Broadcast

In Tests of Faith

From the series I Choose Peace

Did you know that God wants us to put Him to a very specific challenge? What could it be, that God would say to us, "Come on, test Me, and see if I don't show up." In this message, Chip tells us if we'll put God to this challenge, He'll show up 100% of the time.

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PURCHASE

Message Transcript

Well, we are going to go on a little journey together, and if history and my experience is any indicator of the future, some of you will literally mark this as a major turning point in your life.

Because we’re going to give you the final installment on contentment. We’re going to give you the last secret. The last part. But at the end of the service, you know, I hate it when people sneak things up on you, at the end of the service, I will give you an opportunity to make a very specific decision. And that decision will activate the faith component in this process of contentment.

And many of you will take it, and you will experience peace, and contentment, and the beginning of a journey in your Christian life that most believers never experience. So, it’s a little bit of a heavy morning, but it’s one of those great opportunities. So, I want to pray for you, and pray for me, as we begin. Lord God, I pray that You would fill me afresh with Your Spirit, that You would open people’s hearts and minds, not to hear my voice, but to hear Yours. I ask that I could be clear, that You would give me a sensitivity to what You want to say, and then, Lord, I pray – would You give us the grace and the faith, and the courage to believe that what You say is true, to the point of acting on it. In Christ’s name. amen.

Number one on the checklist, by way of review, is that we need to understand, contentment is learned; Philippians 4:10 to 13.

There is a secret that can be learned, and you can actually be at peace, regardless of circumstances being good or bad.

Checklist number two from the Philippian church: We learned that greed must die before contentment can live.  That was verse 14 to 18. And the way that greed dies is by developing personal compassion.

We learned we give up our wants to meet some other people’s needs.  It’s by a generous spirit where we begin to release the very thing – money – that can consume us.

And third, it’s by developing an eternal perspective, coming to believe and understand that spiritual decisions and financial decisions, instead of being in two different camps, are literally connected at the hip.

The third thing in our checklist we need to remember is that our treasure both reveals and directs the affections of our heart.  Matthew 6:21, Jesus would say, “Wherever your treasure is” what’s valuable to you?  Wherever your time goes, wherever your energy goes, wherever your money goes, wherever your talent goes – wherever your treasure is – your heart is connected with a chain to your treasure, and if your treasure goes there, it reveals where your heart is, but also has the power to direct it.

Different times in my life, I’ve realized that I needed to shore up some priorities or I needed to work on an area in my marriage, with one of my kids, and here’s the thing – try this – I started putting my treasure toward that area.  I put my time, my money, and my treasure toward my wife for a season, and it’s amazing how God changed my heart.  Or I put my time and my treasure and my energy toward one of my kids going through a tough time, and I saw my heart follow. Your money, your time, your talent always reveals and directs wherever your heart is.

Peace is great. We all want it, intellectually. The way to get there is very counterintuitive.

The way to get is to give. And that raises a problem.  Some of you are thinking to yourself, becoming more generous and being more compassionate, that’s good, except I’ve got a stack of bills this high. I got tens of thousands of dollars in debt.  If I actually took serious what you said, who’s going to take care of me?  Who’s going to pay my bills? I got needs: There’s college, there’s retirement, and, you know, is this, like, church stuff?  Does this really work?  Who’s going to take care of me?  That’s the problem.

And what I want to suggest is, God has a solution, and the solution is at the very end of Philippians chapter 4.  It’s verse 19.  And in verse 19, he says, “And my God” – Paul says to this Philippian church – “will meet all your needs according to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus.”  If you will, pull out a pen and underline the word my God.  That’s the “who” behind this promise.

And then I want you to underline all your needs and put a circle around all.  It doesn’t say “finances,” does it?  This is a generous church.  They don’t have a lot of money.  They love Paul.  They see what’s happening.  And they’ve got some wants, but they see he has a bigger need.  So, they give financially to him, and he looks back to them and says, “What you’ve modeled is how people learn contentment.”

And then, almost to reassure them, he says, “Here’s what I want you to know.  When you’re generous like that, when your priorities are in order and you’re afraid, I want you to know, my God – personal God, not the force, not some invisible set of factors that operate, but a very personal God who loves you” – what’s He going to do? – “He’ll supply all your needs: your spiritual needs, your emotional needs, your financial needs, your relational needs.  How?  He’s going to do it according to the glorious riches, what’s in Christ.”

And so, the promise he gives them, and he gives us, is God’s provision.  God’s provision.  God says if you learn to live this radical give, rather than get, compassion and generosity – He says, “I’ll tell you what – you relax and I’ll take care of you.  I’ll make sure you have what you need to take care of you.”

But with every promise, there’s also what I call a “premise.”  And there are three conditions here.  In other words, my God will supply all your needs according to His riches.  You can say, “Oh, that’s great.  God’s faithful.  He’s big, and I’ve got needs, and He’ll take care of those.”

But some of you have said to yourself, Well, wait a second.  I’ve been in church for a while.  I’ve read the Bible some.  I’ve tried this; it doesn’t work.  Okay?  I mean, down deep – you’d never say it out loud.  It’s not like you go to a Bible study and say, “Hey, I don’t think verse 19 of chapter 4 in – I don’t believe that one!”  You don’t say that at Bible studies.  But down deep in your heart, you’re praying, and you say, you know, I’m praying and God’s not providing, and I’ve got needs, and I’ve got a bill over here, and I got a problem over here.  He’s not doing it for me.

I’d like to suggest that sometimes we get needs and wants confused.

If you’ve got enough to eat and you’re warm, God says, “Really, that’s all you need.”  That doesn’t mean you have a 401(k), it doesn’t mean you own your own home, it doesn’t mean you have a second car, it doesn’t mean you have all the fanciest clothes, it doesn’t mean – and, you know, we say that intellectually, but unconsciously, in America, as standard of livings go up, up, up, up, up, what we do is, we make a little bit more money, and the window of our expenses go up, and we start thinking that God has promised that we always live at this level, all the time.  And something happens, and we say, “Hey, God, what’s the deal?”

When I was in seminary, I had a very interesting experience.  I think God takes you through things before you teach them, and so . . .  I’m going to school full time, working full time, and I’m on this straight commission job, where I make about 900 dollars a month.  And back in 1980, that still wasn’t very much money – family of five.  I mean, you’re living tight.  And so, every now and then – I was in a straight commission job, and if someone didn’t pass their physical, I didn’t get my commission.  And it would be, like, Oh, man, I – just, Argh!  And so, I’d have my rent, and I’m gonna need some food.  I didn’t have any money.  I mean, we were digging quarters out of the backseat and praying and begging God and claiming Philippians 4:19.

And, I could stand up here for an hour with stories of how God provided and built my faith.

