We’ve discussed valuing time and attention in previous articles. God values these, and needs them to be able to fully develop our relationship with Him. God also values your money. Not because He needs it, but because YOU do—how and when you spend it matters to Him. Money isn’t important to God, but because it’s important to us, He greatly uses it to accomplish His purposes for us—dependence, healing and exposing our flesh. If cooking was the most important thing to us, cooking would be what the Lord used to get our attention.
Our finances, and our financial needs, are a primary focus and means by which we control others, God and even ourselves. We gauge how we are doing by our financial status; if we’re doing well financially, God must be pleased with what we’re doing for Him. Our security is also often in our finances, and for most of us, if it came down to selling everything we have and giving the proceeds to the poor as a prerequisite to following the Lord, we would likely choose to turn and walk away.
The Lord knows what needs each of us has, both soulically and in the natural. He has already met them, though He often uses our unmet financial needs to get our attention. But there is absolutely no correlation between the Lord meeting our needs and our involvement in any kind of ministry: We don’t have to be in full-time ministry for the Lord to be meeting our financial needs, in whatever way He chooses.
The Lord pays whom He sends,
not those who go for themselves or are sent by others.
For those on the receiving end of true (Life-giving) ministry, though the Lord will honor and care for His ministers, that doesn’t let you off the hook. When you go out to eat, you pay for your food, and hopefully throw in a tip as well. You pay the people who serve the food, not the people who grow it, ship it, etc. They have already been compensated. You pay the server. Because every minister has bills to pay, if that minister or ministry has shared what the Lord has given them, and you have received it, you are obligated to respond in kind, regardless of whether you are supporting other ministries, churches or charitable organizations.
Odds are you receive donation requests for ministry support on a regular basis. Many ask for just a little; the oft-used “what you would spend on a dinner and a movie” donation, for instance. The implication is that giving a little isn’t as important as giving a lot. But by the example of the widow’s mite we know this is not God’s perspective. As in all things, take each giving opportunity to the Lord, whether considering donating a dime, a dollar or your entire estate. If you’re giving out $5 here and $10 there, without asking God, will it be a challenge and a hardship when He says, “Give $1000 to this one?” For those who are truly hearing from the Lord and sharing that truth responsibly, the funds would be there to meet their needs, freeing them to minister Life, giving freely what God has given them. And for those who are ministering out of their own strength, the lack of funds would clearly drive them to the Lord to review His present purpose for them.
One of the reasons there is a lack of Present, Immediate, Applicable Truth and Power from the Lord (and there is an incredible, unnecessary lack), is because so many of those who know how to depend on the Lord and are willing and able to share it, are instead working at secular jobs (or in religious organizations) just to meet their natural financial obligations, or have been forced to resort to using secular marketing techniques to support their ministry, watering down their message, to gain commercially what was meant to be given gratefully. Often those who are assigned by the Lord to be supporting true ministers, but have not heard or responded to the Lord, are nickeling and diming every passing donation plate, or “dining without paying for their meal.”
Money Talks, But What Is It Saying?
For most ministers, reliable financial support is interpreted as a sign of God’s approval rather than as a reflection of the donator’s misguided impulses. When dining out, if you sat down for dinner but were served inedible, leftover or poisonous food instead of a nutritious meal, you would not only refuse to pay, you would likely leave immediately. If people responded likewise to those ministers (in the broad sense) who have sent themselves or have been sent by someone other than God, the lack of funds and support would make it clear that they needed to make adjustments. Instead, people often give inappropriately, not using their discernment, and feeding into the deception that God’s blessing is on a ministry.
Many years ago I attended a healing service held by a then-famous healing minister. After the service I overheard one of those called up to the stage to be prayed for speaking with her husband. The minister had prayed for arthritis in her knees, and after prayer told her to run back and forth across the stage. She professed she didn’t have any pain as she did so, and the crowd thundered its approval. In their conversation later, I overheard her husband say he didn’t know she had arthritis in her knees; she admitted she didn’t, never had. Her husband then asked why she went along with what was being said; she replied she didn’t want to embarrass “the man of God.” This kind of misguided support kept this minister “in business” for quite a few years, preying on and manipulating crowds all over the world, until a staff member exposed his trickery on national television. Wouldn’t it have been more gracious and responsible for believers to have held him accountable much earlier on?
Yet the supply or lack of financial provision does not automatically infer either God’s affirmation or His non-support of a ministry. There are no blanket answers. Our response as always is to rely on the Lord to teach us how to respond to those in ministry, whether to support or not, and to make ourselves available, submit ourselves to training, etc., in case the Lord so chooses to give Himself through us financially.
“What A Good Service!”
A restaurant that serves bad food goes out of business, as it should. Members of a church or supporters of ministries aren’t doing ministers any favors by supporting them financially if they aren’t ministering the life of God, as evidenced by freedom, healing and rest in their own lives and in the lives of those they minister to. When we fail to seek and hear from God regarding who to support financially, we rob ourselves of the riches that others have already purchased.
In this sense, the church is getting what she’s paid for; we have available all the conferences, books, movies, messages, schools, teachings and programs we can stand, yet we experience very little of the direct relationship with God that changes, frees and heals us.
