What May Be Accredited to Your Account (Philippians Sermon 23 of 24)
April 04, 2004 | Andy Davis
Contentment, Money and Possessions, Heaven
I. Introduction: How Will You Save Up for Retirement?
We're looking this morning at Philippians 4:10-19 and zeroing in on the expression that Paul gives in verse 17, he's concerned about what may be credited to your account. Two men owned farms side by side, one of them was a bitter atheist and the other was a committed Christian. Constantly annoyed at the Christian for his trust in God the atheist said to him, one winter, "Let's plant our crops as usual this spring, each the same number of acres. You pray to your God and I'll curse Him, then come October let's see who has the bigger crop." Well, when October came the atheist was delighted because his crop was clearly larger than the Christians. "See you fool," he taunted, "What do you have to say for your God now?" The Christian farmer replied, "My God doesn't settle all His accounts in October." That's profound isn't it? If for this life only we have trusted in Christ we are above all men to be pitied.
God doesn't settle all His accounts here and now and that's especially true when it comes to the issue of money, isn't it? Every year billions and billions of dollars are invested in various retirement accounts by Americans who seek to be financially astute and lay up financial resources for themselves for their retirement. I thought about that recently and it occurred to me that in a spiritual sense I am a retirement counselor. I'm just looking further down the road than those retirement counselors are looking. I would like you to consider your eternal estate. I would like you to think about what you're doing with your money from an eternal perspective. Are you investing properly in your eternal retirement? Are you dealing with finances as a faithful steward of our Lord Jesus Christ, that's the question before us.
Randy Alcorn in his book, The Treasure Principle said this, "What's the biggest misconception that Christians have about giving? That when we give money away to a church or ministry or to help the needy it's gone. While we hope others will benefit from it, we're quite sure we won't. We think we're divesting ourselves of money disassociating from it. Once it leaves our hands we imagine it has no connection to us, no future implications relevant to our lives, we couldn't be more wrong. What we think we own will rudely be taken from us, some of it before we die and anything that's left will be taken the moment we die. But now is our window of opportunity not to divest ourselves of money but to invest it in heaven. We don't have to have everything taken from us, we can give it before disaster or death strike, now is our chance to give what we can't keep to gain what we can never lose." Randy Alcorn is right. I think we have that sense that if we're going to give it away to the Lord we'll never see it again, quite the opposite is true, if we don't give it away we will never see it again.
I've been to a number of places on mission trips and one of the interesting rituals that comes is the changing of money, whether at the airport or at some bank in the country that you go to. Right after Jesus' triumphal entry immediately after Matthew's account, the first thing He did after the praise and Hosanna shouts, and people expecting Him to take up His throne immediately, He went into the temple and made a whip and drove out all of the money changers. Now, what are the money changers? So money changers were people who sat in the temple and exchanged different currencies for the temple shekel. The outlying currencies out in the other countries and districts could not be used in the temple, rather it had to be the temple shekel. There were a variety of currencies but only one could be used at the temple and it occurred to me that in the same way only one currency can be used in heaven and that's heavenly currency, this earthly stuff holds no truck there, we can't take it with us it must be exchanged.
How can we exchange our money? Well, we exchange it by giving it away by faith to the Lord's work and it seems to me that Paul is very concerned about that issue when it comes to the Philippians.
II. What the Gift Signified About the Philippians
The Philippians have sent him some money through Epaphroditus, he is writing them here in Philippians a thank you letter, it's more than that as we have seen but it is at least that a thank you letter for the money that they sent through Epaphroditus. He wants them to know that he has received the money, he's very grateful for the money, he's glad to have taken it but he wants them to know as a good pastor and also the one who led them to faith in Christ, how he thinks about money, he wants to train them also to think properly about money too. He's concerned about their eternal retirement, I don't think he would have used that language but he is concerned about it. He's concerned about their eternal rewards, he's concerned about what may be credited to their account and so he says in Verse 10, "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord, that at last you have renewed your concern for me, indeed you have been concerned but you had no opportunity to show it." He says, literally, "I rejoiced" because he's thinking about the moment I believe, it doesn't come across in the NIV but in a sharper translation, it is a past tense. He said, "I rejoiced when I saw the money." But I want you to know it wasn't the way you would think, I'm not rejoicing because of the money itself.