I could tell you the story of a time where a good friend who went to be a missionary in India, and you gotta figure, if God prompts him – He knows what’s happening over here – by the time they decide to send you some money, it goes all the way overseas, and you get this – I mean, I didn’t have enough money for rent.  A guy failed his medical, so I couldn’t get the commission.  I get a 500-dollar check from a missionary in India.  When missionaries are sending you money, you know God’s hearing you.

But no matter where you’re at, you can get thinking – and I love to hear those stories – but we can confuse needs and wants.  And we had a particular situation, where I think God wanted to teach us a big lesson.  And there was a lady upstairs in our apartments, and her husband walked out on her, and she had a brand-new baby and then a little boy the same age as my older boys.  And I was just like you, getting up in the morning, reading my Bible, and this outrageous thought came to my mind: She’s going to get kicked out of the apartment.  Chip, you and Theresa – you should pay her rent.

And I said, “Surely, You jest, God.”  I said, “I’ve figured it out – when we pay our rent, we’ll have 10 dollars left in the bank.”  Chip, I want you to pay her rent.  And, you know, sometimes when people are pastors, you think they’re real obedient and real holy, and they make these outrageously sacrificial – I argue with God a lot.  So, I said, “No.  I don’t think this is a good idea.  I think this is my imagination.  This could not be the Holy Spirit.”  When you get thoughts that help other people, are highly sacrificial, bring glory to God, I mean . . .  Well, I guess they’re probably not from you.

And so, about the third day, finally, I give in and say, “Okay, God, I’ll – I’ll” – I mean, this is a reluctant giver – “I’ll do it.”  And my heart went out to her.  So, we took all our money out of the bank, and we paid for her rent.  And so, about nine days later, our rent’s due, and I’m thinking, Okay, Philippians 4:19 – You’re going to supply all my needs.  My rent’s due.  My rent’s due!  Gabriel, do we have a communication problem up there?  Could you, you know . . .  I mean . . .  No money comes.  It’s the first time in my life.  I mean, I’ve seen miraculous things happen, now, for about two years.  There’s no money.  Next day – I get a three-day grace period – no money.  Third day, I gotta pay – today’s the day, or it’s late.  Now, God, Your reputation – what are You doing?  Philippians 4:19, does this work or not?  And I’m really pretty upset.

And I’ll never forget, it was a government subsidized, little housing project, and I remember walking through our little living room, and I looked and I saw – not an expensive at all – but a TV, and I thought, Hmm, TV.  Is that a need or a want?  Want.  Then I looked over at a stereo system that I’d had for a few years – and I actually went on a basketball trip to Hong Kong – it was pretty nice.  Is that a need or a want?  And then I thought, You know, when I was a paper boy, I saved all my silver dollars and the silver dimes – and back in the ‘80s, remember when silver got real valuable?  I thought, You know something?  Maybe God has supplied all my needs, and I’m asking Him for something.

And I shared it with my wife, and we loaded up in our car – my TV, my stereo, my silver dollars, my silver dimes.  Theresa went back – and she didn’t have any real expensive jewelry, but she had a couple, three nice rings and a couple necklaces.  And we went to a pawn shop, and we turned in everything we could and got about 447 dollars or something.  And we paid our rent and had enough money for food for that month.

And you know what I learned?  I learned, often, God has supplied our needs, but we unconsciously tell Him at what standard of living He has to come through: “God, I can’t do that because I have to make that car payment,” and you have to have that late model of car.  “God, I can’t do that,” or, “I would really follow You, except I have this house payment.”  And so, everyone has to own your own home, right?  You’re taking your home with you to heaven and . . .  Right?  And you have to live in this neighborhood, with this zip code, with . . .

The apostle Paul’s going to say if you’re serious about contentment, you need to be serious about God’s promises. And he said there are three conditions about verse 19.

Condition number one – this is not for unbelievers.  This is written to a church.  Notice, He will supply according “to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus.”  I didn’t come to Christ until I was 18.  God does not commit Himself to meet the needs of those outside of Christ.

The second condition is, I don’t believe this passage is for all believers.  I don’t think every Christian can claim this.  I don’t think my priorities can be out of whack.  I can be disobedient in major areas of my life, especially my finances, and claim this verse.  This verse is written to – who?  The Philippian church, who are doing – what?  They’re sacrificially giving up of their wants to meet a need in Paul’s life.  And the answer is, “My God will [supply] all your needs according to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus,” for people like you, who are doing – what?  Have their priorities in line.

The third condition is, I think this is only for believers who’ve chosen to walk by faith, evidenced by sacrificial giving.  God will meet the needs of His children who say, “Lord, I want to obey You.  I’m sacrificially giving of my money and my time and my talent, and I’m out here on the edge, and if You don’t catch me, I’m in trouble.”  He says, “I’ll always catch you.  I’ll always catch you.”

And so, the way that you unlock the promises of God is by faith.  It’s by trusting.  Would you jot down – we’ll probably get to it yet again, but jot down Hebrews 11:6 in the corner of your notes, if you will.  ‘Cause more than anything that God wants to develop in your heart, in your relationship – it’s not activities, it’s not external morality, it’s not how much money you give or how much you serve in the church, it’s not trying to figure out how you can figure out some little formula – what He wants to develop in your heart, more than anything else, is a son or a daughter or a student who says, “I love You, Jesus, and I evidence my love by You, that when You say it, I obey it.  And I trust You, even when I don’t feel like it, because I believe that You are good, and I believe that You are real, and I believe that You’re true.”

Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must believe two things.  One says that He is, that He exists, and second, He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Did you ever think of God as a rewarder, as a good God who’s for you and loves you and wants to bless you, and is longing for each of His children to take a step of faith so He can bless?  God promises He’ll take care of you.

And the evidence of our pile of debt is often an evidence that I have to have immediate gratification.  The evidence of our overextension with our time and our finances is trying to get contentment, trying to get satisfied by all the stuff out there.

And over against that, God says, “The more, more, the get, get, the bigger, bigger, the acquire, the acquire, the gotta have, the gotta have is an empty dead end.  But He says, “If you’ll learn to release, if you’ll learn to trust, if you learn to walk with Me, I’ll satisfy all your needs.”

Now, let’s talk about how that works, ‘cause there is a principle here, as some of you are thinking to yourself, You know what?  I’d like to believe this, but in my experience – I’m not sure it’s worked out for me.  And there’s a axiomatic principle behind this promise, and it’s in the Old Testament and it’s in the New Testament.  It’s from the life of Christ.  It’s in the character of God.  It’s from Genesis to Revelation.  There is an axiomatic principle all the way, a Kingdom principle about how God has set up life.  The world and the world’s system goes this way; this Kingdom principle goes this way.  It’s called the “Law of the Harvest,” the “Law of the Harvest.”  Some have called it the “Law of Sowing and Reaping,” others the “Law of Reciprocity.”

