At this time of year, every year, we spend a couple of weeks talking about stewardship. Immediately dollar signs jump to the forefront of your mind and many of you are thinking, “Why does the church always talk about money?” Let me make something very clear, I didn’t say that we are going to talk about money, I said that we are going to talk about stewardship. Money is one thing, but stewardship is something altogether different. Let me show you the difference.

I give money to various causes that do not have one thing to do with the passion of my heart, the focus of my life. I contribute money every month to organizations that if it were not for the bill I receive in the mail each month I wouldn’t think to give at all. I am a faithful contributor to the phone company, but they don’t have my heart – they’ve only got my ear. I send money to the gas company each month, but I don’t share the good news of natural gas with too many people. Connie and I donate funds each month to the electric company on a regular basis, but I wouldn’t consider us activist for the cause. We even give money to various waiters and waitresses on occasion, but I can’t tell you one of their names. We give money to many causes and people, but they haven’t won our hearts.

On the other hand, there is One who has captured Connie’s heart, and my heart as well. He has won our loyalty to such an extent that now we see every aspect of our lives as a gift from His hand. We are responding to God’s great grace poured out upon our lives by taking care of and seeking to use wisely every thing that He has given to us.

The joy of knowing Jesus, the Lover of our souls, the Preserver of our salvation, and the Savior of our hearts, is so wonderful and awesome that no price is too high for Connie and me. What we have discovered is one of the most beautiful and life-transforming lessons that we have ever learned in our lives.

Jesus is happiness, joy, peace, healing, security, and eternity. Those aspects of life are what everyone is seeking to obtain. Many of the voices that tell us they know the way to these priceless gems leave Jesus out of the equation of course, but the fact of the matter is that everyone is seeking to be happy, to find joy, to experience peace, healing, security, and to know their eternal destination. That is why we have all of these wacky ideas today of how to obtain these priceless pearls of life.

Man marvels at the pearl of peace and grace and says, “I want this pearl. How much does it cost?” Jesus says to the man, “it’s too dear, too costly.” But man continues to ask, “But how much?”

“Well, it’s very expensive.” The man asks, “Do you think I could buy it?” “It will costs everything you have — no more, no less — so anybody can buy it.” The man blurts out, “I’ll buy it.” The question is asked by Jesuss, “What do you have? Let’s write it down.” The man says, “I have $10,000 in the bank.” “Good, $10,000. What else?” “I have nothing more. That’s all I have.” “You don’t have anything more?” the Questioner asks. “Well, I have some money here in my pocket.” “How much?” “Let me check: Thirty, forty, fifty, eighty, one hundred, one hundred twenty — one hundred twenty dollars.” “That’s fine. What else do you have?” Jesus asks. “I have nothing else. That’s all.” The man says. The question is asked, “Where do you live?” The man replies, “I live in my house.” Jesus said to the man, “The house, too.” “Then you mean I must live in the garage?” “Do you have you a garage, too? That, too. What else?” “Do you mean that I must live in my car, then?” “Do you have you a car?” “I have two.” “Both become mine. Both cars. What else?” The man shrugs his shoulders and says, “Well, you have my house, the garage, the cars, the money, everything.” Jesus says, “What else?” “Are you alone in the world?” “No, I have a wife and two children.” “Your wife and children, too.” The man shouts at Jesus, “Them too?” “Yes, everything you have. What else?” “I have nothing else, I am left alone now.” Jesus says, “Oh, you too! Everything becomes mine — wife, children, house, money, cars — everything. And you too. Now you can use all those things here, but don’t forget they are mine, as you are. When I need any of the things you are using, you must give them to me because now I am the owner.” (Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1975), pp. 42,43. Leadership, IV, 3, 94)

We need not be so hesitant to offer back to Jesus what He has given to us in the first place. Connie and I are continuing to learn that we need to enthusiastically offer back to God all that He has given us. Connie and I are continuing to learn that when we loosen our grip on the gifts God has given to us and offer them back to Him – He prospers them each and every one!

