Good morning and welcome to week 4 of this now four week series about the Pursuit of Happiness.
So far in this series we have stuck to the rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though we did it in reverse order.
The first week we defined what happiness truly is…according to God, that is.
The second week we defined what true freedom is, because without freedom we cannot be happy.
And last time we met I talked about life, life, and life. You’ll have to watch it to know what that means.
I encourage you to watch them on our website or listen to them in our podcast if you missed them. Most of the time a series builds upon itself because there is generally far too much to talk about on any particular subject to cover it all in one 40 minute talk. So, if you come in on the fourth or fifth week of a series without having listened to the previous messages, you really are missing some of the context that this message builds upon. So, I strongly encourage you to watch or listen to the messages of the weeks you miss, so you can get the whole picture of the subject at hand. I listen to podcasts preaching all the time. I like to play them at 1.5 speed so I get through them faster. You should do that to me. Makes me sound a bit like a chipmunk, but you get used to it.
Also, you may notice that there is no notes insert this week. That’s because I don’t want you to know where I’m going with this talk before I get there. It would ruin the surprise ending. But, don’t worry, I still made an “Anchoring Deeper” that you can take home with you for further study, and life group discussion. You can pick that up on the way out today.
Anyway, the major theme through the past three weeks was really how to be happy, how to be truly happy, the way that God intended for us to be happy. Not the way the world defines happy, but the amazing overflowing way that God defines happy, and how He really does want us all to be that kind of happy.
But many of us are not. Many Christians are not.
Many Christ Followers who have their sins forgiven and have a one-way ticket to heaven when they die do not live in the kind of happiness I’ve been talking about.
In fact, I would say that many believers make a habit of being unhappy. It’s a bad habit, for sure. But many, many, many sons and daughters of God, instead of dancing and rejoicing in the great goodness that is God’s happiness, which we defined ultimately as CONTENTMENT – the kind of contentment Paul spoke of when he said –
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Many who claim that same Christ as Lord, Master, and Savior and love that verse about Christ strengthening us cannot say like Paul that they are content in any and every situation, that they are happy in all circumstances.
Many Christians are simply not happy out of HABIT. They suffer from what I’m calling HABITUAL UNHAPPINESS.
Not circumstantial unhappiness, habitual unhappiness.
It’s habitual unhappiness, because it’s not based on circumstances.
A Christian’s circumstances are that you are a
- child of the most high God,
- with the living water inside of you,
- Christ’s very spirit inside of you,
- freedom from your slavery to sin,
- and the abundant eternal life is yours!
None of that can possibly cause unhappiness, so a Christian’s UNhappiness MUST be caused by something INTERNAL rather than EXTERNAL. It’s caused by a personal habit. Because a habit is something that YOU are doing or not doing that is causing the unhappiness.
If you are a child of God, with the living water inside of you, Christ’s very spirit inside of you, freedom from your slavery to sin, and the abundant eternal life is yours…and you are NOT happy – content – all the time – then there is only one explanation: FREE WILL.
Despite all that goodness that is yours because of Christ, you and I still have the free will to live in that or not. And if we are not, then it is something we are doing wrong. And if it is perpetual, then it is a habit.
But don’t feel bad about this. It’s simply because you are human. We are not zapped into blissful happiness the moment we become a Christian (unlike what some teach). That is just the beginning of becoming like Christ – but there are a whole lot of changes that need to take place to make us look like Him on the inside. The theological term for that is SANCTIFICATION. It’s the process of LEARNING how to live the way God intended. It’s the process of LEARNING to be happy, to be content.
That’s how you break a habit. A habit is something that must be UNLEARNED by LEARNING something new.
It’s right there in the verse I just read. Paul says that he “learned the secret to being content,” which implies there was a time that he did not know the secret, and thus may have not been as content.
And so today, I want to teach you what that secret is.
The cure for habitual unhappiness.
But first, let me tell you a story…
As many of you know, I have four children. Dylan, Lydia, Caleb, and Isaac. This story is about Dylan and Lydia. My son, Dylan, is now 6 years old. Almost 7 – in April. He’s a pretty typical boy. Likes to rough-house. And is obsessed with poop….and food….but really only food that he likes, of course. He is also rather self-centered as most children are at that age. They really can’t help it. Their brains are not fully developed yet. So, he naturally thinks almost exclusively about himself and his wants, and he always wants the best, the biggest, the most, etc… If you’ve been around any children that age, then I’m sure you can relate. Overall, he’s a really good kid, though.
