God Will Always Pay You Back

God Will Always Pay You Back

By Jim Taylor

“We may worry about the things that we sacrifice when we follow God’s will. Instead, we should think about all the things we would miss if we didn’t follow his will. The things we give up are far less than the things we gain when we step out and achieve God’s plan. He gives us more than we could ever imagine.”

Those words were written by Matthew Barnett in his book, The Church that Never Sleeps. As a 20-year-old with no pastoral experience, he came to L. A. to assume leadership at a dying church in a poverty-stricken, gang-infested neighborhood. He persisted in spite of difficulties, opposition, and apparent failure. Eventually the small, struggling congregation became the Los Angeles International Church, known around the world as “the Dream Center.” 

Today it ministers to over 40,000 individuals and families through 70,000 encounters each month, providing medical programs, mobile hunger relief, residential rehabilitation programs, shelters for human trafficking victims, transitional housing for the homeless, job skills training, counseling, education, leadership development, Bible studies, and more.

As a busy pastor, he found it hard to sustain a dating life; for five years his possibilities were very limited. He said, “I didn’t think I would ever have the time to find a woman to share my life with.”

There was a young woman who had a ministry feeding thousands of people in the streets of LA. Her name was Caroline. They often talked with one another about the food ministry. He was impressed by her work for God, and intrigued by her as a person. One day he found the courage to ask her for a date; she said yes. They were together often for the next few months, and he couldn’t think about anyone else.

One night they were roller skating when a man ran into Caroline, knocking her to the floor. She was unconscious and had a large bump on her head. Soon she was able to speak, but wasn’t making any sense, and so a bystander called 911. When they arrived, Matthew was sitting on the ground with Caroline’s head in his lap. The paramedics checked her over and asked familiar questions: “What’s your name? How old are you?” She was barely able to answer. One of them pointed at Matthew and asked, “Do you know who this man is?” She turned her head and a big smile crossed her face. “Yes,” she said, “He’s the man of my dreams.” The paramedics said, “Ahhhh,” and Matthew told them, “Guys, I think she’s okay.”

Months later, Matthew surprised Caroline at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City and proposed to her in front of a crowd of onlookers; she accepted.

Matthew reflects on the lesson God taught him in this chapter of his life:

“God takes care of his people. Yes, the work of God takes sacrifice, commitment, struggles and pain. But at the same time, doing his work provides the greatest joy anyone could ever know. What do you lose by serving God and giving him all you’ve got? Nothing! What do you gain by serving God and giving him all you’ve got? Everything!”

The Many Rewards for Serving Others

I can identify—and have myself experienced—at least five distinct outcomes from serving others.  These are five transactions that take place every time you show kindness to someone else.  These actions are the consequences of your actions.  They are. . .

1) You bless the recipient.  The one who receives the kindness is so grateful for what you have done.  Your act of kindness often brings a smile, happiness, and laughter.  They experience a glow that remains after you leave.  They did not expect anyone to care enough to do this for them—for free!

Margaret was one of the 25 million senior citizens who are living in poverty.  She was facing eviction from her trailer home—unless she trimmed her bushes, weeded, and cleaned up the debris in her yard.  But she was in poor health, living on a meager monthly income, and was relationally isolated like many people her age—forgotten by just about everyone.  After hearing her story, a nearby church was contacted by the local Love, INC.  The next weekend, volunteers trimmed her bushes, weeded her flower beds, and cleaned up her yard.  Here’s some of what she said in a thank-you note:

“Without your help, generosity, and charity, I don’t know what I would have done.  One couple said they would return at a later time to plant grass seed an offered to step by once a year to do any ongoing upkeep on the yard.  I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to everyone who has helped me with this situation.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and God bless you all.”

2) Even on those rare occasions when the recipient does not sow gratitude, remember that you also bless yourself when you show kindness to others.  You experience a deep sense of satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment.  I’ve heard people say they felt “like a million bucks” after serving someone who couldn’t pay them back—and this is in spite of the cost of their time, money, and effort. This is a biblical principle:  Proverbs 11:25 says, He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.  And Proverbs 14:21 agrees: Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.  It is you who receive the blessing.

