TRADING WITH GOD
One of the delights of my life is trading! It's not that I don't like what I have, it's that I want what YOU have, so I'll offer you a trade. Now, one thing you must realize, of course, is that I probably think that what you have is worth more than what I have ... or, I may have a completely different thought process. What YOU have may not be worth as much as what I have, but I may NEED what you have more than I need what I have! Are you confused, yet?
OKAY, here's an example. A few years ago, I had a man call me about a house that I owned, down in Rocky Mount, Virginia. He wanted to buy it. We met at a local eatery and bargained and haggled for a couple of hours, and the result was that he bought my house, at a much less price than he thought it was worth. I thought the house was worth more than what he was paying, also, but, still, I wanted the trade. I wanted to trade my house for his money. He later bragged to all his friends and buddies in the real estate world how he had skinned Manning out of $5,000! And, quite frankly, he was right, but oh! How Manning enjoyed that skinning! What he did NOT know was that just that day, I had signed a contract for FOUR houses here in Bluefield, and I needed HIS MONEY to make the down payment on them. I knew that with the four houses, I would make FAR more than I could have ever hoped to make with just the one. And, the result was that my assessment was accurate. I did get the four houses, repaired them, and sold them over time, and in actuality cleared about eight times what I lost on the original house that I sold.
I like to trade! And, I like to win, when I do trade! And I just LOVE trading with God. Know why? I ALWAYS WIN! I always get far more than I give. And it's really no secret ... YOU DO, TOO! This morning, let's look at some of the trades we make with God. You know what trading is ... you give something .... you get something in return, right? OK.... let's look at what God gives us ... and what we give Him!
Look at part of the prayer of Moses and Aaron, in Numbers 16:22 .... "God gives breath to all living things!" What does breath do? It provides life, of course. One of the ways we know someone has died is that they stop breathing. What a great gift God has given! What a marvelous opportunity we have, to enjoy life! And I do enjoy it! I truly do. I look forward, with eager anticipation, to coming to Church on Sundays to meet with you! I count you as dear friends, and I just thoroughly like the opportunities I have to worship with you! What a valuable gift from God!
OK .. now.... what what do we have to give to God, to make this trade an equal one? I don't know, either, my friends. One of the things we might could give is our whole and entire lives in Kingdom work and activity, but I don't think even that would be an equal trade. So, some of us do give part of our lives to God. We might give 2 or 3 hours on Sunday, another hour or so on Wednesday evenings, perhaps a couple of hours at various board meetings during the month. We may spend an hour a month visiting a shut in, or someone in the hospital, or taking care of the physical needs around the Church, like cleaning, or repairing or sprucing up a bit. We may spend time preparing sermons or Sunday School lessons, or other types of presentations. We may even have the daring audacity and unmitigated gall to read the Scriptures a bit from time to time, and pray a few minutes here and there. But don't you see? We win! We get the best part of the deal! We come out ahead!
I like Deuteronomy 8:18: There, the word says, REMEMBER THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR IT IS HE WHO GIVES YOU THE ABILITY TO PRODUCE WEALTH! Aw, and you were thinking that you work so hard for your daily bread, weren't you. I'm frequently reminded of a scene from a movie from the mid 1960's .. you have probably seen it... SHENANDOAH, starring Jimmy Stewart. He is a crusty old farmer, who has a very religious wife, and he, in order to placate her, offers prayers at meal times. His prayer goes something like this: O God, the food is here because of our work. We plowed the soil, planted the seed, weeded the ground, and gathered it in. We cleaned it, cooked it, and set it on the table. We did it all, but for the wife's sake, we thank Your for it. Amen.
