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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - The Power of Small Steps

Craig Smith - The Power of Small Steps


Craig Smith - The Power of Small Steps
TOPICS: Crazy Generous, Generosity

Well, hey, Mission Hills, this is crazy, is it not? If I’m right about this, I think it was exactly one year ago this weekend, that we started going to online-only because of the global pandemic, right? And one year to the date, we’re back, and we’re open for in-person services. And we’ve been seeing more and more people. It’s been awesome. And then one year to the date later, Snowmageddon hits, and we’re supposed to be getting two to four feet of snow here in Colorado. And so we made the decision that we’re going to go online-only for this weekend. Of course, as we made that decision, it stopped snowing. We think it’s just a brief stop, we think we’re not going to look like idiots when this thing is all said and done because they’ve promised it’s going to be a lot of snow. So, we’re online-only this weekend. And I can’t believe that that’s the same thing that we were doing this time, a year ago. But you know what? I’m going to go and make a prediction now that I think is going to be true.

Last year, I made this prediction, and I was just completely wrong. A lot of us made this prediction. Last year, we closed down this weekend, and we said, “Yeah, but we’ll be open by Easter. No question. We’ll be open for in-person by Easter. No question.” I’m gonna go ahead and say in faith, that’s true this year, okay? We’re going to be open for in-person service this season. We’re actually should be back again, hopefully, God willing, in-person for services next week, as well. We’d love to have you join us. But please, please, please make sure if you’re at all able to join us in person, for an Easter service, go online RSVP because it’s gonna be an amazing time and you do not want to miss it. You cannot wait for it. For next few weeks though, as we’re kind of leading up to Easter, we’re going to be leaning into a series, a short series, on one of our core values as a church, one of the things that kind of makes us who we are as a church, one of those things that we say, “That’s who we are, that’s what we’re all about, that defines us as a church.”

And the one I’m talking about, and one of our core values is that we are crazy generous. And here’s how we say it here. We say, we are crazy generous, we mirror God’s outrageous grace, with outrageous giving. It’s what it means to be crazy generous here at Mission Hills. We mirror, we show to the world what God’s outrageous grace has done for us by our outrageous giving for others. And it’s so important that we think about generosity and being generous in that context. Because the reality is, Christianity is a thing. It exists because God is generous. God is a generous God, He’s a giving God. I mean, think about this, one of the most famous verses, even if you’re brand new to church, maybe if this is your first time joining us, and maybe you’ve never been in a church before in your life. But you’ve probably heard somebody say something like this, one of the most famous verses from the Bible, “For God so loved the world,” that he, what’s that word? He gave, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” See, God’s a giver, he gives. He gave his own Son to pay the price for our sin in his blood so that we could be forgiven. We could be set free and have a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. God gave that because God is generous.

If you think about it, Jesus isn’t just God in the flesh, Jesus is generosity in the flesh. Jesus is the generosity of God made living and breathing and dying and rising again to demonstrate that this is who God is. And so, as followers of Jesus, this is something we want to grow in. We want to grow in our generosity, we want to… Well, here’s the thing. What I’d like to try to do is I’d like to try to out-generous God. Now, we’re not gonna be able to do it, we’re never going to pull it, you can never out-generous God. But here’s the thing, it is so much fun trying, okay? Well, we’re never going to out-generous God, but it’s so much fun trying.

And so for the next few weeks, we’re going to kind of be leaning into what it looks like to grow in generosity. Now, at Mission Hills, we often talk about generosity as having three facets. And if you’ve been here for a while, you may have heard us say that we’re called to be generous with three things, with our time, with our talent, our ability, and also with our treasure, our money. For these few weeks, we’re going to be leaning into the treasurer side of that, the money side of it.

And I must be honest with you, I used to hate teaching about money. I used to avoid preaching on the money as much as possible. And I think the reason, honestly, is, first off, I didn’t want anybody to think that it was self-serving. I was afraid that if I taught on money and God’s principles for money, people would go, “Oh, you’re just trying to raise money for the church, or worse yet, that you’re trying to raise money for yourself.” And I never wanted anybody to think that. By the way, just so you know, you may not know this, a lot of people don’t. My salary isn’t tied to your giving. If people give very generously one week versus another doesn’t make any difference in my income. Same thing true for a year, I don’t get a bump because the church has been more generous that year, okay? So, there’s no way that I personally benefit from this, okay? But I didn’t ever want anybody to think that that was the case. And maybe even worse than thinking that it was self-serving is I didn’t want anybody associating me with a group of people that I grew up kind of seeing on the TV. They’re called televangelists.

