Enlarge Your Tent - Stewardship

Bible Book: Isaiah  54
Subject: Stewardship; Giving; Growing
[Editor's Note: This message was preached by Dr. J. Mike Minnix at the beginning of a building program some years ago to accommodate a growing church. It can be adopted, however, for many purposes, including tithing.]

This is a day to celebrate! We fully believe that today the debt of the building, which we now occupy, will be totally removed! Your faithfulness in the past and the faithfulness that I believe resides in you to this day will bring about a great victory and help to launch "The Church That Loves" into the 21st Century on a positive note.

The work behind us is to be a memorial and the work before us an honor. Today we not only remove something from our past but we also start taking steps toward the erection of a worship center which will be a place to celebrate Jesus and His grace for years to come.

Speaking about money is not a pastor's favorite subject. A story illustrates how important the financial side of a ministry is to the pastor, staff and leaders.

A man called the local church and the secretary answered, "Local Church, may I help you?"

The man asked, "Is the Head Hog at the trough today?"

The secretary was shocked and asked him to repeat himself. The man asked again, "Is the Head Hog at the trough today?"

The secretary answered, "Dear sir, if you are speaking of the pastor, you are being totally rude and thoughtless."

The man said, "I'm sorry. I was just calling to give $150,000.00 to the building program at the church."

The church secretary quickly replied, "Hold on, I think I see the Big Pig coming through the door right now!"

Pastors are often ridiculed for seeking funds to do God's work. But, giving to erect structures to the honor, glory and work of God is Biblical and honorable. I consider it a privilege to thank you for your wonderful giving in the past and to plead with you on behalf of our Lord to continue the great work into the future.

Lets take a look at Isaiah 54 as we consider the cost of obeying God in the matter of giving. Remember that Isaiah 54 is a passage with a dual meaning. It spoke to Isaiah'a day, but more importantly it was a prophetic passage concerning the Church Age. It spoke of the expansion of the Kingdom of God. I want you to think with me about the analogy used by the Lord to describe the growth in the Church Age.

The Lord used the idea of a woman who needed to enlarge her tent for her family. The desert dwellers lived in tents that could be expanded readily but not easily. To enlarge a tent was arduous and expensive work. Animals had to be killed for the skins that would be used for the tent. The animals were costly since they were used to breed and sale for cash income. To slay the animals for the skins was a loss of cash for the family. Also, the skins had to be prepared and dried in the desert sun. Then, work had to be done to sew the hides into the tent. Not only that, but cords had to be lengthened. They could not be found at the local hardware store but were made by hand. This was a tiresome and time-consuming task. Finally, new and longer stakes had to be cut in order to hold up the larger tent.

The point here is that enlarging the tent was not easy. It required sacrifice, work and great energy. Yet, it was a time of joy when new additions were being added to the family. The work was done gladly as the family prepared for the new little ones that would come along.

This is the picture God gives us of a growing church. As God has continued to add people to our church family, it has been required of us to "make room" for everyone. In order to give properly and grow biblically, we need to know the principles related to this illustration as they relate to us. Note four important things with me this morning.

I. Giving to a God-directed Cause Should be Joyful

Note, in verse one, that the Lord tells the people to rejoice at the task of enlarging the tent. The fact is there should be a joy in giving to a God-directed cause. Jesus said, "It is better to give than to receive" Acts 20:35. Again, the Scripture states, "God loves a cheerful giver" 2 Corinthians 9:7

A. Because we Possess Something to Give

We should rejoice that we have something to give back to the Lord. The Bible tells us that we can only give what we have received. We need to rejoice when asked to give because we have received so much ourselves. This is true in Spiritual blessings and material blessings. Let us rejoice at the way God has met our needs and let us be faithful is giving back to Him!

B. Because of the Pleasure it Brings to the Recipient

Giving to those you love is fun. It is a joy to see their faces when they receive that gift for which you have saved and searched. A child's face on Christmas morning, a friend's face at a birthday party, your spouse's face on your anniversary, is something joyful. Giving is not hard; it is fun, especially when done for something or someone you love. That is the way giving to God is supposed to be. We give to God because He first loved us and we love Him!

II. Giving to a God-directed Cause Must be Sacrificial

True giving does demand sacrifice. It costs something to give properly. To give that which costs nothing is in effect to give nothing!

We read in 2 Samuel 24:20-25, "When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. Araunah said, 'Why has my lord the king come to his servant?' 'To buy your threshing floor,' David answered, 'so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.' Araunah said to David, 'Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.' Araunah also said to him, 'May the LORD your God accept you.' But the king replied to Araunah, 'No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped

David was not willing to give something to the Lord that cost him nothing. David rejoiced to give and did so sacrificially.

The story is told from several years ago of a young man who owned a 1983 Ford that was literally on its last legs. He went to a car dealership to consider purchasing a newer car. He didn't want the dealer to know how desperate he was. He looked at a 2002 Chevrolet, got a trade offer and told the man he would think about it. He got back in his 1983 Ford, turned the starter and nothing happened. He got out of the car, turned to the salesman and said, "I'll take it!" This was no time to be driving a hard bargain.

In essence Araunah felt he had little choice when faced with a request from King David. He was not in much of a bargaining position at this stage in his life. He offered to give David the land, the threshing floor and wood for a fire. Just think; David had the chance to have a Nieman Marcus Ministry at a Wal-Mart Price! In fact, the price was perfect - Nothing! But David would not think of doing that. He knew that true worship requires sacrifice and that is what he would do - he would not give God something that cost him nothing.