He had forgotten, of course, that God gave him the ability to plow and plant and weed and reap. God gives us the ability to work, to provide for our families, and ourselves. We did NOTHING to earn that gift. But, we try to trade God something for it. So, here's what we do. We take just barely enough out of the wealth we produce, to keep ourselves alive, and give all the rest to God, right? We give 99% of our income to God, and live on the 1% that remains. Don't we do that? WE DON'T? Then, what DO we do? We give 90% and live on the remaining 10? Hmmm... not that either, huh ... OK .. I know! We split it 50-50! I'm seeing some snickering going on out there .... which tells me we don't even make an even split. Reminds me of one old timer who was asked how did he decide what to keep, and what to give, and he said, "That's simple. When I get money, I just throw it all up in the air toward God, and God keeps what He wants, and what falls to the earth is mine!"
And that, unfortunately, is about the way most of us settle our part of the trade. We give so little back to God. While the Biblical standard is one tenth or ten percent, statistics say that the average person gives about 2 and a quarter percent of his income to Churches or charities of any sort.
Get off of money, preacher, and move on. This is making me uncomfortable!
Jumping to the book of Ezra, chapter 9: "OUR GOD GIVES LIGHT TO OUR EYES!" Did you ever really ponder the wonder and marvel and miracle of sight? Did you ever stop to think about what a tremendous gift that sight is? How many of you know that March is national SAVE YOUR VISION MONTH? I didn't know it, either, till I was reading an article in preparation for today's thoughts. One of the things that I did find interesting is that it is incredibly difficult to DEFINE what eyesight really is. We use it daily, we take it for granted that 'seeing is believing,' and yet, to specifically define it is just incredibly difficult. To me, sight is a miracle. It helps me to determine what's out there. It helps me to recognize human faces. It helps me to know who to hug and who to shake hands with. Some folks prefer one method of greeting, some another, you know. OKAY, God has given us sight.
Now, what do we give, in return? What could we possibly give to God as our part of the bargain, for our sight? Maybe we could thank Him for creating the tulip and the crocus and the iris. Or maybe, thank Him for creating mountains and rivers and desert vistas that sweep away to infinity, it seems. Maybe we could thank Him for the stars of the heavens, that we can see, even though they are billions and trillions of miles away, but we still see them, and enjoy them. Maybe we could use our eyesight for reading the Scriptures! Or, maybe we could use our eyesight for watching endless hours of TOT ... you don't what tot is, do you! TOT.... trash on television! Of course, the reason you didn't know what TOT is, is because I just made it up .... but it's a settled fact that the far largest majority of us watches far more USELESS GODLESS programming on TV than we spend in studying Scriptures, or reading classic literature or self-help books or anything else that would promote self improvement, and move us along the Kingdom Road toward perfection as the Scriptures teach should be our goal.
Let's move on, Preacher. This is making me uncomfortable, also.
OKAY ... Let's jump, then, to Paul's words to the Corinthians, talking about death ..that's always a cheerful subject, right? Paul has just written that discourse that is read at many funerals ... "The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. And then, those life changing words: In 1 Cor 15:57, we read, "THANKS BE TO GOD! HE GIVES US VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!"
God has given us VICTORY! We know how the story ends! Death cannot hold us, any more than it could hold Jesus in that cave tomb outside Jersusalem! What a tremendous gift! Nothing we could possibly say with these lips of clay could improve on the understanding of this gift of God! Nothing. So... what do we give God in exchange for this wonderful gift! How can we make the trade more or less even?
Folks, this isn't rocket science. This is an easy question! We cannot make the trade even! We get the best of the bargain, yet again, just like we have in all the other trades we have been trying to make, with God. Oh, we could try. We could work our fingers to the bone, trying to pay back God for this marvelous gift, but all we would get would be bony fingers. We humans have a strong desire for life, don't we? We call it our goal, the only thing in life worth having, without which there's nothing.... and yet ... we cannot earn it. We cannot even earn the down payment on it. The gift is ours! Life is ours! Life does not end with the cessation of breathing, as we talked about. The victory over death is ours, already. We win! We get the best of the trade.
Let's move on!
