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The Open Door

 

This has been a tough year financially. Not since The Depression have Americans felt such pressure regarding their investments, and in particular, their retirement accounts.

With the precipitous fall we have seen in the market, no one could be blamed for being deeply concerned about the long-term impact of the 2008 economy.

There are some things, however, that we should acknowledge are not impacted by the stock market. Iíd like to mention a few.

First, God is on His throne. We donít need to forget that no matter what may happen to us or how desperate things may appear, the Lord is still in charge and He cares for you. It gives me a lot of comfort to know that my Heavenly Father is watching over me and there is nothing that I need that He cannot provide. This has always been true and continues to be true.

My experience has been that God knows what I need and has never failed to meet every need that I have. One of my favorite verses of Scripture states, ďBut my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ JesusĒ (Philippians 4:19).

Second, happiness is not found in material things. Itís nice to have things to enjoy and that may make our lives somewhat easier, but material treasures are not the root of happiness. Deep joy comes through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

That relationship is the basis or root of true happiness. As our family sat at Thanksgiving dinner, we went around the table expressing our gratitude before the Lord and each other. Gratitude for our family was repeated over and over as one of the treasures of our lives.

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a loving family, you are the most blessed on the planet today. If you can add good health to that, you are especially blessed.

Third, the tithe is the Lordís. We are commanded in the Bible to return a tithe (10%) of all that we receive to the Lord. The Bible declares that the tithe belongs to God and to keep it for ourselves is to rob God. No matter how tough the times become financially, we are not released from our obligation to tithe.

Since the tithe represents a percentage, ten percent, it really should not matter how much, or how little, we receive. The tithe remains ten percent.

In II Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul teaches a great lesson in stewardship. In that passage he says that we are to give according to what we have, not according to what we do not have (v. 12). Perhaps you have heard someone say, ďIf I only had a million dollars, I would be able to give a lot of money.Ē The truth of the matter is that itís not about what you would do if you had a million dollars. What are you doing with the money you have?

Further, Paul says that it is not that we are to be burdened financially while others have it easy, but that there should be equality in giving (vs. 13-14). In other words, ten percent is ten percent whether you have $5, $50,000, or $5 million. Then in II Corinthians 9:7, Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver. No matter what the worldís economy is doing, we are to give our tithes and offerings and we are to represent a generous spirit toward the Lord by giving with a cheerful heart.

Fourth, Godís work continues in the world even when the economy is bad. We are commanded to take the Gospel to our communities, to our state, nation, and world. Southern Baptists have done that since 1925 through the Cooperative Program. As a result of the faithfulness of Southern Baptists in their giving to missions, we have a missionary force of over 10,000 families serving in over 180 countries in the world today. That is amazing. Further, the Cooperative Program supports ministries here at home as we seek to reach our state for Christ.

Did you catch the beginning date for the Cooperative Program? 1925. Times were pretty tough economically back then as well. Iím sure you are aware of The Great Depression. In that day, Baptists understood that we are stronger in tough times when we stand together in faithful obedience to the command of Christ to be on mission for Him. Standing together for Christ is something Southern Baptists have done well through the years whether the economy was good or bad.

Fifth, during the Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we are reminded that God first gave His only begotten Son. It was through this precious and miraculous gift of Godís grace that we have been offered forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. Having become recipients of this precious treasure, the rest of our lives should be spent devotedly giving back to God. Considering Godís gift to us, giving to God should never be a burden for us!

As we conclude 2008, a tough year economically, letís sprint to the finish line as faithful tithers, faithful stewards, and faithful Southern Baptists with missionary hearts.