Craig Groeschel - When You Stop Holding Back
I read an article that was written in 2007. We're talking way back in the olden days, 2007. This is before Instagram. This is before Netflix originals. This was before the Cash App. How did we live? This article written in 2007 told us that back then we were exposed to, believe it or not, about 5,000 advertisements every single day. Wow. On any given day, wherever you go, you're followed by ad after ad, after ad, after ad. In the year 2007, you saw about 5,000 ads a day. Fast forward to today, and the number of ads you've seen has actually doubled. With the advent of social media and bloggers and influencers, we see around 10,000 advertisements a day, which honestly is not great news because studies show the more ads we see, the more miserable we are. Because every waking moment we're reminded of what we don't have, but what we think we need in order to be happy.
And the pervasive message of most ads is that to be happy, you have to get more, you have to acquire, you have to accumulate, and you can't have the good life without the new iPhone or your favorite brand of shoes or purse or Lulu leggings. I don't know for sure, but I've heard from every girl I know that you need Lulu leggings to be happy. And culture just screams at us over and over and over again. It's more blessed to get. It's more blessed to acquire. It's more blessed to accumulate. Culture screams at us 10,000 times a day, "It's more blessed to get". But Jesus has a very counter-cultural message. In fact, he's recorded as saying this in Acts 20:35. Jesus says, "It's more blessed to do" what? He said, "It's more blessed to give Give. than it is to receive".
It's more blessed to give. In fact, the word in the Greek that's translated as more blessed, it kind of means happy. It means happier. It means you're actually happier when you're being generous. You're more joyful when you're giving. You're more fulfilled when you give. You're more blessed when you give than when you receive. And what I know about so many of you is that you know that. You love to give. And many of you, you would love to give more, but you feel like I felt for years, you feel like you just can't do it right now. I love to give more, but I don't feel like I can. And that's why today I want to talk to you about how to become irrationally generous. And the title for today's message is When You Stop Holding Back. When You Stop Holding Back.
Father, we ask today that by the power of your Word, you would inspire us to be more blessed as we give irrationally, honoring you and making a difference in this world. We pray this in Jesus' name. And everybody said, amen and amen. Amen.
If you are new with us, we're in a message series called Pre-Decide. Pre-Decide. We're talking about the power of our decisions, because the quality of our decisions typically determine the quality of our lives. The problem is most of us, we're not very good decision-makers. So if you've been with us over the past few weeks, we have kind of a statement that we've been following. And we are making some pre-decisions. Instead of waiting until we're in the middle of the heat of the moment and letting our emotions drive us, instead we're seeking God early and pre-deciding. When we're faced with something, some particular scenario, we've already thought about it, already prayed about it, and we've decided when faced with this, we are pre-deciding to take a very specific action.
And for the purposes of our study, we're making six pre-determined decisions about who we're going to be as followers of Christ. I'll show those to you once again. Who are we? The first week we pre-decided that I am ready. The devil is attacking, and I'm going to be ready. I am consistent. I am devoted. I am generous. I am faithful. I am a finisher. All of our churches, can you say those with me? Who are you? What are you? I am ready. I am consistent. I am devoted. I am generous. I am faithful. And I am a finisher.
Today, what we're gonna do is pre-decide, choose ahead of time, that by the grace of God, we will be more blessed by being generous. We're pre-deciding to be generous. Why? Because no one ever accidentally becomes irrationally generous. No one ever just by chance stumbles into tithing and giving offerings and paying the rent for someone who's in need and buying for someone who can't afford them and funding ministries and funding mission trips, and having so much fun that we start at 10%, and then we actually go up to 12, and then 15%, and then one day we're giving 20% or 25%. And as we accidentally give, God blesses more and more. And then one day we just accidentally leave an inheritance for our children and our children's children. No one ever stumbles into irrational generosity.
What we tend to think is we want to be more generous, but we don't think we can. And we tend to think, "When I have more, right, then I'll give more". One day when I can afford it, at that time, I'll actually give more. And what I want you to understand this that is not how the generous think. That's not how they think. Because generosity isn't about what you have or don't have. Generosity is all about the heart. And you know this because you've see poor people that are stingy and you've seen poor people that are irrationally and beautifully and sacrificially generous. And you've seen rich people, you couldn't squeeze anything out of them. They're so tight and stingy. And you'll see rich people that change the world with full-blown, strategic, passionate generosity. And that's why what we're gonna do is we're gonna learn how to be generous now. Because if we're not generous now, I promise you, we won't be generous later.
