Do you ever read your bible and learn something new or come across something that you had never thought on before? I hope so. Everyone ought to. One of our biggest goals when reading scripture should be to understand God's character and I can guarantee that there isn't anyone one earth who understands God fully; the job can never be fully done by us. But if you say "no", and if you find that it's been a long time since you've learned anything new simply by reading your bible, you need to examine how you're reading it. What's your attitude? What's your mindset? Are you just reading the same verses over and over and over again?
I'm actually not writing today to convict anyone about anything necessarily. I'm writing today to confess something - a bit of a revelation in my life.
Matt and I are currently going through a rough time. There are lots of contributing factors but one of the issues we're facing right now is financial distress. Now, we're not going to lose our house or anything, but right now every penny counts for us and we've been only spending on things that we absolutely have to. Things are tight.
Last night I had been reading my bible and looking up verses about perseverances, struggles and hardship and I came across one verse that stood out from the rest. Hebrews 12:7 says, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treat you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?"
Admittedly, when I first read that it wasn't exaclty what I was looking for so I skipped over it. Later, however, I got to thinking on the verse. I wondered what qualified as hardship which could be considered as discipline? The majority of our issues right now fall moreso under the persecution blanket than anything so I'm pretty sure those aren't disciplinary, which is why I didn't pay much attention to that verse at first. Our financial issue however I would classify as 'hardship' rather than 'suffering' - which persecution would fall under. I started to wonder if our financial struggles were not the work of demons trying to destabalize us during this hard time, but if they were not in fact the direct work of God as a disciplinary action.
Even though we knew we were going to be strapped for money we decided to not cancel our tithes, which come out as automatic withdrawls twice a month. Now, the amount that comes out has never been equal to 10% of our income - until now, that is. Before we relied on keeping tabs ourselves and paying the difference of the tithe ourselves and while some months we probably got close to reaching 10%, other months we weren't close.
Matt and I like to give. Sometimes we're informed of needs and we like to step up and bless our friends by gifting money on them, which we usually have much more readily than we do now. But that's not really tithing. To tithe actually refers to paying money into the governing church body to which you submit your authority. To tithe well you must do so in confidence of the stewardship of your church and trust that the money will be used well. Typically anything that is given outside of your giftings to your church would be considered 'offerings' instead of 'tithes'. Traditionally (of the Old Testament) the average amount given by the Jews was 25% of their gross income. For more than a few months our tithes plus our offerings didn't even equal 10%.
Not this month. This month we've actually brought in so little money that our automatic withdrawls and our pledge to one group have actually surpassed the 10% mark.
That was the confession time, now here's the revelation time.
What if God finally got sick of us shirking our responsibilities and decided that if that was all we were going to give each month that He would make sure for us that we only got enough money to make that portion equal 10% of our income? Did my disobedience force God's hand? Did He have to limit our income to keep us obedient? I almost said faithful then but that's not faithfulness. Faithfulness isn't forced. I shouldn't need prompting to be faithful.
If you go back to the scripture I quoted before it's worded "Endure hardship as discipline." It doesn't necessarily say that every hardship we come across is disciplinary. However, it does imply that you should at least give thought to your hardships to see if maybe your own actions haven't brought it on.
Sometimes financial hardship is just a sucky season at work and we should grasp the opportunity to refocus our priorities and thank God for what we have. Sometimes God will allow demons to force a financial struggle on us so that when we make it through that time it will be counted to God's glory. Sometimes God allows it to happen to harden us and purify us.
And sometimes, it will be to get us back in line; to let us know that we've been doing it wrong and that we need to change. So when you face hardship, examine your heart and while you don't have to assume that you've done wrong, check and make sure and learn from your hardship like it were discipline and ask God to guide you through it.
Yeah, Matt and I were doing pretty well. We talked about tithing and tried to make sure we remembered to give and took on different projects so that we were giving more... but I can't lie and say that we were giving our first fruits. Even if we had made it to 10% every month, it wasn't our priority as it should be.
Malachi 3:10 says, "'Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test me in this,' says the Lord God Almighty, 'and see if I won't throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'"
I don't need to test God. I know that He is faithful. But that verse does give me confidence to make my tithe my priority and to know that if we maintain that, we'll always have at least enough to live on.
My first priority should be to give glory to God and last night I was convicted that I hadn't been following in obedience as closely as I ought to. Today I have decided to change how I've been giving and not because I 'have to' but because I want to - to the glory of God.
Mrs. Vander Leek ;)