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It's Not About the Budget
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4; Mark 13
Track 44 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 36 minutes, 33 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, November 2, 2003
"It's Not About the Budget"
(Stewardship reflects our attitude toward God more than it does toward things.)
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

Core values are those things by which we govern our lives. They are the things that are non-negotiable for us. If everything else had to be left out, these are the things that would remain no matter what.

The leadership of the church is trying to give some consideration to what are the core values of this institution, this place we call Madison Park. Why do we stand for it. If you move everything else out of the way, what's left? I just want to walk through them quickly and then pick out the one we're going to look at this morning. Here are the things that we have been talking about, been preaching about over the last several weeks and will until, actually, the end of the year.

We value biblical relevant teaching and preaching.
We value discipleship which leads to the transformation of character.
We value each person as being within God's reach.
We value families who strive to disciple the next generation.
We value leadership which empowers others to serve.
We value the Bible as God's inspired word.
We value the responsibility to care for all God gives us.
We value the spiritual disciplines as an expression of our relationship with God.
We value the unique gifts of every believer.
We value worship as our highest privilege.

Those are the core values, the basic principles upon which we live and found our decisions. We want those to govern every choice that we make about what we do here, the kinds of things that we allow to happen around here, the kinds of programming that we would encourage to develop among us, the kinds of things that we would have preached and taught in our classes and from the pulpit.

The one that we want to concentrate on this morning is this one that says we value the responsibility to care for all that God gives us. I want for you to think about what it means to be a steward, a manager. The definition of this term is really quite simple. It's very consistent in all of scripture. It literally means, one who is put in charge of a household, someone who is the steward or the manager. It can mean a community official who is in charge of public funds and properties, the treasurer or the overseer. Figuratively, it sometimes means one entrusted by God with spiritual authority and administration, a steward or an administrator. That term runs through scripture describing how it is that we have been given the privilege of being responsible for that which God has given us to take care of. We literally are caretakers. We are stewards of what God has provided

Let me lay if I can, just a bit of biblical foundation. If you got fast fingers follow me here. We're going to start in the book of Genesis, Genesis Chapter 1. Go to the front of your bible and turn in about three or four pages, after those introductory pages and you'll be there. Genesis Chapter 1. I have a little note written in my bible beside this verse just to remind me of its fundamental purpose. We're looking at Chapter 28, excuse me, Chapter 1, Verse 28. Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 28. The note I've written in my bible says, "dominion mandate". That's the fancy term for saying we've been put in charge. Listen to what God says. After creation he says. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Once creation was over he took a look at the highest of his creation, us, and he said, you take responsibility for this place. You take care of it. I've put you in charge. You're going to be responsible.

Now come to the New Testament - 1Corinthians, Chapter 4. It's just a passing kind of remark and yet it reminds us of the subtlety of this particular principle as it gets lived out in the every day life of the Christian. 1Corinthians, Chapter 4. Paul is talking about his own responsibility as an apostle. He's been called by God to do a certain kind of ministry. He says in Verse 1 of 1Corinthians, Chapter 4.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted (do you hear that responsibility word?) those entrusted (they've been given a trust, a responsibility) entrusted with the secret things of God. Now look at Verse 2.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. That's the New Testament principle for stewardship. Stewardship simply means I have been given something. I have been entrusted with something. Now it's my responsibility to be faithful with that responsibility. That's the only things that's required is that you do what you've been asked in a way that demonstrates a level of faithfulness.

Now come to Mark, Chapter 13 because this will move us all the way from Genesis - creation - to the other end - Judgement. Mark, Chapter 13 starting in Verse 32. Mark, Chapter 13, Verse 32 - speaking of the return of Jesus he says,

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away; He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone; ‘Watch!'"

Do you see what Jesus is telling us? We've been left responsible for the kingdom. He says, I'm going to come back and one day when I come back I'm gonna want to know, were you ready? Were you faithfully carrying out the responsibility that I've left you with?

The other parables that get at that, those parables of talents and the parables of what God has given us, give us this clear impression that one of the things that happens at the return of Jesus is that he comes in and he asks those who have been placed in responsibility - did you do what I ask? I gave you ten talents, did you use them wisely? Simply trying to lay in front of you the possibilities as a believer, as a Christian, I've been given certain responsibilities to be faithful in taking care of that which God has given me. So! What do we manage? What is it that God gave us to take care of?

