GOD WANTS TO INCREASE THE FLOW OF RESOURCES AMONG HIS PEOPLETHERE IS ONE WHO SCATTERS, yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered" (Prov. 11:24-25).
I believe God wants to increase tremendously the flow of resources among His people. He wants to release large sums of money to believers so they can multiply the ministry of the local church, send missionaries to the unreached peoples of the world, and meet the needs of the poor. How does God want to do this? By progressively increasing our ability to give and our ability to receive, so we can give more and receive more, in order to give yet more and receive yet more.
IT SHALL FLOW LIKE A RIVER
Several months ago while traveling with my good friends, Reuel Feitosa, from Lima, Peru, to Manaus, Brazil, we flew over the famous Cordiheira dos Andes, source of the tremendous network of waters that make up the Amazon River.
From our jumbo-jet viewpoint, we could see the lush green jungle below sliced by hundreds of twisting muddy rivers growing wider and wider as they flowed.
Then, a day later, we joined Caio Fabio D'Araujo Filho and family for a delightful day-long boat ride on the river. What a fascinating experience it was to see the famous "Encontro das Aguas" where the dark inky waters of the "Rio Negro" meet the muddy yellow-brown waters of the "Rio Amazonas." For a while, the waters flow side by side, refusing to blend their distinctive colors and characteristics. Finally, they mix and move on relentlessly toward the sea. (People are that way too. Races, classes, denominations, nations don't blend together until they have a worthwhile common goal - like evangelism.)
By the time the river reaches Manaus, a gigantic volume of water bulges its wide banks and its ever-deepening bed. Finally, that immensity of water flows past Belem and is dumped into the Atlantic Ocean, affecting the quality of the salty sea water for miles.
HOW DOES THE WATER INCREASE?
Why does the volume of water increase? Does the long trip make the liquid expand? Does the hot sun cause it to multiply? No, if anything, it loses volume by evaporation. But its flow increases because hundreds of smaller rivers, called tributaries, dump their flow into the ever-increasing stream."He who waters will himself be watered" (Prov. 11:25).
Here we have a picture of the way God wants to increase our resources in order to bless us and bless the world through us. God wants us to give generously so He can give us tributaries who will enable us to make greater contributions toward meeting the needs of others.
However, our tendency is to be greedy and dam up the flow of water into beautiful, comfortable lakes where we can enjoy ourselves. But in so doing, we not only block the flow of resources that God wants to send out from our reserves; we also block the flow of resources He wants to bring it!
Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19-20). In other words: don't make lakes, start rivers.
But how do I start a river or join one? Or how do I know that if I pour my small trickle into God's stream, He will make sure that other tributaries will be poured into mine?
The answer to these questions is found in the words of Jesus: "Give, and it will be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return" (Luke 6:38).
GIVING TO GOD AND GIVING TO OTHERS
The verse above seems to say at first glance: give to God, He will give to you. Later in the verse we read, "They will pour into your lap." Who are they? Are they the people you have given to? Are they other people altogether?
The Bible makes it clear that when we give to others, we are giving to God."When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord - and He pays wonderful interest on your loan!" (Prov. 19:17)."And I the King will tell them, 'When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it to me' " (Matt. 25:40).
As we give to others who are in need, God will raise up people to give to us in our need or to increase our ability to give. These people are the tributaries we spoke of that will increase our flow in God.
Later, the Lord may lead us to give again to the same people who have given to us. Why? Because God's flow comes in cycles. It follows the laws of sowing and reaping. Think about it: in the spring of the year the farmer sows his seed; in the summer, he cultivates, and in the fall, he reaps. During the time of sowing and cultivating, his cash flow will be reduced. Someone else may be in a business that prospers during the spring and summer. He can help the one who is waiting for a harvest. Later, the situation will be reversed.
The Apostle Paul went through cycles of sowing and reaping. His experience disproves the theories of those who think the Christian must always be prospering. He said, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13).
John, the apostle, wrote, "I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2).
GOD WANTS US TO PROSPER!
The Scriptures show that God does want us to prosper, but prosperity is not God's highest priority for our lives. It should not be ours either. God is more concerned about our character development than our cash flow. His goal is to make us like Jesus - not Solomon. He is also deeply concerned about worldwide evangelization and desires that all Christians be actively involved in witnessing, prayer, and by giving financial support.