Now, the last few weeks, we've looked in deeply into his attitude of abiding Christian contentment, it's not because he now has a bunch of money that he's happy and content not at all, he's got a more spiritual mindset than that. He knows enough that even this substantial gift will someday be gone, that's not what he puts his trust in. It's not like, "At least I'll eat well until it's gone," that's not his concern, not at all, because he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances, living in plenty or not, well fed or hungry, whatever, he can do everything through Him who gives him strength. And so the Apostle Paul says, "I'm not happy for that reason, I'm content for something else," and so we've seen Paul's attitude of Christian contentment. What he is concerned about more is what the gift signifies about the spiritual health of the Philippians, that's what causes him to rejoice. He's delighted in this, put simply, to Paul it was more than anything, proof that the Philippians were still walking with Christ. It was proof that they had been genuinely converted.
Basic Goodness and Generosity
Now, he talks about some aspects of their giving, and there's some general characteristics about it. He says, first of all, it was good of them. Look at verse 14, he said, "It was good of you to share in my troubles." The Greek word for good, "kalos", is a wonderful word, frequently translated, "Beautiful." Generous giving is ethically beautiful, it's attractive. Later, he calls it a fragrant offering to God. It's a pleasing thing to be generous. The act of sacrificial love was a good thing, it was morally beautiful.
Freedom From Materialism and Selfish Greed
Also, he sees in this gift freedom from materialism and greed, you can't be generous like this and give this kind of money away if you're enslaved to the idolatry of greed and materialism, and so their lavish generosity shows that they're free from these gods which so conquer so many people.
Concern for a Christian Brother in Need
Also, it shows that they have a concern, generally, for a Christian brother in need. It says in 1 John that if anyone sees a brother in need and has the material resources to help them, but has no pity on him, how can he say the love of God is in him? He's closed up his heart.
Putting it more positively, the evidence of Christian conversion, of regeneration, is an open-handed, generous attitude toward the brothers and sisters in Christ. And so Paul was in need. The way it worked back then is if you were in prison or in chains, those on the outside had to take care of you financially, they had to provide for you. You were somewhat like a beggar, even worse than a beggar, because you couldn't be out by the roads begging. And so you had to have a good family network, you had to have friends that would be concerned for you. If you didn't have that, you would starve. And they didn't care, your captors, whether you starved or not, it wasn't their responsibility to feed you. And so this is a practical concern, and the Philippians showed love for Paul in that they cared about his basic needs. And also we see a concern, generally, for a persecuted messenger of the Gospel, but it's not just general here, is it? He gets very personal. These are his friends, these are, in effect, his spiritual children, so it means a lot more to him than just the general goodness of what they've done. He reviews and renews the history of their relationship.
Look again at verse 10, he says, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it." He also goes over their past history in verse 15 and 16, "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the Gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you only. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need." So this is... These are close friends of his, this is the church that he's planted, and they have a long history of concern for him and love for him. But there's been a hiatus, there's been an interruption, they had no opportunity to help him, perhaps they didn't know where he was, or in what circumstance he was. Transportation and communication being what they were in the ancient world, it's very possible they had no idea that he was in chains. And then they finally heard, and immediately, they reached out and helped. So he says, "I'm glad that you've renewed your concern for me." He's speaking very personally about their relationship.
Proof of Ongoing Progress in Christ
But then he gets to the real issue, it has to do with their progress in Christ, it's proof that they are still in Christ. Now, I want you to understand carefully what I'm saying; it is impossible for somebody who is genuinely born again, who's regenerated by the Spirit, who's justified by faith, it's impossible for them to lose their salvation, it's impossible for that to happen. However, as a church planter, standing on the outside, like Paul was, looking in at the Philippians, he really doesn't know for sure if they have been genuinely converted. Remember that Judas Iscariot, for three years, deceived the other 11 apostles, they thought even the night that he went out to betray Christ that he was going out to buy more supplies for the feast. They had no idea what was in his heart, he deceived them all.