Well, I'm going to try to summarize all of the world in four words - we'll hurry!

We've been made responsible for our time. One of the things that God has given us is a life. Now I don't know how long that's going to be. Do you? I did some checking this week. Ah, if you go to a certain web site you can plug in your birth date, your body mass index and whether or not you are an optimist or a pessimist and you can find out how long you're going to live. Well, at least they say you can. I'm going to live another twenty-two years. June the something or other that it predicted. Now I can change that if I become more optimistic than pessimistic. Now my wife, on the other hand, is going to live forty-five years, so she's going to have the bliss of twenty-five years without me. That's probably why she's an optimist.

At that macro-level, I don't know what kind of time I have. I do know this--I'm responsible for what I do with that time. And I remember waking up sometime around the time that I was forty-ish and realizing that I was half done and wondering if what I had done mattered and would what I'm doing for the next twenty years matter. You had those questions run through your head? Did what you do matter? Did you use the time that you were given wisely, faithfully? And yet, I understand that at that macro-level sometimes I don't have a lot of control over that, but I do have control over this--TODAY! I got up this morning and I made a decision what I was gonna do with my day and I decide each and every day how I'm gonna respond to that day. How am I going to live that out--am I going to somehow, faithfully, try to live out what it means to be a believer TODAY? I don't know whether I have twenty years. I do know this, I'm alive right now and I want to be faithful with what I'm doing with this time.

One of the things that is going to happen is that I'm going to give an account for the use of my every day.

I'm also going to give account for my talent. Now at the macro level, that's your career--what it is that you have spent your whole life doing. Some of you, your whole life doing the same thing--others of us may have changed our careers multiple times. They tell me that the younger generation will change careers, not jobs, entire careers, five times before they're finished. Faithfulness to that which God has called you to do. You know, it's interesting, God has called some people, specifically, to do, well, for lack of a better term--Christian things--you know, the Jeremiah's who come along and they find out from very birth, in fact, before they were born God had decided for them, they were going to somehow serve him.

Or the Paul's of this world who, in mid life, literally, have an encounter with God and he says, I want to turn you around. I want to change your whole career. I want to move you from being a pharisaical (?) teacher to now being an apostle. He doesn't do that to everybody.

You know the first convert in Europe was Lydia, a business woman and there's no indication that she was supposed to do anything with her life other than be a business woman or--Priscilla and Aquila, who were tent makers, who literally, spent the rest of their life making tents. In fact, Paul joined them at times in the making of tents. It isn't that there's a career that's better than another career, the question is what will you do with that career? Will it faithfully be used as a place for God to be honored? Will you use it as the place for your ministry? See, wherever you happen to be, whether you're in a school system or a funeral home or a police office or a doctor's office or on the back of a garbage truck, collecting our trash, you have an opportunity to use that as a place where God can be honored and we can serve people. And the faithful person says, my career belongs to God. On the micro level it has to do with my talent--just my every day ability to do some stuff--my service. And it has to do with what I bring to the table. Is the thing that I am gifted with being given to the Lord? If I happen to be a gifted encourager, do I use that encouragement in order to bless people? If I happen to be a gifted giver, do I give in such a way that God is somehow honored? If I happen to be gifted at the use of my hands, do I take the ability to use my hands and do something productive with it that honors God? Do I do what I need to do to discover that so that I can serve?

November the 22nd, Saturday, Brian is gonna lead the 301 Session on how to discover your gifts, and quite honestly, I couldn't do anything other than encourage you, if you have not wrestled with what it is that God has wired you up to do in the church, come and find out and plug in.

One of the ways we try to measure church is how many people are using their gifted-ness. Are you serving somewhere? And, sometimes it's just that we don't know where!

Well, we're responsible for our time. We're responsible for our talent. You knew we'd get here! We're responsible for our treasure--that which God blesses us with--our earnings over a lifetime.

Because I have to do these kinds of things, like talk about money, I decided to do just a little investigating. Do you realize that if you lived at poverty level your entire life, you would still have taken control and used three-quarters of a million dollars in your life. Now all of us sit back and think, if I had $750,000, then I'd have to be really responsible. ah--you do! It's just that it's spread out over forty or fifty years. If you're an average wage earner in the United States, literally, I mean, if you had earned the average wage say for the 70ties, 80ties, 90ties and the 2000's, your forty year block of time, that comes to just about $1,000,000 that you would have earned in your life. If you happen to earn the current average wage in America for a household and that stayed steady your entire forty working years, you would be responsible for $1.6 million. Now if you happen to make four figured or six figured income, you could easily be responsible for $4-6 million or more in your life. What did you do with all of that? How did you use that in a way that was God honoring?