God will also put us through cycles to prove us. Paul passed the test of poverty, but Solomon failed the test of riches. Surely Agur, the writer of Proverbs 30, was thinking of Solomon's failure when he prayed: "O God…give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich I may become content without God. And if I am too poor, I may steal, and thus insult God's holy name" (Prov. 30:7-9).
GIVE PRIORITY TO CHRIST
Is God testing you with riches? Perhaps not, but if He is, make a special effort to give top priority to Christ, His Kingdom, and His righteousness. If you use your wealth to promote those priorities, He will likely add to it. Prove to God by your generous giving that you love Him more than the things He has given you. Put your wealth into God's river. There is enough social injustice, hunger, disease, and helplessness in the world without God's people adding to it by hoarding their resources.
C. T. Studd was one of England's greatest athletes in the 1800s. He inherited a small fortune of 29,000 pounds (about $150,000).
But Studd said, "I don't want that money to clutter up my life. I think the best way to use it is to invest it with God." He sent 5,000 pounds to Hudson Taylor in China, 5,000 pounds to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, 5,000 to D. L. Moody to help start Moody Bible Institute. Finally he had given everything away except for 3,400 pounds, which he presented to his wife on their wedding day.
When his wife received the money she said, "The rich young ruler was asked to give all." So they sent the rest of the funds anonymously to General Booth. Then Studd said, "Now we're in the proud position to say, 'Silver and gold have I none.' "
God later called Studd to China and finally to Africa where he founded the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, which today has more than 1,000 missionaries on many foreign fields.
ARE YOU BEING TESTED?
Are you being tested with financial struggles? Ask God, "Why?" Perhaps you have been careless, ungrateful, dishonest, disobedient, or lazy. Or maybe you have been greedy with the things God has given you. There is as much or more greed among the poor and middle classes as among the rich, because you see, greed is not wealth; greed is an excessive desire for wealth.
Some people say, "Money is the root of all evil. Let's take it away from the rich and give it all to the poor" (Thus making the poor evil?). The Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). There is a spirit of greed over the land. We are told, "Take all you can get. You deserve it." Even Christian workers are succumbing to the spirit of greed and appealing to that spirit in others.
That spirit is quite different from the one taught by John Wesley: "Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can."
Resist the spirit of greed and defeat it by adopting the opposite spirit - generosity. Resist also the spirit of unbelief that paralyzes so many with the fear that God will not be faithful.
Learn to be thankful and to express thanks for what you have. Perhaps when you can say with Paul, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am," you will have passed the test. Sow your offerings - small as they may be - unto the Lord. He will bring the increase.
IS JESUS LORD OF YOUR MONEY?
THE RICH YOUNG RULER who came to Jesus showed tremendous potential for becoming a church leader. He was morally upright, enthusiastic, and respectful. He apparently had leadership experience and was well versed in the Scriptures. Besides that, he was financially independent. Just that fact would obtain him a deacon's or elder's role in many churches today.
However, Jesus perceived a basic problem: the young man was inextricably attached to his riches. The Lord knew well that "no man can serve two masters," so he ordered, "Sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow me" (Luke 18:22).
That statement hit him right where it hurts. He was bitterly disappointed by Jesus' words. He had been so careful to keep the commandments, but like all legalists, he was self-deceived, and was failing to keep the very first of the ten: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Now he had to choose between his money and Jesus. He chose to reject Christ in favor of his riches.
You and I find that very interesting, but I venture to say we don't think it is applicable to us because most of us don't consider ourselves wealthy, although we would like to be. "Besides," we say, "Jesus was directing himself specifically to one young man. He wasn't enunciating a doctrine."
Or was He?
I believe He was: the doctrine of His own lordship. To be part of the Kingdom of God we must surrender all we have and are to the King. Jesus must become Lord of our lives. His lordship becomes the determining factor in our decisions. He may not ask us to sell all that we have and distribute to the poor, but certainly we must submit to His right to do so, knowing that "all things have been created by him and for him" (Col. 1:16).