And so it is possible for the apostle Paul to be deceived about what's genuinely going on in the lives of the Philippians. As he stands on the outside looking in, he is unable to be sure that they are genuinely born again. And so he's going to be waiting for some fruit, he wants to see some things back from them over a period of time. Hebrews 3:14 says, to prove the genuineness of our faith, we must keep obeying day after day, as long as it is called today. That verse says, "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first." And so it is a long-standing perseverance in Christ that is the greatest evidence to somebody like Paul standing on the outside looking in. And so he has a great joy about this money, because it's more evidence that Christ has really worked in their lives.
Whenever Paul would leave a town like Philippi, all he could do was entrust those dear ones to the Lord, that's all he could do. And so many times, you see this kind of thing. Like for example, in Acts 14:23, the churches in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, "Paul and Barnabas," it says, "appointed elders for them in each church, and with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust." Paul was an itinerant evangelist, he couldn't stay in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch or in Philippi, he had to move on. The Lord called him to move to the next city, so all he could do was thoroughly preach the Gospel, get them ready, establish the church, and then move on, and entrust them to God. We see the same thing in Acts 20:32, "Now, I commit you to God and to the word of His grace which can build you up and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified." That to the Ephesian elders, so he's saying, "All I can do, Ephesian elders and the Ephesian church, is commit you to God, because God is able to keep you safe, God is able to build you up." And so Paul is constantly concerned about the churches he's planted, he's wondering, in some cases, if he's wasted his time.
We see this very much in 1 Thessalonians. He doesn't know exactly how the Thessalonians are reacting to the trial they're going through. They're going through severe persecution, and he's not sure whether they're going to make it or not. Remember the parable of the different soils, when the sun comes up, the plants are withered and they die because they have no root. And so now is a real testing time for the Thessalonians. So he sends Timothy, and Timothy comes back and brings a report concerning them, 1 Thessalonians 3:5 and 6, it says, "For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought us good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us just as we long to see you."
Now do you see that connection there at the end? Because they, the Thessalonians, love Paul, and those who preach the Gospel to them, it's strong evidence that they're still continuing in the message, do you see? Because there's a connection between the message and the messenger. So, it works also with the Philippians and their love gift to Paul. It's evidence that they're doing well, It's evidence that they're Christians. We see the same thing negatively with the Galatians. There the news is not so good because it seems they're abandoning the true faith. And he says in Galatians 4:19-20, "My dear children for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone because I am perplexed about you." You see how concerned he is about the Galatian Church because he doesn't know what's really happening in their hearts. And so this matter of the money that was given by the Philippians is a spiritual matter to Paul, because frankly, money is a spiritual. Yes, it's physical and yes, it's material, but it's spiritual too.
Ultimately: Love for Christ Himself
And how you spend your money says a great deal about your relationship with Christ and so he's glad about this money. Ultimately it points back to love for Christ Himself. If you look at Verse 18, there's a sense of a sacrificial offering here. He says "I have received full payment and even more, I am amply supplied. Now that I've received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, they are a fragrant offering and acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God." Isn't that beautiful, that Old Testament, sacrificial language. Please do not bring a bull or goat here to First Baptist Church. We wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't have any idea. If you were to bring your first from your flock, I would say, "That's wonderful. Take it on home. We really have no place for it."
But that whole language has been transferred now to the issue of money. If you want to make a sacrificial offering to God, you do it financially now. The time for blood sacrifice ended forever when Jesus gave His blood for me. But the time for sacrifice is not over. And so we have this kind of sacrificial language in verse 18. You want to make a sacrifice to God, give financially, give cheerfully, give generously, give in a faith-filled manner, that is a sacrifice. And so Paul is tying this gift ultimately back to the Philippians in their relationship with Christ, whether or not they are born again.
III. Paul’s Primary Desire: Eternal Rewards for the Philippians
But then he goes beyond that. He says, Okay, "I accept that you're born again, grateful for it. But now I'm looking for something more." Look at verse 17, this is Paul's primary desire at this point, eternal rewards for the Philippians. Verse 17, he says, "Not that I'm looking for a gift, but I'm looking for what may be credited to your account."
