Practicing the Promises of God
October 14th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
PRACTICING THE PROMISES OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-14-90 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the church bringing the message: God is for us, He is not against us. God seeks to bless us, and if we will listen to His voice, wonderful remembrances like a floodgate from God’s glory itself will be poured out upon us, if we will just look to the Lord as a partner and work with Him in receiving the holy and divine blessings He has in store for us.
So the Lord speaks:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be substance in Mine house, And prove Me, bachan, test Me, try Me, prove Me, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the arubbovt, translated here windows, flood gates, arubbovt, the flood gates of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
If you will just make Me your partner.
And He avows, "Try Me, bachan, try Me, prove Me, test Me and see if I do not keep My word." If you want a blessing in your house, and home, and business, and life, destiny, if you want God for you, to pour out a floodgate of blessings upon you, He says, "Try Me, prove Me, and see if I will not keep My word."
I wonder why the Lord did ask for tithes from you and me,
When all the treasures of the earth are His eternally;
And why should He depend upon us to fill His house with meat,
When we have so very little and His storehouse is replete?
But He said to bring our little and He would add His much,
Then all the heavenly windows would be opened at His touch.
Blessings running over even more than has been told,
Will be ours; but there’s no promise if His portion we withhold.
Are we afraid to prove Him? Are you? Do you hesitate?
Are we afraid to prove Him? Is our faith and love so small,
That we tightly grasp our little when He freely gave us all?
["On Tithing," Roselyn C. Steere]
May I apply that in our lives three ways? First, material prosperity; second, spiritual prosperity; and third, heaven prosperity.
Material prosperity: God’s blessing in this world upon you, putting in your hands, at your disposal, wonderful things of this life and of this world. It is Greek philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, that this world is evil; that your body is evil; that the things that you see around you are evil. It is Greek philosophy that this is evil, and only the spirit is capable of being good. That is the diametrically opposite of the revelation of the Word of God. God’s Word reveals to us that He made this creation. He flung these stars and firmaments into space. He made the world in which we live [Genesis 1:1-25]. We are His workmanship; His omnipotent hand created us [Genesis 1:26-27].
God must like it. He made it! God must like materiality! He must like mundane things! And to show how much He likes it, in the Book of the Revelation, there is to be a recreation of this fallen universe [Revelation 21:1-22:5]. God intends for it to be stable and beautiful and viable before Him forever. And I can give you an avowal of that in ordinary science. All matter is eternal; matter is indestructible. God made it and He must like it. So this passage concerns that: things of this materiality, of this mundane world and life. He says here, "I will not destroy the fruit of your ground," talking about this world, then He says, "before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts" [Malachi 3:11].
These blessings that He promises are for us, in this time, in this life. God says: "If you do not believe that, try Me, prove Me, and see if I will not open the floodgates of glory and pour you out such blessings that you will not find room to receive them" [Malachi 3:10].
When I was graduated from the seminary, I was called to my first full-time pastorate and it happened to be in a college town. One of the leading deacons in the church was the dean of the college, and he was bitterly opposed to tithing; he spoke against it. However I might try, he was an opponent of this appeal from God that the people tithe. And to prove his point, he pointed to George Hurst who was a member of the congregation: George Hurst had been a very well-to-do man, and a tither, and known as such; but he had lost everything he possessed, and had gone into bankruptcy, and lived in poverty. This was in the days of the Depression.
And that dean of the college and deacon of the church would stand up and say, "You think tithing is blessed of God and we ought to tithe? Look at him! Look at George Hurst, bankrupt and in poverty, and he was a tither."
Being young, I was just twenty-seven years old then, it was a thing that was such an obstacle to me until I was just lost before it. Somehow God has a way of helping. And on a Sunday morning, a service like this, down that aisle came George Hurst, put his arms around me, and in a flood of tears made a confession. I had the people seated, and I said, “George, you tell them what you said to me with so many tears.”
