Lk. 10:7 π Acts 14:27 π Acts 15:3-4 π Acts 20:34 π Rom. 8:28 π 1 Cor. 9:11-15 π 1 Cor. 9:14 π 1 Cor. 9:18 π 2 Cor. 7:2 π 2 Cor. 8:15 π 2 Cor. 11:7-10 π 2 Cor. 11:8-9 π 2 Cor. 11:9 π 2 Cor. 12:14 π Gal. 1:10 π Phlp. 4:15 π Phlp. 4:16 π Phlp. 4:18 π Phlp. 4:19 π 1 Ths. 2:5 π 2 Ths. 3:8 π 1 Tim. 5:17-18 π 3 Jn. 7
It is a remarkable fact that though the Book of Acts supplies many minute details regarding the work of an apostle, the one subject which from a human standpoint is of paramount importance in the carrying on of any work is not dealt with at all. No information whatever is given as to how the needs of the work, or the personal needs of the workers, were supplied. This is certainly amazing! What men consider of supreme importance, the apostles regarded of least consequence. In the early days of the Church God's sent ones went out under the constraint of divine love. Their work was not just their profession. and their faith in God was not intellectual but spiritual, not just theoretical but intensely practical. The love and the faithfulness of God were realities to them, and that being so, no question arose in their minds concerning the supply of their temporal needs.
This question of finance has most important issues. In grace God is the greatest power, but in the world mammon is the greatest. If God's servants do not clearly settle the question of finance, then they leave a vast number of other questions unsettled too Once the financial problem is solved, it is amazing how many other problems are automatically solved with it. The attitude of Christian workers to financial matters will be a fairly good indication as to whether or not they have been commissioned of God. If the work is of God it will be spiritual. and if the work is spiritual the way of supply will be spiritual. If supplies are not on a spiritual plane then the work itself will speedily drift on to the plane of secular business. There is no feature of the work that touches practical issues as truly as its finance.
Every worker, no matter what his ministry, must exercise faith for the meeting of all his personal needs and all the needs of his work. In God's Word we read of no worker asking for, or receiving, a salary for his services. That God's servants should look to human sources for the supply of their needs has no precedent in Scripture. We do read there of a Balaam who sought to make merchandise of his gift of prophecy, but he is denounced in no uncertain terms. We read also of a Gehazi who sought to make gain of the grace of God, but he was stricken with leprosy for his sin. No servant of God should look to any human agency, whether an individual or a society, for the meeting of his temporal needs. If they can be met by the labor of his own hands or from a private income, well and good. Otherwise he should be directly dependent on God alone for their supply, as were the early apostles. The Twelve Apostles sent out by the Lord had no fixed salary, nor had any of the apostles sent out by the Spirit; they simply looked to the Lord to meet all their requirements.
If a man can trust God, let him go and work for Him. If not, let him stay at home, for he lacks the first qualification for the work. There is an idea prevalent that if a worker has a settled income he can be more at leisure for the work and consequently will do it better, but as a matter of fact, in spiritual work there is need for an unsettled income, because that necessitates intimate fellowship with God, constant clear revelation of His will, and direct divine support. In worldly business all a worker needs by way of equipment is will and talent, but human zeal and natural gift are no equipment for spiritual service. Utter dependence on God is necessary if the work is to be according to His will; therefore God wishes His workers to be cast on Him alone for financial supplies, so that they cannot but walk in close communion with Him and learn to trust Him continually. The more an attitude of trustful dependence on God is cultivated. the more spiritual the work will be. So it is clear that the nature of the work and the source of its supply are closely related.
Faith is the most important factor in God's service, for without it there can be no truly spiritual work. Our faith requires training and strengthening, and material needs are a means used in God's hand toward that end. We may profess to have faith in God for a vast variety of intangible things, and we may deceive ourselves into believing we really trust Him when have no trust at all, simply because there is nothing concrete to demonstrate our distrust. But when it comes to financial needs, the matter is so practical that the reality of our faith is put to the test at once.
