Dr. Schuller I’m never happier than when I have the opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and so I want to thank you for this opportunity. I know also that I speak for tens of millions of people around the world when I say thank you, thank you, thank Arvella, thank the entire Schuller family for this ministry. And I pray that it continue to flourish for many, many generations to come. Thank you, God bless you.
I’m just very happy to be here. I feel at home here and its thanks to your invariably warm welcome to me and my family so thank you for that. I want to begin with a Chinese proverb and it goes like this: If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
In 2004, Hurricane Charlie slammed into Florida, just outside of Tampa Florida. And 6-year-old Zach Bonner, on his way to school, heard the news that people had been devastated by this storm. And so he sprang into action in the only way he knew how. With his mother’s permission, he pulled his little red wagon around the neighborhoods, and he collected food and provisions for the people who had been harmed by the hurricane. And he did this for four months. And he gathered together provisions that filled his mom’s pick up truck 27 times over.
Afterwards, Zach created the Little Red Wagon Foundation to help homeless kids in America and their motto is “kids helping kid’s one wagon full at a time.” Not long ago, Zach received the US President’s volunteer service award. And that’s not all. Two years ago, Zach had the idea of a walk-a-thon. A walk-a-thon that would help to raise awareness and funds for America’s one point three million homeless children. He called it “From My House to the White House.” He began his journey by walking 280 miles from his hometown in Tampa to Tallahassee which is the state capital of Florida. Along the way, he slept in an RV that was donated to him by Lazy Daze Partners Foundation, which is made up of the employees, some five to seven hundred employees of the Lazy Daze RV Dealership, also in Tampa.
Last year, Zach picked up where he left off and he walked from Tampa to Atlanta, which is the state capital of Georgia. And this year, starting on May 11th, Zach plans to finish the job by walking 660 miles, and you can see the map on the Jumbotron, by walking 660 miles from Atlanta to Washington DC. Imagine the terrain this child is going to have to walk through. He’s going to walk every single mile and when he gets there, he hopes to have the chance of conferring with President Obama about foundations, philanthropy and homelessness. That’s quite a kid. That’s quite a kid.
This morning I’d like to explore with you what the bible has to say about philanthropy and how it affects us, especially during these tough economic times. And Dr. Schuller read that so beautifully and I think it bears repeating. In Mark we’re told one of the teachers of the law came and asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Imagine that question. “The most important one, Jesus answered, is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, with everything you’ve got. And the second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” There is no greater commandment than these.
Let me ask you this: When you think of the word philanthropy, who comes to mind? My answer is my paternal grandfather, after whom I was named, Dr. Miguel Guillen. For more than half a century, my grandfather was a minister in the truest sense of the word and for 35 of those years, he was the president of the CLADIC, the oldest independent Spanish speaking Pentecostal group in the country. I was very young when he died, but many years later, after I was married to my beautiful wife Laurel, I was invited by the CLADIC to give a sermon in honor of my grandfather’s memory.
After the sermon, my wife Laurel and I stood in a receiving line and it lasted for four hours. No exaggeration. Four hours. For four hours, people shook my hand and told me all the things that my grandfather had done for them in his life. Had married them, had buried their loved ones, had been there in the toughest times of their lives. And they wanted me to know about it. The irony is, the congregation was incredibly proud of me because I was the kid from the east Los Angeles barrio, who had gone on to make good, to become a big TV star. And yet, as I stood in that receiving line, as I listened to how thoroughly and faithfully my grandfather had loved God and had served Him by giving His life to others, I kept feeling smaller and smaller and smaller. Have you ever seen the movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?” That’s how I felt.
In those four fateful hours, something hit me like a lightening bolt. I had spent my life, not on others, but on myself. On doggedly pursuing my dreams, my ambitions, my priorities. Yes, it had gotten me out of the barrio. I’d become a scientist and taught at Harvard, I’d become the science correspondent for ABC News, I’d written best selling books, all of which were wonderful praise worthy achievements, don’t get me wrong, but in my walk with God, I was nowhere and it showed in my lack of philanthropy.
In Matthew, we’re told “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Storing up treasures in heaven. That’s philanthropy.