In fact, Jesus told one of my favorite parables, and it illustrates so much more than what I'm gonna share with you, but one of the principles it shows is actually this. There was a rich man in Luke 12 who had a big harvest. And so the rich actually got richer. And so he said, "Hey, what should I do with all of this that I have? I don't have room to store it. Where am I gonna put this"? And let me tell you what he didn't say. What he didn't say is, like I said before, "When I have more, I'll give more. And now I have more, so I'm gonna be incredibly generous. I'm gonna fund my church. I'm gonna help single moms. I'm gonna be a blessing to people around. I'm gonna fund a ministry home. I'm gonna help people to go to college". He didn't say that. What did the rich man do when he had more? He did what he'd always done. He did what he'd always done. He said this in Luke 12:18. He said, "I know! I'll tear down my barns and I'll build bigger ones. And then I'll have room enough to store all my wheat and all my other goods. And then I'll sit back and say to myself, 'My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take life easy! Eat, drink, and be merry.'"
Why did he do what he had always done? And the reason is because more money doesn't make you more generous. More money just makes more of what you already are. More money doesn't change who you are, it just reveals who you are. And that's why this is a big thought for a day, is if you want to be generous when you have more, learn to be generous when you have less. We're pre-deciding. We're pre-deciding. And what I want to do today is help you do what I know you want to do, because I know all of God's people really want to be more generous. We just don't feel like we can. And so I want to show you a couple of principles that's true for all generous people. And then we're gonna decide ahead of time this is who we are. Giving is not just something we do, but generous is an identity; it's who we are. Two qualities of generous people. The first thing is so important, is this, number one: Generous people plan to be generous. Generous people plan to be generous.
Now, you might say, "But I thought generosity was like randomly blessing people. Like you see the guy on the side of the road with a sign, and so you just randomly give him something, or you buy someone's groceries just because you're prompted to, or you pay for the food for the person behind you in the drive-through line just spontaneously. I thought that was generosity". To be honest, this is how most people give most of the time. You see a need, and so you meet a need. Or you hear a sad story, so you do something about the sad story. You see sad pictures of dogs in a cage along with some Sarah McLachlan music. Free the dogs. Set them free. You go to a fundraiser and someone motivates you to give, inspires you to give, or guilts you to give, and so you give a spontaneous gift. That is giving. That's not generosity. There's a difference. That's giving. And to be really, really clear, giving is good. You want to give. Giving honors God. You want to give, but giving is not the same thing as generosity.
Here's the difference. Generous people, they don't need to be guilted to give. Generous people don't need to be inspired to give. Generous people, they're not reactive. They don't just give whenever they see a need. They don't just give whenever they have something extra. They don't just give whenever they're prompted by the spirit. Generous people actually have a plan. In fact, scripture tells us this in Isaiah 32:8. Watch this. It's so direct. But generous people, say it with me. What do they do? "Generous people plan to do what is generous". They plan to do what is generous and what? "And they stand firm in their generosity". I love this. We stand firm. I'm not waiting until I have more. I'm not making excuses as to what I cannot do now because giving is not what I do, generous is who I am. The generous plan to do what is generous. They have pre-decided to stand firm in their generosity.
Now, what's funny about a plan when it comes to finances is most people have a plan. You may say, "I don't have a plan," but the truth is most people have a plan to consume. If there's something that we want, we get real strategic. I don't know about you, but I will research to the point that it's embarrassing. Where's the best deal? What's the best model? Who's got the best ratings? Where can I find a coupon? Where can we get a discount? You'll research, research, research, research and plan to get the very thing that you want. But generous people don't plan to consume, generous people plan to give. In fact, when you become generous by nature, what you're doing is you're strategically and prayerfully designing your life around generosity. It's not something you do as a reaction, it's a strategy. It's a mindset that you're prayerfully asking God, "How can we make a bigger difference? How can we maximize what we have? How can we be a blessing to people around us"?
