Shaking, Sifting, Sorting

By Ron Wood

I opened up my on-line banking service to monitor my checking account balance. Since our return from Africa , we've experienced God's faithfulness in the midst of having very little possessions except clothing and our car. I've bragged on God saying, "We're the best cared for homeless people in America !" We are grateful to the Lord for His kindness. We have need of nothing. To my surprise, the screen opened up to another bank account, someone with my same last name but with thousands of dollars on hand. Wow!

I looked more closely and studied this puzzle. I saw that I had full access to their account. I could see deposits, withdrawals, and the daily balance. My password had the power to move money from their account into mine! Then, some clues started to give me a hint of what happened. I saw a deposit that had a familiar name on it. It was my older brother's account in Florida , one he had asked me to sign on months before, to exercise power of attorney for him. I am a trustee for my older brother's estate. Mystery solved!

In heaven's banking system, our Older Brother has left an account to us in His name. He has on deposit untold riches awaiting distribution. How do we know this? Because of repeated references found in the New Testament to "the riches of Christ's grace." Paul mentions withdrawals from Jesus‚ bank account in Philippians 4:19. "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Material resources are already allocated to partners in the mission, those with a heart for extending Christ's kingdom. (See vs. 1:5, 4:15) This apostolic promise has a basis in fact which is still true. It is not an empty promise. The riches are very real, but stored in a realm accessed only by revelation. God's riches are "according to" something-according to the surplus, the super-abundance, of Christ's glory and grace.

Checks drawn on the bank of heaven require two signatures: one written by grace in Jesus‚ handwriting and sealed on the cross, the other written by faith by our own petition and profession. The faith is on our part, the grace is on God's part. Cashing the check requires agreement between God and man in order to release the riches of heaven into our human situation.

But-- a fundamental shift must occur before we can be trusted with riches. We must move from the attitude of ownership to thinking and behaving like trustees. A trustee doesn't own anything-- all they do is administer the estate according to the will of the owner. A change of heart necessarily precedes a change of circumstances. To hasten that change, God permits painful ordeals.

The season we are in is a perilous time. It is a season of shaking, sifting, and sorting. Nothing will escape scrutiny. God has initiated this period of time to help examine His house that is under construction before permitting its completion. The shaking is external, of structures and foundations. (Haggai 2:7, Luke 21:25) This hits our economic and political bases, plus our religious worldview. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. (Heb. 12:26) Everything with a false foundation will be shaken. God is shoving the house back onto the foundation He built. We have mistakenly built the church on a false foundation. We have learned the kingdom doesn't end with establishing denominations and pastors trying to do the work alone. God wants us to build on Christ as the chief cornerstone, and on the foundation of apostles and prophets. (Eph. 2:20)The sifting is internal. The light hits our motives and methods. God wants to adjust our ways. (Haggai 1:5) Get away from religious ways and into apostolic ways. Don't just change churches or methods- change your ways. This is reflective transformation. We behold Him, and become like Him. Deep change does not occur without pain. This can be an excruciating ordeal. It can seem to last for an eternity. God seems silent, like He has abandoned us. In the sifting, we come to see the truth about ourselves. Do we really love the Lord? Do we love one another? Is our faith the real thing? Jesus told Peter "Satan has desired to sift you, but- I have prayed for you-" I am glad that "but" is there! Yes, sifting is permitted. Why? To do us good in the end (Deut. 8:16), to humble our hearts, to purify our motives so we can handle holy things. (Malachi 3:3) Testing lets us see our self and adjust our ways. Afterwards, we can truly repent. The Lord Jesus is interceding for us during our trial. (Heb. 4:14-16) Peter was boastful until his ordeals refined him, but he had to keep his faith intact even while failing the test. The sorting is based on assignments, according to our anointed function in the body of Christ and new identity in Jesus -- into churches, networks, or teams. We get grouped according to divine calling and our response to it. This includes sorting by gifts, by degree of revelation, and by levels of obedience. God has the right to deploy us according to the need for workers. How do we get sorted? Basically, by the obedience of faith. Do we listen to God's word to criticize it or to hear and obey it? Do we see present-day truth or cling to a familiar old order? Do we believe what God said or do we dwell in doubt? Are we people-pleasing priests or faithful sons of Zadok? Are we wheat or tares, sheep or goats? Do we run to the light or run from it? Do we have extra oil or is our lamp empty?

Do we follow Jesus or men's traditions? God's grace always demands a response on our part. In one sense, we sort ourselves into categories of usefulness or idleness, becoming vessels of honor or dishonor, until we become set in our ways and the sorting is finished. "He that is holy, let him be holy still. He that is filthy, let him be filthy still." (Rev. 22:11) The goal is more of Jesus on earth, Christ Incorporated. The shaking will affect many things we have relied upon. Many hearts will fail for fear as they endure sifting. Transition times are always turbulent as individuals and people groups are sorted into camps. This global upheaval will also shake loose incredible wealth for building God's house and extending the borders of the gospel. (For more on this prophetic season of fresh foundations, read Haggai and Zechariah.)

This is a season when it is vitally important for finances to flow into foundational offices. The architects of a new age need to be fully funded in order for them to do their work. The construction money sitting in the bank needs to be drawn down by the contractors. Riches need to be released, not hoarded. Wealth for the work is on the way! So by faith I continue to confess, even while feeling absolutely foolish as I say it, that our ministry of Touched by Grace will handle millions of dollars for missions. I am not boasting-I am just saying to you what I believe I have heard the Holy Spirit say to me.

How can I confess such a preposterous thing? I must feel like old Abraham as he was telling his friends "Sarah and I are going to have a baby!" Can you imagine how foolish he looked to believe such a thing, let alone declare it? (See Romans 4) If you knew our present circumstances, you would say I was a fool to have such outlandish hope. Yet I believe God. Yes, while we wait on God, things may look bleak. Meanwhile, in the middle of the journey, we have learned to say with the apostle Paul, "-I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13)

Why would God be shifting wealth from the wicked to the righteous? He won't-- unless we become trustworthy stewards with a kingdom vision and a heart of mercy toward the poor. Assuming that there are such people becoming qualified, then here is the great reason why: The Father is intent on finishing the House He began building for Jesus 2,000 years ago. Unlike carnal contractors who lack wisdom, God never starts a project that He can't finish. He counted the cost before He began to build. If He did run out of gold, He could always make more!

Succinctly stated, the funds are flowing because it is time for them to flow. God's work requires it. Jesus wants His inheritance to be released on earth. The harvest is ripe and the laborers are few. When Lana and I left South Africa earlier this year to return to America , the last man of God we spoke to in Johannesburg was an 88-year-old former missionary to the Congo who had married the granddaughter of Smith Wigglesworth. As he bade us farewell, he said to us, "You will be back because the time is short and the need is urgent." For him, the race was already run, but he knew the work was not yet done.

When King David was near death, the time came to prepare for transition. Leadership transition is tricky at best. Yet the kingdom of God is designed to be multi-generational. The work is always greater than what we can do in one lifetime. David recognized the need for the next generation to take over but he also knew Solomon was inexperienced. (1 Chronicles 29:1) So he did what fathers ought to do, he laid up provisions for his son's success. David gave so extravagantly toward the completion of God's house that the people adopted the same spirit of liberal giving. (1 Chronicles 29:9)

When this miracle of grace happened and riches were released to finish the Temple , David began to pray a powerful prophetic utterance. Here are his words: "Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone." (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

God's kingdom rules over everything, including businesses and enterprises that make jobs and create wealth. God doesn't confine Himself to Sunday activities. He is head over all. God can give riches and honor to strengthen anyone He wishes in order to achieve His will. Do you believe this?

A similar miracle of supply happened when Israel returned from captivity and began to rebuild the Temple . That was when Zechariah and Haggai prophesied. Listen to these words: "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, to the end that the temple might be built." (Zechariah 7:9)

He addressed the need for strong hands (the apostolic builders who marshal the resources and the people so the work can come together) and hearing the words that encourage the builders (the prophetic architects who see the heavenly blueprint and describe what they see), for the foundation to be laid, and the house to be built. The beginning of the laying of the foundation is a sovereign signal that the entire house will be built. Jesus said, "I will build my church!" That church, when it is finished, will overcome the forces of hell.

A similar miracle of giving happened when the early church was growing so fast that the new community of faith had to raise funds to care for people. Believers sold their extra houses and lands and laid the proceeds at the apostles‚ feet. They trusted their leaders with wealth when they saw the wonderful care being given to the poor. (Acts 4:32-35)

The house that God is building has greater glory than the first Temple . (Haggai 2:9) It will be built with wealth shaken loose from the nations (Haggai 2:7). It will be made of living stones, redeemed people like you and me who are saved from every tribe and tongue and nation. (1 Peter 2:5) How can God do this? Because "The silver is Mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of Hosts." (Haggai 2:8) God isn't broke!

