The Real Path to Prosperity
November 2, 2014
Message, Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Proverbs Chapter 3. Proverbs Chapter 3 and the title of the message today is “The Real Path to Prosperity.” The Real Path to Prosperity.
Apple has mastered the art of targeting young people with great products. Now if you are an older adult, you are probably immune to the drawing power of Apple. But if you are around the age of 40 or under, born at a time of Atari, Sega Genesis or Intindo, you know the influence of Apple as persuading. In fact, they come out every year as the CEO does and he gives you 101 reasons why you need to buy the new iPad, iPhone, Mac Book Pro, Mac Book Air, iPad Air or the iWatch which will be manufactured and shipped in the Spring of 2015, just in case any of you were wondering.
What Apple realizes is if they can get you younger to buy into their technology, they are more likely to keep you as a lifelong customer.
And friends, what I want to show you today for some of you are younger than others, but I want to show all of us today the benefits of surrendering your life and following the path of God as you live. And the earlier you buy into the benefits and surrender your life to God, the better it will be for you. And I want to do that from the book of Proverbs Chapter 3. And what you will see is that Solomon shows us that when we follow God, we will have a prosperous life. He is not talking about prosperity just in monetary terms, although God does bless us monetarily. Amen? If we put God first in our finances, He blesses us.
But Solomon has something deeper, he is explaining. God blesses us physically, spiritually and emotionally. Jesus said in John Chapter 10 Verse 10, “I have come to give you life and give it to you (what?) abundantly.”
So it begs the question today, how can we, as New Testament believers, experience this abundant life in Christ? Well, Solomon tells us. Proverbs Chapter 3 and we will consider Verses 1 and following. If you are there, say “Word.” The Word of the Lord.
“My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being. Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.”
Father, we pray that You will bless the reading and the preaching of Your Word today, that we would truly understand what it means to live the abundant life promised by Your Son. We ask it in His name. And everyone said, Amen.
Let me tell you my aim today so we know where we are going. I want to show you today that when you walk on God’s path, when you trust in God’s providence and when you honor God with your possessions, you will experience an abundant Christian life. It is a pretty simple idea and Solomon lays the path for us as we begin. If you are taking notes, the first thing he says right out the gate is this, Christians, believers, should walk on God’s path. Look at what he says. “My son, don’t forget my teachings, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.”
Now before a believer can honor God with his or her possessions, we need to know what it means to follow God’s precepts. Sadly, many Christians live in a day and age where we think we can create our own rules and then we expect God to rubber stamp our plans. But that is not how it works. Solomon said there is a clear path for us to walk upon and the path we walk upon is the Word of the Lord.
Now Solomon teaches us and speaks to us in a paternal sense. He is speaking to us as a father to a son. I love what the NIV says about this verse. The NIV translates it this way, “My son, do not forget my teachings. Keep my commands in your heart for they will prolong your life many years.” I like that. “They will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”
The word there I want you to see is the word “teaching.” In the language of the Old Testament, it is the word “Torah.” It is another word for the commands of God. It is another word for the Word of God. It is another way to say the precepts of God.
And notice what he says in Verse 3. “Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Now those two words there, tie and write, are vivid words that Solomon chose to describe to us how we can follow the commands of God. And as you think about those words, tie and write, it should remind you of a passage in the Torah that uses the same two words. Do you know what it is? I know it is early, but this is the audience participation part. Do you know what it is? Deuteronomy 6:4 right?
Turn there as we are talking. Deuteronomy 6:4 is the pinnacle of the Torah. It is the greatest form of Scripture to the Jew. Why? Because they recite it every single day. It is called the Shamah. And in the Shamah, God gives us a four-fold process for writing His Law upon our heart. But before I get into the Shamah, Deuteronomy 6:4, I want to tell you how God speaks about this throughout the Scriptures. Here is the four-fold process and if you get nothing else, Church, zone in here, focus here. This is what I want you to get. Here is the four-fold process for writing God’s Law upon our heart.
The first way is to Remember. The second step is to Reflect. The third step is to Retell (you can write them down) and the fourth one is Repeat. Remember, Reflect, Retell and Repeat.
