UNREASONABLE — Message #3
Pastor Chuck Hill – Trinity Fellowship Church
Sunday, April 26, 2009
2 Corinthians 9:8
This morning I want to make one thing absolutely clear when it comes to knowing who God is and how He works within our lives. And it’s this:
God is unreasonably generous to those who put their faith in Him!
Now, this marks the third week we have discussed the nature and character of God…and each week we have described Him as being totally – and completely Unreasonable…and here’s why.
According to the…Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, “UNREASONABLE” is defined in this way:
“Not governed by or acting according to reason; exceeding the bounds of reason or moderation.”
So, for the context of this series…we are describing God as being completely UNREASONABLE. Because He totally exceeds the bounds of our reason…He is not governed in any way by our limited thinking. His care for us always exceeds the bounds of anything we might think He should offer.
And if you remember, Merriam-Webster also used a synonym for the word UNREASONABLE that really makes sense. Anyone remember what that word was?
Yeah…the word EXTRAVAGANT! God is in every way – an extravagant God.
And that thought more than any other probably fits with where we are going today. As I said a few moments ago, this morning I want to explore this biblically substantiated idea that God is extravagantly generous to those who put their faith in Him!
2 Corinthians 9:8 says,
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Have you ever had to take a really hard test, one that you didn’t want to take?
One of my favorite stories is about a university professor who was known for giving hard tests. He was a professor of ornithology, the study of birds. The semester final was one none of the students were prepared for. They walked into the classroom and there were 25 stuffed birds on the counter; all had a paper bag over them. You couldn’t see their head; you couldn’t see their wings; you couldn’t see their feathers. And there was only one question on the test. It was to identify all 25 species of birds by simply looking at their feet.
Well, the students couldn’t believe it. One kid just goes ballistic. He throws his pen down and says, “This is stupid, I’m not going to take a test like this.” He gets up and he starts to walk out. The professor says, “You walk out of the room, I’m going to flunk you in this class.” The kid said, “Go ahead.” The professor said, “Young man, what’s your name?” The kid rolled up his pant leg and said, “You tell me.”
Here’s my point in all of this….throughout our lives we go through tests!
- Parents test their kids to see how they’re growing and developing.
- School teachers test their students to see how they’re progressing academically.
- When two people begin to date…and then they begin to fall in love – they begin to test one another. They test each other in an effort to discover who they really are—what their character is like, where their faith is placed.
All through life we go through tests!
As I prepared for this message this week – I really discovered how important the word ‘test’ is to our lives. In fact, it’s actually quite biblical.
I discovered numerous places in scripture where the Bible talked about how God tests people.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. This is a story that many of you will be familiar with. Do you remember the story of Jesus performing the miracle where He fed the 5,000? Well, just before He fed everyone, there is an exchange of dialog between Him and one of his disciples.
In John 6, this story unfolds…and it says:
“After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
John 6:1-7 (NLT)
Did you catch it? In Verse 6 we discover that Jesus, even though Jesus knew what He was going to do and how He would provide food for these 5000 plus people, asked Philip the question to test him. Jesus wanted to find out what was going on inside Philips heart and mind.
Jesus was testing Philip’s level of faith…it was like a trust test!
In essence, He was saying,
“Philip, do you trust me?” “Do you believe that I can provide for the needs of all these people?”
Well, Philip did like many of you might have done…he did some quick financial calculations in his head, and according to the bible…he was seized by panic and a financial fear. He quickly did the math in his head and then said to Jesus,
“Jesus, we can’t afford to buy bread for all these people. Even if we worked for months we couldn’t pay for that.”
Well, most of you probably know that story. And you’ll remember that it was a young boy who came to Jesus and gave him his lunch – and with just five small loaves of bread and two fish Jesus was able to feed everyone. The bible tells us that He took small lunch and blessed it and an amazing miracle of provision took place. Jesus multiplied it and fed all 5,000-plus people and even made enough to have 12 baskets of food left over to feed His staff (the disciples).
You know, after performing that miracle, I wonder if Jesus didn’t give Philip one of those looks that said,
“You didn’t think I could do it, did you? Come on Philip…its time to believe! You can trust me!”
You know, I’ve had the sense over the last year or so…as we’ve been in this financial storm in America…that just maybe God has been watching His church and wondering the same thing.
I just have the sense that God is asking us (you and me), “When are we going to believe? When are we going to reach the point in our lives that we embrace the fact that we can trust Him.
You know, it’s been my prayer throughout this series of messages that we would be moved in such a way that we wouldn’t just have a head knowledge of who God is – but that we would really begin to embrace Him in all of His greatness! That we could demonstrate our faith or belief in God by how we live. That we wouldn’t just memorize some facts about Him…but that we could really live by faith – and trust Him to be the God who loves, and the God who protects…and as we are discovering today – the God who provides!
