Recently, several well-meaning friends have lovingly encouraged me to ask my subscribers and readers for funds. They were referring to YOU, my friend.
I’d like to say a few things about my personal convictions regarding ministry and money. Remember, these are MY personal convictions based upon my OWN experiences with God; they are not intended to serves as some sort of “formula for success.” That would feel too much like witchcraft to me. Perhaps they just might clarify some issues within your own soul as well.
Not long ago, my wonderful wife, Barbara, and I decided that we would not ask for money for ourselves. Will we accept it? Yes, we will, because we would not deny anyone the blessing that comes from giving. We understand the principals of reaping and sowing. We’ve come to understand how God’s Kingdom economy actually works – like gravity or any other law – and we dove in with both feet. This is a principle of God that ALL would be wise to embrace.
EXAMPLES WORTH NOTING AND FOLLOWING
I have a friend who has been in ministry for decades. He is a follower of George Mueller’s example, a ministry to 100,000 British orphans that was wonderfully blessed – miraculously – as God laid it upon people’s hearts to support his work. The history of the Bristol orphanages is page after page of answered prayer. Nothing was too small to bring to the Lord in prayer. In his prayers, Mueller would confidently set his need and his case before God: “He is their Father, and therefore has pledged Himself, as it were, to provide for them; and I have only to remind Him of the need of these poor children in order to have it supplied.”
Mueller was convicted NOT to ask people for money. He had joyfully dedicated his “whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith.” When he had moved to Bristol in 1832 to take the pulpit of Gideon chapel, he and his wife Mary decided not to accept a salary from the congregation. They wanted to daily depend upon the Lord for their needs, and they accepted only unsolicited freewill offerings. Mueller’s journal is full of the amazing ways the Lord directed funds to them throughout his sixty-six years of ministry.
My friend told me that, although his own family has scraped the bottom of the barrel throughout their married lives, several years ago, they prayed that God would allow them $10,000 to remain in their bank account AFTER paying all their bills. God was faithful to do so, pouring out a blessing they cannot contain, finances flowing through obedient Believers into his own ministry, allowing them to maintain that exact dollar amount each month for the past two years.
My friend’s secret? He GAVE to other ministries as the Spirit led!
I have seen the evidence of this step-of-faith with my own eyes. A few months ago, while driving this same man to Stephenville to do a meeting here, I asked him if there was a certain point in the meeting when he wanted me to collect an offering for him. He looked me in the eye and smiled, “I didn’t come here to collect an offering. I came because God led me to come here. You do what the Spirit leads you to do.” In two days, I believe he received around $1,400, as individuals from a group of around 30 attendees slipped money and checks into his hand. His meals were provided for as were his accommodations, meals and transportation.
WE CAN’T OUT-GIVE GOD!
Likewise, in my own life, God has done many financial miracles. For example, I never charge for doing weddings. I love to do weddings! Without charging, I have received some incredible amounts of money – with hotel accommodations – from people who felt led to give. When I was as poor as a church mouse, walking with a cane, I remember placing my last 18 cents in the offering plate. Since that time, I was healed of an incurable spinal disease, married an angel who, when paying bills, actually ASKS where we should give and never says ‘no’ when I feel led to give, and I’ve been blessed with two incredible jobs in six years, the second of which has paid me twice what the first one paid. I have been blessed materially as result. Over the years, I’ve given away three cars, something I’ve always wanted to do, and sold several others REAL cheap. I, too, have become convicted not to ask for money for myself. All we do differently than what we used to do is give stuff away as the Lord leads.
Our secret: To get blessed, we’ve learned that we must remain blessable.
Though Paul taught that it was acceptable for one to earn a living from the Gospel, and Jesus had enough people supporting what He was doing that He had a traveling treasurer named Judas Iscariot, I fail to find any examples of ministers requesting money from their audiences in the New Testament. Where Paul is concerned, I DO see him taking collections for others, for example, the unfortunate famine victims of Jerusalem.