Let's just imagine for a moment that He is addressing us personally right now with exactly those words: "Sell all!" Think about the things you own (adding to or subtracting from the list):
- your house
- your car,
- your summer cabin,
- your savings account,
- your furniture,
- your television,
- your stereo,
- your jewels,
- your clothes,
- your insurance policies,
- Yes, even the bed you sleep on.
YOU CAN'T SELL YOUR FAMILY!
And what about your family? You can't sell them, but He wants you to do with your wife or husband, your children, parents, brothers, sisters, and friends exactly what you must do with all your possessions: lay them all down at Jesus' feet and transfer to Him the ownership.
May I ask you an indiscreet question? How do you react emotionally to that idea? Do you resent my getting so personal about these things? Please forgive me for pressing in a little closer, but if these questions make you angry, or uncomfortable or resentful you are confirming Jesus' words:"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).
There is a sense in which we all must sell everything to follow Jesus. Ownership of everything we have acquired or hope to acquire must be transferred to Him. Again, He may not ask us to give it all away. He may ask us to administer it faithfully for Him according to the principles of His word and according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The critical issue is: who makes the choice? It must be left up to Him.
Compare the rich young ruler with God's servant Job. Both were wealthy. Both were morally upright (at least outwardly). However, the young man was overly attached to his wealth. Job was not. Jesus asked the young man for everything, but he refused and went away sorrowing. In Job's case, God allowed Satan to rob him of everything he owned - including his ten children - but the scripture says, "He tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped" (Job 1:20).
We don't know what eventually happened to the rich young man, but we know what happened to Job."And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold" (Job 42:10).
WHAT ABOUT THE POOR AND THE MIDDLE CLASS?
So far we've discussed the wealthy from the relatively safe position of our middle or lower class, but we must see that even the poor must give everything to God. For the past fifteen years, my family and I have worked in a small church in Venda Nova, Brazil. We have no wealthy members. In fact, many are quite poor. Yet, the Lord has led us to teach the principles of God's financial flow to these brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have taught these dear people to increase their giving. Some may wonder how we can do this. Looking at it from a purely human viewpoint, it would be impossible. And let me be the first to condemn the common practice of exploiting the poor either through economic power-plays or by religious manipulation. Yet, we must see it from God's point of view. There is a universal principle that must be applied: "Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return" (Luke 6:38).
I once heard a man say, "If a poor person came to me with a sacrificial offering, I would tell that person to keep it because he needs it more than the Church does." I disagree. While he may need his money desperately, he needs the blessings of God even more and God demands everything from everybody. In return He promises all He is and all He has.
I would rather accept the poor man's offering and give him back twice as much than to rob him of the blessing of the Lord.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO WITH THE SACRIFICIAL OFFERING OF THE POOR?
One day Jesus was in the synagogue while several wealthy people made a rather impressive show of giving some impressive offerings. He was not impressed. "Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins which amounted to a penny. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury: for they all put in out of their surplus but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on" (Mark 12:41-44).
He did not tell her to keep her money; rather, He applauded her and in His heart He knew that she should be cared for because her two coins were like two little seeds planted in the heart of God who would cause her gifts to be multiplied to her own account.
The Old Testament provides another example of a poor widow who made a sacrificial offering. Elijah the prophet asked her for a drink of water and a piece of bread. She replied, "I have no bread, only a handful of lour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die." Then Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son."
How could Elijah be so selfish, so insensitive, so cruel as to demand the last bit of food the poor woman had for herself and her son? He was not cruel. He was confident in the faithfulness of God. His next words were: "For thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth" (1 Kings 17:10-14).
The Lord wants to bless your finances and mine, but we must face squarely the question: who is going to be Lord of our lives? By whose principles are we going to operate, ours or His?
HAS YOUR PASTOR GONE CRAZY?
IMAGINE IT'S SUNDAY. There is a guest speaker at your church today, but instead of opening a Bible, he uncovers a strange machine. "Brethren," he beings, "you are very fortunate. The members of this church are being given an unusual opportunity today. The machine you see in front of you is a new Miraculous Money Multiplying Machine. Whatever amount of money you place in this amazing invention will be multiplied one hundred times."