Anyway, one Friday morning (which is when I get up with the kids so Nicole can sleep a little more) Instead of pancakes, I was making some breakfast burritos, and to keep the kids from dying of starvation during the 10 minutes it took, I was going to give them some dry cheerios to munch on while they waited. I told Dylan to get out some of their bowls, to which Lydia shouted out “I want the green one!” I said Ok and turned around to watch the eggs and instructed Dylan to distribute the cheerios.
A few moments later I hear the Lydia cry of injustice, and turn to see that Dylan has the green bowl for himself and had given her a yellow one, despite having heard her request. The reason he did this was apparent immediately, and was not to spite his sister, it was because the green one happened to also be the largest bowl of the three at the time. They have variously colored plastic bowls, some larger than others. And in this instance, there were two small bowls and one larger bowl, that happened to be the green one (which Lydia couldn’t have known ahead of time, she just wanted the color), but since it was the largest and held the most cheerios, Dylan naturally took it for himself.
Well, I did the right thing and gave the green bowl to Lydia and gave Dylan the bowl he had given her. This resulted in a not unexpected wail of despair from Dylan, as if I had killed his first born son. I tried to explain that it was unkind of him to take the green bowl for himself when he knew that Lydia wanted it, but he was beyond reasoning with and started having a disrespectful attitude. So my tactic in those situations is to make him go to his room to cool off, which I did and to which he responded with worsening attitude and tantrums that ultimately resulted in him not getting any cheerios while he cried and threw a fit in his room for about 20 minutes while the rest of us ate breakfast.
He has since recovered and we were able to talk about it later. I’m hoping he learned the lesson that this situation inspired me to give to you.
So, parenting practices aside, why did I tell you this story?
I told you this story because in Dylan, I saw the same thing I see in many of the Christians I’ve been talking about.
Dylan, despite being my son (and I assure you I love my son) and having all of his major needs met and then some, was extremely unhappy in this situation because of one simple fact. And it’s not because he was forced to have a smaller bowl. That’s the reason he would give you, of course. To him, the smaller bowl was simply not enough. And because it was not enough, he was unhappy. And six-year-olds have a hard time hiding their disappointment.
And many of you can probably relate to his situation, though on a larger scale of course – perhaps you feel like the bowl you’ve been given in life is not big enough, that you somehow do not have enough, and if you only had a little bit more, then you could be happy. Perhaps you feel like the Israelites in the book of Haggai:
6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Most of us probably are not harvesting much these days, but I’d imagine many of us can identify with earning wages, only to put them in a purse or wallet with holes in it. If there is one thing that we, as Americans especially, can never get enough of, it’s money. It seems the more we earn, the bigger the holes. And this makes us unhappy!
Money is one of the top things that people stress about. It’s one of the top two things that couples fight over – the other being sex, which I’ll be talking about some in the next series about love.
Money is one of the greatest sources of unhappiness on this planet.
Studies have shown that whether you don’t have enough or whether you have too much – it still makes us unhappy. For those who don’t have TOO MUCH, there’s really only one amount of money that will make you happy with money – MORE. Wherever you are on the scale, happiness is just a little bit higher than where you currently are. And when you get there – the happy spot will adjust accordingly.
Just like Dylan was unhappy with having the smaller bowl when a larger one was available , most adults are unhappy with having less money than desired, and most adults desire at least a little bit more than they have.
There’s always a bigger bowl somewhere that you would rather have, but do not. Which makes us unhappy.
It’s why we work harder – or as Haggai put it – plant more – but it always seems that no matter how hard we work, we just can’t get ahead. It’s like the money goes in pockets with holes in them. And if more money comes in, the holes just get bigger to accommodate.
And because of that, what do we do? We borrow from tomorrow. We go into debt. We get credit cards and charge them up. We get car loans and house loans, and pretty soon we get consolidation loans to help keep it all in check.
And now, instead of borrowing solving the problem, the problem just gets bigger and now you have even more holes in your pockets, so you have to work even harder just to stay afloat. And the weight of it all makes you even more unhappy.