And George Hurst stood there before that congregation and said: “In these years past I faithfully tithed. I set aside for God one-tenth of everything that He gave into my hand, and I was prospered and became well-to-do. Then greed seized me. And instead of sharing with God what the Lord had bestowed upon me, I kept it all to myself, and I no longer tithed.” And he said, “From that day unto this, I began to lose everything that I had, everything I possessed, and finally came to bankruptcy and to poverty.” And he said, “I’m standing here before our young pastor and before you, and I am pledging before God that all that He places in my hands I will faithfully set aside one-tenth for Him.”
That was one of the most dynamic affirmations I have ever experienced in my life. He says, God says, "You try Me! You prove Me! You put Me to the test and see whether or not I will keep My word and My promise!"
Now the adverse of that is true when we steal from God:
Will a man rob, qaba, defraud, cheat, will a man defraud God? Yet ye have defrauded Me. But ye say, Wherein have we defrauded Thee? In keeping for yourselves, selfishly, greedily, unbelievingly, My tithe and your offering.
What a tragedy! I copied out of history this note: King Louis XI executed a solemn deed of worship and ownership, conveying to the Virgin Mary the provinces of France. Then the history book added this sentence, "But he reserved for him all the revenues thereof."
"Give everything to God," he said, but kept all of the income for himself.
What did God say, "Will a man rob God? Will a man cheat God?" Read the life of King Louis XI, and the life ends in untold and indescribable misery. We don’t cheat God. You think you may, and you try it, but you don’t defraud God. This tithe belongs to Him. It’s not yours, it’s not mine, it belongs to Him. And had I steal it, when I rob God of it, there is a recompense in your life. You will not escape, you will not cheat, you will not defraud, you will not cheat God. He will collect it. There will be a wrong investment that you make, and you will lose it. There will be a providence that overwhelms you and you’ll lose it. There’ll be an illness and a sickness that comes into your life, and the doctor’s bill and the hospital’s bills will consume it. You will not cheat God. He says, "This is Mine."
How infinitely better it is to say, "O God, I am Your partner and You are mine, and we will do this together. The house in which I live, the land that I own, the investments that I make, the job I have; Lord, You are my partner and my friend, and we are going to share it together."
How infinitely, infinitely better:
Lord, You sent no monthly statement
Among my bills galore.
And when I’m late with a payment,
No collector is at my door
To remind me that I owe You
A tenth of all I own.
Through my pastor and my Bible
You’ve made Your wishes known.
Lord, I find no easy payment
Plan on earth so fair,
That You should ask one-tenth of me
And leave nine-tenths my share.
So gladly will I give my tithe
And a love offering too;
Because I know it multiplies
Ten thousand times through You.
God says, "Try Me, test Me, prove Me, and see if I keep My word" [Malachi 3:10]. So I come down to me, and the ministry that the Lord has placed upon my heart and in my life, and O God, how many times almost endlessly do I pray before God with a burden that bows me to the very dust of the ground. O dear God, the debt that our church owes, how shall we pay it? And the deficits that we are beginning to run in our congregation, O God, how shall we meet those payments? And our college, dear Lord, that is running such a vast deficit, O God, what shall we do and where shall we turn?
And I plead with God, and I pray to God, and I weep before God, and I am burdened beyond any way that words could describe it. And when I come before God with those pleas, and those cries, and those tears, and those burdens, the Lord God says to me, "Why do you cry to Me? I have answered you. I have told you. I have even outlined for you all that the people must do. Over and beside and beyond would I bless. I have told you the answer. One-tenth of all that I give you, one-tenth of all your income, one-tenth of all that you have made, dedicated to Me, and you will have more and beside. Why do you cry to Me? Why do you hammer at My gate? Why do you plead in despair when I have already told you what to do? One-tenth of everything that you have, dedicate to Me and I will see you through."
O God, I think of Moses, standing before the Lord and crying, "O God, what shall we do? The Red Sea is in front of us, and the Egyptian army is back of us, what shall we do?" And the Lord God answered from heaven and said, "Why do you cry unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward!" [Exodus 14:15].