"What?" you think, "that's impossible! There is no such machine! Where did this kook come from? How did he ever get the pastor to let him speak?" All these thoughts flash through your mind in an instant, but then you remember the pastor's introduction: "I have the pleasure of introducing to you a highly respected Christian man who comes with the very best recommendations and in whom I have total confidence. I would urge you to listen to him carefully, because everything he will say and do here has been done before and I can personally attest to the results.
Has your pastor gone crazy? Did that last board meeting affect his mind? You can't help wondering.
Yet, there is something wholesome about the speaker. He seems sincere and confident. Despite your misgivings, you recognize something unusual about the atmosphere in the church. Though you tell yourself it doesn't make sense, you feel yourself being attracted. You listen carefully, looking for loopholes, strings attached.
He continues, "You will have only one chance to use this machine. You can try it today, or think about it for a few days and come back next Sunday. But, remember, you will be allowed it use it only once."
What should you do? You wish someone else would try first. Silently you calculate: "If I did try it, how much could I afford to risk? I wouldn't miss a dollar if I lost it, and it would be nice to get a hundred back…nicer yet to get a thousand. But then, ten thousand would buy a new car, and a hundred thousand would take care of a new house. A million ... "
You are just about convinced to try when a horrible thought comes to your mind: "With my luck, the thing will probably have a short circuit with my money inside. I can just see my life's savings going up in smoke or coming out in tiny pieces, tiny expensive pieces of green confetti."
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER MAY NOT SHOW UP NEXT WEEK!
Dear reader, before your imagination runs away with you like mine did, before you go out and start spending the money, I must confess that it is highly unlikely that the mysterious stranger will show up in your church next week. If he does, get the deacons to lock him in the supply closet until the police arrive.
Yet, I must also tell you that God himself has promised to do exactly what the fictitious speaker did. God has promised to multiply everything you give Him by 100 times or ten thousand percent - if you give Him everything you have and are.
You remember the rich young ruler. He wanted to receive eternal life, but he was enslaved by another god - his riches. Since Jesus knew the young man could not serve two masters, He told him he would have to choose one or the other: either his money or the Son of God. He chose riches and lost Christ. He want away sorrowful.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR THE YOUNG MAN ... ?
I wonder how long it took for the young man to comprehend what he gained and what he lost. His only consolation was that he expected to maintain control of his fortune. I'm sure he did not realize he had not only rejected salvation, but he had also rejected the advice of the world's greatest investment counselor who previously had said: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6:19-20).
My guess is that from the moment the rich young ruler rejected Christ, his financial empire began to crumble. So many times when we refuse to give to God what is rightfully His, we are giving Satan permission to rob it from us.
I asked a man why he didn't attend church. He said, "I can't. I work two jobs and Sunday's my only day to rest. During the week, I start work at 7:00 a.m. and get home after midnight."
I said, "You're knocking yourself out on two jobs to get the things you want and you're putting God off into the future. I suppose you plan to serve Him some day."
"Yes," replied, "I do plan to serve Him someday if I can ever get a little bit ahead."
Then I felt the Holy Spirit prodding me to say, "Well, it won't work. I'll bet everything extra you earn is being stolen from you."
He gave me a strange look, as if to say, "How did you know?" He said, "That's exactly what's happening to me. I finally got enough money to buy a car and I thought everything was fine, but within a few months the finance company repossessed it with no reason at all. They robbed me!
"Then, I worked hard and managed to buy another car. I was very happy. It wasn't net, but it was in excellent shape - that is, until one night when I got home from work after 1:00 a.m. I was so tired that night that I didn't have enough energy to put the car in the garage. I let it on the street, let myself into the house and fell into bed. The next morning the car was gone - stolen. When it finally was found three days later, the motor was ruined.
"But at least I got it back. I spent a pile of money to fix it up and vowed never to leave it on the street again. But one night, exhausted, I stumbled out of the car into the house and collapsed onto the bed. A few hours later I was startled awake. A flash flood had reached our house. We rushed away to safety, but when the water went down, we discovered that several things had been ruined: our furniture, our appliances, and our car."
His story touched my heart. I witnessed to him, but then I didn't see him for a while. I asked someone where he was. "Oh, didn't you hear? He was in a serious car accident. His car was ruined and he was fortunate to escape with his life."
When the rich young ruler went away, he was very sad. Jesus must have been sad too, for He looked around and lamented to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23).