God uses this idea of remembering all throughout the Scripture. He tells the Jewish people, listen, you are going to forget about what I have done, so Remember what I have taught you. Do you know for the Jewish mind, remembering is as important or more important as introducing new information. God says you don’t need to learn much new about Me, just remember all the things I have already done in your life. And He uses this term all throughout Scripture.
If you think about when God says in Exodus 20 Verse 8, “Remember the Sabbath Day.” When God brought them out of the bondage of Egypt and into the Promised Land, as they were walking in the desert, He stopped them as soon as they came out of bondage in Exodus 13:3 and said this, “Remember this day when you came out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.”
So first of all, we remember. But remembering doesn’t stop with the process. We remember but then we reflect. This idea of reflecting is the idea of meditating upon or memorizing or savoring the commands of God. God instructed the people of Israel to set aside one day as the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was not just a schedule on one’s calendar, it was a state of mind. It wasn’t just, we keep the Sabbath, like Christians say, we go to church or keeping the Sabbath Day. It is way more than that. The Sabbath was a time that you would put a pause in your schedule to think about the things of God, to reflect on the things of God.
In fact when God brought them into the Promised Land, He caused Joshua to stop and pause. He said, “Meditate on the Word of God night and day.” Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 12 Verse 1, he said, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Why would he say that? He wanted them to reflect upon the things of God. He knew that as humans, we were easily strayed. He wanted us to memorize the Word of God. Don’t be tempted to forget about Me. Meditate on the Word of God. Savor the Word of God. Remember the blessings of God.
But it doesn’t stop there. He remember and reflect. Think about these things. And thirdly, retell them. Retelling was something the Jewish people were encouraged to do because they had lapses of memory. When God brings them into the Promised Land and they walk across the Jordan, God says, “Pause here for a moment. And I want to give you an encouraging Word. Go find twelve stones, gather those stones and bring them back to this river. Each stone will represent one of the tribes of Israel.” And the stones were going to create this big rock pile for God.
Now why in the world would God encourage them to create a rock pile by the water? Go with me to Joshua Chapter 1 and I will show you. As they crossed the Jordan, God instructs them. In Chapter 1, God gives us this insight in Verse 8, “This book of the Law must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it (or remember it) day and night so that you may be careful to observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”
Now go to Chapter 4 Verse 6. Not only are you to remember the Law, let me give you this,” This may be a sign, these rocks, among you. When your children ask in time to come what do these stones mean, then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordon were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
In a day and age when they had no moleskin tablets, no computers or no tablets, that is iPads, they had stone tablets, they had a difficult time remembering what God did. And so God said, take these rocks and pile these rocks up as a way for us to remember what I have done for you. Don’t ever forget to retell people about the goodness of God, which is one of the reasons in my Discipleship Groups, I always encourage my guys to share what they are learning with someone else. One of the ways you really learn something is to repeat it or retell it to someone else. Share it with your wife. Share it with your family. Share it with your children. Share it with your coworkers.
But the process doesn’t end there. It starts with Remembering. It moves to Reflecting. And you move to Retelling and finally, Repeating the process. The process is not complete until the mentee becomes a mentor. It is not just for us to sit and soak up, it is for us to go and to share what we have learned. God may be the Father of Truth, but repetition is the Mother of Learning. Let me say that again. God may be the Father of Truth. Repetition is the Mother of Learning.
Now would you believe this four-fold process that God uses all throughout the Old Testament is condensed in Deuteronomy 6:4 and following. Look at the text. Shamah Israel Adonai (reads in Hebrew). Well, that is the Hebrew. That is not going to help. But lets look at the English. Here is the English. The reason it is called the Shamah is the first word in Hebrew is Shamah, Listen. Listen didn’t just mean listen with your ears, it meant remember and act upon. So notice what he says. “Listen, Remember, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving to you will be on your heart.” What is he saying there? Reflect upon them. Think about them.
In our Life Group last night, we were talking about how we rarely retell people the things of God in our life. And it struck me that we talk about what is important to us, right? And sadly, on Monday morning when we go to the office, many of us are going to talk about what is important to us. And you know what it is? It is SEC Football. It is NFL football. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the Lord just convicted me in our Life Group last night that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. How different would your life and my life be if we began to meditate on the things of God and not fading, fleeting football games. Amen? Just a side note. That is a bonus. I didn’t have that in the notes.