"Great God, the Red Sea is in front of us!" God said, "Move, march, go!" And when their feet touched the water, it parted like a great wall on either side, and they went through dry-shod [Exodus 14:21-22]. God says that to us, "Pastor, why do you cry? Why do you plead? Why do you burden your heart when I told you what to do?"
I read this week, in the Midwest, I presume in a place like Kansas, it didn’t name it. In a place like Kansas where the whole world is covered with vast fields of grain, there was a town in which a big expensive elevator was built. And the man who owned the elevator and took the grain, the wheat, the corn, the oats, the rye, the barley from the people. The church was in debt; they’d built a beautiful building, they were largely in debt. The church was in debt, and they hadn’t paid their pastor, and they hadn’t given to missions. So in a conference in the church they turned to that man who owned the big grain elevator and asked him if he would be treasurer of the congregation. And the elevator man said, “I will accept the place as treasurer of the congregation if you’ll give me one year, and don’t ask me any questions, and don’t expect any report from me until the end of the year.”
Well, they were in extremity and so they acquiesced. They elected him treasurer with the understanding they’d never ask him any questions during the year, and not to expect a report until the end of the year. When the end of the year came he stood up before that congregation and made his report. They had paid every dime of the big debt they had on the church. They had raised the pastor’s salary, and they had increased their gifts two hundred percent to missions; and they had thousands of dollars in the bank.
And the people gasped in amazement. And one man finally had the courage to stand up and say, "But how did you do it?" And the elevator man said, "Whenever you came into my elevator with the wheat, or the corn, or the barley, or the rye, or the oats, I took one-tenth of it and set it aside for God. You never missed it. You never knew it, but one-tenth of all that you brought me. I set aside for God. And out of those tithes that you unwittingly dedicated to the Lord I have paid off the church debt. I have raised the pastor’s salary." Amen!
Could I make an aside for that? "I have raised the pastor’s salary, and we have increased our missions, and we have thousands of dollars in the bank." Sweet people, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, if our people were to tithe, if they were to take God at His word and believe in the Lord; if they were to do it, we’d have meetings here of our fellowship and be in a conference: "What shall we do with the vast amount of money that we have for the work of Jesus?"
"Try Me, prove Me, test Me, try Me," says God, "and see if I will not open the flood gates of heaven, pour you out a gift there’s not room to receive it."
I must hasten. And I speak now, and so briefly, of the spiritual blessings, the blessings that God has for those who will be faithful to Him. In the beautiful thirty-fourth Psalm:
O magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, delivered me from all of my necessities. We looked to Him, and were radiant,
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles,
O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.
Try it! "O taste and see that the Lord is good." Try it! "Prove Me, saith the Lord and see if I will not open the floodgates of heaven."
May I speak of that personally for us in our worship before God?
When I look up at that cross
Where God’s great Steward suffered loss,
Yes, loss of life and blood for me,
A trifling thing it seems to be
To pay the tithe, dear Lord, to Thee.
Of time and talent, wealth or store,
Full well I know, I owe Thee more;
A million times I owe Thee more!
But that is just the reason why
I lift my heart to God on high,
And pledge Thee, by this portion small,
My life, my love, my all in all.
This holy token at Thy cross
I know as money must seem but dross.
But in my heart, Lord, Thou dost see
How it has pledged my all to Thee.
That I, a steward, true may be.
A sweet precious thing for us, loving God, to devote to Him one-tenth of all He gives me. "And see," says God, "if I will not answer from heaven and pour you out floodgates of blessings there is not room to receive it."
And may I speak of that, not only of us personally in our souls; may I speak of it for our church? This week I clipped out of the paper,there is a church in Siam, that’s in Thailand; there is a church in Siam with four hundred members, everyone a tither. Their individual weekly income is forty satangs, less than twenty cents. They pay their own pastor. They support two missionaries. They do much work for those even less fortunate than themselves. And every member is a leper. And every member is a leper. Puts me to shame – Lord, look upon us, in strength, and health, and blessed of God here in America – and every one of them is a leper.