Of course, if God tells you to give a certain amount to a certain person or ministry, it doesn’t matter what they are teaching or even if you agree with them. Confirm the source, then follow through. The rest is in God’s hands.
Likewise, if the Lord decides that the task He has for you requires you to be unencumbered by an occupation, He is responsible for your compensation. This form of ministry is not something YOU choose, but if you are available, God may decide that He needs you working for Him full-time. If you look to the people you’re ministering to, or to your finances for support and motivation, you’ve kicked God off the throne of your self-life in favor of the security of the control of your livelihood…which may very well be part of the lesson He’s trying to teach you.
How Do You Know Which Category You Fall Into?
For most Christians, much time, energy and effort is spent on “ministry” in one form or another. Almost immediately upon experiencing salvation, many new believers are told that now that they have been born again, regenerated, they must get involved in the church in order to fulfill additional requirements. There is something within most believers that does indeed respond to these instructions; because His giving nature is now our giving nature, without even being aware, we desire to share and give what we have received. While acknowledging this motivation, we want to be aware of other possibilities as well. Looking objectively at some thoughts and beliefs concerning ministry may prevent us from being susceptible to manipulation, distraction and discouragement. The Lord knows exactly what you need, and does not need anyone else to help Him provide it to you.
A “God-Sent Minister” is Chosen,
Taught, Tested, Trained, Equipped,
Motivated, Sent, Supported,
Corrected and Honored by Him.
Here are some common reasons people give for wanting to be involved in ministry:
“God’s given me a vision, message or new concept for the church.”
Part of the process of learning to depend on the Lord is to be healed and freed from our flesh, our history and the lies we’ve believed about God, His people, ministry and our selves. As this occurs over time, we begin to see our lives, and what is going on around us, in a new light. We see things from new perspectives, including from God’s perspective. This doesn’t mean we are to act on what we see! As we learn patience through waiting on the Lord, we learn His discipline of moving and speaking only as He moves and speaks. Through dependence, if He chooses to act or speak through you, you will be available to convey whatever is needed without interfering with it, enjoying the work of the Lord as He does it through you. Sometimes He reveals His plans to us just so He can share His joy with us, not so we can take part in them.
If you have a vision, message or concept for the church, give it back to God: Write it down in as much detail as you can, then over time talk to the Lord about it. Don’t tell anyone about it unless specifically directed by the Lord. If this is something He wants to do or share through you, He will make it happen.
“God has called me to full-time ministry.”
True! If you are a believer, your new spirit nature is to give unconditionally what you have received unconditionally, “full time.” This doesn’t mean you’ll get paid, recognized or rewarded for it. In some cases you may not even know about it in this age.
“I’m equipped, trained and ready. I can meet a need.”
As part of our dependence training, the Lord often starts us out in positions where our focus is on forming new habits. He puts us in positions where our temperament, skills and experience levels suit a particular situation. The goal is to learn habitual awareness of His Personal Presence, though, not to meet the need. Then, over time, He will likely put you in a position that you realize you are NOT able to meet anyone’s needs! But because you are dependent on the Lord, He will meet the needs through you.
Remember also that the need doesn’t define the ministry. For instance, say you’re attending a church that needs some carpentry work done, and you are a carpenter, and even asked to work on the church. You check with the Lord, but He simply says “no.” You convey that response, and though it may not be well received, you’re comfortable with that decision. Six months later you find out that the Lord was trying to shift the entire purpose of the church, rather than merely improve the appearance of the building. You also find you are free to attend to opportunities He sends your way that would not have fit into your schedule if you had committed to what had been asked.
“A true prophet prophesied over me, it was confirmed, and I knew in my heart.”
Great! These are all ways God adds detail and encouragement to what He has placed in our hearts. But He never intends for us to grab it and run with it. If a particular project (ministry) has been assigned to us by God, He is the only One Who can confirm it. And He usually withholds His confirmation until after the project is done! He wants us encouraged and motivated by His Presence, daily, hourly, not by our self-motivation to achieve a goal or complete a task. As you cultivate a lifestyle of quiet dependence, each day you will be accomplishing what HE has set aside for you to do—that day! Do the research, work, training, whatever is necessary, knowing that His goal may very well be satisfied through the process rather than the accomplishment of the goal.
For example, a young man believes the Lord wants him to learn sign-language. So he does, then looks for ways to use it in his church and community. Nothing opens up, and in his frustration he complains to the Lord about all the wasted time, and wonders if he really heard from the Lord. The Lord eventually answers that He hadn’t tasked him with using the sign language, only learning it, and that He was satisfied and was ready to go on to the next project. But the young man is still frustrated with the seeming waste of effort; the Lord responds that since it is His time, He is the only One to decide if it is wasted or not. In other words, the results of our dependence are none of our business!
“My parents were ministers; the mantle has fallen on my generation now. Besides, what else would I do?”
