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Giving God What is His

Giving God What Is His: Stewardship
LHC: Message Forty (960901AM)

Week 40: Giving God What Is His
(Revelation 18; 2 Peter 3:10–18)

As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you learn to avoid materialism and give God what is His in this life!
SUNDAY: First I Give Myself “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” —2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis added Last week we learned how to give our all to God. This week, we will focus on how to give God what is already His in this life. Some of this material may overlap a bit concerning principles discussed previously, but please bear with me. A subject this critical to building a fireproof life often needs to be said in different ways so that every reader can more fully grasp the importance of the message. What I am about to share contains some principles that my Christian parents began to instill in me when I was yet a young boy. The earliest memory I have of growing up in a Christian home is that of separating out the Lord’s part from whatever I earned each week. Until I was older, my parents said that I could give the Lord’s portion to our church or send it to missionaries. Thus, I started supporting missionaries when I was eight years old—at an age when I could write just legibly enough to be read. When I was twelve years old, a missionary visited our church in search of Mr. Barnett, thinking that my dad was the one who had been supporting him. Dad corrected that missionary’s misconception and referred him to the chubby kid in tennis shoes. The missionary then asked me, “You are Mr. Barnett?” I said, “That’s me, and I have been supporting you for four years.” I had sent my ten dollars every month to that missionary in Thailand. Why? Because my parents taught me that God would always bless and honor sacrificial giving. My parents said that I should start by giving at least ten percent to the Lord. They told me that that is not the rule, but where you should start. So I used to experiment with ten, twenty, and thirty percent to see if I had anything left at the end of the month. When Bonnie and I were preparing to be married, we decided that starting with our first paycheck we were going to give not ten percent, but eleven percent (not wanting to be legalistic about our giving). The next month we gave twelve percent, then thirteen, fourteen, and so on. We kept increasing the percentage until it was in the twenties, and then our first child was born. Expenses were much higher, so we dropped percentage points until we could balance our budget. As we were able, we started giving even more, until our second child was born, and then we had to go back down again.
In this process, we learned that if we were going to give to God, we could not live at the same level as the people around us who were earning the same amount of money. Although you may not have the same conveniences, comfort, and freedom that those people do, when you choose to honor God with what is rightfully His, you have chosen the better way—the fireproof way! What you are going to see in the Scriptures in this week’s devotionals is very true—God cannot be outdone when it comes to His blessings. That does not mean that if you give everything to the Lord you are going to be rich. But among His people there is to be a sacrificial, systematic, proportionate giving out of the blessings He has given. In eternity, such giving will be of inestimable value; on earth, it is an act of obedience. If you can maintain the same standard of living as the person living next door who earns the same amount of money, then I would suggest that you have not learned to honor God with your possessions. It costs something to honor the Lord. It is critical for your spiritual life that you learn, as Martin Luther said, “The last part of a human being to get saved is their money.” God wants to own you—not just touch your life! My Prayer for You This Week: Father, we know that Christ died for all, that we should henceforth no longer live unto ourselves, but unto You. Therefore, we freely give to You that which is already Yours. May we dispense it for Your glory, and in Your name, that we might have eternal treasures. We pray that You will make us Your good and faithful stewards. We pray that we will give as Your Word instructs, and that we will limit our lifestyle so that we are able to give systematically. We do not want to go one step ahead or behind Your plan. We bow to You now, for Christ’s sake, Amen.