But anyway, just think about it. They reflected upon the Lord. They thought about the things of God. And then notice what it says. “Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you suit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.” Here it is. “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
And so here is the question. How can we write this Word on our heart and how can we live this out? The key word in Proverbs 3 is “keep.” Do you see it? Keep the commands of God. That is another word in the New Testament for obey. So to keep is to obey. Now Jesus used this word in Matthew 28. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to (what) observe, obey or keep all that I have commanded you and I will be with you to the end of the age.”
The result of obeying the commands of God is prosperity and longevity. If you want to live a long and full and abundant life, God says, keep My commands. Now that word “prosperity” shouldn’t be interpreted only to mean material possessions. It is more than that. He talks about prosperity and this idea of well-being. That word “well-being” in Proverbs 3 is the word for Shalom. It is another word for peace. It is another word for wholeness.
When we went to the Middle East, as you saw on the video we just played, we met a lot of people by the world’s standards who were poor and yet they were rich in Christ. And I don’t know about you, but I have met a lot of people in America who were wealthy by this world’s standards and who were miserable and depressed. You see, when you have Christ, you have all things. When you walk along the path of God, you are prosperous and have an abundant life.
And so what he says is, when we walk upon God’s path, there are things we need to choose. There are options we will have. Will we trust in ourselves or trust in the Lord, which is what leads us to the next section here.
Solomon says, when you walk on God’s path, you must trust in God’s providence. Trust in God’s providence. Look in Verse 5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think abut Him in all of your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.” This is probably the most quoted verses, these are the most quoted verses of all of the book of Proverbs. And sadly, many of these verses we know but many people don’t understand what they mean, right?
And so what I want to show you is, these verses here lay as guard rails in your life as to what you should do or shouldn’t do as a Christian. And there is a difference, Solomon says, between believing in something and trusting in something, putting your complete faith in something. There is a difference there. Because a lot of people say I believe in something, but it is different to trust in something.
You may have heard of the greatest tightrope walker of all time. His name was the Great Charles Blonden. Charles Blonden was the first man in the 19th Century, June 30, 1859 to be exact, to walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope. At that time, 25,000 people came out to see this spectacle. He put that rope across the Niagara Falls, 1100 feet to be exact. He was 160 feet above the raging waters and he began his journey. He did it without a safety net or a harness. One slip of the foot is fatal, he dies. And the crowd erupted as you can imagine, as he made his way to the Canadian side and the erupted with a roar. Well, that wasn’t the first time that Blonden walked across the Niagara Falls. In fact, he did it many times.
He came by another time and many people came out to see him as he attempted to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope on stilts. And he did it. On another occasion, he goes across Niagara Falls. He has a small stove in his hand and a pan. He makes his way to the middle of the rope. He puts the oven down. He cooks an egg for himself. He eats the egg and then he continue to walk across. On another occasion, he decided to take his manager on his back for a piggy back ride (talk about trusting in your employer here), on a piggy back ride and he walks him across the tightrope. His final stunt was to take a wheel barrow. He took a wheel barrow. He filled it with 350 pounds of cement and he walked across with this wheel barrow on this tightrope 1100 feet across. When he got to the other side, the crowd erupted as you can imagine and they started to cheer. And he yelled to the crowd and he said, “How many of you think I can walk across this tightrope with a man in the wheel barrow?” And whole crowd said what? Absolutely you can do that.
Well, he singled out one man in the crowd and he said, “Sir, let me ask you, do you think I can take you across in a wheel barrow across the Niagara Falls?” The man said, “Sure, I think you can.” He said, “Get in the wheel barrow!” The man said, “No way! No way!”
You know it is one thing to believe in something. It is one thing to believe that you can walk across Niagara Falls with a man in a wheel barrow. It is a whole other dimension when you yourself are in the wheel barrow. That is the kind of faith Solomon is talking about here. It is a complete and ultimate confidence in God, that God knows the best for your life and you are going to trust God with your whole life.
