It’s tough enough to preach a sermon on “Money” to New Yorkers. But to stand before 2500+ people (and knowing it would be podcast to many more) and say, “I am saddened, frustrated, and disappointed in the overall giving of our Church. But I take the blame. It’s a failure in my leadership”? Well, that is outright horrifying. H.o.r.r.i.f.y.i.n.g. Yet God led me to do just that this past weekend.
I’m sure you can literally hear my sweat in the sermon podcast. I felt like I needed sponging off after every service. In fact, before our seven weekend services began Saturday night, I awoke from a nightmare about this around 2:00am Saturday, and barely slept again. To truly know why this was a huge deal, you have to hear the sermon to get the full context. (Go HERE to listen or watch the sermon podcast).
How did I know this was of God? How did I come to the place of knowing that if I didn’t share my heart I would be disobedient?As I journaled about it this morning, I wanted to share it with you.
Early last week, I just happened to be reading Hebrews 13 in my devotional time with the Lord. Hebrews 13:5-7 NLT jolted me! It was about, you guessed it, MONEY. Coincidence? No such thing in God’s agenda. The Hebrew author quotes an Old Testament passage in those verses: Psalm 118:6 (but the context that gripped me is verses 7-9 that follow it!). I found great encouragement and confirmation to move forward in what the Lord was leading me to share.
Then, Saturday morning hit. I began doubting. I started second-guessing, especially after that nightmare! The easy path was to preach what I had planned weeks ago and trust the Lord with the rest. But was that really what the Lord wanted? So I took my Bible again and went outside to sit before the Lord, and pray, and listen. “Lord, are you sure? Is this of you? Please speak to me. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I just want to be sure this is of you.”
I opened my Bible back to Hebrews 13:5-7. Keep in mind the context of that passage is about money. Out of that text I noticed another Old Testament passage quoted by the Hebrew’s author that I had missed all week: Deuterononmy 31:6-8. Specifically, it was verse 8 that brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
In that moment, all doubts, all second-guessing, evaporated. After wiping tears, and sitting there for a while just praising and worshiping the Lord for speaking so clearly to my heart, I walked in and said to Christie: “Babe, I know that I know that I know now that what I’m sharing this weekend must be shared. If I do not share it, I will be disobedient. But pray for me HOW I share it!”) .
Now, it is Monday morning. Do I feel naked, raw, vulnerable? Yes. Have I received some negative responses (with more to come, I’m sure)? Yes.
But more so, the response of many of the leadership and people of Grace has been overwhelming in encouragement to me personally. In fact, after the final service, a precious servant on our staff came backstage in tears and hugged me. Also, after I prayed to end the final service, I walked off the stage and basically into the arms, smiles, support, and love of our Washingtonville campus worship team waiting right behind the curtain for me. Wow. I get choked up even now thinking about that. And this was after they had to cut a song due to my long-windedness!
But even more so, there has been an overwhelming response by Grace family and friends to the call and challenge to honor the Lord first from their income through tithes and offerings*. All along, this has not been about me (though this post kind of is, I know). This is about how worthy Jesus is of our first and best financially, and how one cannot lose to give toward that which cannot be stopped–God’s church. THIS was what God wanted our people (and maybe you?) to hear, but especially obey. Will you?
Personally speaking, I sit on this side of the weekend with joy that I obeyed. It was a landmark weekend for me personally, spiritually, and as a pastor and leader. I feel God’s pleasure. I have spent the morning in gratitude, worship, and joy before Him, His speaking to me, and giving grace to speak tough words through me. Oh, His pleasure…. My friend, there is nothing greater. I want this for you so much.
Where is God leading you to do one of the toughest things you have ever done? Don’t be afraid before it. And no matter what happens after it, don’t be discouraged. He goes before you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, especially when it comes to your money (Hebrews 13:5-7).
* If you are interested to know more about Grace’s “Don’t Waste Your Internet 500,” go HERE.