Not unlike Dylan going from upset to frantic as things went from “bad” to worse for him, and I’d imagine many of you in YOUR situation would be glad to just go cry in your room for awhile and then it be over.
But that doesn’t work for us grown ups. The problem doesn’t go away. In fact, the problem has now become your master, and you its slave.
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
If you’ve borrowed money, you are a slave to your lender. How many guys did I know in the Navy who desperately wanted to get out, but could not because they had to have the bonuses and extra pay to just make the payments on all their debt. Slaves. They had no choice, but to stay in, even though they hated it. I know I would not be standing before you had I not escaped that slave master several years ago with the help of Dave Ramsey and FPU. When you are in debt, you truly are a slave as the Bible tells us. You are chained to it until you’ve paid in full.
It’s quite tragic how many Christians find themselves in this situation. I get it though. I was there once. It’s easy to slip into that. But when you find yourself there, it seems there is no hope. It seems just like Haggai that nothing I do makes it better. It’s this very reason why many marriages end in divorce, and some people even end their lives because of this misery.
But while that is an unpleasant situation, just like for Dylan, it is not the real reason why you are unhappy.
The bad habit I’m ultimately speaking of is not the habit of spending too much and going into debt. Those are just bad habits that compound the effects of the root bad habit. In fact, they are actually symptoms of the bad habit that is really causing your unhappiness. And again, it’s the same bad habit that Dylan was suffering from.
Now, you are smart people, so I suspect that many of you think you have this figured out. Perhaps you do, perhaps not.
I’d imagine, especially for the church veterans in here, you are guessing that if the bad habit is not living above your means, then it must have something to do with not giving to God. After all, why else would I be talking about money if I wasn’t ultimately going to tell you all to give more to the church?
Well, you are partially right. I am going to talk about giving. I have to because it’s the context of the Haggai passage and the reason why they found themselves in such a predicament.
Let’s zoom out a bit and take a look, but first a little context. Haggai was a prophet of Israel shortly after they came back to Jerusalem after being captives in Babylon for 70 years. When they returned, they found the walls torn down and the temple destroyed. Nehemiah took care of building the wall, but then the people were supposed to rebuild the temple. They had built the wall very quickly under Nehemiah’s leadership (and because they wanted to be safe from invaders) but now they were kind of slacking in their rebuilding of the temple.
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
The people of Israel found themselves in this predicament because they were not honoring God by taking care of HIS house before taking care of their OWN houses. And so, while they ignored God and only worried about themselves, God made it so that all their efforts were in vain. And He still does that today.
9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
God has not changed, but His house has. It’s not a temple anymore. It’s not even a church building. God’s house is really His kingdom, and He has set up the rules such that if you care more about your own house than you do His house, his kingdom, then you will experience the same thing the Israelites experienced – and many of you know exactly what I’m talking about, because that Haggai stuff is the story of your life.
And it gets worse. God isn’t just annoyed at our lack of taking care of his house.
This is what He says later when the temple is actually finished.
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.
He’s talking to the people of Israel again, and they had been skimping on their tithes and offerings. In the Jewish law there were many of these and it was pretty strict. They had to give a percentage, 10% that’s what tithe means, of every thing that they harvested and their animals and such. And they had been failing to do that. Again, taking care of their own houses and not worrying about God’s house.
This time, God expresses just what He thinks of such a practice – that it is robbing God himself! When they failed to give Him what He commanded, He saw it as robbery and thus the whole nation was under a curse. Do you know what the curse was? The same as in Haggai.
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty….”because you are robbing me!”
Withholding from God what you should be giving Him is no small matter to God – He sees it as robbing Him! And the result of robbing God is the curse of Haggai. It’s the curse that the whole world suffers from of never having enough, never being satisfied. Never being CONTENT. Never being ultimately HAPPY.
But guess what? While that is a really bad habit. It’s not THE bad habit causing your habitual unhappiness.
Nope. It’s just another symptom. Just another bad habit that compounds the effects of the root bad habit.
The real problem isn’t that you don’t give to God, it’s the reason WHY you don’t give to God.
It’s the same reason that Dylan didn’t want to give up the larger bowl. Yes, in his cognitive mind he was worried about having a smaller bowl and thus fewer cheerios. And you are worried that if you give some of what little you have away, then you will have even less.