The greatest riches are not yet on earth, but are held in reserve in glory awaiting access by the obedient-- those who love Jesus and keep His word. Whenever I give special offerings, I celebrate and I say, "There's more where that came from!" I know my source is heavenly, not earthly. I cheerfully give generously because God isn't broke. There are abundant resources available for those who affiliate themselves with "David's Company," the end-time reformers teaming up with Christ's ministry team. (Eph. 4:11) Their faith and vitality is replacing the stagnant Saul-system still lingering in these last days. They encourage the builders. They don't weaken the workers. They don't rob from the ministers. They put their hand to the plow and don't look back. There is where God commands the blessing, in that place of harmonious commitment and aggressive faith.

Where is the blessing? In symbolic language: there, in the corner of the house, the "knitted-together" place of the three-fold cord, the junction of the load-bearing beams, the safety vault concealed beneath the garments hidden in the secret prayer closet, the private place where apostles and prophets join in partnership to each other and to Jesus our cornerstone and our chief apostle. Here, the treasure is both stored and released for our welfare and for our work.

These lavish heavenly grants disbursed from heaven's storehouse are especially available for businessmen and businesswomen who serve God's kingdom by using their faith and grace in the market place of ideas and commerce, who have faith for seed to increase.

Teams Work

God is creating a new business class, Kingdom Entrepreneurs, like the "beloved physician" (Dr. Luke) who travelled with the apostle Paul. They will partner with last-days ministries to impact nations. They will team up to contribute their gifts and to model the message of the kingdom. They understand that God's covenant to create wealth is not just for their own enrichment. (To learn more, read Deuteronomy 8, Proverbs 8, and 2 Corinthians 8.) God has a special anointing to create wealth. God is giving ideas, opportunities, and key team players to business people of faith in order to extend His kingdom. These "Business Warriors" will work with the "Word Workers" to push back darkness with the gospel. Business owners will team up with apostles or prophets or teachers to serve pastors or evangelists in cell groups or congregations or city churches.

It takes a team to reach a city. Cities are the gateway to nations. Teams can do what individuals can't. Business owners can go where preachers can't. Teams are assigned tasks by God. They are Mission-Oriented, not Maintenance-Oriented. In this sense, they are more apostolic than pastoral. A new type of flexible and mobile team is forming with diversity of gifts and clarity of purpose, bigger than our old notion of church, but inclusive of a reformed vision. It will include workers who don't wear church robes.

All work is holy if it is done unto the Lord. Everyone is called to a vocation, only in different fields of labor for the glory of God. Find your purpose and you will find your place. Not all grace-gifts are designed to function within religious settings. This activating empowerment to create wealth will augment talent and dedication with divine favor. Why? Three reasons: because extravagant honor is due King Jesus; because gospel work requires abundant finances; and because the poor are crying out for help.

In heaven, we won't need wealth, since the streets are paved with gold (Rev. 21:21). But here and now we need abundance in order to do God's will. We are commanded to pray for money, for our needs to be met. (Matt. 6:11) Wealth is a form of power. God is empowering teams of witnesses in order to take the riches of Christ to the poor of the earth. That's why the world's wealth formerly held by the wicked is suddenly shifting toward the righteous. (Prov. 13:22) We are in a new and startling season. God has begun to enter into judgment with the stewards of wealth, shaking loose the unsanctified gold and making it holy to the Lord. (James 5:1-11) Hear the lament of the prophet Jeremiah: "The arrogance of your heart has deceived you." (Jeremiah 49:16) Money matters to God. God keeps good books. Warning: Your checkbook and receipts may be used as evidence against you in the court of heaven.

Having wealth is not a sin: in fact, if you obey God's word, it is hard not to prosper! But, as we grow older in our walk with the Lord, as God teaches us His ways, the sins that tempt us become subtler yet the consequences of disobedience become more serious.