My prayer is that we would begin to really trust God to meet our needs! Because, it’s not God’s plan for us to live with anxiety or fear.
And let me remind you again of one of the most amazing scriptures in all the New Testament. It’s found in Ephesians 3:20. Paul says,
“Now to Him Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams.”
Ephesians 3:20 (AMP)
I tell you this…because God wants us to live the victorious life of faith in Him. Again, I have to go back to this thought that God is extravagant in His care for those who put their faith in Him. He is over the top…he is generous beyond measure. Just listen to some of the other verses of scripture that describe His promise of blessing in our lives.
Psalm 5:12 says,
“For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
Psalm 5:12 (NIV)
Psalm 84:11-12 says,
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”
Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)
It doesn’t matter where you turn in the bible – you just can’t get away from this fact – God cares for His own. He blesses those who put their faith in Him.
As we looked at earlier in this message, according to 2 Corinthians 9:8, God is…
“…able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Here’s the thing though, God’s greatest desire is that we become like Him. In all manners of life – God wants us to grow to become more and more like Him.
You know, this is just a part of the passion of a father to his children. I have 3 boys and one girl…and I work on a daily basis to teach and train and develop my children to reflect my character in them. It pleases me to watch them learn and grow in their abilities. But when I see myself reflected in their heart and life – it brings me such joy. (Well, most of the time)!
And it is the same with God – our heavenly Father! He wants us to reflect His habits and nature!
I believe that when we became really aware and convinced of His ability to supply all of our needs through His generous love – then we will begin to do as He does and bless others.
And I’m not just talking about giving…I’m talking about a lifestyle of generosity. Hear me on this one church –there is a huge difference between giving and being generous.
- Giving is an act; but generosity is an attitude that we carry with us all the time.
- Giving is an event in our lives; but generosity is a life-style.
- Giving is a transaction that we do; but generosity becomes transformational. It is a revolution within our heart.
Jesus put it this way in Luke 6:38. He said,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38 (NIV)
I mentioned the issue of testing a few moments ago. And if you remember, I told you that God likes to put our faith to the test — because testing develops us and grows us. Here’s the thing though…the area of finances is one of God’s big tests in our lives.
Ultimately what this test comes down to is whether or not in our heart of hearts we really trust God.
- Do we have a confident trust of God’s commitment to provide all the needs in our lives?
- Do we believe to the very core of our being that God can be trusted to provide in every area of our lives?
You see, the thing that prevents many of us from being generous to others is FEAR. Fear that we won’t have enough. Fear that God won’t take care of us. Fear that we will not be blessed. Fear that God won’t honor His Word. Fear that God just isn’t the God He’s said He is!
And all that fear leads us to question….
- What if the economy continues to stutter?
- What if another financial storm comes our way?
- What if we have an emergency?
- What if? What if? What if?
Andy Stanley writes in his book Fields of Gold, which I highly recommend to you:
“Millions of Christians around the world are frozen in their financial tracks by this anxiety. In all likelihood they mean to be more generous, but somewhere along the way uncertainty creeps in and they settle for the status quo, a watered-down version of what they could be sowing for God’s kingdom if it weren’t for their fears.”
I want to go to one more story in the time that remains and show you how God has demonstrated His care for us…even in tough times. It’s found in Old Testament book of 1 Kings 17.
This passage tells the story of a single mom.
Life started out pretty normal for her. She grew up; she got married; she had a baby. And then tragedy hit and her husband died. This is a powerful story that anybody who’s ever gone through a challenging economic storm in their life can identify with.
This young widow didn’t have any other support system in her life. She didn’t have a church to call upon. She didn’t have a synagogue that she could ask for help. The truth was she was all alone. And she was really afraid.
Complicating matters was the fact that the land she lived in had been in a drought for a number of years; it hadn’t rained for years and the crops had all withered.
Food prices had skyrocketed. The jobless rate was through the roof…so all of the honorable, respectable jobs were gone. And beyond that – she had a young child. So, what would do for child care?
And as if that’s not bad enough…the bible tells us that she was down to her last meal. And then Elijah, a prophet of God, was directed by God to go find this woman, and he crossed her path.
Look with me at 1 Kings 17:10. It read…
“So Elijah went to Zarephath. When he reached the town gate, he saw a widow gathering wood for a fire. Elijah asked her, “Would you bring me a little water in a cup so I may have a drink?”11 As she was going to get his water, Elijah said, “Please bring me a piece of bread, too.”
1 Kings 17:10-11 (NCV)
Now put yourself in this single mom’s sandals for a minute.
