“The Trust Test Part Two”
THE TRUST TEST (PART 2)
Today we pick up where we left off last week, as we have been reminded these last three weeks of our need to trust God: His giving to us, His promises to us, His plan of salvation done for us. We continue today with another Biblical stewardship principle.
I want to start today by reminding us that God Deserves The First of Everything. There’s a tendency, instead of giving God our best, our first, for us to think of Him last. Jesus was asked one time,” Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the law? And Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and strength. That is the first and most important commandment.”
Hear this: Proverbs 3:9. The Proverbs writer said, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and the first fruit of all your increase.” First Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he or she may prosper.” God tells us that we are to give Him the first, not the last of everything. Now, our tendency is to give God what’s left over. Our human tendency is to take our possessions and take care of ourselves first. And if there’s anything left over, “Well, sure, God. I’ll take care of you.” (Cain and Abel)
I read about a 14 year old kid who got his first job. And boy, was he thrilled. He showed that first paycheck to his dad, his mom. And then he said, “You know, I’m not sure I can afford to tithe.” Now, I thought that’s typical. Isn’t it? He’s got more money in his hand than he’s ever earned in his entire life, and what happens? Greed sets in. Right?
And I thought out of the mouth of a 14-year-old-boy, true to nature, comes this whole question of: Where do we put God? Is He first? Is He second? Is He fifth? Is He 25th? The Lord said, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.” God is basically saying, “I can tell you what you love, when I look at your checkbook and your calendar.” Looking at that, God can tell what our priorities are.
Stewardship begins with loving, not giving. Paul said: “Everyone should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, God loves a cheerful giver.” I have found that we can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. Love has to be the foundation. If love is not the foundation of my relationship with God, I’m always going to have a problem. You see, Love asks: “How much can I give? ” Legalism asks: “What’s the minimum I have to give?” There’s a major difference between the two.
Pastors love to use “God loves a cheerful giver” during a stewardship sermon. But we do not always understand the context. Think of what Paul is saying this way: picture going out to eat with two other people or two other couples. One is generous. One is cheap/tight/miserly/a tightwad. Which of these two people/couples do you probably enjoy being with more? When we are here in worship, we are here with God. Who does God want to be with here?
Carl Meninger, a great psychiatrist, said that generous people are rarely mentally ill. You know what he was saying. When we begin to live beyond ourselves and give of our time, talent and everything — when we begin to live beyond ourselves — it changes our mindset. We become healthy people. Emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
The basis of my stewardship and management of all the resources that God has given me has got to be based on the fact that Jesus died and rose for me, and I love Him with all my heart, my soul, and my strength. When we talk about financial stewardship and tithing and such, we are not talking about monthly dues or a chair/pew rental. We are talking about an act of worship. We are talking about a monthly or weekly gesture to God where we remind ourselves who is the Source, who is in Charge, and to whom we belong. God bought us, and the price was the blood of His Son Jesus.
Here’s the problem, in a nutshell. The question for the Christian, for you in the pew, uh…chairs doesn’t rhyme, is very simple. Am I going to live like the world, basically trust in myself, become independent and do my own thing? Or am I going to live under Christian principles so that God has more of me? Am I going to be a trusting, obedient, dependent person upon God? Is God going to be my source, or am I going to do the old American deal of “I am a rock, I am an island” and kind of pave my own way? The issue this morning, folks, is not your talent, your time, your abilities, or your money. The issue is very simple. Whom do you trust? That is our Trust Test.
When I was working on this sermon, it hit me that every great Bible person had to go through a “Trust Test.” Here are four Bible characters who passed the trust test:
1. Noah Genesis 7:6 (building of the ark)
Remember when God told him to build an ark because it was going to rain? Would you like to explain that to your neighbor? No wonder they ridiculed Noah. But Noah obeyed and trusted Him. Look what it says in Genesis 7:6: “And Noah did according to the all that the Lord commanded him.” Noah passed the Trust Test.
2. Abraham Genesis 22:1-12 (sacrifice of Isaac) Remember when God spoke to Abraham, and said that He wanted him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac? Abraham was willing to do it until God told him not to. Abraham passed the Trust Test.
3. Joshua Joshua 5:1 (crossing the Jordan)
You know the whole story of Moses crossing the Red Sea. You watched The Ten Commandments. You know, how the rod goes up, and the water parts. Can you imagine the people hollering at Joshua as he’s going down the Jordan there? “Hey, Josh, you don’t have your rod. Go get your rod. You need a rod to part the water.” But God didn’t want Joshua to use a rod. Remember, that time they had to put their feet in the water before it could part. Because God didn’t want them to trust in methods. He wanted them trust in God. And Joshua did.
4. David I Samuel 17:37-39 (fighting Goliath)
Remember David and Goliath? You know the story. And David knew he didn’t need Saul’s armor or weapons. He just took his sling and his faith. David passed the Trust Test.
Noah trusted in God, not the familiar. Abraham trusted in God, not personal feelings. Joshua trusted in God, not methods. David trusted in God, not man’s armor. They all trusted God’s Promises.
You and I need to do that, too. For there are Promises that God gives His children when we tithe. He will provide for us. (Malachi 3 v. 10) Folks, this is God talking. Look what He said in verse 10. 10″`Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test,’ says the LORD of hosts, `if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.’” Do you hear what God is saying to you here? In verse 11: 11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.” And verse 12: 12Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. I am not telling you if you tithe God will make you a millionaire. I am telling God gives us everything we need. God promises to look after us. And when we give God our first fruits and not our leftovers, that will be a weekly/monthly reminder to keep our priorities straight, keeping God first. No one, EVER went broke from tithing. NEVER. Remember: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength and all your soul and all your mind.” And when we lead lives of genuine, loving faith, people will be attracted to us, we will be the light shining on the hill that Jesus talked about.
And I want to be clear about something. In the Erler household, we know what we are going to be paid each month. When Keith gives me that first check of the month, (you pay me twice a month), before I do anything or pay anyone else, I give my tithe/offering for the whole month to the Lord. If any of you think I am telling you to do something, and I am not doing it, you are wrong. Erica and are tithing, and then some.
So take out your Stewardship Pledge Card. Obviously if you are visiting today, just put it away. Now, don’t check any boxes yet, because I know some of you are sweating. You’re saying, “Hey Pastor, I can’t meet my budget as it is.” Would you look at me for a moment? That’s your problem. You’re not trusting God. The moment the Holy Spirit leads you to give Him control, He begins to do things that you and I could never do on our own. And I want to challenge you this morning, to take God’s Word in what He said. I want to tell to you something. If you really don’t think God will take care of you in every area of your life, if you really think His promises aren’t true, let’s just shut the doors, lock them up, sell this place and go home. Because I’m not about to get up here every Sunday and preach God’s Word, and talk about promises that God doesn’t keep. It’s God’s promise to you.
Every family here should tithe, a minimum of 10 %. You can give more, the Bible sets 10% as a starting point. Tithing is not an issue of money; it’s an issue of trust. God knows that the most difficult area for us to turn over to Him is our finances. Therefore He says to us, “10Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10) God said it. You can trust Him. He will keep His promises.
God always does. He promised to send His Son to die and rise for you. He did. He promised to save you from hell. He did. He promised to prepare a place for you in heaven with Him. He did. He promises to love you. He does. He promised to be with you forever. He is. So we can trust Him. We can worship Him with our lives, with all we say and do. And we can start by telling God, “I am not going to give you my leftovers any more. You are going to get my best!”