And the thing is like they had slick suits, and they had even slicker hair. And I didn’t want to be associated with these guys. Which, by the way, you’re thinking slick hair, you’re safe Craig, right? Yeah, I am. No chance I’m going to be associated with guys with slick hair. But the thing is, they would often say things like, you know, if you just send us a bigger check, God will give you a bigger blessing. And I didn’t ever want to get tied up in that kind of thing. I didn’t want to get compared to that. And so, I tended to avoid talking about money, honestly, as much as possible.

But several years ago, God began to do work in my heart as a pastor. And it began to lead me to a couple of things in my own life, and in my own dealing with my own finances, that I realized, if I’m not sharing this, I’m actually not leading my people very well. Two things that I began to learn. The first was just this, it’s that money can be an obstacle or an opportunity for spiritual growth. Money can be an obstacle or it can be an opportunity for spiritual growth.

This is the reason I think that the Bible talks about money more than 800 times. That’s a lot of times, right? This is the reason why Jesus himself taught on money more than on heaven and hell combined. This is the reason why most divorces cite money problems, financial struggles, as one of the greatest contributors to the dissolution of that marriage. Money is powerful. And money can be a very powerful obstacle to growing as a follower of Jesus. In fact, here’s how Jesus said it, pretty blunt, he said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” You cannot serve both God and money, Matthew 6:24. But the reality is that money can get ahold of us. And it’s interesting, it’s not how much money we have. Because this principle about money getting ahold of us, it doesn’t apply if you have a lot of money only or it doesn’t apply, if you have a little bit, it doesn’t really matter how much money you have. The issue is how much money has a hold of you. And the reality is, money can get ahold of us, money can be a common master that we’re serving, whether we have a lot or a little, okay? And so Jesus said, you can’t do both. You can’t serve both God and money, cannot be done. But the good news is, the money can also be an opportunity. Handling money, according to God’s principle, can actually further our spiritual growth. It can help us become more like Jesus and join him on mission. It’s a powerful thing. We’ll talk about that a little bit today.

Second thing that I came to understand about money, that I don’t think I’d fully understood before. I’d heard it, but I’d never really understood it is this, is that giving is better than getting. Giving is better than getting. Maybe you’ve heard these words from Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Jesus is recorded having said this, he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It’s more of a blessing, it’s more life-giving, it’s more soul-satisfying, it’s more peace-producing. Becoming a person of generosity is really good for you. It’s a powerful thing. And that’s really kind of the bottom line, why I’m willing to engage in this kind of a series, in a way now that I didn’t used to be. I used to avoid this teaching. But actually, now I look forward to it. I’ve actually found that preaching on God’s principles for dealing with money is one of my favorite things to do as a pastor, which is crazy, given where I used to be, but it’s what I’ve come to understand. It’s just basically this, bottom line, it’s that following God’s principles for our finances is good for us.

Following God’s principles for our finances is good for us. It’s good for you. And I’m going to teach some things over the next few weeks that are going to be good for you. They’re going to make your life better, they’re going to give you more peace, they’re going to give you more satisfaction, and they’re going to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus in your spiritual life. It’s good for you. It’s not just good for God, God doesn’t need your money. It’s not just good for the church. It’s good for you. It’s good for us. And so we’re gonna lean into that over the next few weeks. And I think you’re gonna find this a very powerful and encouraging study in God’s Word. So, why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, we’re going to be today in the Gospel of Mark, Mark chapter 12 starting in verse 41.

Mark Chapter 12:41, says this, says… By the way, if you are just joining us, maybe for the first time, or maybe you’ve been coming for a while, but you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills app, I encourage you to do that right now. Download the Mission Hills app from wherever you get your apps, and you can follow along with the message. You can see the message notes, you can read the Scriptures along with us as well.

But Matthew, sorry, Mark 12:41, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put, and he watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.” So, it’s an interesting thing for Jesus to do. So, Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest of the places that you could go in Israel, in ancient Israel, and there’s all kinds of stuff going on, and there’s all kinds of things Jesus could have been watching here in the temple. He could have been watching people make sacrifices, sacrificing animals to ask for forgiveness for sins. He certainly could have been watching that. He could have been watching the praise team get ready or lead people in worship on the steps, as they moved up the steps towards the temple singing praises to God. He certainly could have been watching that. He could have been watched people praying, He could have been watching, whether they were kneeling or standing with their arms up or out wide or out. Were they praying out loud or in quiet. He could have been watching the ways that people were praying, lots of interesting things to watch there. But he wasn’t watching any of that. He went to the temple, and he sat down across from the place where people were giving, where people were practicing generosity. And he watched that.