Connie, being the good Baptist girl that she was when I met her, taught me about tithing, giving 10% of everything to God to use for His purposes. It has been fifteen years since I first learned that difficult lesson. Fifteen years later, I am elated to tell you that God has blessed us beyond our wildest imaginations! Fifteen years later I am thrilled to tell you that we have never missed a meal, our children have always had clothes to wear, and we’ve always had a roof over our head. Even more than that, we have been so blessed with such abundance that we have been able to bless the lives of others with our money, time, and the abilities that He had given us to use for His glory.

We started out with a limited understanding of stewardship. We started simply by tithing our finances, but God has showed us that He wants more than our money – He wants it all. Our talents to serve and to bless, our time, our children whom He desires to grow up in His grace, our property to use to meet the needs of others, and our partnership as husband and wife – joined together by God for the purpose of serving, blessing, and building His Kingdom! God has showed us that it all belongs to Him, we are merely stewards of the gifts He has given.

An awesome truth that we are learning is this: God wants us to dedicate all that we are to Him in order that we may help build a glorious future for those who will come after us. We can leave a lasting impression on the lives of those He leads into our life if we will be willing to use all that He has given us for His glory.

This is not a new lesson or a new teaching that Connie and I have originated – it is straight from His Word. In our lesson for today we can gain a deeper understanding of this truth and hopefully be motivated to commit ourselves wholly and completely to our King!

Let me give you a little background on our Scripture for this morning. King David has reached the end of his life. His days are winding down. David had always had a desire to build a Temple for God, a place where the people of Israel could come to meet with God and grow in their relationship with Him. God would not allow David to build the Temple because he was a warrior, a man with blood on his hands, but that never squelched David’s desire to see the Temple of God built.

The blessing of building the Temple would go to David’s son, Solomon. When David was passing the torch to Solomon he gathered the people together to speak to them about this great work of God that would come about through his son’s efforts. David shared with the people the plans, then he prepared to give them an opportunity to contribute to the building of the Lord’s Temple. Here is where it gets interesting. Take a look at 1 Chronicles 29:1-2 and notice who gave first and who gave the most.

Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the LORD God. {2} With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God–gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble–all of these in large quantities. (1 Chr 29:1-2 NIV)

Isn’t it interesting that David, the King of Israel, the leader of the nation was the one who gave first to the mighty work of God? David didn’t ask the people to give something that he wasn’t willing to give. David was unlike many of our leaders today who demand much from us, but offer little of themselves.

It is interesting to notice that David didn’t give a tithe, he gave it all. In verse 2 David says, “With all of my resources I have provided for the temple of my God…” David didn’t leave his children a big inheritance, he didn’t set up a shrine for himself to be remembered for future generations – David gave it all to the building of the House of God. Many people today would see that as poor financial planning on David’s behalf. With all of his wealth, why would David leave his children nothing? That is an excellent question! David didn’t shortchange his children, he left them the most important thing in life – a holy place apart from the mad dash of life where they could meet with God.

David understood that if I leave my children all of my belongings the abundance could very easily lead to my children’s demise. How many people do you know who have gained a great inheritance and been ruined by it? How many talented young people have been left a huge sum of money and property and rested on the hard work of their parents, squandering the gifts and talents that God has given to them? David wanted to leave his children something that would bless them for the rest of their lives. David wanted to leave his children a legacy of faith.

The task of building a place for people to meet with God was too big even for David’s vast fortune so he asked his leaders in 1 Chronicles 29:5-6,

…Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?” {6} Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. (1 Chr 29:5-6 NIV)

The leaders who served under David’s leadership gave willingly of their possessions for the great work of building a holy place for all of Israel. Why were the leaders so willing to give? I believe there are two main reasons why those leaders in Israel were so willing to give of their belongings. First, they were committed to God. Deep in their hearts they loved God and they had witnessed His faithfulness to them in every way.

Our love and devotion to Almighty God truly is our foundational motivation in using all that God has given us to carry out His great work in the world. If a person lacks absolute devotion then there will always be ample reason not to give of our time, the use of our abilities, and our finances to God’s work. Too many of us live like the man who professed to possess the desire to give much for God’s work if he only had the resources, but when the resources came his way he found other uses for them. Let me share with you his story.

