“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:6-8)
When the Lord commissioned the church in Matthew 28:19-20 to teach all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded, He gave them a commission so great that they could not possibly carry it out. That is, unless there was supernatural blessing, supernatural increase, and supernatural power bestowed upon them, making them sufficient for the task. In all the centuries following, the condition has neverchanged. The responsibility before the church has always been great enough to absolutely demand divine provision if any measure of success is to be realized.
There is no area in which this is more true than in the financial support of the Gospel message to the uttermostparts of the earth. Just as God has not called many wise or many mighty men, He has not called many wealthy men and women, but has chosen to evangelize through the financial means of normal income people and sometimes even through the very poor. As God operates this way, the glory always reverts to Him and not to the liberality of wealthy men.
A BIBLE ILLUSTRATION
A very good illustration of this is seen in I Kings 17:1-18. In this time Elijah represents the Word of God unto Israel.In verses 4 and 5, God feeds Elijah by means of the ravens; proving that the spread of His Word or the preservation of it need not be by human instrumentality. Having proved this, He immediately sends Elijah for sustenance to the widow of Zarephath, thus showing that He chooses to use human instrumentality, although He is not constrained to do so.
Quickly see in this glorious event these simple truths. First, God does command us to do the impossible. “…I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (I Kings 17:9) Secondly, we see that if the widow is to obey, it must be by faith, for she has not enough food to give Elijah a square meal, much less to sustain him throughout the drought. “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (I Kings 17:12) But to sustain him throughout the drought she has been commanded. “Behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (I Kings 17:9b) Thirdly, we should realize that God does not make this impossible task possible by giving her a sufficient supply of meal in the barrel to weather the drought, but by replenishing day by day the bare sufficiency that is there, even though she, by faith, adds a 50 percent increase to the drain upon her tiny supply. This is the marvelous, providential action of God toward man in making the willing hand able.
COMMITMENT BY FAITH
“Faith Promise” is not a pledge to the church, the pastor, or the mission program. For either church leaders to present it this way or for participators to accept it this way is to pervert the whole, wonderful plan. For this reason I deliberately design our commitment cards so that no one but God and the person making the commitment can know whatis promised. In fact, the only reason that we need to use the cards is to be able to know what our total commitment is. We simply ask our members to seek God’s will as to a weekly amount for which they should commit themselves to Him. We urge them to be sure this is an amount that requires faith. We then leave it strictly between God and them to decide whether God has provided and whether they are spiritually bound to give week by week. The marvelous thing about it isthat year after year our Faith Promise offerings have exceeded the combined commitments of the cards. Our mission outreach has increased every year. In addition to this, our regular offerings have significantly increased on a per capita basis each year. In other words, God has indeed made all grace abound toward us not only abroad, butalso at home.
A BIBLE PATTERN
I believe the most perfect Bible pattern for this manner of commitment and service to God is found in the book of 1 Samuel, chapters one and two. The subject is a woman named Hannah. The result of her yielding to God is Samuel, one of the most used prophets of the Old Testament. Let us dwell for a moment upon the Bible order of Faith Promise giving as seen in this passage of Scripture.
THE BURDEN OF BARRENNESS
By reading I Samuel 1:1-8, you can see that Hannah is the favored wife of a wealthy man. After the order of the world, she has all she could possibly ask for. There is, however, a problem. She is non-productive. She is only receiving, she is not giving. She is like the majority of our affluent society today. When they have ended their lives, the only thingthey leave behind is a little pollution. There is no mark or memory of them in the sense of contribution to anything divine, good, or permanent. Praise God, Hannah was not satisfied to live and die like this. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” (I Samuel 1:10) How we need people in our churches today in this wealthy land to be smitten with bitterness of soul over the fact that while they live in luxury, nothing is being done by them personally to fulfill the Lord’s commission, and to reach the doomed and damned world with the saving, life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
A PRAYERFUL VOW
Notice carefully the action on Hannah’s part that (humanly speaking) started this chain-reaction of great blessing. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” (I Samuel 1:10) Now this should be thereaction of every Christian who is sobered by the realization of the fact that he or she is spiritually barren.