MONDAY: What Is Materialism? “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” —Colossians 3:5, emphasis added God has given us stern warnings about materialism. Materialism is when we make our sources of security, hope, trust, and pleasure in some material thing instead of the Lord. It grows into an insatiable desire for us to have things as our security, pleasure, and for the building up of our lives. Greed is demonstrated in possessiveness (selfishness with what we have) and covetousness (longing for what we don’t have). Just as hate amounts to murder in 1 John 3:15 and lust amounts to adultery in Matthew 5:28, so greed amounts to idolatry. The Bible has given believers insider information. As Revelation 18 records, on the horizon is a major upheaval in the worldwide social and economic situation. All the currency of the world—its money, possessions, fashions, and whims—will be worthless at our death or Christ’s return, both of which could be imminent. This should utterly change our investment strategy. For us to expend our precious time and energies building up more and more wealth and possessions is foolish. In light of the inevitable future, storing vast sums of
money for some day in the distance is equivalent to rushing out to hoard Confederate money on the day before Sherman took the South. To place our hope in money, despite an awareness of its worthlessness, portrays a basic ignorance or unbelief in the Scriptures. Kingdom currency, backed by the eternal treasury, is the only medium of exchange recognized by the Son of God, whose government will last forever. The currency of His kingdom is our present faithful service and sacrificial use of our resources for Him. The payoff in eternity will be “a sure foundation,” consisting of treasures beyond our wildest dreams. Christ has told us to keep alert (Ephesians 6:10–13). This ought to encourage Christlike living. Look at 2 Peter 3:10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Everything that people have spent all their time investing in will be gone. Many months ago when we were driving across the Adirondack Mountains in New York, I looked out the window and saw an old run-down house. In the front yard were three piles of stuff plus a U-Haul. I imagined that an older couple had lived there and passed on, so their children had descended on the house to decide what to do with the things. They were carefully carrying out the antique furniture; putting things on tables for an estate sale; and the rest was put in a huge pile of trash. That elderly couple’s life had been reduced to three things: trash, yard sale stuff, and things their children wanted to keep. They did not get to take any of it with them. The only thing they got to take with them is what they sent on ahead (if they sent anything at all, that is). Although I have mentioned this previously, I want to remind you of this vital truth again: Christ said that He was going to prepare a place for us—He is building a room for each of us in His Father’s house. The Apostle Paul added to that by saying that we only have two categories of building materials from which our room will be built in heaven. Our room will be built out of wood, hay, and stubble—or gold, silver, and precious stones. What you and I do on earth for Christ will determine which will be used. You see, Christ is going to put all that we’ve done through the fire, and what is left is what we will have for eternity. Therefore, Christ said, “Don’t cloud your mind with earthly interests—loving the world and all that is in it!” Now look at 2 Peter 3:11: “Since all these things will be dissolved [the world, the beauty of it, our possessions, all that we’ve labored for and built], what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” That question needs to be answered in each of our lives. We must decide that, above all else, we want to be characterized as pilgrims and strangers on this earth. Consider the Apostle Paul, who took the gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote half of the New Testament: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6). That verse uses the same term as a boat shoving off. When we lived in Rhode Island, people used to take our family out on the ocean in their sailboats. There was a science to how the ropes were wrapped around the mooring. They did not want to secure
it permanently, but just enough so the boat would not come loose and drift away. Paul said that he was ready to let the rope loose and sail away. The other way verse 6 is described is breaking camp. The Roman Legionnaires who conquered the world lived in tents. Before a campaign, they would methodically set up their perimeter with their tents; soldiers would then go fight the battles. But they never drove their tent stakes too deeply in case they needed to break camp quickly. Paul did not pound his tent stakes in too deeply, so he was ready to pull them out at any moment. Materialism, however, makes us bury our tent stakes and put concrete on top. Materialism ties the mooring rope in knots. So Christ is saying, “Since the Day of the Lord is coming, and everything is going to be dissolved, be careful how you live— because how you live is going to determine what your ‘forever life’ is like.”