The word picture here, watch this, I love this, is of a man or a woman laying prostrate on the ground listening for His Master’s voice in the distance as a servant, so that when the Master speaks, he immediately gets up and obeys His commands without hesitation. That is the picture here. It is to trust the Lord. It is to acknowledge the commands of God.
Let me ask you, is that what you do when God speaks? You know, delayed obedience is disobedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Do you trust in God’s commands for your life? Do you apply God’s commands? You know, whenever you hear God speak, it leads to action which leads to obedience in your life. We do this by casting our fears upon God, by casting our cares upon God. We give Him all our aspirations. We give God all of our dreams. We give Him all of our desires, all of our goals, all of our plans and we say, God, you know what is best for us.
Now you and I both know, when you follow God’s plans, it is risky at times, right? Following the path of God is dangerous at times. It can be radical at times, right? Sometimes when you follow God’s way to step out on faith by the world’s standards, it looks foolish to you. And there are some of us in here I believe that God is speaking to you clearly. He has been knocking on the door or your heart to step out in faith and maybe He is calling you to change jobs and you are just indecisive about what to do. Maybe you know in your heart of hearts that God is leading you to go on a mission trip, but you are fearful and fear has plagued you for so long, but you know that God is leading you to do that. Maybe God is calling you to give sacrificially with a monetary gift, above and beyond what you expected or you think you can afford. But you have been hesitant to do that.
Friends, walking on God’s path is never easy. But watch this, it is always worth it. Here is why. Here is why. Because walking on God’s path is where God is. And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to walk away from God.
Now Psalm 23 is a picture of what this is like. And we have quoted this verse before and we know this verse. Psalm 23. Turn there quickly. I will read it to you as you are turning. You know it. “the Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. (the Holman says). He lets me lie down by green pastures; He leads me beside still or quiet waters. He renews my life; He lead me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” And here it is, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley,” your version may say, through the valley of the shadow of death, “I will fear no evil.” Why? “For Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me.”
Now the picture here is vivid imagery. It is the idea of the shadow or of the valley of the shadow of death. And what is that? That is a valley that you are walking through in life where death is looming and danger is imminent. How many people have been there before? You don’t know what is ahead. It is dark. It is dim. And you are putting one foot before the other as an act of faith.
Now many think well, how in the world did you get in the valley of the shadow of death? And that is the million dollar question here. How did you following the Lord, get in this valley? Well, lets back up and see who is doing the leading up to this point. Look at how it begins. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Do you know what a shepherd does for the sheep? He leads them. Notice what it says next. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Who does that? God does. “He leads me beside still waters.” Who does that? God does. Look at this. “He renews my soul. He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” Who does the leading? “Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” who led you there? It was God. Friends, God doesn’t lead you as a shepherd. God doesn’t lead you to the field and to the water and leads you in paths of righteousness’ sake and then let you wander through the valley of the shadow of death. I want you to see something. It is God who took him there. It is God who takes us to the valley of the shadow of death.
And here is the great and encouraging word for us today. But the cool things is, God doesn’t leave us there. You see, God may lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, but He is always with us. Aren’t you glad God walks us through the toughest times of our life? You see, when you follow God’s plan, He directs us, but He also redirects us, right?
How many times have we had plans and we thought this was the way to go and God says, no, we are going in this direction. And redirection is tough. You have to swallow your pride at times. I remember the time I was preaching in Louisiana. It was an event. Tim was still BCM Director and I had gone. I was just newly married with Kandi and we went to this big college event in Pineville, Louisiana. I had never been there before, so I didn’t know the town very well. The event lasted late. It was a college event. You know how those last pretty late. And so we got out about 12. And I decided before we went that I was going to do some preliminary work. I went online and I typed in the address and I just printed out directions and I was going to follow those directions to the hotel. It was dark. It was late. I didn’t know where we were going.
And so Kandi, as a precautionary measure, said, “Hey, give me the address. I want to put it in the Garmin just as a backup plan.” I said, “Babe, we don’t need it. I have got directions right here. We don’t need to do that.” “No, no. Let’s do it anyway.” I said, “Okay, do it anyway.”
