and believing lies, and forget the truth of God.

Whatever God is asking from us, let’s not forget several truths:

1 – It’s not ours to keep.

When it comes to our stuff…he owns it.
When it comes to our time…it’s a gift from Him.
When he asks us to love someone that is difficult to love… we love only because He first loved us.
We are merely managers or stewards (provisional caretakers) of everything that God has given us.

So when God asks us to do something hard, or release something we hold close, our perspective should be greater than it being about us.

ILL.  Matt Jones saved a life of a stranger at the High School beach.  [Pic]

ILL.  Saved from drowning (saved from drowning, now will do whatever to save others)

I heard the story this week of a man who was saved from drowning in a friend’s pool when he was in Middle School.  Having been saved and delivered, he became a really good swimmer.  Lifeguard.  Water safety instructor.  All because one day he got saved.  All because one day someone bigger than him reached down and saved him.  When you forget what you’ve been given and who gave it to you, it’s easy to make things about you.

When God asks you to do something hard and forgive someone that has wronged you (release that bitterness & pride) and seek forgiveness or give forgiveness, it’s not ours to give.  We forgive because we have been forgiven.

1 Chronicles 29:14, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!”

(passage context)  King David instructing on his son Solomon building the Temple.

15 “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

16 “O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you!

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, Paul refers to himself at simply a “manager” of what God has entrusted to him.  In 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?”

2 – It’s really about the relationship. 

Eating Skittles with my son is not really about the Skittles.  I don’t NEED his candy, I can go buy my own.  It’s about sharing something with my son and his willingness to include me in his blessing.  (that came from me)

It’s not really about what’s in our hand, it’s about what’s in our heart.

Our attitude towards giving, and our attitude towards surrender is completely determined by our attitude towards God.  It really is about relationship.  It’s about understanding the nature of God, the heart of God, and then living in the love of God through relationship with God.

As we live in the reality of who God is and who we are IN HIM, giving to him takes on a new perspective.

ILL. Leftovers (We wouldn’t give the President our left-overs)

As we live in the reality of who God is, we want to give him our best… our all!

ILL.  Boy with 2 Quarters  (Drops one of them)

Sometimes, like this boy, what we give God is determined by our circumstances.

Peter with the Gentiles.  (Last week Dr. G  talked about being “fearful” and standing strong when you are around friends who think different.  Peter cowered to pressure.)

Peter’s problem wasn’t a hand problem, it was a heart problem.

“Until we get the heart right, we are always going to have a problem.”  #yourheartmatters – Dr. Reuben Gresham

An open hand is the result of a giving heart.  A giving heart is the result of abiding in the One who is the ultimate giver. (John 3:16, Mark 10:45 “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve others and to give his life…”)

As we abide in Him, we know we can trust Him.

ILL:  Kids jumping off the side of the pool.

(They jump to their daddy, because of their relationship with me, because they trust me.  When they open their hand, I know they are ready to trust.)

As we relationally experience that God is all-powerful and all-loving, we can open our hands with confidence and trust Him.  It’s about relationship.  And as we open our hands to God, we will experience this last truth…

3 – If God is asking, God is giving  (God wants to give us something better.)

God will never ask you to give something in obedience to Him, and not give you something better.

Thank God that what He gives us is not always what we are asking for.

ILL.  Because I love my child, I DON’T give him a 5 lb bag of candy.

I know what would happen if he consumed that much candy (I’ve worked with Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers for almost 20 years… I’ve seen it.)  I give him what he can handle.  What is for his ultimate good.

“[God’s] more concerned about our eternal state, than our temporal happiness.” – Cindi McMenamin

How many of you can look back and thank God that He did not answer a prayer like we wanted him to?  (Amy Price, Kelly Kapowski, Paula Abdul)

Story: I was talking with a young lady this week who knows she need to surrender a relationship to the Lord… but fear of what would happen next is gripping her.  What’s next?

(Maybe what you need is not another man.  Maybe you need to run to the one who knows everything about you and still loves you unconditionally.  Maybe you need to spend time with the lover of your soul and discover what true love looks like.  Maybe when you heavenly Father says to “JUMP” you need to trust who He is and that He will take care of what’s next.

We withhold from God because we don’t want to be without, but…

“A hand obediently opened to an all-powerful, all-loving God will not be left empty.”

Paul said, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

“but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.” – Ps. 34:10

“For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” – Psalm 84:11

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” – Romans 8:32

Today, I have no idea what God may specifically be calling you to surrender to him.  Perhaps there is no one thing that comes to mind.  I encourage you as Chuck challenged us last week to pray “God, show me.”  And as he does, would you open your hands to God in surrender.

Perhaps today you need to generally say “God I want to live my life with open hands.  Whatever you want to do, however you want to use me… I trust you.”

If you have never opened your hands and heart to God, you are completely missing out on the most wonderful gift that God wants to give you… Himself.  With Him comes the blessings of eternal life and life abundant through abiding in Jesus Christ.

Would you obediently open your hands to an all-powerful, all-loving God today and trust that He will give you exactly what you need?



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