The Law, explained, is in Luke 6:38.  It’s from the very lips of Jesus.  It is not a financial passage, although it applies there.  In Luke 6:38, Jesus gives the Law of the Harvest.  He says, “Give, and it will be given [unto] you.  Good measure, pressed down, [running over, shaken together] . . . [over] into your lap.  For [whatever] measure you [give]” – and the “measure” means whatever size….  If you use a cup, if you use a bucket, if you use a 55-gallon drum – whatever measure you use to give, in the same measure it will be given back to you.  Law of the Harvest.

The world says, “Get, get, get, acquire, acquire, acquire, more, more, more.  As you acquire and get, then you will be significant and strong and powerful and secure.”  And God says, “No, just the opposite – give, and it’ll be given unto you.”  Good measure – in fact, shaken: It’s a picture of someone who shakes something to make room for more.  So, he explains that the Kingdom principle is give, so that God might bless.

It’s illustrated throughout nature.  Jesus, in John 12:24, says, “Unless a grain of wheat fall unto the earth and die, it remains by itself, alone.  But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.”  It’s just an agricultural picture.  But God has made – the creation declares the glory of the Lord.  You can take one or two seeds of wheat, stick them into the ground.  It seems like the height of foolishness, ‘cause you could take ten or twelve and you could grind them up and make at least one little piece of bread and eat it.

But instead, you take one seed and you put it into the ground, and then you put dirt over it, and you give it away.  And then, in a season – you never reap in the same season that you sow – it grows up, and what comes out of it?  Hundreds and hundreds of seeds of wheat.  “Give, and it will be given [unto] you.  Good measure, pressed down . . . running over.”

It’s explained in nature; it’s applied to Jesus.  Follow along, as I read Philippians chapter 2.  What does Jesus do, what does He give, in order for God to exalt Him?  Beginning at verse 8 – it says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to [the point of] death – even death on a cross!”  What did – what did He do?  He gave His life.  He was the grain of wheat that went into the ground.  What’s the result?

Verse 9: “Therefore God highly exalted Him . . . and [bestowed on] Him the name [which] is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, [of those who are] in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and [that] every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  The Law of the Harvest, the secret – final secret of contentment, is that the way to receive is to give.

We see it in nature, we see it in the life of Christ, and then, in Luke 9:24 – from the lips of Jesus – He applies it to us.  In verse 23, He says to a large multitude of disciples, “. . . If anyone of you want to follow after Me, be My disciple, be My follower, you need to . . . take up your cross” – instrument of death – “[deny yourself], and follow Me.”  How often?  Anybody know?  Daily.  And then verse 24: “For whosoever would seek to save or keep his life” – get – “will lose it, but whoever would give his life . . . would find it.”

Now, at this point in time – the looks on your faces – I always love it when this happens.  There is a conflict and dilemma between your brain and your heart, ‘cause some of you are thinking through some of the implications.

And your brain is going, Luke 6:38 – that’s the principle.  It’s as clear as a bell.  I see it in nature.  Farmers use it all the time.  You know what?  Philippians 2, it’s true of Jesus.  You know that Luke 9 passage?  that is black and white.  That’s not interpretation.  This is an axiomatic Kingdom principle – the Law of Harvest.  And then you’re thinking to yourself, Oh, my lands.  I would have to think completely differently about how to do life.

So, let’s take it one step at a time.  Do you buy – do you, at least intellectually, buy that the Bible teaches this?  This would be “yes” . . .  This would be “no” . . .  This would be, “I don’t move my head in church, Dude, okay?” . . .  Well, if you intellectually buy it – then here’s what I’d like you to do. Let’s go to the next page, and I want to walk through the process of how this actually works in a regular person’s life – not a missionary, not a pastor, not some famous spiritual person – I want to walk through how the Law of the Harvest actually works in ordinary people’s lives, so that, as you begin to live in a different way, you will have supernatural stories.

Aren’t some of you tired of hearing stories of, “A quarterback from the NFL sent that guy a thousand dollars, and a missionary sent him 500 dollars.  And boy, I could tell you the time where five bags of groceries with only the kind of food – with wheat flour and meat and cheese, and no one knew we had any need”?

Why do you think I get those stories?  Because God is a rewarder of those who do – what?  Step out by faith.  Faith that does – what?  Often counter intuitively, you give, when you’re thinking to yourself, Only an idiot would give right now.  That’s what I told God: “Lord, excuse me, but I have both brain cells working.  I have my rent plus 10 dollars, and You’re asking me to give it to this lady.  It’s very nice.  Why don’t You give it to her?”  And He said, “I’m going to, through you!  The question I want to know is, do you trust Me to take care of you?”  And my answer was, “Maybe.”  And so, I didn’t feel like it.  Don’t – don’t – don’t over spiritualize this.  I didn’t feel like it; I didn’t want to do it.  I just obeyed.  And then God provided.

Let’s look at the process.  The principle, restated: When you have a need, plant a seed.  When you have a need, plant a seed.  That’s this picture.  Notice what He says in verse 6 of 2 Corinthians chapter 9: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”  In other words, to a farmer, if you plant 15 seeds of wheat, you’re gonna get a little bit of wheat.  If you plant 15,000 seeds of wheat, you’re gonna get – what? – a lot of wheat!  If you want a lot, plant a lot.

It’s not rocket science.  But He’s gonna make this a spiritual principle.  If you have a need, plant a seed.

And by the way, can I encourage you that, please, move this beyond financial implications.  Anybody ever have a need for a friend?  Do you know what we normally do?  Whine, grumble, complain, have a little pity party, tell the one person, 3,000 miles away, “I don’t have any friends!

I go to church and they seem so friendly, and they have these little name tags and . . .  No one’s said, ‘Hi,’ with my name, yet.”

What would happen if, instead of the Law of the World – get a friend, get a friend, get a friend – you walked in here for five weeks in a row and said, Who could I be a friend to?  “What’s your name?  How are you doing?  Are you new?”  What would happen if I need more time, if I gave time?

This sounds crazy, but when I get totally, totally overwhelmed, I’ve decided, This is true; I’m going to live this way.  Often, when I have a to-do list this long . . . I just set my alarm, or I ask the Lord, in my case, ‘cause – to wake me up an extra half hour, hour early, and I give God an extra half hour or an hour.  And you know what He does?  He multiplies the fruit of the other 23.  I cannot tell you how many times – you need time?  Give some time away.  You need a friend?  Give some friendship away.  Whatever you need, plant a seed.  You need love?  Give some love away.  You need more affection?  Be more affectionate with those in your family and more affectionate with those you care about.

