HOW GOD TAUGHT ME TO GIVE TO MISSIONS
By O. J. Smith
GIVE according to your income lest God make your income according to your giving. Peter Marshall. I had been pastor of a large Presbyterian Church in the City of Toronto. Presently one day I resigned and became pastor of a church that knew how to give in a way I had never known.
I commenced my pastorate on the first Sunday of January. The church was holding its Annual Missionary Convention. Now I knew nothing about a convention. I had never seen one in all my life, so I just sat on the platform and watched. The ushers were going up and down the aisles giving out envelopes. Presently, to my amazement, one of the ushers had the audacity to walk right up the aisle and hand me, the pastor, one of the envelopes. I sat there holding it in my hand. Never will I forget that moment. I can still remember it as though it were yesterday. As I held it I read it: “In dependence upon God I will endeavor to give toward the Missionary Work of the Church $ . . . each month for a year.” I had never read such a Statement before. I did not know that that morning God was going to deal with me and teach me a lesson that I was never to forget, and that I in turn was to teach scores of other churches all over the country in the years to come. At first I started to pray. I said, “Lord, I can’t do anything. You know 1 have nothing. I haven’t a cent in the Bank. I haven’t anything in my pocket. This church only pays me $25.00 a week. I have a wife and child to keep. We are trying to buy our home, and everything is sky-high in price. All that was true. The First World War was on. “I know that,” the Lord said. “I know you are only getting $25.00 a week. I know you have nothing in your pocket and nothing in the Bank.” “Well, then,” I continued, “that settles it. I have nothing to give.”
It was then the Lord spoke. I will never forget it. “I am not asking you for what you have,” He said. “You are not asking me for what I have, Lord? Then what are you asking?” I replied.
“I am asking you for a Faith Offering. How much can you trust Me for?”
“Oh, Lord,” I exclaimed, “that’s different. How much can I trust Thee for?”
Now, of course, I knew nothing at all about a Faith-Promise Offering. I had never given such an offering in my life. But I knew the Lord was speaking. I thought He might say $5.00 or perhaps even $10.00 Once in my life I had given $5.00 to Missions. Once I had given $2.00. But never more. I almost trembled as I waited for the answer.
Presently it came. Now I am not going to ask you to believe that God spoke to me in an audible voice, but He might just as well have done so. I was scarcely conscious of the congregation, as I sat there with my eyes closed, listening to the Voice of God. God was dealing with me that morning, though I did not realize it at the time.
“How much can I give?” I asked.
“Fifty dollars” I exclaimed. “Why, Lord, that’s two weeks salary. How can I ever get $50.00?”
But again the Lord spoke and it was still the same amount. It was just as clear to me as though He had spoken in an audible voice.
I can still remember how my hand trembled as I took my pencil, signed my name and address and wrote in the amount of dollars.
Now, how I ever paid it I don’t know to this day. All 1 know is that every month I had to pray for $4.00, and every month God sent it in some miraculous way. At the end of the year I had paid the entire amount, $50.00.
But this is what I want to make clear. I received such a blessing, there came to my heart such a fullness of the Spirit, it was such a thrill, that as I paid the final amount, I realized that it had been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
So great was the spiritual blessing that had come to rue because I had given a Faith-Promise Offering, I had trusted God for a certain amount, I had given in a scriptural way, that the next year at the Convention, I doubled the amount and gave $100.00. Then, at another Convention, I doubled the amount again and gave $200.00. Then the church raised my salary and I received more than I had given. You see, you can’t beat God giving. At still another Convention I doubled it once more and gave $400.00. Then, at another Convention still, I doubled it once again and made it $800.00.
From that day to this I have been increasing the amount and sending on thousands upon thousands of dollars to the Bank of Heaven year by year. If I had waited until I had it, I never would have given it, because I never would have had it. But I gave it when I didn�t have it. I gave a Faith-Promise Offering and God honoured it.
A FAITH-PROMISE OFFERING
Paul, you remember, got the church to promise a certain amount and then he would give them a year to pay it. As the year drew to a close, he would send Titus, or someone else, to remind the church of the promise that had been made, so that he would not be ashamed when he arrived. Then, at the end of the year, he came and collected it. Therefore, a Faith-Promise Offering is a Pauline offering and God blesses it. (See chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Cor. in Living Letters.)