Further, he who holds the purse holds authority. If we are supported by men our work will be controlled by men. It is only to be expected that if we receive an income from a certain source, we should have to account for our doings to such a source. Whenever our trust is in men, our work cannot but be influenced by men.
In His own work God must have the sole direction. That is why He wishes us to depend on no human source for financial supplies. Many of us have experienced how again and again God has controlled us through money matters. When we have been in the center of His will, supplies have been sure, but as soon as we have been out of vital touch with Him, they have been uncertain. At times we have fancied God would have us do a certain thing, but He has showed us it was not His will by withholding financial supplies. So we have been under the constant direction of the Lord, and such direction is most precious.
The first question anyone should face who believes himself truly called of God is the financial question. If he cannot look to the Lord alone for the meeting of his daily wants, then he is not qualified to be engaged in His work. If he cannot trust God for the supply of needed funds, can he trust Him in all the problems and difficulties of the work? If we are utterly dependent on God for our supplies, then we are responsible to Him alone for our work, and in that case it need not come under human direction.
If we have real faith in God, then we have to bear all the responsibility of our own needs and the needs of the work. We must not secretly hope for help from some human source. We must have faith in God alone, not in God plus man. If the brethren show their love, let us thank God, but if they do not, let us thank Him still. It is a shameful thing for a servant of God to have one eye on Him and one eye on man or circumstance. Our living by faith must be absolutely real, and not deteriorate into a "living by charity." We dare to be utterly independent of men in financial matters, because we dare to believe utterly in God. We dare to cast away all hope in them because we have full confidence in Him.
If our hope is in men, then when their resources dry up ours will dry up too. We have no "Board" behind us, but we have a "Rock" beneath us and no one standing on this Rock will ever be put to shame. Men and circumstances may change, but we shall carry on in a steady course if our reliance is on God. All the silver and the gold are His, and none who walk in His will can ever come to want.
The two initial steps in the work of God are first the prayer of faith for needed funds, then the actual commencement of the work. Today, alas! many of God's servants have no faith, yet they seek to serve Him. They commence the work without having the essential qualification for it; therefore what they do has no spiritual value. Faith is the first essential in any work for God, and it should be exercised in relation to material as well as other needs.
Our Lord said, "The laborer is worthy of his hire." ( Lk. 10:7 ); and Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Even so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel." ( 1 Cor. 9:14 ) What is the meaning of living of the Gospel It does not mean that God's servant should receive a definite allowance from the church, for the modern system of paid service in the work of God was unknown in Paul's day. What it does mean is that the preachers of the Gospel may receive gifts from the brethren, but no stipulations are made in connection with such gifts. No definite period of time is named, no definite sum of money, no definite responsibility; all is a matter of free will. As the hearts of believers are touched by God, they give gifts to His servants, so that while these servants receive gifts through men, their trust is still entirely in God. It is upon Him their eyes are fixed, it is to Him their needs are told, and it is He who touches the hearts of His children to give. That is what Paul meant when he spoke of living of the Gospel. Paul himself received the gift from the church in Philippi ( Phlp. 4:16 ), and when he was in Corinth he was helped by the brothers in Macedonia. ( 2 Cor. 11:9; top ) These are examples of living of the Gospel.
We do well to ask ourselves, however, Whose laborers are we? If we are the laborers of men, then let us look to men for our support; but if we are the laborers of God, then we must look to no other but Him, though He may meet our needs through our fellow-men. The whole question hinges here, has God called us and sent us out? If the call and the commission have come from Him, then He must and surely will be responsible for all that our obedience to Him involves.
When Miss M.E. Barber thought of coming to China to serve the Lord, she foresaw the difficulties of a woman setting out on her own for a foreign country, so she asked advice of Mr. Wilkinson of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, who said, "A foreign country, no promise of support, no backing of any society - all these present no problem. The question is here: Are you going on your own initiative, or are you being sent by God?" "God is sending me," she replied. "Then no more questions are necessary," he said, "for if God sends you He must be responsible."