Wealth May be Dangerous

As with any topic, Scriptures can be taken out of context or truth can be repeated in part without adequate safeguards thus making the immature stumble. Money issues can be a cause of stumbling. Let me set some parameters to my doctrine lest you think I am naïve. I know God loves poor people. (Matt. 5:3) He expects us to help the poor. (Matt. 6:2) He warns us to not accumulate wealth, but to quickly distribute it (Matt. 6:19-21) I know many servants of God have suffered and have never seen prosperity. God has not forgotten them and they will be rewarded. I know many people live in dire circumstances where war or corruption or famine or failure of fathers to stay with their families makes life tough. I know God sometimes puts His chosen people (especially future leaders) through the trial of insufficiency in order to shape their character and test their faith. These issues are real. The bottom line is this: suffering from poverty may prove our faith, but it is intended to be a temporary state, not a routine condition. Poverty is not a blessing, but a curse. (For more on this topic, see my book "Thief in the Storehouse" available on our website.) Jesus warned us not to seek after wealth for its own sake, that covetousness could get a grip on our heart and cause us to commit idolatry. (Matt. 6:24)

Wealthy people run the risk becoming lawless, ignoring moral absolutes and ethical constraints. The headlines tell how a few corporate executives cook the books to fake the profits then use (secret) stock options to steal from the firm's investors and thus destroy the little man's hopes of retirement. This is greed and a sin. Famous athletes or celebrities commit serial adultery while soaking in affluence or arrogance. Politicians elected to serve the people think of their term in office as their personal turf and fight to keep power rather than stand on godly principles for the greater good. Even priests are now being shielded from the consequences of sexual abuse and depravity. Right and wrong are blurred. Greed is justified. Lies are tolerated. Sin only counts when you get caught. Really? This is wicked! (See Malachi 3:5) God requires repentance and righteousness of men and women, businesses and bankers, and nations and leaders.

If we fail to see that God has blessed us for a higher purpose than our personal peace and prosperity, we will fall into pride, deception, and moral depravity. Wealth, apart from abiding in Christ and embracing the cross, has a way of blinding those who possess it.

Money is a Heart Issue

Blessed are the "poor in spirit." Even if you are fabulously wealthy, by God's grace you can be humble. You can make your wealth serve God rather than you serve your wealth. Remember, God loves the poor. And so do His genuine leaders. Christ was rich but He became poor. Why? So we could be made rich! (2 Cor. 8:9) God wants us to prosper as our soul prospers. (3 John 2) Why? So we can enjoy the blessing of giving! Our attitude should be as Christ's, that of blessing, giving, empowering, releasing. If you can be satisfied with sufficiency for yourself so you can have abundance for God's work, then you will be made rich in every way. (See 2 Cor. 9:10-11 NIV) This is especially true for those who help the poor in Jesus‚ name. God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and to become heirs of His kingdom. (James 2:5)

In the last days, just as in the first days, the Bible says the kings of the earth will bring their gold as tribute to honor the Lord. (Rev. 21:24) Jesus is worthy to receive wealth! What will He do with it? The same thing He did while on earth- give most of it away to aid the poor. Jesus was a giver. Judas was a thief. Whose nature do you have?

Most people still see Jesus as poor and powerless. The writer of Hebrews says we can see Him crowned with glory and honor! (Heb. 2:9) Which way do you now see Him? I sat in a meeting in Thomasville , Georgia , about 1990. At that time I was pastor of a Baptist church in Florida that was becoming a Spirit-filled church. What fun we had! What battles we endured! In this conference as I listened to a man of God begin to preach, I heard the Spirit say clearly, "Every crown in its first appearing is a crown of thorns." Immediately I pictured Jesus whipped, spat on, stripped, and mocked prior to being crucified. What was the object of ridicule? Two things: His identity and His authority. But He endured in obedience to the Father and was crowned to the applause of heaven!

Crowns symbolize power and authority to rule. Intercessors can be crowned as they prevail in prayer. We are in a new day in God, when there has come a union of peace between two offices, that of apostles and prophets. That unique union of matured workers, as they join in prayer, will become the place of crowning with silver and gold and jewels. (Zechariah 6:13) This united team in its two-fold function can both branch out and build up through their grace gifts. Prophets will become conduits of abundant blessings to apostles, and vice versa. Synergy occurs when we combine our efforts and achieve more than we could alone. God will forever withhold from us in our independence what He will freely reveal and release to us in our unity. Unity requires the recognition of our need for one another and mutual respect for each other's gifts.

Money inflates egos and hardens hearts and thereby causes problems. Money has to be ruled over or it will rule over you. Too much money or too little money both cause serious temptation. The biggest danger is not external abundance but internal poverty. It is not wealth that destroys a man, but what wealth uncovers: the lack of internal integrity. Money is neutral but the love of money gives the devil power over your life. Money doesn't corrupt: it can only reveal the corruption concealed in your heart.

