a publication of Life Action Ministries
Living Generously Are you a channel for Godâ€™s resources?
Spring 2011 Volume 42, Issue 2 www.LifeAction.org/revive
6 First, Give Yourself Life Action Ministries
Store It Up Randy Alcorn
Just a Little Bit More
Rich Man, Poor Man
Revival Causes Generous Living Byron Paulus
Conversations Ride the Big Waves Del Fehsenfeld III
A Legacy of Giving
Next Step Our Hearts Follow Our Money Daniel W. Jarvis
PERSPECTIVES 22 24
From the Heart Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Spirit of Revival
Looking Back Spend and Be Spent
Hard Questions Is the Tithe for Today?
Real World A young couple tries to balance debt with generous living
Eliminate Debt-Dependence Learning self-control and contentment
Making It Personal Apply principles discussed in this issue
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Senior Designer: Thomas A. Jones
Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Art Director: Tim Ritter Production: Wayne Lake
Volume 42, Issue 2 Copyright © 2011 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved.
Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free of charge, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org • www.LifeAction.org/revive. We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL Revival Causes Generous Living
eet unemployed Morris Yates. He sent a large check to our ministry. With only a post office box and no street address, it took over a year to locate him in order to say thank you. When I finally saw where he lived, I was stunned. I realized he sent more to the Lord’s work in one check than the combined value of his meager trailer home and all of his belongings. As a result of his giving, thousands have been reached with the gospel. Meet garbage collector Bill. He moved to the city garbage dump in Cairo, Egypt, in order to lead Bible studies among the 50,000 social outcasts who live there. When I visited, I couldn’t stand the stench I inhaled with every breath. Yet, it was the smell of opportunity to Bill, as he gave his life to share the gospel in some of the most deplorable conditions imaginable. As a result, more than 5,000 dump dwellers have come to Christ. Morris and Bill have one thing in common. As a result of an overflow of spiritual revival in their own hearts, they are surrendered and eager to give in ways they wouldn’t have considered previously. Revival produces love for Jesus that overflows with desire to give as Jesus gave. It is important to note that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did not lead to a rise in the standard of living among believers, but rather to a rise in the standard of giving: “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45 esv). This is exactly what happened during the Great Awakenings in our nation’s history. These wide-scale revivals resulted in a massive release of resources to spread the gospel and meet the needs of people. In fact, the impact was so remarkable that many of the mission and charitable organizations in existence today in North America trace their origins to the great spiritual revivals of our past. Revival causes generous giving to become a way of living. During the past few years, we have all ridden the roller coaster of the fragile U.S. economy. After a near economic collapse and then several years of high unemployment and fragile economic recovery, crushing uncertainty and fear of loss have gripped our culture. The natural response for most has been a scramble to save and secure as many resources as possible, in case even worse times lie ahead. However, simultaneously, our ministry has witnessed a deeper hunger for spiritual renewal and real revival than ever before. And as God has touched hearts, we have seen
more financial giving to the mission of revival. It is as if the tough times are driving some to release their grip on temporal financial security, put their hope in God, and invest in things that will last forever. Revival diminishes the grip of greed and weakens the heart’s desire to hoard. At a time when economic issues are the primary focus of our nation, what better way for the message of Christ to impact our culture right now than through believers living counter-culturally in the area of giving? Now imagine the generous giving that would be on display if God were to send revival to America today: • In the First Great Awakening, one-sixth of the general population came to Christ—that would be more than 50 million new converts today! • If just those new converts were to start investing 10% of their income to fulfill the Great Commission, more than 200 billion additional dollars per year would be available to tell the world about Jesus. • This does not count the billions of dollars of increased giving from current church attenders who give on average less than 4% of their incomes annually.
The overflow of a revived heart is always generous living.
Of course, God does not need our money to advance His kingdom. But how desperately the world around us needs to see Christians whose lives embody the generosity of our God and His good news! The overflow of a revived heart is always generous living. v
20 million Americans say they are Christians but they simply
donâ€™t want to be part of the church.
Everything. In revival, God surprises us with His presence. And when God pours out His power, everything changes. The result is a total makeover of hearts that revitalizes individuals, families, churches, and communities. Visit our website to learn more about revival.
www.LifeAction.org 4 LifeAction.org/revive
CONVERSATIONS island—one of the very few to ride a tsunami and live to tell the tale.
Ride the Big Waves
hen the tsunami alarms began to sound
on the small Japanese island of Oshima, everyone ran to the hills. But 64-year-old Susumu Sugawara ran to his boat, the Sunflower, and steered it into deeper waters. Here’s his story (in part) as told to CNN: “I knew if I didn’t save my boat, my island would be isolated and in trouble.” Then the first wave came. Sugawara says he is used to seeing waves up to 5 meters high, but this was four times that size. “My feeling at this moment is indescribable,” he says with glistening eyes. “I talked to my boat and said, ‘You’ve been with me 42 years. If we live or die, then we’ll be together.’ Then I pushed on full throttle.” “I climbed the wave like a mountain. When I thought I had got to the top, the wave got even bigger.” Sugawara’s arms flail wildly as he describes the top of the wave crashing down repeatedly onto his boat. Suddenly the sea was completely calm, and he knew he had beaten the tsunami. Sugawara stayed at sea until dark, pumping water from the boat’s engine room. He believed his island had been destroyed by the wave. Trying to get back to Oshima, he had to navigate carefully past wrecked houses, boats, and other debris that floated past him. The island was in complete darkness. But for [more than] twenty days, he has been making hourly trips to the mainland. For at least the first two weeks, without Sugawara and the Sunflower, the island would have been completely cut off. He doesn’t ask passengers for money if they have none. Those that can, pay just 300 yen (US $3.50) toward fuel. Supermarket owner Tadaomi Sasahara says he gave all of his food away for free after the disaster. He adds, “Everyone used to look out for themselves on this island, but after this, the whole community is now helping each other.” Supermarket shelves empty, Sasahara now helps Sugawara with his hourly trips to the mainland. Sugawara risked his life for his boat and his
The Bible tells us of another who rode the waves. A tsunami of death and destruction had been unleashed on sinful humanity; but in an unparalleled act of self-giving love, Jesus headed into the deep waters of judgment on a mission of salvation. On the cross, the penalty for sin crashed on Him so that God’s love and grace could transform the desolation in our world. The apostle Paul knew that grasping this divine generosity is key to an overcoming life: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32). Here’s the antidote to fear and greed: As recipients of God’s limitless generosity, there is no more need for selfprotection. In recent years, our culture has wildly oscillated between two states of mind. As the stock market soared, our collective impulse was to overindulge. After the economy crashed, our instinct was to hoard. Both responses make sense if life is simply the sum total of our effort and earning. But how do things change if nothing—not trouble or hardship or evil or even death itself—can separate us from God’s love? What if God has really opened up the resources of heaven and made them ours? What if we are truly safe, truly cared for, truly free? According to Paul, that’s the revolutionary power of God’s generosity to us in Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Because of this extravagant generosity, we have nothing to fear as we follow Jesus into the raging seas of circumstances for the sake of others. With glistening eyes and throttle wide open, we are called to ride the big waves as agents of our generous God, knowing that we will live to tell the tale of redeeming love for all eternity. v
As recipients of God’s limitless generosity, there is no more need for self-protection.
