Summary: People have been giving to God from tradition to fear to attempted manipulation. Truthfully, God doesn't need our money. And we only honor him when it's given cheerfully.
At the beginning of last year, I issued everyone a challenge. That challenge was to trust God with your finances more in 2014 than you have been. The first six months were great. The response to the challenge was accepted.
Then we lost two families. Both families were faithful givers and the budget took a huge hit. The next six months we met budget three times and were under budget three times. I must admit there were times when I found myself in some dark moments.
At the beginning of December, I mailed 50 Christmas invitations to people who live in our area that attended Love Denver. We had a few hits on our website, which was encouraging. I was prepared for a few visitors but instead some who come regularly wasn’t here.
I think the last Sunday of December was my lowest point. Recently attendance has been sporadic. Most Sunday mornings Debbie and I come in and set up for church. Shane, Amy, Thad, and Brian are here practicing. At 10, I go into the side studio for prayer. Terri usually joins me. We pray until 10:15. When we come out no one has arrived. I began wondering who will show and who wouldn‘t. 10:30 arrives and maybe some others have arrived. Maybe some arrive later. But on Sunday December 28, no one came but Terri.
The praise band was prepared to sing and would have for that one person. But too many times, I have seen the disappointment in their faces over an audience of one or two. So I decided not to do church. Instead, we set down and just began chatting. Another couple did join us so we had an impromptu Bible study.
That night I am questioning God, my ministry, my effectiveness as a leader. I am wondering what I can do. I am asking why we can’t be a church of 30. But He reminded me that He did not call me for that purpose. He called me to pastor these people at this church for this time and nothing more. If I do that which He has called me to do then He is pleased with me. He doesn’t love all those other pastors out there with huge congregations more than He does me. His love is not based on success stories. His love is not even based on faithfulness. His loved is based on his character. God is love. So as long as I am doing that which He called me to do, I am successful. I just needed to look ay my Ebenezer. And when I did, I was astonished.
90% of us responded positively to the challenge of trusting God more with our finances, some more than others. And looking back at June when I thought we were going to be in a deep hole by the end of the year, we actually finished with $700 more in the bank over 2013. I pray you had a good year and saw God’s faithfulness shine because you were faithful.
So I begin preparing the sermon on giving for 2015. My challenge for you was to take your statement on giving, divided by your W2s on all jobs in your household, and discover what percentage you actually gave. Then decide to give just 1% more than you did last year. If God blessed you last year think of how many more blessings will be poured out on you in 2015. But in doing so I realized that I was guilty of doing what almost every pastor in the land is guilty of; causing you to give to earn God’s favor.
You see, I bought into that same line of thought. If I give, God will bless me more. The more I give, the greater the blessings. The less I give, my blessings are stifled. If someone was having financial difficulties, I may have asked, “How much are you giving to God?” And if they weren’t, there is the problem.
I met a young couple. They weren’t giving and they were struggling. They knew my philosophy. They began giving and things got worse. They kept giving when I knew they could not afford it. I almost went to them and said, “Stop. You need your money.” I prayed and prayed for God to be faithful. End of story, they were blessed at the end of the year. But it wasn’t because they earned God’s favor. The results of their fortunes were in the makings before they began giving. His hard work paid off. However, God is the ultimate source which we are about to discover.
We will be talking a lot about money this year since Jesus did so. Jesus spoke on the issue of wealth and money more than He did on the issue of heaven and hell combined. Over half his parables spoke on wealth and money. What you will not hear are any references from the Old Testament and the Law of Moses unless Jesus refers to them. No promises of this will happen if you do this. Just pure gospel teaching.