Many are probably breathing a sigh of relief and thanking God the Self Denial (World Services) time is over for 2002 –relieved that they can forget about it for another year. I believe this type of attitude is the primary reason why many soldiers find Self Denial so burdensome.
It should be a matter of planning throughout the entire year, not just something we have to do for the ingathering Sunday. I find it much easier to complete a task if I break it down into manageable steps. The same is true for Self Denial. Instead of trying to give $250 on the ingathering Sunday, I would prefer to give $5 each week. After all, that is only the equivalent of one or two fewer lattes from Starbucks each week and I am sure each one of us will consider that a small price to pay for the work of the Army in developing countries.
That brings me to the main point of this article–stewardship of the things God has entrusted to us. Unfortunately, most people associate stewardship with tithing. Tithing is only one part of it. Stewardship is so much more. John Maxwell often says, “Stewardship is a matter of trust!” The first aspect of this is “Can I trust God?”
I am reminded of the man who was searching for a rare bird’s nest among some rather dangerous cliffs when he fell over the edge of one. The only thing which saved him was a small bush growing from the side of the cliff. As he hung onto the small bush, he began calling for help because he was too far down to climb back up. As he was calling, he heard a voice, “I am the Lord. I can help you. If you trust me, let go and I will take care of you.” After a long silence, the Lord asked, “Are you going to let go and trust me?” The man shouted, “Is anybody else up there?”
Unfortunately, too many of us are like that man. We say we trust God, but when it comes to demonstrating our trust by our actions, too often we seek other options. In the Scriptures which talk about stewardship, we find that we are stewards or trustees of everything God has entrusted to us: our possessions, our opportunities, our talents and our time. Once we understand that, it is much easier to trust God. However, if you have trouble trusting God, let me share with you two reasons why you can trust him.
God’s care for us is constant and generous. In Hebrews 13:5 God promises, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.” George Beverly Shea, who sang for Billy Graham for many years, says the most unusual request he ever received was to sing a song entitled, “God’s Grip Don’t Slip!” The grammar may be poor, but the theology is sound. His care for us is not just the bare minimum for our existence; it is generous. Unfortunately, we are often so busy we fail to slow down and acknowledge how much God does for us each day. He gave us the moon, the stars, the earth and all the other heavenly bodies and then crowned it all by making us in his image.
I believe we all intellectually know we can trust God, but how do we cultivate this trust in God until it becomes natural? We need to trust him even when we cannot see how he can possibly handle the situations which we face. Too often, we move into his area of responsibility by asking him how he is going to work things out for us. It is almost as if we are saying, “God, you just don’t understand all the problems I have in my marriage,” or “My finances are in such disarray I cannot see how even You can possibly straighten them out if I were to turn them over to you.” This is what Jesus meant when he said we “must be like little children in order to get into heaven.” A child does not ask his or her parent how they are going to resolve the situation in which they have become entangled; they simply trust their parent to untangle it.
It is much easier for us to trust God and turn to him when things are not going smoothly. We want him to solve our problems and then leave us alone until we have more difficulties. He wants us to trust him even when things are going well for us. In our society, because we are taught to be self-reliant, it is difficult for us to acknowledge that God is the source of all we have. We trust the job we have and the income it provides rather than God who provided the job.
I like the way The Living Bible has paraphrased Proverbs 18:10, 11, “The Lord is a strong fortress. The godly run to Him and are safe. The rich man thinks of his wealth as an impregnable defense, a high wall of safety. What a dreamer!”
What is your “high wall of defense?” Is it your job, your college degree, your savings account, your health or your wealth?
The challenge for each of us is to go beyond simply knowing about God’s trustworthiness to actually trusting him. He has proven himself faithful and worthy of our trust. What stops you from trusting him completely?
John Maxwell tells of a member of his congregation, I’ll call him Joe, who once told him, “I used to tithe, but I have a problem with it now. When I started my business, I earned $50 a week and gave God $5, but now he has blessed me and my income has grown to over $5,000 a week and I have difficulty giving over $500 to the church.”
Maxwell, who is not noted for his diplomacy, asked Joe to kneel and pray about this issue. As they knelt, John prayed, “Dear God, in order for Joe and his family to enjoy the blessings of tithing once again, please reduce his income to $500 a week!” I trust that if there is anything limiting your trust in God you will find someone as bold as John Maxwell to pray for God to remove it.
If you think this topic made you feel uncomfortable, I’m working on another article, “Can God Trust Me?”