TUESDAY: Materialism Clutters Our Lives “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” —2 Peter 3:12–13, emphasis added Because materialism clutters our lives, we are so covered over with the things of life that bog us down that we fail to realize nothing here is going to last forever. That fact ought to discourage materialism and encourage us to live expectantly, as Peter said above. Committing everything we have to Christ will make us build with fireproof materials. While we lived in California, we saw that grass fires would throw sparks on wood roofs and burn houses down. The residents there soon learned that they could not use wood shingle roofs, so they switched to tile shingles that look similar but are made of fireproof material. They are heavier, last longer, and yet they won’t burn. Scripture says that we are living on the edge of a swift fire that is racing toward us. Therefore we ought to be conscientiously building our life with fireproof materials. All that is solely for use on earth is temporary, but anything elevated from its earthly use and given to Christ will last forever. And that is exciting! Some people get discouraged if they can’t find a parking place, the TV isn’t working, or if they are picked on at school or at work. Now compare those small inconveniences with living every day in the dark, by torch light, in a sewer. That is what the Christians did during the great persecutions in Rome. When I take a tour group to Rome, we visit one of the most incredible spots in the city. Next to the Coliseum, about forty feet underground, are the catacombs—the garbage and sewer system of the Coliseum. Those drainage systems provided a safe haven for the Christians because no one wanted to come after them there. At night, after their loved ones had been martyred in the games, these believers would climb up the storm sewers, push off the lid, gather up any remains, and carry them back to the catacombs to be buried in niches in the rocks. What would keep a person going during such great tribulation? The only way to endure adversity of that nature is to not look down, but up for Christ. Now apply that to
today’s ominous times: I am not looking for the Antichrist or the mark of the beast—I am looking for Jesus! That is the only way you can really live abundantly in this present life. There are those who believe that Bible prophecy is simply trying to figure out what the mark of the beast is, and who is going to get it. But the Bible says that we should not be concerned with that. The whole purpose of Bible prophecy is not to sell books and make charts, but to make us expectant of Christ’s return. Materialism, however, clouds our eyes so that we can’t see clearly enough to look up expectantly. We must therefore learn to develop an enduringly hopeful life—and live purely: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). Keep looking up because your redemption is near! That hope is why the Apostle Paul said that our citizenship is in heaven, and that is why the early Christians made it through such horrific persecution.
WEDNESDAY: Materialism Clouds Our Minds and Wills “Beware lest you . . . fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.” —2 Peter 3:17, emphasis added What happens when our minds are clouded with materialism? Our Bibles become closed! This ought to warn us to be more alert to guard our heart and live more maturely. Materialism clouds our minds. If you are not careful, you won’t make time for God’s Word. One classic example is the impact of a television set on your stewardship of time and resources. After wasting time watching TV for hours, you must then deprogram your mind because it deadens you to God’s Word. Have you ever had precious fellowship in prayer and communing with God after watching TV for three or four hours? Inviting the world into our living rooms via TV night after night simply will not enhance that type of worship. What I find in my own life is that after I spend time watching TV, I have to read the Bible to warm up my heart again. What did Christ teach? He told us to be content. And Paul said that godliness with contentment is great gain. So be careful to not invest in the mammon of unrighteousness. Jesus warned of this happening in the Laodicean church age: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). That church represents the age in which we now live. Churches have every piece of equipment, gadgets, investment programs, online services, programs—and closed Bibles. Materialism clouds our wills. Instead of collecting and holding on to things here on earth, Peter says that we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). This ought to encourage us to grow spiritually and to live growingly.
So then, why should we avoid possessiveness and covetousness? Because that way of life will cloud our minds, clutter our lives, and keep our eyes from looking for Jesus’ return. It will close the Book and distract our will from obeying Christ! Look at what a pastor from Chicago, A. W. Tozer, wrote about fifty years ago: “The man of pseudo-faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in. What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day.”1 As Tozer has just pointed out, most of us recognize that God says that He—the One who faithfully clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds—is to be trusted. We even say that we believe that, but, “just in case,” we have a backup plan of our own. There needs to be a balance here: we are supposed to be prudent, and care for our family, but if we are trusting in material things to care for our family, then we are not trusting God. I once met an elderly farmer in South Carolina who lived at the time when the Emergency Banking Bill of 1933 led to confiscating all gold from American citizens. He had a beautiful farm with six hundred acres. He sold it, received payment in gold, and deposited the gold in the bank—on the very day the law was passed! That law allowed the government to wipe out gold accounts. And every time he drove by that farm, he thought about the moment that everything his family had accumulated for years was literally destroyed. That day is going to come again. The Scriptures say that there is going to be a cataclysmic change. So don’t put all of your treasures on earth; invest in heaven instead. Christ is looking for a group of people who are willing to trust Him as much today as they are going to have to at the end! Are you a member of that group?
