Robert Morris - Passing the Prosperity Test
All right, we are continuing the Dream to Destiny series. I know that you think this is an eternal series, but this is the eighth message, and there are ten. So I have two more after this week that I'll be doing the next two weeks. All right? This is Passing the Prosperity Test. This is a test Joseph had to pass. This is a test you will have to pass. This is a test I have to pass to fulfill the destiny God has on our lives. Now, you might be thinking, I used the word prosperity. I could have put "money," "resources," but if you notice, all of my points have begun with the same letter. So, that's why I chose this word. Okay? But you will take this test, and you have already taken this test and failed or passed some of it like I have. I failed some tests sometimes in the area of finances and money.
Joseph had to take this test. Everyone has to take this test. Everyone does. Anytime you get any money, how you handle that money will determine whether you've passed or failed this test, just so you know. But I would like to say something, because most of our, I guess most of our audience, I'm not sure, but our church is in America, and I know we're around the world on television and things, but I want to just let you know, if you live in America, and there are some other countries included in this, you are more prosperous than 4/5 of the world. 4/5 of the world, and as a matter of fact, I'll just show you some statistics. All right?
The average income per year in America, and I rounded this off to the nearest $1000, so it be easier, is $70,000. That's the average income when you put all the billionaires, everything in, the average is $70,000 in America, in the United States. Germany: $52,000. Israel, because we talked about Israel, $49,000. France, $43,000. But I want you to watch as I start including some other countries to help us understand. Poland: $16,000. Mexico: $9000 per year. Ukraine, they're being attacked right now, unfairly, totally unfairly. We know that. $4,000 a year average income. India, $2000. Cambodia, $1500, Sudan, $670. And Afghanistan, $500, $500 a year. So we are a very prosperous nation. I believe it's because we've taken the gospel to the world. But I believe when we stop doing that and when we stop operating in biblical principles, we could see even much more of a famine than what we think we're seeing right now in this nation. So, you take this test constantly. All right?
So, let me give you three ways to pass the prosperity test. All right? Here's number one: Put God first. Now, this isn't a message on tithing, but the first point we're going to talk about, the first portion belongs to God. I don't know why God decided on 10%, but I think He decided on a percentage because it's fair to everyone. If you make $40,000 year it's 10%, you make $400,000 year, it's 10%. It's the same for everyone. It's fair. But it is all through Scripture that the first portion belongs to God and is returned to God. And you show God how thankful you are for your income and how grateful you are by what you do with the first portion.
Think about this. Have you ever prayed for a bonus or extra money and then got it and then tithe on it? Well, I have a very simple question. Why would God give you any more extra money, I mean, if you're not even going to thank Him for it and give Him the first portion to say thank You, which is what the first portion represents all through Scripture. Why would He do that? We pray and ask Him for a blessing. He gives us a blessing, and then we don't even say thank You for that blessing. So this is all through Scripture. But let me show you how Joseph did this, so you may never see how Joseph... Remember, the Bible tells us specifically, Abraham tithed, which means 10%, gave the first 10%. That's 500 years before it was ever in the law.
We're not told about Jacob specifically, I mean, Isaac, but we're told Jacob, specifically tithed, gave 10% to the Lord, and that's over 400 years before the Law. That's way before the law ever said anything about it. And so, did Joseph do this? Well, let me show you two ways he acknowledged God, but one way that actually tells us that he tithed. All right? First way that he acknowledged God, Genesis 41:50 says, "And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: [And here's what it means] 'For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house.'" In verse 52, "And the name of the second he called Ephraim: 'For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.'"
So, this is just amazing. Remember now, Pharaoh had two dreams, and in these dreams he had, he saw seven fat cows, seven thin cows; and the seven thin cows ate the seven fat cows. And then he saw seven stalks of grain that were fat, seven thin, or blighted is what the Bible says, stalks of grain; and the blighted stalks ate the fat stalks, or the healthy stalks of grain. And he interprets this dream. I actually had that scripture written down. Let me just go ahead. But the point is, he tells Pharaoh, "This is seven years of prosperity and seven years of famine. And we're going to have to store up during these seven years". And here's how I'm going to show you that Joseph tithed. He told Pharaoh, "We are going to have to store up 20% for these seven years of prosperity to make it through the seven years of famine". But watch the tithe in the midst of this. All right?