Once, a man said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you–every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”

And God was touched and He gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. Then God waited, and waited, and waited…And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” And God said, “Oh, shut up.” And the man told some of his friends, “You know, I’m not so sure that I believe in God anymore.” (From God is No Fool, 1969, Abindgon Press)

I am convinced God is ready to tell some of us to “Just shut up!” We talk a good game, we say, “If only I had what he has, or what she has, if only I could do this or that,” and we profess to possess the desire to be a big giver, a big worker, a big leader, but we don’t mean it. Every time God blesses us we manage to use His blessing to bless ourselves rather than to build the Kingdom and to bless His people.

God isn’t necessarily looking for the pedigreed, powerful, and well heeled. What He is looking for are men and women who will seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness no matter what their station or status in life!

God is looking for men and women with the heart of Mary Jones. At the beginning of the Sudan Interior Mission the missionaries shared a great vision, but it seemed that they were always short on funds. Three of the missionaries reached Nigeria in 1893 with no money left to their name, they had spent the last of their money on getting to their destination.

They were reduced to selling their watches and surplus clothing simply to eat. At the moment of their greatest need a gift arrived. It came from a servant named Mary Jones who had been a live-in housekeeper for the same family for 25 years. All she owned was in her one little room. She died there, and was buried from there. After the funeral, her relatives looked for her will. There was none…only a small account book in which she had entered her monthly wage and her personal expenses. “For native work in China, $50,” was one entry. Another entry read, “For native work in India, $50.” Her relatives knew she had received an inheritance. It was recorded in the little book as well. Her entry read, “Received inheritance, $300.” And opposite it: “Paid out for the Sudan, $300.” Even her last month’s wages had been entered and dispensed. She needed no executor, no trust company. She had fulfilled her trust. Out of her gift, in a very real sense, came the great harvest which we are seeing in the Sudan today.” (God Is No Fool, by Lois Cheney)

Mary Jones was a lady after David’s own heart! She had no need to build a memorial for herself – she possessed a passionate heart to leave a legacy of men and women all over the world who would never know her name, but who would know her Savior!

The second reason why I believe the leaders of David’s day were so willing to give is because they were inspired by the generosity of David and the enthusiasm he demonstrated in giving everything he owned to the Lord’s work. Inspirational acts of devotion move us. Those who truly love God can’t help but be moved by the stories we have heard of God’s saints sacrificially offering themselves for the work of the Kingdom. The stories of the faith of great men and women like George Whitfield, Billy Graham, David Livingstone, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Theresa move me and inspire me to give more of myself and all of my resources to the work of Almighty God.

It is great leaders like these that inspire us all to dig deeper into our schedules so that we can eliminate appointments and activities that are frivolous or not necessary so that we can give more of our time to teaching and reaching out with the Good News of Jesus. It is great leaders like these who live sacrificially so that they can give more money that inspire us to live sacrificially so that we can give more to the ministry of our King.

I am no great leader, I am only a simple preacher, but God has given me the responsibility of leading this congregation. Therefore I have made the commitment to try and be a leader for you in the areas of stewardship. I don’t want to simply put in my eight hours of “work” everyday, I want to give more of my time to minister to those who need to know Jesus. I don’t want to get involved in everything, I want to be involved in the one thing that will truly make a difference in the lives of people who need a Savior. I don’t want to give a mere 10% tithe of the finances Connie and I receive from the Lord from our jobs, I want to lead the way in giving. Hopefully by our sacrificial giving you will be inspired because of your love for God to give sacrificially as well.

The people of David’s day saw the heart of their leader David and the generosity of their leaders and they gave with enthusiasm. When everyone had finished bringing their offerings for the building of the Temple of God, David was so overcome by what he had seen that he offered a prayer. Listen to this powerful prayer found in 1 Chronicles 29:10-20.

David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. {11} Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. {12} Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. {13} Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. {14} “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. {15} We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. {16} O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. {17} I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. {18} O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. {19} And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” {20} Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the LORD your God.” So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king. (1 Chr 29:10-20 NIV)

After seeing the great movement of God upon the hearts of the people that enabled them to give so much toward the great work of God, David said, “Praise the Lord!” In David’s mind what he had just witnessed was nothing short of the mighty hand of God at work in the lives of His people. I can really relate to how David felt. Over the past seven years I have watched you become more and more committed in using your time to reach out to your friends, using your abilities in bringing about new ministries to reach out, and using your finances to help fund the many efforts that are taking place. I praise God for the way He has moved upon your hearts!

