May 2019 Newsletter - "True Alms of the Word" by Ray McDowell
Every single believer has a call to reach souls, yet we all face our own daily struggles that attempt to deter us from evangelism. The feelings of unworthiness and doubt are common to all of us and prove to be the great obstructions to our evangelistic unction. Have you ever felt dry and distant from God? You know - it’s that place where it seems as if you aren’t receiving from Him, whether in prayer or through the Word. Sin has that effect on us. Sometimes we feel like we’re at a dead-end. Everything that we are trying isn’t working and it seems that there is no way to get back into communion with Him. This is a very difficult spiritual terrain to navigate, as the desert can be treacherous without a guide. Sharing the Word is easy when you’re on fire, but evangelism is a battle when you’re just trying to shake off the heaviness and get your engine going again. If we could understand the process of how to get back on the horse, we would quit wasting our time wandering through the desert and start to advance upon the promise that’s been set before us. This is exactly why we have been given sacrifices to offer.
The various sacrifices are keys that He has delivered to us to be used to reignite the fire that has waxed cold. Praise and worship, prayer, fasting, reading the Word; these are all tools for spiritual warfare and medicines for our soul. Each malady has its own corresponding remedy, and we must understand when and how they must be applied for effectiveness. Greater sickness calls for stronger medicine. Do you feel like the other cures are not bringing the breakthrough that you need? This may come as a surprise, but one of the most potent antidotes in our arsenal is “almsgiving.” Quit waiting around for God to do something to change your situation! Use this powerful tool that He has given us to punch out of that dry spell and keep the fire fueled continuously!
Acts of charity transform the heart and cleanse the soul. Here’s the best part though: you get to pull others out of their own pit! What greater fulfillment can one have than to see the value in their own struggles and victories becoming salvation to another soul? Every price paid is more than worth it when we see what we are really paying for.
So, what is the true almsgiving, anyway? The Word itself is defined as the practice of giving money or food (voluntarily) to poor people. Sure, there is a natural application to this in feeding the homeless. That’s not the real meaning, however, nor is it the most impactful. People will eat and hunger again, but eternal life and freedom from spiritual bondage is the gift that we can offer which will satisfy continually. The poor in spirit need the wealth of the revelatory Word that you’ve been given so that they can finally pay off those bill collectors that are incessantly knocking at the door of their conscience. Heaven makes a huge deal over one sinner that receives Truth and changes their mind. If we could truly see the value in what we have, then we wouldn’t hold it back from them any longer.
Maybe you don’t feel like you’re called to evangelism. Maybe you also feel like you don’t have what it takes to teach. Everyone has to go through a process of learning the Word, but there comes a point when the Lord expects to see a return on the deposit that He put into you. We have to be multiplying that Word by sharing those seeds that have become fruitful within us. Our testimony to others is as instrumental in our own salvation as it is to theirs. The Apostle James clearly tells us this:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
- This implies that one is required to have works in order to be saved.
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
- The works referred to are those acts of true almsgiving, feeding others with the Word.
But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe- and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
- Faith in the Word is not enough. We must become that Word to others
Simply put, the Word saved your life. Now He expects you to give that same opportunity to others. If you’re not doing that, then it doesn’t matter how much information you know. The true measure of your belief is in what you do with the Word that has been given to you.
Let’s now take a look at a few references from the Early Church Fathers to get a glimpse of how they viewed the giving of alms, relative to salvation.
5.02.23 The Treatises of Cyprian.
2. The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures, and says, “By almsgiving and faith sins are purged.” (Pro 16:6)172 Not assuredly those sins which had been previously contracted, for those are purged by the blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, “As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.” (Sirach 3:30) Here also it is shown and proved, that as in the laver of saving water the fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued… Further, admonishing, and showing whence we may be clean and purged, He added that alms must be given. He who is pitiful teaches and warns us that pity must be shown; and because He seeks to save those whom at a great cost He has redeemed, He teaches that those who, after the grace of baptism, have become foul, may once more be cleansed.
- Cyprian is very straightforward in saying that giving alms is the way in which we can be cleansed in order to once again become recipients of the mercy of God.
- Jesus alluded to this in the gospel, showing that the true meaning of washing the hands before eating referred to works of righteousness cleansing the conscience in order to partake of the true bread once again.
7.08.01 Clement- An Ancient Homily
Ch 16- The Excellence of Almsgiving
Almsgiving therefore is a good thing, as repentance from sin; fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving than both; “but love covers a multitude of sins.” (1Pe 4:8. Comp. Pro 10:12; Jam 5:20.) But prayer out of a good conscience delivers from death. Blessed is every one that is found full of these; for alms-giving lightens the burden of sin.
- The Early Church clearly had an understanding that giving the Word to others was a great sacrifice of the highest value to God.
This message may seem to have been an addendum to the article for last month, but it was pressed heavily on my heart and has come as quite a breakthrough. The Lord is preparing every one of us for the harvest season right now. First, we must truly recognize the value of the revelation that each one of us carry. Evangelism is not just something that we do. Giving the true alms of the Word to others is the very heart of the Father being imparted to and flowing through us. Give your wealth to the poor and see that Word become flesh in you!