Philanthropy is about our loving God and loving others so much that we’re willing to be God’s hands and feet, to be His heart and voice, to donate our time, talents and treasures, to pressing human needs, the way Zach Bonner is doing right now, the way my grandfather did for more than 50 years. That’s philanthropy. I wish I could stand up here right now and tell you that after that four hour receiving line, I mended my worldly ways and I went on to become the male equivalent of Mother Teresa. But it didn’t happen that way. Being philanthropic, loving God isn’t always easy. Just look at Jesus. He’s the perfect role model for every aspect of our lives, including philanthropy. And yet, even He struggled. On the eve of His moment of truth, on the eve of history’s greatest single act of philanthropy, Jesus wavered. In Matthew its described, “Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane. Then He said to them, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Imagine that. To the point of sorrow, to the point of death. “Stay here, He said, and keep watch with Me. And then going a little further, He fell on His face to the ground and prayed My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.” You hear the anguish in those words and this is Jesus.
How about you, brothers and sisters, from all over the world? How about you? Are you in the throes of some kind of Garden of Gethsemane? Have you lost your job? Are you in danger of losing your home, too? Are you facing a devastating medical crisis or a failing relationship? Like Jesus, do you find yourself pleading with God for mercy? For relief from your frightful burden? Are you even at the point of thinking that the only way out is to take your life? If so, just take a moment and see how Jesus reacted to His moment of truth, to His tough times.
After pleading with God and sweating blood, literally sweating blood, the bible tells us, after His anguished supplication, Jesus surrendered. After pleading, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me!” He said this: “Yet, not as I will, but as You will, Lord.” And He didn’t stop there. After supplicating, after surrendering, Jesus served. He served human kind in a manner that changed the world forever. And whatever you think about Jesus, He changed the world forever in a manner that no other person in history has or ever will. Jesus served up His very life for us and in doing so, He revealed a heart and soul of philanthropy. “Greater love has no one than this than he lay down his life for his friends.” And Jesus said “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Now remain in My love. Love each other as I have loved you.” That’s philanthropy.
There are other insights the bible gives us about philanthropy. Here are four that I think you’ll find helpful, okay?
Number one: Like Jesus, each of us have gifts that make us ideally suited for a particular philanthropy. Yes. At its best, in other words, philanthropy isn’t something you choose to do, its something you’re called to do. My grandfather felt called to be a minister. Zach Bonner feels called to help homeless children in America. In Ephesians we read this: “For we are God’s workmanship.” We are not an accident of nature. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do” what? “Good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Second insight: Philanthropy is not about being good. And please pay close attention to this because I find so very many people, including Christians, are confused about this. Faith without works is dead. But so are works without faith. Practicing philanthropy because you worship good is laudable. And it will surely earn you the trophies and brass plaques and award dinners and all the other accolades that this world has to offer you. By contrast, however, practicing philanthropy because you worship not good but worship God will result in good works that honor Him, not you, and result in an afterlife spent in His presence, your maker.
The third insight the bible gives us about philanthropy is this: be careful, don’t think of philanthropy as your ticket to heaven because that’s the flip side. It isn’t. Instead, its tangible evidence that you love God. At its selfless best, philanthropy is not about being a goodly person, its about being a godly person. Put another way, heaven is not the exclusive reward that comes with your being good, it’s the absolutely free gift that comes with your loving God. Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not by works so that no one can boast about it.”
The fourth insight that the bible gives us about philanthropy is this: philanthropy isn’t something you should feel pressured or shamed into doing. It should be something you do because you genuinely love and you trust God. I have a friend right now who’s going through a really tough time. He recently lost his job and he’s in danger of losing his house. All of which is made more terrifying because he and his young wife are about to have their first child. My friend thinks he’s being punished by God for not having been more generous when things were good and he was raking in the fat paycheck. And he’s now vowing to start a charitable foundation once he gets back on his feet. Now I applaud my good friend for his good intentions, but God wants us to serve others here and now, not in the sweet by and by. He wants us to serve others because we love Him, not because its some penance for wrong doing, which is either real or imagined. In II Corinthians, we’re told “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s philanthropy. That’s philanthropy at its best.
