When Melissa and I were married in 1983, we decided to tithe despite the fact we collectively made $60 a week. When I say tithe, I mean the old fashioned, ten percent off the top, tithe. Every week we wrote an extremely sacrificial check and put it in the offering plate, not just out of obedience but because we wanted to give God something to bless. I am sure our $312 per year did not impact the church budget a fraction of a percentage point (I was never invited to the “big hitter” meetings by the Senior Pastor) but it did impact us. We discovered that God can bless anything but God can’t bless nothing.
Here are four things God can bless! We need the work ethic of Moses, the attitude of Caleb, the generosity of a widow and the faith of a mustard seed!
Four Things God Can Bless:
- The Work Ethic of Moses In Exodus 17, Israel defeats the Amalekites under Moses and raises an altar to the Lord called, “The Lord is my Banner.” In the aftermath of great victory Moses is visited by his father-in-law Jethro (also called Laban), who saw the responsibilities God had given to Moses were too much for him to handle alone. Jethro offered this advice in 18: 21, “You can’t do everything by yourself, appoint some honest men to assist you in governing the people and tell them only to bring the most difficult situations to you. This will help you carry the load of leadership.” Moses was accused of a lot of things but never of not working hard! In fact, he worked so hard that people worried about him! Early in my ministry, I unsure of what talent I really had, but I determined early that no one was going to outwork me. You want the address of success? It can be found at the corner of talent and hard work. Hard work gives God something to bless!
- The Attitude of Caleb In Numbers 13 Moses sent a delegation of twelve spies to scout the Promised Land. Upon their return all reported a good land but ten of the spies said, “We can’t go up against them, they are too strong.” But Joshua and Caleb weighed in with a minority report, “Let’s go at once and take the land. We can certainly conquer it!” Forty-five years later, an eighty-five year old Caleb requests his inheritance of the Promised Land by reporting, “I am as strong as I was at forty and can still travel and fight. Give me the hill country and I will drive the people out of it.” I learned something many years ago by watching success people. Effective people, whether it be in faith, relationships or vocation, choose to have great attitudes. They realize they can’t control every situation that comes at them but they can control how they respond to it. These people “are thermostats not thermometers, distinguish the urgent from the important and actually live their lives as opposed to letting their lives live them. I simply don’t know any successful people with lousy attitudes. Not one. A great attitude gives God something to bless.
- The Generosity of a Widow Luke 21: 1-4 records something Jesus observed at the Jerusalem Temple in the company of his disciples. On this day, many rich people were giving their offerings but a disenfranchised and poor widow came by and dropped in the equivalent of a couple of pennies. To the shock of his disciples, Jesus declared that she was the most generous giver in the temple for the others had given from their excess but she had given all she had. It fascinates me that history has no recollection of the big hitters in Jerusalem that day but this woman’s act of generosity is still inspiring us over two thousand years later! Statisticians tell us that 40% of the people who attend a church will not give one dollar to the ministry of that church in a given year. Let’s get our heads around this reality. Every study I have ever read establishes a direct link between happiness and generosity. Selfish people are unhappy. Generous people are happy. It is that simple. This isn’t about what I want from you, it is about what I want for you. Generosity gives God something to bless.
- The Faith of a Mustard Seed Versions of this parable are told in Matthew, Luke and Mark; this must have been one of Jesus’ very favorite stories. Let’s explore Matthew’s version from 13: 31-32: V. 31 The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. In the Bible times, the mustard plant was used to make oil, medicine, plant as an herb or serve as a condiment. According to Jewish Law, a mustard seed could not be planted in a garden but needed planted in a field. Mustard is the kind of prolific perennial that will take over a garden. The use of the mustard plant in the parable is important because of the proportions between small beginnings and great outcomes. The seed is also planted in the right place but then Jesus mixes it up. But it becomes the largest of garden plants In Jesus’ time mustard seeds became bush/plants that spread quickly and could be up to twelve feet high. It is of interest that the plants of the field have now moved improperly to the garden showing an intention by Jesus to be provocative. This plant isn’t just where it is supposed to be, it is everywhere and still growing. The big ideas here are that the Kingdom of God is wildly unpredictable on one hand and yields huge returns on the other. God’s people can expect big things from our small efforts! Faith is a dogged conviction that if we do the right things, the right way, we will get the right results in the right time. The coming of God’s Kingdom will unfold in ways we least expect and the challenges it brings will create even more opportunities. Faith gives God something to bless.
God can bless anything but God can’t bless nothing. Let’s give God something to bless in 2021!