Genesis 47:26, "And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt to this day, that Pharaoh should have one-fifth", watch this, "except for the land of the priests only, which did not become Pharaoh’s". Why? Because that was the tithe. The land that was given to the priests was the tithe. Here's what he was saying, "That belongs to God, not to Pharaoh". Pharaoh will never get this because it belongs to God. Please hear me. This is all through Scripture. It is all through Scripture. It's all the way back to Cain and Abel. 2500 years before the law, Abel gives of the firstborn of his flock, Cain does not give firstfruits, and God doesn't accept Cain's offering, but He does accept Abel's offering. Why? It's because God, always, the first belongs to God.
When the Israelites went into the promised land, He said, "Give Me all of the silver and gold from Jericho". Why did He say that? Because Jericho was the first city. The first belongs to God. And by the way, He said to them, "It is consecrated", which means, set aside, "to the Lord". And when they took some of it, He said, "Now it's cursed". Now, I know I'm not getting a lot of amens right now because we're talking about money. I understand that. But I got to tell you anyway. If you give it to God, it's consecrated, or "blessed" is another way to say it. If you keep it in your account, it's now cursed. God tells us, "If you'll bring the tithe into the storehouse, I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out..." This is God talking.
By the way, right before He said this in Malachi 3:8, in verse six, He says, "I am the Lord. I do not change". So He doesn't change. He says, "If you'll bring the tithe in the storehouse, I'll open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessings there will not be enough room to receive it". And, that's kind of like, "If you call right now..." "...and I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes". Not even for the kingdom's sake, He said, "...for your sake". Here's what I'm telling you. I believe in rebuking the enemy. But I'm telling you, it's better to tithe than it is to stand in a room and yell at the devil, because we've got it right here in the Bible that if we... 10% and God rebukes the devil for you, that's a good deal. It's an incredible deal. It's all through Scripture that God says, "The first belongs to the Lord".
So please, please, please hear me on this. I've been in ministry over 40 years. I've heard testimonies from tithers and non-tithers during that time. The tithers say the same thing. The non-tithers say the same thing. Tithers say... Now, just see. You don't have to be a brain genius to figure this out, a surgeon or something like we had Dr. Carson. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure this out. Who, by the way, tithes, because he told me personally, because he watches me on TV. He said, "Just, I want you to know, Candy and I tithe". But listen, all tithers, here's what they say to me, "Pastor, we're so blessed. We're so blessed". All non-tithers say the same thing to me. "I can't afford to tithe". What does that tell you? See, when God says, "I'll pour a blessing on you". And here's what He says, too, by the way. Those of you who aren't tithing, this what He says: "You're under a curse".
Now, here's what you need to know: God is not cursing you, but we live in a cursed world. Let me say it another way. We live in a fallen world. Would you agree with that? Our world has been cursed because of the fall. So what God wants to do is redeem you and your finances out from under the curse. But He set up a test to see whether you would put Him first in your life or not. He wants to know if Bass Pro Shops is first in your life, or Nordstrom is first in your life, or a bigger house, or a Lexus instead of a Toyota, which He doesn't care, by the way. He does not care at all what house you live in, what car you drive, nice clothes you have. He does not care at all. He does not care how much stuff you have. He cares how much stuff has you. That's all He cares about. He cares about your heart.
Here's what Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be". So the only reason He's saying, "I'd like to see what you do with the first of your treasure. And if you'll put Me first, everything will line up". But if God's not first in your life, Nothing lines up. Are y'all...? Is this...? Okay. I'm just telling you. I've told the church this for years. Tithe for one year. If you're not fully satisfied, we'll give you your money back. It's a money-back guarantee at Gateway Church. The reason is we don't need funds. We don't have a money problem around here because you're so generous anyway. But some of you are not living under the blessing of God, and it breaks my heart as a pastor. That's the only reason that I would talk to you about this. I'm not doing it because we need to raise money for something. We don't need to.
Do you realize we have never one time passed the plate at Gateway Church? Not one time. And according to the statistics, not us, according to the people who keep the church statistics, we're the highest-giving church in America by twice as much as any other. And we've never passed the plate, not one time. We quit doing special offerings a long time ago because you gave too much. We had Reinhardt Bonke in one time, and I said, "If you want to give an offering, just drop it by the offering box". We were 4000 or 5000 people. $250,000 came in the offering, just like that. Most love offerings are in the hundreds or a few thousand dollars. And that's not that I didn't want to... we did want to give a lot to him, but we just decided we'd give 15% of everything that you give anyway to missions.