Del Fehsenfeld III
here is no better heart monitor than money. Placing a paycheck, an inheritance, or even a Christmas bonus in the hands of a Christian is akin to hooking up a spiritual EKG to watch what happens. What does this person care most about? Where are their passions and priorities centered? What level of faith do they possess? What do they believe about their life’s purpose? Jesus taught that money is a test from God to see how faithful we are with the “little” this world can offer, so that He can determine how many of heaven’s “true riches” to place under our management (Luke 16:10-13).
Money is a temporal trust from God to help us prepare for the eternal trust of heaven—rewards and wealth beyond our ability to measure or comprehend. And, as is obvious in the pages of Scripture, a key indicator of good stewardship is giving. Giving is more than an exercise of obedience, and its purpose transcends even the recipient or cause of the donation itself. Giving is an extension of our lives; rather than an isolated event, it is really a way of life. It’s more than just a line item on a budget or a discussion with our estate planner; it’s an expression of who we are, what we care about, and how deeply we believe the promises of God. Here’s the best part: Giving money and possessions away is one of the greatest joys a believer can experience. Jesus said it well: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). There are many ways to receive this blessing: • Giving to family in need (1 Tim. 5:8)
• Giving to support your church and spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 9:7-12) • Giving to assist other believers in need (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:13) • Giving to spread the gospel across the world (Rom. 10:13-15) • Giving to help orphans, widows, the poor, victims of disaster, etc. (James 1:27; Luke 6:30-31)
Before I give my possessions to God, He first wants me to give myself (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Second Corinthians 8 is one of those chapters you read and ask, “How can this be?” Paul is commending the churches of Macedonia for their generosity, yet he says that they were in a “severe trial” and in “extreme poverty”; yet somehow, he also says that there was “overflowing joy” and “rich generosity” in their giving (v. 2). How can all of this go together? To go further, Paul said that they begged him to allow them to give more, to support other needy saints (v. 4). The fifth verse gives us the answer. Paul said, “They gave themselves first to the Lord.” Until we give Him every part of our lives, we will not know what it is like to give the way the Macedonians gave! Has there ever been a point in my life when I fully gave myself to God?
I need to transfer the ownership of everything I have to God (1 Chronicles 29:14).
It is a matter of doctrine that the world belongs to God. But do we live that way? No matter what we may possess, no matter what property or assets bear our name, God is ultimately the owner (1 Chron. 29:14; Psalm 24:1). We are just the managers of His belongings.
Imagine a bank that wasn’t willing to return money to depositors when they asked for it. To make matters worse, what if the bank’s investors couldn’t explain what they’d done with the money in their accounts? In short order, the authorities would be called, and the entire operation would be shut down. At minimum, no one would entrust any more to such an institution! We are God’s bank. We are the managers of resources He has deposited with us, and He expects a healthy return on His investment. What would God do, as the owner, if He came to us, His bank, and asked for some of His money to be transferred to another place or person, but we refused? “No, Lord. I don’t have it right now. Come back in a week; maybe I can give it to You then. Maybe after my retirement is funded. Maybe after I pay off my car. Maybe after my dream vacation.” And further, what if we abandoned His goals for the money and invested in things that we were interested in? Do you suppose He might put His resources into another “bank” that would faithfully manage His money? And do you suppose that we would have a lot to answer for on Judgment Day? An important exercise for Christians to conduct is a “wealth transfer,” or perhaps file a heavenly “re-characterization of ownership” form. “Our” things never were ours to begin with; but to bring that truth home, we need to list out what we manage, then pray over each item, “returning” it to the Lord. Once we’ve clarified the owner/manager relationship in this way, we’re ready to become effective investors of our Lord’s resources, and we remain ready at His bidding to give freely and cheerfully wherever He may dictate. Have I transferred the ownership of everything I have to God?
The deeper my level of giving, the greater the expression of my love (2 Corinthians 8:8).
There are three levels of giving. The first is giving in obedience to God’s Word. This would involve tithes and offerings, spoken of in Malachi 3:8. The second level is giving by faith; that is, being prompted by God to give a certain amount to a specific person or place, even without assurance of how all the math will work out. God can and does move on our hearts at times to give above and beyond our “obedience” giving, as Paul requested in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. The third level is sacrificial giving, as the Macedonians demonstrated in 2 Corinthians 8. The first two levels, obedience and faith, may not stretch our resources. Sacrificial giving is exactly what it says—sacrifice—giving to the point that the basics of life are affected; giving away something that we need. One illustration of sacrificial giving is found in 1 Kings 17. Elijah was living in exile during the famine in the days of King Ahab. God had instructed Elijah to go live with and be supported by a widow in Zarephath.
Elijah met the widow as he walked into town. He asked her for a drink of water and a piece of bread. The widow replied that she did not have enough for herself and her son. Elijah insisted that the widow go ahead and prepare for him and then for her and her son. The promise was that the flour and the oil in the widow’s storage containers would always have enough to sustain them until the end of the famine. The widow did what the man of God said, and they all ate for many days. The flour and oil containers never went empty. The principle is that if God directs me to give sacrificially— that is, to give away something that I need—He will supply my need. A second illustration of sacrificial giving is the widow in Luke 21:2-4. She put two small coins in the offering, and Jesus commended her: “She out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Her giving was truly sacrificial. Which level of giving have I practiced? Do I faithfully give as a matter of obedience to God’s Word? Do I give as God prompts me, by faith? Do I give out of my need, making real sacrifices? **** Imagine for a moment if believers across the world, or even just a small percentage of God’s people, applied these principles. There would be no stopping His church! Ministries would overflow with resources, personal needs would be met many times over, the poorest among us (especially those of very poor nations) would be lifted from their dire circumstances, and the gospel would be provided to every person on earth! Revivals have always been accompanied by rich outpourings of generous living. A touch of heaven makes the treasures of earth look unimportant and petty. Who wants to spend wealth for selfish ends when God’s kingdom is real and present? when the lost, needy, and dying world captures our attention? God wants to abundantly bless the world with the gospel and with the power of His reviving presence. And He wants to bring a small piece of that blessing through you—through your life, your prayer, and yes, your giving. Are you ready to see what God will do? v In our revival summits, we teach a variety of principles on giving that challenge people to think differently about life, money, and faith. A few of our staff have drawn from their 40 years of revival preaching to share a handful of these principles here. Special thanks to Laine Johnson, Wilson Green, Dan Puckett, and our editorial staff for their contributions to this feature.
Download “Symptoms of Loving Money” in PDF format for your church or small group at LifeAction.org/LivingGenerously.
