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By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Many people face financial difficulties. Do you? If so, why? Possibly just as many also face marital difficulties. Do you? If so, why?
Some Christians face other seemingly insurmountable problems. Do you? If so, why? Do you ever feel like Solomon who declared:
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after wind (Eccl 2:17, NIV).
Do you ever feel like that? Defeated, discouraged, despondent; despising your lot in life?
I’m sure those feelings are not alien to any person at some stage in their life. Everyone has low points. Everyone will, at some time in life, experience negative feelings or negative moods. The degree to which we do, however, depends upon us. Our lives are in our hands. How we respond to the difficulties of life determines our success or failure in whatever we do.
What is our response? Do we concede defeat and become despairing, as Solomon seemed to do?
So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun (Eccl 2:20).
When he asked the question, "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun?" (v 22), he believed in his heart that he got precious little!
Do you feel that way? Unfulfilled, unhappy, disappointed, dejected, even despairing? If so, that need not be. Solomon himself admitted:
To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness (v 26 NIV).
What is the way to that happiness, a happiness that is so elusive to most people? Jesus came to show us the way. He declared, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). He holds the keys to the Kingdom of heaven; He has the answers we need. He knows how we can attain total fulfilment and satisfaction in life. We must look to Him more and we will find our needs fulfilled.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). If you are not experiencing that fulness of life, there is a reason. This article will set forth that reason. You need never suffer defeat or lack in Christ Jesus!
When God Speaks
It was an ordinary day. We were going about doing the things we normally do, when God spoke to a member of our family, and told him to go to town. He was to give some money to a man who was desperately in need. Whether he was as desperately in need of the money as much as encouragement we do not know. But God knew.
The Lord specifically told Jim (not his real name) how much and what to do. "Go to town and withdraw £150 from your Building Society savings account. There I will point out a man to you. Give the money to him, and tell him I love him." That was it.
Who was this man? How would Jim find him? These were natural queries as a result of God’s instruction. But whenever God speaks it is a test of faith. And in walking by faith – instead of by sight – answers don’t normally come until after you have obeyed.
God will test you to see whether you believe Him and trust Him. He wants you to know that He is always in charge. When God speaks, He will always back you up.
So, Jim obeyed immediately, trusting God to lead him again when the right time came.
He went to town, withdrew the money and was walking down the High Street when God spoke again. Jim saw a man going into the Job Centre. At that precise moment God spoke again: "He’s the man. Give the money to him and tell him I love him."
Giving such a large sum of money was no problem. Not that Jim has a lot of money; he doesn’t. That was a large part of his savings. It wasn’t the first time he had been asked to give his money to others in need. He had done so several times before. It’s no problem for someone who loves God more than money.
The man received the gift with incredulity! He couldn’t believe it! Even when Jim told him God loved him, he still could not bring himself to believe it. Was this a practical joker?! Nothing like this had ever happened in his life before. Surely, he must be dreaming? As he counted the notes one by one, it began to sink in. He was not dreaming. This was for real! Out of the ‘blue’, someone whom he did not know from Adam, had given him a sizeable sum of money with some encouraging words, and had walked away without saying any more. He had never experienced anything like this before.
Whether this man was a believer or not, we still do not know to this day. That is not our concern; we did what God called upon us to do. His wife wrote us a few days later, thanking us for the gift and admitting, "It’s like a miracle". Even she was having difficulty believing it was some- thing God had set up!
God Knows Your Needs
Experiences like this of God’s involvement in our lives seem rare, but they are not. God reaches down into our lives constantly. Maybe not as obviously as the above incident, but nonetheless He is continually aware of our needs and our desires, and is seeking to fulfil them.
Jesus plainly said that God’s loving nature is one of desiring to give to us.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (Matt 7:11, NIV.)
Why is it then that some do not receive?
Luke has one key: "Give". Many people, many Christians, are living selfish lives. They are not as concerned about others as they ought to be. They are not sensitive to the needs of others. If they were, and were actively giving, providing the needs of others continually, they would not find their own garner empty.
Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38, NIV).
In the above case, the wife was a giving woman. She said in her letter she would be giving some of what she had received to her favourite charity.
Perhaps it was because of that giving heart which God saw in her that He responded the way He did. She did not have much, but out of what little she had, she was concerned about the needs of others.
Mark’s gospel, which highlights service, relates the following remarkable incident.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts [they were probably pleased to let others see it, too!]. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on (Mark 12:42-44, NIV).
Of course, Jesus’ words that she had put more into the treasury than all the others was not true – physically. But Jesus was not concerned about the physical. When He talked, he expounded spiritual principles. Her gift may have been physically insignificant, but it wasn’t to God because of the spiritual motive behind the physical act. That is what God is concerned about.
Her giving was from the heart, and her heart was not on herself. It was devoted to God. She wanted to give to Him.