THURSDAY: Giving to God What Is His “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” —1 Corinthians 6:19–20, emphasis added As we learned last week, God owns all things whether we recognize it or not. But life becomes much clearer, and in some respects much easier, when we consciously and continuously choose to recognize it. Have you invited Him to be what Scripture says He is—the Creator, Owner, and Controller of your family, your possessions, your money, and you? And have you extended the invitation again after you have taken things back into your own hands? This self-surrender to God is the beginning of true stewardship and thus the end of being ensnared by materialism. True Biblical Stewardship: From a proper view of God’s ownership comes true biblical stewardship. If we belong to God, then we recognize that we are not owners, but stewards. Unless you travel on cruise ships you probably don’t see many stewards. The term is not a common one used in our vocabulary. A steward was
someone that a wealthy person had in their household who took care of their goods for them. There was never a thought that the steward was the owner or master. A steward was a slave or servant who was responsible for oversight of his master’s possessions. Believers are stewards, slaves of their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, which is wonderful to be. Stewardship is the giving of ourselves without reservation to the Lord. In fact, one of the conditions of discipleship is that we be a steward of Jesus for life. Early in my ministry I met a ninety-year-old pastor who was a true steward of God. After I got to know him I discovered the secret of his long and fruitful ministry—he had distilled life down to three points: 1) unrivaled love for Jesus, 2) unceasing cross bearing, and 3) unreserved surrender. Let’s go over each of these points so that you will better understand the heart of a steward. Stewardship is unrivaled love for Christ. In Luke 14:25–26, large crowds were traveling with Jesus. These people were there for every reason: some had been healed, a few were raised from the dead, some had been fed by Jesus, and others just liked the show. So He turned to them and said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (v. 26). That seems like a contradiction: we are not to hate, are we? No, Jesus meant this: “If you compare the love you have for Me to the love for your family and relatives, the two cannot stand side by side. Your love for Me should be so great that the difference between the two is like love and hate.” He would never tell us to hate our family, but that our love for Him is to be so great that it appears that we do. The first part of being His steward and His disciple is that we have unrivaled love for Him. Nothing else can be on the same shelf. Many Christians claim, “Christ is first in my life,” and then put Him up there on a shelf along with everything else. Jesus warned that our relationship with people, the world, and possessions can rival our love for Him. So He said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). If what your mother and father think causes you to disobey Christ, you are not worthy of Him. I am glad Jesus said that; those may be “fighting words” to some, but that is the unrivaled love that Christ demands from us as His disciples. All this deals with the affections of our heart. Jesus said, “If you claim to love Me, but the love you have for Me is not unrivaled, you can’t be My disciple.” Do the affections of your heart reflect Jesus Christ in this manner? Stewardship is unceasing cross bearing for Christ. Jesus has already made the standard so high that it is out of reach of everybody except by the power of God. Yet, He doesn’t stop with unrivaled love. He continued by saying, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. . . . And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Luke 14:27; Matthew 10:38). In other words, Jesus did not stop with the affections of our hearts—He said there must also be unceasing cross bearing, which deals with our conduct in life. Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lines to a song we so often sing without due seriousness and commitment. It is a matter of record that this hymn was
autobiographical, and I believe it well expresses the nature of cross-bearing. In the third stanza she wrote: Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee. Jesus wants us to give Him our all! Are you unceasingly bearing your own cross? Discipleship doesn’t stop there, however. In Luke 14:33 Christ is still laying down the ground rules. Stewardship is unreserved surrender to Christ: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). Christ is in the same breath, the same setting, talking to the same people. He already told them they had to love Him more than anything else, and then He told them they had to take up a cross, which meant death to self. His next qualification for a disciple is the requirement to forsake all for Him. This deals with personal