Paul's deep desire here, and this is a strong word in the Greek, there's a strong desire, something he craves, something he yearns for. What is it you want here, Paul? You want more money? No, that's not it at all. My God is going to meet my needs. I don't know, I crave something for you. Like a good father, a good mother wants the best for their children, so also Paul is craving something for the Philippians and what is it? He says, "I want something credited to your account, I want you to store up treasure for heaven, I want you to be rich on judgment day, that's what I want, I want you to be lavishly supplied with rewards in heaven." Now, the word he used here is an accounting word, logos is the word, it's the record book. And so the cover picture on your bulletin there is a ledger with a pen and a number of numbers being kept up there. And that's the sense that there's a ledger book in heaven, that there's a sense of something that's been credited to an account. We get the same kind of accounting language although it doesn't come across in the English so well, in Verse 15, "Moreover, as you Philippians know in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel when I set out for Macedonia not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving."
Those expressions in the Greek giving and receiving are accounting language. It's accounts payable and accounts receivable, that's what it is. So he's using accounting language here with them, the matter of giving and receiving. And so it's a matter of careful accounting. Now the language of Verse 17 is a little different than it appears in the NIV. Verse 17 says, "Not that I seek... " this is New American Standard, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account." The RSV actually has it closest to the original language in verse 17. "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit." The word is literally fruit. But everybody knows he's talking about profits like a business, he's talking about profits that increase to your account. What he seeks then is the result of taking a pear seed and putting it in the ground. He wants a tree that's going to bear lots and lots and lots of beautiful pears.
God’s Eternal Ledger Book
What is Paul talking about here? Well, God has in heaven, a ledger book. He has a ledger book and He keeps careful records in Heaven of everything that happens in His universe. He's actually very meticulous about His record keeping.
It says in Matthew 12:36, "I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Now, you may say, "I don't remember what I said earlier this morning." That's all right, God remembers. He's keeping a record of everything you say, and He will remind you on judgment day, so that you can give an account. Let me refresh your memory, what you said on Sunday morning, April 4th, you said this, and then she said that, and then you said this in return, Okay? Tell me about it, let's talk about it. I tell you, that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. Now, this is a logical argument if you have to give an account for all your careless words, would you not also have to give an account for how you spend your money? For every dime that you spend? Yes, you will.
It says in Hebrews 4:13, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account." Romans 14:12, says "Each of us will give an account of himself to God." Daniel had a vision of Judgment Day. That's what it says in Daniel 7:9 and 10, "As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat, His clothing was white as snow. The hair of His head was white like wool, His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him, thousands upon thousands attended Him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him, the court was seated and the books were opened." The books were opened. That is Judgment Day. The court is seated, the books are opened. John in Revelation had the same vision. Revelation 20:12, he says, "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened which is the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books."
And so, you have in the one case, books that are opened, and there's a record of everything that we said and did in there, and then there's another book. Praise God for the second book, the book of life. Now, we're not going to get saved by anything written in the first books, are we? Nobody is justified by works, we're not saved by giving money to anything, never will be. We are saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And this week on Friday, we can commemorate it as we should, every single day of our lives that Jesus shed His blood on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and it's on that basis alone, that we'll stand before God on Judgment Day and if our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, we will not be cast into the lake of fire, but we will be with Him forever.
I have to be so clear about this because I am enjoining you to store up treasure in Heaven, and you could misunderstand and think that you're going to be earning your salvation by how much money you give to this or that, nothing could be further from the truth. But there are those first books in Revelation 20:12, aren't there? And in those first books is recorded everything we've ever said or done, all stewardship matters recorded in those books. We are merely stewards in God's universe. Everything that we have is His. Now, the essence of stewardship is that we manage something belonging to somebody else. The faithful steward seeks to use his position and skill to benefit his master's affairs.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25, concerning this. Beginning at verse 14,
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" - Matthew 25:14-30.
That's a parable of stewardship, isn't it? It's a parable of accounting and our money is included. More than just money is included, but our money is included. The principles are clear. First of all, the property belongs to the master and not to the steward.