The Lord confronted the people in the Book of Malachi because they gave stale bread and sick sheep to Him. They were to give their first fruits and best lambs. They, instead, were giving the Lord something that cost them nothing! Such giving is irrelevant and empty to the Lord. Such gifts reveal three flaws.

A. Not to give Sacrificially reveals a Lack of Faith
B. Not to give Sacrificially reveals a Lack of Love
C. Not to give Sacrificially reveals a Lack of Gratitude

The story is told of an affluent kid whose family moved to a new city. The parents didn't want to draw attention to themselves, so they told their son that they were poor. "We really don't have much," they told him. "Others are much better off than we are."

On the first day of school the teacher asked the children to write a paragraph about themselves. The young boy wrote, "I am poor, my father is poor, my mother is poor...our maid is poor, and the man who flies our jet is poor."

The Lord has so richly blessed most of us that even if we face difficulties financially, we do not really know what being poor is all about. We should be willing to give sacrificially. That is how the poor widow gave when she gave all she had.

A report from the Signs of the Times newsletter reported that the nation's poorest families gave 5.5% of their income to charity, while the richest families gave 2.9%. Certainly those of us who are blessed should do our part and be faithful in this matter of giving sacrificially!

III. Giving to a God-directed Cause Ought to be Purposeful

A. A Purpose in which the saints are Delighted

God never asks us to give to things that are not worthy and wonderful to be a part of. We give to keep up the ministry of the local church. We give to send missionaries to our association, into our state, into our nation and around the world. We give to build facilities that bring glory back to God. In all our giving to the Lord and His work there is a delightful purpose.

B. A Purpose by which the devil is Defeated

Our giving becomes a defeat to the devil. The devil steals and kills. To keep God's tithe is to steal from God. It makes us like the devil. To fail to give worthy offerings to the Lord reveals our selfishness and makes us proud and self-centered like the devil. But when we give God's tithe and our offerings, the devil is defeated. Giving brings about divine work puts him to flight.

You remember Judas? He carried the money for the Lord and the disciples. He was the one who complained when the sinful, forgiven woman poured out a bottle of perfume on Jesus that was worth a year's wages. He was also the one into whom the devil had entered! He was self-centered and loved money. He was a tool of the devil and a pawn in Satan's hand.

When the little man from Jericho came down from the tree and agreed to give 4 times all he had taken illegally and improperly, Jesus declared, "This day salvation has come to your house." His giving didn't buy salvation for him, but it was a sign that he had turned to Jesus, was willing to give all Jesus demanded and in the process he defeated the devil in his life. This is a lesson we need to remember.

C. A Purpose through which the will of God is Delivered

God's will is done when we give to the purposes that He has declared as worthy. That is why He tells the people to give in Malachi. He wanted them to give so that He could then give all He had planned back into their bosom. The purpose of God is to bless His people, and that is something He will not do unless we are willing to yield to Him - and that includes being faithful in giving!

IV. Giving to a God-directed Cause Will be Fruitful

God promised in this passage that victory would be given as the tent was enlarged. He even went so far as to say that "no weapon formed against you shall prosper!"

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he used the church at Macedonia as an example for giving. We need to remember that our behavior is catching; that our giving is contagious.

In Billy Martin's autobiography "Number 1," he tells of a time when his temper got him into trouble. He and Mickey Mantle were going hunting on the ranch of one of Mantle's friends. They drove out to the man's farm and Mickey went in to talk to him about hunting on his property. His friend was more than happy to let them hunt on the ranch, but he did ask Mickey for one favor: one of the man's favorite old mules was ailing, and he asked that Mickey put the animal out of its misery. Mickey agreed to do this.

When Mickey went back to the car to tell Billy he had a brainstorm. He would play a trick on Billy Martin. When he got to the car, he pretended to be furious. He ranted and raved to Billy about how his friend had changed his mind, and they were no longer welcome to hunt there that day. Mickey told Billy he was so mad that he was going to shoot one of his friend's mules. He sped out to the barn - all the while roaring in anger - hopped out of the car, ran into the barn, and shot the ailing mule.

When he came out of the barn, he saw a horrible sight. Billy was standing outside with a smoking gun in his hand. In a panic Mickey yelled to Billy, "What are you doing, Martin?" Billy yelled back, "That son-of-a-gun want let us hunt on his property so I killed two of his cows!

Behavior is contagious. Attitudes are catching. Bad behavior and bad attitudes can lead others to follow you. That is what happened to Billy Martin. But, good behavior can lead to other people following your leadership. If you give faithfully, others are more willing to join you.

A. The Promise Depends Upon the Integrity of God

The fulfillment of this prophecy depends upon the integrity of God. God said that faithful giving to enlarge the tent would bless the people. God is truthful and He has promised victory when we give. You can't out give God. Look at 2 Corinthians 9. God promises to continue to bless those with resources who will bless Him with faithful giving.

B. The Promise Depends Upon the Sovereignty of God

Psalm 24:1 reminds us of the One who owns all things and can supply our needs when we simply trust Him! He is sovereign, and He can do all things. Paul told us that God would supply all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. He will give us more than we can think or ask! Our task is to be faithful, we can be sure He will keep His end of the bargain.

As we move forward on this new building, as we spread the size of our tent due to the growth of our church family, I call upon you to be faithful in your giving. As we join together in faithful giving God will enable us to continue making First Baptist Church, "The Church That Loves."