MISSING IN ACTION SERMON SERIES
A GIFT THAT NEVER STOPS GIVING
NOVEMBER 19, 1995
It is the second greatest theme in the Bible next to salvation. Jesus talked about it more than heaven, hell or prayer. One third of all the parables revolve around this topic and one out of every six verses in the New Testament delves into this matter. What am I talking about? I am talking about generosity. Generosity is the key to understanding the Christian life. All you have to do is thumb through the first couple of pages of scripture and you’ll see that our God is a generous God and He prompts us to be people who give.
I am concluding a four-week series entitled Missing In Action. We have been looking at the most mentioned values in the Bible. The first week we looked at faith, the second week, hope and the third week, love. Today we are looking at giving. It is interesting to note that faith is mentioned 246 times in the Bible. Hope is mentioned 183 times. Love is mentioned 733 times. Giving is mentioned 2,285 times. When I saw that on our computer Bible, 2,285 times, I couldn’t believe it. I said to myself, “Ed, why is giving mentioned that many times?” The reason giving is mentioned so much is because giving is an expression of our faith, hope and love.
II Corinthians 8:7 says, “But just as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us, see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” In the video you are about to see, you will hear and read some expressions of faith, hope and love, all made possible by the generosity of God and the generosity of people in this church.
“My wife and I had searched for a church to join for fourteen years. A friend invited us to come to the Fellowship of Las Colinas. We started attending and found the services to be unbelievably exciting. After about a month, I invited Jesus to come into my life as my Personal Savior. I feel so good about my new life in the Lord.”
“Thanks to this church both of my children have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They have grown spiritually and can’t wait to attend all the youth activities here.”
“Two years ago I wanted to completely end my life but a friend brought me to the Fellowship of Las Colinas. This church has changed me. I now look forward to each new day.”
“I came here as a newly divorced, single mom. The love here has saved me more than once. God is really in this place.”
“Since coming to this church I now look forward to Sundays. Through the teaching of our leaders I have found the faith to run my business for the Lord by being closed on Sundays. I now look for opportunities that will allow me to talk to my customers and others about God’s love.”
“As a visitor, I appreciate feeling welcomed but not pressed. I really like the way everything is organized, from the music to the dramas, to the messages. It is all very effective, especially for the visitor.”
“I started attending in the seventh grade. Later in the school year, I gave my life to the Lord. I did it one Tuesday morning during our Junior High Beach Retreat. It was the greatest decision I ever made.”
“My life has been upside down lately but, through the Fellowship of Las Colinas, I have found true joy and peace in the midst of tragedy.”
“This church has changed me from being a weekend Christian to a person with a real and convicted relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“The Fellowship of Las Colinas has changed my life through the relationships I have developed in Bible Study and Home Team. It is such a joy to have true Christian friendships in my life.”
“The enjoyable format of the services has encouraged my wife and I to attend regularly. This has caused me to be challenged spiritually, to grow spiritually and to know God more personally than ever before in my life. Friends here have helped me to take giant steps of faith that I would not have made otherwise.”
“Our family was struggling just to stay together. After we started attending the Fellowship of Las Colinas, we started growing as Christians. Without this church we probably would have divorced and our children would have had to live without two parents.”
“It is really true, you can’t outgive God. If we compare what the Lord has given us to what we originally pledged to the Build The Vision program, He has outgiven us seven to one. And we are only a third of the way through our commitment. It really is such a joy to hold lightly the things God gives us in order to be a channel for what He wants to do through us.”
What you have just seen and heard is a microcosm of the metroplex. Scores and scores of single adults, children, husbands, wives and teenagers need to come into contact with Christ and experience life change. The exciting news is that we as a church, the Fellowship of Las Colinas, have an opportunity to provide a place in the heart of the metroplex for this to happen. And if you are like me, I am sure you can’t wait to see more and more letters rolling in, this year, next year, twenty years from now as we see the difference that Jesus Christ can make.
I really enjoy talking about giving. Every time I talk about generosity, I want to explain how my own thoughts on giving have developed. During the first two years of this church, I was hesitant to talk about this subject because so many people had taken advantage of giving, had abused the topic. But as I study the Word of God, I can’t ignore what God did not ignore. If I didn’t teach you about giving and the benefits of giving, I would be keeping you from one of the greatest blessings known to man. So having said that, let’s jump right in and talk about the advantages of giving.
