#112 Faithfully Given to Give Faithfully(18/01/04)

Message by Dr. Robert A. Schuller

My message today is very simple ... everything we have is a gift from God. So it follows that that if everything is a gift from God, everything belongs to God. We really don't own anything. Yet we have this perceived conception that we do... because we have hold a piece of paper called a "title" or a "deed," that allows us to use things and property while we're alive.

Yet we know without a doubt that nobody takes a U-Haul to Heaven, right? We don't commonly see moving vans packing up and heading into the clouds. We enter this world with nothing, and we leave this world with nothing, and while we're here on planet earth, however long that may be, we become managers of that which God has entrusted to us, be it property, cars, bank accounts, whatever you have.

So as we enter and leave with nothing, there is a lot of space between these two occurrences, isn't there? During this life span we have the responsibility and privilege to be used by God, and make the most out of this one life He's given to us. Along the way He's given us some guidance, and some rules to live by, all in an effort to help us make this space of time we have on planet earth productive, enjoyable, and rewarding.

In the beginning it was quite clear. God created the Heavens and the earth. He created the world we see, then he took a lump of clay and breathed His breath of life into it and created Adam, the first man. God gave to man the responsibility to take care of everything He had made. From that day to the present, God has faithfully given to us everything we have.

Now, in response to His faithfulness, we have the privilege and honor to faithfully give back to Him. Today I'm referencing the Old Testament book of Leviticus 27 where God refers us to the concept of tithing. Here the bible states that, "a tithe (or tenth) of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord."

This is the command that the Lord gave Moses on Mount Sinai for his people. It is the law of God for us, His people, to tithe... giving a tenth of everything we earn back to Him. My definition for tithing goes as follows: "A tithe is giving a tenth of your income to God as an investment to express your thanksgiving and accept His divine honor for you eternally. That's what a tithe is. That's what God has called us to do. He is faithfully giving to us so that we can, in turn, faithfully give."

Now, that definition of "tithe" is actually easy to remember because it's an acrostic. The acrostic spells tithe, T-I-T-H-E. A Tenth, Investment, Thanksgiving, Honor, Eternally. So it begins with giving a tenth back to God. Does that scare anybody? If we're being honest, we will all admit that it scares us. It scares me every time I do it. After all, a tenth is a lot of money. So you begin to ask, "Lord, you mean if I earn a hundred dollars at work my first responsibility is to give ten away? Do you realize just how fast ten dollar bills fly out of my pocket in this modern day world? Lord, I have teenagers! You can't imagine how fast they can spend money!"

I'll admit it's a challenging thing to do, and yet it is probably the most important decision you will ever make in your life. Tithing is also just enough to be scary, but just small enough to be do-able. Furthermore, it is possible for anybody in any economic situation to tithe, to grow into the position of being able to tithe. So what is the first critical step in tithing? Number one would be to face your fears.

This past summer I had the privilege of traveling to Africa to deliver wheelchairs to the poor for a non-profit organization called The Wheelchair Foundation. One of the things my family and I did while we were there was to take a few days and go on a safari. I must say that I never feel closer to God then when I'm in the midst of His creation, going into the wild and seeing see some of the marvelous animals that He has created.

While we were there, the guides taught us some very interesting facts about lions. One guide told me that lions hunt in a very unusual manor. What they'll do is place the old lion, who just isn't able to run very fast anymore, as close to the game as they can. Then the young, healthy lions will form a circle quite a distance out from the game, with the old lion in the center of this giant circle. Then that old lion will do what he does best, he'll roar as only an old lion can. What happens next is very interesting. The game, hearing that tremendous roar, will run away. Where are they running? ... right into the jaws of the young lions. The moral of the story is that when you hear of something that frightens you, run to the roar. Run to the roar and face your fears. Many times you will find that your greatest fears aren't so great after all.

Today, if your greatest fear is money, or not having enough, perhaps it's time to face your fears. It's called tithing ... ten percent. This is probably the greatest investment with the most positive returns you could ever imagine. The Bible tells us in

"Bring your tithes to the storehouse and see if I will not pour out such a blessings that your storehouse will not be able to contain it." Malachi 3:10

Blessing is another word for happiness. Happiness overflowing to the point where your storehouse won't be able to contain it. To me, that's exciting. Much more exciting than a nicer car and a nicer house, and more "stuff". All that good stuff doesn't make you happy. Happiness is something that comes from within. It comes spiritually. It comes as a promise from God when we learn this incredible lesson of tithing.