With what measure are you giving? Is it from the heart? Is it with generosity, or merely out of habit or feeling of duty? Where is your heart? If it is not with Him, you will be missing out.
Are You A Giving Person?
I am amazed at how many Christians deceive themselves and try to deceive God, not only in this area, but in any area of personal commitment. They seem to think they can hide their real inner motives from Him. But God sees; He is not fooled.
We receive letters or comments from those who like to give the impression they are supportive of what God is doing through us, but who never show it by any deeds.
Some people write and say, "Keep all the literature, the Newsletters and the booklets coming." They write letters that need replying to, sometimes at considerable length to help lead them to understand God’s righteousness, but do not think for one minute about their responsibility toward those who are feeding them spiritually. They totally fail to appreciate the sacrifice that has been made on their behalf!
The apostle Paul found the same problem in his day. He had to rob other churches to pay for his own needs in order to supply the negligent ones (II Cor 11:8). I know how he felt! He would not ask them to respond to his financial needs, for fear of offending them and giving them the wrong impression. He wasn’t selfishly desiring their physical wealth, but their lack of response was jeopardising his service to them! So, rather than run the risk of them thinking he was after their money, he suffered deprivation himself. He had to bear the additional responsibilities of providing for his own physical needs, while trying also to provide for the spiritual needs of those he served.
We have been called into a work which requires our all. Like the poor widow just described, we have been called upon to give ourselves totally to Him.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Rom 12:1, NIV).
This sacrifice involves every area of our lives.
God does not look at how much we give. He looks at how much we have left. He looks at how much we keep for ourselves! That spells out what is in our hearts. The poor widow who put in her whole living, even though it was so small, into the temple treasury, had given far more in spiritual terms than all the large amounts of the rich. She had demonstrated she loved God, if not more than herself, certainly as much as herself. She loved God with all her heart.
Her offering illustrated the self-sacrifice of TOTAL COMMITMENT.
Nothing less than total commitment is of any value to God. He gave His all for us. How can we be so insensitive and spiritually calloused to think that we should not need to respond to the same degree?
In 1836, when George Mueller received a donation of £100 towards his work of God caring for orphaned children, he tried to persuade the lady who gave the huge sum to reconsider her action. However, she could not be dissuaded from giving such a large amount. She adamantly replied to him, "The Lord Jesus has given His last drop of blood for me. Should I not give all the money I have?"
That is the level of commitment God delights to see in His people. Jesus gave everything in order to save you and me. We should emulate His perfect example. When you allow His Spirit to flow through you to that extent, the full cycle of giving and receiving will be complete. You will have no problem receiving from Him when you really give!
It is a promise: Give and you shall receive!
There are many Christians today who are Christians in name only, but not in deed. They want what they can get from Him. They want salvation, they want health and healing when sick, they want prosperity, they want happiness, but they are not prepared to go down the road to receive it.
It is a road of paradoxes.
The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned (Eccl 9:11, NIV).
It is not those who seek to save their lives who will do so.
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn 12:25, NIV).
If you are a selfish Christian, your faith is null and void. You can get nothing from God by seeking to save your own self. You cannot get salvation. Salvation is given by God.
What is the secret, then, to receiving salvation? Jesus continued: "Whoever serves Me must follow Me" (v 26, NIV). That sounds simple enough, but continue further.
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate [love much less by comparison] his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be My disciple (Lk 14:26, NIV).
Do you really want to be a disciple of Christ? Are you willing to lay down your life for His sake, as He did for us? You also must come to that point of total commitment, or you will not enter His Kingdom. Half measures are not successful. Effectively, they achieve nothing.
We have to violently desire what He is offering (Matt 11:12), not just because it is worth all the effort! But because it is in our hearts to do so! If we don’t believe from our hearts it is worth all the effort, we won’t be receiving it. God doesn’t give things of real value to those who don’t really desire them. Why should He bother giving jewels to the unappreciative? You show your appreciation by how you respond to what He has given you (Luke 7:47). When you deeply realise the extent of God’s forgiveness towards you, you will respond in equal depth.
Colin Urquhart explains in his book Faith For The Future, "The new Christian needs to understand that he is not joining some religious society or social club, but is committing himself to a way of life that involves every aspect of his being. Christianity is all or nothing. That is not a truth for the spiritually élite, but God’s calling upon every Christian life. So, mature Christians need to reaffirm constantly that their lives belong to God, that He is their Lord..."
"True and full repentance involves more than asking God to deal with the negative areas of our lives. It involves also a handing over of the positive aspects of all that we are and have. Jesus is to be Lord of our families, relationships, time, work, leisure, our participation in the local congregation. He is to be Lord of our money and property, so that everything is at His disposal to be used for His glory."
If we haven’t given everything to Him, how can we expect Him to give everything to us?