Though it’s great that parents set a good example for their kids, the Lord doesn’t have any grandchildren. The Lord’s ministry can’t be passed down from one generation to the next because relationship, His Personal Presence, can’t be passed down. His ministry is to give what has been received, not by your parents, but by you. God doesn’t care who your parents are, and neither should we.
Having family involved in public ministry may even be a hindrance to someone truly developing a relationship with the Lord—it may obstruct the complete freedom God desires when we approach Him for direction. We (and others) may have certain expectations tied to our name or reputation, which must be relinquished in order to receive what the Lord has for us. Is the Lord free to minister through us totally without public impact? Is He free to minister through us with a GREATER impact? We want to be depending on the Lord, not our preconceptions or heritage, to identify the projects He wants us to be working on now.
“I want to be able to spend all my energy, efforts and time with God. Besides, being involved in public ministry will keep me safe, close to Him and in His will.”
But the church in general, and ministry in particular, was never meant to be a haven from the world or a guarantee against making mistakes. On the contrary, we are a city (not a walled fortress) on a hill, lighting the Way for the world to come to Him—we are a part and partaker of the things of this world. As we grow in dependence, it is likely that He will place us in circumstances in which He seems a million miles away, not so that we will trust Him because of our security, but despite our lack thereof. If you desire true dependence on the Lord (and you do), and truly desire to give what you have received (yes, you do), the Lord is likely to lead you into situations which you would never desire or ask for, and are NOT equipped to handle.
As a spirit being, you are already spending all your spiritual energy, efforts and time with God. The goal is dependence in your soul and body; He knows how to get you there—you don’t!
“I can do it better than what I see being done.”
This probably disqualifies you from that project, at least for now. Dependence on the Lord removes your right to have an opinion about how others are ministering; the Lord wants to be able to wield His tools in whatever way He chooses. Keep your focus on the Lord, and He will correct in others what needs to be corrected, and will keep you available to the Lord for His work accordingly.
“Look at all God has done for me! The least I can do for Him is serve Him and His people. I just want to glorify God.”
You’re not doing the Lord any favors by trying to do His work for Him. He has a purpose and plan, and the most we can do is cooperate with Him. YOU are the center of that purpose and plan! Don’t get distracted by the world’s standards of success and purpose, or an internal attempt to motivate yourself to achieve certain levels of accomplishment. God glorifies Himself already, in and through your spirit. So feel free to get on His plan—enter into His Rest! Enjoy God, and whatever needs to get done will get done. He doesn’t need your help!
“I want my life to mean something. I want it to have eternal consequences and rewards.”
None of us knows what is coming next, so to try to make decisions now, and use the unknown future as a motivator, robs us of the satisfaction and relationship that the Lord has for us in the present. He is our reward—now—and we have entered into eternal life—now. The Lord values you—now; honors you—now; and is proud of you—now. He is a rewarder according to His purpose and plan. What does He reward? Dependence. What is the reward? Himself! Not that there aren’t other encouragements and benefits to doing things His way, it’s just that they are not likely to be what we’re expecting, and not a good source of motivation.
“God healed and set me free. Now I want to heal and free others.”
The more the Lord frees us to receive Himself, the more we are likely to want to help others. He just wants us to join Him in what HE is doing. As we focus on Him, He will meet the needs of those He chooses. This may also involve disciplining us so that we ONLY minister as He directs. We are to neither give nor withhold according to our own judgment, but in each case depend on the Lord for His direction, resources and results.
“I need to help people; I’m happiest ministering to people.”
Many people seek to enter ministry because they are a good speaker, enjoy working with people, or want the attention. Many of these reasons are temperament attributes which the Lord wants to bring into submission to His Spirit. We don’t want to make decisions on what we want or don’t want, but as our temperament, including our will, is freed to be joined to His will, we submit our wants and desires to His. We may even find ourselves doing exactly what we’ve dreamed of doing, but because we’ve submitted these dreams to the Lord first, the source of their fulfillment is His motivation, rather than self-motivation.
“I’m just following the Great Commission to ‘GO’.”
Take note that the Lord said this to a specific group that had already received His training and relationship—HE said it! So if there comes a point in time when Jesus says to you, “Go!,” you know He will take care of the rest. If you’re not sent by Him, you’re going for yourself, in one way or another.
“It looks easy, and with all the tax breaks, a lot of money is involved.”
Many who enter the ministry (especially those who work FOR ministries) have the idea that it really isn’t “work.” While I was on staff at a major ministry, a new co-worker quit after just 2 weeks on the job. Her reason? She had expected it to be “like a ministry—everyone praying for one another.” She evidently hadn’t realized that ministry is labor, and that she’d actually have to work! For those who have any years on this planet, you probably know better. If you are yoked with the Lord, the yoke is easy and the burden is light, but there is still a yoke and a burden.
“Even if God didn’t have this ministry planned for me, I’m sure He appreciates all the work I’ve done for Him.”
There are only two options: If the project is not being completed through dependence on the Lord, it is not spirit, but flesh. God hates our flesh, and is committed to its destruction. It is presumptuous to think that God will overlook your independence from His desires just because you believe what you’re accomplishing is for Him. Just saying something is done for His glory, or by His name, doesn’t make it true.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas