“The Trust Test: Part One”
THE TRUST TEST (PART 1)
Today I want to talk to you about managing the resources that God has given to us. Two Sundays ago we asked the question: Can we trust God? Last week we looked at another question: Are we trustworthy? Can God trust us with the resources He has given to us? And today we are going to start a two week look of just how well we are trusting God and managing what He gives us.
Let’s take a look at this in more detail. Let’s go back to Proverbs Chapter 3:5-10, and you’ll see that the Proverb writer understood trust:
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. 9Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
The Proverb writer said that all our trust should be in God. And that we should give God the firstfruits, and not the leftovers. And think about this in your life. Think about the times you have trusted God, and the times you just went with yourself. Worked out better when you trusted God, right? That is certainly the way it is with me.
Ken Klass talked about this a few months ago in his daily devotions. He pointed out to us: There is a commercial which asks, “What’s in your wallet?” (Our thoughts today are) far more concerned with who is in your heart and who is your greatest treasure?
There’s a story that begins on a Sunday morning, a good many years ago. Before the family got in the car to go to church, the father gave two dimes to his young son. The boy was told, “One of the dimes is for Jesus and is to be put into the Sunday collection plate, while the other dime is yours for an ice cream cone when we come home from church.”
The boy nodded his head to show he understood his father’s instructions. Unfortunately, somewhere between kitchen and car, one of the dimes was lost. Since there wasn’t time for the family to do a thorough search, the lost dime was left behind. As he settled into the back seat of the family car, the boy looked up to heaven and, with a great sigh, said, “Well God, there goes Your dime.”
I leave it to you to judge if Jesus or ice cream was at the center of that boy’s heart.
The Bible makes it very clear, we know, that Jesus should be our Treasure, and He should always be at the center of our hearts. We know that, BUT…but then we get a message from within us that contradicts that, a message not from God. Our hearts say, “Truly, keeping the Lord first is something you ought to do, but the truth is you’ve got some pretty major things going on in your life right now. God can come later.”
Our hearts say, “You’ve got responsibilities. You’ve got a family who needs you; you’ve got to make a living. House payments and taxes can’t be put on the back burner, can they? Yes, the Lord should be at the center of your heart, but He’s not going to foreclose on you if you put Him off, and He’s not going to place a penalty on you if you miss your Sunday offering. It boils down to this: other things need to be taken care of, and you have to dedicate your energy to them.”
You familiar with that kind of thinking? Put our own perceived needs first and then get back to God with whatever is left over? Here is another story. The great Civil War General Stonewall Jackson was a busy man with great responsibilities, but yet he spoke of keeping God first and to pray without ceasing. He said, “When we take our meals, there is the grace. When I take a drink of water, I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter into the box at the post office, I send a petition along with it for God’s blessings upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop to pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents and make it a message of good. When I go to my classroom and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so of every other familiar act of the day.”
Jackson’s proper priority kept Jesus at the center of his heart. Yes, other things needed to be done; other responsibilities needed to be taken care of, but all these things he did in the Name of Jesus, who always remained his Treasure.
We need to remember that God is our Source. Deuteronomy 8:18: “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” We need to come to a place where we recognize God as the source of our life. We need to know and remember every day, everything we have and everything we are comes from God. We also need to recognize that He knows everything. There’s nothing hidden from Him. I love the story of the mother telling her daughter a little bit about the facts of life, as she was getting old enough to understand some of those things. The little girl was shocked. When the mother finished, the girl said, “Mom, does God know this? ” God knows it all. He’s the source.
We need to study and know and apply God’s Word that we can lead lives where God can trust us more. This is true for all areas of our lives, but these weeks we consider God’s principles of Stewardship. I believe there are three reasons why Christians don’t give more to God:
1. They don’t think they can give and meet their own needs.
2. They don’t know how to give.
3. They don’t plan to give.
So we need to understand God’s Principles, in this case, His Principles of Stewardship. What does the Bible say?
1. FIRSTFRUIT: Give the first and best to God. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce. (Prov. 3:9 ESV).
2. SACRIFICIAL: That this giving is not a pew/chair rental, that we are not giving to the budget. We are giving to God WHAT IS ALREADY HIS (remember we talked about that last week) as an act of worship, working to keep Him number one in here.
3. PROPORTIONAL (PERCENTAGE): Offering a percentage allows a constant giving pattern regardless of income going up or down. It is dynamic and flexible.
4. SYSTEMATIC: Follow a weekly or regular pattern.
5. EVERYONE: All members of a congregation are Christian stewards by their faith and out of gratitude they return a portion of their blessings to the Lord.
As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:2), On the first day of every week (systematic), each of you (everyone) is to put something aside and store it up (a portion or percentage), so that there will be no collecting when I come.
This is something we should all be doing now. It is not something where we can say, “I’ll deal with this later.” Our Heavenly Father who loves us enough to send us Jesus to die and rise for our sins, including the sin of sticking Him in the back of the line of our lives, this same Heavenly Father tells us to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, with all our strength. Now. Every day.
I know that there is a tendency for us to say, “Well, I’m busy now but I will do more for God, for the church when I graduate, when I get that promotion, when the kids are grown, when I am retired.” Does this sound like something the Good Lord would approve of?
We cannot succumb to the temptation that as long as we show up here, God is “appeased.” I can’t imagine being someone who just sits in a pew or chair on a Sunday and thinking they deserve a medal just for showing up. What are your gifts? Do you know them? Are you using them? You see, we’re going to be held accountable for those things. There’s going to be a day when you and I stand before God, and He is going to ask how well we used the gifts He gave us. That is what Jesus is telling us in the Gospel reading today.
Then there is another thing that goes around a lot where people get “this” wrong. Love the story about the real rich guy who was on this prosperity gospel kick. And he went from town to town talking about how he once only had $20 in his pocket, and when the offering plate came by, he put all $20 in. Then he became a multimillionaire. And, boy, they loved this story. He’d go everywhere. People would just clap and he’d encourage them to do the same thing. One day he went to Toledo and shared this. And everybody clapped.
But one lady raised her hand. He looked at her and said “Yes ma’am, do you have a question?” She said, “Yes. Now let me make sure I understand. You only had $20. You gave all $20 to God, and He made you rich and famous.” “Yeah, that’s exactly the way it works.” “And now you’re a multimillionaire.” “Yeah, that’s exactly right.” “Just one question:”, she said, “would you like to do it again?”
I get so sick and tired of Christians with all these spiritual clichés talking about how God will provide. Let me tell you something. God’s already providing. Do we not have everything we need? The issue is for you and I to learn to manage the resources He’s given, be a good steward of them and put God first, not give Him the leftovers. Right?
All the blessings that God has given to you: health, life, forgiveness, salvation won by Jesus and His death and resurrection, everything. “Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.” I’m indebted to God, you’re indebted to God. It’s something we all need to understand.
But there’s another indebtedness that we have, too. And that indebtedness is to the previous generation. Many of the blessings that we have, have just basically been handed down. We have a church here, because there was a church called St. Mark on Campbell St. And we had a church on Campbell St. because there were some dedicated folks meeting at Alfred Freundt’s house, as they did not find it acceptable to be in a church that did not teach God’s Word correctly. We must never forget those who have gone on before us who have given us the blessings we have today. There’s an indebtedness. It is such an unchristian attitude to think that everything we have we deserve. Everything you have is a gift from God or a gift from somebody else that God gave to them. And it’s our job to take those gifts that God or others have given to us and turn around and reproduce and multiply and develop them for the glory of God and to help each other out.
Let’s review. We need to TRUST. We need to recognize that God is the source of everything good in our lives: our health, our homes, our families, our jobs, our church, our faith, our forgiveness and our salvation that we have by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to understand and recognize that everything we have, and everything we are belongs to God, and we are to live lives of worship to Him with what He has given to us. Next week we will finish up see how true it is that God’s promises to us are a sure thing and we should live like it. As Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” And by God’s grace and love, we can do it.