Count Your Blessings
About the Guest
Can God really meet all your needs? Inspirational speaker Brian Kluth reminds listeners to look back on their lives and see how God has provided for them in the past. Brian tells how he and his wife list their blessings each week in a notebook and then give to God accordingly, out of a thankful heart.
Brian Kluth encourages listeners to look back on their lives and see how God has provided for them in the past, then give to God accordingly, out of a thankful heart.
Count Your Blessings
Bob: Would you say your children are generous? I think the bigger question is: “Are they observing you being generous?” Here’s Brian Kluth.
Brian: We live in a day and age where I think people need to be challenged that they’re generosity is somewhat anemic and somewhat unhealthy. They need to be challenged to really think about that part of their lives. They have been blessed, but I believe we are blessed to be a blessing. Some people in the prosperity gospel teach, “Give to get—give to get a blessing.” I believe we give to be a blessing.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how God has blessed you and about how you can be a blessing. Our guest is Brian Kluth. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I had a friend of mine come to me recently; and he said, “Well, the company, after a decade, called me up and said, ‘We’re letting you go.’” I said, “Any explanation?” He said: “No; no explanation. They just said: ‘We made the decision, and we’re letting you go. This is your two weeks’ notice.’”
Bob: Ten years—he gets a two weeks’ notice. We got together with a group of guys and prayed for our friend. I remember, in praying for him, we prayed that he would recognize that God is his Provider and that God is going to take care of him.
I thought to myself, as I was praying it, “That’s an easy prayer for me to pray.” I felt a little guilty praying it. In fact, I kind of felt uncomfortable—like: “Okay, can I really say this is true? What if my friend, three months from now, still doesn’t have a job? He comes back and says, ‘What’s this deal about God being the Provider?’ What do I say to him then?”
Dennis: Well, you know, all of life is watching how God does provide for us. Sometimes, it’s more obvious than others. We have a gentleman, who’s really made a study out of generosity and how God provides. Brian Kluth joins us on FamilyLife Today. Brian, welcome to the broadcast.
Brian: Well, great to be with you and your listeners. We’re looking forward to sharing with them and giving them some hope and encouragement today.
Dennis: Brian is a speaker. He is an author of a number of books, including Experience God as Your Provider. He and his wife Mary Ellen live on the front range of Colorado, up near Denver. Brian, I just have to ask you: “Why did you write a book about God’s provision? What’s the first provision where God showed up in your life to kind of build this in to make this a life message for you?”
Brian: I think one of the big memories I had—I was involved with a Christian ministry in northern Wisconsin. It was a place called Fort Wilderness—it was a Christian camp.
I was on the missionary staff, and I had to raise my support to do that. I was serving the Lord at this camp.
Winter showed up—it was probably about early November—the snow showed up, and the cold showed up, and I remember really needing boots. I needed a pair of winter boots, but I didn’t have the money for them. I was praying, “God, I really need you to provide money for these boots.” So, I prayed. At that time in my life, I didn’t use a credit card—“I’m going to trust God to be my Provider.”
I go to my mailbox, and I was so excited. There were three letters in that mailbox. All three letters said they just were so excited for me, and they believed in me, and they were praying for me—and there was no money.
Dennis: So how did God provide?
Brian: So, I was a little discouraged. I went down to my office—I was sitting down there. I’m like: “Lord, I’m serving You. I need boots, and I don’t have the money.” A guy comes walking down the hall, and he has this pair of boots. He said, “Brian,”—he said, “Do you know anybody who needs a pair of winter boots?” I’m like, “I do!”
They were warm winter boots, and they were my exact size. I said to the fellow: “Why do you have these? Where do they come from?” He said: “I bought a property. In the barn, on my property, these boots were up in the barn.” He says, “They don’t fit me, and I was trying to find someone that could wear them.” I thought: “Wasn’t that interesting that my need wasn’t money? My need was a pair of warm winter boots, and God provided.”