I came across a little parable that points this out.  Let me read it to you.  It says, “Once, there was a man lost in the desert, near death from thirst.  He wandered almost aimlessly through the burning sand for many days, growing weaker by the moment.  At long last, he saw an oasis in the distance, palm trees indicating that there was water.  He stumbled forward feverishly, fell beneath the shade of the trees, that he finally might quench his tortured thirst.

“But then he noticed something strange about this oasis: Instead of a pool of water or a spring bubbling up from the ground, he found a pump.  And beside the pump were two objects: a small jar of water and a parchment note.  The note explained that the leather gasket within the pump must be saturated with water for the pump to work.  Within the jar was just enough water for this purpose.  The note also warned that the reader should not drink from the jar.  Every single drop must be poured into the opening at the base of the pump to soak the heat-dried gasket.  Then, as the leather softens and expands, an unlimited supply of sweet water would be available.  The parchment’s final instructions were to refill the jar for the next traveler.

The man faced a dilemma.  He was dying of thirst, and he had found water.  Not much, of course, and likely not enough even to save his life.  But it seemed the height of folly to pour it away down the base of the pump.  On the other hand, if the note was accurate, by pouring out the small quantity of water, he would then have all the water he wanted.  What should he do?

Let’s personalize it.  Put your mind’s eye – you – there.  What would you do?  It all boils down to one simple thing, doesn’t it?  If the note is true, you’re an idiot not to do it.  If the note is false, you’re probably going to die anyway.  If the note is true, the smartest, wisest, shrewdest thing you could ever do is take that which you could consume immediately and pour it down, in order that, by giving, you would receive – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, unlimited supply.

That’s really what Philippians 4:19 is teaching.  And by the time we get to the end of this message, you are going to find yourself in a dilemma.  I always like to warn people.  And when you bring people to a crossroads and say, “Are you going to go right, are you going to go left?”  You’re going to come to a point where you’re going to have to decide, Is this true or not?  Do I believe it or not?

What I can tell you is, many, many, many of you will make a decision to go down a path you’ve never gone.  Many of you will take a step that you’ve never taken before.  And when you take that step, you will start experiencing the kind of stories that I talked about, and you will have your own quarterback of a thousand dollars or an unexpected tax return, or God opening a door or a promotion or – He will do things that you thought only happened to other people, because guess what?  You will set yourself up so that Philippians 4:19 is a promise that applies to you.  It does not apply to the average Christian in America.  The average Christian in America, their priorities are completely out of whack.  About 97.5 percent of them are not sacrificially at all giving or giving the first portion of their income.

Now, as you think about that, notice that the procedure is outlined.  And I want you to hear very carefully, this is not a health and wealth gospel.

There’s not a millimeter of room for trying to cut a deal with God.  The giving to get that you hear sometimes on the radio or TV, in a book – “I’ll give God a hundred so He’ll give me a thousand.  I’ll give Him ten thousand; He’ll give me a hundred thousand.  I know what I’ll do: I’m gonna play a game.  What I really want is this, so I’m just gonna . . .”  I tell you what, the moment you do that, you’re disqualified – bzzz!

In fact, the apostle Paul goes on to say, “Give with the right motive.”  It’s not giving, if you’re giving to get.  The fact of the matter is that this is such a principle in the Law of Harvest, that a lot of great things happen, even as people pervert this.

But notice what he says in verse 7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  If you have your pen, I want you to underline four phrases.  Phrase number one, “what he has decided”; phrase number two, “not reluctantly”; phrase number three, “under compulsion,”; and phrase number four, “loves a cheerful giver.”  And what you see there is that motive is outlined.

He says, first, it needs to be “what he has decided.”  In other words, you might write the word thoughtful.  Pure motives have to do with thoughtful giving.  I remember when I was coming up – and I didn’t grow up in a Christian home or anything – and I would go to church and I would have my wallet and, if I was in a pretty good mood, I gave five bucks.  If I was in a not very good mood, I gave a dollar.  And if I felt like, God-type happy, I gave 20 and thought I was the most generous guy in the whole world.  I didn’t know anything about the Bible.  But it was kind of like going to a movie.  If it was a good movie, five; great movie, I’ll give you twenty, and felt really good about myself.  I had no concept of percentages, or off the top, or how God has blessed me, and it was usually emotionally rooted in the moment.

God says, don’t give that way.

Did you notice that we already took the offering?  By design.  I don’t want anyone to hear this and say, “Ahh!  Oh, oh, okay, I hear You, God!” and write some big check.  You can’t write a big check.  It needs to be thoughtful.  This isn’t about, our church is doing well, financially.  This is all about, peace or not?  And so, your motives need to be thoughtful.  Paul says on the first day of the week – 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 2 – on the first day of the week, you evaluate, How’s God blessed me?  What do I have?  And set aside a portion in keeping with His blessing.

The second thing you’ll notice that it says, that it needs to be not reluctantly.  So, the opposite is enthusiastically.  You ought to give enthusiastically.  This isn’t, like, gotta, oughta, shoulda, duty.  I don’t want to give because I feel like there’s peer pressure, and I’m trying to please people.  I want to give enthusiastically.

Third, it’s voluntarily.  It’s not under compulsion.  This isn’t that some guy got up and ranted and raved and showed you pictures of hurting people all around the world and said, “This will never get done unless you do it.”  Any time I feel manipulation, when people talk about money, I get that as a sign from God: Don’t give here... it says right here. I don’t want to give under compulsion.

And the final one is a cheerful giver.  Literally, from the Greek word we get our word hilarious.  See, the word miser is the root word for miserable.

Miserly, non-generous people are miserable.  They’re the scrooges of our world.  And we all have a little scrooge inside of our heart.  And God says, “I want you to experience contentment, so what you have to do is, you’ve lived in a world that says, ‘Get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, more, more, more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger, better, better, now, now, now!’”  And so, we get our charge cards maxed up, and we got stuff we can’t afford, and our garages are filled with stuff that we don’t use anymore, and our closets are filled with more stuff that we don’t use anymore.  And we become this consumer – and guess what?  We’re still not satisfied.

And God says the Law of the Harvest is, give, give, give.  Give your heart first.  Direct your heart through your finances.  Give your talent.  Give your time.  Give, care, love, be generous, be tender toward God, tender toward people.  And as you give – for the right reason, with the right motive, loving God and loving others – it will be – what?  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.

In fact, he expands the promise well beyond any financial consideration.  He says God will give you everything you need, in every area of your life.  Is that wild?  Second Corinthians 9, verses 8 through 11, literally – you wanted to summarize what he says?  God will give you – key word – everything you need, in every area of your life.