But in Corinth, Paul did not live of the Gospel. He made tents with his own hands. So there are evidently two ways by which the needs of God's servants may be met - either they look to God to touch the hearts of His children to give what is needful, or they can earn it by doing part-time "secular" work. To work with our hands may be good, but we need to note that Paul does not regard that as a usual thing. It is something exceptional, a course to be resorted to in special circumstances.
"If we sowed unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your material things? If others partake of this right over you, do not we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right; but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the Gospel of Christ. Don't you know that they which minister about sacred things eat of the things of the temple, and they which wait upon the altar have their portion with the altar? Even so did the Lord ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel. But I have used none of these things: and I did not write these things that it may be done so in my case: for it were good for me rather to die, than that any man should make my glorying void ... What, then, is my reward? That, when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel without charge, so as not to use to the full my right in the Gospel." ( 1 Cor. 9:11-15 , 18 ) These are certain rights which are the privilege of all preachers of the Gospel. Paul did not receive anything from Corinth, because he was in special circumstances at the time; but though he did not avail himself on that occasion, that he did so at other times is quite clear. "Or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I preached to you the Gospel of God for nothing? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you; and when I was present with you and was in want I was not a burden on any man: for the brethren, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my wants: and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this glorying in the regions of Achaia." ( 2 Cor. 11:7-10; top )
In the Old Testament the tithes of the Israelites were handed over to the Levites. The Israelites made their offerings to God, not to the Levites, but the latter stood in the place of God to receive the offerings. Today we are standing in the position of the Levites, and the gifts that are proffered to us are really offered to God. We do not receive gifts from any man, therefore we are under obligation to none. If anyone wants thanks, he must seek it from God, for God is the One Who receives the offerings. Therefore whenever a gift is given to us it is essential for us to be clear whether or not God could receive the gift. If God could not receive it, neither dare we.
It may happen at times that the gift is right and so is the attitude of the giver, but on the strength of his gift the giver may consider himself entitled to a say in the work. It is quite in order for the offerer to specify in what direction his offering be used, but it is not in order for him to decide how the work should be done. No servant of God must sacrifice his liberty to follow the divine leading by accepting money which puts him under human control. A giver is at perfect liberty to stipulate to what use his gift should be put, but as soon as it is given he should take hands off and not seek to utilize it as a means of exercising indirect control over the work.
In secular work the man who supplies the means exercises authority in the realm to which his means are devoted, hut not so in spiritual work. All authority in the work rests with the one who has been called of God to do it. In the spiritual realm it is the worker who controls the money, not the money the worker. The one to whom the call has come, and to whom the work has been entrusted by God, is the one to whom God will reveal the way the work must be carried out, and he dare not receive money from anyone who would use his gift to interfere with the Lord's will as it is revealed to him concerning the work. If a giver is spiritual, we shall gladly seek his counsel, but his advice can be sought solely on the ground of his spirituality, not on the ground of his gift.
In all our service for God we must maintain an attitude of utter dependence on Him. Whether funds be abundant or low, let us steadfastly pursue our work, recognizing it as a trust committed to us by God and a matter for which we must answer to Him alone. "Am I seeking to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" ( Gal. 1:10; top ) We must remain absolutely independent of men as regards the financial side of the work, but even in our independence we must preserve an attitude of true humility and willingness to accept advice from every member of the Body who is in close contact with the Head, and we should expect through them confirmation of the leading we lave received direct from God. But all the cuunsel we seek and receive from others is on account of their spirituality, not on account of their financial position. We are willing to seek advice of the richest member of the Body neither because of nor despite his money, and we are just as ready to seek the counsel of the poorest member neither because of nor despite his poverty.
The principle is: "taking nothing of the Gentiles." ( 3 Jn. 7; top ) We dare not receive any support for the work of God from those who do not know Him. If God has not accepted a man, He can never accept his money. If anyone engaged in God's service accepts money for the furtherance of the work from an unsaved man, then he virtually places God under obligation to sinners. Let us never receive money on God's behalf which would enable a sinner before the Great White Throne to charge God with having taken advantage of him. However, this does not mean that we need reject even the hospitality of the Gentiles. If in the providence of God we visit some Miletus, then we should do well to accept the hospitality of a friendly Publius. But this must be definitely under the ordering of God, not as a matter of regular occurrence. Our principle should always be to take nothing from the Gentiles.