And here's the key. It's not just spontaneous. It might be sometimes, but it's certainly not all the time. And it's not really emotional because it's more strategic. It's not just random, it's intentional. We have pre-decided. Now, some of you may say, "But I'm not a planner. I'm not a planner". And what I want to tell you is you actually have a financial plan. It may not be a good plan, it may not be written, but it's a plan. And I'll show you what most people's plan is today. It looks a little bit like this. God will give you something, you get paid, you get an increase, and your first move, what most people do today, is this: You tend to spend more than you make. That is the plan of the world today. And because you spend more than you make, you lack margin and you get worried about money. And you'd like to give, but you can't give because you worry more, and then you spend more than you make. And that, essentially, is a very common financial plan that we see all over the world today. I'd like to give more, but I can't afford to give more.
What we need to understand is this is not just a money problem, it's a spiritual problem. We're trusting in things rather than putting our faith in God. And what generous people do is they break that cycle. Not accidentally, but strategically. They break the cycle by choosing to put God first. Jesus said it this way. He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And then everything else will be added unto you". Not seek first the shoes, not seek first the countertops, not seek first the car, not seek first the little watch, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, put him first, and then everything else will be added unto you. We seek God first. In fact, there's a principle in scripture that is very, very powerful and potentially life-changing. It's called the tithe. And we find this in Malachi, in scripture, in Malachi 3:10 when Malachi says to "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house".
What is a tithe? That's not a word that a lot of people use. The Hebrew word translated as tithe is the word "maaser", and it means 10%. Bring 10% of what God blesses you with back to him as an act of worship, that there may be food in my house. Now, confession. The first time I heard that, hey, you can give 10% back to God, I thought, "Uh-uh, that's too much. There's no way. I can't afford to do that. That's ridiculous". In order to do that, I'd have to like rearrange my life and priorities around God. I'd have to make some real changes to put God first. I would have to strategically look at my life and arrange it not around my wants, but around worshiping him. That's too much. That seems impossible. It's almost as if God could foresee, because he can, that we would feel that way because it's actually the only time in scripture that he ever told us we could put him to the test.
This ministers to me so much. It is the only time. Everywhere else we're not supposed to test God, but in this one area, God says, "If you don't believe me, test me in this". God says, "Test me. Give it a try. I dare you. I double dog dare you. Test me. I give you permission to just try this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing there will not be room enough to store it". God says, "Put me first, test me, and see what I do. If you put me first, see if I won't provide for you". Some people might say, "Well, that sounds a little bit like the prosperity gospel preacher that you give and everybody gets rich".
Listen, this is not the prosperity gospel, this is the generosity gospel. There's a difference. Yeah. It is more blessed to give than it is to receive. And what I'm not saying is that everybody gets rich when you tithe. What I am saying is God proves himself faithful. God is the ultimate giver. The generosity gospel for God so loved the world that he- Gave. gave his one and only son. And when you start with giving, you recognize it is more blessed to give than it is to receive, and it changes the cycle. It changes the cycle. It changes your priority and the trajectory when you pre-decide to put God first. The normal cycle looks like this. God blesses you, you spend more than your make, you lack margin, you get freaked out, you worry, worry, worry, worry, live paycheck to paycheck to paycheck. You'd like to give, but you don't feel like you can give more.
On the other hand, when you seek God first, God supplies. And what do you do? You put him first. You honor him and you give to him. You pre-decide to give to him first. And then what does God do? Well, God provides. God blesses you. God proves himself faithful. And what does that do? That builds your faith. And suddenly, rather than being worried, you're giving more, you're more generous. You don't even have to have a lot or give a lot. Giving is not what you do; generous is who you are. It's a mindset that takes place when you put God first. So we pre-decide. We're not gonna give when it's convenient. We're not gonna give to God when we have some left over. What we do is we give God our first and our best, and we trust him to bless the rest. That's what we do. We pre-decide to put him first. It starts with the tithe. It's a decision. And then it will grow from there.
And what I want to encourage you to do is don't stop there, and don't be accidental about it. I'll tell you about some of my friends. I have one friend who has pre-decided to give $50 a month as the spirit leads. First, there's the tithe. Then there is a specific budget that when we're ever out, we're looking for the opportunity for God to say, "Now bless somebody there". It's not accidental; it's planned spontaneity. I've pre-decided I'm gonna bless someone with $50 a month or so. That's my budget. I know someone else who said, "Every year, we increase our percentage of giving by 1%". This year 10%, next year 11%, then 12%, than 13%. And they've pre-decided to increase their level of generosity.