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously... for God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor 9:6, NIV).
If you are lacking in some way, whether it is financially, or in employment, in relationships, in meaning to your life, fulfilment, contentment, whatever it is, God can fill it. "God is able to make all grace abound to you..." What you need to ask yourself is why has He not done so? Paul gives us the answer: "...so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (II Cor 9:8, NIV).
Did you grasp it? God provides for us, not according to our selfish whims and fancies, but if we are properly using what He gives us.
If you are not motivated to abound in good works to others, you will suffer need. It is not that God is unaware of your needs. He knows before you ask Him what you have need of (Matt 6:8). He is waiting to see you develop a really giving heart.
How we use our worldly wealth is very important. Jesus told us to "use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself" (Luke 16:9).
He was not telling us to go into the world and distribute our physical resources without discretion in order to buy friends to ourselves. You can’t do that anyway. You can never buy a person’s mind or spiritual friendship. Spiritual things cannot be purchased for cash.
What He was emphasising was the temporal nature of our physical life and our need to be aware of the eternal future. When we realise how much more important spiritual matters are, we will use our physical wealth for those greater riches. We will use our wealth to provide for the spiritual feeding of others. If you are devoted to God you will use your wealth to bring spiritual meat to those who will one day be eternally grateful to you for so doing. In that way you gain friends who shall be together for eternity.
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [Grk means anything physical in which you put your trust] (Lk 16:3).
What do you count most important?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also (Matt 6:19-21, NIV)
Not everyone is really prepared to follow Jesus in this regard. The Pharisees sneered at Jesus for His strong words about money (Luke 16:14). They didn’t believe Him. They didn’t want to. Nor do many today. Some prefer money to their eternal future! God wants us to choose the eternal riches, but He cannot make that choice for us; it is a choice we have to make.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt 7:14, NIV).
How we use our money now determines whether we really want to go through that small gate into eternity with God.
Unfortunately, it is not what all Christians really desire! Some will be sorely disappointed on that Day.
Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (v 21, NIV).
These are sobering words.
So, to remind ourselves of how we can receive from God, it is quite simple in principle – give. This applies to any aspect of our lives. We must give of ourselves, in every way.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (I Jn 3:17,18). The man who does the will of God lives for ever (I Jn 2:17, NIV).
Walking by Faith
The times when God really comes through in our lives are when we cast all our cares upon Him. When financially derelict, if God asks us to give to someone else, He sees by our actions that we consider obedience to Him more important than our own immediate needs. When you give when humanly you have little even for yourself, you are trusting Him in faith. It is at such desperate times that God really shines through. God can reward you by causing unanticipated blessings to flow your way from the most unexpected sources.
As you rely upon Him at such times to do the impossible, you are demonstrating your willingness to live by faith. That is the way of life that pleases Him (Heb 11:6). As committed Christians we can only walk by faith, not by sight (II Cor 5:7). If we try and work out everything ourselves we will fail. We can only succeed if we truly trust in Him.
Corrie ten Boom was a missionary who relied upon the Lord by faith to provide for her to minister to those who would receive her. On one occasion, she was due to travel to Russia. The cost of the trip was about 5,000 guilders, but she found she only had 3,000 guilders in the bank. She prayed about it, and God spoke to her.
She thought that God would let her contact a few wealthy relatives to tell them of her needs.
However, instead, she heard a very clear directive from God: ‘Give away 2,000 guilders.’
"’Oh, no, Lord,’ she relates. ‘You did not understand. I did not say I wanted to give away 2,000 guilders. I said I needed someone to give me that amount so I could go to Russia.’
"However, God seldom listens to my arguments. He waited for me to get through with my objections, and then repeated His original command. This time, though, it was even more specific. I was to give 2,000 guilders to a certain mission group that had an immediate need.
"I could not understand how anyone’s need could be more immediate than my own, but foregoing the ‘wisdom of the wise’, I sat down and wrote a cheque to this mission group, depleting my bank account down to 1,000 guilders.
"Later that day I went back down to see if I had received any mail. Among the letters was one from the American publishing company that was to publish The Hiding Place. For some months I had been writing back and forth and only two weeks before I had finally signed the contract. I brought the letter back upstairs and opened it. As I pulled it out, a cheque fluttered to the floor. It was an advance from the publisher, money which I did not think I was going to get until the manuscript was completed. I looked at the figure. It amounted to more than I needed!" (From Tramp For the Lord by Corrie ten Boom).
God wants to see if we are willing to give before He gives to us. He wants us to receive the blessing, and the greatest blessing is in the giving, not the receiving! (Acts 20:35).
When you show your willingness to live this giving way of life, Jesus will take you forward step by step, until it is one of total surrender. We have to come to the point of a commitment that is so great that it is only possible to fulfil by walking with His faith.