Tithing is an investment. What happens when we invest? When my children were younger, one of the science projects they had was to stick a potato in the glass of water. I'm sure every biology class in the world sticks the potato in the glass of water to watch the roots grow. Well, we used a sweet potato, and over time my kids watched as this glass of water filled with roots.

Soon a beautiful vine stretched all over the counter tops. It was a wonderful, successful project.
My wife took that potato plant, and instead of throwing it away, she buried it in a small planter we have along the patio and forgot about it. A few months rolled by and she said to me one day, "Robert, that potato plant is just totally out of control. Would you go and get rid of that plant?"

I said, "are you ready to harvest your potatoes?"

She looked at me and started to laugh. "There aren't any potatoes in there."

I said, "What do you mean there are no potatoes? If you planted a potato plant, there will be potatoes."

"There are no potatos in that plant," she said.

"Really?" I said, "Let's go take a look." So we went outside and I grabbed the plant by the stalk and yanked it out of the ground. Sure enough, hanging off of the roots were dozens upon dozens of sweet potatoes. Not having grown up on the farm, my wife didn't realize that the seeds of her investment were growing ... beneath the surface were all these potatoes just waiting to be harvested. We planted a seed. We planted one potato, and in its place we harvested a five-gallon bucket of potatoes. That's an investment!

When you invest in tithing, you invest in the Lord's work and that investment will come back to you in many ways, sometimes monetarily, but often it will come back to you in the form of a blessings where you need the blessing the most. Only God in heaven knows where your blessing is needed today. Yet God will touch your heart, your mind and your life with a blessing.

A tithe is giving a Tenth... it is an Investment... and next it is an expression of your Thanksgiving.

There is no greater way to express our thanks than to actually give something to God. This gift is a tangible expression of our faith in Him, and our thanksgiving for what He does for us.

This past week, my wife and I were invited to go to Mexico to a health conference, and one of the things they did was take us to an organic farm. I'd never seen an organic farm before, needless to say I was rather curious to see just how an organic farm worked. This particular farm was a tomato farm. The family that ran the farm decided that they were going all organic. So they hired an M.D. who was also a horticulturist from Grand Rapids, Michigan to help them put this farm together. In addition, they hired a horticulturist from Israel. You now have two immigrants to Mexico giving this family direction on how to build an organic farm. The man from Israel showed them special irrigation techniques because of the harsh desert climate and the sandy soil.

Yet out of this sand, they are now producing some of the finest crops in the world. They know they're the finest because they actually have the tomatoes tested for nutrient value. This is where the doctor from Michigan comes in. His goal is to create a tomato with very high nutrient value so that the human body receives the strength it needs to fight off disease. He's trying to make a difference in the world through horticulture.

While we were there, this doctor explained that everything starts with preparing the soil. If you don't have the proper soil to plant the crops, the plants will not be able to obtain the desired nutrient value.

When we tithe, we spiritually prepare the soil. We spiritually prepare our bodies as healthy soil to receive all of the blessings that God wants to give us. We begin to open our eyes and look for the blessings of God.

A tithe is giving a Tenth of your income to God as an Investment to express your Thanksgiving and accept His divine Honor for you Eternally.

Giving is God's way of honoring us as His children. Only the children of God are given the opportunity to invest in His church. Did you notice that? The people He asks to give are the ones He wishes to recognize Him as Lord of their life. That's why I'm asking you to begin tithing. Express the Lordship of God in your life, and accept the honor of being one of His chosen people. It is an honor to be called a child of God, and a privilege to tithe, to invest in the kingdom of God on earth.

The first money I made was a ten dollar bill. I received that ten dollars from my uncle after I had walked the fields all day long chopping weeds out of the bean fields. I don't know if things have changed, but when I was a child we walked the soybean fields with a machete to chop down the weeds. We would do that all day long, two rows at a time. When I finished, my uncle was kind enough to give me a ten dollar bill. When he gave me that ten dollars he said, "Now remember, you put one dollar in the offering plate Sunday".

"Ten bucks and I have to put one in the offering plate? Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure," he said.

So I did, and I've been tithing since. Tithing is something I will do Eternally, which is the last word in our acrostic that spells T-I-T-H-E. I don't know if there's money in Heaven. But if there is, I'll tithe in heaven, because I've learned that it is impossible to out give God. The blessings are too many to count. So we do it Eternally. Begin by placing your fear of money in the hands of God. Then make your pledge to give a tenth of your income back to Him. You life will begin to change when you realize that you are making an investment, the greatest investment in the world, and that you are doing it with a thankful heart.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You for the privilege of accepting Your faithfulness to us. Give us the courage to trust You, to take You at Your word, to tithe. Thank You, Lord, for the privilege of giving. We love, You Lord, always and forever. Amen.

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