That’s such an interesting thing. Why would he do that? Because he understood this. He understood that our finances say a lot about our faith. He understood our finances say a lot about our faith. Our finances, how we handle money, how we think about money, and what we do with it, says a lot about where our trust is. Is it in God or is it in something else? Sometimes faith is a little bit behind the scenes, right? Somebody can say, I have lots of faith, but you go, I don’t know that. What does that look like? How does that play out? And one of the things we see consistently in the Bible is that the way we handle finances is an outward demonstration of where our trust lies. It’s an outward demonstration of whether or not we trust in God. And so our finances say a lot about our faith. And that’s why Jesus is watching people giving.

This is the way Jesus said it. He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Again, our treasure, our finances, show us a lot about the state of our hearts, state of our faith. That’s interesting, too, that he says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be,” not just is, like that’s… You know, if I see how you handle finances, I know where your heart is. That’s true. But he goes a step beyond that, and he says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be,” meaning, this is where you’re moving towards. This is what you’re drifting towards.

Because here’s the reality is that the way we handle finances doesn’t just flat determine where we are at any given moment, it determines where we’ll be in the next moment, okay? Which is kind of good news, because it means that if we’ve made a bad decision with finances up to this point, it’s not over, okay? We can begin to change that, and we can begin to move not only the way we’re thinking about finances, but also the way that we’re moving towards God, and where our heart is, where our trust is, okay?

The bad news, of course, is that even if you’ve done really well with your finances, you still have the potential to begin slipping into a pattern that leads you somewhere else. And that’s the thing, okay? Financial patterns lead to faith destinations. Financial patterns lead to faith destinations. The typical ways, the patterns of the ways that we handle money lead to different levels of faith, different levels of engagement with God, different levels of trust in God. Our financial patterns lead to faith destinations.

So, here’s the thing. If you want to get closer to God, one of the practical ways you can do, that you don’t have to just feel your way to it, I’m just going to feel closer to God because that doesn’t work. One of the practical things you can do to actually get closer to God, to feel closer to God, is actually to begin using your finances in the way that he calls us to. Conversely, if you want to make sure that you don’t get far away from God, paying attention to your financial patterns can keep you from drifting into a place that you don’t want to be. Maybe you’re close to Jesus right now, and you’re loving that, and you want to make sure you stay there, well, paying attention to your finances can lead you to stay close to him, okay? Because our financial patterns lead to faith destinations.

And all that’s why Jesus was watching the giving. And this is what he saw. He said, many rich people threw in large amounts, many rich people threw in large amounts, which is a good thing, okay? They had a lot, they’re rich, and they gave a lot, they threw in large amounts. It’s a good thing. But we want to be careful because it’s easy when we see somebody give a large amount to think, almost by definition, they must be very generous, right? That’s how we do it. If they gave a large amount, they must be very generous. But that’s not necessarily the case.

And it’s not a helpful way to think about generosity, because the reality is this, generosity is relative. Generosity is relative. It’s not absolute. It’s not generous just because you gave a large amount, it all depends on what you are giving from, what your financial situation was. And then, you know, what your gift, how it relates to what your financial situation… It’s relative. We sort of get this, but I think we forget it a lot. Let me try to illustrate it in very practical terms, okay? Let’s talk about two different groups of people or let’s take two specific people, okay? Let’s talk about specific people who make a charitable contribution. Let’s talk about your grandma and Jeff Bezos, okay? Let’s talk about your grandma, let’s talk about Jeff Bezos. Let’s say they both make a contribution to, let’s say the Red Cross, okay? Charitable organization. Let’s say your grandma gives $10, okay? And Jeff Bezos gives $1 million. Do you see how easy it is to go, that’s the more generous gift, right? I mean, the one who gave a $1 million, that’s clearly a more generous gift. But that’s absolute terms. And that may not be the best way to think about generosity.