EXAMPLES FROM FAR AWAY LANDS
These days, as I carry on several long-distance relationships with ministers in third world countries, I see in them no desire to do anything frivolous with money. When I recently sent money to a man in a Muslim nation, he said he would buy Bibles with most of it and an electric fan and food for 5 orphaned ex-Muslims whom he had baptized just that morning. My mind was screaming, “Save some for yourself, man! Buy yourself something nice!” There I go acting American again.
When I heard about a month ago that this same individual could use a motorbike to reach out to the nearly 900 churches he’d planted, one eMail to my subscriber base generated all the money he needed and more! I received checks and PayPal donations from people whose faces I’d never seen; people who were simply obeying the Holy Spirit. In a nation where most Christians are jobless, or working as janitors at best, he can think of nothing that he really needs. “God is my Provider!” he exclaims, joyfully. “I am not a lover of money, but a lover of God!”
IN GOD WE TRUST…RIGHT?
I’d be remiss if I did not tell the truth about finances from time to time. Though past experience has been that some people will unsubscribe whenever I mention the subject of money, seeing me as “just like all the other money-grubbing ministers out there,” I am compelled to teach that which will benefit readers the most. The devil will certainly lie to many, telling them that my intentions are less than noble. I believe this is exactly according to his plan.
I will resist the urge to quote many Scriptures for you regarding giving and financial prosperity. I won’t do that, but I will quote a dear friend of mine whose Christian lifestyle we could all learn from: “Every time we are admonished to give, there follows a wonderful promise of material blessing IN THIS LIFE, plus reward in the next life.”
Here are a few of the passages that encourage us to give, followed with the promise of material blessing:
“There is one who scatters, yet increases all the more. And there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want.” (Proverbs 11:24)
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace (material blessing) abound (overflow) to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound (overflow) in every good work.”
(II Cor. 9:7-8)
“Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will overflow with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9-10)
“The generous man will be prosperous and he who waters will himself be watered.” (Prov. 11:25)
“Give and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.” (Luke 6:38)
These verses, and many others, clearly reflect that we are not only to give generously AS THE LORD LEADS but we are to look to Him to fulfill his promises to bless those who give in this way.
We cannot ignore God’s promises without offending his goodness and graciousness toward us. The reason these promises have not been fulfilled in many lives is because we have been taught to give without any expectation of return or that it is wrong to give expecting something in return. It is not wrong to give as God leads us and then expect Him to do what He has clearly promised that He would do in His Word. This is defined as FAITH. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Do you agree? Note that I’m not teaching that we should “give to get,” but knowing that God is the Giver of all good things, having experienced His generosity on a firsthand basis, with intimate firsthand knowledge of that aspect of His character, I can state, with confidence, that when Scripture quotes the Father as saying, “Try Me…see if I won’t pour out a blessing that you cannot contain, (Mal 3:7-11),” it’s 100% TRUE!
But we must give as the Spirit leads and with a pure motive; to advance God’s Kingdom through His people.
If we Christians in the Western world would take hold of this truth, we could change the world. Malachi 3:9 warns us, “You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation.” The passage goes on to instruct us HOW to reverse this curse in verse 10: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse (I believe that’s His Kingdom, NOT a church building or denomination), that there may be food in My house (providence among His people), and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Not only will we be blessed for our obedience, but verse 11 declares:
“…I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground, neither shall your vine drop its fruit before the time in the field, says the Lord of hosts.” In other words, that hard-earned money that seems to leak through your hands like water, going to pay for taxes and temptations so frequently that we are “in the red” more often than not, leaving you unable to care for those who need your help, will stop trickling away. Maybe more of us can get to the point – as a result of our giving – where we’ll have $10,000 left after our bills are paid, rather than having more month left after our money.
Am I being legalistic here? No. Neither was my friend and neither was George Mueller. Nobody HAS to do anything, however, we are wise to do what the Spirit guides us to do. This isn’t legalism; it’s a wonderful New Testament example that I strongly recommend we should all begin to follow.