But that is not the real reason you don’t give, and that is not the real reason Dylan was so upset by the smaller bowl.
He was upset by the smaller bowl because it never occurred to him that his Daddy, who loves him, had five boxes of cheerios that I would gladly use to refill his little bowl as often as he needed it!
And we have exactly the same thing when it comes to our heavenly Daddy!
Look at what He promises right after he calls us out for robbing Him.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Let me put that into more modern vernacular
Bring the whole tithe into my house, my church, that there may be adequate funds to spread my kingdom. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough for it. I will prevent all your stuff from falling apart and needing repair, and you won’t need to visit the doctor all the time,” says the Lord Almighty. Then all the people around you will call you blessed, and they will want to know what you have that they don’t,” says the Lord Almighty.
And he’s not talking about cheerios.
We have this amazing God, who created the heavens and the earth with a word, just waiting to bless you – but you won’t let him!! WHY???
Because you don’t trust Him!
In Dylan’s case, the availability of more cheerios probably never entered his mind. He likely didn’t know that was my intention, so perhaps his response was appropriate – especially for his age.
But in your case, and in my case – we can’t claim ignorance. We’ve had God’s amazing promises in writing for thousands of years, and for thousands of years they have been accompanied by the stories of people who did what God asked and received what God promised.
So, your problem is not circumstantial in that you just didn’t know.
Your problem is habitual in that you know this but you refuse to believe it.
You refuse to trust God at His word.
This bad habit is actually the source of ALL UNHAPPINESS – especially when it comes to money.
You look at your money like Dylan looked at the cheerios. He wanted more. He wanted the most that he could get. You want the most money that you can get. And when it comes in, it’s like having that big bowl of cheerios.
But God says, hey, I want you to give some of that to me so that I can use it to further my kingdom, to bring more people into my family, to save other people like I saved you.
And to you that feels like giving up the bigger bowl for a smaller bowl. If you give some away, then you will have less. It’s math. It’s economics.
But God’s economy is different than ours.
In our economy, in order to have we must get. In order to have more we must keep what we get and get some more.
In God’s economy, in order to have, GOD MUST GIVE. And in order to have MORE, we must give part of what we get FROM GOD – BACK TO God – and He promises to give us even more in return.
It’s right there in His word. He tells us to TEST HIM IN THIS – the only time he does that – to test him in this so that he can show us his goodness.
The only thing holding him back is you, and your failure to recognize that just because your bowl looks smaller on the outside – you have a God who has infinite cheerios just waiting to bless you when you learn to trust Him!!
And he doesn’t just say that here in the Old testament. Jesus told us the same thing. In Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount which I just covered in depth in the last series, Jesus tells us to store treasures in heaven rather than on earth – because the heavenly treasures are eternal and the earthly treasures don’t last – one way to store treasures in heaven is give your earthly treasures to God! Then he says this:
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
It’s not exactly money he’s talking about, but money is absolutely part of it. You cannot serve both. Same thing Haggai and Malachi are talking about. You will either give your best to God, or you will keep it for yourself. You can’t do both.
Then he says..
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
He goes on for a bit then says this:
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seek what first? God’s kingdom! And THEN all the things you were chasing on your own will be given to you.
But that’s not all. Paul spends two whole chapters talking about giving in 2 Corinthians.
In chapter 8 he begins…
2 Corinthians 8
1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Paul is telling them of how this other church had begged to give to his ministry, even though they were in poverty – and Paul is saying that to US too, even though you excel in all these other great areas of the faith, you should EXCEL, not just do OK, not just get by, but EXCEL in the grace of giving! WHY??
He answers that in the next chapter
2 Corinthians 9
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
I like the way the NLT renders that last verse:
8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
The same God who promised to pour out blessing.
The same God who promised all these things will be given to you as well.
The same God who created the Universe with a WORD – is able to bless you abundantly, so that in ALL things, in ALL times, having ALL you need, you will abound in every good work, you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
When you sow generously. When you invest a little in God’s kingdom, it comes back a lot. When you invest a lot it comes back as an avalanche. Not so you can hoard it, but so that you can continue being generous and continue to advance the kingdom.
And guess what will happen in all of that giving and receiving and having your needs met and blessings poured out on you…you will be happy! And yes, the biblical kind of happy we talked about in week 1.