This prayer included a vow unto the Lord. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall not razor come upon his head.” (I Samuel 1:1) This is very different from a pledge to the church. Neither Eli, the priest, nor Elkanah, her husband, knew what her vow was; it was between God and her. Throughout the Bible you will find spiritual stirring in the hearts of men to be commonly followed by the making of proper vows unto God. If you have a tendency to question this, please read Genesis 28:20, I Samuel 1:11, Psalm 61:1-5 and Jonah 1:16. To consider this from the negative side, analyze the spirit of a man who would say or think, “I am not going to make God any promises.” Herein lies the heart-beat of “Faith Promise.” You personally vow unto God a certain thing, in this case a certain amount of money for missions.
VOW UN-SEEN MONEY
Many people shrink away from Faith Promise because they do not want to vow what they do not have. They will do it concerning their house payment, car payment, etc., but not concerning the spread of the Gospel. Promising the unseen is what makes this system “Faith Promise.” If you had a certain amount of money appropriated and in hand, it would require no faith to give it. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe the he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
This was the proposition upon which Hannah approached God. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (I Samuel 1:11) She vowed a son she did not have on the condition that God would give her a son. At this point, Hannah is not on the spot for her vow is conditional. If God gives her no son, then she is obviously free from her vow. Now the question in our mind at this point ought not be, `Is such a vow wise, or in good taste?’ This can be determined by simply observing whether or not God honors it.
GOD GIVES THE INCREASE
“Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:20) God gave her a son. Why? BecauseHe has here what He always uses, a person who is yielded to His purpose. God’s purpose was a prophet for Israel. God’s yielded person is Hannah, so now God acts in a miraculous way, and gives her a son.
I have seen in many churches where Faith Promise mission giving has been instituted unbelievable results just like the results in our church. In the five years we have practiced Faith Promise, our mission outreach has increased from seven missionaries to thirty-five missionaries and we are giving twice as much to each of the thirty-five as we were to the seven. We also have enough extra mission money available to give sizable offerings for the unexpected needs of our missionaries. Our church has not grown this much, but our mission program has. Meanwhile, our church has matured tremendously and our regular financial status has changed from a bare existence to abundant provision for every need. What is the reason behind this abundance? The reason is simply that where there is a willing heart, (“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” II Corinthians 9:8) even as with Hannah, unto his willing servants, Godgiveth the increase.
So long as Hannah had no son she could give no son and obviously God required no son of her. But as of I Samuel 1:20, she has a son and now she becomes a responsible steward of God’s gift and of her vow. She might well have begun toreason, `I wanted a son so badly and now I have a son and only one son, would God really be so unreasonable as to expect me to give him up?’ Had she thought like this, she would have been exactly like many Christians who, week after week, see the need for funds to go with the Gospel and yet sit with tightly closed hands.
Oh my friend, what ever you have, God has made available to you. Even so He is able to greatly increase that if you are determined to use it for His glory rather than consuming it upon your own lust and to your own destruction. Be a faithful steward, indeed, a cheerful giver for the wider you open your hand to give, the more God will lay in it.
THE RESULTS OF A PAID VOW
In I Samuel 1:24-28, we see Hannah paying her vow unto the Lord and not grudgingly, but with an additional offering besides. Do we expect her to go away and live out her days empty and bereaved of her only son? If you do, you have not come to know the personality of God very well. It is more blessed to give than to receive and God always out gives us. “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:21)
What a blessed condition! Israel is furnished with a prophet and this the long-needed message of God. Meanwhile, Hannah also has him though he lives and serves in the house of God in Shilo. Above and beyond this, a previously barren woman who had no child now has five children at home to love and enjoy.
Such a joyous testimony as this is the testimony of many Christians and many churches who have become burdened about their barrenness concerning mission giving. These people and churches have, by faith, committed yet unearned funds unto God. They not only have seen those impossible vows provided, but also have received abundantly above and beyond their fondest expectations. You too, can experience this fruitfulness and blessing by the way of Faith Promise. It is not a pledge to the church, but simply a personal commitment to God to give through your local church a specified amount regularly, as God provides.
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38)
May God guide and bless you as you step out by faith into this new endeavor of life, and may it grow through you year after year, til Jesus comes again. Amen!