That was a defining moment for me because we’re—as Americans in particular—we’re so focused on the money. What I’ve discovered in life is—God is a Provider. He may choose to use money / He may choose to use an income, but He’s so much bigger.
That particular day, that man showed up with a pair of boots when I needed them. I don’t know if they’d been in that barn for a year, or two, or ten years; but the day I needed them, those boots showed up. That changed my life forever—just understanding that principle.
Bob: You know, I’ve heard stories like you just shared—the boot stories—or the folks who are needing $200 to pay the rent at the end of the month—and there’s an envelope, and it has the exact amount, and they don’t know where it came from. You hear those stories and you go, “That’s not normal.” You’re a little afraid to go out and tell the next guy: “Well, here’s the story of how I got the boots,” or, “…how I got the money,” because people start to think, “Well, then I can just count on that.” Can we count on our need is going to be miraculously provided—to the right size of boots that were left in the barn?
Brian: Well you know, a lot of people have challenged me over the years. Some people said, “Well Brian, you’re a special Christian because you’re serving the Lord; but the rest of us normal Christians—that doesn’t happen in our life.”
I was sharing a verse with a friend one time—1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of each week let each of you give according to how God has prospered you,” or some versions say, “…how God has blessed you,” or “…provided for you.” The Bible actually invites us to look back over the last seven days and see how God has provided.
In my case, in my life, what that translated is—my wife and I actually have a notebook. We write down, on Monday mornings, all of the provisions of God that have occurred in a week; and then we will give. It’s not just counting the blessings, but it’s also giving off of the blessings. What I’ve discovered, in decades now, of doing this is—God is way bigger than money / He’s way bigger than a paycheck.
So, my friend was challenging me, saying, “Well, you’re a special Christian; but I’m just a normal Christian.” I said to him—I said: “Larry, you know, outside, you were showing me your new house. You showed me how your house had trees in the front yard but nobody else did. You told me the story how the city came down your street in your new subdivision and they planted trees in your yard but nobody else’s.” He said, “Yes.”
“Do you remember the story you told me about your dining room table?—how you saved for a year to buy a dining room table—and just before you bought it, your in-laws bought you that table?”
He said, “Yes.”
And there were other things. I said, “Do you remember the sprinkler system you put in? —you told me about it.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Do you remember you telling me that you got a 50 percent discount?” He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Those are all provisions of God.” I said, “God provided, and provided, and provided; and you never looked, and you never noticed. He said: “Really? You mean those kinds of things?” I said: “Yes—those kinds of things. God is your Provider, and when you begin to look and notice, it changes everything. You begin to think differently about whatever needs you have.”
He wrote me a few months later. He said, “Brian, we started counting our blessings, like you talked to us about; and you are right. God is providing—we just never looked / we never noticed; and therefore, we never gave thanks and we never gave financially.”
Again, even my wife—I’m newly married—my first wife passed away after an eight-year cancer journey—but this idea of counting our blessings was a new idea to her.
When we got married, she sold her house that she was living in. She moved into the house that I was in. I remember we were getting ready to go to the closing. About a week before, I said, “Oh, I’m really excited.” She said, “About what?” I said, “We’re going to close on your house, and they’re going to give us this really big check.” I said, “You know, this is your house—this is money you’ve put in there over the years.” I said, “You think about it, you pray about it; but I would love to see us set money aside to give.” She thought about it, and prayed about it, and came back and said, “Let’s do it.”
We have savings accounts, we have checking accounts, and we have a giving account. We, literally, transfer over money into the giving account; and we set it aside unto God. Someone says, “Well, what are you going to do with all that money?” I said: “It’s our job to see what God has done / it’s our job to see how God has provided. It’s our job to set it aside. It’s God’s job to show us who, when, and where to share it.
She’s had so much fun. She’d always been a giver, but this has taken her giving to a whole new level of just this principle of setting aside, based off of the provisions of God in her life.