Let’s break this down. Okay, your grandma gave 10 bucks. Let’s say your grandma is living off of Social Security, that’s about $1,500 a month, okay? She makes about $1,500 a month. Let’s divide $1,500 a month by, say 30 days in a month. Now, she’s making $50 per day, okay? 24 hours in a day so she’s making about $2 per hour, okay? $2 an hour. Which means that her $10 gift was five hours of income, okay? She gave five hours worth of her income. Now, let’s talk about Jeff Bezos for a second. Insider Magazine did a study and they found that during one 12-month period that they studied him, he made $6,500,000,000 per month. It’s a big number, right? $6.5 billion per month. That is about $217 million per day, 24 hours in a day. He’s making $9 million per hour. So, his $1 million gift is basically equivalent to seven minutes of income. So, grandma gave five hours worth of income, Jeff Bezos gave seven minutes worth of income, who’s the more generous person? And it’s easy, right? When you see it like that, you go, “Oh, obviously, generosity is relative.”

Here’s the thing though, that’s easy to understand, but it’s also really easy to forget. And I think we do it all the time. I do it all the time. I do it when I look at other people’s giving. If somebody gives a large amount of money to something and I find out about it, I look at the number, I’m like, “Wow, that’s a big number. They’re really generous.” I think that way. I do it. And I think about my own giving as well. If I gave a certain amount, I look at that straight amount, and I’m like, “I’m being really generous.” Or maybe I do it this way, I look back at what I used to give, and I go, “Oh I’m giving a lot more than I used to, therefore, I’ve become a lot more generous.” But all those are absolute terms.

It’s really easy to understand that generosity is relative, but it’s actually really easy to forget. We do it all the time. My guess is you probably do the same thing, I do. So, here’s a pretty important question to ask ourselves. What standard of generosity am I using? What standard am I using to assess my own generosity? Are you using a relative standard, relative to your own resource or your own income? Or are you using a standard that’s essentially absolute? Maybe you’re looking at just the straight number you gave. Or maybe you’re looking at the number you give compared to somebody else that you know gives a lot less. Or maybe you’re using a number based on what you were versus what you are now. And all those things can sort of fool us into thinking we’re being a lot more generous than we are because we’re using absolute rather than relative measurements and standards.

So, what’s your standard? It’s worth wrestling with a little bit. These rich people came and they threw in large amounts, but they had large amounts so we don’t really know how generous they were. However, on the other hand, but a poor widow came, and she put in two very small copper coins worth only a few cents. A poor widow came, she put in two small copper coins worth only a few cents. Now, that’s actually not a really good translation, that’s sort of an interpretation. It’s a good interpretation. But literally, what the original Greek here says is that she put in two lepta, two lepta, two very small coins. I think we may have some pictures of them. Yeah, those are two very small coins. They were almost worthless, to be perfectly honest.

In the Roman world, two lepta, those two coins, were equivalent to essentially 1/64 of a day’s wage, 1/64 of a day’s wage. It was enough, to put it in context, it was enough to buy one ounce of wheat flour, okay? Not worth much of anything, because you couldn’t do much with it. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if maybe the priest who came along and cleaned out the offerings, and collected them out of the bins and then took them in and counted them, I can’t wonder if they weren’t maybe a little bit annoyed at the lepta that they found? The same way that you might be if somebody paid you in a couple of coins, but the coins were pennies, right? You might… It’s not significant, it’s almost worthless, okay? Her gift was incredibly small, incredibly small.

And the temptation is to think, therefore, it must not have been very significant. But here’s the thing about small gifts, okay? Two things. Number one, small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them. Small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them. You may be in a position where giving large amounts is just not an option because you don’t have large amounts, and the temptation can be…and I know it because I’ve been there. I’ve had times in my life where I didn’t know where the next mortgage payment was going to come from or the apartment rent, I didn’t know how I was going to put food on the table. I know what it’s like to be in that position.

And sometimes, in that position, feeling like what I had to be able to give to my church or to other kingdom work was so small that it didn’t really matter. But it does. Because we don’t give alone and the reality is that small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them, okay?

Second thing you want to understand about small gifts is just this, it’s that small gifts can demonstrate or can represent big trust. Small gifts can represent big trust. Because remember, that’s the key issue here, right? It’s what our finances say about our faith, it’s what our financial decisions are directing us to, in terms of our faith. And small gifts, they can demonstrate big trust, big trust in God.

Which I think is why Jesus responds this way. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty, put in everything all that she had to live on.” He said she gave more than all the rest of them. And obviously, he doesn’t mean that in absolute terms, right? He means it in relative terms. They gave out of their wealth, she gave out for poverty. She didn’t have much, her gift was very small, but it represented a big trust. It represented a woman who didn’t have much, but she wasn’t trusting in that much. She wasn’t trusting in any of the stuff that she had. She was trusting in God. And I think that’s why God gets excited about even small gifts because they demonstrate big trust.