Are you ready for a fun exercise?  If you have a pen, I have one in here, you should bring a pen to church. Now, I’m serious. Because I’m going to do something right now, and if you don’t have a pen, you’re going to miss all the fun. This is going to be fun. Really fun.  I’m going to read the next three verses, and as I read the next three verses, if you have a pen, then every time I say the word all, you can circle it, and every time I say the word every, you can circle it.  And when you get done, on your notes – not the people that don’t have a pen – but on your notes, you’re going to see “all, all, all, every, every, every, every,” and you’re going to have a little spiritual experience, where you’re going to go, Whoa!  Could God really mean this?  You bet He does!

Pens up and running – are we ready?  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.”  He’s just told him, “I want you to give, give, give, give,” and we’re all scared, “No, no, no, no, no.”  He says, “Wait a second!  God is able to” – do what? – “give you all grace so that you get all things, at all times, for all you need.”

Does this sound like finances?  What’s “all things”?  You got a need in school?  You got a need on the team?  You got a need with the boyfriend?  You got a need relationally, spiritually, emotionally?  He will give you – what?

All things, at all times, all that you want – does it say?  Better underline need, so we remember.  “As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’  Now, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will . . . supply and increase the store of your seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

This next line is critical, and I’m going to ask you to underline about three or four phrases.  But here’s what I want you to listen for as I do: He’s really giving an agricultural metaphor.  A farmer would hear this and go, “Duh!”  But he’s going to go point one, point two, point three – agriculture, agriculture, agriculture.  Then, point four, he’s going to twist it and say, “What I was really talking about were spiritual issues, righteousness.”

Follow along.  Underline the phrase “Now he who supplies” – the phrase – “seed to the sower.”  That’s the original provision to invest.  God gives all of us seed, okay?  Think of it as a – a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, different – for different people, but He gives you seed.

“And bread for food” – that’s today’s provision.  So, you may get a – a big bushel of seed.  You take a portion of that seed, you grind it up, you make bread.  That’s for today.

Third, “Will also supply and increase your store of seed.”  What’s the “store of seed”?  A farmer plants the seed; he harvests all the seed.  Part of the seed, he takes over here and he uses for daily food.  The other, he stores to do – what?  Next year, he’s going to put it back in the ground.  He’s going to invest it.  Correct?

Now, notice what he says: “And will enlarge” – underline the phrase – “the harvest of your righteousness.”  The original provision by God – some is for today’s needs, some is so that you can reinvest or give – let it die – so that it can be multiplied.  And when it’s multiplied, when you live with the Law of the Harvest, as a giver – with your time and your talent and your treasure – what comes back?  He enlarges the harvest of your righteousness.

And then notice verse 11: “You will be made rich in every” – that’s a word you get to circle – “You will be made rich in every way.”  So, why does God make people rich, emotionally?  Why does God make people rich, relationally?  Why does God make people rich, financially?  So they can get bigger, bigger, bigger, more, more, more, have, have, have, acquire, acquire, acquire, impress, impress, impress?  Is that what it says?  He will make you “rich in every way so that you will be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  Do you see what he’s saying?

He doesn’t, I like, Randy Alcorn has a great phrase. He says, God doesn’t increase your income to raise your standard of living.  It’s to raise your standard of giving.

See, one of the things I’ve done is, I’ve just sat down and – at some point, you say, “Here’s the line.  As long as I live, however much money God ever – here’s where I live, here’s how much money.  Everything over that, I’m going to give away.”  And I think every single person needs to draw a line.  Otherwise, the creep will come.  And you’ll just start getting more and more and more and more stuff.  But did you notice, he says God makes us rich so we “can be generous on every occasion.”

And then Paul is writing to a church that he’s encouraging to give, to plant seeds to give, and it was tough for them, like it’s tough for us.  And then he says, “Through us, you’re going to give it to us, and then we’re going to go back to Jerusalem, and we’re going to feed these people that don’t have any food – your Jewish brethren.  And they’re going to eat that food, and they’re going to say, ‘God, thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!  You’re an awesome God.”  Because God does provide, but He often provides – what?  Through His people.

I love the song by – I think it’s the Casting Crown group, and it talks about, if we are His body, why aren’t His hands reaching?  Why aren’t His arms loving?  Why aren’t our mouths teaching?  See, the way God loves us – Jesus, when He did it, walked in the earth, He had a body.  Guess what you are?  We’re His body.  And when there’s a need over there, He puts it on my heart.  And my attitude isn’t always the best, but if that lady needs money for her rent, I was His hands.  And then God provided for me.

And as we give – see, we have a limited pie mentality.  Down deep in our hearts, we think there’s just one pie, and if I gotta get my sliver, and if I give my sliver away, or if someone messes with my sliver, there won’t be enough for me.  And God says, “You don’t understand.  I’m a God of abundance.  I’m the pie maker.  When you give away your slice, I might give you a whole pie.  And if I can find a handful of people that’ll give away pies, man, I’ll give you a truckload of pies.”

Because God longs – He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  But He makes us rich in every way so we can be generous.

And so, as you turn the page, I said you would have a decision to make.  This is the only time in all of Scripture, I can find, where God so wants you to experience His power, so wants you to experience the reality of supernatural grace.  He’s going to say, “Here’s a tangible, specific way, where you can make a decision.  The issue is, do you believe Me?  Do you have faith?  Are you willing to believe?  Are you willing to take the water and pour it down the pump, or not?”  And so, He says, “I dare you.”  Literally.

Remember when you were kids – at least, we did it when I was a kid – and you were on this roof, and you weren’t supposed to be on the roof?  And there was a house pretty close, and you wanted to run real fast on the roof and try and jump – our houses were real close – from that roof to that roof.  And you’re thinking if you don’t make it, you’re going to die.

And, of course, some kid turns to you, and goes, “I dare you.”  Your whole manhood’s on the line.  “Okay.”  I’m going to die, Mom!  You know, like this . . .  And you’re thinking, This is nuts.  And then he goes, “I double dare you!”  And then you had to tighten your tennies . . .  Actually, I hit on my stomach, right on the edge, and I slid down.  The roof didn’t get hurt too badly, but it wasn’t very smart.  But you know what God says to you?  “I dare you.  Test Me.”

Malachi 3 – God says – this isn’t out there; this is to you.  “Bring the whole tithe.”  Circle the word whole tithe.  The word tithe just means “10 percent.”  “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . .  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 you will not have room enough for it.’”  “Test Me.  Bring in the first portion.  Be a giver.”  Find out, is the parchment true, or not?

