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Self Denial reflection 6: Make a better me

Self Denial reflection 6: Make a better me

Self Denial reflection 6: Make a better me

30 March 2022

By Graham Durston

This year’s Self Denial Appeal theme, ‘The Ripple Effect’, reminds us that small actions taken in Christ’s name can become big, life-transforming outcomes for the Kingdom of God.

The Self Denial Appeal started in 1886 when General William Booth called Salvationists to give sacrificially and to deny themselves so that they could offer God’s love to a hurting world.

In this quiet moment, still, before your throne,
Conscious of your presence, knowing I am known.
In this quiet moment, set my spirit free. 
In this quiet moment, make a better me!
- John Gowans  

This week meditate on this phrase – “Make a better me”. 

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6 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.” 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. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”  10 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. 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!         

Reflection 

Bringing a sacrificial gift to the altar on Self Denial Sunday is one of the most profound acts of worship a Salvationist offers to the Lord. It takes place near Holy Week when we remember the incomparable sacrifice of Jesus giving his life for us on the cross. This is the gift “too wonderful for words”. We want to give back out of love and gratitude so that his atoning death may be preached in parts of the world where resources are few.  

There is another reason that the act of giving at the altar is invested with added significance. Paul writes, “Two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.”

The phrase “ministry of giving” is illuminating. It translates the original Greek word ‘leitourgia’ and conveys the idea that giving is part of a Christian’s sacred service. We are continuing the ministry of Jesus, who gave absolutely everything for us. This text also reveals the wonderful ripple effect of the ministry of giving at our altar service. Giving not only contributes to the needs of our missionary territories but flows back in abundant spiritual blessings on the giver. 

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God” (verse 11).  

This scripture also implies that how much we receive back in blessing is dependent on how much we give. “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” (verse 6).  

While being aware of this sense of sacred service, it does not mean that we have to be overly solemn. Paul reminds us that God loves a person who gives cheerfully. This is also the theme of two verses in 1 Chronicles 29, “The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly … I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously” (verses 9 and 17).  

Can we bring our sacrificial gifts to the altar, conscious that we are engaging in a well thought out act of spiritual worship, and with a joyous heart, knowing that the needs of the Army’s international mission are being met and thanksgiving is also being offered to God? 

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