You know, one of the reasons why we have been able to help Good News Productions and one of the reasons why we've been able to have this facility and do the mission kinds of things we do and invest in some property for some kind of future use is because somebody (two older ladies) said, "we're gonna take our estates and we're going to pour them into the Kingdom."

Just the other day we went to a faculty meeting in Lincoln. This is the oddity of all oddities in my life. I've just never heard anything like it. A family in Lincoln, Illinois tried to plan their estate. They went to an attorney. The attorney wouldn't help them. They happened to have connections--well, at least wouldn't help them in the way they wanted help. Went to a preacher, just coincidently happened to have connections and said you should have Warren Smith from Lincoln come out and do your estate for you. No strings attached, just come and do your estate. So he did. He went out and did their estate. That was the only connection they had to Lincoln Christian College. They passed away recently and the bank just settled their estate. Ten different organizations in Lincoln, Illinois received $45,000 each and Lincoln received $900,000 because somebody wanted to invest that life of earnings in Kingdom business.

Now, all of us, I for one, don't have a handle on what $1,000,000 looks like. Well, I have become convicted that I need to take responsibility for the $27.00 I have in my pocket right now, because it's those $27.00 units that get to that million dollars. And, it's not just my maximum earnings, it's my every day spending that somehow has to come into line with stewardship. How are you handling just that every day giving thing? And when the church comes and says, we want to challenge you to be a better steward, it isn't because the church needs your money, it's because you need to learn how to be a steward, a responsible steward of what God has given you. And maybe you're saying to yourself, I'd really like to do more, but I don't know what to do. Well, can I make a suggestion? Go to MacDonald's one last time and you can give $10.00 a week to the church more than you do now. It's no longer 99¢ when you walk into that place, I discovered here the other day.

You know, it's been four--five--six years ago, something like that, I needed tires on my car. I went to my friend, Zane, down at the tire shop. He's a member of our church in Lincoln, and I was moaning and groaning. He told me what it was going to cost - I mean, it was like $350.00 bucks for a set of tires and I was just muttering and complaining - $350.00 for a set of tires - rahrah rahrah. . . . . Well, he says, you can look at it this way. He says, you can give me $350.00 today or you can go get a new car with all brand new tires and you can pay $350.00 a month for the next six years. I thought--one month--seventy-two months--the tires weren't nearly so bad as I thought they were gonna be!

How do we take care of just that every day general responsibility? By buying one less CD, by going out to eat one less time, by having one less pair of shoes--we can increase our investment in the Kingdom and never really miss it. Honestly! Never really miss it.

Well, our time--our talent--our treasure--our trust. Paul's language is, we've been entrusted with the secret things of God. We've been given that which God wants us to have. We have a life of influence. That's the macro level. I spend my whole life being me, influencing people for good or ill. What kind of influence are you going to be?

As a steward, when God looks at your life and says, what is it are you gonna do with your career, your time, your talent, your treasure and how is that influencing the trust that people place in you? What happens when people respond to you? Now that becomes a thorny issue for me. That means I gotta be careful how I drive, what I'm like in the grocery store, how I talk to people on the street. Frankly, I, I hate it! But it means I need to be nice to telemarketer's. You know, I'm sitting at my dinner table with a bunch of college students about three years ago and we're talking. I don't know how - probably the phone rang or something and the topic of telemarketer's came up and I have a (no offense to any of you) I just don't like telemarketing--I just don't like it. But, I have learned to try to be nice, just because I think it's Christian. And all of a sudden there's this moment of silence when one of the girl's said, "I called your house once." I thought, oh nooooo - huh! It's kinda like when you want one of those signs on your chest--How's my driving? Call 1-800. Shall I tell you what she said or would you just like to make up your own story. Ha-ha - actually, I had treated her pretty nicely. So it turned out ok!

What about that first level of influence? This is the one that really gets to me. Dad! Mom! Because that first level of influence is usually sitting beside me at some point in my life and I'm recognizing my responsibility to bring that child up in the faith. . . . .that grandchild. . . so that they know Jesus. I will give account for that one day.