1 . Planning life around financial goals vs. God’s goals 2 . Relating success to outward gain vs. inward qualities 3. Delighting more in material riches than in spiritual riches 4. Letting the cares of riches choke out time for God’s Word 5. Adjusting ethics to avoid financial loss 6. Sacrificing friendships for financial gain 7. Participating in “get rich quick” schemes 8. Building family around job vs. building the job around family 9. Responding to loss with bitterness and lawsuits 10. Transferring faith in God to personal wealth 11. Assuming the right to make final decisions regarding my possessions and finances 12. Striving for friendships with rich people vs. godly people 13. Becoming the slave of discontent and ungratefulness “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
In Matthew 6,
Jesus fully unveils
the foundation of what I call the Treasure Principle: â€œDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heavenâ€? (vv. 19-20).
first-century Hebrew walks alone on a hot afternoon
staff in hand. His shoulders are stooped, sandals covered with dirt, tunic stained with sweat. But he doesn’t stop to rest. He has pressing business in the city. He veers off the road into a field, seeing a shortcut. The owner won’t mind—travelers are permitted this courtesy. The field is uneven. To keep his balance he thrusts his staff into the dirt. Thunk. The staff strikes something hard. He stops, wipes his brow, and pokes again. Thunk. Something’s under there, and it’s not a rock.
The weary traveler tells himself that he can’t afford to linger. But his curiosity won’t let him go. He jabs at the ground. Something reflects a sliver of sunlight. He drops to his knees and starts digging. Five minutes later, he’s uncovered it—a case fringed in gold. By the looks of it, it’s been there for decades. Heart racing, he pries off the rusty lock and opens the lid. Gold coins! Jewelry! Precious stones of every color! A treasure more valuable than anything he’s ever imagined. Hands shaking, the traveler inspects the coins, issued in Rome over seventy years ago. Some wealthy man must have buried the case and died suddenly, the secret of the treasure’s location dying with him. There is no homestead nearby. Surely the current landowner has no idea that the treasure’s here. The traveler closes the lid, buries the chest, and marks the spot. He turns around, heading home—only now he’s not plodding. He’s skipping like a little boy, smiling broadly. What a find! Unbelievable! I’ve got to have that treasure! But I can’t just take it—that would be stealing. Whoever owns the field owns what’s in it. But how can I afford to buy it? I’ll sell my farm . . . and crops . . . all my tools . . . my prize oxen. Yes, if I sell everything, that should be enough! From the moment of his discovery, the traveler’s life changes. The treasure captures his imagination, becomes the stuff of his dreams. It’s his reference point, his new center of gravity. The traveler takes every new step with this treasure in mind. He experiences a radical paradigm shift. This story is captured by Jesus in a single verse: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).
The Treasure Principle The parable of hidden treasure is one of many references Jesus made to money and possessions. In fact, 15 percent of everything Christ said relates to this topic—more than His teachings on heaven and hell combined. Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions? Because there’s a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce our faith and our finances, but God sees them as inseparable. In Matthew 6, Jesus fully unveils the foundation of what I call the Treasure Principle: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (vv. 19-20). Why? Because earthly treasures are bad? No. Because they won’t last. But when Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on earth, it’s not just because wealth might be lost; it’s because wealth will always be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions.
Imagine you’re alive at the end of the Civil War. You’re living in the South, but you are a Northerner. You plan to move home as soon as the war is over. While in the South, you’ve accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Now, suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war and that the end is imminent. What will you do with your Confederate money? If you’re smart, there’s only one answer. You should immediately cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency—the only money that will have value once the war is over. Keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs. As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns—or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.) Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit. Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He instructs us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to heaven (which is totally dependable, is insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace earth’s economy). Christ’s financial forecast for earth is bleak—but He’s unreservedly bullish about investing in heaven, where every market indicator is eternally positive! There’s nothing wrong with Confederate money, as long as you understand its limits. Realizing that its value is temporary should radically affect your investment strategy. To accumulate vast earthly treasures that you can’t possibly hold onto for long is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money even though you know it’s about to become worthless. According to Jesus, storing up earthly treasures isn’t simply wrong. It’s just plain stupid.
A Treasure Mentality Jesus doesn’t just tell us where not to put our treasures. He also gives the best investment advice you’ll ever hear: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). If you stopped reading too soon, you would have thought Christ was against our storing up treasures for ourselves. No. He’s all for it! In fact, He commands it. Jesus has a treasure mentality. He wants us to store up treasures. He’s just telling us to stop storing them in the wrong place and start storing them in the right place! “Store up for yourselves.” Doesn’t it seem strange that Jesus commands us to do what’s in our own best interests? Wouldn’t that be selfish? No. God expects and commands us to act out of enlightened self-interest. He wants us to live to His glory, but what is to His glory is always to our good.
Purchase Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle at LifeAction.org/LivingGenerously.
Jesus is talking about deferred gratification. The man who finds the treasure in the field pays a high price now by giving up all he has—but soon he’ll gain a fabulous treasure. As long as his eyes are on that treasure, he makes his shortterm sacrifices with joy. The joy is present, so the gratification isn’t entirely deferred. Present joy comes from anticipating future joy. “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why? Because it’s right? Not just that, but because it’s smart. Because such treasures will last. Jesus argues from the bottom line. It’s not an emotional appeal; it’s a logical one: Invest in what has lasting value. You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Why? Because you can’t take it with you (Psalm 49:16-17). If that point is clear in your mind, you’re ready to hear the secret of the Treasure Principle.
The Treasure Revolution Jesus takes that profound truth “You can’t take it with you” and adds a stunning qualification. By telling us to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven, He gives us a breathtaking corollary: You can’t take it with you—but you can send it on ahead. Suppose I offer you one thousand dollars today to spend however you want. Not a bad deal. But suppose I give you a choice—you can either have that one thousand dollars today, or you can have ten million dollars one year from now, and then ten million more every year after that. Only a fool would take the thousand dollars today. Yet that’s what we do whenever we grab onto something that will last for only a moment, forgoing something far more valuable that we could enjoy later for much longer. Of course, there are many good things God wants us to do with money that don’t involve giving it away. It is essential, for instance, that we provide for our family’s basic material needs (1 Timothy 5:8). But these good things are only a beginning. The money God entrusts to us here on earth is eternal investment capital. Every day is an opportunity to buy up more shares in His kingdom. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. It’s a revolutionary concept. If you embrace it, I guarantee it will change your life. As you store up heavenly treasures, you’ll gain an everlasting version of what that man found in the treasure hidden in the field. Joy.
I will affirm God’s full ownership of me and everything entrusted to me.
I will set aside the firstfruits—at least ten percent—of every wage and gift I receive as holy and belonging exclusively to the Lord.
Out of the remaining treasures God entrusts to me, I will seek to make generous freewill gifts.
4. I will ask God to teach me to give sacrifi-
cially to His purposes, including helping the poor and reaching the lost.