So, we've given million dollar gifts to many ministries, many, many times, because you are so generous. So, most of you have this truth. But I have a burden on my heart for those of you that don't understand this, and Satan is having a field day with you and your family. And yet, it is as clear in Scripture as anything that is in the Bible. It's clear. It's before the law, it was in the law, and it was after the law; and Jesus Himself said you ought to do it. That's Matthew 23:23. You ought to easily be able to remember that. It's in Matthew, first book of the Bible, 23:23, Matthew is the first book, 2-3-2-3. Okay. Nevermind. I do stuff like that all the time to Debbie, and she says, "You know that doesn't help me at all".
Just a few months after I got saved, I heard a sermon on tithing, just a few months after I got saved. I'd never heard about tithing before. When I got saved, I was making $600 a month. I just want you to know, without Christ, y'all may not know this, but even without Jesus, I am smart enough to make $600 a month. I just want you to know that. That's how smart I am. So, I was making $600 a month, and I heard on tithing, and we gave $60 that day. That was on a Sunday. On Monday, I went into the office, and the owner called me in, and he said, "I'm going to give you a $200/month raise". And then he said to me, "And I have no idea why I'm doing this". In other words, "It is not because you deserve it". I'd only been saved a few months. I hadn't done anything to deserve it. So I'm just telling you, it works. But it works in your heart, not just your wallet. It works in your heart when you put God first.
So number one, put God first. This is how you're going to pass the prosperity test. Number two, learn to wait. Learn to wait. Proverbs 28:20. "A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished". God designed you to hope. Hope is delayed gratification. Gratification comes from the word grateful or gratitude, Okay? How can you be grateful for something if you don't have to wait for it? See, we don't have to wait for anything anymore. All we have to do is call it up on our phone and swipe. You ever done that? Swipe. And sometimes, by the time you finish swiping, the doorbell rings. I mean, it's shocking how quickly they can deliver stuff to you. And that's fine.
There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you can pay the credit card at the end of the month. But when you go... See, you have to either be able to do math or meet someone who can do math. People have said to me for years, "Pastor, we're looking at this house. Do you think we should buy it"? That's not a pastor question. That's a math question. I don't know what your income is. I don't know what your expenses are. Now, obviously, it's a God question. And let me tell you something. You can get to the place where you can buy just about anything you want. God could bless you that much. It's still a God question, though. It's always a God question. "God, is this Your will"?
Let me give you quickly seven reasons to have a budget. All right? And I know that math, I've already used two curse words to some of you: math and budget. I understand that, but Number one, helps us see things more clearly and objectively, if you'll get a budget. And you can write these down and go back to them later. I don't know if you can do it this quickly.
Number two, makes us examine and clarify our values and priorities. It's the only way you can ever pass the prosperity test, is get on a budget.
Number three, provides a basis of discussion and agreement. And that's not just, especially if you're married.
Number four, provides a basis for accountability.
Number five, helps us live within our means.
Number six, helps us live without debt or without much debt.
And number seven, builds character and discipline in our lives.
Now, I've told you this before. It's actually kind of now become like people all over because of television have seen it. So, you may have heard this, but I'm going to say it again because maybe you haven't heard this. So, let me tell you, if you have a budget, how wonderful it is because let's just say your spouse comes to you, and I'll use it this way, whether it's a man or woman. Let's say the man wants a new bass boat. Okay? Here's what you say. "Honey, I would love for you to have a new bass boat, but let's see what Mr. Budget says. Oh, Mr. Budget says no. I would give you a new bass boat, but Mr. Budget says no. Mr. Budget's mean".
I shared that illustration the first time that I ever did this series in 2003, almost 20 years ago. And this lady talked to me one time, she said, "We decided. We got on a budget and we started using that, 'Mr. Budget says no.' And so our kids, we decided our budget at that time because we had a lot of debt and we had the school debt and we had to get out. We decided. We got real firm with our budget. We decided we'd go to McDonald's once a week. And so we started that. And my little four-year-old daughter, in the back seat in her car seat said, 'Mom, can we go to McDonald's twice this week?'" And she said, "Honey, I would love to take you to McDonald's twice a week, but Mr. Budget says no". And a little while later, she heard her four-year-old say, "I hate Mr. Budget". Well, I know we all hate Mr. Budget sometimes, but you could eliminate 90% of the stress in your life if you would bring this area under control.