Then Jesus revealed the secret of how to get a ten thousand percent return on our investment: "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for My sake - but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30).
In other words, "If you give one hundred percent, I will multiply it one hundred times. One hundred times one hundred equals ten thousand!"
GETTING FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
Effective Christian living usually requires two steps: first, we have a decision-making experience with God; then we learn how to put our decision into action. Sometimes we get lost somewhere between the first and second steps.
Paul spoke of these two steps when he referred to the yielding of his rights and possessions to the Lord.
First, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ."
Second, "I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ."
He was not complaining, just stating the facts. He summed up his values about suffering, sacrifice and reward in these words: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18). Paul successfully translated his decision into consistent action. Others have too.
AN UNUSUAL AND DARING VENTURE
For years, the founders of Bethany have identified themselves in the following words: "The Bethany Fellowship is a company of God's people in search for the answer to the question, 'How can I give myself and all that I have wholly to God?' "
They were led to sell their homes and live together in community in order to train, send, and support 100 missionaries. After twenty-five years, they reached their goal and have since sent out many more. But to this day none of them receive a salary and none of them own a home, yet God has been faithful to reward them a hundredfold. Today there are centers in many countries of the world.
In Argentina, a group of believers began to take the lordship of Christ seriously. They knew everything they had belonged to the Lord, so they began offering their houses and apartments to the church. That presented a problem to the pastors. They didn't know what to do with the houses. Someone suggested they sell the properties to build a church, but the Lord revealed that He had something else in mind. Finally they gathered the people together and said, "We are going to return all your property. The Lord has shown us that He does not want empty houses, He wants your house, but He wants you living in it and taking care of it. He wants the rugs, the heating, the air conditioning, the light fixtures, the food - everything ready for His use. He also wants your cars and you as drivers. But remember, now, that everything belongs to Him."
Today those homes are open homes. Every member knows that he can expect visitors any time the church sends them over. As the pastors say, "We don't have to ask; we just tell them who's coming. And the people are still thanking God that He allows them to live in His house."
THE GOFORTH COUPLE
Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth were Presbyterian missionaries to China and Manchuria. After serving God for many years, Jonathan made a visit to Korea and there he was touched by a mighty revival. He returned to China, and from that time on revival broke out wherever he ministered.
Finally, after fifty years of total dedication to God - his body worn, his eyes now blind - he returned to his native Canada to retire. That year he was called to the General Assembly of his church where he was told he would receive a pension of only $700 per year for him and his wife to live on.
When he got home, he told his wife about the pension and then lay down on a couch to rest.
Soon, his wife, looking at him still awake on the couch, said, "I know exactly what you are thinking."
Goforth replied, "How can you know what I'm thinking?"
Rosalind answered, "I know you well enough to know exactly what you are thinking."
"All right," he said, "what is it?"
She answered, "You're lying there trying to figure out how much of that money you can give to God without leaving us absolutely destitute."
He rolled back his head in laughter and said, "That's exactly what I was thinking."
Later, a wealthy widow called on Goforth and asked, "Where do you do your banking?"
Goforth asked in return, "Why do you ask?"
"Because," she said, "I want to dedicate some money to missions, and you're the only one I can trust to administer it in such a way as to accomplish the most for God."
"Well," Goforth said, "I'd be happy to. How much does it amount to?"
The lady calmly replied, "Three million dollars."
Goforth had always said, "I don't want to die with any frozen assets." By that he meant that he didn't want to die with money accumulating in the bank. He got his wish. Before the money was placed in his account, the Lord took him to heaven to receive the treasure that he had been accumulating there.
If we are really serious about giving everything to God, He will show us exactly how we should do it, and it will be ten thousand times better than if we had kept it for ourselves!
PAYING TWO TITHES
MY WIFE AND I BEGAN TO tithe as soon as we were married. Within weeks we were asked to start a church. WE had the moral support of the denomination, but financially we were on our own. Since we knew we had a missionary call, we purposed in our hearts to stay out of debt. In order to support us, I took a job as an artists for a local printer.
The denomination I worked with asked all the ministers to send their tithes to meet the expenses of the headquarters. The members tithed to the local church. This seemed like a reasonable arrangement to me, but since we were just starting and had only a few people attending our services, I felt uncomfortable sending my tithe away and asking the members to contribute to our church.