Should the churches provide for the needs of the workers? God's Word supplies a clear answer to our question. We see there that the money collected by the churches is used in three different ways:
1) For the poor saints. The Scriptures pay much attention to the needy children of God, and a large proportion of the local offerings goes to relieve their distress.
2) For the elders of the local church. Circumstances may make it necessary for elders to give up their ordinary business in order to devote themselves wholly to the interests of the church, in which case the local brothers should realize their financial responsibility toward them and seek at least in some measure to make up to them what they have sacrificed for the church's sake. ( 1 Tim. 5:17-18; top )
3) For the working brothers and the work. This must be regarded as an offering to God, not as a salary paid to them.
"I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, that I might minister unto you and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want: and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself." ( 2 Cor. 11:8-9 ) "And you yourselves know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only... But I have all things and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." ( Phlp. 4:15 , 18; top ) Where the members of a church are spiritual, they cannot but care for the interests of the Lord in places beyond their own locality, and the Love of the Lord will constrain them to give both to the workers and the work. They will count it both a duty and a delight to further the Lord's interests by their gifts.
While in the Epistles the churches are encouraged to give to the poor saints and also to the local elders and teachers, there is no mention made of encouraging the giving to the apostles or to the work in which they were engaged. The reason is obvious. The writers of the epistles were themselves apostles, therefore it would not have been fitting for them to invite gifts for themselves or their work, nor had they any liberty from the Lord to do so. It was quite in order for them to encourage the believers to give to others, but for the meeting or their own needs and the needs of the work they could only look to God.
It was a great and noble statement that Paul made to the Philippians. He dared to say to those who were almost his sole supporters: "I have all things and abound." Paul gave no hint of need, but took the position of a wealthy child of a wealthy Father, and he had no fears that by doing so further supplies would not be forthcoming. It was all very well for apostles to say to an unbeliever who himself was in distress, "Silver and gold have I none," but it would never have done for a needy apostle to say that to believers who would be ready to respond to an appeal for help. It is a dishonor to the Lord if any representative of His discloses needs that would provoke pity on the part of others. If we have a living faith in God we shall always make our boast in Him. and we shall dare to proclaim under every circumstance, "I have all things and abound."
We are the representatives of God in this world and we are here to prove His faithfulness; therefore in financial matters we must be totally independent of men and wholly dependent upon God. Our attitude, our words and our actions must all declare that He alone is our Source of supply. If there is any weakness here, He will be robbed of the glory that is His due. We must not be afraid to appear wealthy before people. Let us keep our financial needs secret, even if our secrecy should lead men to conclude that we are well off when we have nothing at all. He who sees in secret will take note of all our need, aud He will meet them, not in stinted measure but "according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." ( Phlp. 4:19; top )
From the study of God's Word we note two things concerning the attitude of His children to financial matters On the one hand, workers should be careful to disclose their needs to none but God; on the other hand, the churches should be faithful in remembering the needs of both the workers and their work, and they should not only send gifts to those who are working in their vicinity, or to those who have been called out from their midst, but, like the Philippians and the Macedonians, they should frequently minister to a far-off Paul. The horizon of the churches should be much wider than it is. The present method of a church supporting its own "minister" or its own missionary, was a thing unknown in apostolic days. God has no use for an unbelieving worker nor has He any use for a loveless church.
The distinction between the church and the work must be clearly defined in the mind of the worker, especially as regards financial matters. Should a worker pay a short visit to any place on the invitation of the church, then it is quite right for him to receive their hospitality; but should he stay for an indefinite period, then he must bear the burden alone before God, otherwise his faith in God will wane. The churches have no official obligations regarding the workers, and the latter must see to it that the former do not take such obligations upon themselves. God permits us to accept gifts, but it is not His will that others become responsible for us. The entire financial burden of the work rests upon those to whom it has been committed by God.