And underneath that, I have a challenge.  It says, “I” – your name – on my notes, it says, “Chip Ingram.” Do not write Chip Ingram on your notes, “…choose to take God up on His challenge, His promise, to trust Him to meet all my needs.  I take this step by committing the first 10 percent of my income to the Lord for the next 90 days.”  And you know what?  There’s no magical thing here, and this is not the time to talk about, yes, Abraham, before the Law, gave 10 percent.

And if you study the Old Testament, you realize that it was a theocracy, and it was a different time; they actually gave about 23 percent.  And Jesus, in Matthew, said to the people, “Hey, you should keep tithing your herbs and spices, but don’t miss the point of the Law an d justice and compassion.”  You know what?  The point is not 10 percent.  It’s pretty clear here.  But what I would say is, I’d pray real hard about signing my name, and take God up on His challenge for 90 days.

Like I said, I’ve got a file folder about this thick. I’ve done this for a number of years.  And I’ve just got stories of – a little Chinese girl came, and it was her second time in church, she became a Christian.  You know, I felt kind of bad.  She became a Christian the week before, and it was her second time.  But she didn’t have any baggage, so she didn’t know anything, and she gave her first portion.

She came back the next week and said, “I had twice as many customers.  Is this how it works?”  And I said, “Well . . . sometimes.  You know, God’s really gracious, especially to new Christians.”  And I remember a guy who was pretty well off and realized he’d been at 10 percent, but his income kept growing, and he decided, I’m going to give 20 next year.  And he became the number one salesman in a major company.

Am I saying all that’s going to happen to you?  No.  I’m saying if you give, God will give back, in the area and the way that your heart needs the most.  I remember one family – in all those emails – wrote and said, “Dear Chip, I want you to know that nothing good, at all, happened in our finances as we took the 90-day challenge.  Our money’s just about the same.  But because we took it, we sat down, as a couple, for the first time in five years and looked at where our money was going.  We actually sat down and had a budget and resolved some issues.  And I want to tell you now that what happened was so amazing is, our marriage and our family – we’ve never had such peace in our home in all the years that we’ve been married.”  See, treasure, chain, hooked to - heart.

And by the way, those that are new, and maybe visiting, or you’ve not been here long, if , for any reason, there’s any sense, that you sense in your spirit that maybe this is a some sneaky ploy for this church to get money, give it somewhere else. Okay?

This, this is not about our needs. This is about you. And then there’s a 3x5 card that’s, uhm, that we put in your notes, I would encourage you to decide whether you’re going to do this or not, before God, write your name on that card, and say, Dear God, I’m taking the Malachi 3 challenge for 90 days,” and stick it somewhere where you can read it over and pray and see what He does.
Let’s look at the process.  The principle, restated: When you have a need, plant a seed. Notice what He says in verse 6 of 2 Corinthians chapter 9: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”  In other words, to a farmer, if you plant 15 seeds of wheat, you’re gonna get a little bit of wheat.  If you plant 15,000 seeds of wheat, you’re gonna get – what? – a lot of wheat!  If you want a lot, plant a lot.

It’s not rocket science.  But He’s gonna make this a spiritual principle.  If you have a need, plant a seed.

And by the way, can I encourage you that, please, move this beyond financial implications.  Anybody ever have a need for a friend?  Do you know what we normally do?  Whine, grumble, complain, have a little pity party, tell the one person, 3,000 miles away, “I don’t have any friends!

I go to church and they seem so friendly, and they have these little name tags and . . .  No one’s said, ‘Hi,’ with my name, yet.”

What would happen if, instead of the Law of the World – get a friend, get a friend, get a friend – you walked in here for five weeks in a row and said, Who could I be a friend to?  “What’s your name?  How are you doing?  Are you new?”  What would happen if I need more time, if I gave time?

This sounds crazy, but when I get totally, totally overwhelmed, I’ve decided, This is true; I’m going to live this way.  Often, when I have a to-do list this long . . . I just set my alarm, or I ask the Lord, in my case, ‘cause – to wake me up an extra half hour, hour early, and I give God an extra half hour or an hour.  And you know what He does?  He multiplies the fruit of the other 23.  I cannot tell you how many times – you need time?  Give some time away.  You need a friend?  Give some friendship away.  Whatever you need, plant a seed.  You need love?  Give some love away.  You need more affection?  Be more affectionate with those in your family and more affectionate with those you care about.

I came across a little parable that points this out.  Let me read it to you.  It says, “Once, there was a man lost in the desert, near death from thirst.  He wandered almost aimlessly through the burning sand for many days, growing weaker by the moment.  At long last, he saw an oasis in the distance, palm trees indicating that there was water.  He stumbled forward feverishly, fell beneath the shade of the trees, that he finally might quench his tortured thirst.

“But then he noticed something strange about this oasis: Instead of a pool of water or a spring bubbling up from the ground, he found a pump.  And beside the pump were two objects: a small jar of water and a parchment note.  The note explained that the leather gasket within the pump must be saturated with water for the pump to work.  Within the jar was just enough water for this purpose.  The note also warned that the reader should not drink from the jar.  Every single drop must be poured into the opening at the base of the pump to soak the heat-dried gasket.  Then, as the leather softens and expands, an unlimited supply of sweet water would be available.  The parchment’s final instructions were to refill the jar for the next traveler.

The man faced a dilemma.  He was dying of thirst, and he had found water.  Not much, of course, and likely not enough even to save his life.  But it seemed the height of folly to pour it away down the base of the pump.  On the other hand, if the note was accurate, by pouring out the small quantity of water, he would then have all the water he wanted.  What should he do?

Let’s personalize it.  Put your mind’s eye – you – there.  What would you do?  It all boils down to one simple thing, doesn’t it?  If the note is true, you’re an idiot not to do it.  If the note is false, you’re probably going to die anyway.  If the note is true, the smartest, wisest, shrewdest thing you could ever do is take that which you could consume immediately and pour it down, in order that, by giving, you would receive – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, unlimited supply.

That’s really what Philippians 4:19 is teaching.  And by the time we get to the end of this message, you are going to find yourself in a dilemma.  I always like to warn people.  And when you bring people to a crossroads and say, “Are you going to go right, are you going to go left?”  You’re going to come to a point where you’re going to have to decide, Is this true or not?  Do I believe it or not?

What I can tell you is, many, many, many of you will make a decision to go down a path you’ve never gone.  Many of you will take a step that you’ve never taken before.  And when you take that step, you will start experiencing the kind of stories that I talked about, and you will have your own quarterback of a thousand dollars or an unexpected tax return, or God opening a door or a promotion or – He will do things that you thought only happened to other people, because guess what?  You will set yourself up so that Philippians 4:19 is a promise that applies to you.  It does not apply to the average Christian in America.  The average Christian in America, their priorities are completely out of whack.  About 97.5 percent of them are not sacrificially at all giving or giving the first portion of their income.