So Dolly and I decided that we would pay two tithes: one to the headquarters and one to the local church we pastured.
That was quite an adventure in faith. There were times when we didn't know where our next meal was coming from, but it always came and we were never late on a payment to anyone.
Later, we received a call to Brazil; and because had kept out of debt, we were able to move as soon as we were called. When we arrived in Brazil, we decided to continue paying two tithes even though we no longer had a salary. We gave ten percent to the local church in Venda Nova where we are members and then percent to other people and works as the Lord laid them on our hearts. Of course, there have been other opportunities to give to special needs as they have arisen. (On one occasion the Lord led everyone in the mission to give nearly everything they had in a financial emergency and then He multiplied our offerings by nearly fives times in one day.)
Although we still don't receive a salary, God continues to be faithful to meet our needs and to help us make small contributions toward the needs of others. This has brought us great joy.
CHALLENGED TO MOVE TO A HIGHER PLAIN OF LIVING
About four years ago I heard several messages and testimonies from Youth With A Mission. Some of the stories about God's miraculous supply for needs were absolutely thrilling. However, more thrilling than the stories of the supernatural were the testimonies about how the young people were willing to share their resources with one another on a day-to-day basis.
It seemed as if none of them had much money, but because of their open hearts and hands, they were always being used of the Lord to meet each other's needs. I was impressed with the flow of finances.
God challenged me to rise to a higher level of giving. At the heart of the challenge was the idea that we should turn all our money over to the Lord. In one sense we had already done that, but it hadn't become tangible yet.
I didn't know exactly where to begin, but one day I said to Dolly, "Honey, I believe the Lord wants us to give Him all our money." She looked at me with a funny expression on her face.
She had several good reasons to be puzzled:
- She could ask, "All what money?"
- How could she understand what I was trying to say if I didn't understand it myself?
- Her father taught her to be very conscientious about financial matters. We are both firm believers in "Owe no man anything but to love one another" (Rom. 13:8).
I decided not to press the issue at the time, but later we discussed it again. "Okay," she said, "but what about our financial obligations? Do you mean we should just give it all away and forget about paying our bills?"
"No, honey, it doesn't mean that. All I know is that we are to take whatever money we have, kneel down beside our bed and lay it out before the Lord. We'll tell Him it is His and that we will use it in whatever way He leads."
Really, it was quite easy to do and it gave us a sense of peace and expectancy as we waited to hear from the Lord.
How did God use the money? The same way He always had. The money has been officially transferred to Him, but nothing really changed. We didn't give any more than we had before and we didn't seem to receive any more. Theoretically things were different, but practically they were the same.
I felt like the man who said he had a special arrangement with the Lord about money: "Whenever I get paid, I take all my money and throw it up in the air before the Lord. Whatever He wants, He can grab. Whatever He lets drop to the floor, I can keep for myself."
As I continued to seek understanding from the Lord, He helped me to organize some of the biblical principles into a form I could share with others. I wrote articles, spoke to young couples and helped them to establish biblical principles in their homes. I spoke to groups of pastors, but I still didn't have insight for the next step I needed, to take in God's greater flow.
Finally, understanding came through a biblical principle that stood out from all the other beautiful truths of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. I would like to comment on a few of those verses here.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SOWING AND REAPING"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully" (v.6).
We all can learn from this verse and apply it to many areas: the personal evangelist who passes out tracts, the salesman who makes visits, the farmer who plants a crop - but we must recognize that in this case the Apostle Paul was applying an eternal principle to a specific offering to be taken among the Corinthian believers. In plain words, the more we give, the more we will receive."Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart" (v.7)
The key word here is "purposed." Every believe should define his purpose for giving. It should not be just to receive. We should have in mind some definite goals concerning what we want our giving to accomplish. We should make definite plants to reach those goals. Besides the tithe we give to the church we attend, we should know something about the ministries we intend to support. We should become well informed about the objectives, personnel, methods and integrity of the ministry. We should seek to know how the money will be used and how much of it will actually be dedicated to the project in mind.