Money gives you power to act out your sin or fulfill your God-given dream. Which will it do to you? In Luke 19, a story is told of servants given riches. It was when their master entrusted them with wealth and departed to receive his kingdom that they began to act like selfish owners instead of stewards. These servants declared, "We do not want this man to reign over us." When they were poor, they were content to respect his authority to rule them. (Luke 19:14) But riches enticed them to behave as independent rulers rather than obedient servants. Which are you? More people reject God's authority over their lives regarding money than any other issue, with sexual indulgence being a close second.

Remember Zaccheus? He climbed a tree to see Jesus. Jesus went home to his house for dinner. But it was only when he said he would give away money and restore to anyone he had defrauded that Jesus declared, "Today salvation has come to this house!" (Luke 19:1-9) Zaccheus showed the fruit of repentance. Our use of money manifests whether we have truly entered the kingdom of God or just had a ride in a religious simulator.

Remember the rich young ruler? It was his failure to give it away that caused him to turn away from the kingdom of God . (Luke 18:18-27) By so doing, he may have forfeited his chance to become an apostle. In America , every teenager is a rich young ruler compared to the rest of the world. Daily, we all decide whether we will have God's grace and glory or this world's gleaming, alluring gold ruling in our heart.

The Fire of God

Now we come to the reason why God allows good people on the way toward finding and fulfilling their destiny to undergo the refining fire of trials, tribulations, and tests.

Character deficiencies set the stage for corruption in financial affairs. Just like powerful spiritual gifts can operate through immature believers or undisciplined ministers to their own hurt, so riches can come to the selfish or unruly and ultimately destroy them. What we gain with our gifts we can destroy with our character. God wants integrity.

Solomon said, "Humility comes before honor." (Prov. 15:33) If humility doesn't come first, honor will only lead to your downfall. Humility is not a feeling of worthlessness. Rather, it is respect for your place in the universe. It is submitting to God's order even when it is costly. It is keeping your word, showing honor to your spouse, staying true to your calling, and respecting your boundaries. Humility is integrity in your heart that can be observed by righteousness in your actions. Humility has fruit. Real fruit tastes sweet.

It was the mercy of God to put Joseph in prison before elevating him to rule in Egypt . Prison and unfair treatment prepared him to rule as a steward. A prince who rules without first learning humility will be a tyrant.

An inheritance gained hurriedly in the beginning will not be blessed in the end. Most lottery ticket winners are broke a year later. They lacked the character, the skills, or the discipline to handle their blessings.

Today, many of God's servants have been enduring years of testing, false accusations, rejection by their brethren, insurmountable obstacles, pressure from within and from without, denials and delays without rational explanation, all to one noble end: to refine and purify their hearts, their faith, and their motives so they can be worthy to wear the kingly robes God has prepared for them in the day of accelerated grace and elevation to authority in servant-leadership.

God needs trustees who won't mishandle their "once in a lifetime opportunity" in this day of wealth creation. These trustees are disciples, servants and workers, willing to follow Jesus into poverty or prosperity with equal delight if only they may see the true riches of heaven.

Anyone who has seen heaven's true riches will trade all earthly goods for one more glimpse of that which is eternal: the revelation of Jesus in all His glory, the privilege of taking His good news and great mercy to the poor, the honor of knowing and doing His will and giving away His life-giving love while we have time.


© 2002 by Ron Wood. This article may be duplicated and shared free of charge provided it is copied unchanged in its entirety and includes all the by-line information printed below.

Ron and Lana Wood attended Southeastern Bible College in Lakeland , Florida where they studied missions. They have served as pastors for over thirty years. They now lead Touched by Grace, Inc., a missionary organization serving the Body of Christ by equipping emerging leaders. Their base of operations is the coastal city of Wilmington , North Carolina , where their home church is The Rock of Wilmington led by apostle Ron McGee. If you are in this area, we invite you to visit with us and to enjoy the powerful worship and preaching ministry of The Rock.

Download this article plus many others from our ministry website- <> . A new article for your consideration is "Random Notes on A.D.D.", written from a Christian perspective and incorporating many helpful insights about this challenging disorder.

Touched by Grace is a 501-c-3 corporation dedicated to extending the gospel of Christ by humanitarian relief, by biblical training materials and overseas seminars, and by strategic investment in the work of key Christian leaders serving on the frontiers of God's kingdom.

To partner with us on a monthly basis or to make a one-time donation, please send your tax-deductible contribution to: Touched by Grace, P. O. Box 12749 , Wilmington , NC 28405 USA .

We are touched by grace to touch the world!