With Joy Abounding
October 16th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
WITH JOY ABOUNDING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-16-88 8:15 a.m.
The title of the message this morning is With Joy Abounding, and it is a sermon from God’s Holy Word regarding our sharing in the kingdom, and in the patience and love and salvation of our wonderful Savior. First: we are going to look at God’s program for us as we share in the building of His kingdom. And then after that summary, looking at Holy Scripture, I have three comments to make concerning what God has said.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, verses 3 and 4:
In process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought a minchah unto the Lord.
And Abel, his brother, brought a minchah unto the Lord. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his minchah:
But unto Cain and to his minchah He had not respect.
Translated here "offering," minchah, "offering," it is the Hebrew word for "a gift," an offering, a gift. "And God had not respect unto Cain and his minchah; but the Lord had respect to Abel and his minchah."
I read this week of a missionary in Africa who was watching a tribe as they slaughtered their pigs. And the tribesmen carefully cut off the tails of the pigs, and put them in a place. And then the rest of the pig they prepared for their eating. So he finally asked them, "Why is it that you so carefully cut off the tails of the pigs and put them over here in a place by themselves, and then the rest, why, you prepare for yourself?" And the tribesman replied, "Well, these tails are for our gods; and the rest of it is for ourselves." How many times do we approach God like that? A penance for Him, and most of what God gives us for ourselves.
A minchah: what could that have meant, and what was it? As I turn through the Bible, I come to Genesis 14, and there I read where Abraham before Melchizedek gave one-tenth of all that he possessed to this priest of the Most High God [verse 20]. When I turn to the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis, there Jacob, Israel, says, "O God, if You will bless me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee" [verse 22]. Evidently, from the beginning of the creation, a tenth was sacred and holy unto the Lord: a minchah for God.
Then when we read of the Mosaic legislation, in the last chapter of the Book of Leviticus: "The tithe is holy unto the Lord" [Leviticus 27:30-32]. And in the prophetic word of Malachi: "Will a man rob God? But you have robbed Me. Yet ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and in offerings. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven" [Malachi 3:8-10]. And our Lord Jesus, in Matthew 23, He says, "You pay tithes: this ye ought to have done and not leave other things undone" [verse 23]. And in Hebrews 7, verse 8, "Here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth" [verse 8]. Here men that die receive tithes; our brethren, our deacons, gathering God’s offerings and God’s tithes; but mostly they are placed in the nail-pierced hands of our Savior. "Here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth." In God’s wisdom, from the beginning of the creation to the end of the consummation of the age, God has a way for His people to share in His heavenly kingdom. Whether it be beginning with Abel, or in Abraham, or in Israel, or in the prophet, or in our Lord Jesus, we could never improve upon the wisdom and revelation of God: bringing a tithe and an offering, a minchah, to the Lord.
Now I have three things to observe about it: one, regarding the fullness of our hearts; second, regarding the fullness of our faith; and third, regarding the fullness of our families. First: regarding the fullness of our hearts. In the beautiful passage of 2 Corinthians chapter 8, these dear people in Macedonia, the poorer they were the more they gave. "Their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality [verse 2]. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus, though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich" [verse 9]. And in the ninth chapter: "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly or of necessity: for God loveth a happy, wonderful, cheerful, God-blessed giver" [verse 7]. And out of that came our programming for our stewardship appeal for this year: "Rejoicing in Giving" – happy in giving, happy that we can have a part in the kingdom of our Lord; tithe.
So I speak first of this fullness of heart; a gladness of heart, a thanksgiving of heart that God thus allows us to have a part in His kingdom. Our Lord needed a stable in which to be born; I wish I could have given it to Him. Our Lord needed a manger in which to be laid; I wish I could have given it to Him. The Lord needed hay upon which to be laid; I wish I could have provided it for Him. The Lord asked a cup of water of a Samaritan woman; I wish I could have offered it to Him. The Lord needed a boat out of which to preach; I wish I could have provided it for Him. The Lord needed a little boy’s lunch with which to feed the five thousand; I wish I could have been that little boy and have given it to Him. The Lord needed a house in which to stay when He was in Jericho, and Zaccheus gladly received Him; I wish I could have been Zaccheus and have provided it for Him. The Lord needed a colt on which to ride into Jerusalem in the triumphant entry; I wish I could have loaned it to Him. And finally, the Lord needed a tomb in which to be laid, in which to be buried; I wish I could have given it to Him.
What a privilege, what a happiness, what a gladness, what a rejoicing that God gives us an opportunity to minister to Him and in His name! I wish I could do more for Him.
As you know, for thirty-five consecutive years, Mr. Pat Zondervan of the great Zondervan Publishing House stood here the second Sunday of each January and made an appeal for the Gideons, distributing Bibles in the earth. And in one of those years, in the days of the Vietnamese War, he held up a little New Testament. And as he held it up, I could see a hole through it. It had been taken off of the body of an American soldier, a boy from Georgia. And in that Book he had, in that little Testament he had written, "On this day, I, Carl Stewart, take Jesus as my Savior." And as Pat Zondervan held up that little New Testament, taken off of the body of that slain American soldier, he said, "I wish, I wish it had been my thirty-five cents that bought that Bible for that American soldier." That’s God’s wonderful goodness to us! We can share in the marvelous ministries of our Savior; and to do it in gladness and rejoicing is a gift from heaven – with fullness of heart.