That doesn't mean we should never give on the spur of the moment if the Lord touches our heart, but we should practice planned conscientiousness giving. (Some of the most "touching" appeals are written for religious organizations by secular advertising agencies who know the techniques to make Christians give.)"Not grudgingly or under compulsion" (v.7).
Many Christians give out of a sense of guilt. Some pastors seem to feel the most effective way of taking a large offering is to pile guilt on the people. They make them feel as it everything depends on them, and if they do not do their part, the whole thing will fail, or that God will not bless them. Sometimes Christians respond to these kinds of appeals but resent the fact that they have no joy in having given. They feel like victims of a religious holdup."God loves a cheerful giver" (v.7).
The word cheerful could be translated "hilarious." Someone who jumps for joy as he knows how God's heart is being gladdened, how someone's needs are going to be met, and how the Lord is going to pour our His blessing."And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (v.8).
This verse is an encouragement to everyone who has wished he could give more to the work of the Lord or to help the poor and needy. God will give you an abundance to enable you to do every good deed He lays upon your heart. If your project is just a good idea originated with you, you may find yourself short of funds."Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (v.10).
Imagine the farmer who inherits a large piece of land that has never been tilled. He goes to work, plowing as much ground as he can and planting a crop. From his earnings he feeds his family, but he also must save out enough money to buy seed for the next planting. If he is intelligent and industrious, he will plow more ground than he did the first year and he will plant more seed. His earnings will increase. The greater his vision, the more he will invest in the development of his farm.
From this principle, God gave me direction about moving along in His financial flow. He showed me that - gradually, year by year - I should trust Him to enable me to give a slightly higher percentage than I did before. As I do this faithfully and if the Lord challenges you to do this, another principle will come into action:"Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:21).
As God develops our character and sees He can trust us, He has every reason to prosper us as it says in the next verse in 2 Corinthians 9."You will be enriched in everything for all liberality" (v.11).
This is no "get rich quick" scheme; it is God's reward for faithfulness and God's enabling for greater ministry through generosity.
The final verses are thrilling because they show the spiritual results of Spirit-controlled giving in the lives of those that receive from us:"Thanksgiving unto God" (v.11).
"They will glorify God" (v.13).
"Prayer on your behalf" (v.14).
Where will God take us with all of this? Where will it all end? The potential is probably greater than you and I imagine. R. G. LeTorneau turned his life, his business and his finances over to the Lord. Through God's blessing, his business grew to the point where he could live very comfortably on ten percent of his income while giving ninety percent to the work of God.
Perhaps this is not God's plan for everyone, but He does have a plan for every Christian. All of us can enter into a more productive plan of giving and receiving.
Where are you today? Have you taken the time to ask God what His plan is for you? If you are a Christian and do not pay a tithe, that's the place to start. Begin to faithfully deposit ten percent of your income to your own church.
If you already pay a tithe, but have not sensed the Lord leading you to increase your giving, you don't know what you're missing!
Perhaps you should take time to pray about your giving now. Open your heart to the Lord. Make new plans. Rewrite your budget if you need to, but enlarge your vision…and your giving…and your receiving!
As swimmers often say, "Come on in. The water's fine!"
IF WE OBEY HIS WORD, HIS BLESSINGS WILL SEEK US!
SOME TIME AGO I attended a service where the pastor asked all who needed "financial deliverance" to come forward for prayer. Many went to the front of the auditorium and received fervent prayer, after which they were told to have faith in God and go back to their places expecting the deliverance to come.
However, I believe that most of the people did not receive the deliverance they sought. Most of them needed more than a prayer; they needed to be taught to understand and obey the principles in God's Word concerning personal finances.
They sought a blessing not knowing that the Scriptures promise something much better: if we obey God's Word, His blessings will seek us!
"And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God" (Deut. 28:2, NASB). What a tremendous promise and what an astonishing list of blessings follow it!
The only condition stated to receive those blessings is obedience; however, in order to obey, we must first know the biblical principles that should govern our financial lives.
You will find several of these principles below. They are listed in three groups: relating my finances to God; relating my finances to giving; and relating my finances to personal life management. Each principle is stated as declaration of purpose. Each one could be prefaced by these words: "With the help of God ... "
RELATING MY FINANCES TO GOD!