Recognizing that I cannot take earthly treasures from this world, I will lay them up as heavenly treasures—for Christ’s glory and for the eternal good of others and myself.
I will ask God to show me how to lead others to the present joy and future reward of the Treasure Principle.
From The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn, copyright © 2001 by Eternal Perspective Ministries. Used by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
Purchase Randy Alcorn’s Book The Treasure Principle at LifeAction.org/LivingGenerously.
JUST A LITTLE BIT
by Dan Jarvis
M John D. Rockefeller, the ultra-wealthy oil tycoon, was asked exactly how much money would be “enough.” His answer was the oft-quoted maxim, “Just a little bit more.” And this from the richest man in American history! In today’s dollars, his fortune would likely top $500 BILLION. When he died in 1937, his wealth accounted for 1.5% of the total U.S. economy. That’s some serious cash!
y guess is that you’re not in Rockefeller’s league, and you probably won’t be anytime soon. We’re going to have to take his word for it—whether it’s one more thousand or one more billion, we’re never going to think we have quite enough. Unless, of course, we learn the secret of contentment. Contentment isn’t something we hear much about in our consumer-driven, advertisement-sponsored society. Every website we see is surrounded by ads, touting products sure to improve our lives. Every program we watch is bookended by commercials, holding out happiness and comfort. Companies even pay to promote products within the shows we watch and the video games we play. The message is usually the same: You’ll be happy (like those beautiful people in the commercial) with a new car, a new home, a new toy, or a new kitchen mop. If you can just get “a little bit more,” you too will be able to sit back, with a satisfied smile, and rest easy. Then you’ll be content. But contentment can’t be measured in material terms. It doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of money in your account, apps on your phone, or square feet in your living room. Here are the words of a man who went from riches to rags and back again: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:12 nlt). He’s also the one who said, “We brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:7-9).
The apostle Paul was no stranger to need. The Bible records his life as a preacher being full of persecution, poverty, unmet needs, and even shipwreck. Yet in all this, he had learned the “secret” that so many of us wealthy Westerners haven’t discovered. He knew how to look at whatever God had given him and say, in his heart, “This is enough.”
What Contentment Is NOT To be content is not just “settling” for what you already have, refusing to raise yourself up or work hard for your dreams. Contentment is not forcing a smile on the outside while choosing poverty or mediocrity. Most of all, contentment is not waiting around for others to do the hard work for you. Being a perpetual receiver of handouts won’t win you any awards for morality, and living an entitlement lifestyle will sap your enthusiasm and cause you to forfeit the greater purposes God has for your existence. In short, contentment is not some highminded excuse to be lazy or non-productive, or to give up all ambition. It’s not a sigh of relief or a sag into your recliner; it’s not a choice to stop making progress.
What Contentment IS Contentment is the ability to have joy in my life, being thankful for what I have instead of bitter about what I don’t. Contented people choose joy in good times and bad, and they look at life
as a gift from God either way. If they have to make due with just the basics—food and clothes—they keep smiling and thanking God for life. They don’t give their hearts over to complaining and comparison. Instead, they keep their eyes open for opportunities to make the most of what they have. Contentment is knowing that my value as a person is in no way tied to the value of my assets. Jesus said it clearly: “Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:15). You are immensely, eternally valuable to God; what you own on earth is of little consequence. A hundred years from now (or a thousand), no one is going to care what car you drove or what brand of watch you wore—including you! In fact, material possessions can distract us from the real purpose of our lives: pursuing a rich relationship with God and with other people. If I’m content, it means that I don’t work for the sake of work itself. It means I don’t have to sacrifice my family on the altar of career advancement. It means I don’t try to get “more” just so I can die with more toys or accolades than other people. My motives are different, as is the source of my fulfillment. Contentment is the ability to say no to things I don’t need, even though I could use and afford them. There are plenty of good things out there to be had—amazing cars to drive, fantastic vacations to take, exotic foods to eat, beautiful clothes to wear. There are probably comforts and luxuries you aren’t even aware of (but as soon as you learn about them, you’ll know that you must have them!). A contented person can enjoy working
hard to lift their standard of living, and even enjoy some of the finer things life has to offer, but they know that life isn’t just about accumulating those finer things. They can see something they’d love to have and still decide not to buy it. The drive to have more doesn’t control them. Contentment is keeping my hands open, because I know that God will provide for me if I seek Him first. Rather than clenching your fist around what little you can grab in this life, keep your hands open. If God wants to give you more, gladly receive it and be faithful to use it wisely. If God asks you to give something up, that’s His prerogative. An open hand can both give and receive; a clenched fist can do neither. (It does require faith to live with an open hand. Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense, or to get into situations where the outcome is not guaranteed. That’s okay. God is the ultimate Provider, and if you can have the faith to put His priorities first, He’ll take care of you.) People who learn the secret of contentment become generous, grateful, and excited about the future rather than worried, selfish, and frantic. Are you content? Can you look at what you have today—your friendships, family, community, career, memories, belongings, home—and say, “Thank You, God”? That’s Step One toward the secret of lasting happiness . . . the secret of contentment. v The principles in this article are based on 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Philippians 4:4-13; and Luke 12:14.
This past spring, Life Action Ministries was invited to The Moody Church in Chicago to hold a 4-Day THIRST conference. God moved deeply to transform hearts and lives both on the staff and within the congregation. Hear what Dr. Erwin Lutzer had to say about this event.
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poor man 18 LifeAction.org/revive
oday more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. Thatâ€™s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on French fries for lunch. More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease. To put it in perspective for me, thatâ€™s twenty-six thousand Joshuas and Calebs (my two sons). To put it in perspective for the church I pastor, if this were happening among the children in my community, then every child eighteen years or younger in our county would be dead within the next two days. Suddenly I began to realize that if I have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and if poverty is rampant in the world to which God has called me, then I cannot ignore these realities. Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry. If I am going to address urgent spiritual needs by sharing the gospel of Christ or building up the body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire physical needs in the process.