"We wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we took advantage of no man." ( 2 Cor. 7:2 ) "I will not be a burden to you." ( 2 Cor. 12:14 ) "For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness, God is witness." ( 1 Ths. 2:5 ) "Neither did we eat bread for nought at any man's hand, but in labor and travail, working night and day that we might not burden any of you." ( 2 Ths. 3:8; top ) From these passages we see clearly the attitude of the apostle. He was not willing to impose any burden upon others or in any way to take advantage of them. And this must be our attitude, too. Not only should we receive no salary, but we should be careful not to take the slightest advantage of any of our brethren. Apostles should be willing to be taken advantage of, but on no account should they ever take advantage of others. It is a shameful thing to profess trust in God and yet play the role of a pauper, disclosing one's needs and provoking others to pity.
All the movements of workers vitally affect the work, and unless we have a living trust in God our movements are liable to be determined by prospective incomes. Money has great power to influence men, and unless we have true faith in God and a true heart to do His will, we are likely to be influenced by the rise and fall of funds. If our movements are governed by financial supplies, then we are hirelings working for pay, or beggars seeking alms, and we are a disgrace to the Name of the Lord. We should never go to a place because of the bright financial prospects of working there, nor should we refrain from going because the financial outlook is dark.
Let us be clear that we must not only bear the burden of our own personal needs but of the needs of the work as well. If God has called us to a certain work, then all financial outlay connected with it is our affair. Wherever we go, we are responsible for all expenses relating to it, from its inception to its close. If we are called of God to do pioneering work, though the expenses of rent, furniture and traveling, may amount to a goodly sum, we alone are responsible for them. He is not worthy to be called God's servant who cannot be responsible for his own needs and the needs of the work to which God has called him.
Another point to which we must give attention is a clear discrimination between gifts intended for personal use and gifts given for the work. It may seem superfluous to mention it, yet it needs emphasis, that no money given for the work should be used by the worker to meet his personal needs. It must either be used to defray expenses in connection with his own work, or be sent on to another worker.
When I had just commenced to serve the Lord I read an incident in Hudson Taylor's life which was a great help to me. If I remember it aright, this is the gist of it: Mr. Taylor was in St. Louis, U.S.A., and was due in Springfield for meetings. The carriage taking him to the station was delayed, with the result that when he arrived there the train had already left, and there seemed no possible way for him to keep his appointment. But turning to Dr. J. H. Brookes he said, "My Father runs the trains, I'll be there in time." Upon inquiry of the agent, they found a train leaving St. Louis in another direction, which crossed the line going to Springfield; but the train on the other line always left ten minutes before this train arrived, as they were opposing roads. Without a moment's hesitation, Mr. Taylor said he would go that way, in spite of the fact that the agent told him they never made connections there. While they waited, a gentleman came to the station and handed Mr. Taylor some money. He turned to Dr. Brookes with the remark, "Do you not see that my Father has just sent me my train fare!" meaning that even if he had arrived in time for the other train, he could not have taken it. Dr. Brookes was amazed. He knew Mr. Taylor had quite a good sum of money in hand which had been given him for his work in China, so he asked, "What do you mean by saying you have no money for your fare?" Mr. Taylor replied, "I never use anything for personal expenses that is specified for the work. The money ear-marked for my own use has just come in!" For almost the first time in the history of that road the St. Louis train arrived ahead of the other, and Mr. Taylor was able to keep his appointment at Springfield!
As we have already said, an apostle may encourage God's people to remember the needs of the saints and of the elders, but he can mention nothing of his own needs or the needs of the work. Let him only draw the attention of the churches to the wants of others, and God will draw their attention to his wants.
We must avoid all propaganda in connection with the work. With utter honesty of heart we must trust in God and make our requirements known to Him alone. Should the Lord so lead. we may tell to His glory what He has wrought through us. (See Acts 14:27 ; 15:3-4; top ) But nothing must be done by way of advertisement in the hope of receiving material help. This is displeasing to God and hurtful to ourselves. If in any financial matter our faith grows weak, we shall find it fail when difficulties arising in connection with the work put it to the test.