In fact, in this beautiful verse in 2 Corinthians, the same Greek word we learned in week 1 that is used for CONTENT in the Paul passage about being “content in all circumstances” is used in this verse.
Here it is translated as “having all that you need”
a more literal rendering is the Berean Literal Bible:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in every way, always, having all sufficiency (contentment), you may abound in every good work.
Remember that the word for content and the word for sufficient here is αὐτάρκεια (autarkia) which literally means self-sufficient, which we learned ultimately means Christ-sufficent as He takes up residence inside your self. Watch week 1 for the whole scoop. But ultimately that is true happiness, because it’s a happiness that comes from the inside like the living water Jesus talked about.
And Paul is saying that is what we are guaranteed when we are generous with God. And not just for some things, but all things. In all ways, all the time.
Look at the language of this verse – notice how many times he says “all” –
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in every way, always, having all sufficiency, you may abound in every good work.
- God is able to make
- ALL grace (unearned favor) ABOUND TO YOU so that in
- ALL ways,
- in ALL times,
- having ALL sufficiency/contentment/happiness,
- YOU MAY ABOUND in
- ALL good works.
When you are generous to God it floods back to you, abounding, in all ways, all times, causing all sufficiency – all contentment – all happiness.
And it’s not because you followed some legalist rule because you had to. That won’t benefit you at all. Paul was very clear:
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
The only way you can give cheerfully to God is if you trust Him.
And guess what, if you really do trust Him, then you WILL give to Him, cheerfully.
Because trust is not just a feeling or a mental acknowledgment. Trust requires action, because God specifically is telling you to trust him by doing.
- You are not actually trusting a chair until you sit in it.
- You are not actually trusting a bridge until you cross it.
- You are not actually trusting directions until you follow them.
- You are not actually trusting God until you DO WHAT HE SAYS.
- In fact, you are not actually LOVING God until you OBEY HIM!
That’s a point that Jesus was adamant on and repeated often.
If you love me, obey my commandments.
All who love me will do what I say.
Basically, for God – love and trust and obedience are synonymous. You can’t claim to love God if you don’t trust Him. And you can’t claim that you trust Him if you don’t obey Him. It’s that simple.
It is our lack of trust that causes us to not obey God in giving. And when we don’t give to God, when we rob from God, we bring upon ourselves the curse of never having enough, which causes us to enslave ourselves to debt, while at the same time preventing our heavenly Father from flooding us with the blessings that He so desperately wants to give us. Simply because we do not trust Him. Habitual Unhappiness.
So many Christians hold on so tightly to that bigger bowl because they are afraid of having the smaller bowl. But what you fail to realize is that by holding tightly to that slightly bigger bowl, you are ensuring that THAT is all you will get. But when you willingly give up part of that bigger bowl, and accept a slightly smaller bowl because you trust your Daddy – you are actually opening yourself up to the whole box of cheerios. The whole pantry of cheerios. The whole store of cheerios. The whole universe of cheerios.
My friends, the size of your bowl – the size of your income or lot in life does not limit the love and abundance of God. The only thing that keeps God from blessing you is your refusal or inability to trust Him at his word and obey Him.
I know it’s backward thinking to our world. Hasn’t that been the theme of the last three weeks? Almost everything about God’s ways are backward to how we would do them. That’s why it requires trust, faith. Because if you could figure it out, it wouldn’t require faith. It requires faith to do things completely contrary to your natural inclinations. But guess what? God’s ways always work.
And it breaks my heart to see so many Christians, so many believers, so many redeemed sons and daughters of God who stay trapped in that endless cycle from Haggai, where it just never seems like enough, because they won’t trust God and do what He says.
They will share those stupid Facebook posts saying Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg will give you money if you share this, – but they won’t give a penny to God.
They will buy lottery tickets at two or three dollars a pop, over and over with the hope of millions – adding up to who knows how much a month or a year – all for the hope of solving their problems with something that you have greater odds of being struck by lighting – twice – than winning –
But they won’t give a penny to Lord of Heaven’s Army’s, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Lord Almighty who says TEST ME IN THIS and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Or they put it all in the stock market, or house flipping, or just stuff!
