“When He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).
No one volunteers for testing. Not if they know what’s good for them!
However, one day not long ago I prayed this prayer:
“Lord, please let one of the churches where You send me to minister give me an offering so abysmally small that I will have to reaffirm that my trust is in Thee and not in man, not in money, not in things.”
Okay. I don’t ever intend to do that again. (smiley-face here)
Here’s the background…..
First: The Lord is my Source.
“The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14). The laborer is worthy of his hire, as Scripture says in numerous places.
But the Lord is the Source for all of us who labor in His vineyard.
The finance committee is not our source. The host pastor is not our source. The church is not our source. Not the denomination, not some rich member, and certainly not the federal government (although I have no qualms about accepting my monthly check!). No one but Him.
The Lord is my Source. “I shall not want.”
The plan works like this: God’s people bring their offerings to church and they “give as unto the Lord.” Then, those who labor receive wages from the church which they “receive it as from the Lord.” (See Ephesians 6:7 and Colossians 3:23.)
Second: Generous or not, amazing or lousy, the check given the preacher for his labors is from God.
I thank the pastor who hands it to me, or who promises to put it in the mail. Later, I try to remember to write a thank-you. But the money came to me from the hand of God as surely as though He personally delivered it to my front door.
Receiving an offering as “from the Lord” means, no belly-aching and no complaining over what the church is not doing or how some preacher somewhere “stiffed” you.
Some months before I retired from the (ahem) official ministry in 2009, I was feeling a bit anxious. Would I receive invitations to preach and minister? Would we be able to live on what we had?
One day the Lord spoke to me: “I am your Portion.”
It’s always affirming and humbling when the Voice of God interrupts your train of thought with a word. And, it’s always exactly right. It’s biblical, perfect for the situation, and never mistaken.
I’m always honored beyond measure to know I’ve just received a word from God. That does not happen often enough, and mostly, I keep it to myself. I’m not one to run around saying “God told me,” a favorite tool of unscrupulous manipulators.
I knew that “I am your portion” was first said to the Levites as Canaan was being parceled out among the 12 tribes in the days of Joshua. Every other tribe received a territory, but members of the priestly tribe were to scatter out and live among the people. They received no land. “I am your portion,” said the Lord. (See Numbers 18:20 and Deuteronomy 10:8.)
David picked up on that theme and sang its truth in several Psalms. It’s a grand reminder that we look to the Lord for our needs and He supplies them as our “Good Shepherd.” (See Psalms 16:5-6; 63:1; 73:26.. See also Lamentations 3:24.)
Third: Every commitment we make must be tested. Did we mean it?
An untested foundation is not something you would want to build upon. An untested plane is not one I would want to fly. An untested believer is not ready to become a deacon or pastor (see I Timothy 3:6,10).
In the middle of the greatest test of his life, Job said, “Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).
Peter said, “That the trial of our faith–more precious than gold which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:7).
And so, I prayed for the Lord to let some church give me the kind of offering every itinerant preacher dreads: Really really small.
I type this now and think, “What a weird prayer. What were you thinking??”
Okay. That was one prayer the Lord answered rather promptly. (smiley-face here.)
After it happened a time or two, when the love offering for several days of ministry just barely covered the mileage, I said, “Okay, Lord. I get it. Thank you. That will be quite enough.”
My heart went out to the men and women of the Lord who count on the churches’ love offerings to pay their rent, pay the children’s dental bills, and put groceries on the table. A small offering can be devastating to them.
We need to be generous with the servants of the Lord. (And I do not mean myself. The Lord is providing for me most generously, praise Him.)
I keep remembering how our Lord told the disciples, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16). And He said, “He who receives you receives me…. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly I tell you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:40,42).
Supporting the Lord’s servants is a huge deal in Scripture, let no one mislead you on that. Occasionally, we will hear someone saying rather haughtily that the Bible nowhere tells us to pay preachers and missionaries. Such a one might want to read his Bible before forbidding what God has approved.
Let us be faithful, my friends.
And, as for my prayer?
Okay. maybe it wasn’t entirely dumb. But, just in case anyone wonders, I’ll not be praying that it again. (another smiley-face, please)