The Bible gives us some specific, precise advantages of giving. The first advantage goes like this. Giving mirrors God’s character in my life. If you know Christ personally, if you have bowed your knee and opened your heart and asked Him to take residence in your life, the Bible says that His character comes into your life through the Holy Spirit. And because God is a generous God, we should likewise become generous with our time, our talents and our money.
I have a four year old son named EJ and I talk about him all the time. We look exactly alike except EJ has blond hair like my wife did as a child. When people hang out with me for awhile and when they meet and hang out with EJ for awhile they always say, “EJ, you have a loud voice just like your Dad.” “That expression is just like your Dad’s.” “You are just like your father.” And he hears this all the time. He is a lot like me because he is a part of me. He has some of my character qualities, good and bad, Lisa tells me. We have many believers here, and some who are investigating Christianity. But, if you are a believer and you know Christ personally, when someone hangs out with you for awhile, when someone watches your activities, when someone watches your generosity, what do they say to you? Do they say, “You know what, you are just like your Heavenly Father. You mirror His character. I can tell whose child your are.” Could they say that about you? Could they say that about me? That is a tough question to ask yourself, isn’t it? Giving mirrors God’s character in my life. In James 1:5 it says, “God gives to all generously and ungrudgingly.” God doesn’t say, “Well, OK, here it is.” He gives to us generously. And love expresses itself in tangible ways.
When I first started dating my wife, when we were fifteen years of age in Columbia, SC, I could not wait to give her gift after gift after gift. The first real gift I gave her was a ring. You see, Lisa worked part time at Dim’s House of Diamonds, a tiny jewelry store near Irmo, SC. I would go in there after school or after work or after basketball practice and she would drop hints that she liked a particular ring. It had two diamonds on it. You had to have a microscope to see the diamonds but I thought it was really big stuff. I put the ring on layaway. It took me about five months to pay for it. When I got the ring I gave it to her, knowing that I was in love. You see, I wanted to give her gifts. And if we are in love with God we want to give Him gifts, to worship Him in a physical way. Giving mirrors God’s character in my life.
The second advantage of giving is this. Giving reveals to me that everything I have is not mine. Do you ever get into this mentality? This is mine! This is mine! I am a self-made man. I am a self-made woman. It is not really true. If you are honest with yourselves you are a God-made man or a God-made woman. “But you don’t understand, Ed, I started this business and I am making all this money. I saw a niche in the market and I am doing well marketing several products. I have important clients. It was me!” Let me ask you something. Who gave you the creativity? Who gave you the drive? Who gave you the personality? Who gave you the benefit? Who gave you the opportunity? The Bible says that it comes from the hand of God. It is so easy for us to get that out of balance. The next verse I will quote is I Chronicles 29:14. Before I read it, let me say that it is a very unique verse. I call it the McDonald verse. So if you want to put some golden arches by the quote on your bulletin insert. “…Everything we have has come from you, and we only give you what is yours already.” That is the McDonald verse. Every time I read it my mind rushes back to something that happened to me five years ago. I was in our suburban. I was with Lee Beth who was four at the time and we were going through the McDonald drive-in line. She ordered a Happy Meal. I didn’t have anything because I try to watch my diet. I am a health food nut of sorts. We order and buy the Happy Meal and she puts it on her lap. She first opens the prize, then spreads out the meal and begins to eat. I couldn’t resist those french fries, those golden french fries. The steam was rising off the fries. While I was driving I said, “LeeBeth, can I have a couple of french fries?” I reached for just a couple of fries when she quickly responds, “No, they are mine.” I said, “LeeBeth, please, Daddy wants some french fries.” “No, these are mine.” LeeBeth did not understand three important things. Number one. I purchased the Happy Meal. I purchased the car she was riding in, her clothes. In essence, all of it was mine. Number two. She didn’t realize that I am strong enough to grab the french fries from her and eat them all up. Number three. If I wanted to I could go to the bank, take out $200 and rush back to McDonalds and say, “I’d like $200 worth of french fries please.” And I could carry this whopping portion of fries out to our suburban, dump it in LeeBeth’s lap and she would have so many french fries around her she couldn’t even eat them all. I could do that if I wanted to. She didn’t realize those three things.
