2020 hit us emotionally and physically. We have experienced loneliness like never before, and our lives were completely altered. We changed the way we do school. We changed the way we go to church. We changed our commute hours, and I'm sure we don't miss those once.
Everything changed just in the blink of an eye. The world shifted its operations, and we may ask ourselves: Do I have something to be grateful for?
I'm going to take you back to the year 2009. All week I had a question in my mind: "Why do I have to (I need to stress this phrase have to) give 10 percent of my earnings?" I was associating the phrase "have to" with tithe? As if tithe was an invoice to pay; as if I would receive every month a bill saying. "This is due for the 10% of all your income."
In my mind, that thought kept on coming back and back and back again. I received a phone call from a church member saying, "I have been requested to sing this coming Saturday and I would like to know if you could play for me." And I said, "Sure, of course."
This lady is around her 70s probably, and she's always grateful. This lady, even though she had health issues, she would always be smiling. As I arrived, she happily greeted me and said, "Let's get to rehearse the hymn that I'm playing." So I said, "Sure, let's jump into it." I said, "Which hymn would you like to play?" And she said, "Why don't you open up your hymnal to hymn #100."
You probably already know that hymn #100 is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." As I started playing the piano, I could hear the lyrics of this hymn. I could hear this lady singing with all devotion, saying, "All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided." You know, those words were ringing in my mind, and as they were ringing in my mind, I was thinking, "Lord, I am just grateful for everything You have provided for me."
These difficult times have shown us that gratitude is still possible.
Tears started coming down my cheeks, and I said, "What I return, that is not an invoice. That is not a payment. That is actually my gratitude to the Lord." Ever since I made that compromise, I decided that I would always take an approach of seeing it as a gratitude.
These difficult times have shown us that gratitude is still possible. Every day, we do not know if we're going to live tomorrow. Life is not granted for anyone. 2020 showed us how this virus that infected our world does not take in consideration income level, age group or even social status. This virus affected everyone.
As a conference, we were also struggling, and we were sure that the Lord would provide. We started hearing about members that were losing their jobs, families that were in pain and financially struggling. So we opened up a donation fund to help those families. We did not know how much we would receive, but thank you for all your generosity, because that fund has received more than $100,000. With those funds, we were able to help more than 130 families. That has been a huge blessing, a blessing that has been possible because of your contributions to others.
Back in March/April 2020, we were reporting losses in tithe for 12%, and we thought we would be closing our December books with a great loss. We were not sure what the tithe trend would be, but as we continued the year, God showed us over and over again to trust in Him — to trust only in Him, and we close the year with a 3.91% loss. You may think this is still a huge loss. Well, let me tell you, the Lord has provided everything that we have needed.
The Lord has provided throughout the Bible many times. We hear different stories about tithe, but there is one that I would like you to turn to in the book of Genesis 28:20-22. This was a pact that was made between Jacob and God. Jacob was ready to compromise himself and this compromise, I treasure it because, in it, I find meaning for our daily lives.
It says, "If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return saved to my father's house, the eternal shall be my God." And you know what? Jacob continues saying I will give 10% of all my earnings.
Tithe is not an invoice. Tithe is not a bill due to pay. It is to show our gratitude to the Lord. May God continue blessing you.