So we start driving and it is apparent early on that the Garmin’s directions were different than my directions, right? And so we start driving and the Garmin starts screaming back to me on the dashboard of our Gallant, “Make an immediate u-turn if possible.” “Redirecting. Redirecting. Make an immediate u-turn if possible.” Kandi looks at me and says,
Do you know where you are going?” And I sharply looked at her and I said, “Yes, Ma’am, I do. I have got directions right here.” And the whole time this lady is screaming at me on my dashboard in an English accent. And I have a choice to make, guys. I can listen to this lady yelling at me on the dashboard of our car, or I can continue going along the path that I have always been going on. What did I do? I did the only thing a stubborn man would do, with confidence I drove continuing on my directions, right? That is what I did. And I ended up in an open field turning left in the middle of nowhere. And Kandi didn’t have to say a word because the girl on the dashboard was saying it the entire time. Make a u-turn if possible, make a u-turn if possible.
You know, a GPS is interesting because what it does is, it charts a path for you but it gives you the freedom to go whatever way you want. And then if you get off the path, the device will say, make a u-turn and come back, redirecting your route and it will give you a new route to get back on the path. Isn’t that how God works? God will allow us, with free-will, to do what we want to do, right? But when we get off the path, what He does is, He nudges us. He moves us back. He redirects our life. And you and I both know, we have a choice at that point. We can listen to the command of God or we can ignore it.
You know, it is amazing as I was thinking about this, how we obey a silly device directing our cars and yet we disregard the voice of God who created our souls! When that device says we are off the path, guess what we do? Immediately we make a beeline back on the path.
What would happen in your life if you did that when God spoke? Hey, you are off the path. Get back on.
Solomon says, we walk on the path of God. And as we are walking on the path of God, we should trust God’s providence. God knows best for our life. He knows best for your life.
But then finally, and I want you to prepare yourself to be amazed because what Solomon says, of all the things that Solomon could have chosen to show us how to walk on God’s path and how to trust in God’s providence, of all the things he uses, he uses your finances and your possessions to prove a point. My finances to prove a point. And he ends by saying we need to honor God with our possessions. Look at Verse 9. “Honor the Lord with your possessions.” Pretty straightforward, right? “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce.” That word in some of your translations is the first fruits. That is why we are in this series Bearing Fruit. That is the word. First fruits, the fruit of giving of your entire harvest, “Then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
I think it is striking that embedded within this command to trust and obey is the pattern of giving and receiving. And I don’t think it is an accident there. Solomon chooses of all the things to describe how we can obey God by giving us an illustration of trusting and obeying with our possessions. What he says is this, if you honor God with your possessions, your produce and your possessions or your first fruits, that word fruit there, then God will give you back longevity, God will give you back prosperity, but more importantly he defines it. You will never be thirsty and you will never be hungry. That word “your vats will overflow with new wine,” is another way to say, you will have freshly squeezed grapes from the vine. It will be the best you have ever tasted. You will never be thirsty and you will never be hungry.
Friends, do you know when you give to God monetarily, it is a way for you in a tangible way to tell God how much you appreciate Him for His provision in your life. That is what he is saying here. You can thank God till the cows come home, but when you put your money where you mouth is, in a sense to quote the saying, you are saying to God in a tangible way, I am thankful for Your provision in my life. And here is the connection, Verse 6 is connected to Verse 9. This is what he is saying: when you honor God with your possessions, He will direct your paths. There is a connection there in the text.
Now what does it mean to honor God with your possessions? The Holman says, Honor God with your possessions, but the NASV has a more literal rendering and I want to read it to you. The NASV says, “Honor the Lord,” watch this, “FROM your wealth.” From your wealth. That is different. Is there a big difference there, Robby. Well, Ray Ortland, Pastor, thinks so. He said, “You might say, hey, I am honoring the Lord when I pay my light bill on time. Or I am honoring the Lord when I take my wife out to dinner and so forth because all the money I have belongs to God and I am doing good things with it. I am not doing bad things that dishonors the Lord. That is how you might think honoring the Lord with you wealth is. And I could do that without ever giving a dime away.” He said, “But Proverbs 3:9 is actually saying, “Honor the Lord FROM your wealth.” What that means is that God gets a cut of your wealth.” Let me say that again. What he is saying is, based on this text, God gets a cut of our wealth. I part with some of my money for the Kingdom’s sake. I will give it away for God’s sake. So what do we give away.” Here is what he says, “We give away the first fruits. That is off the top, not what is left but what is best.” Do you see it? We don’t see what we have, pay out everything and then see what is left over. What he is saying is, when you harvest the crops, you take the first cut and you give that to the Lord. Now sadly, many Christians don’t do that. Many Christians do what I like to call tipping God. They just tip God.
And I have to be honest with you, I was at a place in my life when I tipped God at one time. I was raised in the Catholic Church where when the plate was passed through the aisles, people would rattle change in their pocket. They would see that loose change that they had. They would pull it out and they would put it in the plate as if they were doing God a favor. And sadly, my Dad did that and I did that because I watched my Dad do that because no one taught us what is expected of us as Christians to give. And so for years, I just tipped God, just the little bit I had in my pocket. I thought I was doing God a service. And what I realized is that God expects more from us. Sadly, you and I give waiters the bigger percentage who bring us food for our bodies than we give God who saves our souls! You will give a bigger percentage today of your income to the waiter who waits on you at the restaurant at lunch than you give to God throughout the year who saved your soul.
Friends, lets not give God what is left. Lets give God what is best.
Solomon gives us a conditional promise here. He says, when you give, you get. When you give and put God first in your finances, you will be prosperous and satisfied in life. And I think what Solomon would say is this: our money, and how we spend it, is a litmus test for our relationship with God. That when God wants to determine the condition of one’s heart, He looks at their bank account. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is also.” Right?
If money was a test, then John Wesley certainly passed it. John Wesley wasn’t always a generous giver until one cold night as he was home, he had just gotten home from a night out shopping and he had bought some paintings to put on his wall. As he just finished hanging up the paintings in his house, the door…someone knocked on the door. He went out to receive the young maid who was a servant in the quarters that he lived in and she said, “Mr. Wesley, do you have any spare change? I need a coat. I don’t have a gown. It is freezing outside.” Wesley said, “Sure, Madam. And he reached in his pocket to pull out his money and he realized he had little left over from spending money on the paintings. And he went back in because he wasn’t able to help the lady and he wrote in his journal these words which would forever impact the way he gave. He said, “Will my Master say ‘Well done, good and faithful steward. You have adorned your walls with money which would have protected this poor creature from the cold.” That incident was the motivation that changed his life.
In 1731, John Wesley decided to cap his income. He put a cap on what he made. He set the cap at 28 pounds. Anything he made over 28 pounds, he would give away for the kingdom of God. So that first year, he made around 30 pounds. He used 28 to live and he gave away 2. The next year, God enlarged his territory and he made roughly 60 pounds. He kept 28 for himself and he gave away 32. The next year roughly 90 pounds. He kept 28 for himself and gave away 62. At the height of John Wesley’s life, it is documented that he made one year 1400 pounds. He decided to raise his income to 30 pounds and he gave roughly 1400 pounds away. Did he make an impact for the Kingdom of God? I don’t know.
Listen to the words of Leonard Ravenhill, the revivalist, speaking about John Wesley’s legacy. He said, “When Wesley died, he left a handful of books, the faded Geneva gown that he preached all over England in, six silver spoons that someone gave him and six one pound notes that were given to the men who would carry his casket. And that is all he left. Six one pound notes, six silver spoons, a handful of books, a Geneva gown and there is something else…what was the other thing that he left? Oh, the Methodist Church! The Methodist Church. Sure, he made money. He could have been one of these great television preachers. Sure, he made money, but he built orphanages. Sure, he made money, but he printed Bibles. Sure, he made money, but he compiled the Methodist Hymn Book with his brother, Charles. And he built orphanages and changed the world. And he left the world dying worth about $30. He printed Bibles. He printed Hymn Books. He finances missionaries to go around the world. And friends, that is the way Ravenhill says we should use our money.
Think of the reward this man has in heaven! Why in God’s name do you think Jesus said, “Do not lay up your treasure in earth, but lay it up in heaven.”
