Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, an international speaker, and the author of several books. In this book Stanley makes the case that generous investing in the Kingdom, rather than something to be feared, is the logical course of a steward.
Best Chapter: Chapter 1. Dust in the Wind
"Under the mounting weight of uncertainty, it's easy to slowly become irrational about our possessions. We lose sight of who really owns them. We fail to grasp how we should be sowing them for God's kingdom. And we get confused about what we should really fear regarding our finances in this life-like facing eternity having sown only a few handfuls of our personal wealth for God's kingdom." (13-14)
"Fear and faith often go hand in hand. When you pursue faith, you increase your exposure to fear. Christians want to give, but fear kicks in before they can bridge the gap with faith." (16)
"When you begin to view your wealth from God's perspective, you'll see that the thing to fear isn't giving away too much, but sowing too little." (17)
My problem wasn't greed, it was fear. Would God do what He promised to do?
"Any fear associated with giving to God's kingdom is irrational. It's on a par with a farmer who, out of fear of losing his seed, refuses to plant his fields." "The principle of sowing and reaping applies to our finances. Those who sow generously can expect to reap generously and receive a bountiful return." (5)
"What if God called you to give beyond your comfort level? Would you be afraid? …when we respond in fear to an invitation from God, we forfeit the reward of being faithful stewards. Sowing in faith results in an eternal crop. Cowering in fear yields empty fields." (29)
By nature, the concept of generosity is in direct conflict with the concept of self-preservation. There's a point at which your own generosity will pose a direct threat to your well-being.
"So while the world around you perpetuates the idea of looking out for number one, Christ calls you instead to look out for the interests of others. In fact, He promises to take care of you while you do." (31)
"A little fear can be healthy, but it can also be dangerous. It has the power to make you act contrary to your beliefs. In essence, it can make you irrational. Isn't it rational to trust God with your finances, since all of it belongs to Him?" "Fear has a way of twisting the truth." (34)
"God gives us financial seed for one purpose: sowing. Unless we open our palms and let the seed fly, we will never know what fruit He might bring from it." "…it's a constant test of faith to live with an open hand financially, giving freely, and trusting God to replenish your stores of seed." (39)
2 Corinthians 9:6-11 teaches three key insights on financial giving.
1. The amount entrusted to you in your life often depends on how well you steward what you already have. God wants faithful people to distribute his wealth. Giving to His work is not giving something away but investing it. The farmer knows that to receive a crop, he must sow his seed. "When we give, it enables God to return to us more than we've given, to entrust more to us in this life." (52)
2. Financial giving aligns your life with God's agenda. God has a plan in this world and we can take our place in a plan much bigger than our life. God is concerned about the poor and the Great Commission. That's what he's about.
3. Good service results in repeat business. The one who supplies the seed also provides the bread for food (2 Corinthians 9:10-11). "True wealth is having everything you need when you need it." (56)
God can sit on the sidelines watching your financial struggle or he can be actively involved as your partner. It depends on what kind of steward you are. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25, 31-33) we are told to focus not on our physical needs but on His kingdom. And when we do, our needs will be met. "The deal is simple. When you make God's kingdom your first priority, He promises to provide what you need to live." If we focus on his needs, he will take care of our needs. (72) "If you want God involved in your finances, you need to put your finances to work for God's interests. And that means you need to give." (73)
"He waits for us to invite Him to be the Lord of our possessions and to get involved in our finances. And that means giving from what you've already got…" (77)
How much should we give? We are to give what we have decided in our heart to give. It's as simple as that. (2 Corinthians 9:7) "When you begin to embrace your role as a steward, you will be able to give from your heart." (83)
The best strategy for giving is a two-fold approach: give according to a plan and give when you are prompted. First, a good plan includes priority giving, percentage giving, and progressive giving. Give to God first, before other payments and purchases. Give a percentage that you have decided. Ten per cent is a good reference point. Progressively increase the percentage you give. God intends us to grow in faith and this includes growing in finances.
"Having a plan is important. But from time to time, God may prompt you to make a special gift that goes beyond a rote formula." (95) "God uses the needs of others as opportunities for us to exhibit His love alive in us." (97)
Fear is not something to be avoided but something to be leveraged. "When it comes to money, what should you fear most? … Not having enough, or not having the involvement of your heavenly Father? Your answer to that question will determine what you do for the future." (108)
"The crowning achievement of overcoming the fear of giving is the moment you begin to experience the joy of giving." The opposite of a fearful heart is a joyful heart. (122)
"Imagine for a minute that you are responsible for giving away someone else's money. You aren't allowed to spend it. You can only decide where it goes. When you think of it that way, it's not too hard to imagine finding pleasure in playing the philanthropist." "…that's exactly the situation we find ourselves in." (128)
Fields of Gold
Andy Stanley, 2004, 135 pp., ISBN 0-8423-8540-1
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Book Notes by David Mays
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