One of the coolest things that’s happened over the last year, about a year ago, we did a series on biblical finances, and we had a person start giving, and they’re giving $5 a week, and they have given $5 a week consistently every week since then, and our team loves that person. If that’s you, by the way, you are a giving rockstar, we’re so proud of you. Because the reality is that what you’re doing there is you’re demonstrating a willingness to put your trust in God rather than in your finances. And that’s a powerful thing. It’s an incredibly, it’s… I’m just proud of you. I’m just so proud of you. Because it’s such a powerful thing that you’re doing. And that’s the reality about small gifts. Small gifts God looks at and goes, “Oh, you’re giving out of not having much and you’re giving that, that’s faith. That’s generosity. That’s trust in me and that’s a powerful thing.”

And God gets really excited about it. The reality is, check this out. Jesus, right, he’s watching the people give but he watches the big people give their big money, the rich people give their big gifts, and he’s like, “Yeah, okay, that’s great.” He’s not mad at them, obviously. But then this poor woman comes in and she drops in these two coins, that are almost worthless, right? What does Jesus do? He’s like, “Guys, get over here. Guys. Peter, come here, come here, come here, come on John, John, John, get over here, check this out. Do you see her? She gave more than all of them.” And they’re looking at her and they’re watching her kind of walk away and she’s got, you know, tattered robes and threadbare sandals. And probably, you know, they’re hardly holding to her feet and she’s probably hasn’t been washed in a while, and she’s not in a good place. And they’re looking at her going, “Are you looking past her to somebody else that I can’t see?” He’s like, “No, no, her she gave more.” And they’re like, “How’s that even possible?” But Jesus is incredibly excited about her gift. Why? Because Jesus gets excited about generosity.

For the simple reason that Jesus gets excited about faith. Jesus gets excited about generosity because Jesus gets excited about faith. Throughout his ministry, whenever Jesus saw faith that was next level above what all the other people have, he got excited. He called it out, he called attention. He said things like, I’ve never found such faith in all of Israel, that I see in this person right here. Jesus gets excited about faith. And that’s why he gets excited about generosity because faith and generosity, they just go hand-in-hand. They’re just so closely lined.

And what we need to understand about generosity and why Jesus gets so excited about it is just this, is that Jesus is more excited about what our generosity reveals than what it accomplishes. You hear me church? Jesus is more excited about what our generosity reveals than about what it accomplishes. Jesus’ interest is not if you give this amount these things can happen. That’s true, it does. And that’s cool. And it’s fun to celebrate that. But that’s not why Jesus gets excited, not because of what your generosity accomplishes, he gets excited about what’s your generosity reveals because it reveals your trust in him, it reveals an intentional decision that I’m going to start moving my trust, I’m gonna transfer my trust from earthly things to God. That’s faith and Jesus gets excited about that.

So, pretty simple principle, right? Jesus gets more excited about our generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, but because of what it reveals, okay? So, what do we do? Here’s what we need to understand, what we’re basically saying is that generosity is, in some ways, it’s a thermostat, okay? It’s a thermostat. Do you know what a thermostat does? It moves things towards something you want. It moves things towards the temperature that you want, right? We fight over the thermostat in my house all the time. Because I feel like about 67 is perfect, I think the women in my family feel like about 78 is perfect. And so we’re constantly battling over that. We’re always adjusting the dial because we’re trying to move the temperature to what we think it should be, right?

And generosity is a thermostat. It’s also a thermometer, okay? I understand that. That’s why Jesus gets excited about generosity because it reveals where our faith is. And so Jesus gets excited about generosity because it is a thermometer, it shows us where our faith is right now. But he gets even more excited about the fact that it’s a thermostat. Because it directs rather than just shows. It moves us forward in having more and more faith in God rather than other things.

And the reality is, this is why this is so good for you, the more your faith is in God, the better you’re set up to survive anything that life throws at you. The more your faith is in God, the better able you are to thrive in the midst of whatever life throws at you because you’re on a secure foundation because your foundation is in God, and not anything of the world that can be taken away from you. That’s the thermostat principle. So, if generosity is a thermostat, if it can move us forward, putting more and more faith in God, how do we do that? How do we use our generosity as a thermostat? Let me give you two things today, two very simple things.