I know of works which at their inception were on a pure faith basis and the blessing of the Lord rested on them. Soon the workers felt the need of extending the work, and actually extended it beyond their usual income. Consequently they had to resort to indirect advertisement in order to meet their liabilities. Let us beware of extending the work ourselves, for if the extension is of man, we shall have to use man-made methods to meet the new demands. If God sees the work needs extension, He Himself will extend it, and if He extends it, He will be responsible to meet the increased needs. Circular letters, reports, magazines, deputation-work, special agents and special business centers, have been means much used of Christian workers to increase funds for the work. Men are not willing to let God extend it in His own time, and because they cannot wait patiently for its spontaneous development but force an artificial growth, they have to resort to natural activity to meet the demands of that growth. They have hastened developments so they have to devise ways and means of procuring increased supplies. The spontaneous growth of the work of God does not necessitate any activities of human nature, for God meets all demands which He creates.
We must let the Holy Spirit hinder us where He will, and not seek to urge things forward by touching divine work with human hands. There is no need for us to devise means to draw attention to our work. God in His sovereignty and providence can well bear all responsibility. If He moves men to help us, then all is well, but if we seek to move men ourselves, both we and the work will suffer loss.
In the Old Testament we read that though the Levites stood in the place of God to receive tithes from all His people, they themselves offered tithes to Him. The servant of the Lord should learn to give as well as to receive. We praise God for the generous way the workers in days past have given to their fellow-laborers, but we still need to be more thoughtful for the material needs of all our brethren in the work. We must remember the words of Paul: "These hands have ministered to my wants and to those who were with me." ( Acts 20:34; top ) We must not merely hope to have sufficient to spend on ourselves and our work, but must look to God to provide us with sufficient to give to others too. If we are only occupied with the thought of our personal needs and the needs of our work, and forget the needs of our fellow workers, the plane of our spiritual life is low.
The scope of our thinking along the line of material needs should always be on the basis of "my wants and the wants of those with me." The money God sends to me is not only for me, but also for "those with me." A brother once suggested that God would surely supply the needs of all our fellow-workers, so we need not feel too concerned about them, especially as we are not a mission and have no financial obligations towards them. But our brother forgot that we are not only responsible for our own needs and the needs of our work, but in a spiritual way we, like Paul, are responsible also for "those with us."
Since we are not a mission and have no man-made organization, no headquarters, no centralization of funds and consequently no distributing center, how can the needs of all our fellow- workers be supplied? This question has been repeatedly put to me by interested brethren. The answer is this: all needs will be met if each one realizes his three-fold financial responsibility - firstly, in regard to his personal and family needs; secondly, in regard to the needs of his work; and thirdly, in regard to the needs of his fellow-laborers. We must not only look to God to supply our own wants and all those related to our work, but we must look to Him just as definitely to send us extra funds to enable us to have something to send to our associates in the work. Of course we have no official obligation towards them, but we cannot ignore our spiritual responsibility.
The requirements of workers vary and the requirements of the work vary too, besides which, the power of prayer differs in different individuals, and the measure of faith differs also. It follows therefore that our income will not be the same, but every one of us should definitely exercise faith for the supply of sufficient funds to be able to distribute to the necessities of others. The amounts we receive and give may differ, but the same principle applies to us all. Working on such a basis no headquarters is necessary; for each of us acts as a sort of headquarters and distributing-center. We trust in the sovereignty and providence of God, and we leave it to Him to regulate the passing on of gifts so that none will have an overplus and none be left in want.
The principle of God's government in relation to financial things is, "he that gathered much had nothing over; and he that gathered little had no lack." ( 2 Cor. 8:15; top ) Anyone who has gathered much must be willing to have nothing over, for only then can he who has gathered little have no lack. Some of us have proved in experience that when we bear the burden for those who gather little, God sees to it that we gather much; but if we only think of our own needs, the utmost we can hope for is to gather little and have no lack.
We must not confine our giving to those immediately associated with us, but must remember workers in other parts and seek to minister to their needs. We must constantly keep the thought of other workers and their needs before the brethren among whom we labor, and encourage them to help them, never fearing that God will bless other workers more than us. We must leave no room for fear or jealousy. Do we really believe in the sovereignty of God? If so, we shall never fear that anything God has intended for us shall fail to reach us.
