A Stewardship Devotional Given at the WAD Stewardship Advisory

Keeping Our Promises

Keeping Our Promises

As Christians, we believe in the Word of God. We run to the Bible to seek answers or words of comfort when we are in distress, when faced with challenges, or when facing the unknown. We flip through the pages and find encouraging words that uplift our spirit. The Bible is full of promises and reminders that God is faithful. These promises are true, and they teach us about His incredible character and His love for humanity. His promises are rich in meaning and help us with whatever we are facing. Reading them encourages and inspires us.

Some promises that we know by heart and cling to include:

Nahum 1:7—“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.” 

Isaiah 40:3—“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 43:2—“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Jeremiah 29:11—“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Deuteronomy 31:8—“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Exodus 14:14—“The LORD himself will fight for you.”

Psalm 23:4—“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Isaiah 49:16—“Yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”

Philippians 4:6, 7—“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Mark 11:24—“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Psalm 37:4—“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

A Personal Story

I’ve experienced God’s promises in a literal way. In August 1990, during the Liberian Civil War, when the rebels of Charles Taylor entered the Congo Town area, my city was evacuated, and my family was forced to abandon our home and move to the Paynesville area. As we traveled on foot with the rebels, we fell into an ambush staged by a group of government soldiers near the intersection of the SKD Boulevard. We were caught in the middle of a gun battle. We took cover on the hot asphalt and prayed as the rebels battled the government soldiers. My family of 53 members led our neighbors to pray and recite verses of Psalm 91, especially verses 7, 8, 11, and 12. We had nowhere to hide; nowhere to run. So we began to pray, and the neighbors repeated those prayers. “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee (verse 7). “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked” (verse 8). “For he shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (verse 11). “They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (verse 12). We trusted God’s promises to save us. The rebels killed the soldiers and none of us was harmed.

I strongly believe that I’m alive today because I trusted in God’s promises of Psalm 91. God’s promises are sure. His promises are true. He promises to bless our daily lives, according to His will for us. He also calls us to do the same, showing His love and care to others. Made in His image, we should be able to keep our promises. 

We keep promises made to our children and family; we keep promises made to our friends. We keep the dying wish or promises made to close family members. I promised my parents to meet them at the tree of life, and I look forward to God keeping that promise for me. But when the promise made to someone will inconvenience us, we sometimes look for excuses to try to get out of keeping it.

Can’t Take It With Us

A billionaire who had worked all his life and had saved all his money asked his wife on his deathbed to make sure that he took his riches with him when he died. He loved money more than anything and wanted to be buried with it.

So he got his wife to wholeheartedly promise him that when he died, she would put all his money into the casket with him. At his death, his wife made arrangements for his funeral at their local church.

He laid in the casket looking very well-dressed as his widow sat in black next to their best friend. When the ceremony was over, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, his widow said, “Wait a minute!”

She grabbed a shoebox she had with her, went over to the body, and placed it into the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket and rolled it away.

Her friend was amazed and said, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money into that casket with that stingy old man.”

“Yes,” she said. “I promised. I’m a good Christian; I can’t lie. I promised him that I would put all his money into that casket with him.”

“You mean to tell me that you put every cent of his money into the casket with him?”

“I surely did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my bank account, and I wrote him a check. I hope he can cash the check where he’s going.”

In a way, she did keep her promise, but just not the way he would have preferred. Humans break their promises, but God doesn’t.

God Keeps His Promises

God kept His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, 14. He told Abraham that his descendants would be in captivity, living as strangers in a foreign country, enslaved and mistreated for 400 years, but that He, God, would punish those who oppressed His people and free them from slavery. Joseph knew that and made his brothers promise him in Genesis 50:24 to take his bones with them when God visited them. Joseph believed that God was the Maker and Keeper of covenant promises. Just as he promised Abraham, God set the Israelites free from slavery. In Genesis 13:13, when leaving Egypt, Moses took Joseph’s bones with him as they went to the Promised Land.

Jesus also kept His promise. By dying for humans on the cross, Jesus was promising to eradicate sin and bring salvation to humanity. As He prepared to leave the earth, He made one final promise to His disciples. In Acts 1:8, just before He ascended to heaven, He told them, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And He expected them to fulfill this promise, and they did.

Keeping Our Promises to God

As modern-day disciples, we, too, have been called to keep the promise of Acts 1:8. We may not physically go to Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth, but our sacrificial, systematic, and regular offerings can go ahead of us. We return our tithes and offerings as an expression of our love for God and our fellow humans. Knowing that God keeps His promises, we wholeheartedly return a proportion of our income as a tithe, 10 percent as designated by God, and then give a percentage of our income as a regular and systematic offering to fulfill the promise of going to Jerusalem, all Judaea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world are listed on our physical and electronic tithe envelopes in the form of the local church—the mission/district/conference/union—and the World. Under the Combined Offering Plan, an offering plan recommended by the world church, members are encouraged to give a percentage of their income as an offering to each of these areas designated on the tithe envelope. We are encouraged not just to return the tithe but to give a percentage-based offering so that the gospel can be taken to the dying world. Under this plan, depending on the world region, 50 percent of the offering stays in the local church, 20 percent goes to mission, 10 percent to the union or division, and 20 percent to the General Conference.

Many ask: “How much should I return to God?” Paul recommends in 1 Corinthians 16:2 that the Christian give “as he may prosper.” We are first to give from what God blesses us with, not from what’s left after we’ve taken care of other expenses. If someone were to judge our financial status by what we wear, they might judge us to be wealthy. However, if they were to gage our financial status based on our contribution to God’s work, what would they conclude? Would they see that our giving pattern reflects the fact that the Lord has prospered us? Or would they find us poor in giving?