Second: with fullness of faith. In one of the beautiful scenes in the life of our Lord, recorded in the twelfth chapter of Mark, the last [verses], Jesus sat over against the treasury, and He beheld how the people gave money into the treasury of the Lord. And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites. A mite is one-eighth of a cent. She cast in two mites, which make a farthing, which is one-fourth of a cent. "And He called unto Him His disciples, and said, Look at this poor widow. She has cast more into the treasury than anyone else: for she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all of her living" [Mark 12:41-44]. She gave everything that she had to the work of our Lord.
What do you think of that? She was trusting God to take care of her; and she had given to the Lord everything that she possessed. Whenever you read, whenever you read in the Bible of an appeal from God, you’ll always find that it is followed by a promise, always. For example, in Proverbs chapter 3: "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with the fruit of the vine" [verses 9 and 10]. Take again, in this wonderful passage in Malachi: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove Me, try Me, saith the Lord, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10]. And once again, in the words of our Savior, in Luke chapter 6: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over" [verse 38]. Wherever in the Bible there is an appeal from God, it is always followed by a promise. Faith; with fullness of faith to respond to the appeal of our blessed Savior, that He will take care, that He will bless.
I read of a young fellow that came to his pastor and said, "Dear pastor, I want God to bless me. I so want to succeed in what I do. And would you get down here and pray with me, and tell God that if He will bless me, I will give a tenth of everything God blesses me with, I’ll give a tenth to Him?" So the pastor knelt down by the young fellow and prayed God’s blessings upon the work of his hand, and promising that God would receive from the overflow, from the blessing, from the success one-tenth of everything that the Lord would give him. And the Lord blessed the young fellow mightily, amazingly, aboundingly; and it came to thousands and thousands of dollars, the tithe. So he came back to the pastor, and he said, "Pastor, this has grown too large. That vast amount of money that I am giving in promise to God, this tithe, it’s too much. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars. And I want to be liberated from that promise. I want to be liberated from it. I just can’t find it in my heart to give that amount of money, this thousands of dollars, to the work of the Lord."
And the pastor said, "Well, I’ll be happy to pray that. I’ll be happy to pray that. So we’re going to get down here on our knees, and we’re going to tell God this is too much, this is too much. And I’m going to pray God that He will cut your income down, and cut your increase back, and put it back to the place it was when you first began, when you said that you could tithe."
"Oh," said the young fellow, "don’t tell God that. Don’t tell God that. Don’t do that." And so the young fellow stood up and left, and kept his faithful promise, that if God would bless him, he’d give one tenth of everything that he made to the Lord.
Did you know, from what I can read, and I’m not talking just my own experience, but from what I can read, that never fails. There was a man in this last generation named Thomas Kane, K-a-n-e. He was a Christian businessman, a Christian businessman. And he began to tithe his income. And after five years of doing that, he noticed that his business had undergone a decided change for the better. Then he made inquiry of others, and found every time a man did that, God blessed him. So he wrote a little tract and sent it to all the preachers in America, every one of them. And here’s what he accompanied the tract with: "My belief is that God blesses in temporal, as well as spiritual things, the man who honors Him by setting apart a stated portion of his income. I have never known an exception. Have you?" Now he sent that to thousands and thousands of ministers. "I have never known an exception to this. Have you?" Then over a period of forty years he did that! He sent out millions and millions and millions of tracts and pamphlets on tithing, and after a half of a century, after beyond more than forty years, he wrote a little pamphlet entitled "The Biography of a Tither." And in that, he stated that out of the thousands of replies he had to that question, "I’ve never known an exception but that God blessed the tither. Do you?" out of thousands and thousands of replies to the question, he says, "There has never been an exception." That’s the most astonishing thing you could think for It’s overwhelming! It’s almost unbelievable how God always blesses that man who will be honest with God: "And out of one tenth of everything u give me, Lord, I will sacredly set aside this for Thee."
I remember some years ago they sent me as a preacher, and a rich man from Little Rock, Arkansas, the two of us, around the state of Texas, holding convocations on stewardship. Well, I never had seen that man, never had heard of him before; but he was one of the most interesting that I ever went around with in my life. He said to me, as we were going around, you know, from place to place, holding those conferences on stewardship, he a layman, telling his testimony, and I a preacher, exhorting the people, he said to me, "Over there in the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock," that’s the church in which he belonged, that’s the biggest Baptist church in Arkansas, why, he said to me, he said, "In the days of the Depression, the deepest depression, awesome depression" – I remember those; my ministry began in the Depression – he said, "In the days of the Depression, there came one of the men in our church, just starving, no income at all, and asked him, ‘Could I mow your lawn? Could I mow your lawn? I desperately need help.’" And the rich man, this man telling me, he said, "I replied to him, ‘Yes, I’ll give you a job mowing my lawn; but you have to promise that you’ll give one-tenth of what I pay you to the Lord.’" Well, the man demurred, saying, "I so desperately need the money to live on for me and my family."
