Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsMonday 17 Feb 2020Morning Devotions with Chris Witts
John Gilbert lived in a town called Paradise in California. He was born in 1976. When he was aged five, he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). It’s a terrible, cruel, and progressive disease. It’s one of the worst diseases you can get.
This little boy and his parents were told it would eventually destroy every muscle, and within 10 years, he would die. It affects one in 3,600 males. It’s an inherited genetic disease and John lived until he was 25. He lived longer than most.
He needed machines to help him breathe and could only use his hand to operate a mouse at his computer. And he wrote letters and articles. But he couldn’t speak, so debilitating was the awful disease. At high school the other kids ignored him. He couldn’t walk straight, and they laughed at him. No-one really understood the severity of John Gilbert’s disease. He was picked on, humiliated, and one other student bullied him in the lunch room where no-one else was present. No-one stood up for him because they were afraid of the bully themselves.
John loved sports, and one night the National Football League sponsored a fundraiser and dinner, and he was the guest of honour. They had an auction—and one of the items was a basketball signed by the Sacramento Kings, the professional basketball team in Sacramento, California. John was able to raise his hands, and made a bid, much to the surprise of his mother. They couldn’t afford it. The bid kept going up and up to an extraordinarily high figure—finally won by a man in the room who went forward to collect this much wanted prize.
But instead of returning to his seat, he walked over to young John Gilbert and placed the basketball in the thin, small hands of a sick boy who loved basketball. A few years later John wrote about that night: “I recall thunderous applause, weepy eyes. I’m amazed. Have you ever been given a gift you could never have gotten for yourself? Has anyone ever sacrificed a huge amount for you without getting anything in return, except the joy of giving?”
It’s a simple story, yes—but somebody noticed and cared. They acted and gave. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others.”
If You Always Give, You Will Always Have
Have you ever stopped to think of the joy of giving? What does it mean really ? Most of us realise the philosophy of ‘do unto others’, and applaud volunteers who give of their time. Emerson used to say, “No man [or woman] can sincerely help another without helping himself.” And that’s true. You feel better when you help someone else. Academic research and thousands of years of human history confirm that achieving meaning, fulfilment, and happiness in life comes from making others happy, and not from being self-centred.
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Mother Teresa is a famous example. She found fulfilment in giving of herself to others. She helped change the expression on dying people’s faces from distress and fear to calmness and serenity. She made their pain a little easier to bear. A Chinese proverb says: “If you always give, you will always have.” A famous American author and management expert, Ken Blanchard, declared, “The more I give away, the more comes back.”
If you find yourself feeling unhappy, try making someone else happy and see what happens. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, try doing some meaningful and worthwhile work and see how you feel. The catch is that you must do this work with passion and enthusiasm.
Marian Wright Edelman used wise words when she said, “Doing for others is the rent you’ve got to pay for living on this earth.” And DeWitt Wallace who, with his wife Lila Atchison Wallace, founded the Reader’s Digest magazine, made one of America’s largest fortunes and gave it all away. He said, “The dead carry with them to the grave only that which they have given away.” Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, who have some of the largest fortunes in the world, have given the bulk of their resources to foundations to heal the sick and provide aid to the poor.
Generosity Will Be Rewarded
And the Bible has a great word in Proverbs 11:25: “Generosity will be rewarded. Give a cup of water, and you will receive a cup of water in return”. I smiled to myself when I heard of the minister’s son who told of his father’s run-down dilapidated church:
The paint was peeling; the lawn was bad—there wasn’t enough money to plant grass seed. The hymn books were torn and tattered. Plaster had fallen from the ceiling. So his father called a meeting to raise money to do something about it and he invited, among others, the richest man in town.
He worked on the rich man and others too, but couldn’t get any response. Finally he said, “Let us pray.” And my father fervently prayed to God to give them a sign that would melt the hearts of these stony people, especially the rich man. Well, the Lord accommodated him. Just then an enormous piece of plaster fell off the wall directly onto the head of the wealthy man. He leapt to his feet and said, “I’ll give $2,000.” My father said, “Hit him again, Lord, hit him again!”
Jesus speaks often of the temptation of riches. He tells us that we cannot serve two masters—the Lord God and Mammon. Jesus tells us that “…those who are given much, of them much is expected,” and again, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
St Augustine expanded this verse from Luke: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.”