Lord God, why do we hesitate at proving Thee, and trying Thee, and testing Thee to see whether or not God would keep His promise? In the stewardship appeal I read from the manual of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Quote: "A gift to the church has a relation to religion rather than to finances, and every member of the family should have a personal interest in and connection with the church through a separate subscription."
You do not take the Lord’s Supper for your wife. You do not attend church for the children. You do not do their praying or Bible reading. Each one should enroll as a subscriber and have the joy of giving. That’s what God says in the Book: on the first day of the week, that’s Sunday, "let everyone of you" set aside for God that sacred tenth [1 Corinthians 16:2]. You have to die for yourself. You have to be judged for yourself. You have to be baptized for yourself. You’re born for yourself. You’re saved for yourself. And each one of us is to give for himself.
"Let everyone of you." That little baby is one, if you have any heart at all, that little baby is one. If you have any heart at all, that little baby is precious beyond compare. That’s one; dad’s one, mother’s one, that teenage child is one, each in the family is one. And each one is to respond. "Let everyone of you," That builds the house of God.
Sweet people, my time is gone. May I speak just briefly now of our eternal prosperity? I’ve spoken of our physical, earthly, mundane prosperity, our spiritual prosperity; may I speak now of our eternal prosperity?
Lay not up for yourself treasures in earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven…
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
And again, our Lord spake a parable,of a certain rich man. His field brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, I have no room to bestow my fruits?
Then he said, This will I do: I will tear down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, look, how prosperous you are; eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said, it is always this, but God," but God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, that thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Edgar A. Guest truly is one of the sweetest, dearest, most lovable poets America has ever produced and this is one of his poems.
Edgar A. Guest truly is one of the sweetest, dearest, most lovable poets America has ever produced and this is one of his poems.
Out of this life I shall never take
Things of silver and gold I make.
All that I cherish and horde away
After I leave on this earth, must stay.
Though I have toiled for a painting rare
To hang on the wall, I must leave it there.
Though I call it mine and boast its worth,
I must give it up, when I leave the earth.
All that I gather and all that I keep,
I must leave behind when I fall asleep.
And I often wonder what I shall own
In that other life, when I pass alone.
What shall they find and what shall they see
In the soul that answers the roll call for me?
Shall the great Judge learn when my task is through
That my spirit is gathered some riches, too?
Or shall it at last be mine to find
That all I had worked for I’d left behind?
["Out of This Life," by Edgar A Guest]
Precious people, I have been a pastor sixty-four years. I am now in the forty-seventh year of the undershepherd of this church. The people I have buried have been almost endless. And out of all of those funeral services and memorial services that I have conducted, I have never seen one yet, lying in that casket with anything in his hand, not yet. We leave it all behind. All of it, all of it we live behind.
How much better to be rich toward God, to send our treasures to heaven through the gifts we make to our Lord’s church, through the people who are going there. How infinitely richer to look forward to that day when the treasures we’ve laid up in glory shall be ours to enjoy forever and ever and ever. No one takes them away from us there. We don’t lose them there, and they’re ours before God forever.
And to you who have listened to this appeal, how I could pray that you love the Lord; give your life in faith and service to Him, and let God bless you in His infinite goodness. On the screen you will find a number. If you do not know how to accept Christ as your Savior, call that number. There will be a dedicated man or woman on the other end of the line to tell you how to be saved, and I will meet you in heaven someday.
To the great throng of people in the sanctuary this morning hour; to give your heart to the Lord or to come into the fellowship of the church or to answer the call of the Spirit in your heart, make it now. Come now, and may angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
1. The apostasy of the people
A sign of that apostasy
The cast off, the unwanted, the leftovers
Whatever we give should represent some measure of cost, sacrifice
(a) David – II Sam. 24:10-20
(b) Jesus, poor widow – Mk. 12:60-64
(c) Paul, church of Macedonia – II Cor. 8:1, 2
2. The call of the prophet
3:7 “Let us return to God.”