But there is also a physiological cause for this wonderful feeling.  A university study recently investigated why humans would be motivated to display acts of generosity—since it seems illogical to willingly sacrifice your resources for others.  MRI scans revealed that an area of the brain linked to generosity triggered a response in another part of the brain related to happiness.  Our happiness levels increase after acts of generosity.  The study encouraged people not to overlook the benefits of “spending” on others, because “giving makes us happy.” 

3) There’s more: you please God when you show kindness.  It puts a smile on his face!  Throughout the scriptures we see God honoring servanthood, and Christ exemplifying it.  For instance, Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. . . For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).  We are never more like Christ than when we are serving others.  Matthew 25 presents an interesting picture of God when the master replies, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .Come and share your master’s happiness!” (25:21, 23)  Notice that God honors his faithful servant, and invites him to come share his own happiness.  God loves it when you love on others.

4) Here’s one that is less visible but no less true: When we show kindness to others, we change the atmosphere around us.  This is true wherever you are: at home, at work, in school, in the neighborhood, or in your city.  You know what it feels like to be in a place where there is division, bad feelings, blame, harsh words, and so on.  In contrast, you know what it feels like when people around you are polite, happy to see you, complimentary, supportive, eager to help, and so on.  One person, one act at a time, can “infect” others; and their combined acts of kindness can change the atmosphere over time.

I was intrigued recently by a Readers Digest list of the ten “Nicest Places in America.”  Out of the towns that made the final cut, not one of them was there because of spectacular scenery, strategic location, or a bustling economy.  None of them are well-known places; I had only heard the name of one of the ten.  What set these towns apart from other towns?  It is small and large numbers of people doing small and large acts of kindness—over and over and over again.  People choose to live in these places because it feels like family; they care about people, and they know people care about them.

5) Finally, and this may be the hardest to grasp, but also the most important: our acts of service affect the future.  That’s right—what we do (or don’t do) today has an impact on what happens tomorrow, next year, and the next century.  In the history of America, explorers set out to discover new places.  Pioneers followed them as the first to claim the land.  And then, settlers came later to stay.  When someone shows the way, it is easier for everyone else to follow. 

An easy example of this comes from a recent news story that went viral.  At a McDonald’s in Scottsburg, Indiana, the staff and customers kept a chain of good deeds going for more than 3 hours.  On Father’s Day, a regular customer saw a man with four children behind her in the drive-through line.  She paid for their order, the dad paid for the car following him, they did the same for the next vehicle, and so on.  All total, 167 drivers “paid it forward” that night—and the streak only stopped when the store closed for the night.  Think about that amazing sequence: the first customer was setting out on her own, but eventually—as the employees told the customers what was happening—it was easier to join because so many had gone before them.  There was a feeling that “if they can do it, so can I.”  And they did.

Five fantastic results—each one a consequence of your next act of service in your community.  When you think you are too busy or too tired or it’s not going to matter anyway, just remember: IT’S WORTH IT. . . TO EVERYONE.

The Lasting Impression Kindness Makes

By Jim Taylor

Would you like to make a deep and lasting impression for the kingdom on people you meet?  You can, and it’s easier than you think.  The word impression refers to “a mark or indentation produced by pressure or forceful contact.”  After sitting on a lawn chair in a pair of shorts, you might have a web pattern on the backs of your legs when you stand up.  Fortunately, this “impression” isn’t a lasting one; it fades quickly, and you forget about it (and your children stop making fun of you).

The kind of impression I’m talking about today is when you come into contact with someone, and you leave a mark that stays with them.  According to Scripture, kindness does that.  Consider a few examples:

  • The tale of Ruth and Boaz is one of history’s great love stories; and it was founded primarily on kindness. Ruth had showed kindness to her mother-in-law, and Naomi wished the same for Ruth (Ruth 1:8).  When Ruth traveled to Israel with Naomi, Boaz showed kindness to Ruth and praised her for the way she treated her mother-in-law (2:11-13).  Boaz kindly made arrangements for Ruth to glean more easily in the field, to provide for her and Naomi’s needs (2:15-20).  As their romance began to blossom, Boaz thanked Ruth for her kindness (3:10-11).
  • King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had great praise for kindness: “A kindhearted woman gains respect” (Proverbs 11:16)—as did Ruth. “A kind man benefits himself” (11:17)—as Boaz did.  “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (12:25); through your words, you have the ability to lift the spirits of someone who is down.  “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (14:31); when we show kindness to others, God counts it as if we had done it to him.  “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (19:17); there is a special reward for kind acts done for the poor—and they put God in your debt!
  • Kindness is mentioned as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Acts 9 tells the story of Tabitha, a woman known for “abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did” (v. 36, NAS). One of her kindly habits was to make beautiful clothing for those who needed it.  Notice that people were still talking about her acts of kindness even after she died! (v. 39)  You’ve probably heard similar testimonies at funerals.  The fact is, our acts of kindness live longer than we do; they have no expiration date.  We’re still talking about Tabitha’s kindness 2,000 years later.

Recently I asked a group of people if they could remember any act of kindness done for them by a stranger.  Those who responded recalled incidents of a lost phone being returned, a gift of gloves on a freezing winter evening, a compliment given to a parent, a man who overlooked a fender-bender, and so on.  In every case the person who gave the gift of kindness was a complete stranger. . . and the memory of the event was still vivid in their minds weeks, months, and even years later.

Even a small act of kindness done for others has the ability to make a deep and lasting impression.  You have the opportunity each day to change someone’s life for the better. . . and it’s easier than you think!

Why do we call ourselves “City Changers”? (Part Three)

By Jim Taylor


In the last post we began looking at four basic conditions that must be met for a community to change for the better.  First, there must be a person or group of people involved.  Whenever God wants to accomplish something on the earth, he always raises up a person or a group of like-minded people.  Second, this person or group has a desire for things to change, and that desire becomes desperation.  God wants us to share his desires for our city, and he gets busy when we get desperate.


Third, this person or group with a desperate desire for change commits to being part of the solution.  They are no longer content to be part of the problem, or to accept the problem as unchangeable; they see that a solution is possible and they are the ones willing to try.  Instead of saying, “Someone else should do something about it,” they say, “This is my community, this is my problem; I could do something about it.”  Instead of assigning blame, they assume responsibility; they hate the problem so much that they are driven to do something about it.

  • Nehemiah was living in Susa—800 miles from Jerusalem—when a traveler told him that the exiles “are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). Although it was far away and he could have been reluctant to leave a good situation, Nehemiah considered Jerusalem’s problem to be his   He wept, fasted, prayed, and asked the king to “send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”  He could see a solution, and he wanted to be part of it.


Fourth, those people with the desperate desire who want to be part of the solution take action.

Everyone wishes things were better, and many people have good intentions about helping it get better, but these people actually do something.  Their intentions become actions, and their words become deeds.

  • God told the exiled Jews in Babylon, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. . . Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).  In other words, get busy; do something to make your community better, even if you don’t feel at home there; if it gets better, so do you!
  • Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That’s a City-Changers attitude: You do it while other people are just talking about it.


Cities change when spectators become participants; when wishful desire develops into spiritual desperation; when good intentions are turned into action; and when complaining about the problem stops, and working toward a solution begins.


Why do we call ourselves “City Changers”?  Because we want more for our community.  We are no longer satisfied with the way things are.  We desire what God desires, and we believe transformation can come here.  We are crying out, “Lord give us this city, or we die.”  We are a group of people daring to dream God’s dream for our communities.  Will you join us?


Why do we call ourselves “City Changers”? (Part Two)

By Jim Taylor


In Part One, we saw that God had a definite plan in mind when he created cities and nations.  He gave your community its own personality, a unique set of strengths, and a divine purpose.  But when we look around our cities, we see crime, sickness, corruption, poverty, suicides, drug abuse, hopelessness, and a host of other problems.  Is there anything we can do if what we see around us does not live up to what God intended?
The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  There are places that have experienced a dramatic, miraculous turnaround—among them. . .