"I’ll not let you do it. I’ll not give this to you until you promise to give a tenth." Well, the man didn’t have any choice, so he just said, "Well, I’ll do it." So he gave him the job and paid him to mow his lawn. And the man faithfully kept his word: one-tenth of everything that he received he gave to the Lord. And that rich man with whom I was going around here in the state of Texas said to me, "Did you know, that in no time at all, in no time at all, he had a company; he’d organized a company. And he was mowing lawns and taking care of yards and city parks all over Little Rock; and he had a great group of men, a large group of men, he was employing to work for him." It’s amazing what God does! It’s just my faith to believe that the Lord will do it.
Does God lie to us? Does God mislead us? Does God wish for us any other thing than a great blessing? It is a marvelous, wonderful thing to trust God and see. That’s what He says: "Prove Me now, test Me now, and see if I will not pour you out a blessing from heaven, that there is not room enough to receive it" [Malachi 3:10].
May I make an aside here? You will not keep it. If you do not give to God what He expects from your increase, you will not keep it. Something will happen to you and you will lose it; you will lose that tenth. There will be an illness come into your house, there will be a misjudgment that you’ll make in your business, there’ll be a providence over which you have no control; you will not keep it. How infinitely better: "Whatever God gives me, I’ll trust Him that the nine-tenths will go further than the ten-tenths I’d keep for myself."
Now the third: I have spoken of this stewardship before God from the fullness of the heart: "I’m just glad I can have a part in serving Jesus." I have spoken of the fullness of faith: that poor widow gave all she had to God and trusted Him for the living. Fullness of faith: if I take one-tenth of what God gives me, that God will bless me with the nine-tenths.
Now one other: the fullness of the family. This – now remember you’re listening to a preacher who is a literalist. I believe every syllable of the Word of God; I am a literalist. When God says it, I believe it; and that settles it. So what I’m going to say now arises out of the persuasion of your pastor, he being a literalist. In the sixteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" [verses 1 and 2]. On the first day of the week, Sunday, let every one of you, every one of you, set aside for God according as the Lord has prospered us. The family, the family: you see, when I say I am a literalist, so I take that: "Let every one of you, every one of you." Well, that means that teenager; that means that teenager, he’s one. That means that little child, she’s one, or he’s one. And that means dad, he’s one. And that means mother, she’s one. All the years of my upbringing, the man in the house gave whatever it was, and usually it was very small, to the work of the Lord; and the children gave nothing, and the wife gave nothing. And when I started as being pastor of a country church, on Sunday night the men would gather over there behind a great big stove, and make up my small salary – twenty-five dollars a month – and give it to me. There could not be anything more opposite a denial of the Word of God than that: "Let every one of you, every one of you." And the income of the father, the income of the father is the income of the whole family. The mother has a part in that; she may not have her name written on the check brought, but she’s a part of it, she’s a part of that family. And those children are a part of the family. And when the time comes for us to come before the Lord, "Precious little girl, you’re one, you’re dear and precious to us, and this is your part." And that teenager, "You’re a precious part of this family, and this is your part." "And sweet wife, you’re a dear part of this family, this is your part." "And I, this is my part." And let every one of you, every member of the family, everyone, let each one of you, let every one of you bring to God’s house according as the Lord hath prospered us. And when we do that, God does something for us.
Could I illustrate it? We’re in the State Fair of Texas, as you know. And let’s say yesterday, Saturday, you went out to the State Fair of Texas with your little son, your little boy. And out there in the State Fair of Texas yesterday, you had the best time in the world. You had your merry-go-round, and you had your Ferris wheel, and hot dogs, and popcorn, and peanuts, and oh you had a great time. And on that boy you spent twenty-five dollars, twenty-five dollars. Then today, this morning, you come to the house of the Lord, and you give the lad twenty-five cents for Sunday school. You don’t have to say anything; you don’t have to add any word, you have made your point, and he has learned it well. Popcorn and peanuts, and the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round are big business; that’s twenty-five dollars. But God’s business is a peanut business, it’s a sorry business, it’s a nothing business; that’s twenty-five cents. That’s why I say I am a literalist: I believe every syllable of that Bible. And when God writes, "Let every one of you," that means that boy, and that means that little girl, and that means mother, and that means father. And when we come to the house of the Lord, if that State Fair was twenty-five dollars on Saturday, on Sunday it ought to be fifty dollars for Jesus. God’s blessing is with us in that marvelous and incomparable response.
God give us this year the greatest victory we have ever known in all of the forty-five years that I’ve presided over this response to the kingdom and patience of our Savior.
Now we’re going to sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing it, while we sing it, a family you coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple you giving your heart and life to the Lord Jesus; or a one somebody you answering the Holy Spirit’s call in your heart; while we sing our song and make our appeal, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and here I stand, here I am." Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come, and the Lord in heaven and the angels attend you in the way as you respond with your life, while we stand and while we sing.