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FIRST-PERSON: You cannot out-give God

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–God came up with the idea of multiplication.

If you give Him your time, He multiplies it. If you give Him your money, He multiplies it. If you give Him your talent, He multiplies it. If you give Him your energy, guess what? He multiplies it.

It’s the same principle as planting seeds. “God gives seed to the farmer…,” the Bible says. “God will also give you seed and multiply it. In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval” (2 Corinthians 9:10, GW). Think about that: God will increase the things you do that have His approval.

Farmers know that seed must be given away for it to increase. If you keep seed in a sack, it doesn’t do any good. But when you plant it, it multiplies. When you plant one corn seed, do you just get one corn seed back? No, you get a stalk with hundreds of corn kernels. When you plant one watermelon seed, do you only get one seed back? No, you get a bunch of watermelons with hundreds of seeds in them. God multiplies whatever little bit you give Him.

Remember that the person who plants few seeds will have a small crop. But the one who plants many seeds will have a large crop. God loves the person who gives cheerfully. That’s because God gives cheerfully and He wants us to be like Him.

The story of Saddleback Church cannot be told without telling of the thousands of people who sacrificed financially to make this church possible. Our 120-acre campus with all its buildings didn’t just happen. Somebody sacrificed for them. People chose to give their money instead of buying things for themselves to make it happen.

In 24 years we have had three major, sacrificial giving campaigns. The first one was from 1987-90. We called it “Possess Our Land.” The goal of that campaign was to raise the money to buy the land.

Over a three-year period, people gave $3 million above and beyond their regular tithes and offerings to buy the land. That’s an average of $6,700 per family.

Then from 1995-97 we had the second campaign, called “Time To Build.” The purpose of that three-year sacrificial campaign was to build our building.

Over that second three-year period, people gave $12 million toward this campaign. Again, this was over and above their regular offerings and tithes. That averaged out to be $14,000 for each core family.

From 1997-2004 we had a third sacrificial giving campaign called “Building For Life.” That campaign funded major projects, such as building a ministry center, putting up a youth tent, putting in a parking lot and buying 40 acres next to our property for extra space and another entrance. Over $20 million was given by our people above and beyond their normal tithes and offerings.

There would literally be no Saddleback Church without the sacrifice of time, service and money that our people made. Whatever people gave during these campaigns, God multiplied.

One of the great lessons that Kay and I have learned over our years of ministry is that you cannot out-give God. Whatever you give Him, He takes and multiplies. This was a lesson we learned on a personal level. Three different times in our marriage God told us to give away our entire savings. Each time we obeyed, God replenished it in greater ways than ever before.

I’ll never forget during the “Time To Build” campaign when Kay and I prayed about what our sacrificial amount should be. God told us to give an amount equal to one year’s salary. I said, “How are we going to do that, God? How will we live an entire year without a salary?”

But God said to do it, so we did it. About a month later, a publisher called up and said, “We’d like you to write a book.” That book became “The Purpose-Driven Church.” They said, “We know it’s going to be a best-seller so we’re going to give you an advance of $100,000.”

In December 1987, we had to close the deal on the land for Saddleback. Our people had given over $1 million, but we were still short on that last day. I thought, “God, we’re so close and our people have sacrificed beyond measure. This is the last day before we lose the property. You’re not going to let us get this close and let us fall. What are You going to do?”

Before that day was out we received a letter from a man who had visited Saddleback only one time. He didn’t even live in Orange County. His note said, “I believe in the vision of Saddleback Church.” And in that letter was a check for a quarter-million dollars. We were able to close the deal and get the land.

God’s timing is perfect. That was the last business day of 1987. The first business day of 1988 that man –- who was a banker -– went to the bank and his trustees called a special meeting. They didn’t know he’d just given us a quarter million dollars. They called him in and sad, “We’ve had a record year with banner profits. We’re going to give you a one-time bonus.” And 10 days after he’d given this church a quarter million dollars, they gave him a one-time bonus of $750,000.

He called me on the phone. “Rick, you cannot out-give God! I keep trying, but it doesn’t work.”

When I told this story to the Saddleback congregation, I said, “Don’t you wish you’d given a quarter million dollars?”

The Bible promises, “You won’t regret it. No one who has sacrificed his home, spouse, brothers, sisters, parents, children -– whatever -– will lose out. It’ll all come back, multiplied many times over in your lifetime and then the bonus of eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30, Message).

That’s a promise of Jesus Christ directly from His lips. “So always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).
Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

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  • Rick Warren