Do we trust Jesus when he tells us to give radically for the sake of the poor?
by David Platt revive 19
Who Is the RICH MAN? Jesus told a story one day to a group of religious leaders who loved money and justified their indulgences because of the culture around them. He told them about a rich man who lived in luxury while he ignored a poor man, Lazarus, who sat outside his gate, covered with sores and surrounded by dogs, eating the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. As we read in Luke 16, the day came when both men died. The rich man went to hell, and the poor man went to heaven. The rich man could see into heaven, and he cried out for relief from the agony of hell. The reply from heaven came. “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:25-26). This story illustrates God’s response to the needs of the poor. The poor man’s name, Lazarus, literally means “God is my help.” Sick, crippled, and impoverished, Lazarus received compassion from God. Of course, just because someone is poor does not make him righteous before God and therefore fit for heaven. At the same time, though, a quick perusal through Scripture shows that God hears, feeds, satisfies, rescues, defends, raises up, and secures justice for the poor who trust in him. But this story also illustrates God’s response to those who neglect the poor. He responds to them with condemnation. Again, the Bible does not teach that wealth alone implies
unrighteousness or warrants condemnation. The rich man in this story is not in hell because he had money. Instead, he is in hell because he lacked faith in God, leading him to indulge in luxuries while ignoring the poor outside his gate. As a result, earth was his heaven, and eternity became his hell. Now I have to ask a question. When you hear this story from Jesus’ mouth, with whom do you identify more—Lazarus or the rich man? For that matter, with whom do I identify more? In uncovering this blind spot in my life, God has made it clear that I look a lot like the rich man in this story. I don’t always think of myself as rich, and I’m guessing you may not think of yourself as rich either. But the reality is, if you and I have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation (even if it’s public transportation), then we are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people for wealth. I am much like the rich man, and the church I lead looks a lot like him too. Every Sunday we gather in a multimilliondollar building with millions of dollars in vehicles parked outside. We leave worship to spend thousands of dollars on lunch before returning to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of homes. We live in luxury. Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate. And he is hungry. In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday morning, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food. If it were our kids starving, they would all be gone by the time we said our closing prayer. We certainly wouldn’t ignore our own kids while we sang songs and entertained ourselves, but we are content with ignoring other parents’ kids. Many of them are our spiritual brothers and sisters in developing nations. They are suffering from malnutrition, deformed bodies and brains, and preventable diseases. At most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here.
Do we trust Jesus to provide for us when we begin using the resources he has given us to provide for others?
This is not what the people of God do. Regardless of what we say or sing or study on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.
Sell EVERYTHING You Have? A rich man eagerly approached Jesus and asked him one simple, all-important question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:17, 21). Jesus was clearly exposing this man’s allegiance to his possessions. Following Jesus would involve total trust in him, an abandonment of everything the man owned. Fundamentally, the rich man needed a new heart, one that was radically transformed by the gospel. I think there are two common errors people make when they read this passage. First, some try to universalize Jesus’ words, saying that he always commands his followers to sell everything they have and give it to the poor. But the New Testament doesn’t support this. Even some of the disciples, who admittedly abandoned much to follow Christ, still had a home, likely still had a boat, and probably had some kind of material support. So, obviously, following Jesus doesn’t necessarily imply a loss of all your private property and possessions. This causes many of us to breathe a sigh of relief. But before we sigh too deeply, we need to see the other error in interpreting Mark 10, which is to assume that Jesus never calls his followers to abandon all their possessions to follow him. If Mark 10 teaches anything, it teaches us that Jesus does sometimes call people to sell everything they have and give it to the poor. This means he might call you or me to do this. I love the way one writer put it: “That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom he would issue that command.” So what about you and me? Are we willing to ask God if he wants us to sell everything we have and give the money to the poor? Are we willing to ask and wait for an answer instead of providing one of our own or justifying our ideas of why he would never tell us to do this? What if he told us to sell our houses for simpler living arrangements? What if he told us to sell our cars for more modest ones—or for no cars at all? What if he told us to give away all but a couple of sets of clothes? What if he told us to empty the savings account we have been building for years if not decades? What if he told us to change our lifestyles completely? Now, before you and I think of all the reasons he would not tell us to do these things, we need to think about this question first: Is he Lord?
Are you and I looking to Jesus for advice that seems fiscally responsible according to the standards of the world around us? Or are we looking to Jesus for total leadership in our lives, even if that means going against everything our affluent culture and maybe even our affluent religious neighbors might tell us to do?
The TRUTH in Love Possibilities such as the ones we are considering will make many of us uneasy, but this is what I appreciate most about Jesus’ conversation with the rich man. Jesus obviously gave him a tough command to follow, and it seems cold, if not extreme, when it comes out of his mouth. He was going right for the jugular, so to speak, with a guy who had great wealth. Jesus was launching a direct attack on the sense of security and stability this man had in this world. But the beauty of this conversation is what the Bible tells us in Mark 10:21—“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” What a wonderful phrase! Jesus was not telling this man to give away everything he had because Jesus hated him or desired to make his life miserable. Jesus was telling him to give away everything he had because Jesus loved him. When God tells us to give extravagantly, we can trust him to care for us. And this is really the core issue of it all. Do we trust him? Do we trust Jesus when he tells us to give radically for the sake of the poor? Do we trust him to provide for us when we begin using the resources he has given us to provide for others? Do we trust him to know what is best for our lives, our families, and our financial futures? v Excerpted from Radical by David Platt, copyright © 2010 by David Platt. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Spend and Be Spent John Wesley, one of the great revival preachers of the eighteenth century, is known popularly for a number of things. This is the man who had his “heart strangely warmed” and became the preacher who would declare not that the parish was his world, but “the world is my parish,” a sentence he fulfilled by traveling some 250,000 miles mostly on horseback, preaching 40,000 sermons and seeing countless thousands come to real faith in Christ. In each aspect of his devotional life, his preaching, and his organization of converts, he had a method—and his emphasis on having spiritual methodology won him and his followers the nickname Methodists. By the time of his death at 88 in 1791, he left behind him an organization of pastoral care divided by area and size that would eventually become known as the Methodist Church. A lesser known aspect of Wesley’s Christian discipleship was his philosophy on financial stewardship. His sermon on Luke 16:9 (“I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” kjv) was simply titled “The Use of Money.” In it he summarized his Christian attitude toward money by three memorable phrases: Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can. Wesley had no trouble encouraging his people to make as much money as they could through “honest industry.” As a hard worker and an early riser (4 or 5 each morning for devotion), it was natural for him to call on believers to “never leave off anything till tomorrow which you can do today—do not sleep or yawn over it—spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves.” Having gained all you can, he then emphasized the need to save all you can by not wasting money on needless luxuries. Wesley ate and dressed plainly, seeing money not as a talent that was to be hidden away for a rainy day, but as one that must be used wisely and profitably and given away. In Wesley’s worldview, it was always a rainy day for someone! Money was to be used; not using it was like throwing it away. After providing for family, the “overplus left” was to be for God’s cause, social or spiritual.
And this wasn’t just a sermon. The message was autobiographical. John Wesley preached what he himself practiced, motivated by the good that money well used could accomplish. He envisioned money turned into “food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked . . . a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain.”
For John Wesley, all spending was for the greater good of God’s kingdom. Throughout his life, Wesley gained and saved much, but his altruistic spirituality delivered him from accumulating these resources for personal gain and increasing personal wealth. For him, all spending was for the greater good of God’s kingdom. The church has nothing to do but to save souls: Therefore, spend and be spent in this work. v Bibliography
Forty-Four Sermons, John Wesley, Epworth Press, 1944, Sermon XLIV Kevin Adams was born in South Wales and has authored two books and a film on Welsh revival history. He is the senior pastor of East Baptist Church in Lynn, MA.