Studies show that in most churches, only about 10 percent of the membership give 90 percent of the contributions—and they are not the wealthiest people in the congregation. Christians should be afraid to “rob God.” We rob God when we give a proportion of our income without giving according to our ability. Some give only 1 percent of their income as an offering when they could give 20 percent. We rob God when we give from our net salary instead of giving from our gross.

God promises to pour out His blessings on us if we adhere to His command to return our tithe and give our regular and systematic offerings. Both are holy. He promised that there wouldn’t be room enough to receive them. As you can affirm, His promises are sure. Don’t depend on God to fulfill only some promises to us and not trust Him to fulfill His promise in Malachi 3:11, 12: “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”

The Lord promises to bless us immensely and take care of us, but many refuse to believe this promise because it involves surrendering our finances to Him. We would prefer Him to bless us and allow us to keep our money. Forgetting that everything we have—our finances, home, cars, children—they all belong to God. He has just loaned them to us for a time. All these things are temporary. One day they will all pass away. I would rather lay up for myself treasures in heaven and not invest in things on earth that rust, moth, and dust will destroy (see Matt. 6:19-29). 

Be Faithful to God

Why not be faithful? Return what is the Lord’s. Do as the widow did in Mark 12:42-44. She trusted God and put her last possession (two coins) into His treasury, knowing that the God whom she served would provide for all her needs. She gave freely to the advancement of the work of the church. By giving her two mites, she gave more than the rich men of her day. Jesus acknowledged her gift in Mark 12:43, 44: “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 she had to live on.’” 

The widow gave her all when the leaders were the most corrupt. She didn’t use their behavior as an excuse not to give. They defrauded the people in the temple when they came to bring their sacrifices. They were even planning to kill Jesus. She didn’t give to please the leaders. She gave to please God. Our Father cares about our motive for giving. He also cares about how we give and what we give. Don’t worry about how the leadership spends the money. Worry about you being faithful to God. Church leaders will be audited here on earth and will have to give an account of their deeds to God when He comes.

Unfortunately, some still find it hard to let go of all they possess. It is easy to focus on our needs and neglect to trust God. If only we would believe that our heavenly Father can supply all our needs according to His riches in glory! Paul made it clear in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 

If we struggle with giving while earning an income, the problem is probably not because we lack money. Our real problem is that we are tied to this world and the things of the world. We lack faith in God’s promises. We are used to measuring all things by money and the things that money can buy. We end up measuring life itself by what we own. When we love the world, we block the blessing of God in our lives. You have heard the saying “You can't out-give God,” and that is true. It is also true that if you hold on too tightly to what you have, you forfeit the blessing of God that could be yours. God doesn’t bless a closed hand.

Giving My All—But Not Intentionally

In December 2018, I had just completed decorating our office department for the Christmas holiday. We chose the city of Bethlehem as our theme. As I placed the pieces of the nativity set in the inn—the shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and the wise men with their gifts—I began to ponder on my gift to Christ. It was payday, and I needed to do my online giving. Every pay period I return the tithe from my gross salary and give a percentage of my income as a regular and systematic offering online before I begin paying my bills. This pay period wasn’t any different. As I sat in front of my computer, eager to put God first, I logged into my church’s online giving website and returned my tithe. I gave my percentage-based offerings, and I was done in less than three minutes. I proceeded to pay my bills online.

Websites began sending automatic e-mail receipts for bills paid. After completing the bill-paying process, I checked my e-mail to file the receipts. I logged into my e-mail account only to discover that I had returned 100 percent of my salary as tithe instead of 10 percent. My first thought was, Wow, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to return 100 percent of my income to God? Yes, it would be nice, but it wouldn’t be a cheerful experience. Paul commends us in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” I would have loved to give 100 percent, but I hadn’t decided to do that. 

Realizing my mistake, I needed to either get a refund or reverse the transaction and return God’s designated 10 percent along with my promised percentage-based offering. I sent an e-mail to the online giving help desk and then called my bank. The bank clerk told me that I would incur a fee for my error if the transaction went through. I spent the first few hours of the morning wondering what to do and laughing about my situation. When all else fails, and there's nothing I can do to help myself, I usually get a good laugh and let God handle my stress. By evening, I had gotten ahold of my local church treasurer, explained the situation to her, and we had a good laugh. In the end, my transaction was voided, and I was able to return to God what was rightfully due Him. To God be the glory!

But what if the tables were turned? What if God had asked me for a refund? What if He had changed His mind about the percentage of His gift of our salvation? Where would we be today? Lost and without hope. While I couldn’t be 100 percent generous with my wages, I can practice 100 percent generosity in other ways by surrendering my will to God. 

God Gave 100 Percent

I surrender my all to Jesus because He loves me and gave Himself to die on the cross for a sinner like me. He gave 100 percent. The Lord of the universe came down to this earth to be born as a child and laid in the animals’ feeding place, a smelly place, a symbol of our sinful nature because He thought we were worth dying for. That’s love beyond all measure. I could never out-give the love the Savior has for humankind, and I cannot be selfish to keep what He gives me all to myself. I must give to His work so that others will get to know Him.

I don't know about you, but I want to be with Jesus someday. I want Him to say to me, “Well done. You were faithful in the little things, enter into my kingdom.”

I hope and pray that as we go through the rest of this year, we will re-evaluate our giving practices and designate a percentage of our income as regular and systematic offering to help further the work of God in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Souls are dying while waiting to hear the good news of salvation. Let us hasten Christ’s soon return by investing our finances to winning souls for the kingdom. I pray that you will agree with me to devote a percentage of your wages (promise) to God to help carry out His mission, enabling the Seventh-day Adventist Church to reach the needy souls in all the world. I pledge to keep my percentage-based promise, and I hope you will too. May we keep our promises.

 

by Johnetta B. Flomo