Dennis: What would you say to a single parent, who is really struggling? I mean, things are really, really tight. Let’s say it’s a woman; and let’s say she is really, really weary. What would you say to her?
Brian: Well, one thing I would do is—I would point her to Scripture. First Kings 17 talks about a widow—who was not in a depression / who was not in a recession—she was in a famine. And famine is where there’s not enough food to eat—people are dying. So, that single mom / that widow certainly understood fear. She was doing the best she could, and she didn’t have enough. It wasn’t going to be enough, and nobody was coming to help her.
Elijah comes along and meets this woman. He says, “Can you give me something to eat?” She says, “You don’t understand.
“This is my last meal—I’m going to make this meal, and my son and I are going to eat it, and then we’re going to die.” Yet, Elijah says something to her—a number of things he says to her. One is—the very first thing he says: “Don’t be afraid.” Then he says this: “From what you have, first make something for me. Then make something for yourself and your son.”
I’m sure the lady was like: “You have to be kidding! This isn’t going to make it for two. How are we going to do it for three?” But the Bible says this—it says that “She went away and did as Elijah had said.” And then the Scripture says, “And then there was food every day for Elijah”—she kept giving—“and for herself, and for her family,”—not just her son.
God stretched these meager, meager resources—that were not enough—and he sustained her life. That story cuts across all economic issues and all challenges that people face because, in everybody’s heart, listening, there is either fear operating or faith.
That is a bottom-line reality. Even in my own life—I have a unique role in my life these days—I have a $1/year salary. I had a pastor’s salary—my church commissioned me to a new position to be a minister-at-large—came with $1/year.
Dennis: That’s your salary.
Brian: That’s the only thing I get guaranteed. So, in this role—God could provide through speaking opportunities, God could provide through people ordering my materials—God could do a lot of things—but nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed. There is no “for sure” anything, and I don’t raise missionary support—so it truly was an experience.
Here’s what I’ll say—five years later—I’ve discovered that $1/year—promised and given—plus God is enough. What I would say to people that are fearful or say they don’t have enough—I’d say, one, “I understand.”
Two, I would say: “Even in my own life, I’ve had to learn the only thing that’s consistent in my financial life is my giving.” What’s consistent is—I count my blessings on Monday morning. We give according to those blessings; and we trust God for whatever the week’s going to bring or the month’s going to bring, or the problems that are going to come.”
I’ve, not only had to share this by way of teaching, but I’ve had to live it out in my own life. It’s been an amazing five-year journey with discovering God as my Provider. But where I’ve had to anchor is: “Did He provide in the last week?” and, “Will I thank Him?” and, “Will I trust Him?”and, “Will I set aside resources to give according to what He’s done, even when I’m facing mountains?”
I had some pretty big financial mountains that I had to face. I couldn’t spreadsheet a solution. What I discovered is—when I anchored in faith, when I anchored in seeing the provisions, when I anchored in counting the blessings and setting aside—I’ve discovered that God provides in really, really amazing ways.
Dennis: When it comes to this idea of leaning into God as the Provider—we have this group of people, as I described, who really are extremely needy—
Dennis: —on the other end of the spectrum—and not at the end of the spectrum but, here in America, almost the other half of the line / from the middle on out to the end of the line—is a group of people who live better than 80/90 percent of the rest of the world.
Brian: Yes; maybe more—maybe 95 percent of the world.
Dennis: Yes. We’re a prosperous country.
Brian: Yes we are.
Dennis: Those people have seen God provide in abundance. What’s your word to that group of people?
Brian: Well, one of my words to that group of people is that we live in a time—and you mentioned America’s generous—we live in a time where Christians have lost a spirit of generosity—even those that have are afraid that they might lose. The more people get, the less generous they become—by way of percentage of income.
Those Christians that give ten percent or more, in our day and age, are now somewhere down in the single digits, according to Barna’s research. I’ve done national research on this topic also.
