Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Randy Alcorn on the joy of giving.

Randy Alcorn: God’s grace is the lightning, and our giving is the thunder in response to the lightning. The lightning comes first. “We love because He first loved us.”

We give because He first gave to us. That’s what grace is. So it’s in light of His indescribable gift to us that we joyfully give to others. That’s part of being Christlike.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Memorial Day, May 25.

When income dries up and investments take a dive, we get fearful. Today’s guest will provide some solid perspective on handling good or bad financial news with peace. Nancy will introduce him.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m delighted to welcome to Revive Our Hearts today a guest who is an author and a speaker, and whose ministry has had a significant impact in my own life. Randy Alcorn, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Randy: Thanks, Nancy. It’s a great pleasure to be with you.

Nancy: I am so thankful to have finally met you. I feel like I know you because I’ve read a number of your books.

Randy has written 15 or more books, many of them bestsellers. He’s written some novels, and one of the things, Randy, I’ve appreciated about your novels is that they’re not light reading. They have running through them a thread of living life in the light of eternity, and that’s really the heart of your ministry, isn’t it?

Randy: It is. Our ministry is called Eternal Perspective Ministries. When we started our ministry twelve years ago, we thought, “What are we going to call it?” We thought, “Well, a common thread to everything we do is having an eternal perspective.”

Scripture says we look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal [see 2 Corinthians 4:18]. So we kind of prayed a prayer of Elisha about his servant: “Lord, open Your servant’s eyes that he might see” (2 Kings 6:17).

We want to see into that invisible realm, to realize and claim by faith the realities of that invisible realm, to recognize that the world we live in is deteriorating. It’s going to crumble. It’s going to be burned with fire, but we are investing in eternity every day in ways that will last for all eternity.

Nancy: And realize that what we are doing today—for better or for worse—is going to go with us, in some sense, into eternity.

Randy: Absolutely.

Nancy: We’re going to talk about that this week on Revive Our Hearts. We especially want to talk about a book you’ve written more recently called The Treasure Principle.

I have to tell you, this is one of those books that I wish I had written. I discovered this book shortly after it came out. It’s a little book, but worth its weight in gold—more than that.

It’s one that has deeply challenged me and many of my friends, so we want to talk this week about what is the treasure principle. It really relates to your whole life and ministry theme, which is living in light of eternity.

Now, the subject of this book has to do with something that some people aren’t very comfortable talking about, and that’s money and giving. I sometimes wonder why people aren’t more comfortable talking about it, because Jesus talked about it a lot.

Randy: He did. Something like 15% of everything Jesus said related to money and possessions. Look at the stewardship parables. Those alone had so much to say about money and possessions.

I think it’s because it’s so close to our heart. It’s so close to our spiritual lives, and spiritual transformation takes place at a level where our attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions are critical.

So you look at what happens with Zacchaeus. Here’s a man who comes to the Lord and says, “I’m going to give away half of all that I have, and I’m going to pay back four times over everybody that I’ve cheated” [see Luke 19:1-9].

What’s Jesus’ response? “Oh, no, that sounds a little too radical”? No. He says, “Today, salvation has come to this house.”

Of course, he was not saved by virtue of those works that he had done, but those works came out of a heart that had been genuinely saved, transformed; and that’s how it’s supposed to be with us.

“By grace we have been saved through faith, that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast.” But then immediately the statement, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:8-10). One of the first good works that comes out of the transforming grace of God in our lives should be giving.

Nancy: In Luke 3:10-14, people were asking John the Baptist, “What are the evidences of a repentant heart?” It’s interesting that to each group of people he addressed, he said the evidence is something to do with how you handle money and possessions.

Randy: Exactly.

Nancy: The subtitle of your book tells a little bit more about it. The title is The Treasure Principle, and the subtitle is (I love this) Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving.

Now, for most people the thought of giving is not something they necessarily think of as joyful. We think of giving as something we’re “supposed to” do, but not necessarily something that’s joyful. In this book, you help us understand why giving really is a joyful response to the grace of God.

Randy: That’s right. Look at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 8.

Now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity . . . they gave . . . beyond their ability . . . [and] urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service [this offering] to the saints” (verses 1-4, NIV).

The grace of God works in such a way that it produces joy in our lives, and we are so joyful in our giving that we can’t get enough of it.

Nancy: It’s interesting that these Macedonian believers were not wealthy. He says they had extreme poverty, yet they had great joy and an overflowing heart of generosity.

I love that part you just read, that they begged earnestly for the opportunity to give. Imagine if we were to go to church and say, “I can’t wait for the offering!”