Have you ever in your life given a Faith-Promise Offering, or have you only given a cash offering? It doesn’t require any faith to give a cash offering. If I have a dollar in my pocket, all I have to do is to tell my hand to go into my pocket, find the dollar, take it out and put it on the plate. I don’t have to pray for it. I just give it.
But with a Faith-Promise Offering it is entirely different. 1 have to pray about it and ask God how much He would have me give, and then trust Him for it, and month by month, go to Him in prayer and ask Him for the amount promised, and wait upon Him until it comes in. That is the offering that brings the blessing.
That is the only kind of an offering I have taken up for Missions in all these years, nearly half a century now, a Faith-Promise Offering. I would never go back to the cash offering for anything. With a cash offering I could only get a very little, but with a Faith-Promise Offering I can get much. In our Annual Missionary Convention we never get more than $7,000.00 in cash, but we get over $400,000 in Faith Promises.
There is many a church that will not give a Faith-Promise Offering. They are not interested in Scriptural giving. They will not obligate themselves for the definite support of their missionaries. They simply divide whatever cash comes in, between various missionary societies. They don’t have to trust God for anything. If it comes in, they give it. But since there is no need to exercise faith, therefore, there is no burden, no responsibility. I do not like that kind of giving. I believe that every individual church should obligate itself in faith before God for a certain definite amount, and pray until that amount has been received.
I do not believe in, pledges. I have never taken up a pledge offering in my life. What is the difference, you ask, between a pledge offering and a Faith-Promise Offering? All the difference in the world. A pledge offering is between you and a church, between you and a missionary society, and some day the deacons may come along and try to collect it, or you may receive a letter asking for it. In other words, you can be held responsible for a pledge offering.
A Faith-Promise Offering, on the other hand, is between you and God. No one will ever ask you for it. No official will ever call on you to collect it. No one will ever send you a letter reminding you of it. It is a promise made by you to God, and to God alone. If you are unable to pay it, all you have to do is to tell God. Give Him your excuse, and if He accepts it, you do not have to pay it.
I have gone to many a church that has been opposed to a pledge offering, but as soon as I have explained the nature of a Faith-Promise Offering, all opposition has disappeared, and those who have been most antagonistic to a pledge of any kind, have been perfectly willing to accept the plan of a Faith Promise Offering, and God has accomplished wonders. I believe we could get all the missionary money we need if we would take up Faith-Promise Offerings in all our churches.
How can the church know how many missionaries to accept for support unless you make a Faith-Promise? You are not behind the missionary policy of your church if you do not co-operate in the programme. The only men who ever become officers in The Peoples Church are those who are backing the world-wide missionary work of the church.
THE MAN IN MINNEAPOLIS
I was holding an evangelistic campaign in Minneapolis in the great church of which the Rev. Paul Rees was pastor. Large crowds gathered night alter night, sometimes capacity audiences. Many souls were saved and there was much spiritual blessing.
At the close of one of my services, as I stood by the pulpit_ after having pronounced the benediction�I saw a well-dressed business man approaching me.
“I owe everything I am and everything I have to you,” Were his words of greeting. I looked at him in amazement.
“You owe everything you are and everything you have to me?” I repeated. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”
Briefly be told me his story, a story that I have never forgotten.
“I was in Toronto,” he said, “your city, and I was out of work. I found myself in debt. It was in the days of the depression. I could not find anything to do. I kept sinking lower and lower, finding it impossible to get a job.”
“At last,” be continued, “my two daughters left me, then my wife left me, and finally I became an ordinary bum. I was so low that I could hardly reach up to touch bottom.”
“One day I was walking along Bloor Street and as I passed The Peoples Church I heard singing. The doors were open and, having nothing else to do, I walked in and sat in a seat near the back of the church.”
“You were holding one of those missionary conventions of yours and you were in the pulpit, but you were making some of the most amazing, some of the most nonsensical and foolish statements I had ever heard in my life.” You were saying, “Give, and it shall be given unto you. You can’t beat God giving. God will be no man’s debtor.”