Well, what does the Bible say about all of this? If I'm responsible to be a faithful steward of time, talent and treasure and trust, what are the possibilities if I don't manage it well? There are a lot of reasons why you might not manage it well. You might not manage it well, simply because you're selfish. Now, I know that's not true of anybody in here, but those folks out there might be selfish people and they frankly, just don't want to manage their stuff or their time or their influence in a way. . . .frankly, they want to pursue a career that is strictly for them. And the only reason their in it is because it gives them prestige and power. Maybe we don't manage well in that selfishness simply because we want to hoard what is ours. . . .we worked hard for this! Maybe one of the reasons we don't manage well is because we're undisciplined. It doesn't have anything to do with our heart. It isn't that we don't want to manage things well. Frankly, we just have never gotten over that kind of instantaneous gratification. We walk in the store, like I did the other day to get something and bought two. You know, just that undisciplined--well you know what they do to us--Larry? They put all the stuff that we don't need right at the checkout for cryin'--what do they call that stuff? There's a name for that - yeah - impulse. See, they even know what to call it. Impulse! Because we're undisciplined about the way we do some things.

See, the undisciplined is sometimes the way you drive your car. It's sometimes the way you respond to your children or your neighbor. It isn't that you don't want to manage well, it's just that you haven't learned to be disciplined in the way you manage. Maybe it's because you're uninformed. You know, I really honestly believe that there was a period in my life when I could spend without guilt. Huh!

The reasons is because I was uninformed. I didn't know any better. Nobody ever told me that I was supposed to be responsible for my money. Sometimes we just don't know any better. Maybe it's because we came to Christ later in our life and we never stopped to think about the fact that our career mattered to God. But now that we have some information, we become more responsible to do something about it. It could be that I manage poorly because I'm self-satisfied. I don't sense any need to do better. It isn't a matter of being uninformed or misinformed, it's just that, frankly, I don't care! I like my life the way it is and I just soon you'd leave me alone. It could be, that I don't manage well simply because I'm not there yet. I'm growing. I want to manage things better. I want to be a better influence. I want to use my time more wisely. I want to be a better financial spender but frankly, I just don't know how to do it yet. I'm still on the journey, which is one of the reasons, by the way, why Mike Seaver's team has come together to help us in that one arena, be better managers of our finance. It's why we have 301 class . . . so that we can be better managers of our talents and our gifts. It's why we have adult discipleship and children's discipleship to be better stewards of our influence.

Hopefully, that's one of the things that happens is that we are growing.

Well, what does the Bible say about management? 1Corinthians, Chapter 4, Verse 2 - the text that we looked at just a few minutes ago says that one of the things is that we're to be found faithful. . . . . . . . . . . .the worst experience is such a little thing when I look back on it, but it was such a huge thing at the time. My parents owned a restaurant and a bar and it was my responsibility the first thing in the morning, to go over there and unlock the doors and put the coffee on and turn the grill on and have everything ready when the help came to start the day, because that's where the school bus stop was and that's where I ate my breakfast before they took off. Well, my dad always left change in the till, in the bar, to start the day off. And one day I remember him coming and my cousin and I were sitting in the chair - ah sitting in the booth and he looked at me and he said, "why did you take that money out of the till?" "I didn't." But I'd been accused of stealing from my own father and it cut me clear down in the quick, cause there was nothing I would ever do to try to dishonor my father.

I don't want to stand before my heavenly Father and have him ask me that question, "why didn't you take care of what I gave you?" I want to be able to answer in all honesty. I took care of it the best way I knew how. I want to be that financial person, that kind person, that talent person who can turn to God with complete and open honesty and say, "I did the very best I could with what you gave me." We're to be found faithful he says.

If you look at 2Samuel. I'm not going to read the story, but over in 2Samuel, Chapter 24, you remember when David wants a piece of property in order to do an offering for the Lord and he comes and the farmer says, hey, listen, for God you can have the property. I'll give you the property, the cow, the wood, the whole thing. You just take it and use it. And what does David say? I'll not offer God anything that doesn't cost me something.

I was listening to the tapes of James Earl Massey's lectures at our Seminary here a while back and I'd forgotten that he had said this. But he was on a bit of a rampage about preachers who use other people's sermons. I don't know if you know that there are a lot of preachers out there who just go to the website, download the sermon and preach it. They don't know anything about the sermon other than it looks like it will be good. And he likened that to this text. Not offering God something that doesn't cost you something. To write a sermon costs a lot!