She’s under incredible financial pressure just to survive, and this stranger asks for something to eat. She’s asked to give away something that she really doesn’t have to give away. Look at verse 12…
“The woman answered, “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I have no bread. I have only a handful of flour in a jar and only a little olive oil in a jug. I came here to gather some wood so I could go home and cook our last meal. My son and I will eat it and then die from hunger.”
1 Kings 17:12 (NCV)
In other words, “I don’t have anything to give you. I just have enough for my son and me to go home … there’s a little bit of olive oil in a jug; there’s a little bit of flour in a jar … and I’m going to make our last meal, then we’re going to die.”
But listen to what happens next. Because, Elijah gave her a test that came straight from God. Verse 13 continues,
“Don’t worry,” Elijah said to her. “Go home and cook your food as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread from the flour you have, and bring it to me. Then cook something for yourself and your son.14 The Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘That jar of flour will never be empty, and the jug will always have oil in it, until the day the Lord sends rain to the land.’ ”
1 Kings 17:13-14 (NCV)
Now again, if you were down to your last meal, if you didn’t know how you were going to feed your only child tomorrow, would you have trusted God and taken some of the oil and some of the flour and given it away to a total stranger?
Would you? I mean, this has to be the greatest financial fear we could ever face. Well, guess what this widow did.
Look at verse 15. It says,
“So the woman went home and did what Elijah told her to do. And the woman and her son and Elijah had enough food every day.16 The jar of flour and the jug of oil were never empty, just as the Lord, through Elijah, had promised.”
1 Kings 17:15-16 (NCV)
Isn’t that amazing? What a miracle! God demonstrated His UNREASONABLE PROVISION in her life.
According to the story, every day they’d use up the olive oil in the jug; they’d use up the flour in the jar. And they’d think that it could be their last meal, that there would never be any more. And yet, the next morning they’d get up, and there would be more olive oil in the jug and there’d be more flour in the jar.
Every meal was a miracle. And every day the “God of the Re-supply” would meet their needs.
And here’s the amazing thing – the “God of the Re-supply” promises that if we will trust Him, that He will meet our needs too. He will do for us what He did for that single mom! It simply becomes a matter of trust.
Again, I have to go back to 2 Corinthians 9:8. It says,
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
Notice that phrase having all that you need. God promises that if we trust in him at all times, in all things, we will have all that we need.
Folks, those among us who have lived with very little—and there are some of you who know what it is to live with very little in your life—are the ones who can tell the stories of how the God has come through and not only supplied…but at times has demonstrated His ability to re-supply your needs just in time.
- We’ve all heard stories of grocery miracles – when people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, opened their front door and discovered that God provided through a generous heart by having someone leave a bag of groceries for them.
- Or other stories of how someone didn’t know how they were going to get the money to pay their electric bill, and how just in the nick of time an unexpected check or an unexpected envelope of cash showed up at their door. That’s just how God works!
I heard a story recently about a woman who lived in Illinois who experienced God’s provision.
She was a single mom with a 7 year old son. She stood up in her church and testified how just three years earlier she was unemployed and had an unemployment check as her only source of income.
She was going to school. She was trying to support her child but just really struggled. Well, she said, one day – she was challenged by a woman in her church, another follower of Jesus, to honor God by trusting him with the tithe. She asked her to test God in this and just watch as God would provide. Well, you have to remember – she was unemployed and living on a government check…and so you can imagine how just the thought of giving 10% of her income to God made her feel. She was terrified by the thought. But finally she decided she would put God to the test and just see if He would bless her.
Well, as the story goes, she wrote her first tithe check; it was small by most people’s standards, but it was huge to her. It totaled $33.
As you can imagine…God didn’t let her down. And it wasn’t long before He blessed her abundantly by providing her with a job and increase. She stood that morning in her church three years later and she said, “I’m here to tell anybody who will listen to me: It works. God can be trusted. He is a God who re-supplies.”
But the story gets better. Listen to this…
She went on to tell some amazing stories: how she had finished school, how she’d gotten a good job and had recently bought a little house for her and her child, and how God had provided for three years as she tried to honor him. Then she said, “Just this week, as I was getting ready to tell this story, my car broke down and my water heater went out. And I thought, oh boy, now here we go, I’m not going to be able to trust him this time.”
And you know what happened that week? Some mechanics in their church repaired the car for that single mom. And two unexpected checks arrived in the mail that week: one was for $220 from a hospital bill she’d overpaid two years earlier and didn’t know; another was a $50 rebate. Together they added up to $270. You know how much her new water heater was? Two hundred and sixty-nine dollars.
Folks, people who live their lives trusting in God…just seem to have those kinds of stories to tell, because God is faithful and always honors His Word!