FROM THE HEART
A Legacy of Giving
am so thankful for the many valuable lessons my
father, Arthur S. DeMoss, taught me about a biblical perspective on money and material possessions. As both a successful businessman and an earnest follower of Jesus Christ, he was a living illustration of those principles. As I look back on my dad’s life, I see several reasons for the blessing of God on his life: 1. He put God first, above everything else. He believed that the greatest wealth was knowing God. This priority was evident as he gave the first hour of every day to the study of God’s Word and prayer. In the twenty-eight years that he knew Christ, there was not a single day when anything else came before that hour alone with God. He put God first in his business, in spite of the prevailing opinion that biblical ethics cannot be applied in the business world. Whenever Dad met anyone for the first time, whether in a business context or in the course of traveling, the uppermost question on his mind was, “Does this person know Christ?” He generally found out the answer to that question within the first minutes of any conversation, even if the primary purpose of the meeting was business-related. Since his death, many people have shared with me the results of Dad’s personal ministry. Just recently a woman introduced herself to me after I spoke in a conference. She said, “My father is in heaven today because of your dad.” A Jewish businessman told me, “Your dad led dozens and dozens of my Jewish friends to Christ.” What a thrilling report! Christ was also first in our home. Dad talked little about the business. He talked much about Jesus. The greatest inheritance he left my siblings and me was the example of a commitment to love God more than anything or anyone else. 2. He recognized God as the source of every material blessing. He taught us not to look to an employer or a parent or a husband as the source of our income, but to look to the Lord as our Provider. And he taught us that we are as utterly dependent on God to provide when we have a regular, substantial income as when we have no visible means of support. 3. He acknowledged God’s right to give and to take away material blessings. This is the reason he was able to be as grateful and content in times of material loss as in times of tremendous gain. I remember one twelve-month
period during which we lost our home in a fire, my mother almost lost her life with a massive brain tumor, and my dad lost many millions of dollars in far less time than it took to accumulate it. Through all those months, his faith, joy, and serenity were never diminished, because he recognized and trusted the sovereignty of God. 4. He saw himself not as a recipient, but as a channel of God’s blessings. He believed that God gives to His children, not so they can store up things that don’t last, but so they can meet the needs of others. Next to knowing God and leading others to Christ, the privilege of giving the vast majority of his income was probably the greatest joy of my dad’s life. He steadfastly rejected the recommendations of tax advisers that he save and invest more. He sincerely believed that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The model of my dad’s life and teaching in this matter of giving has profoundly impacted my life. As a result of his influence, I have learned the joy of asking the Lord, when I receive any form of income, “Do You want me to invest this in Your kingdom?” And when I hear of a need of another person or ministry, the question on my heart is, “Do You want to use me to help meet that need?” Perhaps this is where genuine revival begins—with the willingness (and eagerness) to give everything we are and have to God, and to be channels through whom He can bless and meet the needs of others. Is that too much for Him to ask? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). v
Perhaps this is where
genuine revival begins.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Revive Our Hearts Radio Host
Taken from A Legacy of Giving by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Copyright by Revive Our Hearts. All rights reserved. www.ReviveOurHearts.com
Listen to Nancy Leigh DeMoss share “A Legacy of Giving” at LifeAction.org/LivingGenerously.
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Hard Questions Is the Tithe for Today? The word tithe is one of the most powerful and controversial words in the church—its very mention can start a heated argument. Some believe it is part of the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2); the rest desperately hope that it was superseded by the New Covenant and has been abolished like the sacrificial system and the dietary laws!
Dr. Richard Fisher
What was the tithe? The tithe is described in Deuteronomy 14. It was “a tenth of all that your fields produce each year . . . grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks” (vv. 22-23). The tithe was a guard against coveting and discontent. It added balance and equality to society in a world that was plagued by calamity and injustice. It also helped support the administrative and religious agencies of Israel’s theocratic government. The tithe would be equivalent to modern taxes, but with a religious focus—it would include support for the government, social services, “state church” expenses, and emergency funding. The NIV Study Bible note for Leviticus 27:30 comments that “Israel actually had three tithes: (1) the general tithe (here), paid to the Levites (Nu. 18:21), who in turn had to give a tenth of that to the priests (Nu. 18:26); (2) the tithe associated with the sacred meal involving offerer and Levite (Dt. 14:22-27); (3) the tithe paid every three years to the poor (Dt. 14:28-29).”
The tithe was instituted to support the ministry and to take care of people in need.
1. The tithe was used to supply the food for a meal of thanksgiving with God. Everyone was invited to join the family in the celebration of God’s provision—even the alien and the poor. It developed a heart of praise, gratitude, and humble dependence. It opened eyes to see how God was daily involved in their lives. This pro- vided a guard against greed and coveting (Deut. 26). 2. The tithe was also used to support the Levites and the priests, because they had no inheritance in the land. They gave their lives to serve God, doing the work of the temple (Num. 18:20-21). 3. The third-year tithe (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12-13) was stored in local cities to be used to help those in need and to give relief in times of crisis. The Levites were in charge of these “tithing storehouses.”
Why was the tithe instituted?
The tithing system was a framework to facilitate a grateful and compassionate heart—a training program to help people love God and their neighbors. All the passages about tithing (even Malachi 3) focus on heart attitudes—on giving to facilitate community, equality, and support in times of need. God sees it as a discipline to encourage joy, thankfulness, and generosity, based on His own cheerful generosity and blessing.
1. The tithe was a proper response to God’s generosity and faithfulness in providing for His children’s needs. If they obeyed the rule, they would actually see what God had provided; they would literally have to count their blessings. Their hearts would be transformed through faith, and they would rejoice and begin to envision ways that God’s kingdom could expand to touch more lives.
The tithe was instituted to train the heart to respond to people as God does.
2. The Sabbath principle of sharing God’s provision is the foundation for instituting the tithe. Deuteronomy 14:22– 16:17 addresses both the Sabbath principle and the tithe. The passage is about sharing God’s blessings and responding to others with divine compassion so that together we experience Sabbath rest in God’s presence. It also emphasizes the importance of giving. 3. The threefold pattern of Deuteronomy 26 shows God’s ultimate purpose for instituting the tithe. Israel was to present the tithe to the priest (26:2-4), worship and thank God personally for His provision (26:5-10), and rejoice with everyone in God’s provision, protection, and promise (26:11). A festival meal in God’s presence was enjoyed by all. 4. The tithe trained the heart to be content and to serve people in humility (Deut. 5:21; 26:1-15). God wanted Israel to grow up and assume the responsibilities of a true man—one who walks with God and represents Him on earth. Just as parents institute rules for children to train them for adult responsibilities, so God did with the tithe for the children of Israel.