- I will give God top priority in my life. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things [basic needs of food, drink, and clothing] shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
- I will seek to grow in the knowledge of God and His ways. "Yes, if you want better insight and discernment, and are searching for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure, then wisdom will be given to you, and knowledge of God himself; you will soon learn the importance of reverence for the Lord and of trusting him" (Prov. 2:3-5, TLB).
- I will yield my financial rights to God. "Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, thought he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God" (Phil. 2:5-6, TLB).
- I will conduct my financial affairs in such a way as to glorify God. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31, NASB).
- I will humbly ask God for the supply of my needs. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6).
- I will take God as my source and believe that He will supply my needs. "And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19, NASB).
- I will be grateful to the Lord for what He supplies. "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18, TLB).
- I will keep in mind that God promises to supply my basic needs, but not all my desires. What goes beyond this will be a proof to me of His abundant love. "And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Tim. 6:8, TLB).
- I will remember that God is more interested in developing my character than making me rich. "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2, NASB). "The testing of your faith produces endurance…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:3-4, NASB).
- I will seek to maintain a biblical lifestyle and will seek to make investments of eternal value. "Do not love the world, nor the things of the world" (1 John 2:15, NASB). "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal" (Matt. 6:20, NASB). "To be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up…the treasure of a good foundation for the future" (1 Tim. 6:18-19, NASB).
RELATING MY FINANCES TO GIVING!
- I will give my tithes and offerings to the work of the Lord. "Bring ye all the tithes…prove me…if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing" (Mal. 3:20). "Let each one do just as he ahs purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7, NASB).
- I will give of what I have to the poor and needy. "When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord - and he pays wonderful interest on your loan" (Prov. 19:17). "God blesses those who are kind to the poor. He helps them out of their troubles. He protects them and keeps them alive; he publicly honors them and destroys the power of their enemies. He nurses them when they are sick, and soothes their pains and worries" (Ps. 41:1-3).
- I will be generous to my wife. "You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are partners in receiving God's blessings, and if you don't treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers" (1 Pet. 3:7, TLB).
- I will transfer ownership of all that I have and am to the Lord. "There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29-30, NASB).
MY FINANCES RELATED TO PERSONAL LIFE MANAGEMENT
- I will achieve financial freedom. "No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). "Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender" (Prov. 22:7, TLB).
- I will not be in debt. "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). "Don't withhold repayment of your debts. Don't say, 'Some other time,' if you can pay now" (Prov. 3:27-28, TLB).
- I will save to pay cash for the things I need. "The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man saves whatever he gets" (Prov. 21:20, TLB). "Take a lesson from the ants…they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter" (Prov. 6:6, 8, TLB).
- I will establish a budget and do my best to live within it. "We should make plans - counting on God to direct us" (Prov. 16:9, TLB). "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established (Prov. 24:3). "I have learned to get along happily whether I have much or little…I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation" (Phil. 4:11, TLB).
- I will not compete with others to maintain or display my status. "Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others" (Phil. 2:3, TLB).
- I will work hard to deserve my salary. "Work hard and with gladness all the time, as though working for Christ, doing the will of God with all your hearts" (Eph. 6:7, TLB). "He who does not work shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10, TLB). "If you love sleep, you will end in poverty. Stay awake, work hard, and there will be plenty to eat" (Prov. 20:13, TLB).
- I will be honest in all my doings. "The Lord hates cheating and delights in honesty" (Prov. 11:1, TLB). " 'Utterly worthless!' says the buyer as he haggles over the price. But afterwards he brags about his bargain!" (Prov. 20:14, TLB). "Do for others what you want them to do for you" (Matt. 7:12, TLB).
- I will avoid being a co-signer unless I know the person extremely well and am able to assume his debt. "Son, if you endorse a note for someone you hardly know, guaranteeing his debt, you are in serious trouble. You may have trapped yourself by your agreement. Quick! Get out of it if you possibly can! Swallow your pride; don't let embarrassment stand in your way. Go and beg to have your name erased. Don't put if off. Do it now. Don't rest until you do. If you can get out of this trap you have saved yourself like a deer that escapes from a hunter, or a bird from the net" (Prov. 6:1-5, TLB).
- I will not go into partnership with someone who is not a Christian or who does not live according to these principles. "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14, NASB).
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