First thing we do is this, we just ask ourselves the question, what’s my next step? Because that’s what we’re gonna want to do. We want to take our next step of generosity. It’s first thing we do, we just take our next step of generosity. Generosity is not something that we come to overnight, okay? If you’re in a place right now where you’re going really honestly, you’re like, I don’t know that I am a very generous person, you’re probably not going to flip the switch on that and suddenly become one of the most generous people in the world overnight. I promise you, this woman, who went into that temple and dropped in those two small coins, that was not her first act of generosity, okay? Jesus said she gave out of, in fact, that she had almost nothing. That’s something you got to build to.

And so the question we want to ask is, how do I take my next step of generosity? What is that? And we talk about it this way, here at Mission Hills all the time, here’s how I can do it. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. That’s first thing. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. And by the way, let me say this. I’m going to talk because I’m pastor of a church, and because I believe that Mission Hills is a good place to practice generosity. I think we have a proven track record of using giving for the purposes for which it was intended, to give glory to God and to give help to people. We’ve been doing that for almost 80 years. And we do it around the world. And so, I think Mission Hills is a great place to practice generosity.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t trust us with your money, don’t give to us. I know a pastor is not supposed to say that, right? But I want you to practice generosity because I believe it’s going to be good for you. And so if you, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable giving to Mission Hills, don’t give to Mission Hills, it’s okay. But give somewhere, give somewhere. Practice generosity somewhere because it’s going to be good for you. And so if you’re not giving anything, start giving something, okay? Whatever it is, $5 a week, $20 a month, $20 a week, maybe it’s less than that.

We have kids in our kid’s ministry who consistently bring in 50 cents a week or something like that. And they’re rockstars of generosity as far as I’m concerned, okay? They’re moving to giving something. So, if you’re not giving anything, start giving something. That’s your first step. Now, maybe you’re already giving something, maybe you do give something, so your next step is to start giving a percentage. Start giving a percentage, okay? And here’s the thing. If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard that 10% is the target, okay, 10% is what’s called a tithe. Ten percent of our income is supposed to be given to God. And listen, that’s great. We’ll talk about that in a moment. That’s great. But if that’s not where you are, I don’t expect you to start there. I’m okay with the fact that you don’t start at 10%, but if you’ve already been giving something, the next step of generosity is to begin giving a percentage. Maybe it’s 2%, maybe it’s 3%, maybe it’s 5%, maybe it is 10%. But start giving a percentage.

And by the way, the easiest way to do that, I’m just gonna get really practical for a second, the easiest way to do that is actually to set up for recurring giving. And I’m just gonna go out and plug this, this is how I give. I set up recurring giving to Mission Hills, and so I know what my paycheck is, I took the decimal point and moved it one place to the left. That’s what my 10% is. And I’ve set it up so that comes out every two weeks. And the reason that I do that is I know that personally, and I’ve just done this for years, that’s always my intention is to give, but sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I miss church for a weekend, for whatever, and like, oh, I need to make that up. But then don’t usually make it up, and the next time I’m in church, the idea of like, giving double the amount that time seems really big because I’m thinking in absolute terms instead of relative, I just fall that way, I do. So I end up not giving and so I skipped giving sometimes because actually I’m not giving the percentage I wanted to. And so I would love to see you start giving with a recurring donation. It’s actually easier for you, and it’s better for the church because when we have weekends where nobody shows up because of Snowmageddon, you know, the giving still happens, and we’re able to continue doing all the ministry around the world that we’re doing. And so I encourage you to think about that.

If you’re giving something, start giving a percentage and think about doing a recurring giving. By the way, I would love to double the number of recurring givers we have over the next three weeks. Would you be part of that? If you’re not a recurring giver, would you become a recurring giver at whatever percentage the Lord leads you to? I’d like to double that number. We’ll celebrate, over the next couple of weeks the progress we see towards that, okay? But maybe that’s your next step. If you’re giving a percentage, maybe your next step is to start giving a tithe, which is that 10%, okay? If you’re giving a percentage, maybe your next step is to start giving 10%. And if you’re giving a tithe, if you’re already giving 10% of your income, you’re done, right? You’re off the hook. What else could you possibly do, right? I’m just kidding.

I used to think that. I used to think that was like the highest level, but I don’t believe that now. Here’s what I believe now, if you’re giving a tithe, the next level is what I call spirit-led sacrificial giving. And that’s where you give 10% to your local church…by the way, if your local church is not Mission Hills, don’t give to Mission Hills, give your local church. We want you to be a blessing to that church and the work that’s going on there, okay? Give 10% to your local church and then beyond that, ask the Holy Spirit for opportunities to give above and beyond that. So, maybe it’s missionaries or mission trips or other opportunities you have to give, charitable giving in a variety of different ways. This is what we’ve been moving towards as a family. And every year, again, we give our 10% to Mission Hills. And then beyond that, we begin to, okay, what else would God want us to do with the resources we have?