"The beginning is what we call conversion, turning towards the Lord Jesus... This is the first glorious step. Then Jesus makes us a child of God.
"After that, however, the child must grow, and this means we have to put our weak hands, time and again, into the strong hand of Jesus who wants to go with us and guide us. Your circumstances, your family, your work, your worries, your problems, your suffering too – if there is suffering – you can give to Him.
"There was a time when I was afraid to surrender to Him," Corrie ten Boom admits. "I do not dare. You never know what consequences it may have. I do not know how to accomplish it and I lack the courage.
"How dreadful to think such things of the Lord, to be afraid of consequences. Then I learned something I want to tell you who are afraid and do not know how to accomplish it. You do not need to do it in your own strength or by a strong will. God wants to work in you – both to will and to perform.
"In earnest prayer we must find the answer. God who is powerful and full of love, wants to work in us Himself, in order to take away all that is wrong, that we may surrender to Him all that is wrong in our thoughts and deeds. God Himself made Abraham an instrument to His glory [because he was willing to give what was dearest to his heart].
"Then you begin to pray: ‘God, make me willing to be made willing.’ I heard this prayer for the first time in New Zealand. A theology student had broken his neck while swimming, and was paralysed from neck to toes. He was very intelligent, and helped me correct the book I had written in English. One evening we spoke about the fact that he could surrender even the terrible experience he had had. I told him that my sister Betsie, in the concentration camp, had said: ‘We must not think and speak about our lives in days past, or about what we shall experience when we are free again. We must completely surrender our being prisoners to the Lord. Then we shall be able to accept it.’
"The following night I heard the young man pray: ‘Lord, make me willing to be made willing to surrender all, my life, and also my paralysis.’ The next morning his face was radiant with peace and joy.
"If there is something you cannot and dare not surrender, then pray this prayer: ‘Lord, will you make me willing to be made willing to surrender completely?’ If you pray this, your loving Saviour is going to do it.
"Jesus’ life was one of complete surrender. He bought us with a high price. He lives in your heart with His Holy Spirit. You limited Him with your anxiety and unwillingness. He is longing to help you. Trust Him by completely surrendering to Him." (From Corrie ten Boom’s, Not I But Christ).
As many as have surrendered to Him, to them He has given power to become sons of God (I Jn 1:12). As an active son of God you have all the rights and privileges of God Himself. You need not be defeated by circumstances.
If you feel defeated, you must change your direction of view. You are looking in the wrong direction. You are not looking to Christ, the Author and Finisher of your faith. Your faith needs perfecting. You cannot perfect it; only He can! He baptized you into His death, and He has raised you up to walk in newness of life (Col 2:12).
Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col 3:1,2, NIV).
This is the key to success. For He "has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Eph 1:3). Notice it says, we are already blessed with every blessing in Christ! For us to be able to receive these blessings we need to be in communion with Him, because they are in the heavenly realms. They are not on earth unless we have made the connection.
We must ask. We must make the connection. But...
...if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him (I Jn 5:14,15, NIV).
Knowing God to that extent – personally – comes when we trust Him in deep faith. After having cast all our cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for us, we can have great assurance (I Pet 5:7).
To one young man Jesus said: If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me (Matt 19:21, NIV).
That was a total commitment! And for him it was too much. That rich young man could not do it. His possessions meant more to him than what was on offer.
What about you? If Jesus required the same thing of you, what would your response be?
Are you willing to move on with Him, as He leads you, or will you draw back from that surrender which He requires of you as some did in Jesus’ time? (Jn 6:66).
The early Church shared everything they had (Acts 4:32). God did require complete material surrender from them at that time. There were great financial demands upon the apostles’ work then because so many were being reached so fast. Those who made such a heart-felt commitment of total surrender to God, over their own possessions and even their lives, were greatly blessed for their dedication.
There can be no harvest without the sowing of seed. Paul asked, "If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?" (I Cor 9:11). All of us receive, and we all therefore have a responsibility to give to the ones who provide our spiritual needs.
Many face financial difficulties and they wonder why. It may be that the answer lies with them.
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.’ This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways’ (Haggai 1:5-7, NIV).
What God is looking for is willingness (II Cor 8:12), a truly giving heart.
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously... and God is able to make all grace abound to you (II Cor 9:6,8,).
And God WILL make His grace abound to you, when you show willing.
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well (Matt 6:33, NIV).
It is cause and effect. There is no mystery to it. God promises to take care of us if we cast all our cares upon Him.
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you (Jn 15:7, NIV).
The principle is not only true in the area of finances but in any area of our lives.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern [preside] diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere... Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality... Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:6-21). Malcolm B Heap
From Awake! Awake! 1-11, August 1993
Giving and Receiving (GR)
What Every Christian Should Consider (Chr)
To Whom Should You Give Your Tithe? (Tth)
The Tithe of God (T)
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