More and more of us at Britton Christian Church are learning the lesson that “it is all His!” I don’t have, and you don’t have. one thing that has not come from the hand of Almighty God. David said in his prayer,

{11} Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. {12} Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. {13} Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

It is all His! The shoes on my feet, the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the Gospel I share, the money I earn, the wood I burn, the car I drive, the breath that keeps me alive! It is all His! It is all His! My wife is not mine, she is the Lord’s and He has merely given her to me in order that I might encourage her to grow in her walk with Him and for us to work together in sharing God’s grace with everyone we meet. My children are not mine, they are a gift from God. I didn’t order them, He created them and gave them to Connie and me so that we might introduce them to Him and encourage them to live for Him in everything they do. The abilities He has given me are not mine to use or squander whichever I may choose. He has gifted me so that I will use those gifts to bring Him glory and honor. My money is not my money, I couldn’t earn a dime if it were not for grace that enables me earn a living. God has blessed me financially so that my family can use our finances to meet our needs and use the rest to bless the work of Almighty God going on all around us. David says, “Everything comes from You!” It is all His! Do you know that it is all His? Are you living and giving and serving and loving with the understanding that it is all His? David said, {16} “O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.” David knew that it was all His, but do you and I truly know that everything we have belongs to God?

You and I have seen God move among us in a powerful way in the past seven years. We have seen our giving grow each and every year. We have seen new ministries birthed by Almighty God each year since we have begun. Those ministries are not limping along, they are growing by leaps and bounds. Let me give you who are not here during the week an example of what I am talking about. On Tuesday of this past week I taught a Bible study with fifteen women learning more about how to become a contagious Christian. While we were in Bible study, right next door there was another ladies Bible study taking place with about the same number of women present.

Tuesday evening I met with a Hispanic pastor who is visiting with the Lopez family. I took him to the King’s Klinic where they were so full folks were spilling out of the front door. Pastor Antonio led us in prayer asking for God to heal the sick and bless those who were serving as we all held hands, patients, staff, and friends. I left with such joy in my heart that it was unbelievable.

After I left the Klinic I went to the sanctuary where about 100 people had gathered to find out more about going to summer camp with us. After watching the video, parents came up to Ray with tears in their eyes, excited about what is awaiting their children when they get to camp. One father told Ray, “I am so impressed by what you are doing with these kids. Do you know how I can get my hands on some of that music that you guys use?”

I left that meeting and realized that there was at the same time a gym full of people taking Tae Kwon Do, English classes taking place for our Hispanic brothers and sisters, a Kids Across America meeting going on, and the sick meeting the Master Physician in the Klinic. That was only one day!

On Wednesday our Promise Keepers met at 6:00 am for Bible study. Wednesday afternoon I went with Ray and Daniel Money to pick-up the first truck load of 1,200 lbs. of medications donated to the Klinic. Do you know how many truckloads it takes to carry 1,200 lbs. of medications? Wednesday evening 56 Junior High kids went to see a drama at another church with their leaders while 120 elementary age children gathered here in the sanctuary for SonLIfe. At 7:30 pm a group of ladies gathered in the library for Bible study. At 8:30 pm a group of men gathered in the parlor for Bible study. God is busy! He is moving among our men, women, and children – drawing us to His heart and offering us His great grace!

God has moved upon you and as a result we are seeing His work flourish. I only want to caution us to press on and not to sit back and relax. David’s prayer to God expresses the same desire for his people. David said, {18} O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.

It is not time to turn back, it is time to press on with the great work God has given us in this community. My prayer for us is the same prayer that David prayed for his people — “Keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep our hearts loyal to you.” I know that if we will purpose in our hearts to love God more than anything else in this world then we will continue to see God’s great faithfulness shine bright from this little corner.

The great missionary David Livingstone once said, “I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.” David Livingstone I want to further the Kingdom of God! I want to see the Lord continue to draw people to His heart. Maybe you have come here today and God has spoken to your heart. Won’t you give your life to Jesus and offer Him everything He has given you so that He might use it for His glory?

It Is All His!
1 Chronicles 29:10-20