possessions. Jesus has the right of disposal. It is not our money or our life, because both belong to God. Discipleship is not about thinking: I’ll give God His ten percent, and then the rest is mine. If you keep the rest for yourself, you are keeping ninety percent of God’s money—because He owns it all. Instead, you are to be a steward of the Lord’s money, which should always be at His disposal. Henry Parsons Crowell, the founder of the Quaker Oats Company, gave away ninety-six percent of his income and lived on just four percent. It doesn’t matter which percentage is involved, however, as all of it is God’s. You don’t get a ribbon if you give more because Jesus says it is all His anyway. He is the Owner, and we are only employees. Christ therefore asks that He be above all our treasures on earth, whether money or possessions. For Jesus has said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). The man He spoke to went away sadly. Why? Because he said what so many people say today: “God, You can have my voice, my body sometimes, my time now and then, but you are not going to have everything.” But Jesus says, “If I can’t have everything—I don’t want anything.” A true disciple humbly acknowledges this truth: “Everything I have comes from You—and belongs to You.” Such an attitude changes us from thinking in terms of how much of my money should I give to how much of His money should I keep!
FRIDAY: Stewardship—Giving to God Without Reservation “For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” —Mark 12:44, emphasis added In Enjoying Intimacy with God, noted author J. Oswald Sanders has this to say about giving to God without reservation: Whether we tithe or not tithe, our Lord’s life on Earth as a man set the standard for His disciples, and this principle applies equally to living for God and giving to God. Paul holds Him up as the supreme Example. “You know the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Judaism was an expensive religion, and as a devout Jew, who fulfilled the whole Law, our Lord was meticulous in fulfilling its financial obligations. What would He pay into the Temple treasury from what He earned as a carpenter? A Jew was first required to give one-tenth to God. Then at harvest time, the farmer must give the firstfruits to God, and that consisted of one-sixth of his increase. Then every three years a second tenth was given for the poor—social security tax. In addition were the special offerings of cleansing and consecration. That means that his total contributions to religion would be nearer a fourth of his income than a tenth—and that does not include voluntary support to the local synagogues. It is not difficult to imagine the temptation in times of stringency to withhold the tithe. So here we have our answer as to how much of His income Jesus gave to God. We know that Christ fulfilled all righteousness so we know that He gave all He could. If we object that the Jews were under law and we Christians are under grace, and that for us the law of the tithe has been abrogated, another question arises. Will a Christian who is experiencing intimacy with his Lord wish to take advantage of grace so that he can give less to God’s work than the less privileged Jew who knew nothing of Calvary’s sacrifice and the inestimable blessings it has brought? Do you think God expects less from us? Was our Lord’s matchless generosity in becoming poor for us intended to beget stinginess in His children? Paul cited it rather as an incentive to sacrificial giving. Grace is the super abundant overflowing—Not “I have to give this.” That is the Law. Grace is “all I am, all I have, all I’ll ever be.”2 The people closest to Christ gave up all they had and followed Him. One might say, “That is the apostles, not us.” Such thinking is why the church is not conquering the world anymore. When has it ever done that? In the nineteenth century, through the ministry of the Cambridge Seven (C.T. Studd and friends), many students chose to give up careers in England and move to mission fields at the farthest corners of the world. They gave up their ownership of things. Through their sacrifices, the gospel went to every corner of the planet in about thirty years because England was touched with such dedicated stewardship. A Biblical View of Tithing: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23, NIV). Jesus said tithing was proper, and thus relevant to us. Admittedly, tithing is nowhere specifically commanded in the New Testament, since that is not the genius of God’s method under grace. Instead of legislating regulations, Jesus enunciated principles by which His disciples were to regulate their conduct. “I am not commanding you” were Paul’s words. He knew that a lavish hand without a loving heart was valueless. The patriarchs practiced tithing four hundred years before the Law was given (Genesis 14:20; 28:22). The usage of consecrated tithes prevailed among Romans,