Secondly, the master expects the stewards to be wise with their money, with his money, and gain more interest. Growth, he expects them to be out and trading with it. Third, the do-nothing steward receives the harshest possible penalty for his failure to increase his master's wealth. And fourth, faithful stewards are rewarded in proportion to their faithfulness. Brothers and sisters, we are stewards. We are not owners, we're stewards. Stewards of God's earth. And God will ask, "What did you do with it?" Stewards of people and relationships and He'll ask, "What fruit came from them?" Stewards of God's time for this is the day the Lord has made. Stewards of days and years and months minutes hours. How did we improve the time? Stewards of God's possessions, of God's money. How do we use it for His Kingdom? Stewards of God's spiritual gifts, how do we use them to build up Christ's body? Stewards of the Gospel message itself. Did we use it to bring people into the kingdom?
Storing Up Treasure in Heaven
Now comes the call from the Lord that we might store up treasure in Heaven. Are you storing up treasure in Heaven? This is a command that God has given us. Jesus says in Matthew 6:19:21, "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, your heart will be also." Do you realize that even the slightest act of faith, even the smallest act of giving the cup of cold water to a messenger of the Lord because he is the Lord's disciple, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42. As a matter of fact, God feels so strongly about this matter of rewards that He inspired the writer to Hebrews to use the word unjust concerning the failure to give the reward.
Says in Hebrews 6:10, "God is not unjust, He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." Now don't misunderstand me, don't you have a sense that any reward we get is lavished beyond anything we could possibly deserve? Just to be in heaven would be enough, and yet God's going to actually reward us for things we did here on Earth. More than that, He's going to clean them up a bit. Have any of us ever done a pure work of graciousness and love for anybody ever? And so even our best works need to be purified and cleansed by God's grace. He's going to do it, He's going to clean up our works and He's going to reward them eternally. And so He has commanded us store up treasure in Heaven. This cannot be good works for justification, we've already said that. Nobody's going to be justified by good works, but after you've come to faith in Christ, He expects you to store up treasure every single day of your life, and how you use your money is a huge part of that.
What Is the Reward?
Now, what is the reward, what do you get? What's the reward going to be, a better place on Heaven Street? I don't know, I don't really know. I've meditated on this this week, and it's been a delightful meditation. I think there are at least three aspects of what the reward is. First of all, praise from God specifically tied to the good deed itself. Let me say that again, praise from God specifically tied to the good deed. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You've been faithful in the few things. I'll put you in charge of many things." Just praise from God. Could anything be more valuable than that? If you love the Lord, what could be more valuable than to have the Lord say, "I am pleased with you"? And I think it's meticulous praise. In other words, tied to each good deed. Jesus said, "When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen," and your Father who sees what is done in secret will…" Do what? "Reward you." And so He will say, "That afternoon that you spent time praying for missionaries, I saw it. I'll never forget it. Well done." "And the time that you gave sacrificially to missions, I saw it. Well done."
I'm thinking I'd like to have lots of that, wouldn't you? I'd like to have lots and lots of that kind of praise. I think that's a good way to understand the rewards because it's not idolatrous. Its focused very much on the person of God. It's God saying to us, "I am pleased with you," and us being pleased with God's pleasure in us. That's a good reward isn't it? Secondly, I think it's increased responsibilities in the new heavens and new Earth. The parable of the Minas. M-I-N-I, it's a larger sum of money, in Luke 19, he says, "Because you have the 10 minas, I'm going to put you in charge of 10 cities." Now, I don't have any idea what life will be like in the new heavens and the new earth. I don't. We can speculate but I think there will be varying levels of responsibility. Jesus says in another place. "If you're not careful with money, who will entrust you with real riches or with treasure of your own?" It's a very interesting statement. And so there's I think a sense of increased responsibility in the new heavens and the new earth.
And third the shared happiness of the master. Just that you'd be pleased because God is pleased. Enter into the joy of your Master. Those are three good rewards don't you think? The praise from God, increased responsibility in new heavens and new earth, and shared happiness of the master.