God has blessed us with stuff, our treasure, our money, our investments and all He does is ask for a couple of fries, to remind us that it all came from Him and indicate to Him that we are aware of that fact. Most of us, if we are boldly honest, do this. “No, God, this is mine. This is mine, God.” We, like LeeBeth, don’t understand three things. Number one, God gave it all to us. Number two, if He wanted to He could take it all from us in a nanosecond. And number three, if He wanted to He could bless us with so much material stuff we would not have enough ways to spend and use it all. Isn’t that something? The McDonald verse. When we give it is a reminder that everything we have is not ours, it is God’s.
Matthew 6:21 is the treasure test. In this instance you might call it the treasure text. Jesus said this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your treasure is in a ski boat, that is where your heart is. If your treasure is in clothes, that is where your heart is. If your treasure is in cars or homes, that is where your heart is. Wherever your treasure is, your heart follows. And if my treasure, my net worth, is on the heavenward side, that is where my heart is. Where are you living your life? Are you orienting your life around things on this earth that will rot and rust and corrode or are you orienting your life around things in heaven that will have eternal benefits and ramifications and implications?
At 2:13 pm I am going to catch a plane to Nevada. I know that when I am walking through the DFW airport concourse I will hear this sound. Beep. Beep. Beep. It is the golf cart, and that golf cart does not slow down. It has some elderly people on the back, maybe some mothers with children and perhaps some physically challenged people. The cart does not stop. Have you ever watched it? It is going through the concourse so fast that people have to make a decision. People dive to the right or they dive to the left, don’t they? That is what Jesus did, specifically in Matthew 6:21 when He talked about treasure. He said that you have got a decision to make, that He was going to drive the golf cart down the middle of the crowd and you either will have to dive to the right or the left. You will either orient your lives around earthly treasure or heavenly treasure.
The third advantage of giving is found in II Corinthians 9:13. “…giving proves that I trust God.” Your giving proves the reality of your faith. If you are a true believer, you have come to the point in your pilgrimage where you have received Jesus Christ, where you have said, in no uncertain terms, that you are going to trust God on that one. You will trust Him for eternal salvation, knowing that there is no ladder of morality that you can climb. The moment we do that, the Bible says that we are born again into the family of God. Then the growth process starts. We begin to read God’s word, get involved in the church, bible study classes, small groups and then we discover that God’s word cannot only be trusted for our salvation but also concerning marriage, child rearing and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God can be trusted. Why is it, though, we can trust God for our eternity yet we have a difficult time trusting Him with our earthly treasure, with our finances? Why is that?
You see, God uses money as a test. In Malachi chapter three He says that He is going to promise us something, that if we give to Him, He will bless us in such a mighty way that we cannot even hold it all, not just financially but in many other ways that money can’t even touch. Then God goes on to say we are to test Him regarding this. He says that if we begin to stock up heavenly treasure in a heavenly portfolio, we should just watch and see what happens. Your giving proves the reality of your faith.
For a while, at least during the first portion of my ministry, when I would see believers who would talk about Christ, wear the Try God pins and Christian T-shirts but never give, it used to make me kind of angry, upset and even mad sometimes. But now, when I see believers who don’t give, I just feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for believers who live with such a crippled confidence in a Holy God. It is not a money issue. It is a trust issue. How much do you trust God?
The fourth advantage mentioned in scripture is found in I Timothy 6:18-19. Giving provides the only safe investment. The big catch word for the 90s is security, 401Ks, annuities, investments. “Security, I want to have my ducks in a row, a nest egg, be able to retire at 45.” That is the goal. It is fine and dandy to have financial security. The Bible is not anti-materialistic, per se. But the Bible does warn us when we get so involved in the earthly treasure, the things that rot and rust and corrode, we may miss out in putting some serious funds in our heavenly net worth. I Timothy 6:18-19. “Tell them to use their money to do good…always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven…” How can we store up real treasure? It is simple. We invest our money into people who are going there. We give faithfully to the local fellowship which God has called us to attend. If it is here, you should give here. If it is somewhere else, give to that place. The verse continues, “…it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.”