(a) God’s call to Jacob – “Arise. . . Bethel” Gen. 31:13
(b) Hymn – “Back to Bethel” ” 35.1
3. The answer of the people
3:7b – “Let us return. But how? Wherein?”
4. The reply of the prophet
3:10 – In your sense of stewardship
What A Sense of Stewardship Will Do For A People
I. Carries With It The Spiritual, Moral Values Of Faith, Trust In God
1. If seek just the profit, if tithing like buying or trading, no moral spiritual value.
If $10 for every $1 you give, 10-fold, two-fold, etc. then most avaricious man in town would be most avid tither. Becomes just another gimmick to get money from an unwilling, reluctant people.
The blessing in the walk of trust, faith in the Lord. People need an experience with God. Shrewd schemes, clever manipulation, human ingenuity a waste. Unspiritual, unrevived people will never respond no matter how shrewd the plan. The need — not more ingenious schemes, but an experience with the Lord.
(a) Austin Crouch, arrangement at the table —
God interested in, not the possession, but the possessor
” ” tithe ” tither
” not what you have, but you
2. The experience with God makes the difference
(a) Zaccheus – Lk. 19:8 One-half to the needy, if taken wrongfully
The commitment to God makes the difference
(b) Conversation between pastor and a member
If 1/10 to God, then 9/10 no obligation to use for God
Pastor on security of believer. “If I believed that, could sin all I want to.”
So if dedicate 1/10 to God, the other 9/10 in ways to please Him.
Geo. W. Truett – “If a man right with God in stewardship, will be right in all his other relationships of life.”
(c) Condition of the times, nothing to do with it
Hab. 3:1, 2, 17, 18
(d) Financial ableness nothing to do with it
Clan settlements, Nigeria – Mud church
Malaysian church . . . . . . .
How much want to sin? Drink, curse, steal?
II. Carries With It A Stated, Acknowledge Partnership With God
His breath, sunshine, rain, increase, harvest. None but God
My labor of love
cf. Paul – I Tim. 6:7
I owe a debt to him.
He my first creditor – Why the first fruits – Ex. 23:19; Prov. 3:8, 9
– 1/10 of income not mine; belongs to him, regardless what done with it
3:8 “robbed me” – robbed the church, the missionaries, etc.
– God collects. Not keep it
(a) Tract – “What We Owe and How to Pay It”
III. Carries With It the Most Abounding Blessings Gen. 7:11-13
The purpose of the tithe – bless us
– we step into the supernatural
1. Our own souls
Doing right, something inward
Spiritual graces abound in our hearts
“Never saw a dour-faced tither”
Life of God in the soul. Shines in the face
Worship becomes meaningful, glorious – Ps. 96:2-9
2. The kingdom work of our Lord.
“Giving to God” but another name for ministry to others, helping somebody else.
Preaching, teaching, assembling in worship; always for other people – Matt. 25:40
God says to Europe – 9 potatoes for you
1 ” for your brother
” Asia – 9 grains of rice for you
1 ” ” for your brother
” Africa – 9 eggs for you
1 ” for your brother
” America – 9 ears of corn for you
1 ” ” for your brother
9 for me
1 for my brother
cf. Not to blaspheme, comparing to God, but like God in this:
stars, heaven . . . “That’s good.”
verdant earth . . . “That’s good.”
birds, fowl, beasts . . “That’s good.”
So I . . . .seeing results of tithe given —
Seeing the children in S. S. . . . “That’s good. I am glad I had a part.”
” teenagers ” ” ” “
” young marrieds ” ” ” “
” prime of life ” ” ” “
” older people ” ” ” “
” city missions ” ” ” “
” foreign fields ” ” ” “