Paul writes to that young preacher, Timothy (1:7) .... "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." God gives us SPIRIT to do things, my friends! Let's look at some of the things we can do, to pay God back for our gift of power and love, and self discipline! In a sermon by Shawn Williams, there is a list of things we could do, if we wanted to do so, that might would appear to better balance God's gift to us ... First, though, I'll read the verse again.
"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."
OKAY, HOW DO THESE IDEAS STRIKE YOU?
1. Make a decision not to fear (Adam “I heard your voice and was afraid”. When there is broken fellowship there is fear).
2. Make a decision to seek the Kingdom no matter what.
3. Make a decision to hear Gods word
4. Make a decision to mix faith with the word
5. Make a decision to sow seeds. (words, actions, and deeds)
6. Make a decision to obey God, especially in my giving.
7. Make a decision to be informed.
8. Make a decision to be flexible. Change some things I am doing that is not working.
9. Make a decision to receive wisdom and correction.
10. Make a decision to plan.
11. Make a decision to meditate in the word.
12. Make a decision to do that which we are called to do.
13. Make a decision to make God my source.
14. Make a decision to monitor the thoughts of my mind.
15. Make a decision not be distracted by the world in my own pursuit of spiritual excellence.
And even after all that, we still haven't balanced the trade, have we. We cannot outgive God, no matter how much we try. I jokingly make a comment quite often that God and I are in a contest to see who can outgive the other .. and I always lose. I said it to Pastor Gary, just last week. And I can cite example after example of that very fact. It would seem like bragging to you, I'm sure, so I won't do it, but perhaps in passing.
Moving right along ... wanna know what to do, in any given situation or problem? Wanna be wise? Wanna be able to make good judgments? Let's look at James 1:5 ... a verse you probably know by heart ..."If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." Now, to me, that's a promise ... it's not a gift, just yet, but it is a promise, and we know from our own experience, and from the Bible, that God cannot lie. We know that God does keep His promises.
What then, shall we give in return for all this wisdom? Look at some of the decisions you have made over your lifetime. I bet there are more than one that you would give your Rolex Watch and Stock Portfolio to be able to decide, again. I know there is for me. I've made some TERRIBLY POOR decisions over the years in the way and manner in which my life should be lived, and I made them without asking for God's wisdom. I made them in my own earthly weakness and inability to see beyond my own selfishness, pettiness, and babyfied ways.
But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could remember to ask God, when we need wisdom! One of the things we so often FORGET is just where our help does arise. Where does it come from? It always comes from God, directly or indirectly, folks. It always does.
When we need grace, what happens? Read James 4:6 .. He gives us MORE GRACE! We cannot earn it, we cannot trade for it, we cannot make swaps that will put us one up on God ... we just simply open our lives and hearts and receive that which God gives.
And so, we live our lives, one day at a time ... and whether our days be many or few, there are some assurances of things yet to be. Things that God gives, that we cannot outgive as we might try to pay it forward a bit ... you know what pay it forward means, don't you? It means doing something kind for someone BEFORE they do something for you!
Revelation 21:23 says : "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." That is where we will be living, my friends! That's still coming! God has made the provision, and the promise, and it's just as sure as the breath you just drew. Why?
Because of another Gift God has given us ... read it in John 1:12: "Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— OK... how are you going to even approach repaying God for that one? And if You can't think of much that you could do, let's just jump to the REALLY BIG GIFT that God has given us .... and that is in John 3:16 ... "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Oh, even though we win, in every trade we make with God, I don't think we are so very shrewd, after all. I believe that God gives to all of us, whether we deserve it or not, whether we are sharp bargainers or not, whether we are deserving in our own minds or not .... because that's just the way that God is.
And I, for one, am thankful for it.
Prayer: Father, we know that You are the Great Giver of all that we are, all that we have, all that is even now on it's way to us, to bless us, both in this life and in the life to come. Grant, we pray, one more blessing ... the blessing of THANKSGIVING and THANKSLIVING as we trust You to help us to become ever more grateful for the gifts we have been given. We pray in the Loving Name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.