Is the tithe still part of God’s program for giving? If tithing is really the training instrument for a godly heart attitude, then setting it aside could be a serious mistake. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals found that “42% of evangelical leaders believe the Bible requires tithing [for today], while 58% do not.” Another study, by Empty Tomb, Inc. (a group that tracks church giving), found that “evangelicals on a whole give an average of 4% of their income [primarily] to their church.”1 However, Dan Olson, a Purdue University sociology professor who has studied tithing, suspects the average is much lower—around 1% or 2%. He explains why: “Most Christians would say the laws of the Old Testament are not what save you—you’re supposed to be giving out of a spirit of freedom, not because you’re bound to laws.”2 But this raises some disconcerting questions: Why would a spirit of Christian freedom lead the church, on average, to give less? Shouldn’t New Covenant blessings and the “adult responsibility” of generous giving bring our average above that of Old Covenant believers? Wouldn’t we expect obedient, cheerful givers to exceed the tithe? Paul understood the heart of God underlying the tithing requirement. He took the tithing principles and applied them to the growing church in 2 Corinthians 8–9. One cannot read that passage without seeing the obvious references to Deuteronomy 12, 14–15, and 26.
However, Paul did not use the term tithe. He took the concept to the more responsible level, as addressing those who are no longer children but who now have the indwelling Spirit of God. The concepts of generosity, of supporting God’s work, of investing in people and the kingdom, and of doing God’s will were used. Paul said that if we love God with all our hearts, we will give generously to the ministry; if we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will give generously to assist them as we are able. Paul also raised the bar when he said that the Corinthians “gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (2 Cor. 8:5). We no longer need to concentrate on some minimum requirement to satisfy God, like a child would; rather, we should be giving 100% of ourselves to Him. We who love Christ are not satisfied, now that we have experienced the full love of God, to give just a tithe; we want to give it all. Tithing can be used to train children to have a generous heart and to invest in God’s work. This is what God did with Israel. But that’s only a temporary measure; as part of the Mosaic law, it was only a shadow of better things to come in the New Covenant (Gal. 3:19-25). Giving 10% is a starting place, a discipline for beginners. As we mature in faith, we grow beyond the rule and learn to cheerfully say, “Everything I have is Yours. I want to be a channel through which Your blessings flow. I will use Your money where it is most needed. Guide me with Your wisdom.” v Both quotes found at http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/07/ survey-minority-of-evangelical-leaders-say-bible-requires-tithing/. 2 Ibid. 1
Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
The Tithe in the Bible 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Genesis 14:18-20 Leviticus 27:30-33 Numbers 18:8-21 Deuteronomy 12:6-7; 14:22-28; 26:1-15 2 Chronicles 31:5-12 Nehemiah 10:35-39; 12:44; 13:4-13 Malachi 3:8-12 Matthew 23:23-24 Luke 11:42 Hebrews 7:1-10
Real World Creditors vs. Christ A young couple tries to balance debt with generous living.
Give in Every Season Some teach that you should wait to give until your finances are in order. I think that is bad advice for several reasons:
The Scenario Mike and Sally were both impacted by a recent revival summit, at which they felt the Holy Spirit specifically prompting them to change their financial priorities. Mike has always been fond of “new toys” that come with monthly payments, and Sally enjoys shopping a little too often, accumulating a sizable credit card balance. Their debts are manageable as long as they both continue to work, but the prospect of paying them off anytime soon would require significant lifestyle sacrifices. They assume it will take at least five years to fully climb out of their debt trap and be financially free. At the same time, Sally feels they need to become regular givers to God. Thus far, she argues, they’ve spent most of their money on themselves; now it’s time to honor the Lord and serve others by sharing. Mike disagrees, noting that debt represents money that is already spent, whether they like it or not. He wants to clear the debt before they get serious about donating much of anything. They both feel discouraged, and they feel a mix of guilt and sadness every time they hear about a giving opportunity. Generosity seems at odds with their pursuit of financial freedom. But then again, is it right to put giving on hold for five years or more?
1. Giving is the only antidote for the real problem: a selfcentered heart. Getting out of debt, saving, and living on a budget are great and commendable actions, but they don’t address the heart like giving does. Giving, severs the greedy self-interest that can lurk behind even good and prudent financial steps. 2. Giving causes you to look to God for provision and solutions. Second Corinthians 9:8 is a great verse, and it is even more powerful when you consider that it was written in the context of teaching on money: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 3. Giving can take place in more areas than you might think. I’ve watched people downsize their homes, sell a car, stop eating out, cancel their cable, give up their gym membership, and then give away the money they saved. Most people are amazed at how much they can give when determined sacrifice is in view. 4. Giving after you feel like you are able to will never happen. Let me be lovingly blunt. You didn’t get into financial trouble overnight, and I would guess that you’ve tried to change numerous times, to no avail. The simple fact is that giving is too important to your soul for you to condition it on your ability to fix your finances first. Give now. If you wait, we both know it will never happen. How we handle our money tells us a lot about our hearts . . . probably more than we realize. That’s why giving—at any level of sacrifice—needs to be a part of every believer’s life in every season. Mark Vroegop is the lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Eliminate DebtDependence by Chuck Bentley CEO of Crown Financial Ministries
once spoke to a large group at a vibrant church in Texas. In one session people were allowed to anonymously write out their questions so I could answer them without embarrassing anyone.
As I sorted through the stack, my heart was moved by the stress, pressure, and pain that was so carefully masked behind the smiling faces looking back at me. I actually had to hold back tears. Here is a sample of the questions I was asked: • I have about $3,000 in credit card debt. Should I pay this off before I save for my emergency fund? • I have almost $14,000 in medical bills, due to not having insurance. I’m just paying my other bills with nothing left over. What should I do? • We just found out that my wife is pregnant. We depend on both our incomes to make our house and car payments. How can we plan to make up the shortfall when the baby comes? • We are retired but have very little money in the bank. We get by but want to travel before we get too old. Should we get a reverse mortgage on our house so we can travel? None of these people had margin. They were living without any financial flexibility. As one pastor who has a fast-growing church in a major city once told me, he preaches every Sunday to the “affluent poor.” They have outward appearances that reflect lots of money and possessions, but beneath the surface, most are stretched to their limits and beyond.
In times of a growing economy and rising income, many people manage to stay one step ahead of the wolves. But when the economy slows, the lifestyle that seemed so wonderful becomes a form of captivity if no financial margin is available to cushion the impact. Often the root issues of such problems are spiritual in nature, because we are all driven by what we believe about money. When we know God’s truth, the truth will set us free. How is this accomplished? First, through God’s Word and by His Spirit, we learn self-control. Second, we learn to be content (see Philippians 4:11-13). It is impossible to ever stop living on the very edge of your financial limits unless you come to a point where you can be content with what God has given to you. This means saying no to many of the choices you may have to spend, but saying yes to the opportunity to give and save. Although self-control and contentment don’t give outward appearances of affluence, they do bring incredible joy, peace, and freedom.
To learn more about Crown’s new Eliminating Debt video study, visit Crown.org/DebtPlan or call 800-722-1976.
