First I Give Myself
As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you learn to avoid materialism and give God what is His in this life!
"They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God." -2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis added
Last week we learned how to give our all to God. This week, we will focus on how to give God what is already His in this life. Some of this material may overlap a bit concerning principles discussed previously, but please bear with me. A subject this critical to building a fireproof life often needs to be said in different ways so that every reader can more fully grasp the importance of the message.
What I am about to share contains some principles that my Christian parents began to instill in me when I was yet a young boy. The earliest memory I have of growing up in a Christian home is that of separating out the Lord's part from whatever I earned each week. Until I was older, my parents said that I could give the Lord's portion to our church or send it to missionaries. Thus, I started supporting missionaries when I was eight years old-at an age when I could write just legibly enough to be read.
When I was twelve years old, a missionary visited our church in search of Mr. Barnett, thinking that my dad was the one who had been supporting him. Dad corrected that missionary's misconception and referred him to the chubby kid in tennis shoes. The missionary then asked me, "You are Mr. Barnett?" I said, "That's me, and I have been supporting you for four years." I had sent my ten dollars every month to that missionary in Thailand. Why? Because my parents taught me that God would always bless and honor sacrificial giving. My parents said that I should start by giving at least ten percent to the Lord. They told me that that is not the rule, but where you should start. So I used to experiment with ten, twenty, and thirty percent to see if I had anything left at the end of the month.
When Bonnie and I were preparing to be married, we decided that starting with our first paycheck we were going to give not ten percent, but eleven percent (not wanting to be legalistic about our giving). The next month we gave twelve percent, then thirteen, fourteen, and so on. We kept increasing the percentage until it was in the twenties, and then our first child was born. Expenses were much higher, so we dropped percentage points until we could balance our budget. As we were able, we started giving even more, until our second child was born, and then we had to go back down again.
In this process, we learned that if we were going to give to God, we could not live at the same level as the people around us who were earning the same amount of money. Although you may not have the same conveniences, comfort, and freedom that those people do, when you choose to honor God with what is rightfully His, you have chosen the better way-the fireproof way!
What you are going to see in the Scriptures in this week's devotionals is very true-God cannot be outdone when it comes to His blessings. That does not mean that if you give everything to the Lord you are going to be rich. But among His people there is to be a sacrificial, systematic, proportionate giving out of the blessings He has given. In eternity, such giving will be of inestimable value; on earth, it is an act of obedience.
If you can maintain the same standard of living as the person living next door who earns the same amount of money, then I would suggest that you have not learned to honor God with your possessions. It costs something to honor the Lord.
It is critical for your spiritual life that you learn, as Martin Luther said, "The last part of a human being to get saved is their money." God wants to own you-not just touch your life!
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