If your work is to be conducted along lines well-pleasing to God, then it is absolutely essential that the sovereignty of God be a working factor in your experience, and no mere theory. When you know His sovereignty, then even if men seem to move around you at random and circumstances appear to whirl at the mercy of chance, you will still be confident in the assurance that God is ordering every detail of your way for His glory and for your good. The needs of others may be known to men, while none may know or even care about your wants, but you will have no anxiety if the sovereignty of God is a reality to you, for then you will see all those haphazard circumstances and all those indifferent folk and even the opposing hosts of evil, being silently harnessed to His will, and all those unrelated forces will become related as one to serve His purpose and to serve the purposes of those whose will is one with His. Yes, "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose." ( Rom. 8:28; top )
The question is not, therefore, Are our needs small or great? or, Are they known or unknown? but simply this, Are we in the will of God? Our faith may be tested, and our patience too, but if we are willing to leave things in God's hands and quietly wait for Him, then we shall not fail to see a careful timing of events and an exquisite dovetailing of circumstances, and emerging from a meaningless maze, we shall behold a perfect correspondence between our need and the supply.
Some have asked, "Since you believe all God's servants should trust Him for their daily needs, and since you have quite a company of fellow-workers, why do you not become an organized faith mission?"
For two reasons: firstly, in God's Word all association of workers is on a spiritual, not on an official basis. As soon as you have an official organization, then you change the spiritual relationship which exists among the fellow-workers into an official relationship. Secondly, dependence upon God alone for the meeting of all material needs does not demand as active a faith on the part of an official organization as it does on the part of individuals who are only related in a spiritual fellowship. It is much easier to trust God as a mission than to trust Him as an individual. In Scripture we see individual faith, but we see no such thing as organization-faith. In an organization there is bound to be some income, and every member is sure to receive a share, whether he exercises faith or not. This opens the way for people to join the mission who have no active faith in God, and in the case of those who have faith when they join there is the likelihood of personal trust in the Lord gradually growing weak through lack of exercise, since supplies come with a certain measure of regularity whether the individual members of the mission exercise faith or not. It is very easy to lose faith in God and simply trust an organization. Those who know the frailty of the flesh realize how prone we are to depend on anything and anyone but God. It is much easier to put our expectation in remittances from the mission than in ravens from heaven.
Because of our proneness to look at the bucket and forget the fountain, God has frequently to change His means of supply to keep our eyes fixed on the source. So the heavens that before sent us welcome showers become as brass, the streams that refreshed us are allowed to dry up, and the ravens that brought our daily food visit us no longer; but then God surprises us by meeting our needs through a poor widow, and so we prove the marvelous resources of God. Organization-faith does not stimulate personal trust in God, and that is what He is out to develop.
I know that in an organized body many difficulties vanish automatically. Humanly speaking, it ensures a much greater income, for many of God's children prefer to give to organizations rather than to individuals. Besides, organized work comes much more to the notice of the children of God than unorganized. But questions such as these challenge us continually: Do you really believe in God? Must Scriptural principles be sacrificed to convenience? Do you really want God's best with all its accompanying difficulties? We do, and so we have no alternative but to work on the ground of the Body of Christ in spiritual association with all others who stand on that same ground.
But we wish to point out that, though we ourselves are not a mission, we are not opposed to missions. Our testimony is positive, not negative. We believe that in God's Word the different groups of sent-out ones who were associated in the work all stood on the ground of the Body, and that no such group was organized into a mission. Still, if our brethren feel led of God to form such an organization, we have nothing to say against it. We only say, God bless them! For us to form a mission because others of God's children do so would be wrong, since we see no Scriptural ground for it and have no leading of the Spirit in that direction. But whether we work in a fellowship whose relationships are only spiritual, or in an organization whose relationships are official, may God make us absolutely one in this, that we do not seek the increase or extension of the companies in which we work, but make it our one aim to work exclusively for the founding and upbuilding of the local churches.
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