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In Tests of Faith, Part 2

From the series I Choose Peace

Chip wraps up this series with a fantastic challenge. It’s a challenge that God Himself has promised to make good on, if you’ll take Him up on it. Join Chip if you’re ready for the spiritual adventure of a lifetime!

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PURCHASE

Message Transcript

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.