Live to Give: Let God Turn Your Talents into Miraclesby Austin Gutwein
Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle!
Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, Live to Give delivers a message of/i>/b>/b>
Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle!
Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, Live to Give delivers a message of hope that we all have something to give. Written in the down-to-earth, candid voice of the gifted young man who as a kid founded a relief ministry that has saved and improved countless lives in Africa, Live to Give is the message that every teen needs to hear: You are more special than you know, and you can do big things.
Jesus proved that no gift is too small when He used five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands. And if no gift is too small, too ordinary, or too random, there is no limit to what the youth of today can accomplish!
A teenage philanthropist who has built a high school, two medical clinics, and a dormitory in Africaall before the age of 16Austin Gutwein shares how to take what may seem like the simplest of talents, gifts, and interests and use them for something Jesus can use to move mountains.
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LIVE TO GIVELet God Turn Your Talents into Miracles
By AUSTIN GUTWEIN
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Austin Gutwein
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLive to Give
God doesn't need you.
God doesn't need you or your help to make a difference. God doesn't need you to bring an issue before the world or try to make an impact. Why? Because God is God. But even though God doesn't need you, He wants you.
I was recently in Mexico on a service project, building a house for a very poor Tijuana family. When it came time for us to finish up the project, we pulled out our paint and brushes and began to put the final touch on the house: a nice coat of watery green. All of a sudden, a few of the children who were going to live in the house showed up with huge smiles on their faces and big hearts willing to work. They wanted to paint too! So we let them help out. Sure, it may have taken a little bit longer and been a little bit messier, with paint sloshed on us and on them, but that paint job was filled with more smiles and laughter than any I've done before or since. You see, we didn't technically need their help, but we did want it.
I'm sure we've all been in those kids' shoes from time to time: trying to "help" our parents make cookies when we were really little (and getting flour everywhere), or perhaps "helping" your dad or granddad fix up an old car (and slowing down the process). See, there are much more qualified people around for jobs like that. But because these adults loved us and wanted us to learn, they let us help. I believe God feels the same way.
The truth of the matter is that God doesn't need us because He is God—the most qualified being in the universe! But the good news is that just because God can do anything without us doesn't mean He wants to. God can create anything, fix any problem, and He can do it all without us. But He wants to use us, which means we get to work by His side and have front-row seats to see His amazing power.
Here's an example. Let's take the problem of hunger. Feeding the hungry is an overwhelming job. Did you know there are 925 million people who go hungry each and every day? To put that in perspective, the United States has 308 million people. So that means that the number of people who go hungry every day is equal to the population of our entire country times three. And God could feed all of those people in a second. God's done it before. Just check out the story of Moses and the Israelites in the Bible (Exodus 16). While they were wandering around the desert for forty years, God made food drop from the sky that nobody had even seen before. The Israelites started calling it manna, which means "what is it?" God could drop some manna down again. Maybe even with a little hot sauce on it. But why doesn't He? I can't say for sure. We do know, though, that God wants to use human beings to solve the world's problems.
When God was making Adam, He said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground" (Genesis 1:26).
He gave Adam a mission. Then He let him name all the animals (although I think the guy must have been hurting for names by the time he got to the dodo and the pig-footed bandicoot, don't you?). And we inherited Adam's mission to take care of things ever since. I'm pretty honored by that. God made people with giving in mind—He chose us to make a difference.
Jesus said, "You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil" (John 15:16 MSG).
This means you! And me! God has made a plan to use you to accomplish eternal, life-giving, miraculous things! Now, that's pretty exciting—the most exciting thing that will ever happen to us in our whole lives!
Sure, God was perfectly capable of naming all the animals by Himself. He didn't need Adam or a team of landscapers to make the plants grow in the garden of Eden either. In the same way, God could solve the world's biggest problems in an instant, wiping out suffering and diseases as terrible as cancer or AIDS. I don't know why He doesn't. That's one of those big mysteries we'll have to ask Him about when we get to heaven. One thing I can tell you for sure is that we don't know all the answers for why God sometimes chooses not to intervene directly. But the thing we can know is that when we live to give, we get to partner with a God whose love has no end, and we get to play a part in His incredible plan—a plan that will last for eternity.
WE HAVE A PART TO PLAY
There are so many examples in the Bible of God using regular people—even kids—to help Him make amazing things happen. He could have done these things by Himself, of course, but He picked people He loved to help bring life to the world. Later, we'll talk about how you are just such a person. But first let's look at John 6 for an example of how a partnership with God works. It's the story of the feeding of the five thousand. This is one of the most amazing miracles in Jesus' lifetime. In fact, it is the only miracle, other than the resurrection, that is written about in all four gospels. That means it is pretty important. And in this miracle, Jesus uses the direct help of someone else—a kid a lot like you and me. Let me paint the picture for you.
Jesus and His disciples hop into a boat and sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Along the shore, people see the boat and follow it all the way to the other side of the sea! When Jesus and the disciples reach the shore, they are greeted by an ever-growing crowd estimated at five thousand men. This means there were probably many more than five thousand people overall, counting the women and children (Matthew says there were "about five thousand men, besides women and children" [14:21]). Jesus begins to heal their sick and teach them. Why? Mark 6:34 gives us the answer: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd."
That compassion leads Him to continue teaching until very late in the day, sharing wisdom and hope. But then the disciples run into a problem. All the people who have been listening to Jesus are hungry and without food, and they are too far from home to go get any kind of quick meal. I'm pretty sure takeout wasn't around back then.
Jesus' compassion on the crowd shows itself again; He tells His disciples to go get them something to eat. Imagine! What if someone asked you to rustle up a nice dinner for, oh, ten thousand people, just on the fly? The disciples are understandably stressed—they know they can't possibly afford to feed all these people. It would take the modern-day equivalent of $8,000, or half a year's wages for them. But Andrew looks around and manages to find a little boy who has what seems to be the only ounce of food around. It is a meager meal made up of only five small barley loaves and two fish—barely enough to feed the boy, let alone the huge crowd. We're not talking about a big meal by any stretch of the imagination.
But it would be enough—in fact, more than enough. Jesus uses this little boy's meal to feed the whole crowd. The Bible says Jesus gives thanks for the small lunch, the disciples divide it up, and everyone has their fill of food. Then—and this shows how great this miracle was—the disciples actually pick up twelve basketfuls of leftovers!
Jesus didn't need that boy. Jesus didn't need his lunch. He could have fed everyone without even missing a beat in His teaching. Jesus could have turned rocks into bread if He wanted to—but instead, He chose to use that boy. The Bible doesn't give us many details about this kid or why Jesus chose to use him, but I can't help but wonder if He did it to show us what happens when we offer our gifts to Him.
* * *
I was nine years old, sitting on a couch in my living room with my family. The TV was on and we were all glued to it, but it wasn't a typical movie or cartoon show keeping our attention. On the screen was another nine-year-old—a little girl named Maggie. She lived almost ten thousand miles away in Zambia, and her life was about as different from mine as it could get. You see, Maggie was what's known as an AIDS orphan. She had been born to parents who both died of this horrible disease, and she was suffering because of it. Instead of having a nice house like mine, she lived under an old tarp with her great-grandmother. She huddled there without protection from the rain, without enough food to eat, enough clothes to wear, or a school to go to. When she stared into the camera, her eyes looked empty, as if she were so tired that she couldn't go on much longer. This was so scary to me. Maggie didn't ask for that life or deserve it, but there she was, staring with empty eyes under that tarp. And there I was, watching TV on a nice couch in our family room in Arizona.
Then, in the next moment, Maggie's image faded from the screen, and it seemed as though I was transported back to my normal cares and concerns. But not quite. That's when God changed things for me. All of a sudden, everything around me looked different. Maggie's story was really real—really happening on the other side of the world, and all the while I was going about my life in ease and comfort. It could have been me, I thought. I had to do something. And that's how it all started.
God used that moment to break my heart and start a journey that led to my first book, Take Your Best Shot. He used my broken heart by giving it a dream to help Maggie and others like her in a way that would let me do what I liked to do most—shoot free throws on the basketball court. He used that dream to start a crazy journey that would eventually lead to the creation of an organization called Hoops of Hope, which has helped people all over the world raise more than $2.5 million to support His kids in Africa. I don't know how He did it. All I know is that He made a miracle happen—and He still is! Over the past eight years, more than forty thousand people have joined us in raising money for AIDS orphans. God continues to work and do wonders through Hoops of Hope.
Why did Jesus use the little boy with bread and fish to feed thousands of hungry people? Why did God use a nine-year-old kid in Arizona to help AIDS orphans? Because He wanted to. And God wants to use you to make a difference too!
"Really?" you might say. "AIDS and hunger and things like that are huge problems. These are a big deal, and I'm just me. How could a kid like me even make a dent in such big problems?" Your question would be understandable. But don't let the fact that God wants to use you intimidate or overwhelm you. Remember Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (NKJV).
It's not you doing the heavy lifting—it's Christ, and He's got endless backup. Still feel a little puny and unsure? Look how God is described in Isaiah 40:29: "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
Afraid you might run out of steam? Paul wrote in Philippians, "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears" (1:6 MSG).
God loves seeing us live our lives to the fullest by giving of ourselves in the service of others. Sure, He could do it all on His own, but because He loves us, He wants to use us! He wants us to live to give.
A GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
What exactly does it mean to live to give? I think it starts with knowing the reason God put you on this earth. God has something for you to do, just as He had a plan for Adam and for the boy with the bread and fish. We shouldn't wait to use these gifts God has given us. The apostle Peter wrote, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace" (1 Peter 4:10, emphasis added).
That's right—you have received a gift. And it's a gift that keeps on giving, but only if you use it. Only if you give it back to Him.
When we live to give, letting God use whatever we've got, we join Him in an awesome adventure. We start working hand in hand with Him to bring about amazing, transforming, mind-blowing things in our lives and the lives of others. But before we live this adventure, we need to find out what God wants us to give.
For me, it was shooting hoops to raise money. He wanted me to give my time and my favorite hobby. For the boy in the multitude of five thousand, it was his lunch. For you ... well, this book is meant to help you discover what that is. But there is one common theme throughout all of our stories: we all need to live to give because we were made for it. Nothing beats living this way! Nothing we could eat, drink, buy, play, watch, or win in life can compare to the feeling of giving ourselves away, using "whatever gift we have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace."
WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR?
Before we go on and discover how we were meant to live to give, I would encourage you to answer this question: What are you living for?
What gets you going in the morning? What is your top priority? What is the most important thing in your life? Don't like your answer right now? I didn't either at first. This world is a distracting place. There's so much to entertain us, so much stuff to consume or collect, so many people to compare ourselves to. It can be tough to keep our heads clear and our hearts focused on God. Sometimes it's tough even to know what's in our heads and hearts at all. But by the end of this book, you will be able to answer two questions: What have I been living for? And what was I made to be living for?
Believe me, the answer to the second question is more exciting, fulfilling, and satisfying than anything we can get out of a box or see on TV. When we're used by God, we never know just how crazy things will get. I never thought Hoops of Hope would lead to me visiting Africa or meeting some of the most amazing, strongest people on the face of the earth. But even without those experiences, it's enough for me to know that when I live to give to God and others, He uses it for His glory. Plus, as the Bible puts it, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much" (Luke 16:10 ESV). That means that the adventure never stops. God will continue to teach and help us grow so that we're able to live and give even more: another gift that keeps on giving.
So how do we get started on this journey? What is it that you were meant to give? Read on, and let's find out!
Chapter TwoUnique Lunch
I stood looking down at the water; it must have been close to four hundred feet below me. The river was rushing like a speeding car, only a short way away from Victoria Falls. Before I could finish gazing at the beauty of the Zambezi River, the five-second countdown began. All of a sudden, with one shove, I was falling like a rock that had been thrown from the bridge, with nothing but a thin cord keeping me from plunging into the waiting arms of the icy water far below. A lot of people might call that terrifying. Some might say it's insane. But I have one word for it: fun! My idea of fun may be different from, say, my grandmother's. But that's okay. It's our differences that make us unique—our differences lead us into adventure.
Before we begin the journey of learning how to live to give, we have to realize a few things about ourselves. We have to realize that each of us is truly unique. We each have unique passions and dreams. The boy in John 6 was one of a kind too. He was apparently the only one with a lunch that day. Mark 6:38 says that Jesus asked the disciples to "go and see" how many loaves were available. They must have looked pretty hard for bread in the crowd, thinking that surely several people would have thought to bring enough between them to throw together a quick potluck buffet. But no such luck. "When they found out," the Bible says, "they said [to Jesus], 'Five—and two fish.'" Really? One kid, out of all the five thousand–plus people, was the only one they found with a lunch?
Excerpted from LIVE TO GIVE by AUSTIN GUTWEIN Copyright © 2012 by Austin Gutwein. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Austin Gutwein, founder of Hoops of Hope and author of Take Your Best Shot, started his own journey with one simple gift: he liked to play basketball. By using his gift to achieve God’s work, Austin’s organization has grown to 40,000 members and raised nearly $3 million for AIDS relief in Africa.
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An amazing message to live by! Austin Gutwein is a young man who has chosen to live the life as one who can change his world. In his second book, Live to Give, he inspires an entire generation to do the same. Through his books and his own dream, Hoops For Hope, Austin is making a difference. Live to Give is a powerful book for people of all ages to read and be challenged to give more of themselves to the world around them. Like the boy in scripture who gave his small lunch, we too can give a small amount and let God make it profound. The writing of this book is definitely intended for young people but its message is timeless. There are countless scripture references to back Austin's life philosophy as well as the proof that he walks what he talks. He actually got up off his butt, left his ninetendo behind and started to change the world ... by giving of himself. He learned that God is waiting for our willingness; He will supply the rest. No more excuses. My favourite part was Gutwein's challenge to push through the hard parts, the "smoky" parts because ... "God is always right beside us, ready to help us out and hand us the oxygen. The oxygen for us is His word." Read it. Be inspired. Then go change the world.