And so that percentage has actually climbed each year, as we’ve practiced this, and God has blessed us and allowed us to continue to growing in that. So, that’s the question for you, what’s your next step of generosity? If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. If you’re giving something, start giving a percentage. If you’re giving a percentage, start giving a tithe of 10%. If you’re giving a tithe, start practicing spirit-lead sacrificial giving, 10% to your local church and beyond that to other places where you know that there’s an opportunity for you to do good with the resources God has given to you.

Second thing I think we do is this, we practice generosity first. We practice generosity first. I’m gonna be honest with you, I didn’t always do this. In fact, I didn’t do this for way longer than I’m comfortable admitting to you. I’ve always tried to practice generosity my entire adult life, but for a long period of my life, especially when I didn’t really have a lot of money, I tended to pay my bills first and do those things and then, from what I had leftover, if there was anything left over, I would give. I was afraid that if I did it any other way, I wouldn’t have what I needed to pay the bills. But I became convicted of that because I really believed, in my head but what not with my hands, so I guess, I believe that giving first honors God and so I realized I needed to put that into practice. If I really believe that I need to put in practice. So, I started giving first.

And the reality is, I never came up short. I’m not sure exactly how that plays out. I mean, the Bible speaks a number of different times to the fact that, you know, one person gives away a great deal and they get more in return, and another person is never generous, they never give anything away and they find themselves coming up short. We find that sentiment in the Proverbs, we find it throughout the Bible. I can tell you from my own experience, I’ve experienced it. When I started giving first, I found that I was never in need. But more importantly, that was how I wanted to honor God. And so we have a way of talking about this, we say giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. Living on the rest builds contentment.

The power of a principle I learned from a friend of mine several years ago, giving first honors God, saving second practices wisdom, putting money aside for needs that we can’t anticipate yet, that’s wisdom, and then third, living on the rest builds contentment. So, maybe that’s one of your next steps is to begin practicing generosity first. Jesus gets excited about generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, but because of what it reveals and because of where it’s directing us. The faith destination it’s taking us towards.

So, three quick questions for you to wrestle with today. Number one, what am I doing right? Because I’m willing to bet that you’re doing some level of generosity right. Maybe it’s with time, maybe it’s with talent, maybe with treasure. But I bet even with treasure, there’s some places where you are doing it right. And I think you should celebrate those, celebrate the ways that God has led you to that and the ways that God has used that.

Second thing I want you to wrestle with is this. What do my finances say about my faith? What do your finances say about faith? Take a good hard look at your finances and ask if somebody was looking at that from the perspective of what it says about your faith, what would it tell that person? Okay?

Third question is this, what’s my next step of responding to God’s generosity? What’s your next step? What’s God calling you to? For some of you, it’s a response of being more generous. Something enough or nothing to something, something to a percentage, percentage to a tithe, tithe to spirit-lead sacrifice. For some of you, it’s that. But for some of you listening to this, the way you need to respond to God’s generosity has nothing to do with your giving, it actually has to do with your getting. Because some of you’re listening to this message, and you’re not followers of Jesus, and maybe for the first time, you heard what I said back to the beginning of this message, that Christianity is essentially an expression of God’s generosity, that that’s who Jesus is.

And if that’s you, you’re listening to this, and for the first time, you’re realizing that you’re not a follower of Jesus, but that is a gift that God has given for you. He’s given forgiveness, He’s given freedom, He’s given a new relationship with him that comes from faith in what Jesus did for you, from faith and God’s generosity and giving his Son. And if you’ve never received that gift, today’s the day for you to receive it. That’s how you respond to God’s generosity, you receive God’s gift. I want to give you the opportunity to do that right now. Would everybody just close their eyes, bow their heads. If you’re listening to this, and you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, understand God loves you so much, he sent his own Son, he gave his only Son, who died on the cross to pay for your sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead, to prove that he paid it off, and he’s offering you forgiveness, a relationship with God and eternal life in heaven.

And if you’ve never received that gift, that’s how you respond to God’s generosity today, you’re just gonna have a conversation with him in your heart right now, you’re gonna say this. Say something like this to him, say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for your generosity. Thank you for dying in my place. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re generously offering forgiveness and a relationship with God and eternal life. I’m accepting your gift. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you and saying yes to following you forever. Amen.