  • a town where the jails were closed due to lack of crime
  • a county where government corruption was exposed, and the leaders replaced
  • a town where the schools went from the bottom to the top in educational achievement
  • a city where hundreds of churches combine to serve their neighborhoods
  • and many, many more.


How did it happen there?  And, more to the point, how could it happen here, in my community?  If we look at stories in the Bible and at incidents from history, we can see a pattern emerge.  This post, and the next one, will examine four basic conditions that must be met for a community to change for the better.  


First, it all begins when there is a person or a group of people involved.  When God wants to accomplish something on the earth, he always raises up a person or a group of like-minded people.

  • In Genesis 18, God was willing to spare Sodom if there were just 10 righteous people there; tragically, there wasn’t.
  • At one point God lost his patience with Israel and was ready to destroy the entire nation. Psalm 106:23 says, “So he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.”  One person stood up for—and saved—a nation.
  • God said about Jerusalem, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). He only needed one person.


Second, this person or group has a desire for things to change, and that desire becomes desperation.  God wants us to share his desires for our city, and it appears that he gets busy when we get desperate.

  • Scottish clergyman John Knox was a leader in the Protestant Reformation. His overwhelming passion was to see his nation turn to God.  He was imprisoned for his faith and made a galley slave, chained to the rowing bench of a warship.  He prayed every day, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.”  That is desperation.  It is said that Mary, Queen of Scots, feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.
  • Charles Finney tells a story about a town where the church was empty, the youth were unconverted, and there was a desolation in the air. An old blacksmith was working alone in his shop one Friday.  He was overwhelmed by the sad state of spiritual affairs around him; his agony became so great that he set aside his tools, closed up the shop, and prayed the rest of the day.  On Sunday he asked the local minister to call the people together; that evening, unexpected crowds came from near and far.  The Spirit of God was so heavy that at first everyone was silent.  Then one sinner spoke out and said, if anyone could pray, would they please pray for him?  Another followed, and still another, and it was found that people from all over the town were under deep conviction—which they all dated to the exact hour when the old man was praying in his shop.  A powerful revival followed, but what came first?  One old man’s desperation.


Next time: What God does when these desperate people take action and become part of the solution.

Why do we call ourselves “City Changers”? (Part One)

By Jim Taylor

The Bible teaches that God raises up cities and nations to fulfill his purposes on the earth. For instance,

  • Eden was created by God as a garden of paradise for the man and woman so they could live, work, enjoy his presence, and have dominion over the land (Genesis 1:28; 2:8-15; 3:8-9).
  • Shechem and Hebron were among the cities dedicated by God as “cities of refuge,” places of sanctuary for someone who accidentally killed another person and who needed protection from avenging family members (Numbers 35:10-15; Josh 20:1-9).
  • Jerusalem was known as the “city of God” (Psalm 46:4). It was the home of the temple and served as the center for the worship of Israel’s God. God himself said about this city, “I have chosen Jerusalem for my name to be there” (Deuteronomy 12:5; 2 Chronicles 6:6; 1 Kings 14:21).
  • Bethel, mentioned in scripture second only to Jerusalem, was called “the house of God” and “a holy place.” Jacob said it was “the gate of heaven” after God spoke to him in a dream there (Genesis 28:17). It was always—before and after Israel’s occupation—a center for worship.
  • Bethlehem was always connected to the Messiah. Ruth lived there and is named in Jesus’ genealogy (Ruth 1:1-2; Matthew 1:5). It is where David—from whose line Jesus would come—shepherded his flock, wrote psalms, and was appointed king (1 Samuel 17:15; 16:13). Micah prophesied that out of this little town would come “a ruler over Israel,” and it became the birthplace of the Savior (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1).
  • Israel was elected by God for a special historical and religious purpose. He intended to bless all nations through this one nation (Genesis 12:3); Israel was to be a light to call all nations to himself (Isaiah 60:3; Jeremiah 3:17).

Notice that each one of these places had its own personality, a unique set of strengths, and a divine purpose.

This leads us to ask, “Why did God create our town? What part in his plan did God intend our community to play? What is the redemptive purpose for our city?” We believe he had something specific in mind when he planted the place where we live.

Next time: Is there anything we can do if what we see around us does not live up to what God intended?