How would you answer the question if it was posed to you by someone still wondering about God and whether God is worthy of our trust? How do you answer the question in the quiet of your own heart? Is God generous?
One of the speakers at last week’s West Coast Presbyterian Pastor’s Conference spoke of God’s generosity – a generous creation that sustains and nurtures life, a generous redemption that calls the prodigal home and seeks the lost lamb, a generous sanctification that pours out the Holy Spirit upon the redeemed. Yes, a generous God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Is God generous? Of course. James 1:5 speaks of a God who gives generously to those who ask. Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God acts far more abundantly than we are able to imagine, beyond our thoughts and our petitions. Yes, God is generous.
God’s generosity was everywhere during my ten days in California. It was there in the beauty of the waves crashing on the rocky coast north of the Golden Gate and in the majesty of the towering redwoods. His abundance beyond measure was surely present in the fellowship of pastoral colleagues young and old and in the good teaching of a wise scholar opening the pages of Scripture with fresh insight and faithful integrity. God’s generosity was poured out as I lingered over dinner and a long night’s conversation with friends I first knew nearly forty years ago. Yes, a generous God who grants my nearly 90-year old mother joy in good book, enthusiasm in nature’s beauty and an insistence on walking rather than riding to her book club or writer’s workshop.
Is God generous? Well, of course, God is generous. But not by evidential data alone.
Am I able to declare God generous to the couple, not many years now from a once-planned retirement, who have been forced into bankruptcy by a mortgage their reduced salaries can no longer afford? Where is God’s abundance in the life of the young father recently diagnosed with a serious form of cancer or the wife and mother whose marriage is slowly dying, suffocated by anger, neglect and bitterness? These lives, too, touch mine.
Is God generous? We marveled at the stories of the Sudanese pastors who vowed to stand firm when the tyrant dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir stripped them of their citizenship and the meager rights they once had. Less than two weeks after the cruel decree was issued, their churches have been ransacked and burned, their lives threatened. (Full story here) Has the generous God abandoned his church in Khartoum?
Like the some in the crowds who followed Jesus and demanded a sign, I want to dictate the proof of God’s generosity: bankruptcy avoided, cancer cured, marriage restored, tyrants deposed. But Jesus told those who demanded a sign that none would be given save the sign of Jonah; Jonah who spent three days in the belly of the great fish and then was spewed out upon the dry land.
It is still Eastertide, Sunday will be the fourth Sunday of Easter. The proof of God’s generosity is, finally, an empty tomb on the third day. Abundance beyond imagination is in the defeat of death and the victory of love.
I will continue to pray for our generous God’s grace in the lives of my friends who face financial distress, life-threatening disease and life-denying despair. We must pray for our brothers and sisters in the Sudan and elsewhere. But we have no guarantees of financial stability or sound bodies and healthy marriages. No guarantee that we will not face persecution for righteousness’ sake.
Easter’s empty tomb, however, is our guarantee that life has defeated death, love has vanquished evil.
Is God generous? Yes, beyond our ability to measure.