Now, as you think about that, notice that the procedure is outlined.  And I want you to hear very carefully, this is not a health and wealth gospel.

There’s not a millimeter of room for trying to cut a deal with God.  The giving to get that you hear sometimes on the radio or TV, in a book – “I’ll give God a hundred so He’ll give me a thousand.  I’ll give Him ten thousand; He’ll give me a hundred thousand.  I know what I’ll do: I’m gonna play a game.  What I really want is this, so I’m just gonna . . .”  I tell you what, the moment you do that, you’re disqualified – bzzz!

In fact, the apostle Paul goes on to say, “Give with the right motive.”  It’s not giving, if you’re giving to get.  The fact of the matter is that this is such a principle in the Law of Harvest, that a lot of great things happen, even as people pervert this.

But notice what he says in verse 7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  If you have your pen, I want you to underline four phrases.  Phrase number one, “what he has decided”; phrase number two, “not reluctantly”; phrase number three, “under compulsion,”; and phrase number four, “loves a cheerful giver.”  And what you see there is that motive is outlined.

He says, first, it needs to be “what he has decided.”  In other words, you might write the word thoughtful.  Pure motives have to do with thoughtful giving.  I remember when I was coming up – and I didn’t grow up in a Christian home or anything – and I would go to church and I would have my wallet and, if I was in a pretty good mood, I gave five bucks.  If I was in a not very good mood, I gave a dollar.  And if I felt like, God-type happy, I gave 20 and thought I was the most generous guy in the whole world.  I didn’t know anything about the Bible.  But it was kind of like going to a movie.  If it was a good movie, five; great movie, I’ll give you twenty, and felt really good about myself.  I had no concept of percentages, or off the top, or how God has blessed me, and it was usually emotionally rooted in the moment.

God says, don’t give that way.

Did you notice that we already took the offering?  By design.  I don’t want anyone to hear this and say, “Ahh!  Oh, oh, okay, I hear You, God!” and write some big check.  You can’t write a big check.  It needs to be thoughtful.  This isn’t about, our church is doing well, financially.  This is all about, peace or not?  And so, your motives need to be thoughtful.  Paul says on the first day of the week – 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 2 – on the first day of the week, you evaluate, How’s God blessed me?  What do I have?  And set aside a portion in keeping with His blessing.

The second thing you’ll notice that it says, that it needs to be not reluctantly.  So, the opposite is enthusiastically.  You ought to give enthusiastically.  This isn’t, like, gotta, oughta, shoulda, duty.  I don’t want to give because I feel like there’s peer pressure, and I’m trying to please people.  I want to give enthusiastically.

Third, it’s voluntarily.  It’s not under compulsion.  This isn’t that some guy got up and ranted and raved and showed you pictures of hurting people all around the world and said, “This will never get done unless you do it.”  Any time I feel manipulation, when people talk about money, I get that as a sign from God: Don’t give here... it says right here. I don’t want to give under compulsion.

And the final one is a cheerful giver.  Literally, from the Greek word we get our word hilarious.  See, the word miser is the root word for miserable.

Miserly, non-generous people are miserable.  They’re the scrooges of our world.  And we all have a little scrooge inside of our heart.  And God says, “I want you to experience contentment, so what you have to do is, you’ve lived in a world that says, ‘Get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, get, more, more, more, more, more, bigger, bigger, bigger, better, better, now, now, now!’”  And so, we get our charge cards maxed up, and we got stuff we can’t afford, and our garages are filled with stuff that we don’t use anymore, and our closets are filled with more stuff that we don’t use anymore.  And we become this consumer – and guess what?  We’re still not satisfied.

And God says the Law of the Harvest is, give, give, give.  Give your heart first.  Direct your heart through your finances.  Give your talent.  Give your time.  Give, care, love, be generous, be tender toward God, tender toward people.  And as you give – for the right reason, with the right motive, loving God and loving others – it will be – what?  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.

In fact, he expands the promise well beyond any financial consideration.  He says God will give you everything you need, in every area of your life.  Is that wild?  Second Corinthians 9, verses 8 through 11, literally – you wanted to summarize what he says?  God will give you – key word – everything you need, in every area of your life.

Are you ready for a fun exercise?  If you have a pen, I have one in here, you should bring a pen to church. Now, I’m serious. Because I’m going to do something right now, and if you don’t have a pen, you’re going to miss all the fun. This is going to be fun. Really fun.  I’m going to read the next three verses, and as I read the next three verses, if you have a pen, then every time I say the word all, you can circle it, and every time I say the word every, you can circle it.  And when you get done, on your notes – not the people that don’t have a pen – but on your notes, you’re going to see “all, all, all, every, every, every, every,” and you’re going to have a little spiritual experience, where you’re going to go, Whoa!  Could God really mean this?  You bet He does!

Pens up and running – are we ready?  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.”  He’s just told him, “I want you to give, give, give, give,” and we’re all scared, “No, no, no, no, no.”  He says, “Wait a second!  God is able to” – do what? – “give you all grace so that you get all things, at all times, for all you need.”

Does this sound like finances?  What’s “all things”?  You got a need in school?  You got a need on the team?  You got a need with the boyfriend?  You got a need relationally, spiritually, emotionally?  He will give you – what?

All things, at all times, all that you want – does it say?  Better underline need, so we remember.  “As it is written: ‘He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’  Now, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will . . . supply and increase the store of your seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

This next line is critical, and I’m going to ask you to underline about three or four phrases.  But here’s what I want you to listen for as I do: He’s really giving an agricultural metaphor.  A farmer would hear this and go, “Duh!”  But he’s going to go point one, point two, point three – agriculture, agriculture, agriculture.  Then, point four, he’s going to twist it and say, “What I was really talking about were spiritual issues, righteousness.”

Follow along.  Underline the phrase “Now he who supplies” – the phrase – “seed to the sower.”  That’s the original provision to invest.  God gives all of us seed, okay?  Think of it as a – a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, different – for different people, but He gives you seed.

“And bread for food” – that’s today’s provision.  So, you may get a – a big bushel of seed.  You take a portion of that seed, you grind it up, you make bread.  That’s for today.

Third, “Will also supply and increase your store of seed.”  What’s the “store of seed”?  A farmer plants the seed; he harvests all the seed.  Part of the seed, he takes over here and he uses for daily food.  The other, he stores to do – what?  Next year, he’s going to put it back in the ground.  He’s going to invest it.  Correct?

Now, notice what he says: “And will enlarge” – underline the phrase – “the harvest of your righteousness.”  The original provision by God – some is for today’s needs, some is so that you can reinvest or give – let it die – so that it can be multiplied.  And when it’s multiplied, when you live with the Law of the Harvest, as a giver – with your time and your talent and your treasure – what comes back?  He enlarges the harvest of your righteousness.

