Your response to the heading of today’s reading is probably: “Uh, oh—another money plea!” or “Here we go again...some Christian ministry trying to get into my wallet.” If that’s your response, I hate to disappoint you, but you’re wrong. Being wrong this time, however, disappoints no one!
I’m not going to talk about what you should do when the plate is passed. Rather, I want to talk about what you might do before and after that time. Twice every Sunday we spend five to eight minutes of very prime time doing zero. If you’re the average, tired churchgoer, young or old, you could check one or more of the following “offering pastimes.” Be honest now.
( ) writing notes...receiving replies
( ) checking to see who’s missing in the choir
( ) getting better acquainted, chattering with your friend
( ) listening for the organist’s mistakes
( ) observing the architecture, counting the bricks
( ) planning next week’s activities
( ) drawing pictures...daydreaming...dozing
( ) looking around, watching ushers, checking the time
( ) inking out letters on the bulletin
( ) questioning why that fella in the new suit didn’t drop something in the plate
All of this? A complete waste of time. Here we are, right in the midst of a carefully planned worship service, drifting and dreaming away a few precious moments that could otherwise make the difference between a ho-hum and a hallelujah experience.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 refers to a time to be silent. The offering provides you with just such a time—to be silent. To cease from talking. To think, to reflect, to meditate, to slow your motor down and be still. Ask God how you might trade in any usual, humdrum habits for something new that would honour Him during this time.
If I may take the phrase in Ephesians 5:16, making the most of your time, to include the silent moments during the offering, let me offer some practical suggestions.
Six come to my mind:
1. Take a pencil along with the bulletin stub and write down a list of the things for which you are most grateful. Ponder each...and thank your heavenly Father for them one by one. Tape that list in a conspicuous place at home and look at it daily for a week.
2. Turn to the Scripture that will be used in the sermon. Read it over slowly. Think only about that passage throughout the offering time. Ask God to speak to you as though you were all alone in the worship service.
3. Pick out two or three people whom you know (perhaps some sitting with or near you) and pray specifically for them. Ask God to encourage them and lift their spirits that day. You might even follow that up by greeting them after the service and expressing interest in their lives. Tell them that God prompted you to pray for them.
4. Locate in the hymnal the hymn the musician is playing if it is familiar to you. Read the words slowly. Allow yourself to picture the scene in the hymn and become thrilled with the message it communicates.
5. Close your eyes. Refuse every outside thought that knocks for entrance. Think back over the week that’s passed. Praise God for His assistance. Confess to Him the dirt you’ve swept under your life’s rug. Thank Him for your role in life, your job, your loved ones, your church, your spiritual gifts, your salvation, your trials, your destiny, your health, the Scriptures.
6. May I dare add another? Pray for the one who will bring the message. Ask God to give him liberty, clarity, boldness, sensitivity, insight on his feet, freedom from distractions and petty worries. It’s amazing how much more the message means to you when you’ve had a part in its delivery.
Hebrews 13:15 gives timely counsel along these lines: “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”
That’s a switch, isn’t it? The traditional offering time becomes a “sacrifice of praise” time...a time when God, personally, receives your offering of gratitude...a time when He picks the “fruit of your lips.” What is most remarkable is how the juice from that fruit heals the ache in your left hip pocket.
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.