Thanksgiving Leadership Through Generosity
Recently the Board of Trustees of the Northwest University Foundation met in Suncadia, Washington for our annual business meeting. The purposes of the Foundation Board include managing the University’s endowment and investment funds as well as serving as a working community to lead the University’s fundraising efforts. In recent years, we have seen their efforts result in magnificent generosity in our annual President’s Banquet, with proceeds rising tenfold over the past decade.
One of the devotional reflections at our meeting focused on Paul’s message to the Corinthians about his collection for the poverty-stricken saints in Jerusalem. He wrote:
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. (2 Corinthians 9:11-14)
Paul outlined a number of benefits that result from generosity, including the promise that God will bless those who are generous by repaying them with overall enrichment. But Paul’s central focus highlighted the fact that their generosity would result in thanksgiving to God and praise—the main motivation for Christian generosity!
When we give, God will receive thanksgiving and praise. That outcome should motivate us highly. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught that our first petition should call for God’s Name to be hallowed in the world. Those who seek to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength want God to receive glory, honor, thanksgiving, and praise. And nothing motivates others to glorify God that way like seeing their needs miraculously met.
In other words, the act of generosity takes the lead in offering thanksgiving to God, and it creates a cascade of thanksgiving that can last a long, long time.
The example of a dear Christian sister named Wanda Dickey will always shine at Northwest University. Years ago, in the early 1960’s, Sister Dickey shocked the president of Northwest Bible College. Although she had always shown a certain reluctance to help the college during her lifetime, she secretly mentioned it in her will. When she died, her attorney called President Charles Butterfield to let him know that she had left a building in Seattle to the College that had an approximate worth of perhaps $350,000. Such news created immediate thanksgiving to God that Sister Dickey never got to hear with ears of flesh. Further thanksgiving erupted when the building sold for more than twice that amount, amounting to over $5 million in today’s dollar values!
The proceeds from that sale financed the construction of nine new buildings on the fledgling Northwest College campus, including the Butterfield Chapel in 1963. Think about how many praises have been offered to God in that sanctuary over the past 58 years! At least three chapel services per week have filled the building with praise and worship. Every Monday school night for the past 20 years has featured our student-led Pursuit services, full of worship and praise and thanksgiving. Impromptu and regularly-scheduled student prayer meetings have added further praises. Churches have leased the building for Sunday services for many years over that period. Concerts have raised the standard of praise to high standards musical excellence. Students have come to Northwest thinking they were “Christians” only to discover in that chapel that they had not yet met Jesus. Every act of praise they ever raise to Jesus—now and in eternity—owes at least in part to the gift bequeathed in Wanda’s will. Some of those same students are undoubtedly in Heaven today, where perhaps they got to thank her, but without a doubt, they continue to praise God day and night forever.
Two families have recently pledged large gifts to help us remodel and expand the Butterfield Chapel. We expect to raise further funds in the weeks to come to ensure the permanence of Sister Dickey’s gift so that future generations of Northwest students will keep praising God as a result of her leadership and that of others. As we sit with our families and/or friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day this year, some of us may decide we want to be true thanksgiving leaders by giving to the Lord’s work.