My wife and I have been married for thirteen years and we have invested in the church, in the church we used to attend in Houston and also in this church. We give well over ten percent of our earnings to the local body of Christ. I am not a rich man by any stretch of the imagination. I have a little bit in savings and I have a retirement plan. I have made one investment outside the church in my entire life. I am embarrassed to tell you but I will. A friend of mine is a stockbroker. On his advice, I invested $1,000 in Toys R Us stock and didn’t make a penny. Now I am not saying that investing in the stock market is bad, I am just saying what happened to me. But I will tell you something. The investments that I have made here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas, talk about returns and blessings, I feel like I am the most blessed man on earth. I am not talking about money now. I am talking about my family, my relationship with my beautiful wife, being a part of this incredible move of God, there is nothing like it. The adventure of giving and watching God supernaturally intervene in finances is amazing, but if you don’t give, God is not going to intervene in your finances. It is a trust issue. It is a faith issue.
One day Jesus told the story of a very wealthy man. He was on such a roll financially that he built barns, and bigger and bigger barns. Jesus said that the man described thought he was secure but that that very night his soul was required of him. I think if Jesus were on this stage right now and if He looked at many here who are wealthy, many here who have everything stockpiled financially, I think He would say this. “Remember, you are one germ away from demise. Remember, you are one drunk driver away from a shattered future. Remember, you are one stray bullet away from the day of reckoning. On that day God will look at each of you, even believers, and He will say what did you do with your financial blessings? What did you do? Yes, you have a nice net worth on earth but how is your net worth in heaven? How is it? ”
I will never forget the story I heard about this guy who died and went to heaven. An angel flies up to him and offers to take him to his residence. The man had heard about how Jesus had a mansion for people who had been faithful, for those who know Him personally, for those who sacrifice and give. The man saw all the mansions and anticipated his own. He hadn’t given that much but he was sure he had a mansion. The angel passes by some beautiful homes, Owen Goff’s home, Stan Durham’s home, both mansions, and takes the man to a little, dilapidated shack. The man asks why he has a shack and when so many others from the Fellowship of Las Colinas had mansions? The story goes that the angel looked at him and replied, “Well, sorry sir, that was all we could built with what you sent ahead.”
The fifth advantage of giving is very simple, yet profound. Giving blesses my life, just what I said a couple of moments ago. Deuteronomy 15:10. “Give generously…and do so without a grudging heart…” Every time I talk about giving there are always a couple of people who get angry or don’t like it and get uncomfortable. Usually it is because the Bible is exposing selfishness. I hate to have my selfishness exposed, don’t you? And when the Word of God exposes it, we try to find reasons not to give. “…then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” Do you have the spiritual blahs right now? You are praying, you are reading God’s Word, you are involved here, but do you have the spiritual blahs? Oftentimes it can be directly related to your checkbook. Check out your checkbook. Where your treasure is, that is where your heart is going to be.
You know we are in an emphasis we are calling Built The Vision. We are about to build the first phase of our exciting church on our property on Route 121 just off Bethel Road. The Dallas County and Tarrant County lines split the property. Five major freeways come together nearby. We have an opportunity as a church, collectively, to do something for God like I have never seen done before. I really mean that. It is not because of you, it is not because of me, it is because of the sovereignty and blessings of God. Every time you see a move of God, you see God blessing people financially to give. And I know, because if have seen and heard about it, that many of you are being blessed right now financially in a mighty, mighty way. You are asking, “Why now? Why am I being blessed in such a mighty way?” I am talking to members here. If you are a guest, just kind of close your ears. It is a test. God is saying that He is blessing you and asking if you are going to continue to be faithful and play a major role in doing something for eternity. Where I invest my money and my time has huge implications for where many people will spend eternity. We have the opportunity to create a place where the saving message of Jesus can be preached to hundreds and hundreds of seekers. When you get to heaven, will a bunch of people celebrate your arrival or will they wonder at how you got there? Trust God. Try Him and understand what it means to give a gift that never, ever stops giving.