“I listened,” he said, “in utter amazement. There I was, down and out, with nothing and you were stating that if I would give I would get. Just to see whether or not you were telling the truth, I took one of your envelopes from a passing usher and I filled it in, promising to give God a percentage of all He might give me in the days to come. That was easy, of course, because I bad nothing. But then, to my amazement, things began to happen and happen fast. Within a few hours I had a job. When I got my first money I gave the percentage I had promised to God. A little later on I got a raise in pay, then I was able to give a larger amount. After a while I got another job with still better wages and then I gave more. It was working, and working wonderfully, so I kept on. Every week I faithfully gave God the percentage I had promised Him. In due time I got another suit of clothes. I was able to dress better. After a while my wife came back to me. Then my two daughters returned to me, and before many months had passed, I had paid every debt, for again my salary had been raised. To cut a long story short, I am now a prosperous business man, living in Minneapolis. We own our own home. My wife is with me and my two daughters. I have a bank account. I am not in debt. What you told me when I was down and out was absolutely true.”
My friends, I have had that experience again and again. God will be no man’s debtor. “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” You can’t beat God giving. “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” (Proverbs x 24:25).
During the days of the depression, hundreds of men came to my office for a hand-out, or a shake-down for the night. Many a time I asked them this question: “When you were earning money, did you square with God? Did you give God that which belonged to Him?” Never once did I have that question answered in the affirmative. Every man who came for a handout had to admit that he had not squared with God in the years of prosperity. You just cannot get away from it. It is one of the unchangeable laws of God. You square with God and God will square with you. You give to God in days of prosperity and God will give to you in days of depression. You withhold from God in days of prosperity and God will withhold from you in days of depression. If you faithfully give to God you will never find yourself in the bread-line. Just why it works like that I do not know, but I know it does.
THE SEA OF GALILEE AND THE DEAD SEA
When I was in Palestine, I traveled from Jerusalem down the Jericho Road. I passed the ruins of the ancient city of Jericho and went on to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. I wanted to swim across the Jordan at that point and I did so. Then I continued to the Dead Sea where I had another swim. Traveling north, I came at length to the Sea of Galilee and there, too, I indulged in a swim. As I stood on the shore, I thought of the difference between the two bodies of water; one, the Sea of Galilee, teeming with life, the other, the Dead Sea, stagnant and lifeless. “Why,” I asked myself, “the difference?” The Dead Sea takes in and takes in, but it never gives out; hence it is stagnant. The Sea of Galilee takes in but it also gives out; hence, it is filled with life; and its water is fresh.
There you have a perfect illustration of the missionary church and the church that is not interested in missions. The latter takes in but it uses everything on itself. It never gives out. Hence it is filled with all sorts of loathsome creatures like a stagnant pool, criticism, gossip, fault-finding, division, and strife, etc., etc. The missionary church takes in, but it also gives out. Hence it is alive and aggressive and God’s blessing rests upon it. The same is true of the individual. The one who keeps every- thing for himself and refuses to share it with others, becomes a stagnant pool, a Dead Sea, a blessing to no one. The one who invests in foreign missionary work, is living an abundant life. It is for us to decide whether our lives are to be symbolized by the Dead Sea or the Sea of Galilee.
WHERE ARE YOU LAYING UP TREASURE?
You are either laying up treasure in Heaven or upon earth. Everything you have you must ultimately lose. Everything you invest in the souls of men, you will save. You are going to enter Heaven either a pauper, having sent nothing on ahead, or as one who is to receive an inheritance, made possible by contributions laid up while still upon earth. It reminds me of a legend of a very wealthy woman and her coachman. She was expecting a mansion in Heaven, but she was led past the mansions to a little humble abode. Upon inquiring as to the owner of one of the mansions, she was told that her coachman was to live there. When she expressed amazement and disappointment, she was informed that he bad been sending up materials all his lifetime by investing his money in the souls of men, especially in foreign lands; but that she had sent up almost nothing and that they had been forced to do the best they could with the material that they bad. Some of us are getting on in life. We have a very short time left in which to lay up treasure in Heaven. We had better start now or it will .be too late. Everything we can send on ahead will await our arrival and we will receive it back, with dividends.
MONEY WILLED BRINGS NO REWARD
A great many people have an idea that they can “will” their money to missions and that they will then be entitled to a reward. Do you know that God never promises a reward for those who give away their money after they are dead and gone? Why should they be rewarded for that which they cannot help doing? God says very definitely that we are rewarded for ‘the deeds done in the body.” In other words, we are rewarded only for what we do while we are still alive. I want to know what my money is doing. I would not want to will it to missions and then have my relatives fight over it after I had gone, and lawyers get the most of it. I want to be sure that most of it goes now for the things in which I am interested. I want to give it, year by year, while I am still alive. Otherwise, I know there will be no reward.