If you made that decision for the first time today, I’m so excited for you. I’m so excited that that’s how you’ve responded to God’s generosity. Would you let us know you made that decision? Because we want to celebrate, we want to get you some resources to help you begin experiencing everything God has for you. So, if you said yes to following Jesus today, would you just click the button right below me, or if you don’t see that button, just text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way, you do it, same thing’s gonna happen, it’s gonna let us know you made the decision, so we can celebrate with you. We’re going to send you a link to five things that are true about you now that we want you to have and grab ahold of, so you can begin experiencing everything that comes in this relationship with God with a generous God. So, please let us know that you made that decision today.

Now, I’m going to do something today that I’ve never done before when I’ve preached on money. Typically, what I’ve always done when I preach on money is, I decide, we’re going to take the offering before I preach because I don’t want anybody to think that I’m preaching so we’ll get a bigger offering. And that’s not what we’re looking to do today, but I am going to take the offering now. We are going to give you an opportunity to practice generosity now. Because, again, God convicted me that every message that I preach, I try to give people something practical to walk away with, to do this, this is your next step in following Jesus.

And he said, but you never do that with giving. Why? If you really believe this is good for people, then you should give them an opportunity to put it into practice right now. So, that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take an offering right now. But here’s the thing, we’ve been talking today about the power of small steps, right? Small gifts. And I want to try to put some of those small gifts in perspective because some of you, you’re not in a position to give large gifts, and that’s fine. I don’t want you ever to stop or pullback from giving because you feel like your gift isn’t significant. Remember what we said, small gifts can make a big difference when they’re taken together. Let me show you a couple of things. Can we throw something up here? Check this out.

Last year, 2020, we had 4,219 people who gave less than $100 a month, less than $100 a month, that may not seem like a large number, but that average gift of $55.54 each. That was the average gift. Across that whole group of people who gave, check out what this added up to, $273,000. God used that money in incredibly powerful ways around the world last year. We saw people say yes to Jesus, we saw people given clothing and food and shelter around the world. We made a huge difference in the lives of other churches, even in this community because of that generosity, okay? But you know what? Even that may seem like a lot, even $100 or less than a month, $55 may seem like a lot. So, let’s step back a little bit more and let me show you this statistic.

Last year, we had 506 gifts, one-time gifts of $20 each. So, five out of six people only gave $20 last year. I say only but the bottom line is that number added up to $7,913. And that’s a lot of money. I mean, let me tell you what God used that to do last year. It costs $8,000, almost exactly that amount, it cost $8,000 to run the Let’s Do Christmas event, that we did, okay? That included the advertising for the event, included adding gifts to the age group where they were lacking gifts, included feeding the crew that was running the event. And with that, we were able to give gifts to 868 kids in the Littleton area, 868 kids got Christmas gifts, and they get to hear about the love of Jesus that we celebrate in Christmas because of that amount right there.

To put a face on that, because it’s not just numbers, it’s a face. We were able to come alongside a man who’d been homeless and he had been estranged from his kids. And he was able to, through our help, through your generosity, give a gift to his kids, and to begin to feel what it was like as a father to provide for his family and to see the joy on their faces. That was incredibly power in this man’s life, and that was possible because of your giving. We were able to invite 20 families to come and visit for the Christmas services that are in Espanol service. We were able to help a number of families in our congregation who weren’t in a position to give gifts to their families. It’s an incredible thing. All that’s made possible by very small gifts. These are the kinds of things that your giving makes possible.

And so we’re going to take an offering right now. There’s several different ways that you can give, you can certainly go to the Mission Hills app, you can go to missionhills.org/give, or you can text MHC28950 for your giving options. But I wanna encourage you to take a step of generosity right now, not because it’s good for us, but because it’s good for you. And Jesus is gonna get excited. He gets excited about our generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, although, I get pretty excited for what it accomplishes. But he gets excited about what it reveals about your faith and he gets excited about where it’s taking you. Would you pray with me?

God, thank you for the generosity of the families that call Mission Hills home throughout the last year. We’re so grateful for that, and we’re so grateful for what you’ve done in our community and in our world through those gifts. But Lord, beyond that, we’re thankful for what those gifts say about their faith in you and their trust in you. And so we ask that you would bless them powerfully. Lord, as we give now, would you take these gifts and would you use them for your glory and would you use them for people’s good, and would you bless those who give. Would you give them just a very tangible feeling, very tangible experience of that truth that it is better to give than to receive? And thank you for your generosity to us. We’re so grateful. In Jesus name. Amen.

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