You know as I reflect on what the bible has to say about philanthropy, I realize I’m a very late bloomer and I have got a long way to go. But after that four hour wake up call in the receiving line, I’m beginning to see the light. It’s taken me 20 years I’m ashamed to admit, it’s been 20 years since that receiving line, and the message is just getting through. For me, the breakthrough happened in the fall of 2006. I received a call from Dr. John Templeton, Jr., who is the chairman of the John Templeton Foundation. And he was calling to ask me a favor for a very worthy cause. And when I agreed to help, I didn’t realize that at the time that it would be a favor that would change the course of my life. I didn’t know it was a favor that would lead to my leading this ten million dollar initiative called philanthropy project. But there you go. That was God at work in my life. To put it briefly, Philanthropy Project intends to use the moving image; television, film, the web in order to inspire ordinary people like you and me to be philanthropists. To tell people they don’t have to be Rockefeller or Gates or Templeton to help others, to make a difference.
To explain to people about the incredible scientific research right now that’s going on to prove that proves that when you live the selfless life, when you give your life away to others, you benefit physically, mentally, spiritually. You live a healthier, happier, longer life. This is being documented by science. They’re also finding out that the more you give, the more you get back. The benefits you receive when you’re philanthropic they call the warm glow affect. I love that. And so they’re proving the more you give, the more you glow. Like a big light bulb. Your soul just glows. And it’s a stunning affirmation of what we read in the bible. In Luke, it’s put this way, “Give and it will be given to you for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And in II Corinthians, Paul puts it this way, “Remember this whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. However, whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Give and glow. The more you give, the more you glow.
For me, let me just tell you this: for me personally, Philanthropy Project has meant this. It is meant for the first time in my life, I’m living out God’s dream for me. Not my dream for myself. What a relief. What a relief. I spent years going after my dream and it was fun and I enjoyed it. But nothing like what I’m enjoying now because I’m living out God’s dream for me. For the first time in my life, I’m part of something that is not about me. This is not where did it come from starring Dr. Michael Guillen. This is Philanthropy Project and I’ve got a team of people and we’re all working hard. For the first time in my life, I have an opportunity to love God and to serve others like never before. It is the give and glow life that the Lord wishes each of us to experience. During these tough economic times I realize its tempting to worry about your own precarious circumstances. Believe me I know. I’ve been there. To protect what is yours, to look out for number one, its natural. Yet during these tough times philanthropy is precisely what each of us needs to keep from descending into depression or self pity. In Matthew, Jesus says this, “Unless you’re willing to take up your cross and come with Me, you are not fit to be My disciples. If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for Me, you will surely find it.”
Powerful words. Those are not just words. They’re promises. They’re the key to life! I’ve discovered it. Many of you, too. Brothers and sisters, whatever your burden or crisis might be this morning, ask yourself these questions. What is God’s purpose for me? What is God’s purpose for me? Ask yourself that. Is it just to suck in air and eat food? No! God has a purpose for each of us. Ask what particular philanthropy, dear Lord, have You ordained just for me? Fill a need and feel the glow is our motto. There is a hole that only you can fill! And when you fill it, you will feel the glow! What is that? What is that particular philanthropy that the good Lord has ordained just for you? And He’s waiting on you. Ask yourself is my present crisis an opportunity, actually, to begin reshaping my life into God’s image of me. Not of my image of myself. These are probing questions. Don’t avoid them especially during these tough economic times when things are being stirred up. Ask those questions and then don’t just sit at home waiting for the answers, go out and serve others in any way you know how, the way Zach Bonner did five years ago with his little red wagon. He’s a kid! He wasn’t born into wealth, he’s a middle class family being raised by a single mother who worries about all the things that we do; paying the mortgage, making ends meet! But that child stepped up to the give and glow life that Jesus wishes for all of us and served others in the only way he knew how and he made a difference.
As Jesus promises in the midst of your philanthropy, in the midst of your serving others, you will hear God’s voice replying to your pleadings. This morning I urge you brothers and sisters, stop buying into the material false doctrines of this world, stop trying to figure everything out on your own. Reach out to Jesus Christ, reach out to Him, the greatest philanthropist of all, and crack open the only book, the only book that offers you God’s truth and God’s compass for your life. And read it for yourself, read it for yourself. Lose yourself in other people’s problems and you will find the answers to your own dilemma. Sow everything you have, your time, your talents, your treasure in serving God and serving others and you will reap the life of giving and glowing that is described and promised to us in 1st Timothy chapter 6, “Warn those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.” In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age and take hold of the life that is truly life, the give and glow life. Thank you brothers and sisters. Thank you and God bless you.