And here's number three: live below your means. Live below your means. Let me show you what Jesus said about this. All right? Mark 4:18, This is Jesus. "Now these are the ones sown among thorns". He's talking about the seed, or the Word of God. Now, please watch this, And I don't want to go to verse 19 until I finish this one phrase and talk about it for a moment. "They are the ones who hear the word". Stop just for a minute. Here's what He was saying. These are people who go to church because they hear the Word. These are people who are online. These are people who tune in. These are people who listen to the podcasts or the television program. "These are people who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful".
I love that you come to church. I love that you listen to the Word of God. But as soon as you leave, the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, they're deceptive. You know why they're deceptive? Because they promise you happiness, and Jesus is the only one that can give you joy. They promise, riches promise what they cannot give you. They promise security, identity, popularity. They promise all this. I'm telling you, that's what money promises. And God is the only one that can give it to you. The cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things choke the Word. And then you come and you heard the Word, but you don't get anything out of it because money deceived you when you left.
But when you put God first, and when you do things... See, a budget, that wasn't made up by man. That's in the Bible, to plan your money. It's all through Proverbs. And Jesus Himself talked about the person who starts to build but doesn't have a budget is an idiot. Now, that's my version of it. He says, he's not wise.
When Debbie and I first got married, I bought a used mobile home, manufactured home, whatever you want to say. If you want the truth, it was a trailer, okay? Ten by 50, 10ft, 10 x 50. 500 square feet. I bought it for $6,000. We had to put tin foil on the windows to get it under 85 in the summer. we would go over to our friends' house, and they had these nice new apartments. And Debbie said to me one night, "I really don't care where we live, but I wouldn't mind one of those apartments". And I said, "Sugar, if you'll stay with me," and she has 42 years, "We'll live in some very nice homes, but I cannot do that because I can't, they're not going to have anything. They're not going to have anything when they finish their one-year lease". But I bought the trailer for $6,000, and one year later sold it for $7,000. And then we live with a widow for six months to save to buy our first home.
These are principles that I've done my whole life. I saw them in my dad. If you manage money, please, please, please hear me. You have a dream from God. You have a destiny from God. You will never fulfill your destiny if you cannot handle money. That's all there is to it. It's that simple. I want you to bow your heads and close your eyes, and I want you to ask the Holy Spirit, "Holy Spirit, what are you saying to me"? And some of you have struggled with tithing. And don't ever feel condemned when I talk about tithing. Please, that's not my heart, and you know it's not my heart, because I struggle in areas you don't struggle in.
The very first time I heard about tithing, I've tithed ever since, and I've double tithed. So, I've just never struggled in it once I heard that truth, but I've struggled in some other areas you haven't struggled in. So, we all struggle. So, if you've struggled in this area, please do not feel bad when you leave church. Don't ever do that. That's the devil talking to you. But the Holy Spirit might be saying to you, "It's time, and you know it is. It's time for you to get your finances straightened out". And I promise you, you're going to be a whole lot happier and have a lot less stress. So what's the Lord saying to you? And we want to pray with you. And you might even have prayer about something else.
You might have a medical problem or a relational problem, a family problem, but you might have a financial problem. But in just a moment, every campus, we're going to have people at the front, and we want to pray for you. They want to pray for you. They've been waiting all week to get to pray with you. So if you need prayer for any area of your life, then in just a moment when we open up this time at the front then you come and let us pray for you, all right? And I'm just asking you to start working toward passing this test so that you can do all that God has called you to do.
Lord, we want to tell You thank You for our provision. We know it comes from You. We know that we're to pray daily for provision. That's part of Your prayer that You taught the disciples. And Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters, especially those who struggle in this area. I pray, Lord, that You will open the windows of heaven and poor out blessing, that You will rebuke the enemy for their sakes, and that all nations, all peoples will call them blessed. And I pray, Lord, that we will always honor You with our income, in Jesus' name, amen.