IV. What Paul Promises: God’s Constant Supply
Now, along the way Paul helps us a bit. He promises us God's constant supply. Look at verse 19. "And my God will supply," this is the New American Standard Version here, "My God will supply all your needs, according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus." A great enemy of faith-filled giving is anxiety about what will happen to you. Right? "If I give all this money away, what's going to happen to us?" Concern and anxiety. Well, it's addressed very openly here. He says, "My God will supply all your needs," the word in the Greek means fill up amply, meet it completely. I'll give you absolutely everything that you need.
Hudson Taylor said, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply," and so he says "I promise you I will supply all your needs." The Emperor Napoleon says... Said, "An army marches on its stomach." An Army marches on its stomach, what's that mean? You got to provide the basic needs of your soldiers. Or they can't do the job. Well, if Napoleon knew it, how much more does our Heavenly Commander know it? And He knows that you need certain things in order to do the job He's giving you to do. But notice it says "My God will meet all your needs." Oh, well, that's a little tricky, isn't it? I had bigger ambitions than that material actually. Yes, more than food and clothing. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6, "If we have food and clothing, we'll be content with that." Jesus taught the same thing in Matthew 6. So do not worry saying, "What shall we eat, or what should we drink, or what shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them." These are basic needs. And He promises you here in Verse 19 that He will supply all of your needs, if you live a life of faithful generosity in service to Him. And look what it says too, He'll meet all your needs according to His glorious riches.
Now, if Bill Gates gives you 10 bucks, because you asked him for some money, he's giving you out of his riches. But what if he were to give you according to his riches? Shall I say, in proportion to what he has, I think you'd get more than 10 bucks. And so also, God has promised to lavishly supply you in proportion to how much He has available. And how much is that? How much does God have available? Well, you've heard it before, Psalm 50:10, Our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Recently, I heard a wonderful story about that. Shortly after Dallas Theological Seminary was founded in 1924, it almost folded into bankruptcy. All the creditors were ready to foreclose at noon on a given day. That morning, the founders of the seminary met in the president's office to pray that God would somehow provide. In that meeting was a man named Dr. Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he said in his refreshingly candid way, "Lord, we know that the cattle on a thousand hills are thine, please sell some of them and give the money to us."
That's a great prayer, isn't it? Just about then a tall Texan wearing cowboy boots and an open collar shirt, strolled into the school's business office. "Howdy?" He said to the secretary, "I've just sold two carloads of cattle over in Fort Worth, I've been trying to make another business deal go through but it just won't work. I feel God wants me to give this money to the seminary. I don't know if you need it or not, but here's the check." The Secretary took the check, and knowing the nature of the business of that day, went to the door of the president's office and timidly knocked. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the Founder and President of Dallas Theological Seminary, answered the door and took the check from the Secretary. When he looked at the amount, it was for the exact amount of the debt, lined up perfectly. Then he recognized the name of the cattleman on the check, and turning to Dr. Ironside he said, "Harry, God sold the cattle."
I think it's a matter of principle that God will be faithful to meet your needs if you will step out in faith and seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, He will meet your needs. Now, what application can we take from this? Well, I guess it should be obvious, but I want to spell it out, okay. You need to give, you need to give generously. God doesn't need you to give, you need to give. And this church doesn't need you to give, ultimately, God will meet this church's needs. I'm not standing here so much as a pastor, you know that pastors don't like to preach on stewardship usually. I don't really feel that way about it, but I am protected from such problems by being an expositor, a verse by verse expositor. I can't help but preach about money today, because it's the next text, but I'm delighted to preach about it.
Randy Alcorn said to a group of pastors, he said, it'd be like a pastor saying, "Well, today I need to preach on adultery. Now, those of you committing adultery, this will be my last sermon on it for a while, so just relax and I won't be touching on this again for another year or two," like we're apologizing for something that Jesus taught a great deal about. He taught a lot about money. And we need to be generous, we need not just our hearts, but our wallets to be sanctified. We need to give generously. We live in a world with deep spiritual and material poverty. 1.6 billion people or more have never heard of Jesus Christ, they've never heard the life-saving message in this, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." They've never heard that message. 1.6 billion. More than one billion people live in absolute poverty. This includes 700 million people living in slums, 500 million people on the verge of starvation, 93 million beggars, 200 million children exploited for labor.