I know someone else who has pre-decided a specific portion of their tax return to give to the YouVersion Bible app. So when they get their return, there's already a pre-decided portion that we're gonna give to help fund the Bible around the world. I know someone who's been so strategic with their giving, true story, that they give 50% of their business's profit to ministries around the world. That does not happen by accident. Generous people pre-decide. They plan to do what is generous. The second thing that generous people do is this: Generous people, they always round up. Generous people always round up. And that phrase is very personal to me, and I'll tell you why.
Years ago, I went to a restaurant, and I had a server who was not very friendly. Unusually not friendly. And it came time to settle up at the end, and I felt like the spirit spoke to me to round up and to bless her with a bigger tip than what I normally would have done. Wasn't a huge amount, but I just felt like I was supposed to round up. And so I did, went on my way, and forgot about it. A month later, I heard back a story about someone who had waited on me and was not very friendly because she didn't like God, didn't like our church, and didn't like what she thought she knew about me. And the little bit of rounding up, which wasn't even a lot, softened her heart because she knew she hadn't done a good job. And yet I still blessed her. And you can imagine the rest of the story. When she came to a place where she was hurting, she thought, "Well, I might as well give that church to try". And she did, and her life was changed just by a very incredibly, embarrassingly small and simple token of rounding up.
That's what generous people do. We don't just give what we can, but we always round up. In fact, I love this verse. It's so rich. Solomon said in Proverbs 21:26. He said this: All day long the lazy and the selfish craves and craves, but the righteous gives, watch this, and does not hold back. The righteous give and does not hold back. We always round up. You see it over and over again in scripture. The good Samaritan is walking along, and he sees a man beaten and left for dead. And he puts some oil on him and puts some bandages on him and takes him to a hotel, and doesn't say, "Good luck. I took care of you. Hope you're fine". No, scripture says, "The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, 'Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher, watch us, I'll pay you the next time I'm here.' He rounded up. Zacchaeus, same thing. Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up into a sycamore tree to see what he could see".
If you don't know the story, he was a wicked crook who stole from people. And he met the life-transforming grace of Jesus and decided not just to give back, but to give back and to round up. He said, "If I've cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount". He rounded up. Jesus taught this principle. If someone demands your shirt, give him your really cool jacket. If someone says, "Go one mile," round up and go two miles. And so the next time you're contemplating, "Should I give a lower amount or a higher amount on a tip"? just be a blessing and round up. Yeah. If you're gonna make a meal for someone, don't just make a meal, make an appetizer and make a dessert.
Someone likes that dessert idea. Come on, somebody. If you're gonna give someone in your life group a gift card to go on dinner date, hey, take care of their kids too. Glory to God that's good. Because the generous people round up. What we're not doing is we're not just randomly giving. We're not just waiting until we have more. But generous people, they make a plan, and they always round up. In fact, I saw one of the most stunning displays of generosity in a very impoverished and developing nation. And if you've never been to a place like this, you really should go to a place where they have no solid floors, all dirt, no running water, no bathrooms. The bathroom is outside. And see people living day to day, trusting God to be their daily bread. And I went to this place to do ministry, and we went over to a lady's house. I say her house. We sat outside on little logs, and she came up and she gave me some meat. And I said, "Thank you so much". And my translator said, "Let me tell you the story behind this".
During that time, Amy was on this no-meat kick. And so I was joking around at the church going, "I need meat. A man needs meat. Give me some meat". And I was joking around about it. And she had heard about that before we came there. And he said to me, "She would not have eaten meat for herself in months and months". But when she heard you are coming and that you really needed meat, "She saved up and saved up and planned to bless you with meat". And that's what generous people do. They pre-decide to be generous. And that along with so many other moments have been changing my heart because by nature, I'm just not a generous person. For years and years and years, I was more the stingy type. And it wasn't a money problem, it was a spiritual problem, because I was trusting in what I would see rather than trusting in what God says.
And so in the early years, I heard a message very similar to this and wrote my first tithe check. If you don't know what a check is, you can Google it. It's a thing back in the past. And God proved himself faithful. And then I started to give offerings as a young 20-something-year-old. And then Amy and I went to start Life.Church, and we felt like God prompted us to give what was a really big gift for a 27-turning-28-year-old. And God essentially prompted us to round up. And we gave everything that was not tied down, every bit that we could as a seed, into planting the church. And it grew from there. Something that became fun is what we call the get one, give one. And we do it now with just about everything. It started out with the shirt. Get a new shirt, give a shirt. Meaning I only have a certain amount of shirts. My shirt quantity never increases. When I get one, I give one. But my campus pastors love that principle 'cause I get a lot of shirts, okay? Get a pair of pants, give a pair of pants.