So here is the question for us, should we, as a Christian, make a lot of money in this world? The answer is what? Yes. Make all the money you can. Go to school and be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a business owner, start your own business. Make all you can, get all you can and give it away for the glory of God, for the advancement of the kingdom of God. What if your checking account was a litmus test that God will use when you stand before Him to determine your faithfulness? And some of you have more resources than others and that means there is going to be a lot of accounting to do before we stand before God, how we handled every single dime that passed through our hands. Amen?
So let me ask you, are you generous in your giving? I believe there are two types of Christians in the world. Every Christian could be in two categories. The first one is, a closed-handed Christian. The second one is an open-handed Christian. A closed-handed Christian is of the idea that they own everything they have. Hey, I worked for it. I worked hard for it. It is all mine. Don’t touch it because I am acquiring it and I am going to store it. It is the old adage of the day we live in: Get all you can, can all you get and sit on the lid, right? Tim said it last week. That is the predominant thought process of the 21st Century. That is a close-handed Christian. They are owners of things.
An open-handed Christian is different. An open-handed Christian realizes that everything they have is not theirs, it is God’s and God has given it to us to steward and use for His glory. And they realize that as long as they keep their hand open, God can give them and they give away. They never get to have, they get to give.
Friends, I want you to notice something. As long as you continue to keep your hand wrapped around the things you have…don’t miss this…you will never be able to open it enough for God to give you His best in the future because you are so busy holding on to what you have. God is trying to pour blessings upon your life, but you have no way to receive them because your hand is tightly grasped around what you have. Maybe God has something better for you, but you are too busy with a closed hand.
An open-handed Christian realizes that everything they have is God’s. Their dreams, their home, their aspirations, their house, their bank account, their finances…it all belongs to God. Which one of those are you?
As you take an honest look at your hands today, I want you to think about this: what one of those two people are you? Are you a closed-handed Christian or are you an open-handed Christian.
Talking about money is uncomfortable. I know it is. It causes us to squirm in our seat. That is why I think our wallets are in our back pocket, guys. We squirm a little bit when we talk about money. But you know what? Money is a good thing. It is good to talk about money. And if you are joining us here for the first time, you have come on the two days, the two weekends we talk about money. It is good to talk about money. Jesus talked about money more than heaven or hell.
Why is it good to talk about money? Because it is a time for us to pause and realize that all the money we have is from God. Do you know what Harvest Day is for us as a church? It is an exciting time for me, I have to be honest with you, because it is a time for me to pause and think about what God has done over the past year. And what we do on Harvest Day is, in a tangible way, we write a check or we make an offering to the Lord as an act of gratitude in appreciation for what He has done. And if you are like me, you have a lot to be thankful for this year, right? And I want to challenge you as we come forward to give with a cheerful spirit, that we don’t gather grain and we don’t gather crops from our field and give of the first fruits of our offering. We do it with our money. It is a little different but similar. And some of you have come today prepared to give and I thank God for you. But after hearing this message, you have been burdened because you realize that the gift that you are about to give is not in proportion to the appreciation of what God has done for you this past year. In fact, the check you just wrote was not sacrificial at all. And the reason I know that is because last night after I preached this message, I got off the stage and stood next to my wife and we were about to give our Harvest Day offering which we did yesterday. And she leans over to me and says, I want to give more. We haven’t sacrificed enough. You talk about preaching to convict your own family! So some of you are going to give more right now because God has burdened your heart. Some of you are going to double what you originally planned to give because you are grateful for what God has done in your life this year, amen?
Now some of you haven’t prepared to give at all and you have just come and say, I didn’t know today was Harvest Day and I want to challenge you to give something. I want to challenge you to give. Why? Because when we celebrate next week this offering that we are giving back to God, I want us all in a concerted effort to be able to say, hey, we participated in this and we celebrate together.
And so, as we give, we are going to stand to our feet in just a moment. We are going to give as God leads us to give. I want you to pause for a moment and grab the hand of your wife or your children. I want you to pray and just thank the Lord for what He has done. And I want you to come forward as a family. It is a special time for us to come forward and to show our appreciation and gratitude for all that God has done in our life.