In the year 2000, American evangelicals collectively made $2.66 trillion in income. Over the next 50 years, somewhere between $41 trillion and $136 trillion will pass from older Americans to younger generations, suggesting that roughly $1 trillion to $3 trillion in wealth will change hands every year. The average donation by adults who attend US Protestant churches is about $17 a week. Among church members of 11 primary Protestant denominations, the per capita giving by percentage of income was lower in the year 2000 than either in the year 1921 or 1933. In 1921 per-member giving as a percentage of income was 2.9%, 2.9%. In 1933 at the depth of the Great Depression, it was 3.3%. But in the year 2000, after a half century of unprecedented prosperity in America, giving had fallen to 2.6%. Overall only 3% to 5% of Americans who donate money to a church tithe, although a larger number than that claim to tithe. Tithe is one 10th of income given.
As I look at those statistics and I think about the need, I think about the resources in this local church and in churches like this across the country, I think that we're not being as faithful as we should be with our money. I think that we should be giving more sacrificially. I think that we should be sanctified in our hearts and in our wallets, I think we should store up treasure in Heaven. Randy Alcorn gave a great illustration about this. He said, imagine that you were a business man who regularly used Federal Express. And suppose you found out that the Federal Express man who came and picked up all your packages, was actually hoarding them in his home and using them for his own private use. I mean, the coat that you had given to your father for his birthday, he never got it, you wonder where it went? FedEx guy has it. The important business papers, the checks and other things that you had hoped to transfer, FedEx guy has it. And not just your stuff, but all the music and videos and equipment and all that, FedEx guy has it.
And you're shocked when you find out and you go and confront this guy, and he said, "Well look, if you didn't mean for me to have it, why did you give it to me?" I remember what Randy Alcorn said, "You're the FedEx guy for crying out loud. You weren't meant to have it, you were meant to pass it on." But could it be that we spiritually are the FedEx guy? And that we're saying in effect to God, if you didn't mean me to have it, why did you give it to me? I would like this church to be like a clear pipe, a conduit of water that just flows from Heaven through us to some need.
V. Application: How Are You Investing “Your” Money?
So what is the application? Give, give generously. Give to this church, give to the global priority mission fund. It's at its lowest level now since it started, okay. We use that money for sending short-term missionaries and from meeting other needs. Give to the Lottie Moon, start saving up now for Lottie Moon. Set aside a container or something and just give all year long to Lottie Moon, so that you can give far more generously than if you would if you were just looking at it in December.
In your bulletin, I've given you a financial covenant. Randy Alcorn wrote it, I changed it a bit, changed it a bit. I don't want to get into the issues of whether tithing per se is a new covenant issue. But Randy Alcorn does make a good point. He said, in every case of spiritual obedience, the New Covenant calls its covenant members to a higher level of commitment than the Old Covenant did. And the tithe was the basic standard of giving in the old covenant. Randy Alcorn calls the tithe the training wheels of Christian giving, the training wheels. And he said, people say, I can't tithe. He said, "Well, let me ask you a simple question: If you were to tithe over the next year, would you die?" That's a good question, don't you think? I'm not trying to be shocking, whatever, but would you die if you actually tithe over the next year? So what I'm asking you to do is take this covenant home and read it over in your home. Husbands and wives read it together, read it over prayerfully.
And if you feel in good conscience that you can sign this before God, I would urge you to do so, and get a witness. If you're a single person, get a Christian brother or sister to watch you sign it. And then put it up in your papers, important papers at your home. Two weeks from now, I'm going to give you a similar covenant which has no place for you to sign, but boxes for you to check. It'll be in the bulletin, and I'm going to urge you to check the boxes that you feel you can check, and then put it in the offering plate anonymously. I want you to understand we are not trying to have a pledge drive here. I want you to make a pledge between yourself and God. We will take those things out of the offering plate and put them in a box and keep them for a year, and we'll pray over them and pray that you'll be faithful to the covenant and the commitment you've made to God. But we're urging you, and why? Well, we're not looking for a gift, but we're looking for what may be credited to your account.