Yes, God provides. I’m not talking starvation, but I mean genuine hardship, nonetheless. Foxes have holes, but followers of Christ must sometimes forgo even that.c For the sake of ministry, Paul knew what it was to be ‘abased’d and go hungry.e
Love of money lights a fuse that has exploded many a ministry.
‘It’s a pity Roger’s money is tainted,’ said someone to Mark Twain.
‘Twice tainted,’ corrected the writer, ‘ ‘Tain’t yours and ‘tain’t mine.’
Certainly, Fred never seemed to have enough. He was always struggling with his meager salary. Observing his pastor only magnified his misery. He knew Pastor Bob received even less than he did, yet he always seemed to have plenty.
One day, after yet another frustrating battle with bills and bank accounts, Fred’s pride finally cracked. Like a man repossessed, he burst into his pastor’s office and demanded financial counseling.
‘Well, er – ,’ hesitated Pastor Bob, quite taken aback, ‘perhaps you should see an accountant.’
‘No!’ said Fred, ‘I want to know your secret. How do you make ends meet?
‘Well,’ he replied, scratching the few hairs remaining on his head, ‘I’ve never thought much about it. I guess it’s just a combination of prayer and common sense. I – ‘
‘Right! I’ll do it!’ With that, Fred shot out of the office, leaving Pastor Bob more mystified than ever.
It was weeks before the pastor mustered the courage to raise the matter again. ‘How are things going – um – material – er – financially?’
Fred beamed. ‘I took your advice and it worked!’
‘It did?’ said the pastor, betraying just a hint of amazement.
‘Yes! Since I’ve been prayerfully using my common cents, my dollars aren’t nearly so rare!’264
We are duty-bound to use money wisely. Scripture tells us to do what we can to get out of debtf and meet family financial responsibilities.g But it goes further, encouraging us to believe God to provide us with an abundance for ‘every good work’.h
Paul urges us to follow his example – working hard to become financially independent; able to support our own, and even other ministries.i Supporting your future ministry may be expensive, perhaps involving the purchase of costly equipment, in addition to living expenses.
The apostle began his stay in Corinth by dividing his time between leather work and preaching. He later put aside his paid employment and for a while preached full-time.j No doubt, wise financial management helped release him into this narrower ministry. While Corinth sleeps, see his needle, almost hot, plunging in and out the leather, preparing him for a time when he would concentrate wholly on apostolic work.
Think of parlormaid Gladys Aylward – would-be missionary to China – saving her pennies for a one-way, third-class ticket to the fulfillment of God’s call. Money spent on ice cream is lost forever. Money squirreled away may one day be invested in the kingdom.
Being zealous is a cinch when throngs gather to hear your every sigh. It’s quite another tune when nobody wants to hear us. Yet this is a blessing masquerading as a trial. Being stripped of an audience removes distractions and helps ensure we are serving God, not our egos.
Ultimately, there is only one ministry – to love the Lord. Every service is but an expression of this, or it is not ministry at all.
A woman trapped within a paralyzed body, unable to speak or move, yet filled with love for God, ministers far more nobly than someone seemingly doing great things, motivated by human praise. One serves God, the other only thinks he does.
Love for God should bring to flashpoint our desire to glorify the Lord. The purging of any lesser motives is worth it, no matter what the cost.
A common way of coping with not having the vocation we ache for, is to convince ourselves that we don’t really want it. It’s an enticing mental trick to ease our pain. But we must refuse this cowardly path.
The crux of Abraham’s dealings with God was his yearning for a son. Try retelling this inspiring tale of love, trust and obedience, with an Abraham who was indifferent about having a son. The story would shrivel up.
Small details must sometimes wane. There’s no point itching to minister in India if the Lord wants us to go to Africa. But although God can modify our dreams, so can doubt. Before we allow any tempering of a desire, we must ensure the change is inspired by God and not by defeatism. When heaven speaks through the static of our wavering and restlessness, it’s easy to confuse ‘not yet’ with ‘never’.
A woman sang in church. I was captivated. To my ears, her voice was superior to many big-name singers. Yet it looks as if she may remain little known. I pondered and prayed about this, finally concluding that it’s the most determined who make it to the top; not necessarily the best.
If that seems unfair, think again. You had no say about what talents you would be born with, but you have much to say about what you do with them. Other things being equal, the ordinary person who puts in a superior effort will surpass the superior person who puts in an ordinary effort.
A burning desire for ministry is a gift from God. Fan it. It will fuel your rise to success. The ‘pole-vaulting parson’, Olympic gold medalist Bob Richards, analyzed the distinguishing qualities of champions. Like many other investigators, he concluded that in any field of endeavor the critical ingredient is the will to win.
So let the urge to magnify your Lord consume you. Let it blaze till it drives you to your knees; till you hold the prize that thrills your Maker’s heart.
Charlotte Elliott became an invalid in her youth and deeply resented the cruel restrictions. Decade after decade found her wrestling those same agonizing restrictions. Her brother’s evangelistic success, contrasting so markedly with her own fruitless life, intensified her anguish. She longed to serve her Lord but instead she was incapacitated, isolated, useless. At age 47, still single, still sick, still cut off from ministry opportunities, she pressed into a poem her frustration, confusion and helplessness, with words like ‘fightings and fears within, without’. The year was 1836. The poem became the hymn Just as I am. Years later, still a century before Billy Graham took up the hymn, her brother looked back on his productive life and confessed that he had probably achieved less in all his years than his sister had accomplished with one hymn.265 Her hymn is now believed to have ‘touched more hearts and influenced more people for Christ than any other song ever written.’266
Do not wait for tomorrow. Pour your frustration into daily fervor. Let it hound you each day to thrust aside personal comfort and squeeze more of God’s grandeur into those 24 hours.