Or imagine . . . Randy, you’ve been a pastor in past years. Did you ever have people come to you and say, “Can you please tell me how I can give more?” That had to be a rare experience.

Randy: It was rare. It’s been more frequent in recent years where people have read one of my books related to this subject and have come to me and said, “I’m really excited about giving. Where can I give?” And then to see the joy in people’s eyes when you tell them about an opportunity.

I had a man recently call and say, “I have $20,000 I want to give. Where could I give it?” So I started giving him a menu of stuff.

I said, “First of all, none of it is going to go to our ministry. I have no vested interest in this, so anything you designate, we will send 100% of it to the appropriate places. So now that we’ve got that out of the way, you can trust me as I tell you, here are some great opportunities.”

So I go through these—some pro-life related ones, some missions related ones, some Bible translation work, prison ministries—and to hear his voice on the other end of the line, “Oh, wow. Oh, really? Oh, I didn’t even know that was happening!” Just to hear that joy in his voice.

I’ve had a number of older women call who have sometimes inherited a great amount of money; or their husband has died and they have this estate, and they’re asking, “What can I do with this?” To hear the thrill in their voices when I share these opportunities with them. There’s such joy in giving.

Nancy: I want to remind us, as we’ve just seen in this passage, that 2 Corinthians 8 is not just talking about people who have come upon an inheritance.

Randy: Exactly.

Nancy: These were poor people.

Randy: Right.

Nancy: We probably don’t even know what that really means.

Randy: Exactly. Giving is something that’s for everyone.

I had someone call me and say, “Well, I really appreciate this book The Treasure Principle, but I work a lot with people in Cuba, and this is something that I couldn’t really share with them.”

I said, “Why not? Why couldn’t you share it with them?”

He said, “Well, because they’re so poor.”

I said, “That’s exactly what we’re talking about. It’s poor people.”

Without meaning to, we tend to rob people of the joy of giving by saying, “Okay, they’re too poor to hear this message,” when in fact there is great pleasure, great dignity in giving. The Macedonians experienced it, and that’s why it says they “pleaded with us for the privilege” of sharing in this offering to the saints.

Someone was obviously trying to talk them out of it. That’s why they were pleading for it.

Why did they have to plead? I think the reason was because people were saying, “Oh, you’re so poor, you shouldn’t be giving.” But they said, “No, we’re not going to stay away from this opportunity to give.”

It’s like in the Old Testament with the offerings taken for the tabernacle, where Moses had to tell the people, “Go home and don’t bring any more money, because we have more than enough,” but they were saying, “No, we want to be part of this” [see Exodus 36:3-7]. When you really love something, when you want to be part of something, you want to buy up shares in God’s kingdom by giving.

Nancy: Randy, all this week we’re going to be talking about some of the different aspects of the treasure principle and some of the keys to joyful giving. Let me just ask you to say for us, what is the treasure principle?

Randy: The treasure principle is based on what Jesus says in Matthew 6. He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (verses 19-20, NKJV). The old saying is, “You can’t take it with you.”

Jesus recognizes that you can’t take it with you, but He adds a critical corollary by saying we can lay up treasures in heaven. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead, and that’s the treasure principle.

Nancy: So everything that we have or think we own here on this earth is really just temporary, and we can’t keep it. We’re going to leave it shortly, and you talk about how that’s so much closer than most of us realize. How sad it is that most of us spend our lives accumulating things here on earth and living as if this were the ultimate.

You’re really challenging us in this book to realize that we’re going to be parting with all these things shortly. We’re not going to take them with us, but the treasure principle is that through giving, we can send things on ahead. We can be laying up treasures for ourselves in eternity.

Randy: At the end of Psalm 90, the oldest psalm, the Psalm of Moses, he says, “Establish the work of our hands” (verse 17, NKJV). The literal Hebrew translation is, “make permanent the work of our hands.”

That’s what giving does. It makes permanent. We give it into God’s hands, and when we give it into God’s hands, it will last for eternity.

Nancy: My dad, who’s been with the Lord for many years, loved to give. He just never got over the wonder of the fact that God would have saved him, and to him his whole life was just giving himself, his possessions, and his time—any resources God had entrusted to him.

He just wanted to give back to God as much and as fast as he could, because he felt he owed so much to the Lord. His giving really was a response to the grace of God. So he was always modeling the grace of giving in our home, but he was also teaching us much about the ways of God in giving.

I can remember him teaching that if you want to know where somebody’s heart really is, if you want to know what they love, what matters to them, you look at their checkbook and their calendar. You look at what they’re doing with their time and what they’re doing with their financial resources, and that really is a pretty accurate measure.

Randy: That’s right. It’s like God’s grace is the lightning, and our giving is the thunder in response to the lightning. The lightning comes first. “We love . . . because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NKJV).