THE MEANING OF SACRIFICE
Do you know the meaning of sacrifice? I will never forget a little girl by the name of Grace. She was saved in Dale Presbyterian Church when I was in my twenties. Her heart Was in India. One day her mother told her she was going to buy her a new top coat. The one she was wearing was thread She had worn it for six years. But Grace begged her mother to give her the money, stating that she could wear her old coat for one more winter. Her mother did so and Grace sent it to her missionaries in India.
Before I left Dale, Grace was taken ill. On her death-bed she made her mother promise to sell all her clothes, such as they were, and send whatever she got to India. The mother, with tears in her eyes, promised. I would like to be standing somewhere near the throne when Grace gets her reward. Her heart was in India and her money followed her heart, regard less of the sacrifice. Do you, my friend, know anything about that kind of sacrifice?
THEY SHALL SHARE ALIKE
Suppose a child should fall into a well, who would get the reward for the child�s rescue, the one who held the rope and lowered the other to the bottom, or both? God says they will share alike. The one who stands at the top and makes it possible for the other to go down into the well in order that the child might be rescued is just as much entitled to the reward as the one who goes down. You may not be able to go down; you may never see the foreign field, but you can hold the rope. You can make it possible for someone else to go. You can send a substitute; and if you do, if you give your money, your reward will be just as great as the reward of those who actually go. Everyone must be in the bucket brigade. You may not be the one who throws the water on the fire at the end of the line; you may be somewhere in the centre passing the bucket. Or you may be dipping up the water. The question is, are you in the line? Do you belong to the bucket brigade? Are you doing something? Or are you merely a spectator? Our motto must be: “Every Christian a Missionary.”
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
“God so loved that He gave.” He gave His only Son. He gave Heaven’s best. What have you given? Have you given yourself? Have you given your children? Have you given your prayers? Have you given your money? Have you given anything? What have you done for those in darkness and midnight gloom?
The martyrs gave their all; they gave their lives. I have preached in a Roman arena where fifty thousand Christians there and in other arenas, were thrown to the beasts or crucified; many of them made human torches, for their faith in Christ. I have stood on the sand once red with their blood. In the midst of the flames they cried out, “Christ is Victor!” They gave their all. What have you given?
HOW MUCH SHALL I GIVE
1. If I refuse to give anything to missions this year, I practically cast a ballot in favour of the recall of every missionary.
2. If I give less than heretofore, I favour reduction of the missionary forces proportionate to my reduced contribution.
3. If I give the same as formerly, I favour holding the ground already won; but I oppose any forward movement. My song is “Hold the Fort,” forgetting that the Lord never intended His army to take refuge in a fort. All His soldiers are commanded to “Go”.
4. If I increase my offering beyond former years, then I favour an advance movement in the conquest of new territory for Christ. – Quoted by permission
John Chinaman was standing beside an Atheist. Said the Atheist to the Chinaman: “John Chinaman, what will be the first thing that you will do when you get to Heaven?”
Said John Chinaman: “When I first get to Heaven I am going to walk the golden street of Heaven until I find the Saviour, and then I will fall down and worship Him for having saved my soul.”
“Fine”, sneered the Atheist. “And then, John Chinaman, what next will you do?”
“Then,” said John Chinaman, “I will walk the streets of Heaven again until I find the missionary who came to my country with the Gospel. I will grasp his hand and thank him for his part in my salvation.”
“What then will you do, John Chinaman?” enquired the Atheist.
“Then,” responded John Chinaman, “I will search the streets of Heaven again until I find the man who gave the money to make it possible for the missionary to come, and I will grasp his hand, and thank him for his part in my salvation.” With that the Atheist turned on his heel and walked away. My friend, will there be any John Chinaman from any country in the world, who will come up to you and thank you when you get to Heaven? Or will. you be lonely in Heaven? Will no one recognize you except a few of your own relatives and friends?
I can think of no greater joy that could come to my heart in Heaven than to have multitudes of black people, multitudes of brown people, multitudes of yellow people, stop me every now and again and say to me: “We are in Heaven because you challenged young people to go. You raised missionary money. You came to our country with the Gospel. Now we want to thank you for your part in our salvation.” That, my friend, will be my greatest joy in Heaven.
Will it be yours? Will anyone ever express his or her appreciation to you for what you did? Will there be anyone from the heathen world who will recognize you? Not if you have done all your Christian work in your own country. Not unless you have invested something in the Regions Beyond.
Give according to your income lest God make your income according to your giving.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”