Even though we are a generous nation—even though there are many generous people, among people listening to us right now, the Christian audience—a majority of Christians are, for the most part, non-givers—they may give sporadically, they may give occasionally, they may give once in a while. Even in the average church, one third of the people give nothing of record—that are attending. One third give under $500 a year, and only one third give over $500 a year. If it’s a larger church—a thousand or more—half the people are giving nothing of record.
We live in a time when people of middle-class income or upper-class income have not learned the joy of generosity.
They have not learned to become faithful, generous givers. They’ve not learned to see the provisions of God or set aside unto God. So, we live in a day and age where I think people need to be challenged—that their generosity is somewhat anemic and somewhat unhealthy. They need to be challenged to really think about that part of their life. They have been blessed, but I believe we are blessed to be a blessing. I know some people in the prosperity gospel teach: “Give to get a blessing.” I believe we give to be a blessing, not to get a blessing.
Dennis: I like that.
Bob: You know, I’m thinking about two people I know. One is the guy I talked about at the beginning of the program, who just lost his job. To say to him, “Well, God’s going to provide,” you can say that; but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “Boy, I sure hope He does.” You know?
Brian: Yes; yes.
Bob: Because, you just put God’s reputation on the line. You feel like, “Can I really make that statement?”
Dennis: Yes, and the person who doesn’t have and hasn’t had for a number of months—and who refuses to take whatever job is available—I think that’s a dangerous position to be in.
You can’t presume upon others—to lean into them to provide your well-being while you don’t get a job and take your responsibility.
Brian: You’re right—even I was teaching this to my teenage son a number of years ago. He turned 16, and he went out and applied for all kinds of jobs. He couldn’t get a job—nobody gave him a job.
I looked at him and I said, “Josh, there may not be jobs to be had; but there’s work to be done.” He said, “Well, what do you mean?” I said: “You know, there are some widows at our church. There are some retirees at our church. There are some single moms.” I said, “Let me work it out with the church, and we’ll do something; but you go and you serve these people.” He did. There weren’t jobs to be had, but there was work to be done.
Everybody listening to me: “If you can’t get a job for pay, then you go serve somebody. There is somebody that needs you.”
You were designed, by God, to work, and to serve, and to be a blessing. Maybe you volunteer your way into a position, but we are not to be lazy. We are not to be just a “Woe is me.” We are to be productive, productive people.
Bob: So let me come to the last person I’m thinking of—a woman who—she’s a single lady / lives by herself. She has a basic job—she can pay her bills and has about 50 bucks a month left over by the time it’s all done—50 bucks. I mean, if she thought to herself, “I’d like to go buy a new outfit,” she’d have to save up for that for several months before she could do that.
I think to myself, “She hears a program like this and says: ‘Well, it’s nice for you guys to be talking about God as your Provider. That’s easy for you because you don’t have to think twice about buying a new outfit for your wife or a new set of underwear. I have to save up for that stuff.’” What do you say to her?
Brian: Well, I’d tell her the story of an 88-year-old woman that I heard of.
I have a “40-Day Generous Life” devotional—and her son is a pastor. He gave out my devotional in their church, and she was reading through it. She called him and said, “Son, I need to just confess something to you.” She said, “I stopped giving a lot of years ago.”
He said, “What do you mean?” She said: “Well, I was on a fixed income; and I just couldn’t it. I just had to really watch every penny, and I don’t have enough. So, I stopped giving, but I’ve been reading through this 400 Scriptures in this little devotional. I don’t know—I think God wants me to give!” He said, “Well, what do you want to do, Mom?” She said, “Well, I think I want to start giving to God from what I have.”
That’s what the Scripture teaches—you give from God from what you have, even when what you have isn’t enough. Anyway, she starts giving. She was going to go to a prayer retreat with the church and turns out it was like $50 or something. She didn’t have the money—so she decided not to go.