We give because He first gave to us. That’s what grace is. “[We] know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, for [our] sakes He became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NKJV). So it’s in light of His indescribable gift to us that we joyfully give to others. That’s part of being Christlike.

I think of every mother who has the opportunity to model for her children what it means to be a giver. Children learn by example. They see the giving heart of a mom.

All moms are called to give to their children on a regular basis. There are probably times where a mom doesn’t feel like doing what she’s doing. It didn’t feel good for Jesus to go to the cross, but He did it, and He did it with the right spirit and the right attitude because it was in the best interest of those He wanted to bring to Himself.

So every mom has the opportunity to have a giving spirit, in time and material possessions, but also the opportunity for her children to see her as a giver to others, where they grow up surrounded by that, like you were in your family. You saw models of giving that made it a joyous and perhaps much more natural part of your environment.

Nancy: It was, and I’m so thankful for a mom who was willing to follow the leadership of my dad in this area. She would confess that sometimes that was stretching for her, but she was willing to do that. What an incredible example that was, but what a blessing for me to grow up in a home where I was seeing the heart of Jesus lived out through parents who had such a passion for giving.

Randy, in your book The Treasure Principle, you give several practical keys related to the treasure principle and giving joyously. What’s the first key that you talk about in your book?

Randy: The first one is that God owns everything, and I’m His money manager.

The Scripture is full of references to God’s ownership. For instance, it says in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (NIV).

Haggai 2:8 says, “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (NIV).

First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV).

So right about this time we’re thinking, Okay, the Scripture says the gold is God’s, the silver is God’s, the land is God’s . . . Then we think, Wow, about the only thing we own is ourselves, and God says, Wrong.

You don’t even own yourself. You don’t own your own body. You are Mine twice. One because you are My creature; I’m your Creator. Two because I am your Redeemer; you are My redeemed. I own you twice, and I own the title to your life.

God’s ownership of everything in our lives includes ourselves and our family.

Nancy: So when we’re giving to God, we’re really giving to Him that which He already owns.

I was reading just this morning in 1 Chronicles 29 where in his prayer David says to the Lord, “All that is in heaven and in earth is Yours. All things come from You, and of Your own have we given You” (verses 11 and 14, NIV).

What we’re giving You is what already belongs to You. So it’s not ours to share with God; it’s God’s that He has shared with us, and we’re just giving it back to Him.

Randy: David says, "Who are we? Who am I, and who are this people, that we would have the privilege of giving to You?" He was overcome with the joy of giving, and that’s something that, unfortunately, has been lost in many areas of the Christian community.

We sometimes view giving simply as a duty, an obligation; and yes, there is duty and obligation in giving, but the emphasis in Scripture is on the pure joy of giving—the fact that it will glorify God, the fact that it will help other people, and the fact that it brings great joy to us.

Nancy: This whole principle that God owns everything is a really important starting place as it relates to giving. I think you hit on something that’s vital, and that is to realize that God owns us.

That’s why in 2 Corinthians 8 . . . two great chapters, by the way, on giving, and I would encourage our listeners to take time today or tomorrow to pick up your Bible and read 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. What rich teaching there on giving!

Paul says, speaking on the giving of the Macedonians, that they gave themselves first to God, and then they gave their resources [see 2 Corinthians 8:5]. That’s really the appropriate order, isn’t it? When we first realize that we belong to God, then it isn’t so much a difficulty or a challenge to give our resources to God.

Randy: That’s exactly right, and that leads into the second treasure principle, which is, my heart always goes where I put God’s money.

Jesus says, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). He’s saying, don’t lay up treasures on earth, not because it’s the wrong thing but because it’s the stupid thing. It’s not going to last when you lay it up on earth.

Then He says, “Do lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust don’t destroy, where thieves don’t break in and steal” (verse 20). He’s saying, do lay it up in heaven, because that’s the smart thing to do.

So it’s not a matter of God not having a treasure mentality. He wants us to lay up treasures for ourselves! He just says, “Stop laying them up in the stupid place, and start laying them up in the smart place, where they’re going to last forever.”

Then He makes that powerful statement, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verse 21, NKJV).

I love it when people say to me, which periodically they do, “I really wish I had a heart for missions.” It’s great to be able to say to people, “Jesus tells us exactly how to have a heart for missions or for anything else.”

If you give to it—if you put your money there—and yes, the principle applies to giving your time and your abilities to something as well, but in some special way, giving your money and possessions toward a cause aligns you with that cause.

Your heart always follows your money, which is actually God’s money. So when you give to something—when you give to missions, for instance—your heart goes with that giving so that you now cultivate a greater heart for missions.