Greeks, and Arabians as well as with the Jews; so tithing seems to rest on the common law of God’s kingdom rather than on special Hebrew legislation. Jesus Himself gave tithes and offerings. Is the servant greater than his Lord? W. A. Criswell (1909 -2002), the great expository teacher for many years at First Baptist Dallas, tells the story about the pastor who was asked, “How many church members do you have?” The answer was, “One hundred fifty.” The pastor was further asked, “How many of them are tithers?” The pastor replied, “One hundred fifty.” In astonishment the inquirer exclaimed, “What! All one hundred fifty, the entire church, are tithers?” “Yes indeed,” said the pastor. “About fifty of them bring the tithe to the storehouse, and God collects it from the rest.” In the end “we do not cheat God,” concludes Dr. Criswell. “I can either give it to Him in a deeply spiritual act of worship, or He can collect it. In either case, God gets His own.”3 What does God truly want from us? Since no one has ever seen the Father, we need to listen to Jesus, who said: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). And Jesus has said that if we love Him, we will obey Him—and that includes how we handle His money, His possessions, and His time!
SATURDAY: Building a Fireproof Life “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” —1 Corinthians 3:15, emphasis added What we have been studying in Revelation is only a foretaste of what is to come. But God has not left us without instructions. In Revelation we have seen Truth to live by for a safe future. So, how do we survive in the early twenty-first century? We need to build a fireproof life. Thus, there are three truths that I want you to remember from this week so that you can truly give God what is His. Truth 1: Jesus compares your earthly life to a building, so you must watch what you build with—and where. Jesus says to build your life with what won’t burn up: “As a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:10–17). With what are you building your life? Are you building it with wood, hay, and stubble that will burn up—or are you building your life with gold, silver, and precious stones? The gold speaks of seeking God first; the silver and precious stones speak of
sacrificing your time, talents, and resources to God before they dissipate and burned up here. Truth 2: Jesus says your life is a stewardship, so watch where you invest it. As a faithful steward, beware of investing your life—and His money—in the pursuit of so-called “Make it rich quick!” schemes. Such scams bilk people out of millions, fold companies, and cause stock market crashes. God is going to let everyone know once and for all whom we really lived for— ourselves or for Him. He says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, . . . whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). That is decided one moment, one day, one week, one month at a time through living in the light of eternity. Truth 3: Jesus says your life is like a race, so watch out for the rules. Know the boundaries, and keep the “baggage” at a minimum. Stay within the lines, follow the rules, and be careful to not get tripped up in the race. Paul says, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2). If anything trips you up in life, get rid of it—everything that holds you back and keeps getting caught so that it drags you down (like the long robes men wore in that day that they would tie up and tuck into their belt so they could run without getting tripped up). Check your life to see if you have piled up too much baggage that will prevent you from saying “YES, LORD”—yes to His will and His way. Can you really pull up stakes at any time to do God’s will, or will it interrupt your plans? God says to keep the baggage to a minimum so that you can follow Him. In 2 Corinthians, Paul said that the Macedonians excelled in their giving because they gave of themselves first. If you have never surrendered yourself, you need to do it now. There is no substitute for giving yourself to the Lord. You will never know the joy of the grace of giving (or any other grace) until you do! If this is your heart’s desire, I encourage you to worshipfully sing this song of dedication to the Lord. I Surrender All All to Jesus, I surrender; All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live. All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow, Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now. All to Jesus, I surrender; Make me, Savior, wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine. All to Jesus, I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee; Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me. I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all. —Justin W. Van DeVenter (1855–1939)
1 A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous in The Best of A. W. Tozer Vol. 2, ed. Warren W. Wiersbe (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1980).
2 J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), pp. 151–158.
3 R. T. Kendall, Tithing (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 103.