Well, the church got a hold of her and said: “Hey, we got the prayer retreat. We’ve decided we just want to invite you along. Don’t worry about the money—you just come as our guest.” Well, that was kind of a little provision from the Lord—that was kind of cool.
Then she goes to the bank—she just said: “Well, I’m going to go on this retreat. I want to go get a little bit of money out at the bank so I have something for this trip.” She goes to the bank. The gal behind the counter says, “Oh, Mrs. Smith, isn’t it your birthday today, or this week, or something?” She said, “Yes.” She said: “We talked about it, as a staff. We knew it was your birthday, so we want to give you a $100 birthday present.”
Then she gets a letter from a foundation in her town. The letter was something to the effect of: “We’ve chosen 500 elderly people this year. We’re going to pay their utility bills for the winter.” The woman said, “God has provided in ways I could have never imagined.”
So, I would just challenge people to think about: “God is bigger than we give Him credit for.” He’s the owner of all things. He’s the giver of all things. He can be real in our life in ways we can never imagine. I have hundreds of stories—this book that I wrote—filled with the stories of people discovering that God is their true Provider, and that they can trust Him, that they can honor Him, and that they can be a blessing to others. God is our Provider.
Dennis: And I like the emphasis you’ve placed here upon starting your week—collecting memories of how God has provided—and then giving from that spirit of feeling blessed to be a blessing for others. Here’s the assignment to our listeners: “Just do it.”
Brian: “Just do it.”
Dennis: “Just do it.” Get a sheet of paper with your family—look back over the last three, five, seven days—make your list and then finish up by being a blessing to somebody else.
Bob: That’s a great assignment. If you’d like some help with it, go to: FamilyLifeToday.com. Get a copy of Brian Kluth’s Experience God as Your Provider—that’s the name of the book—Finding Financial Stability in Unstable Times. Again, our website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” There’s information there about Brian’s book.
There’s also information about the Because I Love You Christian Legacy Organizer that has 40 pages of forms and lists that help you make sure you have everything you need pulled together and in one place so that you have a record for your loved ones when it’s time for you to go. Again, the information about both of these resources can be found at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER,” and look for the resources from Brian Kluth. You can order, online, if you’d like at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”—
—1-800-358-6329. That is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, do you know: “What is the 13th largest city in the state of North Dakota?” I’m guessing most of you don’t—it’s the city of Grafton, North Dakota—population of 4,284, as of the 2010 census. Two of those 4,200 people are the Prestengs—that’s Mark and Mia Presteng—who, today, are celebrating 15 years together as husband and wife.
We just wanted to take a minute and say: “Way to go! Congratulations! Happy Anniversary!” and, “Thank you!” because the Prestengs are also partners with us, here at FamilyLife—helping to support the work that we do. FamilyLife is a non-profit organization. We depend on folks, like this, to make possible all that we do here—this radio program, and the website, and all of our outreaches.
We couldn’t do it without folks like the Prestengs.
I should also mention Ken and Debbie Johanson from St. Charles, Illinois. They are also partners with us here and celebrating 38 years of marriage together today. It’s folks, like you, who are helping us reach more and more people, every year, with the ministry of FamilyLife with what we believe is the most critical issue facing us in our culture today—the health of our marriages and our families. That’s what FamilyLife is all about.
If you can support this ministry with a donation, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a new FamilyLife calendar that has, as its focus, the fruit of the Spirit for the next—well, for the next 15 months because it actually starts in October and then goes all the way through 2015. You can request the calendar when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “I Care,” and make an online donation. We’ll send the calendar to you. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone, and be sure to ask for the fruit of the Spirit calendar.
Or you can request the calendar when you make a donation in writing. Send it to FamilyLife Today at P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow as we continue to talk about generosity, about God’s provision, and about being good stewards of what God’s given to us. Brian Kluth will be back tomorrow. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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