They will give their money and put the hope in these vain and hopeless little gods, but they refuse to trust the One who made them, the one who died for them, the one who loves them with an everlasting love. Whose promises are the ONLY things you can really ever lean on.
It breaks my heart to see it. To see my brother and sisters – and especially you, the ones put under my charge as your pastor – living in habitual unhappiness, simply because you will not trust Him.
And don’t kid yourself. That’s exactly what it is. It has nothing to do with your current financial situation. If you are waiting to have more so you can start being generous with God…it won’t happen. Either you never will get more, or when you do you’ll just get another hole in your pocket that keeps you from having enough.
Trusting God has nothing to do with the size of your bowl. It has everything to do who or what you are looking at for your provision: the bowl, or your heavenly Father.
A perfect example in scripture comes from a remarkable story in the Old Testament.
1 Kings 17
8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”
10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?”11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”
12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.
Amazing story. The woman was down to her last meal. God asked her to give some of it up for Elijah. By all rights, she could not afford it. She was going to have her last meal and then die with her child. I doubt many in here have been that low. But in this truly bottom of the barrel moment, God asked her to trust Him with a totally insane request. But not without a promise. God promised that if she did this – this crazy thing that made no sense – that He would ensure she would NEVER be without. What was she to do?
If she had refused. If she trusted in her own reason instead of God’s word. Then her own prediction would have come true. She and her son would have died. Likewise, if you refuse to give to God because you feel like you can’t afford it – then that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But the woman did not refuse. She trusted Him instead of her own reason, and God’s promise came true, and she and her son lived for a long time. Actually later in the story, her son died but Elijah brought him back to life. God truly blessed her for trusting Him.
Why do you think God would treat you any different?
Do you think He loves you any less than she? She wasn’t even Jewish. She was an outsider – not part of the chosen people.
God gave up his SON for YOU! You trust that for your eternal soul.
Do you really think He’ll hold out on you if you trust him with your handful of cheerios?
Jesus really said it best
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
I really don’t see how you can read that and all these other promises of God and not want to give all you have to Him. To seek his kingdom above all else. To lose your life so you can find it. To surrender all that you are to Him and for His use. I know that many of you do this. You trust Him, and you’ve tasted what this is like. I can tell you there is nothing better in this life than resting in the peace and assurance that comes with trusting God completely.
But I’m sure that for some of you, however, it doesn’t matter what the Bible says, what God says, or what Jesus says, and especially not what I say. You know that I’m just using all of that to try to get your money.
And you are absolutely right.
I absolutely do hope to convince you today to give your money to the church. I’d be thrilled if you took the leap of faith and just went straight for a full tithe – 10% off the top – and started giving that every week or month, whatever works for you.
And do you know why? It’s the same reason why Paul spent two chapters of his second letter to the Corinthians convincing them to give generously to his ministry!
Because there are lives hanging in the balance. No, there are eternities hanging in the balance. And God uses the money that we generously give to him though the local church to change the lives of the people who are lost and dying without a savior!
Ministry isn’t free! It never has been!
God didn’t need the Corinthian’s money, but Paul did – to spread the good news!
God doesn’t need your money, but this church does if we have any hope of becoming all that God has planned for us. That’s the way God works. That’s the way He has ALWAYS worked! He uses you and He uses me to advance His Kingdom, to save the Lost, to save the World.
So, yes I’m trying to get your money so we can reach more people for the kingdom. So we can see more lives changed. So we can tell more people about the God who saved us. The savior who died for us and rose again, so that they can have what we have – eternal life.
If that makes me selfish and greedy, then so be it!
But not only that, I want so badly for each one of you to experience all these things I’ve been sharing with you from God’s word. And there’s even more I didn’t cover. They are true! God loves you and wants to bless you, and the only thing holding that back is your refusal to trust Him.
You are so stressed about your little bowl, so afraid that you don’t have enough, and you will have even less if you give some of that to God. That is the lie of the ENEMY – trying to keep YOU MISERABLE and GOD’S CHURCH WEAK and INEFFECTIVE. And guess what? He’s doing a great job of it.
Instead, my prayer is that perhaps today you will open your heart to the possibility that there is more to this life than your little bowl. That in fact you have a generous and benevolent all powerful loving Father with a giant box of cheerios just waiting for you to stop staring at your bowl and crying and look up and just trust Him.