And that was this widow in 1 Kings 17. God made her a promise, and she discovered that God could be trusted.
Every day God showed up. And every meal was a miracle in her home!
I’ve been a follower of Jesus the majority of my life. I decided and invited Jesus to be the forgiver of my sin and the leader of my life when I was just a kid. It was when I was 5 years old in Royal Rangers. My dad actually led me to Jesus – and I’ll never forget that moment. Since that day, I have tried to have the attitude that says:
God, I will trust you and I will walk with you as long as you prove to be trustworthy in my life!
And I’ll tell you some of my experiences of walking with him for over 31 years now.
Many of you know I had the kind of daddy a lot of boys dream about having. Unbelievable daddy. We hung out together. Played together. Talked together. Wrestled together. We went swimming together. Never missed a moment of my life. He never missed a band concert or an opportunity to support me. He would take me to work with him on the weekends and we’d have lunch together. And I think those moments have contributed to my understanding of God…as a Heavenly Father!
My sense of trust in God grew stronger with everyday….and when I was in high school, I had the sense that God was calling me to go into full-time ministry. I know God doesn’t call most people into full-time ministry; I think he’s called most people to marketplace ministry….but that’s what His call on my life has been.
When you decide to trust God, you don’t know where he’s going to lead you. You don’t know when he’s going to lead you. You don’t know how he’s going to lead you. It’s a decision where you simply trust him.
Now, I tell you this to say…I am still learning to trust God. For over 3 decades I’ve put God to the test many times in my life. And I’ve learned that when things are great, he can be trusted. But I’ve also learned that when things are bad and you don’t understand the circumstances of life…God can still be trusted.
I’ve learned in times of heartbreak and sorrow, that I can trust God. And I’ve even learned that when the future is uncertain, God is still more than able to provide for my every need!
And right now some of you are probably wondering if I’ve forgotten what I was talking about this weekend. I mean, have I forgotten that we were talking about honoring God with our resources? Friends, I haven’t forgotten. You see, the fundamental issue when it comes to our resources is ultimately that it is not a monetary issue; it’s a trust issue.
The tendency for all of us is not to look to God but to look at something else like the stock market, or bank accounts or raises or something else that we can control. But when we do that – we have the tendency to become paralyzed by our financial fear.
Here’s an observation about that widow in 1 Kings 17. Even though she had very little to give, even though she was going through very hard times, she put God to the test. In fact, she gave what she had away before she took care of her own needs and the needs of her son. That is the principle that the bible would call: “Firstfruits”!
And when it comes to the issue of our “Firstfruits” – if we will honor God, then He’ll provide for us!
I don’t know if these are very challenging times for you economically or whether these are very blessed times for you economically or somewhere in-between, but I want to remind you that God has said over and over again in his word,
“If you trust me, if you’ll put me to the test, I will pour blessings into your life so great you can’t even contain them.”
Or as Jesus said,
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over!”
Luke 6:38 (NIV)
Proverbs 3:9-10 promises that if we will honor God with the first part of our income, He will overflow blessings into our lives.
And, in case you’re wondering…God isn’t the least bit worried about His ability to flow His resources into your life! Because He will never reach the end of His resources! He is all powerful and has a limitless supply of everything you have need of!
I know what some of you think when you think about giving away resources. You look around and think that your contribution is like a drop in the bucket and doesn’t really make a difference and doesn’t really matter.
But folks, it was the little bit that this widow had which ultimately fed God’s prophet and opened the door to greater blessing!
And if you remember, it was a young boy’s faith with five loaves of bread and two fish that ultimately led to the miracle of the feeding of 5,000.
Here’s what I have come to understand…God is able to collectively take all of our gifts and multiply them in incredible ways, sometimes in ways we don’t even understand.
But more importantly than that – God is looking for moments of trust in our lives where He can extravagantly provide for us!
Friends, you have a God who has promised to meet all your needs in Christ Jesus. The question is not whether he’s capable; the question is: Will you trust him? The question is: Will I trust him?
It’s not a monetary issue. It’s a trust issue. He said, “I’ll meet your financial and material needs. I’ll meet your relational and emotional needs. I’ll meet the deepest needs of your soul.” But it’s up to us to come to that point in our lives where we say, “I will drive a stake in the ground, and I will take his hand, and I will choose to trust.”
For what it’s worth to you, I don’t have any regret for trusting him in my life.
I want to conclude this morning by reading you a passage of scripture from Deuteronomy 28. This details in great measure the ways God will bless you and me if we will simply learn to follow Him and trust Him as the extravagant provider that he is. God says to us,
Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (NIV)
1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: 3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. 4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. 5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. 6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. 7 The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. 8 The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. 9 The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. 11 The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. 12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
Let’s stand and pray.