You want a greater heart for your church? Give to your church. If you want a greater heart for Microsoft, buy up shares of Microsoft.

Nancy: Yes. It really works, not just in spiritual matters.

Randy: In every way.

Nancy: Where we’re putting our resources, inevitably, is where our heart is going to be. So if I’m spending a high percentage of my money on clothing or my hobbies, that’s what I’m going to be focused on. That’s where my heart is going to be.

Randy: That’s right. If you’re a mom that’s coaching the soccer team, and you’re pouring your life into this soccer team, and you’re spending money and time and all this kind of stuff, now all of a sudden you have this vested interest in kids’ soccer.

There’s an article in the paper about the local soccer league, and you’re reading every word of it. If your kids weren’t involved in soccer, you’d probably completely skip it, but you have vested interest in something that you give of yourself to.

Nancy: So if we want to cultivate a greater heart for God, a greater interest in spiritual matters, how do we do that?

Randy: You give to God. You give to God’s kingdom. Do you wish you had a greater heart for God’s kingdom? Jesus tells you how to get it. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Move your treasure over to God’s kingdom. The more time you invest in studying the Word, in prayer, in giving, in serving, in teaching a Sunday school class, in working in the nursery—the more time you invest in your children’s lives and your relationships with your friends that is oriented toward the things of God—the greater vested interest in God’s things you have, and the more eternity-minded you become.

Nancy: And all of this starts with the realization that God owns everything.

Randy: Absolutely.

Nancy: I want to challenge our listeners to consider making a list of everything you own (everything that you think you own), all of your possessions: your checking accounts, your savings accounts, your vehicles, your clothing, your furniture, your house, your personal possessions. Make a list of everything that is in your possession.

Then lay that list before the Lord and consciously say, “Lord, I’m transferring ownership of everything on this list to You. It’s all Yours anyway, but I’m recognizing that this all belongs to You, and I am simply a manger that You have entrusted with the stewardship, the responsibility of taking care of these possessions.”

You’ll find that this does two things: First of all, it releases you from the fear of losing those things or of them getting broken or stolen, because they’re God’s, and God takes good care of His property. God does with His property what He wants to do with it.

But it will also place on you an incredible sense of responsibility. I have to be careful with how I handle these things, not abusing them, not claiming them as my own, because they belong to God.

As you do acknowledge God’s ownership of everything on that list, including yourself—put your body, your time, everything that’s yours on that list—as you turn it all over to God, there will come with that such a freedom! Freedom to not cling, to not hold tightly, to let it go; freedom to discover the secret of joyful giving.

Leslie: Everything belongs to God. There is great comfort in that fact.

When Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Randy Alcorn first had that conversation several years ago, they had no idea how relevant it would be in 2009. God isn’t limited by a credit crunch, a global recession, or wild swings on Wall Street. I hope that conversation has been encouraging if your personal finances are causing fear right now.

As a ministry, we can be tempted to fear too, just like you. Non-profits are struggling everywhere, and we’re not exempt. Nancy’s here to fill you in on how the downturn has affected Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: As we’ve been sharing with you throughout this month, donations have fallen substantially since October. At the same time, interest in the ministry has been increasing, and opportunities have been multiplying.

During this period of time, we’ve had to lower our expenses by close to 20%. We’ve been operating under this revised budget for the last six months. We’d like to be able to continue operating at this reduced budget level, but we’re still facing a budge deficit as we near our fiscal year end this week.

So many have stepped forward with generous gifts to help us here in the month of May, and I want to say thank you. Thank you for helping us move toward our goal this month of over $300,000. That includes many first-time donors who have helped us take advantage of a matching challenge that will double your gift if you’ve never donated before to Revive Our Hearts.

Whether you’re a new donor or you’ve given previously, when you give this month, we’ll say thanks by sending you what I believe is an invaluable resource in a struggling economy. It’s Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle.

I want to say that I think this is one of the greatest pieces I’ve ever read on the whole issue of handling our personal finances and getting God’s perspective on giving. It’s an easy read and a short read.

I know your heart will be encouraged and challenged as you read The Treasure Principle. It will show you how to invest in eternity, where there are no foreclosures and no downturns.

We’ll send you a copy of The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn as our way of saying Thank you when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com. If you’d like to call us, the number is 800-569-5959.

Randy Alcorn will join us on the website Wednesday. He’ll be answering questions about eternal investments and finances on our blog. Post your question Wednesday on the blog located at the bottom of the transcript.

If the concept of storing up treasure in heaven sounds a little confusing, be sure to join us tomorrow when Randy Alcorn will be back to explain this incredible principle next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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