Making It Living Generously Giving is not just an occasional duty for Christ-followers—it’s a passion that characterizes their lives. The believers described in the New Testament practiced extraordinary, sacrificial generosity because they trusted God fully and loved each other deeply. Their commitment was to God’s kingdom and His righteousness, not to material things. Has generous giving become your way of living? The following principles will help us evaluate our hearts so we can move toward cheerful generosity.
1. Before I give any of my possessions to God, He first wants me to give myself (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Have I given myself wholly to God? o Yes
If someone were to look at my calendar and checkbook, what would they conclude are my top priorities? __________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________
2. I must be willing to be made materially poor, if necessary, in order that I or others might be made spiritually rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). When was the last time I gave sacrificially to the Lord’s work or to meet another believer’s need? __________________________________________________________________________________ What specific material sacrifices could I make right now that might help others to be made spiritually rich? _____________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________
3. God wants me to learn to give out of what I have (2 Corinthians 8:12).
Make a list of all the material possessions God has entrusted to you (home, wealth, vehicles, clothing, income, etc.). Be as specific as you can in the space provided. __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________
Cheerful Obedience: Is there anything on my list, or a portion of anything, that I know God wants me to give right away? _______________________________________________________________
Love Offering: Is there anything on my list that I could give out of my love and gratefulness to God, and then trust that He will provide for my needs and desires as He sees fit? ___________________ ___________________________________________________________________________________
Sacrificial Giving: What on this list or in my lifestyle could I give up, downsize, or change so that I would be free to give more generously? _________________________________________________
4. I need to transfer the ownership of everything I have to God (1 Chronicles 29:14).
Have I transferred the ownership of everything I have to God? o Yes
Pray though the list of possessions you made under number three, and â€œhand overâ€? each item to God as the true owner of everything.
Since the owner has the right to make the final decision, have I asked God how He wants me to use the material possessions He has entrusted to me? o Yes o No
Since God is the owner and you are the steward, reevaluate your budget by asking the following:
Have I specifically asked God about every line item in my budget? o Yes o No Am I willing to change how I designate my money, if God prompts me to do so? o Yes o No When I stand before God, will He be pleased with my plan for using His resources? o Yes o No
5. My giving must be according to the will of God (Matthew 6:10).
Have I studied and applied what the Word of God has to say about financial management, debt, saving, spending, and giving? o Yes o No
Do I regularly pray about opportunities to give (where God wants me to give, what giving would be the most effective, etc.)? o Yes o No
Does my current giving reflect biblical priorities? o Yes
6. I need to give today out of my abundance to meet the needs of others, believing that tomorrow, if I have a need, God will use the abundance of others to meet my need (2 Corinthians 8:14).
What “abundance” do I currently have? ________________________________________________
What specific needs may God want to meet out of the over-supply He has entrusted to me? __________________________________________________________________________________ What is my response when people offer gifts and help to meet my needs? o Prideful resistance of God’s provision, refusing to accept “charity” o Careless acceptance, believing I am entitled to the help and deserving of more o Grateful and gracious receipt of help, desiring to generously share what I can as well 7. The deeper the level of my giving, the greater is the expression of my love (2 Corinthians 8:8).
Am I honoring the most basic giving principle of the Old Testament by tithing (giving 10%) of my income? o Yes o No
Have I taken my level of giving past Old Testament requirements to reflect the joyful, gracefilled giving the New Testament describes? o Yes o No
What does my giving reveal about the depth of my love for the Lord Jesus? ___________________ __________________________________________________________________________________ Read the book of Proverbs over the next month, and compile your own list of wisdom principles pertaining to money management. Then revisit Matthew 6 and 2 Corinthians 8–9 to complete your study of generosity.
NEXT STEP Our Hearts Follow Our Money
here are many aspects of my life in Christ that
I readily admit I need to improve. But my giving has not been one of them. I don’t say that as a matter of pride; it’s just that I’ve taken the opportunity to grow in the Lord in this area. Having traveled on two Life Action summit teams myself, I’ve heard the giving principles taught a time or two (or twenty) before. In working on this issue of Revive, however, the Lord has shown me that I need to step it up considerably—in my heart attitudes; in my giving percentages; in aligning my financial priorities with God’s kingdom; in my John Wesley-inspired goal to “Gain all I can and save all I can so that I can give all I can!” Actually, I’ve been somewhat surprised to learn that I have a very, very long way to go. My giving has grown predictable, and in large part it has grown comfortable. Obedience? For the most part. Faith? A little. Sacrifice? Hardly. It’s time to regain my fire and love and passion for giving to the Lord. It’s time to once again really believe His amazing promises in this critical area of spiritual life. All of this has caused me to reflect carefully on what Jesus said to His disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). It’s not that God needs us to give; we need us to give. We have a drastic need to give because our heartvs follow our money. Intuitively, we would assume the opposite is true; but in fact, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves! If we don’t give, we’ll lose track of what our lives are really about. We’ll lose touch with eternity. We might get the impression that the things of earth are “real” and the things of heaven aren’t. We might go through whole days, or even whole weeks, without really considering our choices from an eternal perspective. If all our treasure is vested in earthly things, our hearts will cease to beat for what lies beyond. If we want to love God with our whole hearts, we need to put our money into His kingdom. If we want our hearts to break for the needs of people, for revival, for the lost who still need to hear the gospel, then we must invest our money in those directions. Once we’re invested, our hearts will start to tune in, because we naturally care about the things we support.
Where is your heart today? Is it in a house? a portfolio? a luxury car? If that’s where the lion’s share of your money is, then that’s what your heart is paying the most attention to. Or is your heart with a poor street child in Brazil, a village church planter in Asia, or an outreach project through your local church? Wherever you put your treasure, your heart will follow. But it’s even bigger than that. Jesus was talking about heavenly riches. As we give to the Lord, we not only throw our hearts into sharing and serving on earth, we make deposits into a heavenly savings account. The accumulation of our cheerful giving and daily sacrifice becomes a sort of eternal treasure chest that absolutely exceeds even the greatest earth-based wealth we could imagine. So where do we start? Answering the following three questions will help us take the next step toward a lifestyle of generous living:
v Purpose – Why does God have me on earth instead of in heaven right now?
v Planning – How will
I arrange my financial life to best accomplish God’s purposes?
v Discipline – What
daily, weekly, and monthly changes will I make, starting today, to invest my treasure and my heart in heaven and eternity? v
Daniel W. Jarvis Managing Editor
Visit LifeAction.org/LivingGenerously to read about how God is using His people to create a community where there is “No More Need.”
P.O. Box 31, Buchanan, MI 49107 269-697-8600 • www.LifeAction.org
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Igniting Movements of Authentic Christianity Since 1971, Life Action Ministries has been calling God’s people to God’s presence. Our family of outreaches is igniting movements of Christ-centered revival among God’s people in innovative, life-changing ways: •
Summits and THIRST conferences for local churches
Revive Our Hearts publishing, conferences, and daily radio for women
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Cutting-edge resources, such as Seeking Him for small groups, Revive magazine and the Infuse podcast for personal renewal, and Heartcry Journal for pastors
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