What did it cost you for worship this morning? This offering you're giving to God today? What did it cost you? Did you sacrifice anything to be here? The service that you will perform today in the name of Jesus, did it cost you anything? See, sometimes in our consumer culture, even the church gets treated like a consumer entity. We come and take what we want--we get the benefit, but we never feel the need to pay for it, if you will. To offer to God, something that costs us nothing in order to have it.

Well, the primary text that I really want you to look at is over in 2Corinthians, Chapter 8. We're not going to spend a long time with it because we've preached through it before. I just want to read some select pieces and I want you to think beyond the finance, okay? Because this text is primarily about taking up a financial offering, but I want you to hear it in the context of all of stewardship, time and talent and trust, not just treasure.

He says for example in 2Corinthians, Chapter 8, Verse 1 - And 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. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord. . . . . . .

How do people with less than enough give more than enough, whether it's their time or their talent or anything else? It's wrapped up in Verse 5 isn't it? . . . .they gave themselves first . . . . . The first step in any act of stewardship, whether it's the stewardship of your time or your abilities or whatever it is, is you must first give yourself. Until God owns you, he can't own anything else. It goes on in this text just a bit further. He says down in Verse 8.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it. . . . . . .

It requires discipline. It's not enough to start. To say today that I want to be a better steward, I mean, that's the place to start, obviously, but it requires the discipline of carrying it out. You know, it's one thing to say, and, finances are probably the easiest way to illustrate it. It's one thing to say, I'm going to give $10.00 a week, every week, more than I'm giving because I want to be a better steward. Six months from now, sometimes that gets a little tough, when the car needs tires and the bills were a little bigger than what you thought they were gonna be and when the heat bill goes up 33%, instead of 12% or whatever they're predicting and you say, NOW, WAIT A MINUTE! Will I finish what I start? See, maybe you've said, I really want to serve. I want to go back there in the back and I want to spend time with little kids one Sunday a month and then all of a sudden you realize WELL, I GOT THIS OTHER THING I WANT TO DO! The discipline of finishing, as well as, starting.

You come over to Chapter 9, which is a continuation of this rather lengthy text. You find yourself reading down through this Verse 6.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Stewardship requires trust. The mark of a real steward is somebody who trusts God to take care of them. They can give their time because they know that God is going to honor that time. They can give their abilities because they know that God is going to honor those abilities. They can give their money because they know that God is going to honor those gifts. See, bottom line . . . .here it is. Stewardship is never about the budget. It's about God. Stewardship is a reflection of my attitude toward my Father. Jesus said it this way. Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. It's a matter of attitude. Stewardship starts and stops right here in me. It isn't about how much money you put in the offering tray. It's about how much of your heart you've already given to God. It isn't about how many Sunday's you serve in some capacity around here. It's whether or not God has first place in your heart. This isn't about whether you're a preacher or a plumber, it's about whether or not God has first place in your heart. And when you have given yourself first to God, then your time and your talent and your treasure and your trust will all be where they are supposed to be. And it won't be because you're uninformed, that you manage poorly. It won't be because you don't know any better, it will simply be because you're on a journey in that process of growing as a steward.

One of our core values is, we value the privilege, the responsibility of taking care of that which God has given us. And it really does start with taking care of that primary relationship between you and God. He gave you life and he gave you freedom to do anything you want with that life. What he says is, I hope that you will be responsible with that gift I've given you and you'll give it back to me and let me bless you in it. So even when we preach about core values, even when we talk about mundane things like stewardship, it is never mundane because it has everything to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ and whether or not he has first place in your heart.

If you've never given him first place, we're encouraging you to do that. If you don't know how to do that. If you don't know what that entails, we're here inviting you to come and ask. Let us talk with you. If you know that in your journey, you have believed in Jesus, and have never taken the step of repenting for things that you have done in the past, we're inviting you to do that. To set them aside, turn around, and walk away from them. If you've never confessed the name of Jesus. If you've never stood and said to the people around you, I AM A BELIEVER IN JESUS. HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS, we invite you to come and say that. If you've never buried your old person and been raised to walk in new life, we'll fill the baptistry today and let you put that old person to death and let you walk out of this building brand new. What do you need to do in your relationship with him?

Let's stand and sing.