Austin Gutwein in his new book, “Live To Give” published by Thomas Nelson helps us Let God Turn Your Talents into Miracles. From the back cover: God doesn’t need your help. But He definitely wants it. Let’s face it. God is God, and there isn’t a single problem in the universe that He can’t solve. But the fact is, God gave each of us unique talents for a reason. When we offer up the gifts He’s given us, He will transform them into something bigger than we could have ever imagined. He might even work a miracle, like turning one lunch into a meal for 5,000 people. Or turning Austin Gutwein’s favorite hobby into an international AIDS relief organization. What gifts do you have to offer? God tells us that there is nothing too hard for Him and that there is nothing that He cannot do. So here is the question, what does He need us for? God has chosen to work together with us to accomplish His purposes. When Jesus is on the mountain and He looks at the crowd that had 5,000 men not including the women and children He saw they were hungry and decided to feed them. If He had wanted Jesus could have turned the stones into bread and feed everybody but He chose to work, instead, with the lunch that a boy had. Austin Gutwein gives us the tools we could use to change our mind sets and give our talents to God the same way that boy gave up his lunch. At the end of every chapter there are study questions that will help focus all the teaching in that particular chapter. This is a great book and one that will probably be referred to often. “Get and Give” Campaign! Win a Kindle Fire from @AustinGutwein and have $250 donated to the Charity of your choice! < Austin’s new book Live to Give is about “Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles”! Celebrate with him by entering his “Get and Give” Campaign – you could win a Kindle Fire for yourself AND Litfuse will donate $250 to the charity of your choice! One winner will receive: A Brand New Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi Five copies of Live to Give by Austin Gutwein $250 donated on the winner’s behalf to the charity of their choice Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on the Live to Give Landing Page! Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Austin’s giveaway on Facebook or Twitter and increase your chances of winning. Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to Kingdom Highlights where it is available On Demand. To listen to 24 hours non-stop, commercial free Christian music please visit our internet radio station Kingdom Airwaves Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Live to Give by Austin Gutwein is a book targeted to a young adult audience. It's a book filled with inspiration and motivation to help young adults see how they were created to partner with God. From a launching point of the boy with the five loaves and two fish, it explores how God chose to work with each of us and challenges readers to search for ways God can use them. At the end of each chapter, there are five questions that walk readers through applying the principles to their lives. In a time when our focus is often inward, I loved the way the author encourages readers to look at how they can work with God to solve problems. It's a great companion to Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. And it exemplifies a generation that wants to be used by God. Made me think of my niece who for her 16th birthday had her friends help her serve a meal in a homeless shelter. And instead of gifts, she asked people to bring times they could put in blessing bags that could be given to the homeless. This is a great book that will challenge others to think outside the box and in big ways.
The most striking thing about Live to Give is the author. I wasn’t at all familiar with Austin Gutwein when I started reading this book, so you can only imagine my confusion when he started writing about packing his lunch for school! Austin isn’t your typical high-schooler though. His organization, Hoops of Hope is made up of over 40,000 members and has raised nearly $3 million for AIDS relief in Africa. He is also the author of Take Your Best Shot and travels speaking to different youth groups about his organization and his message that God has a plan for each and every one of us. Chapter One starts off by reminding us “God doesn’t need you”. Austin recounts a time when he was in Africa building a house for a needy family and some of the children approached them, wanting to help. While Austin and his team didn’t need their help, they were overjoyed to allow the children to get involved in the project. He writes, “God can create anything, fix any problem, and He can do it all without us. But He wants to use us, which means we get to work by His side and have front-row seats to see His amazing power.” This book contains an encouraging message about individuality, purpose, and the amazing gift opportunity we have to be used by God. I encourage you to purchase your own copy of the book or read more reviews online. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from a publicity agency. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own.
Austin Gutwein’s uses the story of the five loaves and two fishes from Mark’s gospel as the premise for his book “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles. Eighteen year old Austin writes for teenagers challenging them to offer up their unique gifts, talents, and passions to God, allowing Him to turn them into miracles in the same way Jesus turned the young boy’s offering of loaves and fishes to miraculously feed 5,000 people. With amazing insight Austin stimulates his readers to consider two questions: “What have I been living for? And what was I made to be living for?” Each chapter provides profound, practical, do-able action steps in response to relevant challenges from the scriptures, parallels from his personal life, and examples from real life contemporary heroes. Profound study questions accompany each chapter emphasizing: • Our individual uniqueness • The consequences of choices • Discovering, dedicating, and using spiritual gifts • Issues of fear, loneliness • The significant of the proper intake of physical and spiritual food Austin delivers a strong message of hope and encouragement with a challenge to make a difference and impact the world. Austin is founder of “Hoops of Hope” an organization which has raised nearly $ 3 million for AIDS relief in Africa. A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.