And then notice verse 11: “You will be made rich in every” – that’s a word you get to circle – “You will be made rich in every way.”  So, why does God make people rich, emotionally?  Why does God make people rich, relationally?  Why does God make people rich, financially?  So they can get bigger, bigger, bigger, more, more, more, have, have, have, acquire, acquire, acquire, impress, impress, impress?  Is that what it says?  He will make you “rich in every way so that you will be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”  Do you see what he’s saying?

He doesn’t, I like, Randy Alcorn has a great phrase. He says, God doesn’t increase your income to raise your standard of living.  It’s to raise your standard of giving.

See, one of the things I’ve done is, I’ve just sat down and – at some point, you say, “Here’s the line.  As long as I live, however much money God ever – here’s where I live, here’s how much money.  Everything over that, I’m going to give away.”  And I think every single person needs to draw a line.  Otherwise, the creep will come.  And you’ll just start getting more and more and more and more stuff.  But did you notice, he says God makes us rich so we “can be generous on every occasion.”

And then Paul is writing to a church that he’s encouraging to give, to plant seeds to give, and it was tough for them, like it’s tough for us.  And then he says, “Through us, you’re going to give it to us, and then we’re going to go back to Jerusalem, and we’re going to feed these people that don’t have any food – your Jewish brethren.  And they’re going to eat that food, and they’re going to say, ‘God, thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!  Thank You!  You’re an awesome God.”  Because God does provide, but He often provides – what?  Through His people.

I love the song by – I think it’s the Casting Crown group, and it talks about, if we are His body, why aren’t His hands reaching?  Why aren’t His arms loving?  Why aren’t our mouths teaching?  See, the way God loves us – Jesus, when He did it, walked in the earth, He had a body.  Guess what you are?  We’re His body.  And when there’s a need over there, He puts it on my heart.  And my attitude isn’t always the best, but if that lady needs money for her rent, I was His hands.  And then God provided for me.

And as we give – see, we have a limited pie mentality.  Down deep in our hearts, we think there’s just one pie, and if I gotta get my sliver, and if I give my sliver away, or if someone messes with my sliver, there won’t be enough for me.  And God says, “You don’t understand.  I’m a God of abundance.  I’m the pie maker.  When you give away your slice, I might give you a whole pie.  And if I can find a handful of people that’ll give away pies, man, I’ll give you a truckload of pies.”

Because God longs – He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  But He makes us rich in every way so we can be generous.

And so, as you turn the page, I said you would have a decision to make.  This is the only time in all of Scripture, I can find, where God so wants you to experience His power, so wants you to experience the reality of supernatural grace.  He’s going to say, “Here’s a tangible, specific way, where you can make a decision.  The issue is, do you believe Me?  Do you have faith?  Are you willing to believe?  Are you willing to take the water and pour it down the pump, or not?”  And so, He says, “I dare you.”  Literally.

Remember when you were kids – at least, we did it when I was a kid – and you were on this roof, and you weren’t supposed to be on the roof?  And there was a house pretty close, and you wanted to run real fast on the roof and try and jump – our houses were real close – from that roof to that roof.  And you’re thinking if you don’t make it, you’re going to die.

And, of course, some kid turns to you, and goes, “I dare you.”  Your whole manhood’s on the line.  “Okay.”  I’m going to die, Mom!  You know, like this . . .  And you’re thinking, This is nuts.  And then he goes, “I double dare you!”  And then you had to tighten your tennies . . .  Actually, I hit on my stomach, right on the edge, and I slid down.  The roof didn’t get hurt too badly, but it wasn’t very smart.  But you know what God says to you?  “I dare you.  Test Me.”

Malachi 3 – God says – this isn’t out there; this is to you.  “Bring the whole tithe.”  Circle the word whole tithe.  The word tithe just means “10 percent.”  “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . .  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 you will not have room enough for it.’”  “Test Me.  Bring in the first portion.  Be a giver.”  Find out, is the parchment true, or not?

And underneath that, I have a challenge.  It says, “I” – your name – on my notes, it says, “Chip Ingram.” Do not write Chip Ingram on your notes, “…choose to take God up on His challenge, His promise, to trust Him to meet all my needs.  I take this step by committing the first 10 percent of my income to the Lord for the next 90 days.”  And you know what?  There’s no magical thing here, and this is not the time to talk about, yes, Abraham, before the Law, gave 10 percent.

And if you study the Old Testament, you realize that it was a theocracy, and it was a different time; they actually gave about 23 percent.  And Jesus, in Matthew, said to the people, “Hey, you should keep tithing your herbs and spices, but don’t miss the point of the Law an d justice and compassion.”  You know what?  The point is not 10 percent.  It’s pretty clear here.  But what I would say is, I’d pray real hard about signing my name, and take God up on His challenge for 90 days.

Like I said, I’ve got a file folder about this thick. I’ve done this for a number of years.  And I’ve just got stories of – a little Chinese girl came, and it was her second time in church, she became a Christian.  You know, I felt kind of bad.  She became a Christian the week before, and it was her second time.  But she didn’t have any baggage, so she didn’t know anything, and she gave her first portion.

She came back the next week and said, “I had twice as many customers.  Is this how it works?”  And I said, “Well . . . sometimes.  You know, God’s really gracious, especially to new Christians.”  And I remember a guy who was pretty well off and realized he’d been at 10 percent, but his income kept growing, and he decided, I’m going to give 20 next year.  And he became the number one salesman in a major company.

Am I saying all that’s going to happen to you?  No.  I’m saying if you give, God will give back, in the area and the way that your heart needs the most.  I remember one family – in all those emails – wrote and said, “Dear Chip, I want you to know that nothing good, at all, happened in our finances as we took the 90-day challenge.  Our money’s just about the same.  But because we took it, we sat down, as a couple, for the first time in five years and looked at where our money was going.  We actually sat down and had a budget and resolved some issues.  And I want to tell you now that what happened was so amazing is, our marriage and our family – we’ve never had such peace in our home in all the years that we’ve been married.”  See, treasure, chain, hooked to - heart.

And by the way, those that are new, and maybe visiting, or you’ve not been here long, if , for any reason, there’s any sense, that you sense in your spirit that maybe this is a some sneaky ploy for this church to get money, give it somewhere else. Okay?

This, this is not about our needs. This is about you. And then there’s a 3x5 card that’s, uhm, that we put in your notes, I would encourage you to decide whether you’re going to do this or not, before God, write your name on that card, and say, Dear God, I’m taking the Malachi 3 challenge for 90 days,” and stick it somewhere where you can read it over and pray and see what He does.