And from there, we upgraded to furniture. Get a chair, give a chair. And that was so much fun. Then we went all the way up to appliances. Get a refrigerator, give a refrigerator. And then, I'll be honest on this, when we got to cars, and I hesitated. I thought, "Get a car and give a car to somebody for a fair price". And give some of that money away, right? And God started to work on me. Not just give a car, but round up. Fill it all the way up with gas, get it detailed, and deliver it, because listen, it is so much more blessed to give than it is to receive.
And so here's the thing. If you want to be generous when you have more, learn to be generous when you have less. You pre-decide because giving isn't just what we do. Generous is who we are, is more blessed. It's more blessed. You are happier. It's more joyful when you give. But what I promise you is it's never gonna be accidental. Generous people, they plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity. We're not waiting till later. We're not making excuses as to why we can't. We stand firm. We've already decided. We plan for it, and we round up. Why? Because we serve the most generous God who pre-decided to send his son and give us the ultimate gift of life and forgiveness in Christ. And so at our reflection for who he is and what he's done, we pre-decide, "I am generous. I don't just give. Giving is what I do, but generous is who I am".
So Father, we pray today that we would be a church known for our irrationally generosity, that we know it is way more blessed to give than to receive.
As you're praying today and reflecting wherever you're watching, you're watching online, you're watching at a physical church location, I wonder how many of you would say, "Yeah, I really would like to give more, but it's not always easy. Today, the spirit is prompting me. I want to pre-decide to be generous. God, help me be generous". If that's you today, you want to grow in your generosity by faith, would you just lift up your hand right now? Just all of our churches, you can type that in the comment section.
God, help me be more generous. Help me be more generous. Father, I pray right now that your Word would pierce our hearts. Generous people plan to do what is generous. The righteous gives and does not hold back. God, help us to prayerfully and strategically design our life around a spirit of generosity. God, help us to start by trusting you, by putting you first, but not stopping there. Give us eyes to see how we can prayerfully and strategically plan to make a difference in this world. And God, we thank you in advance that we'll find joy unspeakable, knowing it is way, way, way, way, way, way, way more blessed to give than it is to receive. God, make us more generous. Help us, God be generous with what we have now, and so we'll be infinitely more generous when we have more later. And store it within our hearts.
As you keep praying today at all of our different locations, there are those of you that I want you to hear about the generosity of God. He is the most generous one who's ever lived. For God so loved you that he gave his one and only son, Jesus. Who is Jesus? The sinless, perfect son of God who died in our place on a cross, so our sins could be forgiven. Scripture says that the way that we're made right with God is not by good works, it's actually, listen to this, it's actually a gift of God. It's a gift. My question to you is this, will you receive that gift? The generous gift of God, forgiveness and eternal life.
Wherever you're watching from, if we could just sit down today and have a conversation, I ask you, "Where are you with God"? a lot of you might kind of say, "Uh, you know, I'm not sure. Uh, you know". or "I went to church," or "I kind of believe" or whatever. I want to ask you right now just point blank, have you received a gift? It is a gift from God. You can't earn it. You can't be good enough for it. It is a gift. It is a gift of God. The way we're made right with Jesus is by believing in him. His work is perfect. He is enough.
Today, wherever you're watching from, those who say, "Yeah, I know I messed up. I know I've done some things wrong. I need that forgiveness", when you call in the name of Jesus, he hears your prayers, he forgives your sins, and he makes you brand new. It's a gift. It's a gift. It's a gift from God. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son. Wherever you're watching from, those of you who say, "Yes, I want his forgiveness today. I step away from my sin. I give my life to Jesus today. I trust Jesus and give my life to him", that's your prayer. Lift your hands high right now, all of the places, and say, "Yes". Lift them up. Oh man, praise God for you guys. Love it. Love it. Come on, somebody. Let's tell God, "Thank you". Online you can just type it in the comments section. I'm giving my life to Jesus. I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in the comment section. Would you pray today with those around as we celebrate the grace and the goodness of God. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Jesus saved me. Make me brand new. I surrender completely to you. Fill me with your spirit so I can know you and follow you. As you've given to me, help me give to others your love. In Jesus' name I pray.